Back To School Tea Party Ideas

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It time to put away bathing suits and sand toys and start getting ready to go back to school! Like most children Kat’s niece Camille is reluctant about it, so Kat thought she’d find a way to lift her spirits and get her ready. I of course had the most brilliant idea. A back to school tea party! Imagine a party filled with sweets and treats to start getting the young ones back in the school spirit. With a little planning we can lift their spirits and get them excited about going to class.

For starters, let’s talk about décor. I’ve decide there needs to be a crafty-school theme for the party. A centerpiece incorporating a nice big globe, pencils with flower eraser toppers (and everyone gets to take one home), and by each plate a mini chalkboard personalized with each guest’s name. Kat suggested also placing a little notebook and pen next to each plate so the guests can take tasting notes. This will get them ready for creative writing and critical thinking!

I think apples should be the food theme, don’t you? A nice homage to the season, and all of those hard working teachers. We’re thinking a fennel apple salad to start, cheddar and apple finger sandwiches, Candy apples, and apple tarts to bring a festive feel to the party. We may also have a few small bowls of shiny apples on the table for décor.

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To accompany the delicious bites, we’re going to serve Hy-vee Honey Orange Chamomile tea. This herbal tea blend is caffeine free and perfect for everyone at the party. The honey and citrus flavors will work perfectly with the apple flavored nibbles. Kat knows this tea is a favorite of Camille’s, and she can’t wait to surprise her with it. She’s not sure if she’ll serve it hot or iced yet, it will depend on the weather forecast. This tea is very soothing hot. The sweet honey and tangy citrus make for a smooth and nuanced cup. The honey and chamomile combine to make a sweet and delicate flavor. When iced, the orange proves to be quite refreshing and the floral chamomile rounds everything out quite nicely. You can’t go wrong with this tea!

 Since we want this to be a party that combines school and fun, there needs to be a game or two! We’re going to create a ‘Pin The Spout On The Teapot’ game by easily cutting out a large festive cardboard teapot and making spouts to be pinned on. I think we’ll also do a ‘guess how much’ game, where we’ll fill a large glass teapot with jellybeans and everyone needs to have a guess at how many are inside. A great way to revive those math skills after a fun summer!

 For even more ideas, check out my Pinterest board! Dearies, I’m sure you all have your own clever tea party ideas. I’d love it if you’d share them with us! Best of luck with getting ready for the school year.

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!

Celebrating Earth Day With Tea

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Earth Day is Friday, April 22nd. What are you all doing to show respect for the earth? Kat and I try to do various things on a daily basis to show our love for mother earth. We actually do a few tea-related things, which got me thinking that it’s time to share our tips with everyone! Here’s what you can do to combine staying green with your love for tea:

Composting- You can compost your loose tea or tea bags. Add your leaves or bags right to your compost bin. if you have paper tea bags or tags with staples, you need to remove those staples first. The paper tags are even fine to throw into the mix. You should let the leaves decompose a little bit before you add any of the compost to your garden- tea could change the acidity in your soil. Kat makes sure not to waste a drop of brewed tea, and uses it for her plants.  She dilutes leftover tea (doesn’t happen very often!) and waters her houseplants. If you have acid-loving plants, you can even sprinkle those leaves right over the base of the plants. You’ll want to mix the leaves with a bit of the dirt to get them closer to the roots.

Cleaning with tea- go green with your cleaning supplies. Cleaning with tea is safe and easy! It is all natural and tea is actually quite a good cleanser. You can clean windows, floors, even use as a room deodorizer. Check out my previous post on the subject. I think you’ll find it economical and easy.

Planting herbs- A great way to avoid buying herbal tea and wasting lots of packaging is to grown your own herbs and make your own tea! I posted about great herbs for tea awhile back and you can find the post here. It’s just so lovely to walk into your own herb garden, pick your herbs and brew up a fresh pot of tea. Kat doesn’t have a large backyard, and she grows her herbs in small planters. It still works perfectly! She even has a friend that has a windowsill herb garden. I also recently came across a wonderful idea on pinterest- Dearies, you can make your own tea herb garden seed kit! This would make a lovely gift. You can include seeds for herbs such as chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, mint, and basil. The combinations are really up to you! You can include herb markers, even a little gardening shovel. Put it all in a pretty box, and it’s ready for gift giving.

Dear readers, I know you are all very good and staying green. Do you have any tea-themed tips we can use for Earth Day? Please let us know. We can never do enough to help our earth.

Mixing Teas & Flowers

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Dearies, I know I’ve written quite a bit about spring time teas, but I’ve recently thought of one more way to get spring flowers in your cup. To actually put them in your cup! I know, it seems too easy to be true, right?

You’ll want to dry your flowers first, or you can purchase them already dried. The amount of flowers you use depends on how much tea you want to make. For a few servings I’ll blend one cup of tea and a tablespoon of flowers and adjust if necessary, but you’ll need to start experimenting and see what works best for you. You may also want to add a floral extract to your blend, to increase the flavor. But that’s entirely up to you!

To make a garden blend with just flowers, you can use equal parts of each flower. Kat likes to blend chamomile and lavender together for a soothing evening blend. She often likes to play around with the following flowers. You can find these already dried online for easy use: rose, jasmine, lavender, hibiscus, chamomile, and chrysanthemum.

Kat likes to create her own version of Rose Congou. This is a fragrant rose tea from China. She takes 1 cup of her favorite Chinese black tea, and 2 tablespoons of dried rose petals. Sometimes she’ll add in a couple drops of rose extract. Mix everything together and store in an airtight container for 1 week. Open the container and give it a sniff. If it smells like a rose garden, it’s ready!

Adding flowers to your tea blends is delicious and also visually appealing. Fill tea filters with your tea blend and share with friends and family. You could also put it in a pretty glass jar for gift-giving, although I wouldn’t recommend storing your tea in glass long-term unless you’re sure to keep it out of the light (see my previous post on properly storing teas!)

You can add your flowers to any of your favorite tea bases, or I also like to use rooibos as a caffeine-free base. You can also skip the tea base altogether and just blend the flowers together!

Now my lovelies, please note I’m not a master tea blender, I just know what Kat and I enjoy. These are just my recommendations to get your mind thinking about how to get creative with tea and flowers.

Teaching Children About Tea

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Do you love children as much as Kat does? Any time she has the change to babysit her little niece Camille, she gets so excited! She’s always planning on games to play with her. On Camille’s last visit, she was curious about Kat’s tea. She had a sip and decided she liked it. Kat decided it was time to cultivate Camille’s love for tea! I’ve been watching Kat teach Camille, and I took a few notes. Here are a few tips on teaching kids about the joys of tea:

-Offer them sips of your tea when they take an interest: Kat always always offers Camille a taste of her tea. If her niece wants her own cup, she’ll take out a rooibos, herbal, or decaffeinated tea for her. She always puts it in a fancy cup with a saucer to make her feel extra special.

-Talk to them about the growing regions all around the world: After their sip of your tea, tell them where the tea was grown! You can also find books about the regions, or find information online to share. Make sure you have lots of pictures.

-Teach them how tea grows, how it’s picked, processed, and shipped all around the world. Again you can find books, and print out information about the teas they are interested in. This would be a great ‘how to’ project for a child in 2nd or 3rd grade.

-One of my favorite ideas is to have a party for all the senses- let the children see the leaves of different types of tea, smell the leaves before and after steeping, and have them take a few sips. Have them try and describe what they smell and taste. You’ll be amazed and surprised at what they’ll say! Children of all ages will enjoy tea, treats, and lovely decorations.

To create your party, cupcakes, scones, and tea sandwiches are sure to catch their attention. I also  found this recipe for tea gummies! You could make them in any shape you’d like. I just love the idea!

Serve a tea that’s caffeine free, so they can enjoy as much as they like. Kat reserves some of her Hy-Vee Honey Orange Chamomile for her niece when she visits. Her niece loves the sweet orange flavor. It’s tangy, and the smooth honey is also quite soothing. Don’t tell, but Kat sometimes lets her niece add an extra dollop of honey to make the brew even sweeter. Dearies this also makes a wonderfully refreshing iced tea.
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Teaching children about the wonderful world of tea will open their minds to different flavors, and they’ll learn about places all over the world.

The Tea Trends of 2015

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Dearies as you know, I’m a technically savvy teacup. I may be a bit of an antique, but I know how to get around the internet! One of my favorite things to do is read about emerging trends. I like to keep up with this ever-changing world of tea! Since the new year has begun, I was curious to see what the tea trends were for 2015 and what’s still hot for the new year. Here’s what this old teacup discovered:

Interesting blends: It appears that interesting tea blends using more than just black tea have become quite popular. Natural fruit flavors and pure herbal teas have proven to be very popular. I’ve noticed turmeric making a frequent appearance, especially during cold and flu season. Turmeric is very earth on its own, and Kat has done some research on just the right recipe to balance the flavor with a bit of sweetness. Here’s how she’s currently making her turmeric tea:

1 cup milk (of any type) or water

2 tsps of dried turmeric

1 tsp of dried ginger

Lemon and honey to taste

Dash of black pepper (optional)

Simmer the spices with the water or milk until everything is incorporated. Kat also likes to add the honey in while the brew is very hot. Drink and enjoy!

Matcha is still a popular trend: It seems like the world has gone crazy for matcha this year! If you look at social media it appears that everyone is drinking, baking, and cooking with it. I’ve heard Kat’s friends talk about how they are perfecting their matcha whisking skills in order to have the perfectly frothy morning bowl of the energizing tea. Kat has been to ‘Matcha Meditation’ classes where they’ve discussed how to be mindful when preparing and drinking your tea. She’s had cups of matcha and matcha lattes in many different cafes. This is definitely a trend that I can get behind. Matcha is tasty, energizing, and so versatile!

Tea Cocktails: Cocktails infused with tea has been very popular this year as well, and the trend looks as if it will continue. I’ve read endless articles suggesting tea cocktail combinations. I’ve even posted a few of my own (remember this?)! There are now tea mixers on the market that you can purchase so you don’t even need to steep your tea yourself. You simply add the pre-made mixer to your spirit of choice. Kat has been to a few bars in the area that have created their own tea infused cocktail creations. She was delighted to see tea on the cocktail menu!

What other tea trends have you noticed popping up? It’s definitely going to be an exciting year for tea!

Evening Teas

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I love the evening! Once Kat is off to bed, I adventure around the kitchen, chatting with my friends. Sometimes the soup pot will have a new joke to tell, or the kettle will start spouting folksongs. Kitchenware can get quite rowdy past midnight! But dearies, I don’t need to sleep like you all do. After dinner, Kat enjoys a warm, soothing cup of tea but she doesn’t want any caffeine to keep her awake at bedtime.

The days are starting to get a little bit shorter, and nights are a little bit chillier. It’s the perfect time to talk about teas to drink in the evening. Kat is always looking for new ways to create a tranquil nighttime routine and there are many teas that can enhance the setting.

Do you drink rooibos? Rooibos is always a good choice after dinner. It’s not actually a tea, but an herb made from the leaves of the rooibos bush found in South Africa. It’s often referred to as Red Tea or African Red Tea. It’s pronounced ‘roy-boss’, which is not easy to tell just by looking at the name! I’ve had to correct many of Kat’s friends. The flavor of rooibos is quite unique. It is naturally sweet with a honey-like flavor, a bit nutty and spicy. Kat often thinks it has a bit of a vanilla flavor as well. If you are looking for a decaffeinated alternative to tea, you should give it a try. It is a smooth, calming brew.

Kat enjoys this Fresh & Easy organic rooibos herbal tea on many quiet, chilly evenings. She actually discovered it after a yoga class. Her yoga studio often has invigorating herbal teas to enjoy after practice. She will often breeze past them but when she noticed rooibos, she stopped to have a sip. She hadn’t tried it before and had no idea what it was! She was surprised at the flavor. It was unlike any other herbal tea she’d ever tried. It has a strong flavor that is similar to black tea, but also quite different with the honey and spice notes. She also appreciates the individually wrapped teabags as she can take them to work, or on long plane flights when she needs a little extra help to relax.

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There are many herbal teas are perfect in the evening. Chamomile is a classic choice. The sweet, floral flavor is instantly relaxing. It is sweet enough alone, or takes to a bit of sweetener nicely. The flavor is gentle and calm and the aroma will fill your room with the scent of fresh flowers. Peppermint tea is also a popular choice among Kat and her friends after dinner. Kat often serves it at dinner parties in little glass cups along with a few springs of fresh mint. She loves how the glass cups enhance the vibrant color. It’s refreshing after a heavy meal, yet peppy enough in flavor to stimulate a lively after-dinner conversation.

Ginger tea is also lovely after a meal. Kat simply grates a teaspoon or two of fresh ginger into my cup, depending on how spicy she wants her tea. Then she simply pours some boiling water over it. You can let it steep as long as you like. If you don’t like the idea of drinking pieces of floating ginger, simply put the grated ginger in a strainer or paper tea filter. I personally enjoy the little bits as they float and tickle the sides of my cup! Kat agrees, and likes to munch on the little ginger bits. Feel free to add some sweetener as it can be spicy. But it’s the perfect way to take a deep breath, relax, and digest after a meal.

Just thinking about these teas makes me want to grab a blanket, a good book, and sit by a crackly fire. What do you drink when you’re trying to wind-down in the evening?

Enjoying Late Summer Iced Teas

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Dearies, it’s the time of year where we have to savor every last beautiful warm day. Feel the radiance of the sun, find comfort in a gentle breeze, and enjoy happy sips of iced tea. Kat has been looking for special iced tea recipes to help cherish our last days of summer. By combining seasonal ingredients and delicious teas you can extend your summer vacation well into the cool days of fall.

Kat’s favorite technique these days is to muddle her ingredients. You may be familiar with muddled mint in cocktails such as a mojito. I honestly just enjoy saying the word muddle out loud! This technique will bring vibrant flavor to your late summer iced teas. You can take fruit, herbs, and sweetener, and gently mash them all together to release the beautiful flavors. Kat likes to use mint, basil, and late summer fruits. You can use a specifically designed muddler, or Kat just uses a large pestle or a wooden spoon. It’s quite simple and fun!

Sipping on an iced tea infused with summer fruits will bring you right to the beach. You can practically smell the ocean and hear the seagulls with each taste. Kat loves raspberries and has muddled a few with sweetener and this mint green tea by Fresh and Easy many times. Kat first discovered this tea at a friend’s house, where they sipped it as an afternoon refresher. She was taken with the delicious minty flavor. It’s especially easy to use in your muddled iced tea if you don’t have fresh herbs on hand.

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Don’t forget those citrus fruits! They are refreshing on any warm summer day. Muddling a bit of lemon or orange into iced tea reminds Kat of sipping in a sunny green meadow. But dearies, the combinations are endless! Use any type of tea, any summer fruit (I’m particularly fond of peaches myself), herbs and sweetener. Want something with a bit more zing? Muddle some ginger! What about something mellow and relaxing? Try adding rose or lavender to your tea. You can become an iced tea wizard conjuring up images of summery fun without leaving the kitchen.

Instead of adding granulated sugar to your iced teas, try simple syrup. It works beautifully and completely dissolves in cold water. Even better, keep the simple syrup in a bottle and offer it to your guests. This way they can sweeten their tea to taste. To make the syrup, combine equal parts water and sugar in a sauce pan (we like to do 3 cups of each to make sure we have a large amount for a party). Heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Once it’s dissolved bring the mixture to a quick boil and then simmer for a minute or two. Make sure the mixture cools completely, and store in the fridge until you need it.

Create, sit back, and relish those last summer sips. What are your favorite iced tea recipes to enjoy the last of the summer’s bounty?

The Most Important Thing to Know About Herbal Tea

… is that it is not tea at all! Tea, if we want to be specific (and I love being specific!), comes only from the camellia sinensis plant. If it’s not camellia sinensis, it’s simply not tea.

Now, in the United States, what we commonly refer to as ‘herbal teas’ are actually tisanes or herbal infusions. They may include leaves, flowers, bark, fruit or other parts of a variety of plants that can be steeped in hot water in the same manner as tea. It’s a veritable bouquet of possibilities!

There are the more fruity infusions, that are flavored with lemon, orange, raspberry or strawberry. Or more leafy or grassy varieties such as mint or lemongrass. Floral infusions, such as lavender, chamomile are also favorites.

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Char always enjoyed a lemon tisane after a long day of talking. She liked how it felt on her throat. Kat, on the other hand, is more likely to reach for a chamomile blend after a long day when she’s ready to wind down. There is something in common between these ladies that I adore whenever they reached for an herbal infusion. They seemed to want to connect with nature in a special way. Perhaps there wasn’t time or weather did not permit for a walk outside to breathe in the season. But in one simple cup, nature could come fully to them. It’s a beautiful exercise in creating your own environment, isn’t it? A desire to walk through the fields of Provence could result in a cup of a fragrant lavender blend. Longing for the coast of California might end up as a sunny, orange-infused blend. I love the practice, and I strongly encourage it!  Sometimes one simply can’t get to nature. So bring nature to yourself in a simple and lovely way!

Herbals have their own unique scents, flavors and characteristics that are completely separate from tea, and yet there is a similar allure to them. You’ll even see them sitting right next to tea in the grocery store! Go ahead. Peruse the aisle. Decide where you’d like to take your senses.

Most herbal infusions have no caffeine, so they can be a lovely caffeine-free option for your own daily enjoyment or for entertaining. Instead of an after-dinner coffee, take a leaf out of Char’s book and serve a fragrant mint infusion. The fresh character of this choice feels very reviving!

So, while I don’t have any confidence I’ll talk anyone out of calling them ‘herbal teas,’ I do know that you’ll show off your newfound knowledge in the very near future. And who knows, you may even embark on an herbal adventure contained in your own lovely cup!