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!

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!

Special Tea-Themed Gifts for Mother’s Day

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Dearies, it’s the special time of year when we get to spend the day honoring the most important women in our lives. What are your plans for Mother’s Day? Last year Kat made a lovely breakfast for her mom, and this year she’s planning to have a little spa getaway for just the two of them. She’s been brainstorming beautiful tea themed gift for her mother, so I started thinking up some creative ideas of my own. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Tea Themed Gift Basket: I love the idea of a basket brimming with tea goodies. Package favorite teas in beautiful tins, add a tea-for-one teapot and cup set, a small jar of local honey, maybe even a few delicious cookies. Don’t forget to add a luxurious DIY Tea soak, matcha face scrub, or one of my other tea beauty product ideas! A basket filled with gifts to pamper that most important woman in your life. I’m sure every mother out there could use a bit of luxurious relaxation!

I recently saw a photo on pinterest of a white teapot that had beautiful words and quotes written on it with an oil-based sharpie. You can personalize your own teapot for mom! I love this idea. You can add poetry, quotes from her favorite authors, or lovely little tea themed phrases. It’s a sweet and sentimental way to show your love. She’ll be reminded of you every time she brews a pot of tea. You can get kids of all ages involved in this project.

A small windowsill tea herb garden would also make a sweet gift. If you’re really feeling crafty you can reuse tea tins for the garden! Or you can make a seed kit with all of your favorite herbs to brew into a relaxing nighttime tea. I love adding herbs such as chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, mint, and basil. But really, you can mix and match seeds for any herbs you think your recipient would love to grow and brew. Include a few pretty plant markers and even a small shovel or nice pair of gardening gloves for the ultimate tea gardening gift!

If your mother is a bookworm, how about a tea book? if your mother is anything like me, she’d love to spend the day reading and learning about tea. You could select an informative book like the classic  Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties. This is practically a tea textbook, with everything a tea lover would want to learn about teas from all over the world. Or go for a fun, exciting read that’s a tea-themed mystery! Author Laura Childs writes a series of tea shop mysteries that take place in Charleston, South Carolina. They are fun and filled with tea tidbits!

If you are including tea in your Mother’s Day gift, don’t forget to create your own tea bags with personalized tags! This is one of Kat’s most favorite gifts to create and give. It gives such a lovely personal touch to the gift, and this way you can include lots of different loose leaf teas in easy to brew packages.

Whatever you choose for your Mother’s Day gifts, you can’t go wrong with lots of tea! I hope you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day. I raise my cup to each and every mother. You have the hardest and most important jobs of all!

Mixing Teas & Flowers

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Dearies, I know I’ve written quite a bit about spring time teas, but I’ve recently thought of one more way to get spring flowers in your cup. To actually put them in your cup! I know, it seems too easy to be true, right?

You’ll want to dry your flowers first, or you can purchase them already dried. The amount of flowers you use depends on how much tea you want to make. For a few servings I’ll blend one cup of tea and a tablespoon of flowers and adjust if necessary, but you’ll need to start experimenting and see what works best for you. You may also want to add a floral extract to your blend, to increase the flavor. But that’s entirely up to you!

To make a garden blend with just flowers, you can use equal parts of each flower. Kat likes to blend chamomile and lavender together for a soothing evening blend. She often likes to play around with the following flowers. You can find these already dried online for easy use: rose, jasmine, lavender, hibiscus, chamomile, and chrysanthemum.

Kat likes to create her own version of Rose Congou. This is a fragrant rose tea from China. She takes 1 cup of her favorite Chinese black tea, and 2 tablespoons of dried rose petals. Sometimes she’ll add in a couple drops of rose extract. Mix everything together and store in an airtight container for 1 week. Open the container and give it a sniff. If it smells like a rose garden, it’s ready!

Adding flowers to your tea blends is delicious and also visually appealing. Fill tea filters with your tea blend and share with friends and family. You could also put it in a pretty glass jar for gift-giving, although I wouldn’t recommend storing your tea in glass long-term unless you’re sure to keep it out of the light (see my previous post on properly storing teas!)

You can add your flowers to any of your favorite tea bases, or I also like to use rooibos as a caffeine-free base. You can also skip the tea base altogether and just blend the flowers together!

Now my lovelies, please note I’m not a master tea blender, I just know what Kat and I enjoy. These are just my recommendations to get your mind thinking about how to get creative with tea and flowers.