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.

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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

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?

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!

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!

 

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!

DIY recipe: Tippy’s Banana Earl Grey Tea Bread

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Dearies, you may have noticed that Kat and I have been getting more creative in the kitchen with tea recipes. I realized we haven’t done much baking with tea, and I set out to change all of that! Today I’m so thrilled to share our recipe for Earl grey banana bread. Kat has enjoyed earl grey in baked goods before, and has even had it in chocolate truffles. I thought adding it to moist and springy banana bread would be a surprising and delicious addition to the afternoon tea table. Or for breakfast, or really, any time of day!

Tippy’s Banana Earl-Grey Tea Bread

½ cup Water

3 bags of Earl Grey tea or 1 tbsp loose tea

¼ cup packed Dark Brown Sugar

pinch salt

tsp vanilla

¾ cup Sugar

½ cup Butter

1 cup 2% Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

2 Eggs, beaten

2-1/4 cups all-purpose Flour

3 very ripe Bananas, mashed with a fork

Preheat the oven to 350*F.

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add the tea. Allow the tea to steep for 5-10 minutes (you want a very strong tea). Add the sugars and butter and return the pan and heat on medium. Cook until the butter and sugars melt and combine. Once you have a thick, combined mixture, allow to cool to room temp.

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In a large bowl combine the yogurt and baking soda. Let stand for about 5 minutes, until the mixture looks a bit puffy. Stir in the cooled tea mixture and the eggs. Sift in flour and combine. Carefully fold in the mashed bananas.

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Pour batter into pan(s). We like to use mini loaf pans, so we fill them 1/3 way full. You’ll need room for the bread to rise. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours if you are making 2 large loaf pans. Less if you are using small pans like we are. Start checking around 30 minutes. Bake until a tester (we use a chopstick or knife) comes out clean. Once done, remove from the oven and allow to fully cool on a rack.

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I do hope you enjoy my Earl Grey Banana bread recipe! We make a few mini loaves at a time and store a few in the freezer. This way Kat always has a sweet treat to serve when company arrives. The combination of the citrusy early grey, rich banana, and lemon makes a delightful cake with an irresistible chewy texture. I noticed Kat sneaking a few slices throughout the day. I think you’ll agree that this cake is the perfect tea time accompaniment!

Painting With Tea

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The other day I noticed a paper napkin with drops of tea on it. As I was sitting and contemplating what tea to steep that day, it suddenly occurred to me! How about using tea as paint? It would be a unique way for Kat to express herself with her favorite beverage.

 Wouldn’t it be fun to try and paint with tea? Imagine a quiet weekend morning with a blank canvas and a rush of creativity. Add a few drops of tea, and you’re ready to paint your masterpiece! I think this is such a fun idea for any tea lover to relax and express themselves.

 To get started you need to pick your tea. Teas with hibiscus or berries in them give you some lovely hues. You can also use black tea, or green tea for a very light color. Take out a few teas from your cabinet and experiment with what you like best! You could even use matcha, if you can bear to part with some. Just make sure it’s well dissolved. Experiment with the type of paper you use. Watercolor paper is lovely, but try first with whatever paper you have on hand an see how it goes. Try not to use anything too thick or absorbent.

 You can use as many teas as you like of course, but you could even just use one! You can get many different shades of ‘paint’ out of just one tea. Just brew it super strong and then dilute in different cups to get various shades of ‘paint’. Adding a little more water to each consecutive cup will give you a different shade of tea. I love the look of just black tea diluted to different shades. It has a very rustic, vintage-y feel. There are so many color options to create, Kat and I can play around with creating tea paints all day long and not get bored!

 Another approach is to paint with tea bags for interesting shapes and colors! This is a great activity for kids. Kat’s going to try it next time Camille comes to visit, for sure! You can just dip the tea bags in cool water, and blot them on paper. Similar to making a sponge painting! I can’t wait to see what Camille decides to create.

 On the next rainy spring weekend, stay inside and give tea painting a try. You’ll end up having a creative and fun afternoon.

 

Thai Iced Tea!

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The weather is warming up nicely, and it’s time to start thinking about iced teas! My tea lovelies, we’ve talked quite a bit about iced tea on this blog, but there are so many delicious ways to enjoy it. Have you ever had Thai iced tea? Oh Dearies, it is so delicious! It’s creamy, sweet, with interesting spice notes. Whenever Kat goes to her favorite Thai restaurant, it’s the first thing she orders. She’s admitted to me that she often suggests eating at Thai restaurants just so she can get the delicious iced tea!

Since Kat loves this drink so much, I decided find recipes to make at home. The tea ingredients will vary based on taste and authenticity. Some have sweetened condensed milk added (Kat’s favorite), some have star anise and other spices. I’ve come across recipes that also use coconut milk or evaporated milk. The tea is usually black tea, often strong a strong Ceylon tea. I do like using Ceylon in this drink, as the strength and brightness of the tea holds up to all the other ingredients. It’s important to use a bold tea, so the flavor shines through the milk and sweetness.

I love the idea of making Thai tea at home, because many of the versions found in restaurants contain food coloring. You can find pre-mixed Thai tea blends in many Asian grocery stores, but most of those also contain dyes. Besides the coloring, it’s just such a fun and easy drink to make at home. Here are a few of my favorite Thai tea recipe finds:

Here is a basic and simple recipe to prepare. It gets the flavors just right. The perfect balance of sweet, milky, and a bit of zingy spices.

I found this delicious vegan version. It uses coconut milk, vanilla extract, and black tea. yum! It has a more tropical flavor that is perfect for sitting outside during those warm spring and summer days. I’m thinking a little dash of rum wouldn’t hurt, either!

I like the use of both star anise and vanilla in this recipe. The spices give it an authentic flavor, yet keeps things well balanced. I like the the recipe also makes a large batch for a crowd. Perfect for those spring BBQ gatherings! This would even make a nice frozen treat- try pouring the mixture into ice pop molds! I think I need to have Kat start experimenting with this…

Thai Iced Tea is perfect for company, or just when you want a creamy, delicious glass to brighten up your day. Dearies do you share Kat’s love of Thai Iced Tea? Do you have your own favorite recipe? You know I want to hear about it!

 

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.