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!

 

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Tea For Diwali

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Dearies, I was checking out the kitchen calendar and noticed Diwali is Sunday October 30th. Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights. I remember when Char and I were in Malaysia during the festival. It’s such a joyful time of year! Little twinkling lanterns were everywhere and there were the most beautiful firework displays. The lights create such a magical atmosphere! During Diwali clay lamps are lit to symbolize spiritual inner light. In fact, the word Diwali translates to ‘row of lamps’. The holiday marks the last harvest of the year. There are various cultures that celebrate the holiday, and the central meaning is celebrating good triumphing over evil. When Kat was first learning about Diwali, she noticed that there is a theme of gathering together, and celebrating with friends and family.

I of course have decided Kat and I need to drink as many Indian teas as possible during the 5 day holiday! My motto is, if there is a crowd, tea must be served! Tea is the perfect accompaniment for the various savories and mithai served throughout the Diwali holiday. I’ve rounded up our stock of Darjeeling, Assam, and Nilgiri teas, and will be brewing up a pot of my masala chai. We also have a few new teas to add to our Diwali preparation list!

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Just the other day Kat’s friend Sima introduced her to a line of delicious Tea India teas while they were starting to prepare for Diwali. Sima served Kat a few cups while they were applying beautiful henna designs to their hands. I just love how the henna dries into amazing wearable art! The teas they shared combine rich Assam tea with delicious Indian flavors. Kat’s favorite right now is the ginger chai. This time of year she reaches for warming teas and the spicy ginger is the perfect thing. Add a touch of sweeter and this tea is a lovely way to begin your Diwali festivities. The cardamom chai is also in our heavy rotation. The cardamom flavor is perfect alone, or you could add your own spices to personalize the tea even more. Kat has started enjoying the masala chai when she’s craving that sweet and spicy flavor. Brew up a bag, add milk and sweeter of choice for an easy and authentic masala chai. These teas are a great choice for Diwali, and of course any time! They’ve got strong black tea to add a spring to your step, and spicy flavor to enjoy with every sip. You can find these at your local Indian grocer, and head over to amazon.com to purchase them online!

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While I was learning a little bit about Tea India teas, I noticed they are running a fun contest for Diwali! If you go to the Tea India Facebook page every Friday before Diwali, you can find a beautiful picture to color and submit to win a tea prize pack! I’m heading over there today to see what we can color this week! Kat loves coloring! She has a few different coloring books and often says when she adds in a cup of tea, it’s an incredibly relaxing experience.

We are excited to bring on the festivities, food, and sweets of Diwali! Dearies, you know I’ve got the tea ready and waiting. When you gather for your Diwali celebration, what teas will you serve?

Creative Ways To Serve Tea This Halloween

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We are inching closer to Kat’s most favorite holiday. Halloween! She just loves the colors, costumes, and festive fall flavors that are associated with the day. Kat’s having her niece Camille and a few of her little friends over for a Halloween party. This year I thought it would be fun to focus on a few teas and fun vessels to serve them in.

First off, the teas. Here are a few of my favorites for Halloween:

Rooibos- Rooibos has a earthy but slightly sweet flavor with a hint of vanilla. It blends well with other flavors and is caffeine free. You can find it with all sorts of flavorful ingredients blended in, or blend it on your own! Add vanilla, fruit, or berries for a festive drink. Camille loves rooibos and always asks for it when she comes to visit.

HEB Cranberry Blood Orange tea– what better tea to serve than one that has ‘blood’ in the name? Hee hee! This one has caffeine so it should be for the adults. It’s a tea Kat has been drinking for years, especially in the cooler weather. The flavor is sweet with a hint of tart freshness. It’s quite delicious and pairs well with desserts and savories with a hint of sweetness. The citrus flavor is a nice change from all the earthy fall flavors often served during this time of year. And really, isn’t it fun to say you’re drinking a bloody tea for Halloween?

Chai hot chocolate- my last post (will link to recipe here) was a delicious recipe for chai hot chocolate. Who wouldn’t love these flavors all mixed together? You can omit the black pepper and lighten up on the ginger if you don’t want it too spicy for the wee ones. You can also omit the tea altogether, to keep it lower in caffeine. This is also a perfect drink to serve after the kids come inside from trick-or-treating. It’ll warm them right up!

Now, let’s discuss what to serve your drinks in. It’s time to get silly and fun!

Googly Eyes- you can stick googley eyes on to just about any cup or mug and you’ll instantly have a Halloween-ready drink! The kids and adults will both get a giggle.

Gummy worms and eyes- Look for gummy candy such as worms and eyeballs. Drop a few in your drink (just make sure it’s not a hot drink) and fool your guests! No one will be expecting to see an eyeball floating in their cup!

Beakers- You can find different beaker shapes with a quick internet search. They’ll look right out of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. Put colorful drinks inside (ice that HEB tea I just mentioned!) and you’ll have a nice compliment to your halloween decor.

Don’t forget creepy accessories like skeleton stir sticks, plastic spiders, and bats. There are all sorts of accessories you can add to your cups and glasses, just like my collection of bats and skeleton sticks! Do you like my hat? I think I look perfectly witchy!

Dearies, whatever you do this Halloween, I hope you have a marvelous time!

Teas To Pair With Fall Desserts

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One of our favorite things to do during autumn is fire up the oven! Kat is always baking delicious treats. It’s comforting to have a little sweet treat to pair with a warm cup of tea. I thought it would be fun to suggest a few tea and dessert pairings that you can enjoy on your own, or serve at your next gathering.

Who doesn’t love Pumpkin pie? It’s a staple this time of year, and it often graces our table. Pumpkin pie is sweet, creamy, and a little bit earthy. I like to pair it with a heavily roasted oolong tea. The nutty roasted notes help bring out the earthy sweetness of the pie. It also just feel so much like fall!

When Kat has guests staying over, she likes to surprise them in the morning with freshly made cinnamon rolls. They are so sweet, chewy and fluffy! I do think she has a flair for baking them. Since we often serve these at breakfast, I like to pair them with a hearty English Breakfast blend. The strong black tea holds up to the sweet cinnamon deliciousness, and cinnamon pairs very nicely with the tea. Oh, I wish I could have this pairing right now!

Kat’s Grandmother Char was an expert at making gingerbread. I remember resting on the counter right next to the flour dusted pastry board, watching as she mixed and formed her dough. It has such a strong nostalgic pull for Kat and me. It’s sweet and spicy and rich. I was tempted to pair it with a spicy tea, but that would just be too much flavor competition. Better to have something that compliments the spices, I think. A second flush Darjeeling tea would be a perfect match. It’s strong enough to hold its own, but also has lovely floral and muscatel notes that are enhanced by the gingerbread’s sweetness.

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In a recent post, I shared my new recipe for apple tea cake. I’ve been brainstorming what teas to pair with it, as there are so many that work beautifully! I decided to do something a bit unique and fun. Do you ever have iced teas in autumn? It may sound a bit strange, but it really shakes things up a bit. We enjoy iced tea in the fall, as it helps us hold on to that summer feeling just a little bit longer. It’s also quite refreshing, especially after a long hike in the woods. I’m pairing my apple cake with Southern Breeze Raspberry Iced Tea with my warm apple tea cake. The tangy berry flavor is a nice compliment to the sweet warm apples. I also like the play of warm and cold temperatures together. Just like the pleasure of hot tea and ice cream! Kat has been drinking this sweet and tart tea all summer long, and she refuse to stop just because the temperatures are cooling off. And why should she stop? I also love that this tea doesn’t have any calories or sugar. So you can indulge in the cake and not worry about added sugar in your drink! For my warm apple tea cake, click here (note: I will publish the tea cake recipe first, and then link to it here).

Dearies, I’d love to hear about your tea and treat pairings. Do you like to layer flavors, or have them complement each other? However you pair them, I hope you enjoy making special fall moments that last all season long.

Autumn Teas

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Dearies, do you have a favorite time of year? There is something I love in every season, but cool breezes, bright sunshine, and vibrant leaves gently floating to the ground just makes me feel happy, warm, and fuzzy. This time of year Kat takes endless walks in the woods, and sometimes she’ll tote me along with her. I love listening to the leaves swish as she walks while the birds merrily chirp all around us. I’ve been gathering our favorite fall teas to keep on hand in the kitchen. A sip of these in the morning or after a hike is the perfect way to enhance a beautiful fall experience. Here are a few of our favorite fall teas.

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Masala Chai- Newman’s Own Organic Chai. Wake you up and warm you up! Kat has tried many masala chai blends over the years, and she just loves the balance in this one. The organic ingredients of ginger, cinnamon, black pepper cloves, and cardamom are exactly what she looks for in a good chai. These are actually the same ingredients she uses in her homemade version. Often times there is too much cardamom or cinnamon in chai, but the flavors here aren’t too spicy or strong, they all play happily together. Kat likes to steep this tea nice and strong for about 5 minutes, and then adds a few dashes of milk and a tablespoon of honey. Kat loves that she can easily find this tea at her local Stop & Shop, and never worries about running out. She finds this tea comforting and invigorating, and craves it quite often!

Cranberry- of course cranberry flavor is associated with fall! There are many teas that have added cranberry to their blends. It adds a pleasing tartness that is easily balanced with a dash of sweetener. Sips of cranberry tea will bring you to an inviting holiday table with leaves gently falling outside the window. Cranberry teas are bright with a fun combination of sweet and tangy notes.

Cinnamon- cinnamon is always a staple in our house during the cooler months. It’s warming and perfect for all sorts of dishes and drinks. Kat bakes with it, adds it to her morning oatmeal, even swirls a bit in her black tea. You can find it in endless blend combinations, or just add it yourself like Kat does.

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Rooibos- rooibos has an earthy flavor that’s perfect for this time of year. It also has a red hue reminiscent of the falling leaves. Rooibos is perfect any time of day since it doesn’t have caffeine. You can add other flavors to it or drink it straight up! You could get creative and make a cranberry or cinnamon rooibos blend all on your own. There are many rooibos blends out there, so definitely give a few a try this season.

I do hope you’ll let me know what your favorite fall teas are! Do you enjoy any specific flavors or particular types of tea?

Tippy’s Green Tea Granita

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If you’re looking for a new way to refresh yourself in the late summer weather, look no further than an icy cool granita! This cooling treat is similar to a slushy, but with more crunchy texture. It’s super easy to make, and will instantly cool you down. It’s also very easy to customize using your favorite flavors. I’ve been experimenting, and decided that green tea, ginger, and lemon is my favorite combination so far. The only equipment you need is a sheet pan or shallow glass pan, and room to stash it in your freezer.

1 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger

3 cups water

3 green tea bags

Simple syrup

1 lemon zested and juiced

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First, make a ginger-tea infusion. Bring the 3 cups of water to a boil, add the ginger. Boil the ginger for about 3 minutes and turn off the heat and let sit for 30 seconds. After this step, add in the teabags (this is because you should never use boiling water for green tea, it’s too hot and can make the brew bitter). Steep the ginger and tea together for 10-15 minutes.

Add in half the lemon juice and three tablespoons of simple syrup. Give it a taste, and add more of both as desired. You can make it as sweet or tangy as you like!

Once the flavor is to your liking, pour the mixture into your pan of choice. We like to use a small shallow glass pan, since it’s all we can fit in our freezer. It works just perfectly! Freeze the mixture for about 30 minutes or until it’s just starting to become solid. Then, fluff it with a fork.

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For the next 2 hours, check on the mixture every 30 minutes (it may need much more than that but keep checking since every freezer is a little bit different, fluffing and stirring to create broken ice crystals. It should be slushy with lots of crunchy ice crystals. That’s when it is perfect to serve and enjoy. If your mixture gets too hard, you can leave it in the fridge for a while, or even blitz it in the food processor for a few seconds. This recipe needs a little attention, but it’s super simple, and in no time you’ll have a perfect summer dessert. Kat recently made this recipe for friends with great success. They loved the crunchy green tea flavor! The zing of ginger and tart lemon makes this light and refreshing.

For this granita Kat used Harris green tea. It has a mild vegetal green tea flavor and is perfect to add to any recipe. Kat loves this tea because the green tea flavor is balanced and not overpowering. It’s not too vegetal and is super smooth. For a different spin on this dessert, Kat is actually thinking of making the granita with an herbal tea for her niece Camille. She’s visiting next week and it’ll be the perfect refreshing treat! One bite of this crunchy, frozen treat will instantly cool you down and you’ll imagine you’re in the crisp autumn weather. Dearies I hope you enjoy my favorite new icy treat!

Pairing Tea + Ice Cream!

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Do you know one of my favorite things is about summer? Eating ice cream! Dearies, I know, I’m a teacup and I should really have a one-track mind. But I admit I’ve developed a taste for the creamy, sweet, icy stuff. Last night I had a revelation- I was steeping a lovely Earl grey tea for Kat, and she decided to scoop up a dish of chocolate ice cream while I was steeping. It suddenly occurred to me- why can’t we pair teas with our ice cream? There is something so comforting about luscious ice cream and warm soothing tea. Here are a few irresistible combinations we came up with. It was certainly fun doing all of this tasty research!

Matcha + Vanilla ice cream: If you’ve ever had a matcha latte, you know that matcha and milk are a perfect combination. Add in fragrant vanilla and it’s even more heavenly. The creamy sweet flavor balances out the vegetal slightly bitter matcha. This tea can pack an energy punch, so you may want to try this pairing earlier in the day. It’s never too early for ice cream, right Dearies?

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Ginger peach tea + mango ice cream: For a double dose of fruity goodness, try pairing mango ice cream with another fruity tea. Kat loves to pair the ice cream with HEB My Cup of Comfort Ginger Peach Black Tea. This black tea has a soft, sweet peach flavor. The peach isn’t too overpowering and combines perfectly with the black tea. One of Kat’s closest friends loves this tea, and recently served it with spicy ginger cookies. Kat loved the combination of spicy ginger and sweet mango so much that she started dunking the cookies in the tea! Her friend was so delighted that she insisted on giving her the rest of the box of tea to take home. Kat actually likes to pull this tea out when she wants a bit of soothing relaxation. The warm peach flavor is like a cozy fuzzy blanket. The ginger is tingly on the palate, and compliments the smooth peach. In the summer Kat likes to drink this tea iced. It’s quite juicy and refreshing. She adds a bit of fresh ginger to the iced tea to enhance the spicy flavor. The peach flavor in this tea harmonizes with the decadent mango ice cream pairing.

Sencha + strawberry ice cream: I just love a good, grassy sencha tea. It’s fresh, light, and quite energizing. The vegetal freshness pairs well with sweet, slightly tart strawberries. Of course, the ice cream is creamy and sweet, which makes a pleasant contrast to the sencha. Dearies, sometimes you want your pairings to compliment but also contrast each other a bit. It brings a more interesting flavor experience.

Masala chai + coconut ice cream: Recently Kat had a coconut chai tea at a local café and was floored by the flavor combinations. This pairing creates a symphony of flavors, sweet, spicy, and fragrant. The coconut will make you feel like you’re on a tropical island, especially combined with those warming chai spices. This is one of my most favorite flavor pairings!

Don’t forget about pairing iced tea with your frozen treats! You can cool down any of these teas if the idea of a warm tea and cold dessert doesn’t appeal to you.

Black iced tea + lemon sorbet: If you do decide to go with iced, our favorite is an earthy, bold black iced tea with sweet and tangy lemon sorbet. It will feel as if you’re drinking a lemon tea slushie! Hmm, that could be a fun summer recipe to work on!

I love the idea of cold teas and ice cream, but Dearies I’d suggest you try the teas warm at least once. Kat just loves the cold ice cream and warm tea! The warmth also changes the flavors a bit, and you’ll find new tasting notes you didn’t detect before.

Next time you find yourself scooping up a bowl of ice cream, think about what tea you’d like to try with it. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the combination. Isn’t it fun to experiment with tea and food pairings?

Tippy’s Tea-Marinated Grilled Chicken Breasts

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Dearies, it’s Memorial Day weekend and the grilling season is upon us! I thought I’d share my easy chicken tea marinade that Kat likes to use for an easy weeknight grilled meal. It’s also perfect for a crowd! It’s easy to double or triple the recipe. The tea creates a tender, juicy grilled chicken.

 Tippy’s Tea-Marinated Grilled Chicken Breasts

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast

2 cups strong black tea fully cooled (you will need 2 tea bags, we like to use Harris Tea Decaffeinated Black Tea)

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon grated ginger

pinch of black pepper

 Boil water for tea. Steep 2 tea bags in 2 cups of water, for 15 minutes and set aside until fully cooled.

 Pound chicken breasts out until they are between 1/4 and 1/2 inches thick. The thinner you pound them out, the faster they will cook.

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 In a medium sized bowl combine cooled tea, soy sauce, ginger, and black pepper. Whisk together well. Pour over chicken and let marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but can also be left overnight. Kat will often put the mixture together in the morning, and will let everything marinate while she’s at work.

 Once marinated, we like to grill our chicken, and serve with fresh jasmine rice, and steamed broccoli or green beans for a healthy and light meal. But you can also cut the chicken up into pieces and stir fry with assorted veggies.

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Kat likes to use Harris Tea Decaffeinated Black Tea in this marinade. The tea is simple, brisk, and perfect with the chicken. She always has it in her pantry for the times that she wants a quick, easy, tasty cup of black tea at any time of the day. It also makes a lovely cold brewed iced tea! This would be a refreshing pairing with the chicken breasts. Kat likes to add lots of lemon and a touch of honey to this iced tea. Serve this meal for your family or your next outdoor gathering. It’s super simple and tasty.

Get ready for grilling season with this delicious tea themed recipe! I do hope you enjoy it.

DIY Infused Sugars + Tea Pairings

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Dearies, Kat and I have a little secret to making our tea times extra special. We serve infused sugars to give an extra dose of flavor to our teas! Flavor infused sugars are perfect for your next tea party, little gathering, or even for a special moment for yourself.

Our infused sugars are easy to make, and you can package them in a beautiful jar or canister for gift giving. You can use all sorts of flavors, and they take no time at all to create. The only time needed is a little bit of rest for the finished blend, to make sure the flavor fully infuses into the sugar.

 Basically all you need is a ratio of 4:1 of sugar to flavor. We usually do about a cup of sugar, and 1/4 cup of mix-ins. For a strongly scented herb like lavender, you’ll want to use a little less herb. You can always start with a smaller amount and then add as needed!

Some of our favorite sugars to create are:

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Citrus Sugar: take your citrus of choice (Kat likes meyer lemon), wash, dry thoroughly and grate the zest only. Mix in with your sugar. We like to peel a few larger pieces of zest for displaying on top of the sugar bowl for guests.

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Vanilla Sugar: I like to use a fresh vanilla bean for this recipe. Open one vanilla pod, use a knife to scrape the seeds, and add the seeds and the empty pod to your mixture. Mix well, as those tiny seeds like to stick together! This will need to sit for a few days or up to a week for all the flavors to meld before you use it. But once you do, oh my the vanilla flavor is amazing!

Lavender Sugar: Simply take lavender petals and mix in with your sugar.

You can even do matcha sugar! If you’re doing one of these, you only need about 2 tsp of matcha per cup of sugar. Kat likes to sprinkle matcha sugar on morning oatmeal and pancakes. It’s also a delicious finishing sugar for baked goods hot out of the oven.

Once you have your infused sugars, be sure to pair them with lots of different teas! Here are a few of our favorite sugar and tea pairings to get you started:

Citrus Sugar + Earl Grey. Since earl grey has the lovely bergamot flavor already infused we like to add the citrus sugar for even more zing. Kat likes to serve Wegmans Earl Grey to her guests. The blend is well balanced, and you will still be able to taste the black tea along with the fresh citrus flavor. Kat picked up a love for earl grey from her great uncle, who always had some in the afternoon. The citrus scent still reminds her of spending the afternoon playing chess with him while he sipped on his tea.

Vanilla Sugar + Black Tea- The vanilla sugar is so delicious, we like a malty, sweet black tea to pair with it. I like a good Ceylon or Assam. Wegmans English Breakfast is the perfect accompaniment. It has a blend of bold and sweet black teas, and that vanilla sugar will complement the brew perfectly.

Lavender Sugar + chamomile tea. I love combining floral flavors in tea. As you know, I wrote an early post about it! The Wegmans Chamomile has a honey sweetness that blends with the lavender. One sip and you’ll feel like you are in a sunny field of French lavender!

I do hope you like my infused sugar ideas! Gift them for Mother’s Day, and serve them at your next tea party. Or just save them for a special moment all your own!

Tea Gatherings

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My fine tea friends, do you know of any tea societies? Years ago Char used to be part of a ladies’ tea society that gathered once a week for tea, light refreshments, and lots and lots of gossip. These sort of tea societies are fewer and far between but the idea behind them is still relevant. A time to relax, see friends, share a delicious snack with your favorite teas.

In the UK I’ve come across tea societies that meet for afternoon tea, tea discussions, etc. Sort of like a book club for tea lovers. It’s just a lovely reason to get together. Some tea societies hold themed gatherings where you dress up in costume from a certain period of time. I think I should be an official tea society consultant- I’ve been around for so many decades that I could help out with choosing clothes and food to pair with the teas!

A quick search on meetup.com will result in tea gatherings all over the country. I’m so thrilled to see that people are gathering for tea! If you are interested, try to start a tea society in your area! You’ll have the opportunity to meet people and instantly have something in common with them.

I’ve even come across an organization called Tea With Strangers that is trying to get folks around the country together for tea, in order to get out, meet people, and just have a lovely time.  Especially in this age of constant screen time, it’s so important to foster in-person relationships.

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Kat is trying to create her own little tea club, but it’s been ever so difficult to schedule. Her friends are all so busy! She’s thinking of taking the club online, via Skype or G+ as a weekly hangout. They’ve been coming up with themes for each meeting. For the next meeting, Kat would like to have a ‘berry’ theme. Everyone needs to bring a favorite tea with a berry flavor. Kat’s going to bring her HEB Superberry Green Tea. This tea is full of cranberry and blueberry flavor. The sweet blueberry is enhanced with tangy cranberries for that classic sweet and tart combination. Hibiscus adds to the snappy flavor, and the mellow, vegetal green tea rounds everything out. Kat picked up this tea to ice in the summertime, and realized it is just as delicious hot. Even though the flavors are zippy, the warm green tea always makes her feel calm and relaxed. It’s quite a versatile tea.

Dearies, do you have a tea gathering that you attend? Are you thinking of starting one? I’d love to learn your thoughts!