Indian Flavors In Tea

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When the temperatures dip below freezing, Kat and I always look for teas that are not just warm, but feel cozy and comforting on the inside. Each sip needs to be like wrapping a warm cashmere blanket around your shoulders. Who wouldn’t want to be warm inside and out while the icicles drip and snow falls?

 Kat has found some zesty teas from Tea India that she started drinking for Diwali and hasn’t stopped since. The delicious flavors are part of Indian cuisine and culture. Spices in the masala chai such as cardamom, ginger, pepper, and cinnamon are perfect for this time of year. They warm the body and wake up the palate. Kat likes to add a touch of sugar and a few drops of milk to round out the chai experience. With added milk and sugar, this tea brings me back to my days of traveling through India with Char. We sampled so many cups of masala chai. Sweet, spicy, and delicious. Everyone had their own unique recipe and it was so much fun to try them all! The Tea India version is a hearty cup that Kat has started enjoying in the mornings, to wake her up and get her ready for a chilly day ahead.

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The ginger tea is another Indian staple that Kat likes to keep on hand. The zingy flavor is great alone, or with a touch of honey and milk to calm the spice a bit. Ginger is delicious and also good for helping with digestion. Kat loves it as an early-afternoon break as it’s quite reviving! The spicy flavor also goes perfectly with a sweet snack.

 Cardamom tea is another popular Indian tea flavor. Kat’s friend Sima drinks this tea every day. She says it tastes just like the cardamom chai her mother used to make. Cardamom has a unique flavor that is lovely if you’re looking for an Indian spiced tea but you don’t want anything too spicy. This tea has a pure cardamom flavor without anything but black tea added to it.

 You can use these teas as they are, or add milk and your favorite sweetener. You can even use the ginger or cardamom as a base and add even more delicious flavors to them.

You can find these tasty teas at your local Indian grocery store, or head on over to amazon.com to buy them online.

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January is Hot Tea Month!

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Dearies, did you know that January is Hot Tea Month? That’s right, we get to celebrate our favorite warm beverage all month long! Of course, we celebrate tea in little ways every day. But Kat is planning tea parties, a tea tasting, and a make-your-own tea bag party in January to show her love for her favorite beverage.

 If you’d like to try and make your own tea bags, you can check out my previous post here. Kat is going to have all kinds of loose teas and herbs out on a table for her friends to blend and make their own tea bags. We’ll have lively music and of course some nibbles as well. Isn’t it a fun idea? Guests get to go home with all of their teabags and can remember the party every time they steep up a cup. If you’re looking for more fun tea party ideas, don’t forget to check out my pinterest page!

 She’s also thinking of hosting a black tea tasting party. She’ll have black teas from all over the world, including China, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and India. This is such a fun way to learn the nuances of tea based on region. You can do it with any type of tea. Just pick a category and find as many different teas as you can, grown in as many places as possible. Set up multiple pots with cups for everyone. You can taste each tea side by side and talk about the similarities and differences. Give everyone a little notebook and pen for writing tasting notes. Kat is thinking of doing a green tea tasting next!

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Another way Kat is celebrating hot tea is by highlighting some of her favorite teas she drinks every day. These are the workhorse teas that don’t get as much recognition as their fancy counterparts. A tea she reaches for every day is a lovely mild green by Harris Tea. This is a dependable, tasty tea that brews up consistently delicious every time. She keeps a box at work, and there are bags of it in her purse. She is never without it! She also keeps their decaffeinated black tea on hand for late day sips. She’ll brew up a cup with a squeeze of lemon and teaspoon of honey for a soothing cup that reminds her of her grandma Char. My Dear Char used to always give her a little decaf tea with honey and lemon when she was visiting. Kat most enjoyed slurping up the tea with the honey spoon. Kat often serves this decaf tea to her niece Camille, and together they are making their own special memories over a warm cup of tea. If you are interested in trying this tea and don’t live near one of the local grocery stores that carries it, you can purchase it online through Amazon.

 My dearest tea friends, how are you celebrating Hot Tea Month? Get creative! Its a great reason to highlight all of your favorite teas! I’m tipping my cup to all of you tea lovers out there. Happy sipping!

DIY: Tea Ice Cubes

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Dearies, I’m sure you’re reading the title of this post thinking we’re crazy. Iced tea in the wintertime? Well, it’s true! If you are a regular reader of the blog you’ll know I’ve recommended iced tea in the colder months before. It actually helps us think about summertime and sunny weather! Since it’s been particularly cold and grey these days, Kat has decided to throw a little iced tea party for her friends. It helps bring a little warm sunshine to our hearts.

A trick I’ve mentioned before is to add herbs and herbal teas to the ice cubes to make deliciously flavored iced teas. But another fun idea is to add steeped tea to the ice cubes too, which will make sure the teas you serve aren’t watered down. You could use the same tea you’re serving, or even use complimentary teas for added flavor!

One of my favorite combinations is to use a nice strong Assam tea as the iced tea base, and then add an ice cube made out of Earl Grey tea. The lovely bergamot flavor slowly melts into the iced tea and creates a lovely sipping sensation.

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To create the Earl Grey tea ice cubes, we like to make sure the tea flavor is good and strong. To do this, we use 2 teabags per 1 cup of water. Boil the water, add your teabags and steep for 10 minutes. Allow the tea to fully cool and then pour into the ice cube trays. Put in the freezer, and allow to fully freeze. Viola! Ice cubes ready for your iced teas whenever you need them!

Our favorite Earl Grey of the moment is Newman’s Own Organic Earl Grey. It is the perfect combination of smooth, slightly earthy black tea and tangy, citrusy bergamot. I’m quite the Earl Grey critic, I’ve had it all over the world, in all sorts of variations. And I must say, this is a very pleasing cup. Easy to prepare and quite delicious. Kat’s father loves a good strong cup of Earl Grey, and she keeps a box of this in the cupboard just for him. Can’t say that I blame him. It’s one of the world’s most popular teas for a good reason!

 

Tropical Teas For Winter

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As we head in to the chilliest and darkest of the winter days, Kat is trying to keep things warm and cheerful.  I’ve suggested ways to get cozy with tea in previous posts, and we’re always thinking up ways to get creative. Recently I overheard Kat’s friend Stacie talking about her trip to Hawaii, where she had the most delicious tropical fruits. I started dreaming about a tropical beach paradise, and then it hit me- why not bring the tropical flavors to the teacup, and create a warm and cheerful atmosphere?

I started thinking about Kat’s favorite warm-weather fruits such as mango, papaya, and pineapple. These are flavors that can be found in many tea blends to bring a feel of island breezes to a freezing cold day. I started rounding up tea pairings such as a papaya herbal tea to pair with coconut macaroons, and pineapple green tea with toasts spread with mango chutney. So many possibilities! Kat even downloaded a tropical playlist filled with Caribbean and Hawaiian music.

Dried tropical fruits are easy to find, and you can blend them up and steep in boiling water for a delightful treat. We also love adding ginger for a bit of a zing. You can add these flavors to your favorite green or black tea as well, for an extra boost of tea. Right now we’re adding a few pieces of dried papaya to a bag of green tea and a little knob of ginger. Steep for about 8 minutes and add a dash of honey. That sunshine will be beaming on your face in no time at all!

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I’ve been helping Kat brew up some of her own tropical blends, and have also found a few of our old favorites that contain her favorite beachy flavors. Right now a box of HEB Mango Black tea is in our heaviest rotation. Kat picks up a box of this tea every time she visits family in Texas. She always makes a trip to the store to stock up! Kat likes to describe this tea as ‘Juicy mango deliciousness’. It’s a wonderful combination of malty black tea and sweet mango. A few sips of this tea and you’ll imagine the snow melting away. We keep this tea on hand all year long for iced sips in the summer and images of fresh tropical flowers in the winter.

Dearies, what are your tea tricks to keep the nasty winter chills at bay? Do you have your own tropical blends that you whip up? I’d love to hear your ideas!

 

Trying New Teas for the New Year

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Dearies, do you believe in New Year’s resolutions? Kat’s always making a few, and to be honest, she only ends up following through on a few of them. But this year I’ve decided to help her with one of her resolutions: Keeping an open mind to new teas! I think I could be quite helpful with this, especially since I’m the official tea steeper! Are there teas you haven’t tried, or perhaps teas you’ve been hesitant to try? Here are a few that may be new to you, or at least teas that are on your radar, but you haven’t actually tasted:

Gyokuro- Ok dearies, as far as Japanese teas go, I’m sure most of you have tried Sencha, matcha, and possibly genmaicha. But have you tried gyokuro? This tea is a little more expensive than the others, but it has a wonderful flavor that many call ‘umami’. A good gyokuro almost tastes like broth and has a pleasing sweetness. The tea is different from other Japanese greens because it is shaded before harvest. The shading causes the tea plants to reduce their rate of photosynthesis and the result is that special umami taste. Dearies, I’d love to know who discovered this method of cultivating tea, wouldn’t you? If you are interested, you can learn a little more about Japanese green teas in my post here.

White Tea- White teas are very versatile. Young tea buds and leaves are plucked in spring, then withered and dried. They are just barely oxidized as well. White teas have a range in quality, so it’s important to try a few different varities. The various types of white tea have different flavor profiles but they all have a nice freshness since the leaves are so young and fresh. Look for Silver Needles and White Peony white teas. They definitely are unlike any other kids of tea. Learn more about white teas and their flavors in my previous post here.

Puerh- If you’ve had a puerh, you’ll definitely remember it. This is a fermented type of tea from Yunnan that comes in two main categories: ‘sheng’ which is the raw puerh that ages slowly over time, and ‘shou’ which is aged through a more rapid human-controlled process. Since Puerh is an aged tea, you can keep it for years and if stored correctly it should get even better with age. In fact, Kat has a shou puerh that dear Char brought back from Yunnan many years ago. High quality sheng puerh can be very expensive, especially when it’s an older vintage. This is because the aging process is controlled, and requires a skilled artisan to get it just right. A good sheng can be sweet and grassy,if young, and woodsy and slightly leathery if older, and also a bit bitter. Shou puerh is created with just the right conditions of moisture and heat to rapidly ferment the tea. Because it is produced more quickly, it is more affordable. It has a much more pungent flavor with a dark, thick brew. Puerh can be a bit of an acquired taste, but Dearies there are many people that go crazy for it! They collect it, trade it, and drink it daily. Why not give it a try?

Finally, there are so many herbal blends out there that are far different from things like mint and chamomile. Try turmeric, lemon verbena, basil, and tulsi! Herbal teas are all very different, and can even be fun to blend. You can even try them iced, they are quite refreshing any time of year.

Dearies, this is a New Year’s resolution you can stick to! Just pick a few teas and get tasting. How simple is that? Happy steeping!

Celebratory Teas!

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During this festive time of year, I’m sure you have your go-to festive party drinks. Kat certainly does, and she even has a few tea cocktails she likes to serve for her friends.

But what about teas? Tea can be as festive as your favorite cocktail. There are teas of all sorts of flavors and colors that are perfect for this time of year. Not convinced? Here are a few of my recommendations. Try them and see for yourself!

Peppermint- I do love a good peppermint tea for the holidays. It reminds me of brisk weather, snow, and candy canes! Pair a nice peppermint tea with a chocolate dessert and I assure you everyone will be happy! Who can resist the combination of chocolate and peppermint? It’s an instant party. This combination will feel like you’ve come in from skiing with tingly cheeks and a warming brew.

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Cranberry- there are many blends that include dried cranberries. This gives the tea a sweet and tart flavor. Everyone loves cranberry sauce, and a cup of cranberry tea before or after a meal will bring you right to the holiday table. In fact, Kat has found a bagged cranberry tea she loves to serve this time of year, HEB Cranberry Blood Orange tea. There are so many festive flavors going on in this tea! tart cranberries and hibiscus, a little zing of ginger and refreshing citrus. A hint of sweetness rounds it out. It’s truly a perfect wintertime tea. The flavors are so festive! The pyramid shaped teabags are nice and large, allowing for the tea leaves to unfurl and infuse your brew with flavor.

Rooibos- this caffeine free tisane has an earthy and subtly sweet flavor that’s perfect to pair with sweets. It’s also a great base for flavors such as cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger. You can even create your own rooibos blends and give them as gifts. Children and adults can all enjoy rooibos, any time of day.

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Cinnamon- one of my favorite flavors for the holidays is cinnamon. It’s just so warming and comforting. You’ll find it in everything from pumpkin pie to eggnog. I like to add cinnamon to my black tea. There are lots of cinnamon blends out there, so try as many as you can.

So my lovely tea friends, when you are planning your celebratory beverages, don’t forget about tea! Everyone loves a warming cup, and with these festive flavors you just can’t go wrong. Happy Holidays!

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

Giving Tuesday

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Holiday season seems to be the time to focus on gifts. Kat’s got her long list of friends and family that you need to get gifts for, and she’s been hunting for the perfect gift for everyone. Now is the time when I start to gently remind her that she needs to consider her charitable donations as well. We’re spending so much time and effort on family and friends, but what about organizations that need our help? I know it’s not easy to switch gears, but Tuesday November 29th is Giving Tuesday. That’s right, a few days after Black Friday and Cyber Monday there is a day that is focused on giving back.

There are of course many ways in giving back through volunteering, charitable donations, and supporting companies that directly donate profits to those in need. There are many tea companies that help support farmers and communities around the world. I was recently steeping up a bold cup of black tea for Kat, and noticed something on the box that I hadn’t seen before. Harris Tea donates $.10 from each box to the Alzheimer’s Association. They have committed a minimum annual donation of $25,000. Isn’t that fabulous? I was thrilled to find out that one of Kat’s favorite brands of black tea is giving back. If you’d like to learn more about Harris Teas you can visit their website, and shop their selection on Amazon.

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Kat loves the Harris black tea because it is straightforward and brisk. It reminds her of afternoons with her grandmother Char. They would often have a formal cup of tea in the afternoons and her gran would let her steal sips of Harris black tea until she was old enough to have a full cup of her own. Kat relished these days with Char, sitting and sharing special stories. Each sip of this tea brings those memories flooding back and gives her a warm satisfied feeling. She has also discovered their mellow, relaxing green tea as well. She keeps a few bags in her purse, and some in her desk at work. It’s the perfect tea to recharge with in the early afternoon.

To learn even more about these teas you can check out my previous post here. Dearies, I do hope you spend some time thinking about what you’ll do for Giving Tuesday! There are so many ways to give back.

Black Teas to get you through Black Friday!

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Oh goodness Dearies, I barely see Kat these days! She’s already busy running about getting her holiday prep started. Between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas coming up, she has endless to-do lists. I see her briefly in the morning and then we sometimes meet for a late-night relaxation sip. Watching her breeze around the house for a few days, I decided to come up with a list of black teas to give her a bit of pep to get through the holiday crazy. Especially that Black Friday shopping! She’s planning on getting up very early (even before this tea cup likes to be awake!) and going all day long. Here are a few of our favorite black teas I’m lining up to keep her awake and ready to go!

 Irish Breakfast- I can’t think of a better way to start the day! This is a super strong blend of black teas, perfect to wake you right up. This tea has a hearty dose of Assam which is malty and bold. It’s a bit stronger in flavor than English Breakfast but they’ll both do the trick. Sometimes they are blended with Kenyan, Ceylon, and Chinese black teas as well. Each blend tastes a bit different so you should try as many brands as you can to see what you like best!

 Keemun- this is a Chinese tea that’s great for the morning or early afternoon. It can be a little earthy, little bit sweet, with a hint of smoke. Very uplifting and energizing!

 Darjeeling- perhaps it’s getting a bit later in the day and you want something to get you through but not give you a big boost. A delicate 1st flush Darjeeling is floral yet earthy, a nice balance of more subtle flavors. It will restore your energy and the flavor will also give you focus and calm.

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Kat has found a new favorite to keep her shopping energy up. I mentioned Tea India teas in our Diwali celebration post, and Kat now keeps the Orange Pekoe tea on hand for moments when she needs a pick-me-up. It’s a bold Assam tea, perfect for mornings or early afternoon. She’s even made it iced a few times, an carries it around in a tumbler. Quite a versatile tea! Earthy, bold and bright, it holds up well both hot and iced.

 These Black Friday teas are of course great for any occasion. I’d stick with them in the morning or early afternoon if you are sensitive to their pep effects. Do you have a favorite black tea to wake you up and keep you going?

Recipe: Tippy’s Chai Hot Chocolate!

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I’m so excited to share my new recipe with you! I’ve been thinking up ways to enjoy warming tea-infused drinks and when I saw Kat eating a chocolate cookie with her masala chai, it hit me! Why not make a chai hot chocolate? Imagine coming out from a chilly late fall or winter evening and curling up with a mug of something sweet, chocolatey and warming. Dearies, I must admit this is one of the most delicious recipes I’ve created. Kat and I had such fun testing it!

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Tippy’s Chai Infused Hot Cocoa

               2 cups whole milk

               ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

               2 tbps (or 2 tea bags) black tea

               8 cardamom pods

               1 cinnamon stick

               5 whole cloves

               5 peppercorns

               1 whole vanilla bean

               1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and smashed

               4 tbsp sugar

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Gently is the key word for this recipe. Since we’re dealing with milk, we don’t want to overheat and cause it to scald or boil over. Heat water and milk genly until slightly bubbly but not boiling. Reduce heat to low, whisk in the cocoa powder. Once incorporated, split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add seeds and bean, the tea, spices, and ginger. Allow to simmer gently for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Turn off heat and stir in the sugar. Allow to sit for 5 minutes and strain into two mugs.

This treat is delicious all on its own but you could garnish with fresh whipped cream, or add in a cinnamon stick. Enjoy my loves! If you try this recipe please let me know what you think? I know you’re going to love it.