DIY: Tea Ice Cubes

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Dearies, I’m sure you’re reading the title of this post thinking we’re crazy. Iced tea in the wintertime? Well, it’s true! If you are a regular reader of the blog you’ll know I’ve recommended iced tea in the colder months before. It actually helps us think about summertime and sunny weather! Since it’s been particularly cold and grey these days, Kat has decided to throw a little iced tea party for her friends. It helps bring a little warm sunshine to our hearts.

A trick I’ve mentioned before is to add herbs and herbal teas to the ice cubes to make deliciously flavored iced teas. But another fun idea is to add steeped tea to the ice cubes too, which will make sure the teas you serve aren’t watered down. You could use the same tea you’re serving, or even use complimentary teas for added flavor!

One of my favorite combinations is to use a nice strong Assam tea as the iced tea base, and then add an ice cube made out of Earl Grey tea. The lovely bergamot flavor slowly melts into the iced tea and creates a lovely sipping sensation.

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To create the Earl Grey tea ice cubes, we like to make sure the tea flavor is good and strong. To do this, we use 2 teabags per 1 cup of water. Boil the water, add your teabags and steep for 10 minutes. Allow the tea to fully cool and then pour into the ice cube trays. Put in the freezer, and allow to fully freeze. Viola! Ice cubes ready for your iced teas whenever you need them!

Our favorite Earl Grey of the moment is Newman’s Own Organic Earl Grey. It is the perfect combination of smooth, slightly earthy black tea and tangy, citrusy bergamot. I’m quite the Earl Grey critic, I’ve had it all over the world, in all sorts of variations. And I must say, this is a very pleasing cup. Easy to prepare and quite delicious. Kat’s father loves a good strong cup of Earl Grey, and she keeps a box of this in the cupboard just for him. Can’t say that I blame him. It’s one of the world’s most popular teas for a good reason!

 

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Matcha The Authentic Way

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Dearies, I know you all love matcha! It’s the most popular topic that I write about. I recently realized that I’ve shared recipes and matcha on-the-go tips, but we haven’t done a post about how to have an authentically prepared cup of matcha. So, here we go!

To prepare your matcha the authentic way, you need just a few tools: a matcha bowl (a small cereal bowl could work) called a chawan, a bamboo whisk called a chasen, and a small mesh sifter. An optional tool is the tea scoop, called a chashaku.

Now you just need two ingredients: 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of matcha. I recommend using ceremonial grade matcha, this is the best quality and will whisk up to a delicious, frothy cup. But don’t get discouraged if you don’t have ceremonial grade. Go with what you can find!

So, now that you have your tools and ingredients, you are ready for a perfect bowl of matcha.

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First, measure out a tsp of matcha, which can also be measured with 2 scoops with the chashaku. Place the matcha in the sifter over your bowl. It’s important to sift the matcha first, don’t skip this step! Sifting removes clumps and will help you get a nice frothy bowl of tea.

Your water temperature needs to be 175°, this is very important! Do not use boiling water or your matcha will be bitter. Green teas in general need cooler water than black teas. Once you have the right temperature, pour about 4 tablespoons of water into the bowl and gently mix the matcha until you form a nice, vibrant green paste.

Once you have your paste, it’s time to whisk! Add the remainder of your water, and whisk in a ‘W’ formation. Be gentle with your pressure- you don’t want to crush the tips of the whisk to the bottom of the bowl, they’re delicate and you might bend them. Whisk using your wrist, and not your fingers. Once you have a lovely frothy texture, you can remove the whisk. It shouldn’t take too long, so be mindful not to over-whisk. Whisking takes lots of practice, so get ready to drink lots of matcha! Even if you don’t get a very frothy bowl the first few times, don’t discard that matcha! As long as the powder is mixed in, it will still taste delicious. Sip right from your bowl and enjoy!

If after a few tries you’re still not getting a frothy mixture, make sure you are sifting your powder well. Also be sure you are whisking in a ‘W’ formation, and moving from your wrist.

Be sure to clean your matcha tools very well. The bamboo whisk should be cleaned thoroughly and also air dried. Make sure it’s fully dry before you store it to avoid any mold from growing on the whisk.

The best way to learn is to practice! There are also scores of videos online that you can find with a quick search. Watching someone whisk may also help you understand what to do. Dearies if you have any questions about preparing matcha, please drop me a line and let me know! I’d be happy to help out. Happy whisking!

Camping With Tea

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Here’s the scene: Waking up in the lush green forest listening to birdsong and the smoky comforting smell of a campfire. Summertime is Kat’s favorite time of year to go camping. She loves being out in the forest so close to nature. Hiking, fishing, cooking over a fire, she just loves it all! She even likes sleeping in a tent. There is however one comfort she can’t live without: tea!

Over the years Kat has perfected a way to have tea while camping. It involves a little bit of gear, but can also be done with less. She does have a bit of tea camping gear, she just love collecting tea ware no matter what the occasion! Those enamelware cups are just so cute, Kat has a large vintage collection!

So there are only a few things you really need to enjoy tea while camping: First a heat source (campfire or camping stove), and vessel to boil water (we just use a cooking pot). Then you pick and choose: thermos, enamelware teapot, and enamelware teacups, empty teabags to fill, or just regular teabags. If you are trying to pack light, all you really need is the boiled water and a cup to put your tea in. If you need to pack even lighter, you can put the tea directly in your cup and sip it grandpa style (sipping with the leaves directly in the water). Or you could put the tea in a fillable teabag, steep and remove. Or of course, you can bring along your favorite teabags, and steep those. That’s what Kat often does.

 

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A tea she likes to bring camping is Private Selection Orange Spice black tea. This tea has orange cinnamon and clove flavors that hold up well to that smoky camp fire. Perfect with a hearty breakfast, lunch, or dinner by the campfire. It would also pair nicely with sweet, chocolatey s’mores, which are a must if you are going camping! Kat drinks this tea all year round. It’s soothing in the chilly months and quite refreshing when it’s warmer outside. She even serves it iced! I guess you could say it’s one of her staples. She always has it in the cupboard.

Dearies, will you try my tips for your next camping trip? Do you have any other ideas for taking tea in the great outdoors?

How To: Have Tea On The Beach

beachtea2Dearies, we’ve talked a bit about taking your tea on the go. Kat is never without her tea whether it be on an airplane, at a picnic, or even hiking. But in the summer there is another important place that Kat totes her tea- the beach! She actually does both hot and iced teas for beachy afternoons. I thought it would be helpful to do a little ‘how to’ on taking teas to the beach, so you can always have your favorite beverage by your side (and hopefully your favorite teacup too!).

For hot tea, Kat will do it a few different ways. The thing you must have is a trusty thermos. Kat has them in varying sizes, depending on the group. She has a small one for herself and a larger one for tea with friends. Sometimes Kat will steep her tea right in the thermos and take it with her. Other times, she’ll bring along the hot water and tea separately. This way she can steep up individual cups, or even bring along her gaiwan for gongfu steeping on the beach. It may require a little bit more setup, but this is such a lovely way to enjoy tea all afternoon. The gaiwan setup is sure to draw a little bit of attention, and you’re sure to make some new tea-loving friends!

If you are icing your tea, you have a few options as well. You can put the iced tea in your thermos, and it’ll keep cool for hours. You can also put it in a large container specifically made for iced tea just make sure it’s lightweight and easy to pour. Kat has a little cooler that’s the perfect size for her plastic iced tea jug. Another must is plastic ice cubes. These are a must for iced tea! They don’t melt, so they don’t water down your tea. Leave them in the freezer and then grab when you are ready to go!

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For her iced teas, Kat loves to pack a pitcher filled with Southern Breeze Peach Sweet Tea. She makes the tea the night before her outing and cools it in the fridge. When she wakes up, it’s ready to go! The sweet black tea flavor combined with ripe peach flavor is perfect for sunny beach days. The tea is sweet without any added sugar or calories, so it’s a hit with all of her friends. She likes to bring along freshly sliced peaches for anyone that wants a fresh, delicious garnish. This tea is so easy to make: simply boil 2 quarts of water, add 2 teabags to a large pitcher and pour in the hot water. Steep for 3 minutes, and remove the bags. Pop in the fridge and cool! Easy peasy. Chill it overnight and have your tea ready for your day at the beach. As soon as the weather begins to warm up, Kat places an order on Amazon for this tea.

To enhance your tea experience on the beach, be sure to bring a few teacups! Drinking tea from your thermos or even disposable cups is fine, but when you bring along a few pretty cups, you’ll feel like royalty while listening to those crashing waves. What are your beachy tea-time tips? I’d love to know if you have some secrets to share. Happy summer Dearies!

 

Behind the Leaf: Chinese Green Teas

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Dearies, do you know where your green tea comes from? I did a post about popular Japanese green teas recently, and now I’m going to discuss some popular Chinese green teas. I remember traveling through China with Char. The big cities are so very interesting, and the rural areas we saw were just beautiful. Travel was a bit tough at times and I constantly worried about chips and scratches, but it helped that we were offered amazing tea everywhere we went. Chinese green teas vary depending on region and processing. Here are some of the more common types you’ll find:

Long Jing- grown in Zhejiang Province. In English it’s referred to as Dragonwell. This is the most well known tea in China, and because of that it’s also the most copied. Be careful and know your source! Why is this called Dragon well? According to legend, a Taoist monk came across a dragon hiding in a well. There was a lack of rain and drought in the area,  so the villagers prayed to the dragon to come to their aid. After the prayer it started to rain!  This tea has a flat shape. You’ll taste marine notes such as seaweed and ocean. It also has a lovely cooked veggie flavor that reminds Kat of steamed green beans. There is even a hint of sweetness in this tea. It is the most popular tea for a good reason!

Anji Bai Cha- also grown in Zhejiang. The word bai actually means white, but this is definitely a green tea. The white refers to the leaves which are so pale, they are practically white!  The leaves here are thin and long. The flavor is grassy, floral, and vegetal. It has a surprising tanginess as well. It’s a lovely, complex tea.

Mao Feng- grown in Anhui province. This pretty tea has lots of fine buds. It has a green bean fresh veggie flavor. But it’s more like raw veggies and not cooked like long jing. The freshness makes it mild and quite sweet.

Liu An Gua Pian- grown in Anhui province. This tea means ‘melon seed’ because of the shape of the leaves. They’re flat and a bit oval. This tea uses the second leaf, not the buds. Using these more mature leaves is very different from most other Chinese green teas that use the buds and young leaves. Since the leaves are a bit more mature, they have a more concentrated flavor. This tea is not delicate or vegetal. It has a toastier flavor due to being fired in the wok multiple times, with a nice floral finish.

Bi Lo chun (spring snail)- grown in Jiangsu province. These trees also produce Dong Shan tea, which is harvested after the bi lo chun season. This tea is called spring snail because it’s rolled into a spiral that looks like a snail and of course harvested in the spring. This tea has a delicate taste and floral aroma.

These are just a few of the many glorious Chinese teas you can find. All of these teas can be brewed in a gaiwan, grandpa style (loose in the cup/bowl), or also in a western style teapot. We like using a gaiwan as much as possible for these teas, as it extracts a large amount of flavor and you can get multiple steeps.

How many types of Chinese green tea have you tried? Dearies, they are all a bit different, so get out there and taste as many as you can.