Teas For National Orchid Day

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Dearies, April 16th was National Orchid Day. I bet you didn’t know that! I found out while examining the kitchen calendar. I love orchids, aren’t they just so beautiful? They may be challenging to grow, but their unique shape and vibrant colors are absolutely worth the effort! Kat actually has an orchid plant that she’s lovingly taken care of for years. It often blooms toward the end of the winter time, and it just brightens up the whole house. Just when Kat starts complaining that winter will never end, the plant gifts us with a burst of springtime color. Dearies, did you know that many oolong teas have a natural orchid aroma and flavor to them? You can bring the beauty of blooming orchids right to your cup.

In fact, there’s even an oolong tea that’s called ‘honey orchid’. The aroma and flavor comes directly from the leaves, and is not an added flavor. Mi Lan Xiang Dan Cong is literally honey orchid oolong tea. The orchid flavor and aroma is quite prominent. This tea is grown in the Phoenix mountain area which produces beautiful aromatic oolongs. The tea is fruity, honey sweet, and quite floral. A definite must if you haven’t tried it before.

Tieguanyin (Iron Goddess of Mercy) is one of my most favorite oolong teas, and it has a powerful floral aroma. One sip will transport you to a lush, exotic garden. A good quality oolong will leave your palate remembering that floral flavor for quite a long time.

You can also find oolong teas that have been scented with flowers to recreate that orchid scent. These are of course lovely to drink as well, especially if you are looking for a very strongly scented floral tea. One sip and you’ll imagine your house is filled with vases of gorgeous flowers.

Oolongs range in flavor and can be very light, similar to green teas or much more heavily roasted. I love that you can pick an oolong based on how you’re feeling. Do you want something light and floral with heavy orchid notes, or something more toasty and nutty? If you’d like to learn more about oolong teas, the best way is to taste as many as you can. Prepare them, taste, see what you like. I wrote a post all about oolong a little while back you can find it here.

Kat and I have decided that we love these oolong teas so much, we’re not going to just have them around this floral holiday. We’ll be toasting National Orchid Day all spring and summer long.

DIY: Make Your Own Bubble Tea!

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Dearies, do you like bubble tea? Do you even know what it is? It’s a sweet iced tea drink that has chewy tapioca ‘bubbles’ on the bottom. The brew can often be shaken in order to combine all the ingredients, and can look at bit frothy and bubbly on top.

This sweet drink originated in Taiwan in the 1980s, and has recently become popular stateside. It’s common to see the drink in specialty bubble tea shops. Kat developed a taste for these teas while travelling in Vancouver, where she had many a bubble tea in Chinatown. It’s harder to find in our neck of the woods, so she’s discovered how to make her own. I actually think it’s better to make your own bubble tea, because you can control the amount of milk and sweetener you add to the brew.

The first thing you’ll need is the boba (tapioca pearls). You can find these at most Asian grocery stores and also through a quick online search. They are usually black, but also come in fun rainbow colors. The boba themselves don’t have too much flavor. They’re mostly for texture but you can cook your boba in a little bit of simple syrup to give them a touch of sweetness. You boil the pearls until they are soft (about 5-10 minutes) and then they are ready to add to your tea. The boba don’t stay chewy for very long, so I’d suggest only making enough for a few cups of tea. They start to get hard after a few days.

After you’ve procured the boba, it’s time for the tea! The simplest thing is to just make a very strong cup of your favorite tea. Kat usually uses 2 tea bags. You’ll want it a  bit concentrated since you’ll be adding your milk of choice.

To create your DIY bubble tea:

Make simple syrup:

Boil a cup of water and a cup of sugar, until the sugar is dissolved.

Cook the boba:

Follow directions on the package, but it’s usually 2 cups of water for every ¼ cup of boba. Bring the water to a boil and add the tapioca pearls. Cook until they start to float to the top and get nice and chewy. Quick cooking boba takes 5 minutes, the regular kind can take about 10. After cooking submerge boba in the simple syrup for at least 15 minutes.

Make the tea:

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and then steep 2-3 tea bags for at least 5-10 minutes. Allow the tea to cool. Once cool, add your milk of choice. Kat loves to use coconut milk, almond milk, even sweetened condensed milk for a real decadent treat. Add as much or as little milk as you like. Add some of your simple syrup, to taste.

Put the boba in a glass, pour in your sweet, milky tea, and top with ice. Enjoy!

A fun variation is to add a flavored tea bag, and even fruit nectars. Kat likes to use HEB Mango black tea along with a few tablespoons of mango nectar added to the brew. Kat adores mango, and the HEB tea is a perfect combination of sweet, tart, and juicy. She was so excited to find this tea in her local store, and always has a box on hand for iced tea, afternoon tea breaks, and of course bubble tea.

To drink your tea you’ll need wide bubble tea straws (easily found online) since the boba are too big to fit through a regular straw. Or simply slurp without a straw altogether.

See it’s easy to create delicious bubble tea at home. Why not give it a try? If you come up with some exciting flavor combinations, be sure to let me know in the comments or via twitter!

NY Tea Scene

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Dearies, I have traveled all over with Char and Kat, and we’ve experienced tea in many different places. I thought it would be fun to post about different cities that have a vibrant tea scene. Tea is becoming very popular in the states, with tearooms and tea shops opening around the country I’m going to focus on various cities with growing tea scenes in the US. Today I’m going to discuss the New York City tea scene. Kat and I have been to NYC many times, and there is always a new tea place to visit! Here are a few of our favorite places:

Té Company– This is a newer tea shop that Kat has bookmarked to visit on our next trip. Oolong tea is the specialty here. There is a carefully sourced menu of all types of oolongs. Think you know what oolong is? Go to Te, and try as many as you can. They even offer tasting flights so you can try a few at a time. If you are hungry, there is a gorgeous, small menu of seasonal offerings. Teas are served from beautiful small clay teapots.

T-Shop– This place focuses on seasonal Chinese and Taiwanese teas sourced by the owner through personal trips. The little shop is hard to find but worth the effort! Teas are served gong-fu style poured from a gaiwan or small yixing teapot.

Tea Drunk– The focus here is also on Chinese teas, carefully sourced. It’s a great place for a pot of puerh or Chinese green tea. Each table has a tea tray, gaiwan, and tea accoutrements ready for brewing.

Cha-an– This is a Japanese tea house serving delicate Japanese cuisine and lovely teas. The focus is on Japanese green tea.

If you are looking for a matcha fix, you’ll have to visit Chalait, and Matchabar. Both of these cafes focus on the magic of matcha. You can get matcha whisked up in dozens of different ways. Iced, in lattes, even in hot chocolate.

If you’re looking to purchase tea in a shop, you can’t go wrong with Harney & Sons or Palais des Thés.

Don’t forget afternoon tea! There are loads of hotels doing the fancy teas. If you’re looking for something a little more low key, try Bosie Tea Parlor, Tea & Sympathy, or Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon.

Dearies, what favorites have I missed? NYC is so large, you can probably just pick a neighborhood, walk  around, and see what tea places you discover. If you have a favorite place in NY, be sure to mention it. We’ll check it out on our next visit.

Do you have a favorite city that has fabulous places for tea? I’d love to hear about it! Please do leave me a comment below, and it may become our next travel destination.

Tippy Interviews Asya, the Turkish Tea Cup

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Dearies, I’ve decided it’s time to add a new series to the blog. As you know, I’m a traveling tea cup, and have been all over the world. I meet so many interesting pieces of tea ware, and it’s time that you started to learn their stories. Today, I’m interviewing Asya, a tea cup from Turkey that now lives in the US with one of Kat’s friends. I hope you enjoy!

Tippy: Please introduce yourself to my readers. Asya: my name is Asya, I am a glass lotus-shaped tea cup from Turkey. I was created in Turkey but now reside in a kitchen in the US I am a very busy tea cup, I get used all day long. I don’t have a particular saucer to call my own, my owner will pair me with whatever saucer she feels like using that day. She has quite a few colorful options. I love spending time with people, giving them lots of delicious tea to sip.

When are you used most? well, as I mentioned, I’m really busy all day long. Turks take their tea very seriously! I am used during breakfast, when company comes, for mid-afternoon work breaks, and after-dinner relaxation.

What kind of tea do you usually hold? In Turkey, lotus tea cups hold mainly bold, black tea. We refer to tea as çay. We brew our tea very strong, and then dilute it in the glass with hot water. Sugar is available as Turkish tea loves like tea sweet. We even have special tea kettles to prepare the tea.

Can you tell us a little more about the special tea kettle? Yes, we use a special double tea kettle, which is similar to the Russian samovar. It basically looks like one teapot stacked on top of a second one. Black tea is brewed in the top pot, and water is boiled in the bottom. The water is used to dilute the tea for each individual glass, so everyone can drink the tea as strong or as weak as they like.

Where do the tea leaves come from? The tea we prefer to use is grown and processed in Turkey on the coast of the Black Sea. Not many people realize that we grow tea in Turkey! We are actually the world’s sixth largest producer of tea.

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Everyone has heard of Turkish coffee, but is tea really that popular in Turkey? Yes, tea is really quite popular in Turkey. It is always offered to guests and visitors as a sign of hospitality. As I mentioned I am used multiple times a day at home, and people also consume tea in cafes.

Is the custom to drink the tea by itself, or add any milk, sugar, or anything else? We usually drink our tea without milk. As I mentioned you can add sugar, often two lumps will be sitting on my saucer ready for use. You may add the sugar to your tea, or people in some areas like to put a sugar cube between their tongue and cheek, and let it slowly dissolve with each sip. The only other thing that may be added is a slice of lemon.

Can you tell us one of your most memorable tea experiences? Well, when my owner Natalie was visiting her family in Turkey, she was taught how to brew tea using our special kettles. One afternoon she was alone in the house when a family friend dropped by. After greeting the friend, Natalie offered her something to eat, but not any tea! After a little while I was able to get her attention and explained that she must offer her guest tea. When her parents came home, she was reprimanded for not immediately offering her guest tea. It’s considered very rude not to have tea ready for guests! Everyone was laughing at Natalie’s mistake, but she was quite embarrassed. I am actually fond of this memory, because it’s the first time I was able to help Natalie out with tea time.

Thank you so much Asya for the interview! See Dearies, I’m not the only chatty teacup! I hope you enjoyed the first interview in our series. If you have any questions for Asya, let me know in the comments!