Echinacea tea

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Kat has been on an herbal kick lately. She’s been learning about all herbs, and how they can possibly be helpful to a healthy lifestyle. There is so much to learn that she’s taking things slowly. This week she’s been focusing on echinacea. Neither of us knew much about this herb at all, except that we’ve heard it’s supposed to be good when you have a cold. We’re found out a little bit more, and I’m happy to share my knowledge with you!

Echinacea is a plant in the daisy family that has pretty purple flowers. You’ve probably seen it growing wild, or have at least seen pictures of it and didn’t even know it. The petals are long and thin and remind me of purple daisies. In my research I discovered that the name comes from the Greek word ekhinos, which means hedgehog! Isn’t that cute? Actually, if you look closely at the center of the flower, it does look a little bit like a hedgehog. I admit, this makes me giggle a little bit. But it turns out this is an herb with some serious power!

Echinacea is thought to have a bunch of healthy uses. It can help boost the immune system, which is perfect for cold and flu season. It is also supposedly helpful in fighting a cold you already caught, and soothes throat and chest illnesses. It has been known to help with inflammation and fighting bacteria. So many possibilities! Dearies, I also learned that if you are allergic to certain flowers, you should check with your healthcare provider before trying echinacea (as well as other herbal teas such as chamomile). You could be allergic to it so please be careful.

Our favorite way to consume echinacea is through tea, of course. Echinacea tea can be easily found in health food stores and supermarkets. Make sure you read the package carefully as other ingredients can be added as well. You want to make sure you are getting exactly what you are expecting. It’s easy to prepare, you can use boiling water and steep for as long as you like. Herbals are very forgiving, they are hard to oversteep! Feel free to add a sweetener of your choice. Kat likes to put in a drop of honey.

Don’t forget, Dearies- I’m not a medical professional! This post is my humble suggestion and info I’ve learned about echinacea. If you are interested, consider giving it a try! If you learn more important herbal information I’d love to hear about it.

Trying New Teas for the New Year

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Dearies, do you believe in New Year’s resolutions? Kat’s always making a few, and to be honest, she only ends up following through on a few of them. But this year I’ve decided to help her with one of her resolutions: Keeping an open mind to new teas! I think I could be quite helpful with this, especially since I’m the official tea steeper! Are there teas you haven’t tried, or perhaps teas you’ve been hesitant to try? Here are a few that may be new to you, or at least teas that are on your radar, but you haven’t actually tasted:

Gyokuro- Ok dearies, as far as Japanese teas go, I’m sure most of you have tried Sencha, matcha, and possibly genmaicha. But have you tried gyokuro? This tea is a little more expensive than the others, but it has a wonderful flavor that many call ‘umami’. A good gyokuro almost tastes like broth and has a pleasing sweetness. The tea is different from other Japanese greens because it is shaded before harvest. The shading causes the tea plants to reduce their rate of photosynthesis and the result is that special umami taste. Dearies, I’d love to know who discovered this method of cultivating tea, wouldn’t you? If you are interested, you can learn a little more about Japanese green teas in my post here.

White Tea- White teas are very versatile. Young tea buds and leaves are plucked in spring, then withered and dried. They are just barely oxidized as well. White teas have a range in quality, so it’s important to try a few different varities. The various types of white tea have different flavor profiles but they all have a nice freshness since the leaves are so young and fresh. Look for Silver Needles and White Peony white teas. They definitely are unlike any other kids of tea. Learn more about white teas and their flavors in my previous post here.

Puerh- If you’ve had a puerh, you’ll definitely remember it. This is a fermented type of tea from Yunnan that comes in two main categories: ‘sheng’ which is the raw puerh that ages slowly over time, and ‘shou’ which is aged through a more rapid human-controlled process. Since Puerh is an aged tea, you can keep it for years and if stored correctly it should get even better with age. In fact, Kat has a shou puerh that dear Char brought back from Yunnan many years ago. High quality sheng puerh can be very expensive, especially when it’s an older vintage. This is because the aging process is controlled, and requires a skilled artisan to get it just right. A good sheng can be sweet and grassy,if young, and woodsy and slightly leathery if older, and also a bit bitter. Shou puerh is created with just the right conditions of moisture and heat to rapidly ferment the tea. Because it is produced more quickly, it is more affordable. It has a much more pungent flavor with a dark, thick brew. Puerh can be a bit of an acquired taste, but Dearies there are many people that go crazy for it! They collect it, trade it, and drink it daily. Why not give it a try?

Finally, there are so many herbal blends out there that are far different from things like mint and chamomile. Try turmeric, lemon verbena, basil, and tulsi! Herbal teas are all very different, and can even be fun to blend. You can even try them iced, they are quite refreshing any time of year.

Dearies, this is a New Year’s resolution you can stick to! Just pick a few teas and get tasting. How simple is that? Happy steeping!

Celebratory Teas!

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During this festive time of year, I’m sure you have your go-to festive party drinks. Kat certainly does, and she even has a few tea cocktails she likes to serve for her friends.

But what about teas? Tea can be as festive as your favorite cocktail. There are teas of all sorts of flavors and colors that are perfect for this time of year. Not convinced? Here are a few of my recommendations. Try them and see for yourself!

Peppermint- I do love a good peppermint tea for the holidays. It reminds me of brisk weather, snow, and candy canes! Pair a nice peppermint tea with a chocolate dessert and I assure you everyone will be happy! Who can resist the combination of chocolate and peppermint? It’s an instant party. This combination will feel like you’ve come in from skiing with tingly cheeks and a warming brew.

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Cranberry- there are many blends that include dried cranberries. This gives the tea a sweet and tart flavor. Everyone loves cranberry sauce, and a cup of cranberry tea before or after a meal will bring you right to the holiday table. In fact, Kat has found a bagged cranberry tea she loves to serve this time of year, HEB Cranberry Blood Orange tea. There are so many festive flavors going on in this tea! tart cranberries and hibiscus, a little zing of ginger and refreshing citrus. A hint of sweetness rounds it out. It’s truly a perfect wintertime tea. The flavors are so festive! The pyramid shaped teabags are nice and large, allowing for the tea leaves to unfurl and infuse your brew with flavor.

Rooibos- this caffeine free tisane has an earthy and subtly sweet flavor that’s perfect to pair with sweets. It’s also a great base for flavors such as cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger. You can even create your own rooibos blends and give them as gifts. Children and adults can all enjoy rooibos, any time of day.

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Cinnamon- one of my favorite flavors for the holidays is cinnamon. It’s just so warming and comforting. You’ll find it in everything from pumpkin pie to eggnog. I like to add cinnamon to my black tea. There are lots of cinnamon blends out there, so try as many as you can.

So my lovely tea friends, when you are planning your celebratory beverages, don’t forget about tea! Everyone loves a warming cup, and with these festive flavors you just can’t go wrong. Happy Holidays!

Hosting a Christmas Tea and Secret Santa

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Dearies, it’s almost my favorite time of year! Wreaths, holly, and lots of cheerful music! Gift wrapping, cookie baking, and of course lots of tea pairing! The holidays are upon us and Kat is ready to celebrate. This year one of the events she’s planning is a Christmas tea with a secret Santa gift swap.

Dearies, have you done secret Santa gifts before? Kat and her friends like to get together and draw names from a hat. Then you have to give a gift to the person written on the paper. The idea is that no one knows who their ‘Secret Santa’ is! It’s lots of fun. This year Kat is pairing the Secret Santa giving event with a Christmas afternoon tea for some festive merriment. For the Secret Santa her new rule this year is that part of the gift must be tea-related! It can be tea, teaware, a book about tea, anything at all! I of course am in favor of this new rule.

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For the festive tea, Kat’s going to decorate with lots of pinecones, red ribbon, and many silver and gold accents. Do you have any favorite Christmas decor to suggest?

Kat’s going to start off her tea with scones and two different finger sandwiches. She decided on ham and butter for a French twist, and turkey with a thin layer of cranberry chutney. So perfect for the holidays! She’s going to serve a rich, bold single estate Assam tea with these. For the sweets, Kat is going to serve mini caramel apple tarts, and handmade chocolates. Kat has decided on a tea that’s a little unconventional to serve for her Christmas tea. Something warming, spicy, and cheerful. Masala Chai!

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Since she’ll be busy with baking and cooking, Kat’s chosen an instant chai that’s easy to prepare and always delicious. Chai Moments Masala Chai Tea gives you all the warming flavors of the season. Simply mix it with hot water! This way Kat can focus on enjoying time with friends. I’ve had my share of authentic masala chai, and I must say Dearies that this one is quite good. It has the right blend of creamy, spicy, earthy, and sweet. This tea can be found in local Indian grocery stores and also on Amazon.

It may seem difficult to pair desserts with the complex chai flavors, but rest assured it’s quite easy! Sweet treats with fruit, chocolate, even citrus pair wonderfully with masala chai. If you’re still feeling unsure, the best thing to do is of course try it for yourself! Mix up a batch of masala chai, and sip it with your favorite desserts. I think you’ll be surprised by the delicious results! Now that’s my kind of research.

Dearies, I hope you are having fun planning for the holiday season! Are you going to have a tea gathering? Please let me know I’d just love to hear the details

Teas to Pair With Hanukkah Foods

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The holidays are all about family, fun, and food. Kat is planning all sorts of events, including a big Hanukkah feast She is doing a pot-luck dinner with each friend bringing a different dish. I’ve decided I’m going to be doing the tea pairings. That’s right Dearies, each course is going to have a tea paired with it. Just call me Tippy the tea sommelier! Here’s what I’m planning to pair with each course:

Our appetizer will be freshly fried potato pancakes (latkes). Oh how I love these pancakes that are crispy on the outside and warm and chewy on the inside. Traditional toppings include apple sauce, sugar, and sour cream. It took me awhile to decide on a tea pairing, and I’m going to serve a second flush Darjeeling with the latkes. Darjeeling has natural muscatel grape notes, and this will pair nicely with the toppings. It’s also a tea with a bit of body too it, to cut through the fried latkes. A first flush Darjeeling would be too subtle for this strong flavors, so make sure you get a second flush!

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Our main course is going to be a luscious beef brisket. It’s savory with lots of sweet carrots and earthy potatoes. This is a comforting dish that’s on the heavier side, perfect for chilly nights. I’m going to pair a bright and bold Ceylon tea with the brisket. It’s very strong to hold up to the stewy flavors and will bring out the sweetness in the carrots.

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For dessert, Kat is frying up jelly donuts (sufganiyot)! This is a labor intensive dessert, but one that is worthy of the holiday. For Hanukkah it’s symbolic to serve things fried in oil. This represents the miracle that the Hanukkah lamp oil lasted for 8 nights instead of just one. For the sweet donuts, I am going to pair HyVee Chocolate Mint tea. I think this tea is the perfect thing for just about anything sweet! It has a lovely combination of chocolate and peppermint that your guests are sure to love. Kat finds it refreshing and quite perfect for wintertime. Since we’re just serving the donuts, this dessert-flavored tea will enhance the end to our dinner party. This is an herbal tea so everyone can enjoy it, even the little ones! Kat’s niece Camille just adores this tea for the sweet chocolate flavor. Kat often gives Camille a few bags of her own to take home.

Happy Hanukkah Dearies! I hope all of your festivities are delicious and fun!

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!

Tippy’s Tea of the Month: Turmeric Tea

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This time of year, we’re all trying to avoid those sniffles and coughs. It’s not easy with rapidly dropping temperatures and changes in seasons. I thought it would be interesting to focus on a tea that tastes good, and has a reputation for helping the body. What do you know about turmeric? You can make tea out of the root, or purchase various forms of dried tea.

Kat has read a bit about it lately, and it got me curious. We picked a little bit up, and made a rather earthy tea with it. Here’s what we did

Tippy’s Turmeric Tea

1-inch piece of turmeric peeled and roughly chopped

½ inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or more if you prefer)

1 tablespoon honey

1 cup water

(makes 1 serving)

First of all, please be careful when handling the turmeric! It can stain, so be sure to use a cutting board that’s easy to clean. Smash the turmeric and ginger a little bit with the back of a spoon, just to get those juices flowing.  Boil the water and add the turmeric and ginger. Let it all bubble gently together for 5-10 minutes. Once you are happy with the flavor, turn off the heat. Add in the lemon and honey (you can always add more of both to taste). Strain into a mug and garnish with lemon slices if desired. Enjoy!

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Turmeric is supposed to help the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties. Dearies I’m teacup not a doctor, so please do not take my word as medical advice! But I do know that my turmeric tea tastes good, and it’s nice to think it’s also good for us! Do you have a favorite recipe for turmeric tea? Please let us know in the comments! I’m always looking for new ways to enjoy tea.

Tippy’s Masala Chai Brownies

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Dearies I was perusing the calendar we keep in the kitchen and December 8th is going to be my new favorite national day. It involves one of my favorite flavors, and can be enjoyed with tea. It’s National Brownie Day! Oh I just love caky, chocolatey brownies. But I suppose I also love the fudgy, dense kind too. They go perfectly with tea, don’t they? I decided that instead of a brownie to pair with tea, I wanted to put tea right in the brownie!

It was tough to choose a tea to add to a brownie. I was close to doing Earl Grey, since I love how it pairs with chocolate. But then I decided to go a completely different route. I’ve recently been playing around with masala chai and chocolate, and realized this would make a fantastic brownie! A little sweet, a little spicy, and that smooth chocolate flavor to round everything out. Here’s my recipe!

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Tippy’s Masala Chai Brownies

½ cup butter (1 stick)

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup flour

¼ teaspoon cardamom

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon cloves

Heat your oven to 350°F. Line an 8” square baking pan with tin foil or parchment (make sure it overlaps a little to give you something to hold on to when you lift the brownies out of the pan) and grease the lining. In a small bowl sift the flour and spices together and set aside.

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In a small saucepan combine the butter and chocolate. Heat on low and stir until everything is just melted and combined. Pour this into a bowl (or use the same pot if it’s big enough) and stir in the sugar. Using a whisk beat in the eggs one at a time. Slowly stir in the flour and spices mixture until combined.

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Pour mixture into the lined pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until it’s just soft but not too firm in the middle. Cool in the pan on a wire rack (if possible. We sometimes just leave the pan to cool on the stovetop). Once cool, carefully lift the foil or parchment, and cut into squares. Enjoy!

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There you have it, Dearies! These brownies are on the fudgy side, which I think works very well with the chai spices. I think this would pair well with a nice robust Assam or bright Kenyan black tea.  Happy National Brownie Day!

Tippy’s Tea of the Month: Longjing

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Dearies I know we’ve talked about Green Teas quite a bit, but there is one in particular that is a Chinese staple with an interesting story, Longjing. This tea’s name translates to ‘dragon well’, and is grown only in China’s Zhejiang province. Why is this well-loved tea called Dragon Well? It all goes back to the legend! There are actually a few different versions of the legend, but in my favorite version, a Taoist monk discovered a dragon hiding in an old well. The season had been in drought, and once the villagers learned of the Monk’s discovery they prayed to this dragon to bring the rain and fill the well to capacity. After the prayers, it started to rain! This water flowed from the well and nourished the surrounding tea is grown.

 The tea itself has a flat needle-like shape with a lovely jade green color. This tea is pan-fired which gives it a nutty taste (it often reminds me of chestnuts) with a fresh vegetal aroma. It also has a cooked veggie flavor which we often associate with green beans. The tea is nutty, vegetal and sweet.

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 The quality of longjing depends on when it was harvested. The earlier in the spring, the more expensive the tea will be. For the highest quality, one leaf and one bud is picked. These young leaves and buds create a very gentle, fresh and tender flavor for the tea.

The highest grade leaves are pan fried in small batches in a wok. They  needed to be heated as soon as possible to prevent oxidation. The pan-firing technique creates the lovely nutty flavor you taste in the tea. The leaves are pressed to the sides of the wok to make sure they are properly dried. This also creates the flat needle-like shape of the finished leaves. If your tea leaves have an even color to them, you know they were dried very well, to make sure the heat was even for the whole batch. Lower grades of longjing are also pan heated but usually in large revolving drums. The teas that are machine roasted are still quite delicious and more affordable.

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As with many coveted teas, longjing can be ‘faked’. You may not be getting spring harvested tea, or tea grown in Zhejiang. The best way to tell is use your eyes and mouth. Does it look like a vibrant green tea? Does it smell and taste like early spring? Veggies and chestnut? It is smooth and gentle or is it bitter? If you taste enough good quality longjing you will know what to look for. As always dearies, it’s about tasting, tasting, tasting!

To brew your longjing you can use a gaiwan, or a small teapot. My favorite way is to just add the leaves right in the water using either a bowl style cup or tall glass. Just keep filling up your vessel with hot water as you finish it, re-steeping those beautiful leaves. This is the way it’s commonly consumed in China.  Dearies no matter how you steep it, it’s a beautiful tea. If you try it you’ll understand why it’s so revered in China. Happy Steeping!

Giving Tuesday

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Holiday season seems to be the time to focus on gifts. Kat’s got her long list of friends and family that you need to get gifts for, and she’s been hunting for the perfect gift for everyone. Now is the time when I start to gently remind her that she needs to consider her charitable donations as well. We’re spending so much time and effort on family and friends, but what about organizations that need our help? I know it’s not easy to switch gears, but Tuesday November 29th is Giving Tuesday. That’s right, a few days after Black Friday and Cyber Monday there is a day that is focused on giving back.

There are of course many ways in giving back through volunteering, charitable donations, and supporting companies that directly donate profits to those in need. There are many tea companies that help support farmers and communities around the world. I was recently steeping up a bold cup of black tea for Kat, and noticed something on the box that I hadn’t seen before. Harris Tea donates $.10 from each box to the Alzheimer’s Association. They have committed a minimum annual donation of $25,000. Isn’t that fabulous? I was thrilled to find out that one of Kat’s favorite brands of black tea is giving back. If you’d like to learn more about Harris Teas you can visit their website, and shop their selection on Amazon.

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Kat loves the Harris black tea because it is straightforward and brisk. It reminds her of afternoons with her grandmother Char. They would often have a formal cup of tea in the afternoons and her gran would let her steal sips of Harris black tea until she was old enough to have a full cup of her own. Kat relished these days with Char, sitting and sharing special stories. Each sip of this tea brings those memories flooding back and gives her a warm satisfied feeling. She has also discovered their mellow, relaxing green tea as well. She keeps a few bags in her purse, and some in her desk at work. It’s the perfect tea to recharge with in the early afternoon.

To learn even more about these teas you can check out my previous post here. Dearies, I do hope you spend some time thinking about what you’ll do for Giving Tuesday! There are so many ways to give back.