Behind The Leaf: Chamomile

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Dearies, we’ve learned quite a bit about teas from the camellia sinensis plant. Those are all the lovely pure teas we drink such as white, oolong, green, and black. But we shouldn’t ignore all of those tasty herbal teas out there! They deserve to be highlighted too. This week I decided we should focus on Chamomile, one of Kat’s most favorite herbal teas.

Many people love chamomile. It’s floral, soothing, and has a lovely honey-like sweetness. This aromatic herb is easy to find in just about any grocery store, and is easy to brew. It’s a popular tea since it has no caffeine and has a pleasing light flavor. Really, who doesn’t love a good cup of chamomile?

You’ve probably seen the lovely daisy-like plant before, at least in photographs on the tea box. There are many different species of chamomile but the two most common types are the German and Roman varieties and it grows in various other parts of the world.

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Chamomile is a very nostalgic tea for Kat. Whenever she’d visit dear Char, there was always a cup of chamomile waiting for her at the table. Char even let her add in a huge spoonful of honey. I can still remember how Kat would give the honey a quick stir, and then pop the spoon in her mouth to enjoy the sweet remnants. These days Kat has been enjoying a hot cup of chamomile in the evenings and she often has an icy cool glass on warm summer afternoons. Lately she’s been enamored with her chamomile tea from Newman’s Own Organics. She picked it up at her local Stop & Shop while looking at all of the herbal teas in the aisle. It is so soothing, and simply contains Egyptian organic chamomile. It is floral, sweet, with a hint of earthiness. One sip and she is transported to Char’s table, chatting and remembering all the wonderful times they had together.

As far as preparing chamomile, you can’t really brew it incorrectly. You can use boiling water and brew for as long as you like! It’s very difficult to over-steep. You can ice it down or add to cold water for a cold brew. It’ll work any way you prepare it.

What I’d love to know, is what do you do with your chamomile tea? Do you drink it straight up, or add other flavors to it? Do you bake or cook with it? Let me know in the comments!

DIY Avocado And Green Tea Face Mask

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Dearies, you know how much Kat and her friends love to create their own natural bath and body products. I’ve talked about soaks, scrubs, and bath bombs! The girls are always looking for interesting combinations of ingredients, and Kat just discovered a fun way to make a nourishing face mask.

The other day Kat came into the kitchen with a green face! I had no idea what was going on! Kat explained that she was trying out a new green tea face mask she created. Turns out it’s a winner, so I thought I should share the recipe with all of my lovely tea friends. It’s quite simple and I must admit, it smells scrumptious.

DIY Avocado & Green Tea Face Mask

1/2 avocado

2 tbsp plain full fat greek yogurt

1/2 tsp matcha powder

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First, sift the matcha so it’s free of clumps. In a small bowl whisk the sifted matcha into the greek yogurt. Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Scoop out half the flesh with a spoon and add to a large bowl. Mash well with a fork. Once it’s nice and smooth add the yogurt mixture and mix until fully combined. It may look a bit strange, but it’s good stuff!

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We like to pop ours in the fridge for 5 minutes or so, just to make sure it’s nice and cold. It is more refreshing that way! When it’s at your desired temperature apply a thin layer to your face, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Enjoy looking at your amusing green face in the mirror while you wait! If you’re feeling kooky, show us your green selfie! When you are ready, remove the mask with a warm washcloth.

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Hee hee! Dearies I thought I’d give the mask a try myself. Who doesn’t want glowing skin? It tickles a little bit! Since you have half an avocado left, you can make the mask for a friend, or just enjoy a healthy snack! Avocado toast, and a bowl of matcha, anyone?

Camping With Tea

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Here’s the scene: Waking up in the lush green forest listening to birdsong and the smoky comforting smell of a campfire. Summertime is Kat’s favorite time of year to go camping. She loves being out in the forest so close to nature. Hiking, fishing, cooking over a fire, she just loves it all! She even likes sleeping in a tent. There is however one comfort she can’t live without: tea!

Over the years Kat has perfected a way to have tea while camping. It involves a little bit of gear, but can also be done with less. She does have a bit of tea camping gear, she just love collecting tea ware no matter what the occasion! Those enamelware cups are just so cute, Kat has a large vintage collection!

So there are only a few things you really need to enjoy tea while camping: First a heat source (campfire or camping stove), and vessel to boil water (we just use a cooking pot). Then you pick and choose: thermos, enamelware teapot, and enamelware teacups, empty teabags to fill, or just regular teabags. If you are trying to pack light, all you really need is the boiled water and a cup to put your tea in. If you need to pack even lighter, you can put the tea directly in your cup and sip it grandpa style (sipping with the leaves directly in the water). Or you could put the tea in a fillable teabag, steep and remove. Or of course, you can bring along your favorite teabags, and steep those. That’s what Kat often does.

 

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A tea she likes to bring camping is Private Selection Orange Spice black tea. This tea has orange cinnamon and clove flavors that hold up well to that smoky camp fire. Perfect with a hearty breakfast, lunch, or dinner by the campfire. It would also pair nicely with sweet, chocolatey s’mores, which are a must if you are going camping! Kat drinks this tea all year round. It’s soothing in the chilly months and quite refreshing when it’s warmer outside. She even serves it iced! I guess you could say it’s one of her staples. She always has it in the cupboard.

Dearies, will you try my tips for your next camping trip? Do you have any other ideas for taking tea in the great outdoors?

Tippy’s BBQ Steak Rub

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Dearies, you know I love backyard BBQs. It’s basically all I ever talk about in the summer! I’m constantly thinking of tea-infused recipes for Kat to use, and today I’m happy to share my steak-rub recipe! This recipe is simple to make, and grills up a savory, smoky, tea-flavored steak. Is your stomach grumbling yet?

My favorite tea for a steak rub is lapsang souchong. The hit of smoke works well with the charred meat. You can use another black tea of your choice if you prefer. For an extra hint of smoke, I like to include chipotle chili powder.

I like to serve sautéed mushrooms alongside the steak, or even piled on top. The smokey, savory flavors are enhance with the mushrooms.

This recipe is perfect for steak but you can also use it for grilled tofu  ‘steak’ or grilled seitan as well.

The tea leaves can be whole, or small pieces from a tea bag. Either will work, but the larger leaves will give you a crunchier texture.

Tippy’s BBQ Tea Rub

  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ cup black tea leaves (we like to use Lapsang Souchong)
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili flakes or powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 lb steak of choice

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Combine all rub ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Pat it liberally all over your steak and let it sit for about an hour so the flavors will come together. Grill the way you like it, and enjoy!

This is an easy recipe to play around with- you can swap out the type of tea and play around with the spices. You can also serve it with a BBQ sauce if you’d like to add even more flavor. I hope you enjoy, Dearies!

How To: Have Tea On The Beach

beachtea2Dearies, we’ve talked a bit about taking your tea on the go. Kat is never without her tea whether it be on an airplane, at a picnic, or even hiking. But in the summer there is another important place that Kat totes her tea- the beach! She actually does both hot and iced teas for beachy afternoons. I thought it would be helpful to do a little ‘how to’ on taking teas to the beach, so you can always have your favorite beverage by your side (and hopefully your favorite teacup too!).

For hot tea, Kat will do it a few different ways. The thing you must have is a trusty thermos. Kat has them in varying sizes, depending on the group. She has a small one for herself and a larger one for tea with friends. Sometimes Kat will steep her tea right in the thermos and take it with her. Other times, she’ll bring along the hot water and tea separately. This way she can steep up individual cups, or even bring along her gaiwan for gongfu steeping on the beach. It may require a little bit more setup, but this is such a lovely way to enjoy tea all afternoon. The gaiwan setup is sure to draw a little bit of attention, and you’re sure to make some new tea-loving friends!

If you are icing your tea, you have a few options as well. You can put the iced tea in your thermos, and it’ll keep cool for hours. You can also put it in a large container specifically made for iced tea just make sure it’s lightweight and easy to pour. Kat has a little cooler that’s the perfect size for her plastic iced tea jug. Another must is plastic ice cubes. These are a must for iced tea! They don’t melt, so they don’t water down your tea. Leave them in the freezer and then grab when you are ready to go!

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For her iced teas, Kat loves to pack a pitcher filled with Southern Breeze Peach Sweet Tea. She makes the tea the night before her outing and cools it in the fridge. When she wakes up, it’s ready to go! The sweet black tea flavor combined with ripe peach flavor is perfect for sunny beach days. The tea is sweet without any added sugar or calories, so it’s a hit with all of her friends. She likes to bring along freshly sliced peaches for anyone that wants a fresh, delicious garnish. This tea is so easy to make: simply boil 2 quarts of water, add 2 teabags to a large pitcher and pour in the hot water. Steep for 3 minutes, and remove the bags. Pop in the fridge and cool! Easy peasy. Chill it overnight and have your tea ready for your day at the beach. As soon as the weather begins to warm up, Kat places an order on Amazon for this tea.

To enhance your tea experience on the beach, be sure to bring a few teacups! Drinking tea from your thermos or even disposable cups is fine, but when you bring along a few pretty cups, you’ll feel like royalty while listening to those crashing waves. What are your beachy tea-time tips? I’d love to know if you have some secrets to share. Happy summer Dearies!

 

Behind the Leaf: Yellow Tea

 

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Dearies we’ve discussed all kinds of white tea, oolong tea, and black teas. But did you know we missed a category from the camellia sinensis plant? Yellow teas are harder to find, but they are a tea type that you all must try.

Yellow tea is more time consuming to process, than other teas which makes it less available. There are only three regions in China that process it, Hunan, Sichuan and Anhui provinces. It is processed like a Chinese green tea, but then after firing they go through a controlled oxidation. The leaves are steamed under wet cloth or thick paper, and often the process is repeated. This process can take a few days, and creates a mellow yet aromatic cup of tea. It also has a nice bit of sweetness.

Because this tea is given a heated fermentation, it’s type is a mix between a green tea and a puerh. Yellow teas were originally considered tribute teas, which means they were exclusively grown and picked for the Emperor! How very special.

Because it is similar to a green tea, you can brew this the same way you would your Chinese greens. I recommend using a gaiwan, going grandpa style, or using a small teapot with multiple short infusions. Yellow tea isn’t as prone to bitterness as greens are, so you can use a water temperature a bit higher, from 160-175° F.

The most famous yellow tea is Junshan Yinzhen, from Hunan province. This tea can also be called Mount Jun Silver Needle tea, as the leaves resemble the white tea called silver needles. This tea is picked only from late march to early April, a very short window of time. This tea consists of tender, fuzzy buds, similar to white silver needles. This is actually was a favorite of Mao Zedong which is why it is so well known.

Two other yellow teas you may come across are Meng Ding Huangya from Sichuan province, and Mo Gan Huang Ya from Zhejiang. Be sure to purchase your yellow teas from a reputable source that is knowledgeable in these leaves. As I mentioned, these teas are hard to find, but worth the effort.

As a teacup I’m of course going to promote any and every tea I can. But I must say Dearies, yellow tea is really special. If you come across it, do give it a try. You’ll be quite pleased!

 

Cooking With Tea: Tea Poached Fruit

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Kat loves to serve fruity desserts. They can be light yet incredibly flavorful. Always the helpful teacup, I’ve been trying to think of ways to incorporate tea with fruit. I started thinking about French preparations, as we had the most memorable desserts when we travelled to Paris a few years ago. The food is just good everywhere you go in Paris! There was one little bistro that had an amazing poached pear dish that Kat often tries to recreate at home. I thought hey, why not poach fruit with tea? So I got experimenting, and came up with a recipe I’m excited to share. You can use whatever type of fruit you like that will keep a bit of shape while you cook it. I’d suggest pears, peaches, cherries or plums. Whatever you decide on, just make sure you use a fruit that has a bit of firmness but should still be ripe. You don’t want your dessert to turn into mush!

For this recipe we chose pears, and True Goodness Organic Black Chai Tea. Kat keeps this tea in her pantry at all times, as it’s a quick and easy way to prepare a tasty chai. It is unsweetened, and she often adds a little honey or sugar and a dash of milk to the brew. This tea brings me back to traveling through India with Char. The aroma of cardamom, clove, and cinnamon is so vibrant! I can still taste the milky, spicy chai from endless street vendors throughout the cities we visited. I hope to take Kat there some day! Anyway dearies, enough reminiscing, here’s my recipe:

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Tippy’s Tea-Poached Fruit

Makes 4 servings

2 cups water

2 tea bags (For this recipe we used True Goodness Organic Black Chai Tea)

1/4 cup of sugar

2 large firm but ripe pears, peaches  (we like to use bosc), peeled, cored, and halved.

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In a medium sized saucepan bring the 2 cups of water to a boil.  Turn off the heat and add the teabags. Let the tea steep for 10-15 minutes. You want it good and strong! Once steeping is done, remove teabags. Turn the heat back on to medium, and add the sugar once the liquid is warmed up again. Stir until it’s dissolved. Add the halves of fruit. Cover and simmer until the fruit is nice and tender, you can pierce with a knife to check, about 25 minutes. Once the fruit is tender, remove it carefully from the mixture, into a bowl. Continue to then boil the sweet, spiced syrup until it has reduced down to about ¾ cup, which should take 10-15 minutes. When reduced, pour the syrup over the fruit. We like to serve ours at room temperature, but you can also refrigerate for a few hours and then serve.

Since it’s summer, we like to place the fruit atop vanilla ice cream and drizzle the extra syrup over the top. However you decide to serve it, it’s delicious and easy to prepare. You’ll feel like you’re in the French countryside with your tea poached fruit!

Behind The Leaf: Chinese Black Teas

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Black teas can be grown and processed in many regions all over the world, and some of Kat’s favorite hail from China. I’m sure you’ve had a few Chinese black teas, but how many? I thought it would be helpful to document the most common types of Chinese black teas.

Black tea was first processed in China during the early 17th century. It’s thought that it came about by farmers looking to take their lower quality green teas and create something beautiful. By fully oxidizing the teas, the green leaves became darker and sweeter. Interesting notes of fruit and malt, even chocolate start to appear.

Black tea is called Red Tea in China. So if you find yourself looking at Red Teas that aren’t herbal, they are most likely Chinese black teas. Chinese black teas are found mostly in the south, in Yunnan, Anhui, Fujian. Now that you have a little bit of background, here are a few of the most famous Chinese black teas:

Keemun– This tea is grown in Qimen in Anhui province. It’s actually a favorite among British tea drinkers. This tea can be found in English Breakfast blends, and can be quite extraordinary on its own. The higher grade Keemun teas are velvety smooth, with a rich yet mellow flavor. Other grades have a deep, bold flavor and can often have a hint of smoke. Most Keemun teas work well with milk, but if you have a very high grade, you’ll want to drink it by itself.

Lapsang Souchong– This tea comes from the Wuyi region, in Fujian province.  These leaves are smoked  over a pine wood fire, which of course imparts a deliciously smoky flavor. It reminds me of a crackling campfire. The tea also has wine and fruit notes. It’s quite an interesting tea. A must if you’ve never tried it. Kat says it reminds her of whiskey!

Yunnan Dian Hong- True to its name, this tea is grown in Yunnan province. You may also occasionally see a variety called Yunnan gold. You can have a high quantity of beautiful golden tips in this tea, which are the buds of the tea plant. The tips produce a mellow, gentle, sweet flavor. Strong malty and cocoa notes are also present. It’s a naturally sweet, bright brew. This is one of Kat’s favorites to drink in the morning. The flavor is nuanced but it’s strong and wakes her right up.

Bai Lin gongfu– This black tea hail from Fudan, in Fujian province. It has a sweet and creamy flavor with delightful hints of dried fruit and caramel. This tea also contains golden leaf buds, fuzzy and sweet. There is very little astringency in this tea, yet it has good strength.

Dearies you can travel through China just by drinking these beautiful teas. Chinese black teas have a surprising range of flavors, and you should try as many as you can find. If you have any questions on these teas, please do let me know in the comments!

Soothing Summer Skin With Tea

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Once the weather warms up, you just can’t keep Kat in the house! She’s constantly out and about- hiking, swimming, camping and relaxing on the beach. The only downside to these outdoor activities is her inevitable sunburn. Dearies, I remind her to put on sunscreen every time she gets ready to leave the house! There is sometimes a small spot missed, and it ends up getting sunburned. If you’re suffering from a bit too much sun exposure, I have the perfect remedy for you. Can you guess what it is?

Of course, it’s tea! Black tea works wonders on sun irritation. If it’s a small patch, you can dab a cooled wet teabag right to the area. But it’s a bit easier and more effective to steep the tea, cool completely, and dunk a washcloth (one you won’t mind getting tea-stained) in the solution and apply to the skin. Here’s the full how to:

What you’ll need:  A large pitcher or wide-mouthed jar, 6-8 teabags, pot for boiling, 2 cups water, and a soft washcloth.

Step 1: boil the water and add the teabags in. Turn off the heat and let steep for 5-10 minutes, until you have a nice dark brew. Transfer to a pitcher or jar and allow to cool completely.

Step 2: submerge the washcloth in the tea. If your skin is really on fire, you can even wrap the tea-soaked cloth around a few ice cubes.

Step 3: gently dab the skin with the cloth. Repeat. If the area is extremely irritated, you can keep the cloth on the skin until you start to feel better. Repeat a few times as necessary. Do not rinse the tea off. If you are doing this right before bed, beware that the tea could stain your sheets. So you may want to put a towel under the sunburned area.

That’s it. Give this remedy a try, it’s easy to whip up, and quite effective. No need to immediately reach for expensive creams and lotions!

Don’t forget Dearies, always apply sunscreen if you’re going to be outside. It’s important to remember! If your skin does become unexpectedly irritated, try my tea remedy. Have a fun-filled summer and don’t forget the tea!

Songs for Teatime!

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Part of Kat’s weekend tea ritual includes slowly sipping a good cup of tea while listening to music. Kat says taking some time to fill her senses with fragrant tea and her favorite music goes a long way at helping her feel peaceful and happy. No matter what craziness is going on during the weekend, she almost always finds a few minutes for this special ritual. Always the helpful teacup, I thought it would be fun to find her music that mentions tea. I’ve come up with a fun little playlist that would be perfect for a tea party, backyard summer BBQ, or of course a few moments for yourself.

  • Have A Cuppa Tea- The Kinks: This is a classic song from a classic British rock band! Pull out your English breakfast tea and get sipping to this. This song is from their 1971 album The Muswell Hillbillies. Kat’s mother adores The Kinks and her love of good British classic rock has influenced Kat’s music choices as well.
  • Tea For Two- Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli: this is a lively, cheerful song to listen to on a Sunday morning. It’s jazzy, catchy, and you’ll be tapping your toes while you sip on your tea. I’d recommend a nice smooth, comforting Keemun tea to go with this. Kat likes to pair music from Django Reinhardt with Sunday brunch gatherings. It’s lovely to listen to, but also great in the background.

 

  • Tea For One- Led Zeppelin: This is a surprisingly jazzy yet mellow rock song, very good for savoring a cup and relaxing. It reminds me of sipping iced tea on a hot summer day. I’d pair it with a nice, citrusy iced tea.
  • Englishman in New York- Sting: If you follow tea folks through various social media sites, you’ll occasionally see someone posting the quote ‘I don’t drink coffee, I take tea my dear” which is from this famous song of his 1987 album …Nothing Like the Sun. This song also has a jazzy feel, and is great for relaxing with a British style strong cup of black tea with milk.

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  • Tea in the Sahara: – The Police: For those that really like Sting, he also sang about tea with The Police back in 1983 from their album Synchronicity. It’s got the classic Police 80s sound, and is perfect with a nuanced oolong tea. Lately Kat is loving the oolong tea from Wegmans. This tea is a little toasty, earthy, with a nutty finish. It reminds Kat of going to her mother’s favorite Chinese restaurant as a child. Mom would get a big pot of oolong tea and they’d share dumplings and noodles until they couldn’t eat another bite. With a full belly Kat would steal delicious sips of her mother’s tea and enjoy the fragrant brew. The Wegmans tea brings her right back to the restaurant, enjoying a special afternoon with her mom. It’s a tea that’s light enough for an afternoon sip, but complex enough for a meditative cup.
  • Everything Stops for Tea- Jack Buchanan- This is a delightful song from the 1940s on the joys of stopping a crazy day to enjoy a cup of tea. He sings about how much the British love their tea, and how it basically makes the day better. I couldn’t agree more! If you can find this lovely song, do give it a listen. It’s perfect with an afternoon sip of a hearty black, or Chinese green tea.

If you’re a Disney fan, I’m sure you are quite familiar with this one:

  • Be Our Guest- From Beauty and the Beast- How can I include a list of tea songs without a song that includes a singing teapot and teacup? Dearies, did you know tea is actually in the lyrics?

With dessert, she’ll want tea
And my dear that
’s fine with me
While the cups do their soft-shoein

I
ll be bubbling, I’ll be brewing
I
ll get warm, piping hot

See? I’d say this is one that you can drink your tea of choice and enjoy! This is a song that would be fun for a child’s tea party too! Break out the rooibos or other herbal teas and have a festive party!

Dearies, I hope you like my fun list of tea songs. I’m sure there are many, many more we could add to this list. Do you have any favorites? Do be sure to let me know! I’d love to keep my tea playlist growing.