Hosting a Christmas Tea and Secret Santa

christmastea

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.

christmastea2

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!

christmastea3

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

There’s More To Tea Than Lipton

moretotea1

The other day Kat told me an interesting story. She was at a grocery store that was sampling iced teas and she decided to give them a try. There was a black, a green, and a white tea to taste. Kat was sipping on the green tea when a young woman approached the table and asked for a ‘regular’ tea, ‘you know, like Lipton’. Kat decided to strike up a conversation with the woman, because before aunt Char opened up the world of tea to her, she only knew teabags from that very brand.

She first explained to the woman that the ‘regular’ tea she’s come to know is actually black tea. Kat explain a little bit about how all tea comes from the same plant, camellia sinensis, but depending on location, processing, and plant variety the tea can taste quite different. They sampled the teas at the store and Kat explained a bit more about how the differ.

After tasting the black tea, the woman asked Kat what ‘orange pekoe’ is, since she has seen it mentioned on the tea box she has at home. She was confused, since she didn’t taste any orange flavor in the tea. Kat explained that orange pekoe actually has nothing at all to do with the flavor of the tea. It’s part of the grading system for the leaf size. The term originates all the way back to the Dutch East India Company when they were importing teas from Indian to Britain. The exact origin of the word isn’t known, but it has nothing to do with flavor. It just means it is the top tea leaf right before the new bud. The entire leaf grading system is a bit more involved, and you can read a little bit about it here. Dearies, I think I need to write about this in an upcoming post, don’t you?

After their tea conversation, Kat guided her new friend to the tea aisle in the grocery store and showed her how many different varieties there were to choose from. Loose leaf and bagged tea, there were black teas, flavored, green, oolong, and white teas to choose from. There was even a matcha to try. Kat encouraged the woman to keep an open mind, and pick up a few new teas to take home. There is much more than one type of bagged tea to try, and the quality can be far better than what she was used to.

Dearies, do you have friends that have only had one type of tea, from one brand? Kat likes to hold regular tea parties, and even has an office tea tasting once a month or so. She loves showing her friends there is a wide world of tea out there!

moretotea2

She urged her new friend to also seek out grocery stores that cater to different cultures. There is an Indian grocery store not far from where they were, and she suggested a visit. Kat picked up a surprisingly delicious powdered Masala Chai from Tea India there recently and the sweet, spicy flavor has been perfect for afternoon winter warm-ups. Kat was so surprised at how well the blend of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves works harmoniously in a powdered mix. She reaches for it every weekend after a chilly day of exploring the outdoors or even after a long day of errands. If you’d like to try this tea for yourself, you can visit the Tea India website here.

You can travel the globe with a cup of tea! There is far more to tea than Lipton, indeed. If you’re just starting  your tea journey, keep an open mind! Try all the teas you can. Start with your local grocery stores and see what they’ve got. If you have a tea shop in town, be sure to sample as much as possible and become friendly with the staff. Even if you’re not fond of a tea, don’t give up on that type just yet. Try a few different brands and varieties before you totally rule it out. Most importantly, enjoy your tea journey!

 

Delicious and Easy Masala Chai Teas

chai1

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.

chai2

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!