Recipe: Tippy’s Chai Hot Chocolate!

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I’m so excited to share my new recipe with you! I’ve been thinking up ways to enjoy warming tea-infused drinks and when I saw Kat eating a chocolate cookie with her masala chai, it hit me! Why not make a chai hot chocolate? Imagine coming out from a chilly late fall or winter evening and curling up with a mug of something sweet, chocolatey and warming. Dearies, I must admit this is one of the most delicious recipes I’ve created. Kat and I had such fun testing it!

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Tippy’s Chai Infused Hot Cocoa

               2 cups whole milk

               ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

               2 tbps (or 2 tea bags) black tea

               8 cardamom pods

               1 cinnamon stick

               5 whole cloves

               5 peppercorns

               1 whole vanilla bean

               1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and smashed

               4 tbsp sugar

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Gently is the key word for this recipe. Since we’re dealing with milk, we don’t want to overheat and cause it to scald or boil over. Heat water and milk genly until slightly bubbly but not boiling. Reduce heat to low, whisk in the cocoa powder. Once incorporated, split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add seeds and bean, the tea, spices, and ginger. Allow to simmer gently for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Turn off heat and stir in the sugar. Allow to sit for 5 minutes and strain into two mugs.

This treat is delicious all on its own but you could garnish with fresh whipped cream, or add in a cinnamon stick. Enjoy my loves! If you try this recipe please let me know what you think? I know you’re going to love it.

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?

Cooking With Tea: Tea Poached Fruit

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Kat loves to serve fruity desserts. They can be light yet incredibly flavorful. Always the helpful teacup, I’ve been trying to think of ways to incorporate tea with fruit. I started thinking about French preparations, as we had the most memorable desserts when we travelled to Paris a few years ago. The food is just good everywhere you go in Paris! There was one little bistro that had an amazing poached pear dish that Kat often tries to recreate at home. I thought hey, why not poach fruit with tea? So I got experimenting, and came up with a recipe I’m excited to share. You can use whatever type of fruit you like that will keep a bit of shape while you cook it. I’d suggest pears, peaches, cherries or plums. Whatever you decide on, just make sure you use a fruit that has a bit of firmness but should still be ripe. You don’t want your dessert to turn into mush!

For this recipe we chose pears, and True Goodness Organic Black Chai Tea. Kat keeps this tea in her pantry at all times, as it’s a quick and easy way to prepare a tasty chai. It is unsweetened, and she often adds a little honey or sugar and a dash of milk to the brew. This tea brings me back to traveling through India with Char. The aroma of cardamom, clove, and cinnamon is so vibrant! I can still taste the milky, spicy chai from endless street vendors throughout the cities we visited. I hope to take Kat there some day! Anyway dearies, enough reminiscing, here’s my recipe:

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Tippy’s Tea-Poached Fruit

Makes 4 servings

2 cups water

2 tea bags (For this recipe we used True Goodness Organic Black Chai Tea)

1/4 cup of sugar

2 large firm but ripe pears, peaches  (we like to use bosc), peeled, cored, and halved.

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In a medium sized saucepan bring the 2 cups of water to a boil.  Turn off the heat and add the teabags. Let the tea steep for 10-15 minutes. You want it good and strong! Once steeping is done, remove teabags. Turn the heat back on to medium, and add the sugar once the liquid is warmed up again. Stir until it’s dissolved. Add the halves of fruit. Cover and simmer until the fruit is nice and tender, you can pierce with a knife to check, about 25 minutes. Once the fruit is tender, remove it carefully from the mixture, into a bowl. Continue to then boil the sweet, spiced syrup until it has reduced down to about ¾ cup, which should take 10-15 minutes. When reduced, pour the syrup over the fruit. We like to serve ours at room temperature, but you can also refrigerate for a few hours and then serve.

Since it’s summer, we like to place the fruit atop vanilla ice cream and drizzle the extra syrup over the top. However you decide to serve it, it’s delicious and easy to prepare. You’ll feel like you’re in the French countryside with your tea poached fruit!

Yoga And Tea

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My tea lovelies, are you a yoga bunny like Kat? Or perhaps you are interested in yoga but haven’t had a chance to give it a try? Over the years I’ve noticed that Kat enjoys a nice cup of tea after a meditative yoga practice. It makes sense to me- you are feeling more aware of your body, and are able to observe, taste, and feel that cup of tea. Kat says she likes that her post-yoga tea warms her body after it starts to cool down from her class. It also gives her a time to chat with fellow students, and enjoy the bond they share. The tea eases her back into the day slowly.

Many yoga studios serve tea after class as a time for everyone to take a moment to enjoy the feeling of a peaceful, relaxed body. Muscles are nice and warm, and the warm tea enhances the feeling. One of the studios Kat frequents will often serve a tea made with Ayurvedic spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. Similar to a masala chai. This got me thinking about various teas that could be appropriate to drink after an influential yoga session. Here’s what I’ve come up with for Kat, depending on the time of day, and type of yoga class she’s taking:

Morning: Green Tea, ginger chai. Try an invigorating green tea or a gingery chai blend. Kat enjoys both after an early morning class. Mellow green tea helps bring her focus and get her ready for the day ahead. The spice in the chai wake up her body and mind.

Afternoon: Kukicha- this a tea made from the stem, stalks, and twigs from the tea plant. Green tea is also sometimes added. This is a light, fresh tasting tea similar to a sencha with a little bit of nuttiness. It is low in caffeine (but still contains some), so you can drink it in the afternoon if you’re not too sensitive to caffeine.

Evening: Roasted Barley Tea- Barley tea is a soothing tea that can be found in Korea and Japan. The drink is toasty, mellow, and extremely refreshing after exercising. It is made only of roasted barley, and doesn’t have any caffeine.  You could make this yourself by simmering roasted barley, but you can also find this tea in Korean and Japanese grocery stores, as well as many health food stores.

If you do hot yoga, I’d recommend a peppermint blend to cool the body down and rejuvenate.  For a more restorative class I steep up lavender and chamomile blends for Kat to help Kat relax.

You can also keep it simple and steep up something based on how you’re feeling. It’s important to listen to your body! Enjoy your tea with friends after class and share a restorative moment together.

Delicious and Easy Masala Chai Teas

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Kat loves to shop in international grocery stores. She’ll drive for miles just to have the opportunity to roam the aisles and enjoy the colors and aromas of different cultural cuisines. This week she went to a local Indian grocery store and spent a very long time in the tea aisle, of course! She returned home with dried lentils, spices, and a very unique line of teas.

Kat was intrigued by the colorful  boxes of teas called Chai Moments from Tea India. She makes her own masala chai at home and loves the flavor, but was curious to see how this tea would compare. These are instant powdered teas, and she wasn’t sure what to expect. Kat was pleasantly surprised to see there are no artificial flavors or preservatives, things that you often find in instant teas.

She brought home four different flavors of Chai Moments: Masala Chai, Cardamom, ginger, and milk tea. She invited one of her close friends Sima over for a tasting session. Her friend grew up in India and often talks fondly of having tea with her family. Her mother taught her how to make masala chai and she usually creates it from scratch.

To brew up these teas, you simply add a packet to 6-8oz hot water, and stir. The teas are made up of bold black tea, non-dairy creamer, and spices. The first tea they tried was the masala chai. This tea is spicy, sweet, and creamy. Kat said that the blend of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and ginger took her back to being on the streets of India and sipping masala chai from the chai wallas. I completely agree! As soon as I smelled the tea I could see those chai stalls with the fast moving vendors furiously brewing and pouring tea. This instant tea is perfect for when you crave that spicy chai but don’t have time or teabags available. Kat said she could see herself drinking this in the morning at the office, when she’s looking for a little extra spring in her step.

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Next up was the ginger tea. This one is warming and spicy. The milk tames the spice a bit, and makes it soothing with a nice lingering zing. Kat said she’s going to reserve this tea for chilly afternoons on the go, when she wants to take a quick break to warm herself inside and out.

It turns out that the cardamom tea is Sima’s favorite. She said this tea reminds her of spending mornings with her mother, learning how to make her family’s version of chai. Theirs is heavy on the cardamom, with lots of milk and sweetener. Cardamom in tea can be quite overpowering but this blend has just the right amount. Sima decided she was going to keep a box of this tea at home, for when she wants a taste of her childhood without the time to assemble the tea from scratch.

Kat also enjoyed the milk tea, which is creamy, sweet and soothing. Kat is keeping this tea for that mid-afternoon slump when she’s not looking for some extra help to wake up, but without too much spice. This tea is sweet but not too much so. It reminds Kat of being in Taiwan, where she found sweet milk tea everywhere she went. The milk, sugar, and tea are all well balanced in this blend. Each flavor can be tasted, and nothing overpowers.

These teas are perfect for travel, outdoor activities, or visiting with family and friends. They are warming, creamy, and oh so comforting! Next time you are in an international grocery store, keep your eyes peeled for new and interesting teas. You never know what you’re going to find!

Tea Traditions Around the World, Pt. 1

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I’ve traveled all over with world with Char and recently Kat and I have taken a few adventures as well. One thing we’ve learned is tea can be found in every corner of the globe. I’ve seen it offered as a sign of hospitality, expertly prepared in an intricate ceremony, served at large gatherings, and of course just consumed at all times of the day. There are so many cultures around the world that enjoy tea. It would take pages and pages to discuss it! Here are a few places where we’ve had memorable cups of tea.

In Morocco, we were greeted with mint tea everywhere we went. Many households offer it to guests in greeting when they visit. It is a sign of hospitality we greatly enjoyed. These teas are a mixture of green tea and mint leaves, often served quite sweet. I loved how it is usually served in little glasses and poured out of a teapot perched high above the glass. It is theatrical and delicious! I remember how lovely those vibrant green mint leaves looked floating in the tea, dancing as they poured into the cup.

To re-create Moroccan mint tea at home, Kat often brews a pot of green tea and will add loads of mint to each cup. For the colder months when mint isn’t available, Kat picked up a box of Wegmans Peppermint Tea to add to her green tea. This tea only contains cooling, refreshing peppermint so it is a perfect substitute to using the leafy green herb. After bringing this tea home from the store, Kat was surprised at just how aromatic it was.  She drinks it alone to relax in the evenings, or uses it for her Moroccan tea fix. After a few sips she imagines she’s sitting amongst the vibrant Arabic art and architecture.

In India, masala chai of course is the drink of choice. Whenever I think of India I see steaming cups of fresh tea infused with ginger, cardamom, cloves and pepper. You can find it on the streets sold by chai wallahs.  I recently discussed masala chai in a previous post. The flavor of masala chai depends on the region you visit. I recently found this wonderful website that tells stories of the chai wallahs in India. Reading through it makes me wish Kat would whisk me back there.

In Russia, black tea is made into a concentrated brew and then diluted with boiling water. Traditionally the water was boiled with a samovar, but these days the gorgeous urns are mostly ornamental. You can find a few tips on how to create the concentrated tea and water mixture here.  Russian tea is often sweetened with a spoonful of jam. The teas are usually smoked black blends, and adding jam gives an amazing combination of smoky and sweet.

In China tea is of course ubiquitous. You’ll find green, oolong, puerh, white, and black teas depending on the region. People often prepare tea with the leaves directly in the water and leave them in when it’s time to drink. They’ll simply use their teeth to act as a strainer. This technique is often called ‘grandpa style’ brewing. Grandpa style is super easy to do, and it only requires tea and a cup or bowl to drink out of. For more details on brewing tea this way, check out Nicole Martin’s helpful YouTube video. Kat’s brother-in-law recently visited China and I overheard him explaining that many people walk around with a plastic tumbler filled with leaves that they drink from all day long. They refill the water as needed.

These are so many more ways to enjoy tea around the world, so stay tuned for another post about tea in other countries! Is there a tea culture that you’d like to learn more about? Do let me know and I’ll be happy to post about it.

Behind The Leaf: Masala Chai

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I know we’ve talked about autumn teas, and there is another tea perfect for this time of year. Do you enjoy Masala Chai? It’s lovely any time of year, but the milky, spicy, sweet flavor is perfect for walks through the crisp autumn air and warming up on a chilly morning. The spices wake up your senses and give you an extra spring in your step.

You’ve probably had (or at least seen) a ‘chai latte’ in cafes and restaurants. Dearies for steep’s sake, chai translates to ‘tea’ so you are actually just saying ‘tea tea’! Masala chai is the spiced tea we are talking about. Although most places refer to it as ‘chai’, you know now the appropriate way to refer to it!

Masala chai is a staple in parts of India where it is made at home and sold on the street. The vendors selling the fragrant tea are called chai wallahs. Char drank many of cups from these vendors on her travels through India, and I had the pleasure of accompanying her. I will never forget those fragrant teas poured quickly with expert hands, or sitting in her suitcase during those bumpy train rides!

Masala chai started off as a medicinal drink of herbs, until the British started increasing tea production in the early 1800s and promoting tea drinking in India. Many families have their own version of masala chai. It almost always contains warming spices such as cardamom and ginger. It can also contain cinnamon, star anise, fennel, peppercorn, nutmeg and cloves.  The spices often vary by region. Milk and sweetener are also added. It is such a delicious drink!

Kat first started drinking masala chai after trying a latte at her local café. She enjoyed the spices but thought the brew was far too sweet. Then, after dining with friends at an authentic Indian restaurant, she had the real thing. Freshly made, masala chai is a delight for the senses. Spicy, sweet, silky, warming. She likes to drink it after her meal, to enjoy all of the flavors without anything getting in the way.

The method of preparation can also vary based on family. Kat likes to boil everything together on the stovetop to let all the flavors infuse and concentrate. Important things to always include are fresh spices, high-quality tea, and a rich tasting milk. A strong, malty Assam tea is a great choice but you can use any black tea you’d like.

Kat’s recipe for masala chai:

3 cups water

3-4 teaspoons black tea (Assam is preferred), or 3 teabags

1-inch piece of fresh ginger cut into pieces

5-8 cardamom pods

4 cloves

A cinnamon stick

3-4 black peppercorns

Milk of choice to taste

Choice of sweetener

Add the water to a small pot. Crack open the cardamom pods and add them along with remaining spices to the water. Bring to a boil. Add the tea and steep, then add the milk. Let the whole thing boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, strain, and enjoy. Add as much or as little sweetener as you like (you can also add the sweetener while you are boiling everything together if you’d like it better incorporated.

For a bit of a twist, adding vanilla or even chocolate to your masala chai will change it into a different yet equally delicious drink. Serving it warm is the more traditional way, but it is also delicious iced.

If you enjoy masala chai, what is your favorite way to drink it? Do you have your own secret recipe?

Tea and Glamping

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There’s a new form of camping that is sweeping the nation, and I, for one, am a fan! Glamorous + Camping = Glamping!  Gone are the days that a tea cup would fear the rogue cast iron pot or errant log in the campsite. And for Kat, there’s no need to dread a musty sleeping bag on a slowly deflating air mattress.

Voila! The luxurious campground that features beautiful and spacious safari tents, luxurious beds with soft, cool bed linens, cushioned seating, hanging lanterns, and even a dinner box with all the ingredients, tools and implements needed to cook your food over the campfire.

This is an environment where a tea cup can get comfy. Boil some water on the portable gas stove, and set me on a proper, if rustic, dining table as I steep something warm and wild for you.

Here’s a short list of glamp-grounds Kat and I are considering:

Camp Orenda in the Adirondacks offers “Canvas Cabins” (I LOVE that!) with all of the comforts of a luxury hotel: Down comforters, fleece blankets, daily cabin service, including delivery of logs for your own wood-burning stove, and access to an open-flame gourmet dinner menu that looks divine! Each Cabin is nestled thoughtfully in its own private natural sanctuary but with easy access to all of the camp amenities such as yoga, hiking, fishing, canoeing and more.

Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado is a collection of authentically restored log cabins (with a tent cabin or two available as well) that are conveniently located near the local Saloon and Dance Hall. A great private getaway or a fun meet-up adventure with friends, we hear the kitchen will even pack you a custom picnic to take along with you as you explore the area.

El Capitan Canyon in California has a choice of cedar cabins and safari tents in a lush landscape. Willow beds, down-style duvets, and your own grill and fire pit for cooking or roasting marshmallows. Kat could cook her own meals or we could pop over to the Canyon Market and Deli for whatever she needs.

I’m already envisioning myself in these beautiful settings, admiring the forest, watching the birds flit from branch to branch. This is the type of camping a tea cup could get used to!

And, of course, a glamorous outdoor adventure would not be complete without accompanying adventure teas.

First, Fresh & Easy’s Chai Black Tea. I can’t think of a better way to start our morning in the great outdoors than with the fragrance of cinnamon, ginger and anise. Add some milk and sugar, and it’s an adventure with your senses! Sweet, spicy, cozy, and warm.

Then, something special to wind down the day. We’ll have a campfire, a luxurious safari-style tent in the background… this calls for Fresh & Easy’s Rooibos Herbal Tea ! Made from the leaves of the rooibos bush commonly found in South Africa, this tea is caffeine free, and has a wild, sweet, fruity quality to it. The warmth, the soothing sips, the untamed flavors will be just the thing as we talk about what was seen and heard throughout the day and what the plans will be for the morrow.

I can’t wait for the adventure to begin!

The Lovely Secrets of Chai

It is said that spices were used  in India for thousands of years for those seeking medicinal benefits. The variety of spices and preparation methods was intended as a remedy for some of the more minor complaints and was used as such for centuries. In the early 1800’s, as the British began developing their tea plantations throughout the Assam region of India, the resulting black tea began being incorporated into the local chai recipes. Unfortunately, black tea was too expensive for the greater population and it wasn’t until the 1960’s that black tea became more widely available at a lower price.

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This is when the chai that we are familiar with today began to be incorporated into daily life and the widespread appearance of the “chai wallah,” who is the street or train vendor of chai. I remember being transported through the streets of Calcutta in Char’s travel case. She loved nothing better than chatting with chai wallahs and trying their wares.

Traditional chai in India is made with freshly ground spices, with cardamom being the dominant ingredient but accented by cinnamon, ginger and peppercorn. This is sweetened with a unrefined cane sugar and whole milk.   However, with the growing popularity around the world, you’ll find a variety of sweeteners, milk preferences and ratios of spices. And while freshly ground spices are part of the magic of the drink, you’ll find more and more concentrated syrups that add that spiced characteristic.

Kat has recently been introducing her coffee-loving friends to chai, and they’re being pleasantly surprised. The creamy richness of chai warms the belly as well as the soul that they find very appealing. One or two of them have even replaced their morning coffee with a morning chai. I love it when we win over new friends!

Start your day with a little exotic adventure. Awaken your senses with the heady aromas of spices in your cup. You may be delighted with the result!