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.

Books About Tea

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Dearies it’s been so cold lately, all Kat wants to do is stay home, curl up and read a good book. Can you blame her? I certainly can’t. I always make sure to add a nice warm cup of tea to accompany her reading. The other day I noticed just how many tea books she has on her shelf! It made me wonder, do all of your lovely readers have favorite tea books too? If you are interested in starting a tea book collection, here are a few that Kat and I recommend:

The Art and Craft of Tea by Joseph Wesley Uhl: This is one of Kat’s newest favorites. The book has bold graphics, and gorgeous photos. It gives information on tea from all around the world and even has wonderful tea-centric recipes to make at home. This book has great information on tea growing, processing, and drinking all around the world.

The Ultimate Tea Lover’s Treasury by James Norwood Pratt. Mr. Norwood Pratt is one of the most interesting and important living tea experts. This book combines beautiful prose, tea history, tea facts, and tea drinking culture from around the world. It’s a lovely book to pick up and read something new and interesting each time you open it.

Tea: History, Terroir, Varieties by Kevin Gascoyne, Francois Marchand, Jasmin Desharnais, and Hugo Americi- This has been Kat’s trusty tea handbook for years. This book has detailed explanations about all the tea growing regions. Learn all about how tea is cultivated, and processed. It gets into detail on the importance of terroir- the climate, soil, and unique characteristics of each tea growing region- and how this changes the taste of the tea. This is a perfect book for the tea lover that wants to deepen their knowledge.

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There are also books that specialize in types of tea. For example if you’d like to learn more about Puer, you should try Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic by Jinghong Zhang. Puer is a very different variety of tea, and this book will take you through how it’s processed, where it is grown, and give you lots of interesting historical facts. A must for anyone that wants to learn more about puer!

For something tea related but a fun fiction read, you can try the Tea Shop Mystery series by Laura Childs. This mystery series centers around a charming tea shop in Charleston, South Carolina and the vivacious owner.

Enjoy your book and tea reading, Dearies! It’s the perfect time of year to cozy up

DIY Matcha Hand Cream

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It’s been so cold and dry lately, Kat has been complaining about her skin being dry and itchy. I thought it would be fun to create a lotion that she could easily whip up, something that would soothe her dry skin and contain one of her most favorite teas.

Dearies I found many confusing cream recipes online that involved quite a few hard to find ingredients. I’ve created a recipe that’s a little bit easier to handle and creates a very effective cream!

You’ll need a few ingredients for this cream, but they can easily be found online. Here’s what you need:

Tippy’s Soothing Matcha Hand Cream

1 tbps Matcha Powder

½ cup Coconut Oil

½ cup Shea Butter

Essential oil (we like jasmine, mint, lavender, or almond).

Note: Make sure you sift the matcha well-you don’t want clumps in your hand cream!

The first thing you need to do is melt the coconut oil. We do this on the stove, using a double boiler. Don’t have one? Just boil a cup of water in a small pan and then nestle a heat-proof bowl over the pan (make sure it’s the right size to be supported by the sides of the pan). This will gently melt your coconut oil. Once it’s melted, whisk in the matcha powder until it’s completely combined. Then add the shea butter and mix until everything is melted and well combined. Once combined, remove from the heat and add about 10 drops of essential oil. Allow to cool until you can handle the bowl. Put it in the fridge and allow to fully cool. The mixture will become quite solid at this point. Once it’s cool, put it in a stand mixer, and mix until it becomes light and fluffy. Once it’s at a texture you like, you can scoop it into individual airtight containers. We like to use little jars with screw-top lids.

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If you’re feeling productive you can whip up a large batch and put into decorate jars for friends. It’s such a thoughtful wintertime gift. Dearies I hope you enjoy this recipe! It’s the perfect way to keep your skin glowing all winter long!

 

Teas to Pair With Hanukkah Foods

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The holidays are all about family, fun, and food. Kat is planning all sorts of events, including a big Hanukkah feast She is doing a pot-luck dinner with each friend bringing a different dish. I’ve decided I’m going to be doing the tea pairings. That’s right Dearies, each course is going to have a tea paired with it. Just call me Tippy the tea sommelier! Here’s what I’m planning to pair with each course:

Our appetizer will be freshly fried potato pancakes (latkes). Oh how I love these pancakes that are crispy on the outside and warm and chewy on the inside. Traditional toppings include apple sauce, sugar, and sour cream. It took me awhile to decide on a tea pairing, and I’m going to serve a second flush Darjeeling with the latkes. Darjeeling has natural muscatel grape notes, and this will pair nicely with the toppings. It’s also a tea with a bit of body too it, to cut through the fried latkes. A first flush Darjeeling would be too subtle for this strong flavors, so make sure you get a second flush!

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Our main course is going to be a luscious beef brisket. It’s savory with lots of sweet carrots and earthy potatoes. This is a comforting dish that’s on the heavier side, perfect for chilly nights. I’m going to pair a bright and bold Ceylon tea with the brisket. It’s very strong to hold up to the stewy flavors and will bring out the sweetness in the carrots.

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For dessert, Kat is frying up jelly donuts (sufganiyot)! This is a labor intensive dessert, but one that is worthy of the holiday. For Hanukkah it’s symbolic to serve things fried in oil. This represents the miracle that the Hanukkah lamp oil lasted for 8 nights instead of just one. For the sweet donuts, I am going to pair HyVee Chocolate Mint tea. I think this tea is the perfect thing for just about anything sweet! It has a lovely combination of chocolate and peppermint that your guests are sure to love. Kat finds it refreshing and quite perfect for wintertime. Since we’re just serving the donuts, this dessert-flavored tea will enhance the end to our dinner party. This is an herbal tea so everyone can enjoy it, even the little ones! Kat’s niece Camille just adores this tea for the sweet chocolate flavor. Kat often gives Camille a few bags of her own to take home.

Happy Hanukkah Dearies! I hope all of your festivities are delicious and fun!

Winter Herbal Iced Teas

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Dearies, I know winter is starting to tighten its icy grip on us and we’ll be covered in snow before we know it! This is usually a time to reach for warming, comforting teas, but I’m a clever little cup and I like to switch things up. Kat gets ever so tired in the chilly, dark months, and I’m always thinking up ways to perk her up. One fun way to chase the winter blues is to mix up a batch of iced tea! I’ve discussed winter iced teas before, but this year I’m putting an herbal spin on things.

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Herbal teas are easy to either cold brew, or steep up and ice. Since they aren’t made from tea leaves, they won’t get bitter if you over-steep them. If you really want to feel like you are on the beach, how about a citrusy iced tea? Mint is another refreshing option. You can get very creative, combining herbs for interesting flavor combinations. I love chamomile and lemon, or adding mint to hibiscus. You can even experiment with wintry rosemary, I love adding honey and lemon after steeping rosemary in hot water for 5 minutes. It smells like the holidays! Basil is another hearty herb that is delicious steeped up with lemon and honey.

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When we are looking for a cup of iced tea quickly, Kat likes to ice down one of her favorite bagged teas, HEB Hibiscus Ginger Orange tea. This tea is perfect to keep around for this time of year! Served warm it is a comforting treat with spicy ginger, and tangy hibiscus and orange. Kat likes to drink it warm on chilly days while she curls up by the fire with a few friends. Iced it is a refreshing drink for any time of day. Kat has used this tea to recharge after a long day of holiday shopping. When iced, the ginger wakes up the palate, and the citrus flavors refresh and revive. This is quite a versatile tea! This tea can be found at your local HEB grocery.

This winter when you’re sick of the cold and grey weather, steep up an herbal iced tea and transport yourself to a warm and sunny climate. Be sure to visit my pinterest page for more herbal iced tea ideas!

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!

Tippy’s Apple Cinnamon Tea Bread

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I’m all about autumn flavors these days, and I just came up with this tasty and easy quick bread to pair with your favorite teas. It’s perfect as an afternoon treat or a delicious way to end a dinner party.

This is made in a loaf pan to make it super simple. There is a streusel topping of cinnamon and brown sugar that also makes a surprise appearance inside the bread!

This tea bread has spices that remind me of apple picking and pumpkin pie. It’s the perfect autumn snack!

Tippy’s Apple Cinnamon Teatime Quick bread

makes 1 loaf

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 large apple, peeled and finely chopped (any will do, but granny smith are best)

 

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Preheat your oven to 350. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan and set aside. In a small bowl mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together. This will be the topping and filling, so set it aside for later. In a second bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and ground ginger.

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In a mixer, cream the white sugar and butter until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. Add about a third of the flour mixture, then a bit of the milk, and alternate until everything is just combined and smooth. Try not to over mix. If it seems too sticky, add a little bit more milk.

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Add half of the batter to the loaf pan. Then cover with half the apples and half of the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture. Then pour in the rest of the batter and top with the remaining apples and then the cinnamon sugar mixture.

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Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan before transferring to a cooling rack.

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This tea bread is perfect for afternoon tea, dessert, or even breakfast. It compliments many different types of tea and has all of the wonderful warming fall spices. I hope you enjoy!

 

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!

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