Tropical Teas For Winter

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As we head in to the chilliest and darkest of the winter days, Kat is trying to keep things warm and cheerful.  I’ve suggested ways to get cozy with tea in previous posts, and we’re always thinking up ways to get creative. Recently I overheard Kat’s friend Stacie talking about her trip to Hawaii, where she had the most delicious tropical fruits. I started dreaming about a tropical beach paradise, and then it hit me- why not bring the tropical flavors to the teacup, and create a warm and cheerful atmosphere?

I started thinking about Kat’s favorite warm-weather fruits such as mango, papaya, and pineapple. These are flavors that can be found in many tea blends to bring a feel of island breezes to a freezing cold day. I started rounding up tea pairings such as a papaya herbal tea to pair with coconut macaroons, and pineapple green tea with toasts spread with mango chutney. So many possibilities! Kat even downloaded a tropical playlist filled with Caribbean and Hawaiian music.

Dried tropical fruits are easy to find, and you can blend them up and steep in boiling water for a delightful treat. We also love adding ginger for a bit of a zing. You can add these flavors to your favorite green or black tea as well, for an extra boost of tea. Right now we’re adding a few pieces of dried papaya to a bag of green tea and a little knob of ginger. Steep for about 8 minutes and add a dash of honey. That sunshine will be beaming on your face in no time at all!

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I’ve been helping Kat brew up some of her own tropical blends, and have also found a few of our old favorites that contain her favorite beachy flavors. Right now a box of HEB Mango Black tea is in our heaviest rotation. Kat picks up a box of this tea every time she visits family in Texas. She always makes a trip to the store to stock up! Kat likes to describe this tea as ‘Juicy mango deliciousness’. It’s a wonderful combination of malty black tea and sweet mango. A few sips of this tea and you’ll imagine the snow melting away. We keep this tea on hand all year long for iced sips in the summer and images of fresh tropical flowers in the winter.

Dearies, what are your tea tricks to keep the nasty winter chills at bay? Do you have your own tropical blends that you whip up? I’d love to hear your ideas!

 

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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!

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!

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!

DIY: Tub Teas using Summer Herbs

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One of Kat’s favorite ways to end a busy summer day of beachgoing and pool hopping is to take a relaxing bath. Isn’t it lovely to soak sun-kissed skin and weary muscles after a long day of outdoor activities? Kat often uses our green tea soak, and I’ve recently come up with even more tea-themed bath ideas. Dearies, it’s the perfect time of year to create herbal tea bath soaks. You can even use seasonal herbs you grow in your own garden!

The herb choices can vary based on what you have on hand, or what’s lush in your garden. We like to choose lavender, chamomile, peppermint, or lemon verbena. But you can add in whatever aromatic herb you’d like.

You can also add relaxing elements such as Epsom salts, and rose petals for a soothing bath that will transport you to a quiet oasis.

To make your own teabags, you can use my tutorial here. Or, you can simply fill up a tea sac and staple the top. You’ll want to make your teabags larger than a regular one, since the tub is much bigger than a cup of tea! Or if you’re using small teabags, just use a few at a time. If you’re making large teabags, you should add in about ¼ cup of your herbs. You can use one, or a blend of a few different herbs. Mix and match and see what you like best!

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If you are pressed for time or don’t have a garden, you can use any store-bought herbal teabag. Kat has actually been using HEB Catch Your Z’s right in the tub. Kat has tried many different types of bedtime teas, as she enjoys having a warm cup before bed. She finds it helps her wind-down after a hectic day and is a lovely way to find a few minutes just for herself. Her mother actually sent her a box of this tea recently, and she’s  been preparing a cup almost every night. The soothing flavors of peppermint and chamomile instantly start to calm her down. The other night she decided to add 3 of these teabags to her warm bath, and she just loved the experience. The steamy water diffused the herbal aromas all around the bathroom. She felt like she was in a spa, having one of those fancy bath soaks.

Give these tub teas a try, and bring the spa right to your bathroom! Don’t forget to bring a cup of tea with you, too! Hot or iced, you can sip as you relax. Enjoy!

Picnic Tea Sparklers

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Dearies, it’s time to dust off that picnic basket! Since spring is finally here, Kat has been talking endlessly about all of the spring picnics she plans to have. She certainly gets excited about picnics. She wants to have a picnic every weekend! Just the thought of all that planning makes my saucer ache. But, being the good tea cup that I am, I agreed to help Kat find some interesting and unusual tea related recipes for her picnics. I thought I’d focus on one type of recipe in particular today, the tea sparkler.

A fizzy, refreshing, and delicious tea drink is such a fun idea for a picnic! Just make it ahead and put it in a bottle for transportation, or you can even make them right on the spot with just a few ingredients. It’ll definitely add a festive pop to your outdoor gathering!

For something brimming with spring and summer flavor, how about a strawberry and basil iced tea? I came up with this recipe after Kat brought home so many strawberries from the farmer’s market that she could barely fit them all in the fridge:

Tippy’s Strawberry Basil Iced Tea

6 cups brewed black tea such as Assam, Ceylon, or Nilgiri, cooled.

2 cups freshly sliced strawberries

Large handful of basil leaves, torn or roughly chopped, leaving smaller leaves intact

Honey to taste (about a tablespoon)

Small handful of mint leaves

3 cups sparkling water

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large pitcher and refrigerate for 1-3 hours. Add in sparkling water. Pour over ice and top with mint leaves. Dearies, isn’t this a lovely twist on iced tea? Perfect for sitting in the grass under a leafy tree.

For a different flavorful fizz, use sparkling apple juice in your tea sparkler! I love that this recipe uses sparkling apple cider along with black tea, lemon and cinnamon. What a delightful combination!

For a boozy sparkle to your outdoor soiree, Kat likes to use the pomegranate champagne cocktail that I came up with for the holidays. You can find my recipe in my previous post here.  The cocktail uses HEB Pomegranate Green Tea, a deliciously festive flavor combination of vegetal green tea and fruity, crisp pomegranate. This tea also has hibiscus added to the blend, which gives a nice tart bite to the brew. It works nicely with the added champagne for a juicy, bubbly brew worthy of your special picnic.

Well, I’m certainly glad to have found these sparkling tea recipes to keep in our picnic arsenal! I won’t get quite as large of a saucer ache when I hear Kat planning how many picnics she wants to have this summer!

DIY: Make Your Own Bubble Tea!

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Dearies, do you like bubble tea? Do you even know what it is? It’s a sweet iced tea drink that has chewy tapioca ‘bubbles’ on the bottom. The brew can often be shaken in order to combine all the ingredients, and can look at bit frothy and bubbly on top.

This sweet drink originated in Taiwan in the 1980s, and has recently become popular stateside. It’s common to see the drink in specialty bubble tea shops. Kat developed a taste for these teas while travelling in Vancouver, where she had many a bubble tea in Chinatown. It’s harder to find in our neck of the woods, so she’s discovered how to make her own. I actually think it’s better to make your own bubble tea, because you can control the amount of milk and sweetener you add to the brew.

The first thing you’ll need is the boba (tapioca pearls). You can find these at most Asian grocery stores and also through a quick online search. They are usually black, but also come in fun rainbow colors. The boba themselves don’t have too much flavor. They’re mostly for texture but you can cook your boba in a little bit of simple syrup to give them a touch of sweetness. You boil the pearls until they are soft (about 5-10 minutes) and then they are ready to add to your tea. The boba don’t stay chewy for very long, so I’d suggest only making enough for a few cups of tea. They start to get hard after a few days.

After you’ve procured the boba, it’s time for the tea! The simplest thing is to just make a very strong cup of your favorite tea. Kat usually uses 2 tea bags. You’ll want it a  bit concentrated since you’ll be adding your milk of choice.

To create your DIY bubble tea:

Make simple syrup:

Boil a cup of water and a cup of sugar, until the sugar is dissolved.

Cook the boba:

Follow directions on the package, but it’s usually 2 cups of water for every ¼ cup of boba. Bring the water to a boil and add the tapioca pearls. Cook until they start to float to the top and get nice and chewy. Quick cooking boba takes 5 minutes, the regular kind can take about 10. After cooking submerge boba in the simple syrup for at least 15 minutes.

Make the tea:

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and then steep 2-3 tea bags for at least 5-10 minutes. Allow the tea to cool. Once cool, add your milk of choice. Kat loves to use coconut milk, almond milk, even sweetened condensed milk for a real decadent treat. Add as much or as little milk as you like. Add some of your simple syrup, to taste.

Put the boba in a glass, pour in your sweet, milky tea, and top with ice. Enjoy!

A fun variation is to add a flavored tea bag, and even fruit nectars. Kat likes to use HEB Mango black tea along with a few tablespoons of mango nectar added to the brew. Kat adores mango, and the HEB tea is a perfect combination of sweet, tart, and juicy. She was so excited to find this tea in her local store, and always has a box on hand for iced tea, afternoon tea breaks, and of course bubble tea.

To drink your tea you’ll need wide bubble tea straws (easily found online) since the boba are too big to fit through a regular straw. Or simply slurp without a straw altogether.

See it’s easy to create delicious bubble tea at home. Why not give it a try? If you come up with some exciting flavor combinations, be sure to let me know in the comments or via twitter!

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!

 

DIY Springtime Tea Party

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Since spring is on the way, Kat has decided it’s time to start planning her annual spring tea party! She always gets so cheerful when she’s planning her springtime teas, and who wouldn’t perk right up at the idea of tea amongst beautiful flowers and delicious treats?

She’s planning on having the tea party on her back patio. It’ll be lovely among the newly budding flowers and trees. The dining room will be the back-up plan in case of rain or chilly weather. No matter where the party will be, flowers will be everywhere! She’ll have vintage teacups stationed on the table and throughout the area holding all sorts of bright flowers. Yellow freesia and daffodils are my favorite! I love the sunny yellow hue. But of course, any cheerful flowers will do!

For our savories, we’ll serve delicate tea sandwiches- We like to keep our spring tea fare on the light side, with these lemony cucumber tea sandwiches. Crisp fresh cucumbers, zesty lemon and creamy cheese make a delicious yet light bite. She’s also going to serve a platter of smoked salmon with bagel crisps, capers, and crème fraiche. Everyone can help themselves to take as much or as little as they’d like.

Kat’s planning on making these lemon ginger scones and serving an abundance of fresh fruit- seasonal items such as oranges, kumquats, cantaloupe, and kiwi will be featured. She likes to keep the fruit as seasonal as possible to ensure freshness. Don’t forget the Devonshire cream!

We will have a bright lemony tea to bring sunny sips to the party. HEB Lemon Herbal Tea will be the perfect accompaniment to our fresh springtime fare. This tea has hibiscus, rosehips, orange and lemon peel with a little bite of chicory root and tang of lemongrass. It’s tart, tangy, and sweet. The lemon flavor is so juicy, it’s as if you squeezed a fresh lemon wedge in your cup right before drinking! Kat’s mom sent her this tea recently when she was starting to feel the effects of our cold, stormy winter. The zingy brew perked her right up. A dash of honey adds a nice comforting sweetness. She’s kept this tea in mind for her springtime tea ever since she tried it.

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After the scones, Kat’s going to serve a little cups of tea sorbet. She has these sweet little demitasse cups that will work perfectly! I love the mismatched vintage teaware Kat uses for tea parties. She’ll be pulling out all the floral cups she can find for her spring soiree! I better get those cups in order, they need a proper dusting and we need to review how to behave during a tea party! Us vintage teacups can get a bit forgetful, but we’re quick to learn!

Dearies, I promise that spring is almost here! Do you have any special spring events you are looking forward to?

Types of Teabags

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Kat strives to drink as much loose leaf tea as possible, but she also has space in her cupboard for bagged teas. Many bagged teas can contain high quality tea, and are easy for on-the-go use. Kat keeps a few tea bags stashed in her purse at all times. She never wants to be without her favorite teas. It’s never fun to drink a poor quality tea, so she always ensures she has plenty to spare.

There seems to be differing stories as to how the tea bag was invented. Many folks believe that it started in 1908 when Thomas Sullivan, an American tea importer sent loose leaf samples out in silk pouches, and the recipients plopped the whole pouch in the water to steep instead of removing the leaves first. They liked this method so much that they asked for more. But it appears that there is a patent filed in 1901 by Roberta Lawson and Mary Molaren in Milwaukee for something that appears to be very similar to the modern tea bag. They called it a ‘tea-leaf holder’ and was a ‘pocket-like device’ made out of mesh fabric. Using this holder only a smaller amount of tea would be used for one cup, instead of wasting larger quantities of tea making a whole pot that the tea drinker may not finish. This brought an easy, mess-free solution to tea making. After years of experimenting with different fabrics, paper teabags became popular.

The sack style of tea bag was in use until about 1944 when the rectangle became popular. You can of course still find two types of rectangle bags- the ones with a tag and the ones without. Not much changed until the late 80s/early 90s when round teabags were introduced by Tetley (who invented the round bag is also in dispute). It seems that this style wasn’t much of an improvement, but more of an aesthetic change. The pyramid shape was later invented by Brooke Bond. The shape gives the tea leaves more room to expand. Teabags now also come in a few different materials. They can be paper, cotton, gauze, nylon, silk, or biodegradable cornstarch. Phew, dearies is that enough choice for you?

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For me, I believe that you should enjoy the tea, and not worry what type of bag it comes in. Kat has recently started drinking a few pyramid shaped teabags from HEB. She picks a few up every time she visits her favorite cousin in Texas. Her favorite right now is the Mango Black. The robust, malty black tea base is accented with a subtle, sweet mango flavor. It’s a warm tropical breeze amidst this frigid winter weather. She enjoys this decaffeinated tea in the late afternoon as a warming sip after coming out of the cold, and as an evening relaxer. The pyramid tea bags have plenty of room for the leaves to expand, and are the perfect size for Kat’s favorite large mug that she wraps both hands around.

If you’re looking for the ease of a tea bag but would like to use your own loose leaf teas, how about using disposable DIY filter bags? These are large empty tea bags that have an open flap, so you can fill them with your own tea, and then close and brew. Kat keeps these around the house for iced teas. The bags are quite large, and she can put as much leaf as she needs for a whole pitcher. It infuses the tea the same way a traditional tea bag does. These disposable bags can be found in most grocery and health food stores.

Whatever shape you choose, you’re sure to get a delicious cup of tea. Do you have a teabag shape preference? I’d love to know!