Behind The Leaf: Scented Teas

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We’ve been enjoying a particular type of tea these days. A tea that melts the snow and warms our hearts. These special teas are scented teas. Have you tried Jasmine tea before? If so, you’ve had a scented tea. These are teas that have flowers added to the pure leaves, and are allowed to absorb the heavenly floral aroma. These steeped teas impart a gorgeous floral aroma to the air while they brew. Scented teas are only flowers and tea- not any other added flavors. It can take a few weeks to scent tea naturally with layers of flowers. It is a delicate process that takes patience. They are a bit harder to find but worth the hunt.

 Scented teas are not all created equal. It’s not easy to find just the right balance of flowers to tea. You don’t want to overpower the tea, just enhance it. Finding that balance takes a tea master. Scented green teas are most common but you can also find scented black and oolong teas. A few of our favorites are:

Jasmine: it’s easy to find Jasmine tea, but finding a tea scented just with jasmine blossoms is a bit more challenging. Make sure you’re not getting a tea scented with added aromas or oils. Jasmine tea was invented in China during the Song dynasty. Quite a long time ago.

 Rose- if you love roses as much as we do, why not try it as a tea? The soft, soothing rose flavor is immensely pleasing. Perfect for a quiet afternoon with a few French macarons on the side. Quite a sophisticated cup!

 Chrysanthemum- this delicately sweet tea is subtle and delicious. The flavor is reminiscent of honey and also has a mild herbaceous note. This tea is supposed to have quite a few medicinal benefits as well, but we like to drink it just for the taste and for how relaxed we feel afterwards. This is a tea you can typically find at Chinese restaurants, along with Jasmine tea.

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I love floral teas all year round and especially love them in the wintertime. That gentle floral flavor brings the hope of spring, even on the coldest, most blustery day.

 Other scented teas will contain flowers such as chamomile, and hibiscus. These can also be found as herbal blends, and not necessarily scented teas. But the possibilities are endless, and finding new and interesting scented teas is such fun!

 You should brew your scented teas just like you would the pure tea it comes with (ex: the temperature for green tea, if your base is green). We love using small glass teapots for scented teas, as you can see the beautiful flower petals dancing along with the leaves. It makes for a much more enjoyable experience. Watching those vibrant petals just brings the warm spring sunshine indoors.

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Behind The Leaf: Silver Needles White Tea

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Dearies we’ve talked about white tea before. This is such a delicate, delicious, beautiful tea. I know we’ve mentioned that there are two main types of white tea, White Peony (Bai Mu Dan) and Silver Needles (Bai Hao Yin Zhen). Silver Needles is the more delicate tea with more fuzzy white buds. I thought it would be fun to focus a little bit more on this tea, since it’s so special.

Silver Needles is grown in the Fujian province of China. It is more costly than other white teas because only the young fuzzy buds are picked. The tea plant used is called Da  Bai, which means ‘large white’. Makes sense, right?

I like to drink Silver Needles in the wintertime, mostly because it’s quite soothing. Everything from the sweet and hay-like aroma to the fuzzy tactile experience of the dry leaves is pure comfort. This tea is comprised only of young, tender fuzzy tea buds. The buds are picked early in the spring, and still have that downy fuzz attached. This is what gives the tea the silvery appearance.

This tea is plucked, then withered and dried. There is a slight oxidation process happening since it’s not steamed immediately like green tea. This is why the leaves are silvery and not a more grassy appearance.

The taste of silver needles is going to be subtle, soothing, smooth and sweet. Notes of honey and slight vegetal notes can also be present. The hay-like aroma of the dry leaves can also be found in the brew.

This is quite a delightful tea that could be enjoyed in the morning or early afternoon. Kat prefers it in the late morning, as she likes a tea that’s a bit bolder first thing. But don’t be fooled by that mellow taste Dearies- there is still a good amount of caffeine in white tea.

To prepare this tea, make sure the water is below boiling. You don’t want to scald the delicate leaves, so using water around 167°F is appropriate. Steeped for about 5 minutes, your cup will be a light golden color, with a beautiful sheen to it if it’s fresh. You can steep this up in a small teapot or a gaiwan.

Dearies, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about Bai Hao Yin Zhen! Please feel free to ask me if you have any questions.

Functional Teas

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Dearies, lately Kat and her friends have been talking about functional teas. Now, being a teacup I’m not always up to date on the latest popular trends. But I try to keep my ears open and listen to what the younger folk are doing. Curious about functional teas, I took to the laptop and did a bit of research. It turns out these are teas with herbs for added benefit to the body. I’ve been learning quite a bit about these teas!

There are functional tea blends for just about anything you need. Feeling under the weather? Try a tea with Echinacea, vitamin C, and lemon. Having trouble with digestion? Try a tea with licorice root and magnolia bark. Ginger is great for many things, particularly for digestion. I’ve actually written about ginger before, I just love it for everything. It’s relaxing, delicious, and good for the tummy. Check out a previous post to get you started!

Kat has been drinking quite a bit of lavender tea lately. This functional tea is great if you need to relax. It smells divine, like sitting in a lush French field dotted with beautiful purple lavender. She originally started drinking lavender because it helped her relax and relieve stress. She has recently learned it’s also good for promoting sleep and helps to uplift your mood! She adds a touch of honey to her lavender tea for an extra dose of soothing goodness. Kat also drinks Chamomile, which is also known for helping with sleep and relaxation. After a particularly stressful day both of these herbs have been super helpful. She’ll even mix both teas together for a delicious way to unwind.

Kat has started using this organic detox green tea from Full Circle Organic. A friend recommended it when Kat said she wanted to take some time to cleanse her body after eating a bit too much around the holidays. It’s hard to get back on track after such indulgent festivities, isn’t it? Being more mindful of her nutrition, exercise, and a little help from this tea, she’s feeling much more like herself. This tea contains organic green tea, dandelion root, and schizandra berries, all things that are supposed to help cleanse the body. Why not get a little extra help in jumpstarting the process? This tea is the perfect way. This tea can be found in various grocery stores such as Tops, Coborns, Price Chopper, HyVee, Big Y and more.

Dearies don’t forget that I’m a teacup, not a doctor. So please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions about these teas. Have you tried any functional teas? I’d love to learn about what you’ve had, and your experience with them.

 

 

Echinacea tea

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Kat has been on an herbal kick lately. She’s been learning about all herbs, and how they can possibly be helpful to a healthy lifestyle. There is so much to learn that she’s taking things slowly. This week she’s been focusing on echinacea. Neither of us knew much about this herb at all, except that we’ve heard it’s supposed to be good when you have a cold. We’re found out a little bit more, and I’m happy to share my knowledge with you!

Echinacea is a plant in the daisy family that has pretty purple flowers. You’ve probably seen it growing wild, or have at least seen pictures of it and didn’t even know it. The petals are long and thin and remind me of purple daisies. In my research I discovered that the name comes from the Greek word ekhinos, which means hedgehog! Isn’t that cute? Actually, if you look closely at the center of the flower, it does look a little bit like a hedgehog. I admit, this makes me giggle a little bit. But it turns out this is an herb with some serious power!

Echinacea is thought to have a bunch of healthy uses. It can help boost the immune system, which is perfect for cold and flu season. It is also supposedly helpful in fighting a cold you already caught, and soothes throat and chest illnesses. It has been known to help with inflammation and fighting bacteria. So many possibilities! Dearies, I also learned that if you are allergic to certain flowers, you should check with your healthcare provider before trying echinacea (as well as other herbal teas such as chamomile). You could be allergic to it so please be careful.

Our favorite way to consume echinacea is through tea, of course. Echinacea tea can be easily found in health food stores and supermarkets. Make sure you read the package carefully as other ingredients can be added as well. You want to make sure you are getting exactly what you are expecting. It’s easy to prepare, you can use boiling water and steep for as long as you like. Herbals are very forgiving, they are hard to oversteep! Feel free to add a sweetener of your choice. Kat likes to put in a drop of honey.

Don’t forget, Dearies- I’m not a medical professional! This post is my humble suggestion and info I’ve learned about echinacea. If you are interested, consider giving it a try! If you learn more important herbal information I’d love to hear about it.

Tippy’s Tea of the Month: Turmeric Tea

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This time of year, we’re all trying to avoid those sniffles and coughs. It’s not easy with rapidly dropping temperatures and changes in seasons. I thought it would be interesting to focus on a tea that tastes good, and has a reputation for helping the body. What do you know about turmeric? You can make tea out of the root, or purchase various forms of dried tea.

Kat has read a bit about it lately, and it got me curious. We picked a little bit up, and made a rather earthy tea with it. Here’s what we did

Tippy’s Turmeric Tea

1-inch piece of turmeric peeled and roughly chopped

½ inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or more if you prefer)

1 tablespoon honey

1 cup water

(makes 1 serving)

First of all, please be careful when handling the turmeric! It can stain, so be sure to use a cutting board that’s easy to clean. Smash the turmeric and ginger a little bit with the back of a spoon, just to get those juices flowing.  Boil the water and add the turmeric and ginger. Let it all bubble gently together for 5-10 minutes. Once you are happy with the flavor, turn off the heat. Add in the lemon and honey (you can always add more of both to taste). Strain into a mug and garnish with lemon slices if desired. Enjoy!

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Turmeric is supposed to help the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties. Dearies I’m teacup not a doctor, so please do not take my word as medical advice! But I do know that my turmeric tea tastes good, and it’s nice to think it’s also good for us! Do you have a favorite recipe for turmeric tea? Please let us know in the comments! I’m always looking for new ways to enjoy tea.

Tippy’s Tea of the Month: Longjing

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Dearies I know we’ve talked about Green Teas quite a bit, but there is one in particular that is a Chinese staple with an interesting story, Longjing. This tea’s name translates to ‘dragon well’, and is grown only in China’s Zhejiang province. Why is this well-loved tea called Dragon Well? It all goes back to the legend! There are actually a few different versions of the legend, but in my favorite version, a Taoist monk discovered a dragon hiding in an old well. The season had been in drought, and once the villagers learned of the Monk’s discovery they prayed to this dragon to bring the rain and fill the well to capacity. After the prayers, it started to rain! This water flowed from the well and nourished the surrounding tea is grown.

 The tea itself has a flat needle-like shape with a lovely jade green color. This tea is pan-fired which gives it a nutty taste (it often reminds me of chestnuts) with a fresh vegetal aroma. It also has a cooked veggie flavor which we often associate with green beans. The tea is nutty, vegetal and sweet.

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 The quality of longjing depends on when it was harvested. The earlier in the spring, the more expensive the tea will be. For the highest quality, one leaf and one bud is picked. These young leaves and buds create a very gentle, fresh and tender flavor for the tea.

The highest grade leaves are pan fried in small batches in a wok. They  needed to be heated as soon as possible to prevent oxidation. The pan-firing technique creates the lovely nutty flavor you taste in the tea. The leaves are pressed to the sides of the wok to make sure they are properly dried. This also creates the flat needle-like shape of the finished leaves. If your tea leaves have an even color to them, you know they were dried very well, to make sure the heat was even for the whole batch. Lower grades of longjing are also pan heated but usually in large revolving drums. The teas that are machine roasted are still quite delicious and more affordable.

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As with many coveted teas, longjing can be ‘faked’. You may not be getting spring harvested tea, or tea grown in Zhejiang. The best way to tell is use your eyes and mouth. Does it look like a vibrant green tea? Does it smell and taste like early spring? Veggies and chestnut? It is smooth and gentle or is it bitter? If you taste enough good quality longjing you will know what to look for. As always dearies, it’s about tasting, tasting, tasting!

To brew your longjing you can use a gaiwan, or a small teapot. My favorite way is to just add the leaves right in the water using either a bowl style cup or tall glass. Just keep filling up your vessel with hot water as you finish it, re-steeping those beautiful leaves. This is the way it’s commonly consumed in China.  Dearies no matter how you steep it, it’s a beautiful tea. If you try it you’ll understand why it’s so revered in China. Happy Steeping!

Ask Tippy: What is Genmaicha?

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Dearies, it’s time for our next installment of ‘Ask Tippy’! This is where you the readers get to ask me anything you like about tea! Our latest question comes from a reader named Betty.

Q. Tippy, what is genmaicha? I was in a Japanese restaurant over the weekend, and it was on the menu. Is it a green tea?

A. Very good question, Betty! Genmaicha is in fact a Japanese tea blend that includes green tea. The tea is usually bancha or sencha, with roasted and popped brown rice added in. This is a common tea to find in Japanese restaurants, as it’s a mellow, every day drinking tea.

The quality of the genmaicha depends on the green tea used. As I mentioned it is commonly found with bancha or Sencha. Sencha is the most popular Japanese green tea and varies in quality based on the season it is picked. The tea is steamed rather than pan fired, and produces a lovely green hue and deeply vegetal flavor when steeped. Bancha is quite similar but produced from both leaves and stems of the tea plant so the quality is a little lower than Sencha. But both are lovely when blended with the roasted rice. To create the rice for the tea, the rice is soaked, steamed, and then dried and roasted. The rice used can be white or brown, but usually white rice is used. It looks brown from the roasting process.

In Japanese, genmai means roasted rice. Cha means tea. When you first open a bag of genmaicha you may be surprised by the nutty aroma. The roasted rice gives the blend a deliciously earthy, nutty scent that pairs very nicely with the vegetal green tea. The other thing that you may notice is something a bit unique for tea- popcorn? It’s actually popped rice! On occasion the rice will pop while it’s roasted, which makes it look like popcorn!

In some cases it can also have some matcha mixed in. This blend will usually be a bit more expensive than typical genmaicha. If you’re not sure if there is matcha in your genmaicha, you’ll be able to easily tell once you open the bag. The roasted rice will have a greenish hue from the matcha, just like in my above picture.

If this tea sounds interesting to you, definitely seek it out! It’s widely available and is often offered in Japanese restaurants. Enjoy!

Behind The Leaf: Matcha

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We all love matcha, don’t we? It tastes delicious and is quite energizing. It has a natural sweetness and is balanced out by slightly bitter and vegetal notes. You can make it the authentic way or just shake and go. You can even cook and bake with it. It’s quite the versatile tea! No wonder it’s so popular. But do you know really what matcha is, and why it’s powdered? I’m happy to tell you a little bit more about this elusive tea.

As you probably know, matcha is ground green tea. You may also know it’s used in the Japanese tea ceremony called chanoyu. But Japan wasn’t the first to use powdered tea. It was actually brought to Japan in the 12th century by Buddhist monks. Grinding tea to a powder actually began in China and it was consumed this way before it became popular in Japan. Whisking powdered tea in a bowl eventually went out of fashion in China, but Japan has kept this traditional alive.

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Before you purchase that magical ground green tea powder, much needs to happen. Leaves are picked by machine, then withered and steamed. Steaming the leaves is unique to Japanese tea which gives it that vibrant green hue. The teas are then dried and rolled. After this process the leaves are carefully sorted, and the tough veins are removed. The processed (but not yet ground) leaves are called Tencha. The tencha is ground to create the fine matcha powder.

The highest quality matcha can be found in the Uji region, using leaves that have been shaded before plucking. The shading causes an increase in chlorophyll and creates a more intense, sweet vegetal flavor. Higher quality matcha will have a smooth, sweet taste with just a touch of bitterness. Lower quality tea will be more bitter and won’t have that lovely smooth texture. When you’re buying matcha you should look for a bright dark green vibrant powder, not a light green or pale green powder. The shade grown leaves are darker and vivid green, and will have more sweetness and flavor. But if you are on a tight budget please select the matcha that’s best for you! It’s still a lovely tea experience, no matter what grade you choose.