A Farewell For Now

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Dearies, Kat just gave me the most exciting news! We’re going on a trip around the world! Apparently she’s been planning this trip for quite some time, but kept it as a surprise. We’re going to see some amazing tea-growing regions! Isn’t it thrilling? We are going to tour though India, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, and Japan! We may even get to Africa! Oh I’m so excited that I can hardly sit still in my saucer. I’m going to learn so much more about tea! How it’s grown, processed, and sold! It’s the trip of a lifetime.

If you’re wondering how a fragile tea cup will travel, don’t worry! Kat will wrap me up very well, and she even has a special velvet-lined box for me. I feel positively royal! Lately I’ve been longing for my travel days with dear old Char, and I’m so delighted that I’ll get to have all new adventures with her granddaughter Kat. I think this time around things will look quite different! It’s been a very long time since I’ve left the house, let alone travelled to a far-away place.

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Of course, this means the blog may be quiet for a while. I won’t have access to our computer since we’ll be out and about. I am sad that the blog will go dark for a while. I’ll certainly miss all of you dear readers very much! I cherish our twitter conversations! But thank you so much for being loyal followers and reading all I have to say about tea. It’s been a pleasure to share with you. I do hope we can connect again soon. This is farewell for now, but I hope to see you all when we get back! Take care Dearies, and happy sipping.

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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!

Behind The Leaf: Matcha

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We all love matcha, don’t we? It tastes delicious and is quite energizing. It has a natural sweetness and is balanced out by slightly bitter and vegetal notes. You can make it the authentic way or just shake and go. You can even cook and bake with it. It’s quite the versatile tea! No wonder it’s so popular. But do you know really what matcha is, and why it’s powdered? I’m happy to tell you a little bit more about this elusive tea.

As you probably know, matcha is ground green tea. You may also know it’s used in the Japanese tea ceremony called chanoyu. But Japan wasn’t the first to use powdered tea. It was actually brought to Japan in the 12th century by Buddhist monks. Grinding tea to a powder actually began in China and it was consumed this way before it became popular in Japan. Whisking powdered tea in a bowl eventually went out of fashion in China, but Japan has kept this traditional alive.

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Before you purchase that magical ground green tea powder, much needs to happen. Leaves are picked by machine, then withered and steamed. Steaming the leaves is unique to Japanese tea which gives it that vibrant green hue. The teas are then dried and rolled. After this process the leaves are carefully sorted, and the tough veins are removed. The processed (but not yet ground) leaves are called Tencha. The tencha is ground to create the fine matcha powder.

The highest quality matcha can be found in the Uji region, using leaves that have been shaded before plucking. The shading causes an increase in chlorophyll and creates a more intense, sweet vegetal flavor. Higher quality matcha will have a smooth, sweet taste with just a touch of bitterness. Lower quality tea will be more bitter and won’t have that lovely smooth texture. When you’re buying matcha you should look for a bright dark green vibrant powder, not a light green or pale green powder. The shade grown leaves are darker and vivid green, and will have more sweetness and flavor. But if you are on a tight budget please select the matcha that’s best for you! It’s still a lovely tea experience, no matter what grade you choose.

Ask Tippy!

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Dearies, I’m so excited to share my latest addition to the blog. It’s called ‘Ask Tippy’. This is where you get to take control of the blog, and ask me questions about tea! Do you have a question about tea types? Tea preparation? Teaware? Ask away! I received this question recently from a reader named Andrea, and I thought I should make the answer into a post. Here we go!

Q. Tippy, do I need to use an electric kettle to get the perfect water temperature? Help!

Andrea, thank you so much for your question! Well, it is certainly very convenient to have a hot water kettle, especially one that heats the water to the exact temperature you need for your tea. But if you don’t have one, there is no reason to fret. There are various thermometers on the market that you can use to measure your water temperature if you’d like. You’d boil up your water, pour into a vessel and then measure and wait until you’ve hit the desired temp. Or, often times Kat will just boil her water and take the kettle off the heat and wait about 2 minutes if she’s making green or white tea. If you aren’t doing a professional tasting, you don’t need the temperature to be absolutely exact. Sometimes I find that I prefer a temperature slightly different to what is suggested for the tea. But here are some temperature guidelines for you (these temperatures are all listed in Fahrenheit and vary a little bit basted on the type of tea in the category):

White: 180°

Green: 170°-185°

Oolong: 180°-210°

Black: 200°-210°

Puerh: 200°-210°

Herbals: 200°-210°

Another thing to keep in mind is your water quality. If you live in a place with tasty water, you can go ahead and use that unfiltered. But if you have water that is hard and filled with minerals, it’s best to filter it if you can. Kat keeps a filter pitcher on her counter at all times so she can always have water ready for tea. Of course, if you can use spring water it is ideal. But filtered water is just fine. It’s also fun to play around with different types of water to see how it changes the taste of your tea.

So Andrea, definitely purchase a kettle for convenience and exact temperatures, but don’t feel like you absolutely must have one.

Dearies, if you have a question for me, please feel free to ask just like Andrea! The easiest way to do so is to tag me on twitter @TheLovelyTeaCup

 

Matcha The Authentic Way

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Dearies, I know you all love matcha! It’s the most popular topic that I write about. I recently realized that I’ve shared recipes and matcha on-the-go tips, but we haven’t done a post about how to have an authentically prepared cup of matcha. So, here we go!

To prepare your matcha the authentic way, you need just a few tools: a matcha bowl (a small cereal bowl could work) called a chawan, a bamboo whisk called a chasen, and a small mesh sifter. An optional tool is the tea scoop, called a chashaku.

Now you just need two ingredients: 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of matcha. I recommend using ceremonial grade matcha, this is the best quality and will whisk up to a delicious, frothy cup. But don’t get discouraged if you don’t have ceremonial grade. Go with what you can find!

So, now that you have your tools and ingredients, you are ready for a perfect bowl of matcha.

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First, measure out a tsp of matcha, which can also be measured with 2 scoops with the chashaku. Place the matcha in the sifter over your bowl. It’s important to sift the matcha first, don’t skip this step! Sifting removes clumps and will help you get a nice frothy bowl of tea.

Your water temperature needs to be 175°, this is very important! Do not use boiling water or your matcha will be bitter. Green teas in general need cooler water than black teas. Once you have the right temperature, pour about 4 tablespoons of water into the bowl and gently mix the matcha until you form a nice, vibrant green paste.

Once you have your paste, it’s time to whisk! Add the remainder of your water, and whisk in a ‘W’ formation. Be gentle with your pressure- you don’t want to crush the tips of the whisk to the bottom of the bowl, they’re delicate and you might bend them. Whisk using your wrist, and not your fingers. Once you have a lovely frothy texture, you can remove the whisk. It shouldn’t take too long, so be mindful not to over-whisk. Whisking takes lots of practice, so get ready to drink lots of matcha! Even if you don’t get a very frothy bowl the first few times, don’t discard that matcha! As long as the powder is mixed in, it will still taste delicious. Sip right from your bowl and enjoy!

If after a few tries you’re still not getting a frothy mixture, make sure you are sifting your powder well. Also be sure you are whisking in a ‘W’ formation, and moving from your wrist.

Be sure to clean your matcha tools very well. The bamboo whisk should be cleaned thoroughly and also air dried. Make sure it’s fully dry before you store it to avoid any mold from growing on the whisk.

The best way to learn is to practice! There are also scores of videos online that you can find with a quick search. Watching someone whisk may also help you understand what to do. Dearies if you have any questions about preparing matcha, please drop me a line and let me know! I’d be happy to help out. Happy whisking!

DIY: Cucumber Green Tea Body Spray

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Dearies this sweaty weather seems endless, doesn’t it? Kat has taken her afternoons on the shady porch, with a glass of iced tea in hand, and a good book. It’s been so hot that even a shady spot isn’t the oasis it once was. I decided it was time to do something about it. I noticed that my kitchen friends that live near the sink always seem to be the most comfortable in the heat. I realized it’s because they’re always getting sprayed by the faucet. Then it dawned on me- a body spray! That’s what Kat needs. So off I went, trying to find just the right combination of ingredients.

Kat loves cucumber in the summer, she says it’s quite refreshing. So I decided to put that idea in the spray. I think green tea pairs well with the cucumber. Both flavors are quite aromatic, and refreshing. With just a little bit of prep, you can have a refreshing body spray to beat that summer heat.

Tippy’s refreshing green tea + cucumber body spray

2 cups water

2 teabags of green tea of choice

Half a large cucumber

2 tsp witch hazel

Spray bottle

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Steep the teabags in just-boiled water for 20 minutes or more. Allow to fully cool in the fridge.

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Peel the cucumber and cut into large chunks. Puree in a food processor

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Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, coffee filter, or cheesecloth until you get as much liquid out as possible. You can chuck the solids, or use it in a delicious cucumber yogurt sauce!

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Add the cucumber to the tea mixture and mix in the witch hazel. Fill a spray bottle and keep it in the fridge at all times. When you’re feeling hot, just give yourself a spritz!

Teas for Dad on Father’s Day

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Father’s day is almost here, and I’m sure many of you are in the middle of brainstorming what to get for Dad. I’m going to bet many of you have tea-loving fathers! Even if Dad hasn’t had much experience with tea, a tea-themed Father’s Day gift could be just the thing to start him on his tea adventure. I just happen to have a few suggestions on what teas to select and gift to Dad.

If Dad is a coffee drinker, a nice strong black tea is a nice choice. You can go with a malty, sweet Assam, slighty smoky Keemun, or perhaps for something with more punch, like an Irish Breakfast blend. Strong black teas are always a nice tea for coffee drinkers to start out with. They get that brisk flavor they crave, but with different nuanced flavors.

If Dad is a scotch drinker, how about something with earthy nuances like a puerh? This tea is aged and produces leathery, and wet earth notes that always reminds Kat of scotch. It also can cost far less than an aged bottle of scotch! Kat is seriously considering a puerh for her father, who likes to end a busy week with a small glass of scotch.

If he’s a fan of camping how about a lapsang souchong? The smoky flavor will bring him right to the campfire. It’s a strong black tea blend that brews up nice and strong. It’s also a good choice if he’s a fan of smoky meats like bacon! Perhaps a breakfast pairing of pancakes, bacon and lapsang to surprise Dad on Father’s Day!

One of my most favorite choices for dad is Chai. The blend of earthy black tea and strong spices are sure to please a father with a refined palate. This is an especially great choice for the foodies! Kat is a big fan of chai, and often makes her own homemade version from black tea and fresh spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. But usually she is pressed for time, and reaches for a packaged blend. Lately she’s been especially fond of an organic chai from True Goodness. Kat’s mom knows she loves a good chai, and found this one in her local Meijer store. Her mom is so sweet, she’s always looking out for new teas for Kat to try! She tries to find adventurous blends that Kat may not have seen before. But it’s hard to stump my Kat- she tries as many new teas as possible. Her mom likes that this tea has no artificial flavors (you’d be surprised at how many tea blends have artificial flavors!) and contains organic ingredients. She decided to send Kat a box, and it’s been our go-to for months now. It has just the right amount of malty, earthy tea, warm cinnamon and ginger, spicy cardamom, clove, and pepper. I just know the Dad on your list is sure to love this tea! Won’t Kat’s mom be surprised when she sees this tea included in her husband’s Father’s Day gift!

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If you have young children, I just adore the idea of a special father/child tea party! Create a special tea time just for dad and his little ones. Wouldn’t this be the perfect way to get some quality time together? You can work with your children to pick out everything from the menu, the teas, and the décor. They’ll enjoy being so involved in the process. I love the idea of creating special time for Dad and his children, it’s so hard to find time to slow down and enjoy family.

Don’t forget the teaware! There are many fun mugs out there, something to match your father’s style. You can even custom make a mug with a loving message, or a lovely picture of his children. Or how about a clear glass mug with infuser, so he can watch his leaves dance and steep. This will let him get more involved in the tea making process. If he’s interested in gadgets, a variable-temperature kettle would be a fun gift. This way he can choose the exact temperature for his tea, depending on tea type. There are even tea-makers on the market, which you could choose if you’re looking for a fancier gift.

What do you think of these ideas, Dearies? Do you have any to add? Feel free to contact me through twitter or Instagram if you need any further suggestions! I hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day!

Tippy Interviews Li Juan the Gaiwan

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Hello Dearies! A little while back I did my very first interview. It went so well, that I decided it was time for another! Today you’re going to learn about Li Juan, a very beautiful Chinese Gaiwan. Li Juan now lives with Kat’s friend Sansan, who brought her back from a trip to China a few years ago. The gaiwan is used to steep tea in the gong fu style. You can learn a little more about this method and see another picture of Li Juan right here. But I’ll let you learn more about this beautiful vessel in our interview below!

How are you used? I hold a large amount of tea leaves with a small amount of water. You can use the highest quality leaves you can find, because I extract as much flavor as possible from those beautiful leaves. I steep the leaves very quickly, only a few seconds for the first couple of steepings. I can be tricky to use, as you have to balance my lid and often my saucer in one hand while pouring out the tea.

What’s your favorite thing about steeping tea in the gong fu style? I love how I get to give the tea taster a full flavored brew. I give you a true taste for the tea. I also love that with each steep you can watch the leaves start to unfurl while they change in flavor. Using a gaiwan helps you get more interactive with your tea. It is also quite meditative.

Are you usually used with any other teaware? You could pour the tea I steep right into little tasting cups, but it’s best to first pour the tea liquor into a fairness pitcher, or cha hai. This is a small pitcher used to make sure everyone’s tea is steeped exactly the same. It’s easier to distribute and pour into the cups using a pitcher, and it even lowers the temperature of the tea a little bit, which makes it a bit more comfortable to drink.

What teas do you work best with? I urge you to try and steep all different types of tea in your gaiwan and see what the results are like. Play around with the amount of leaves and see what you like best. But I am mostly used for oolong, puerh, and Chinese white and yellow teas. But as I said, have fun experimenting!

What is your favorite tea to steep? I love many types of teas but my most favorite to steep are raw puerh teas. I just love that you can steep these aged teas for many, many infusions. Sometimes you can enjoy them all day long! The flavors greatly change over a period of steepings. Some of my favorite raw puerh teas have surprising flavors such as sweet fruit and woodsy notes.

Is there anything important you’d like to tell my readers about using a gaiwan? well I’d ask that you please make sure to practice on a sturdier gaiwan before trying a more delicate vessel like mine. It takes bit of practice to pour the water into the fairness pitcher. Don’t forget that if you’re using black teas or roasted oolongs, the temperature of the water can be quite hot, and it takes practice not to burn your fingers! Don’t be ashamed in quite a bit of practice before trying a fancier gaiwan!

Oh thank you so much Li Juan for taking the time for this interview! Dearies, I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about being a gaiwan as much as I did.

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!

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!