Hosting a Christmas Tea and Secret Santa

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Dearies, it’s almost my favorite time of year! Wreaths, holly, and lots of cheerful music! Gift wrapping, cookie baking, and of course lots of tea pairing! The holidays are upon us and Kat is ready to celebrate. This year one of the events she’s planning is a Christmas tea with a secret Santa gift swap.

Dearies, have you done secret Santa gifts before? Kat and her friends like to get together and draw names from a hat. Then you have to give a gift to the person written on the paper. The idea is that no one knows who their ‘Secret Santa’ is! It’s lots of fun. This year Kat is pairing the Secret Santa giving event with a Christmas afternoon tea for some festive merriment. For the Secret Santa her new rule this year is that part of the gift must be tea-related! It can be tea, teaware, a book about tea, anything at all! I of course am in favor of this new rule.

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For the festive tea, Kat’s going to decorate with lots of pinecones, red ribbon, and many silver and gold accents. Do you have any favorite Christmas decor to suggest?

Kat’s going to start off her tea with scones and two different finger sandwiches. She decided on ham and butter for a French twist, and turkey with a thin layer of cranberry chutney. So perfect for the holidays! She’s going to serve a rich, bold single estate Assam tea with these. For the sweets, Kat is going to serve mini caramel apple tarts, and handmade chocolates. Kat has decided on a tea that’s a little unconventional to serve for her Christmas tea. Something warming, spicy, and cheerful. Masala Chai!

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Since she’ll be busy with baking and cooking, Kat’s chosen an instant chai that’s easy to prepare and always delicious. Chai Moments Masala Chai Tea gives you all the warming flavors of the season. Simply mix it with hot water! This way Kat can focus on enjoying time with friends. I’ve had my share of authentic masala chai, and I must say Dearies that this one is quite good. It has the right blend of creamy, spicy, earthy, and sweet. This tea can be found in local Indian grocery stores and also on Amazon.

It may seem difficult to pair desserts with the complex chai flavors, but rest assured it’s quite easy! Sweet treats with fruit, chocolate, even citrus pair wonderfully with masala chai. If you’re still feeling unsure, the best thing to do is of course try it for yourself! Mix up a batch of masala chai, and sip it with your favorite desserts. I think you’ll be surprised by the delicious results! Now that’s my kind of research.

Dearies, I hope you are having fun planning for the holiday season! Are you going to have a tea gathering? Please let me know I’d just love to hear the details

Tea For Diwali

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Dearies, I was checking out the kitchen calendar and noticed Diwali is Sunday October 30th. Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights. I remember when Char and I were in Malaysia during the festival. It’s such a joyful time of year! Little twinkling lanterns were everywhere and there were the most beautiful firework displays. The lights create such a magical atmosphere! During Diwali clay lamps are lit to symbolize spiritual inner light. In fact, the word Diwali translates to ‘row of lamps’. The holiday marks the last harvest of the year. There are various cultures that celebrate the holiday, and the central meaning is celebrating good triumphing over evil. When Kat was first learning about Diwali, she noticed that there is a theme of gathering together, and celebrating with friends and family.

I of course have decided Kat and I need to drink as many Indian teas as possible during the 5 day holiday! My motto is, if there is a crowd, tea must be served! Tea is the perfect accompaniment for the various savories and mithai served throughout the Diwali holiday. I’ve rounded up our stock of Darjeeling, Assam, and Nilgiri teas, and will be brewing up a pot of my masala chai. We also have a few new teas to add to our Diwali preparation list!

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Just the other day Kat’s friend Sima introduced her to a line of delicious Tea India teas while they were starting to prepare for Diwali. Sima served Kat a few cups while they were applying beautiful henna designs to their hands. I just love how the henna dries into amazing wearable art! The teas they shared combine rich Assam tea with delicious Indian flavors. Kat’s favorite right now is the ginger chai. This time of year she reaches for warming teas and the spicy ginger is the perfect thing. Add a touch of sweeter and this tea is a lovely way to begin your Diwali festivities. The cardamom chai is also in our heavy rotation. The cardamom flavor is perfect alone, or you could add your own spices to personalize the tea even more. Kat has started enjoying the masala chai when she’s craving that sweet and spicy flavor. Brew up a bag, add milk and sweeter of choice for an easy and authentic masala chai. These teas are a great choice for Diwali, and of course any time! They’ve got strong black tea to add a spring to your step, and spicy flavor to enjoy with every sip. You can find these at your local Indian grocer, and head over to amazon.com to purchase them online!

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While I was learning a little bit about Tea India teas, I noticed they are running a fun contest for Diwali! If you go to the Tea India Facebook page every Friday before Diwali, you can find a beautiful picture to color and submit to win a tea prize pack! I’m heading over there today to see what we can color this week! Kat loves coloring! She has a few different coloring books and often says when she adds in a cup of tea, it’s an incredibly relaxing experience.

We are excited to bring on the festivities, food, and sweets of Diwali! Dearies, you know I’ve got the tea ready and waiting. When you gather for your Diwali celebration, what teas will you serve?

Autumn Teas

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Dearies, do you have a favorite time of year? There is something I love in every season, but cool breezes, bright sunshine, and vibrant leaves gently floating to the ground just makes me feel happy, warm, and fuzzy. This time of year Kat takes endless walks in the woods, and sometimes she’ll tote me along with her. I love listening to the leaves swish as she walks while the birds merrily chirp all around us. I’ve been gathering our favorite fall teas to keep on hand in the kitchen. A sip of these in the morning or after a hike is the perfect way to enhance a beautiful fall experience. Here are a few of our favorite fall teas.

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Masala Chai- Newman’s Own Organic Chai. Wake you up and warm you up! Kat has tried many masala chai blends over the years, and she just loves the balance in this one. The organic ingredients of ginger, cinnamon, black pepper cloves, and cardamom are exactly what she looks for in a good chai. These are actually the same ingredients she uses in her homemade version. Often times there is too much cardamom or cinnamon in chai, but the flavors here aren’t too spicy or strong, they all play happily together. Kat likes to steep this tea nice and strong for about 5 minutes, and then adds a few dashes of milk and a tablespoon of honey. Kat loves that she can easily find this tea at her local Stop & Shop, and never worries about running out. She finds this tea comforting and invigorating, and craves it quite often!

Cranberry- of course cranberry flavor is associated with fall! There are many teas that have added cranberry to their blends. It adds a pleasing tartness that is easily balanced with a dash of sweetener. Sips of cranberry tea will bring you to an inviting holiday table with leaves gently falling outside the window. Cranberry teas are bright with a fun combination of sweet and tangy notes.

Cinnamon- cinnamon is always a staple in our house during the cooler months. It’s warming and perfect for all sorts of dishes and drinks. Kat bakes with it, adds it to her morning oatmeal, even swirls a bit in her black tea. You can find it in endless blend combinations, or just add it yourself like Kat does.

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Rooibos- rooibos has an earthy flavor that’s perfect for this time of year. It also has a red hue reminiscent of the falling leaves. Rooibos is perfect any time of day since it doesn’t have caffeine. You can add other flavors to it or drink it straight up! You could get creative and make a cranberry or cinnamon rooibos blend all on your own. There are many rooibos blends out there, so definitely give a few a try this season.

I do hope you’ll let me know what your favorite fall teas are! Do you enjoy any specific flavors or particular types of tea?

Tippy’s Autumn Mulled Tea Recipe

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There may still be a warm breeze in the air, but very soon things are going to start getting crisp and chilly. The leaves will start to turn, everything will start to smell wonderfully earthy, and Kat will start cooking warm, comforting dishes. It’s my job to get the beverages ready for the cooler weather, and I have the perfect recipe to share with you today. Something comforting, and spicy, like a warm fuzzy sweater in a mug. Have you ever tried mulled cider? It’s warm apple cider with delicious warming spices heated through it. I was thinking about how Char used to make the most wonderful mulled cider, and realized it’s easy to add these flavors to tea. Very similar to masala chai. Who doesn’t love a good chai?

I started with chai and traditional mulled wine in mind, and made a few tweaks. Here’s the delicious recipe I came up with:

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Tippy’s Mulled Tea

3 cups hot water

4 slices of orange peel

4 whole cloves

3 cardamom pods

2 1-inch pieces of cinnamon

1 tsp sliced fresh ginger

3 bags orange spice tea

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Use a peeler to carefully create your orange peel slices. Try to just get the orange part, and not the white bit, as that is a bit bitter Bring the water to a boil, and add the orange peel and spices.

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Lower to a simmer, and let it cheerfully bubble together for 10 minutes. Dearies it’s going to smell amazing in your kitchen! Enjoy that aroma, turn off the heat and add the teabags. Let everything sit for another 5 minutes. Taste, and you can let it sit even longer if you’d like. Strain the mixture. We like to serve the tea in mugs and let our guests add honey to their liking. Or you could add a few tablespoons of honey after you strain the spices.

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I decided to try using Private Selection Orange Spice tea in this mulled brew. One of Kat’s favorite teas, it is a lovely black tea blend that is infused with orange, cinnamon, and cloves. She brings it out as soon as the first few leaves start to lazily float to the ground. A perfect autumn and winter tea, It’s comforting and will enhance all of the wonderful mulling spices.

This is the perfect drink to whip up when you’re feeling chilled and in need of some comfort. It’s also well suited for a gathering- your friends will smell the warm spicy aroma as soon as they enter the front door. Happy mulling!

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.