Tippy’s Tea of The Month: Rooibos

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Dearies, I’m a teacup that has been around the world and I’ve experienced all types of teas and tea culture. One type of tea that seems to stump many folks is actually not a tea at all, but from the Aspalathus Linearis plant, which is a South African evergreen shrub. The tea is often referred to as ‘red bush’ tea. It is only grown in South Africa, but is exported all around the world.

The needle like green leaves are plucked and then oxidized and dried which causes it to turn a lovely reddish brown color. It reminds me of the color of fall leaves.  The flavor of rooibos can be everything from woodsy and nutty, to slightly sweet, with notes of vanilla and honey. It’s most common to find the red rooibos leaves, but the green, non-oxidized rooibos can sometimes be found as well. The green variety is steamed and then dried. Since it isn’t oxidized, it retains a grassier flavor. Rooibos is commonly blended with other flavors as well.

This herbal tea doesn’t have any caffeine, so it’s great for any time of day. Kat likes to add a dash of honey or maple syrup to her rooibos for a satisfying nighttime sip. She keeps a box of Wegman’s rooibos on hand for chilly nights by the fire, or a convivial sip with friends. The earthy sweetness is perfect for any occasion. She’s made many of her friends into rooibos drinkers, and often gives them a few bags to take home with them. In fact, they expect a steamy cup in hand whenever they stop over to visit!

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Rooibos is a very forgiving tea- you can steep it for quite a long time and it won’t get bitter or astringent. Use boiling water, and about 1 tbsp per cup. Steep from 2-4 minutes, or as long as you like. You can prepare this tea in a traditional teapot, or even use a small tea strainer since the leaves are bits that don’t expand much (unlike tea leaves that need more room to breathe).

Dearies if there is a tea that I haven’t featured that you are curious about please drop me a line and let me know!

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.

Tippy’s Tea Of The Month: English Breakfast

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Dearies, did you know that I just started a Tea Club? That’s right, I’ve recruited a few of my kitchen friends and we gather a few times a month to sit together and drink tea. Just like Kat and her friends do! Many of the appliances are unfamiliar with the various types of tea out there, so I decided that each month we are going to pick one type to focus on. We’ll taste different   varieties of the tea, and learn a little bit about it.

This month we are focusing on English Breakfast. This is a black tea blend, and the flavor differs based on what teas are included. Often you’ll see a blend of Assam, Ceylon, and Kenyan teas. Sometimes Chinese Keemun or even Indian Darjeeling will be added. The blend is always made to be quite strong and robust in order to add milk and sugar (if you wish. Kat actually drinks hers straight up!).

The history of English Breakfast tea is a bit fuzzy. There are different accounts of how it came to be a popular breakfast staple. The name of ‘English’ breakfast may actually have originated in colonial America! I’ve also read that it could have originated in Scotland and became a popular morning ritual once Queen Victoria started drinking it.

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Whatever the origin, I just absolutely love a good cup of English Breakfast. It brings me back to my days with Kat’s Great Aunt Char. She used to start every morning with a good strong cup. She preferred a blend that had Ceylon, Assam, and Keemun. I can still remember the sweet aroma from the dry leaves as soon as she opened the canister.

 These days Kat has been drinking Newman’s Own English Breakfast to remind her of her Great Aunt. The dry leaves have a lovely raisin-like aroma with hints of malt and earth. Char used to say her day didn’t properly begin until she smelled her English Breakfast leaves! This tea brews up rich and bold and just like Char, Kat says her daily cup gave her a spring in her step. Kat shares my nostalgic love of English Breakfast as it reminds her of being in her Great Aunt’s kitchen, stealing sips of her tea.