Behind The Leaf: Indian Black Teas

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India is known for some of the most delicious black teas. I’m sure you’ve had many of them in blends and didn’t even know it! They can be bold and brisk, or delicate and nuanced. India is also starting to produce white, green, and oolong teas, but for today we’re going to stick with the black teas that grow all throughout the country.

There are three main growing regions in India: Assam, Nilgiri Hills, and Darjeeling. These three areas make delicious black teas that taste very different from one another. That’s due to terroir. The climate, altitude and soil all have an effect on the flavors. Also the plant cultivars used also change the flavor.

First up, let’s discuss Assam- This region is in Northeast India near Burma. It is a tropical region that has about 900 gardens! The elevation is about sea level, and the weather is mild and can get very hot during monsoon season. Much of the tea grown in this region is processed as CTC (cut, tear, curl) tea. Small cut leaves that create an even stronger brew that steeps up quite quickly. The cultivar that grows here is camellia sinensis var. assamica and was of course named after the region. The tea is brisk and malty. It can commonly be found in English Breakfast and English Afternoon blends. It’s made to steep up strong, as the Brits like to add milk and sweetener to their cups. This is also a tea commonly used for Masala chai.

Nilgiri is a mountainous region of southeast India and the 3rd largest tea growing area. Growing here started in the mid-19th century. The teas are well balanced and quite dark with a bit of fruit and spice. The climate is tropical and ideal for year-round growing. Many of the plants here are of the Assamica variety, and most of the teas are processed using the CTC method. Can you believe there are more than 30,000 gardens in this area?? That’s an immense amount of tea!

Finally the area most tea lovers know, Darjeeling. Teas here are grown in the Indian Himalayas. The first plantation in Darjeeling was started in 1856, and today there are about 86 tea gardens. The gardens are planted on the slopes of the Himalayan foothills, which help the plants drain well from the heavy rains that pass through the region.  There is just the right amount of cloud cover high at this altitude to give the plants the perfect amount of sunlight. The frequently foggy atmosphere creates a beautiful mist that hydrates and protects the plants while keeping them at an ideal temperature. The plant variety here is different from Nilgiri and Assam. It’s mostly comprised of camellia sinensis var sinensis, which is a smaller leaf than Assamica and actually is native to China. The British brought seeds of the plant to the region in 1841 and realized it was a perfect climate for growing. To learn a little more about the picking seasons and flavors of Darjeeling teas, you can check out my previous post here. To really appreciate the beauty of Darjeeling tea, it’s best to find teas grown and processed from just one estate.

Dearies, next time you drink a black tea blend, you can think about all of the beautiful areas of India where your tea is grown. I hope you try as many varieties as you can to learn how they differ.

Ask Tippy!

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Dearies, I’m so excited to share my latest addition to the blog. It’s called ‘Ask Tippy’. This is where you get to take control of the blog, and ask me questions about tea! Do you have a question about tea types? Tea preparation? Teaware? Ask away! I received this question recently from a reader named Andrea, and I thought I should make the answer into a post. Here we go!

Q. Tippy, do I need to use an electric kettle to get the perfect water temperature? Help!

Andrea, thank you so much for your question! Well, it is certainly very convenient to have a hot water kettle, especially one that heats the water to the exact temperature you need for your tea. But if you don’t have one, there is no reason to fret. There are various thermometers on the market that you can use to measure your water temperature if you’d like. You’d boil up your water, pour into a vessel and then measure and wait until you’ve hit the desired temp. Or, often times Kat will just boil her water and take the kettle off the heat and wait about 2 minutes if she’s making green or white tea. If you aren’t doing a professional tasting, you don’t need the temperature to be absolutely exact. Sometimes I find that I prefer a temperature slightly different to what is suggested for the tea. But here are some temperature guidelines for you (these temperatures are all listed in Fahrenheit and vary a little bit basted on the type of tea in the category):

White: 180°

Green: 170°-185°

Oolong: 180°-210°

Black: 200°-210°

Puerh: 200°-210°

Herbals: 200°-210°

Another thing to keep in mind is your water quality. If you live in a place with tasty water, you can go ahead and use that unfiltered. But if you have water that is hard and filled with minerals, it’s best to filter it if you can. Kat keeps a filter pitcher on her counter at all times so she can always have water ready for tea. Of course, if you can use spring water it is ideal. But filtered water is just fine. It’s also fun to play around with different types of water to see how it changes the taste of your tea.

So Andrea, definitely purchase a kettle for convenience and exact temperatures, but don’t feel like you absolutely must have one.

Dearies, if you have a question for me, please feel free to ask just like Andrea! The easiest way to do so is to tag me on twitter @TheLovelyTeaCup

 

Behind The Leaf: Chamomile

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Dearies, we’ve learned quite a bit about teas from the camellia sinensis plant. Those are all the lovely pure teas we drink such as white, oolong, green, and black. But we shouldn’t ignore all of those tasty herbal teas out there! They deserve to be highlighted too. This week I decided we should focus on Chamomile, one of Kat’s most favorite herbal teas.

Many people love chamomile. It’s floral, soothing, and has a lovely honey-like sweetness. This aromatic herb is easy to find in just about any grocery store, and is easy to brew. It’s a popular tea since it has no caffeine and has a pleasing light flavor. Really, who doesn’t love a good cup of chamomile?

You’ve probably seen the lovely daisy-like plant before, at least in photographs on the tea box. There are many different species of chamomile but the two most common types are the German and Roman varieties and it grows in various other parts of the world.

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Chamomile is a very nostalgic tea for Kat. Whenever she’d visit dear Char, there was always a cup of chamomile waiting for her at the table. Char even let her add in a huge spoonful of honey. I can still remember how Kat would give the honey a quick stir, and then pop the spoon in her mouth to enjoy the sweet remnants. These days Kat has been enjoying a hot cup of chamomile in the evenings and she often has an icy cool glass on warm summer afternoons. Lately she’s been enamored with her chamomile tea from Newman’s Own Organics. She picked it up at her local Stop & Shop while looking at all of the herbal teas in the aisle. It is so soothing, and simply contains Egyptian organic chamomile. It is floral, sweet, with a hint of earthiness. One sip and she is transported to Char’s table, chatting and remembering all the wonderful times they had together.

As far as preparing chamomile, you can’t really brew it incorrectly. You can use boiling water and brew for as long as you like! It’s very difficult to over-steep. You can ice it down or add to cold water for a cold brew. It’ll work any way you prepare it.

What I’d love to know, is what do you do with your chamomile tea? Do you drink it straight up, or add other flavors to it? Do you bake or cook with it? Let me know in the comments!

DIY Avocado And Green Tea Face Mask

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Dearies, you know how much Kat and her friends love to create their own natural bath and body products. I’ve talked about soaks, scrubs, and bath bombs! The girls are always looking for interesting combinations of ingredients, and Kat just discovered a fun way to make a nourishing face mask.

The other day Kat came into the kitchen with a green face! I had no idea what was going on! Kat explained that she was trying out a new green tea face mask she created. Turns out it’s a winner, so I thought I should share the recipe with all of my lovely tea friends. It’s quite simple and I must admit, it smells scrumptious.

DIY Avocado & Green Tea Face Mask

1/2 avocado

2 tbsp plain full fat greek yogurt

1/2 tsp matcha powder

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First, sift the matcha so it’s free of clumps. In a small bowl whisk the sifted matcha into the greek yogurt. Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Scoop out half the flesh with a spoon and add to a large bowl. Mash well with a fork. Once it’s nice and smooth add the yogurt mixture and mix until fully combined. It may look a bit strange, but it’s good stuff!

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We like to pop ours in the fridge for 5 minutes or so, just to make sure it’s nice and cold. It is more refreshing that way! When it’s at your desired temperature apply a thin layer to your face, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Enjoy looking at your amusing green face in the mirror while you wait! If you’re feeling kooky, show us your green selfie! When you are ready, remove the mask with a warm washcloth.

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Hee hee! Dearies I thought I’d give the mask a try myself. Who doesn’t want glowing skin? It tickles a little bit! Since you have half an avocado left, you can make the mask for a friend, or just enjoy a healthy snack! Avocado toast, and a bowl of matcha, anyone?

Tippy’s Green Tea Granita

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If you’re looking for a new way to refresh yourself in the late summer weather, look no further than an icy cool granita! This cooling treat is similar to a slushy, but with more crunchy texture. It’s super easy to make, and will instantly cool you down. It’s also very easy to customize using your favorite flavors. I’ve been experimenting, and decided that green tea, ginger, and lemon is my favorite combination so far. The only equipment you need is a sheet pan or shallow glass pan, and room to stash it in your freezer.

1 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger

3 cups water

3 green tea bags

Simple syrup

1 lemon zested and juiced

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First, make a ginger-tea infusion. Bring the 3 cups of water to a boil, add the ginger. Boil the ginger for about 3 minutes and turn off the heat and let sit for 30 seconds. After this step, add in the teabags (this is because you should never use boiling water for green tea, it’s too hot and can make the brew bitter). Steep the ginger and tea together for 10-15 minutes.

Add in half the lemon juice and three tablespoons of simple syrup. Give it a taste, and add more of both as desired. You can make it as sweet or tangy as you like!

Once the flavor is to your liking, pour the mixture into your pan of choice. We like to use a small shallow glass pan, since it’s all we can fit in our freezer. It works just perfectly! Freeze the mixture for about 30 minutes or until it’s just starting to become solid. Then, fluff it with a fork.

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For the next 2 hours, check on the mixture every 30 minutes (it may need much more than that but keep checking since every freezer is a little bit different, fluffing and stirring to create broken ice crystals. It should be slushy with lots of crunchy ice crystals. That’s when it is perfect to serve and enjoy. If your mixture gets too hard, you can leave it in the fridge for a while, or even blitz it in the food processor for a few seconds. This recipe needs a little attention, but it’s super simple, and in no time you’ll have a perfect summer dessert. Kat recently made this recipe for friends with great success. They loved the crunchy green tea flavor! The zing of ginger and tart lemon makes this light and refreshing.

For this granita Kat used Harris green tea. It has a mild vegetal green tea flavor and is perfect to add to any recipe. Kat loves this tea because the green tea flavor is balanced and not overpowering. It’s not too vegetal and is super smooth. For a different spin on this dessert, Kat is actually thinking of making the granita with an herbal tea for her niece Camille. She’s visiting next week and it’ll be the perfect refreshing treat! One bite of this crunchy, frozen treat will instantly cool you down and you’ll imagine you’re in the crisp autumn weather. Dearies I hope you enjoy my favorite new icy treat!

Back To School Tea Party Ideas

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It time to put away bathing suits and sand toys and start getting ready to go back to school! Like most children Kat’s niece Camille is reluctant about it, so Kat thought she’d find a way to lift her spirits and get her ready. I of course had the most brilliant idea. A back to school tea party! Imagine a party filled with sweets and treats to start getting the young ones back in the school spirit. With a little planning we can lift their spirits and get them excited about going to class.

For starters, let’s talk about décor. I’ve decide there needs to be a crafty-school theme for the party. A centerpiece incorporating a nice big globe, pencils with flower eraser toppers (and everyone gets to take one home), and by each plate a mini chalkboard personalized with each guest’s name. Kat suggested also placing a little notebook and pen next to each plate so the guests can take tasting notes. This will get them ready for creative writing and critical thinking!

I think apples should be the food theme, don’t you? A nice homage to the season, and all of those hard working teachers. We’re thinking a fennel apple salad to start, cheddar and apple finger sandwiches, Candy apples, and apple tarts to bring a festive feel to the party. We may also have a few small bowls of shiny apples on the table for décor.

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To accompany the delicious bites, we’re going to serve Hy-vee Honey Orange Chamomile tea. This herbal tea blend is caffeine free and perfect for everyone at the party. The honey and citrus flavors will work perfectly with the apple flavored nibbles. Kat knows this tea is a favorite of Camille’s, and she can’t wait to surprise her with it. She’s not sure if she’ll serve it hot or iced yet, it will depend on the weather forecast. This tea is very soothing hot. The sweet honey and tangy citrus make for a smooth and nuanced cup. The honey and chamomile combine to make a sweet and delicate flavor. When iced, the orange proves to be quite refreshing and the floral chamomile rounds everything out quite nicely. You can’t go wrong with this tea!

 Since we want this to be a party that combines school and fun, there needs to be a game or two! We’re going to create a ‘Pin The Spout On The Teapot’ game by easily cutting out a large festive cardboard teapot and making spouts to be pinned on. I think we’ll also do a ‘guess how much’ game, where we’ll fill a large glass teapot with jellybeans and everyone needs to have a guess at how many are inside. A great way to revive those math skills after a fun summer!

 For even more ideas, check out my Pinterest board! Dearies, I’m sure you all have your own clever tea party ideas. I’d love it if you’d share them with us! Best of luck with getting ready for the school year.

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Dearies, I know you all love matcha! It’s the most popular topic that I write about. I recently realized that I’ve shared recipes and matcha on-the-go tips, but we haven’t done a post about how to have an authentically prepared cup of matcha. So, here we go!

To prepare your matcha the authentic way, you need just a few tools: a matcha bowl (a small cereal bowl could work) called a chawan, a bamboo whisk called a chasen, and a small mesh sifter. An optional tool is the tea scoop, called a chashaku.

Now you just need two ingredients: 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of matcha. I recommend using ceremonial grade matcha, this is the best quality and will whisk up to a delicious, frothy cup. But don’t get discouraged if you don’t have ceremonial grade. Go with what you can find!

So, now that you have your tools and ingredients, you are ready for a perfect bowl of matcha.

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First, measure out a tsp of matcha, which can also be measured with 2 scoops with the chashaku. Place the matcha in the sifter over your bowl. It’s important to sift the matcha first, don’t skip this step! Sifting removes clumps and will help you get a nice frothy bowl of tea.

Your water temperature needs to be 175°, this is very important! Do not use boiling water or your matcha will be bitter. Green teas in general need cooler water than black teas. Once you have the right temperature, pour about 4 tablespoons of water into the bowl and gently mix the matcha until you form a nice, vibrant green paste.

Once you have your paste, it’s time to whisk! Add the remainder of your water, and whisk in a ‘W’ formation. Be gentle with your pressure- you don’t want to crush the tips of the whisk to the bottom of the bowl, they’re delicate and you might bend them. Whisk using your wrist, and not your fingers. Once you have a lovely frothy texture, you can remove the whisk. It shouldn’t take too long, so be mindful not to over-whisk. Whisking takes lots of practice, so get ready to drink lots of matcha! Even if you don’t get a very frothy bowl the first few times, don’t discard that matcha! As long as the powder is mixed in, it will still taste delicious. Sip right from your bowl and enjoy!

If after a few tries you’re still not getting a frothy mixture, make sure you are sifting your powder well. Also be sure you are whisking in a ‘W’ formation, and moving from your wrist.

Be sure to clean your matcha tools very well. The bamboo whisk should be cleaned thoroughly and also air dried. Make sure it’s fully dry before you store it to avoid any mold from growing on the whisk.

The best way to learn is to practice! There are also scores of videos online that you can find with a quick search. Watching someone whisk may also help you understand what to do. Dearies if you have any questions about preparing matcha, please drop me a line and let me know! I’d be happy to help out. Happy whisking!

Tippy’s Tea Of The Month: English Breakfast

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Dearies, did you know that I just started a Tea Club? That’s right, I’ve recruited a few of my kitchen friends and we gather a few times a month to sit together and drink tea. Just like Kat and her friends do! Many of the appliances are unfamiliar with the various types of tea out there, so I decided that each month we are going to pick one type to focus on. We’ll taste different   varieties of the tea, and learn a little bit about it.

This month we are focusing on English Breakfast. This is a black tea blend, and the flavor differs based on what teas are included. Often you’ll see a blend of Assam, Ceylon, and Kenyan teas. Sometimes Chinese Keemun or even Indian Darjeeling will be added. The blend is always made to be quite strong and robust in order to add milk and sugar (if you wish. Kat actually drinks hers straight up!).

The history of English Breakfast tea is a bit fuzzy. There are different accounts of how it came to be a popular breakfast staple. The name of ‘English’ breakfast may actually have originated in colonial America! I’ve also read that it could have originated in Scotland and became a popular morning ritual once Queen Victoria started drinking it.

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Whatever the origin, I just absolutely love a good cup of English Breakfast. It brings me back to my days with Kat’s Great Aunt Char. She used to start every morning with a good strong cup. She preferred a blend that had Ceylon, Assam, and Keemun. I can still remember the sweet aroma from the dry leaves as soon as she opened the canister.

 These days Kat has been drinking Newman’s Own English Breakfast to remind her of her Great Aunt. The dry leaves have a lovely raisin-like aroma with hints of malt and earth. Char used to say her day didn’t properly begin until she smelled her English Breakfast leaves! This tea brews up rich and bold and just like Char, Kat says her daily cup gave her a spring in her step. Kat shares my nostalgic love of English Breakfast as it reminds her of being in her Great Aunt’s kitchen, stealing sips of her tea.

Tippy’s Minty Matcha & Lime Popsicles

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The weather is still quite warm out there, and Kat and her friends are coming up with new ways to stay cool. Their latest idea is homemade popsicles. I love this idea! Of course, I had to create my own tea-infused twist. After much consideration, I decided that matcha would be the perfect tea to add to an icy popsicle. The sweet vegetal green tea flavor holds up to most ingredients, even those that are tangy and strong. After a little bit of experimentation, I came up with my new recipe! I’m so excited to share it with you. It combines our favorite matcha flavor with tangy lime and cooling mint.

Tippy’s Minty Matcha & Lime Popsicles

2 cups hot water

2 tsp matcha

1 lime- juiced and zested

Handful of fresh mint leaves

Simple syrup

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Prepare your matcha by whisking together the tea and hot water. Allow to cool to room temperature.

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Mix in your lime juice and 2 tsp of lime zest. Add 3 tbsp of simple syrup and taste. If it’s not sweet enough keep adding by the tablespoon until you are satisfied. Roughly chop mint leaves and drop a few into the ice pop molds.

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Pour in the matcha mixture, and pop on your tops. Pop in the freezer until the pops are fully formed. If you are using wooden sticks, freeze the mixture for about 60 minutes, pop in sticks, and return to the freezer. That way the sticks will stand straight up!

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These icy cold treats have a strong matcha flavor with the refreshing blend of lime and mint. Dearies I hope you love my icy matcha popsicles! They’re sure to be a hit at your next outdoor gathering. Or keep them all for yourself! Kat plans on making these as long as the weather stays warm to enjoy a cooling moment any time of day.

DIY: Cucumber Green Tea Body Spray

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Dearies this sweaty weather seems endless, doesn’t it? Kat has taken her afternoons on the shady porch, with a glass of iced tea in hand, and a good book. It’s been so hot that even a shady spot isn’t the oasis it once was. I decided it was time to do something about it. I noticed that my kitchen friends that live near the sink always seem to be the most comfortable in the heat. I realized it’s because they’re always getting sprayed by the faucet. Then it dawned on me- a body spray! That’s what Kat needs. So off I went, trying to find just the right combination of ingredients.

Kat loves cucumber in the summer, she says it’s quite refreshing. So I decided to put that idea in the spray. I think green tea pairs well with the cucumber. Both flavors are quite aromatic, and refreshing. With just a little bit of prep, you can have a refreshing body spray to beat that summer heat.

Tippy’s refreshing green tea + cucumber body spray

2 cups water

2 teabags of green tea of choice

Half a large cucumber

2 tsp witch hazel

Spray bottle

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Steep the teabags in just-boiled water for 20 minutes or more. Allow to fully cool in the fridge.

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Peel the cucumber and cut into large chunks. Puree in a food processor

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Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, coffee filter, or cheesecloth until you get as much liquid out as possible. You can chuck the solids, or use it in a delicious cucumber yogurt sauce!

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Add the cucumber to the tea mixture and mix in the witch hazel. Fill a spray bottle and keep it in the fridge at all times. When you’re feeling hot, just give yourself a spritz!