Indian Flavors In Tea

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When the temperatures dip below freezing, Kat and I always look for teas that are not just warm, but feel cozy and comforting on the inside. Each sip needs to be like wrapping a warm cashmere blanket around your shoulders. Who wouldn’t want to be warm inside and out while the icicles drip and snow falls?

 Kat has found some zesty teas from Tea India that she started drinking for Diwali and hasn’t stopped since. The delicious flavors are part of Indian cuisine and culture. Spices in the masala chai such as cardamom, ginger, pepper, and cinnamon are perfect for this time of year. They warm the body and wake up the palate. Kat likes to add a touch of sugar and a few drops of milk to round out the chai experience. With added milk and sugar, this tea brings me back to my days of traveling through India with Char. We sampled so many cups of masala chai. Sweet, spicy, and delicious. Everyone had their own unique recipe and it was so much fun to try them all! The Tea India version is a hearty cup that Kat has started enjoying in the mornings, to wake her up and get her ready for a chilly day ahead.

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The ginger tea is another Indian staple that Kat likes to keep on hand. The zingy flavor is great alone, or with a touch of honey and milk to calm the spice a bit. Ginger is delicious and also good for helping with digestion. Kat loves it as an early-afternoon break as it’s quite reviving! The spicy flavor also goes perfectly with a sweet snack.

 Cardamom tea is another popular Indian tea flavor. Kat’s friend Sima drinks this tea every day. She says it tastes just like the cardamom chai her mother used to make. Cardamom has a unique flavor that is lovely if you’re looking for an Indian spiced tea but you don’t want anything too spicy. This tea has a pure cardamom flavor without anything but black tea added to it.

 You can use these teas as they are, or add milk and your favorite sweetener. You can even use the ginger or cardamom as a base and add even more delicious flavors to them.

You can find these tasty teas at your local Indian grocery store, or head on over to amazon.com to buy them online.

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Hosting a Christmas Tea and Secret Santa

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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.

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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!

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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

Tippy’s Masala Chai Brownies

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Dearies I was perusing the calendar we keep in the kitchen and December 8th is going to be my new favorite national day. It involves one of my favorite flavors, and can be enjoyed with tea. It’s National Brownie Day! Oh I just love caky, chocolatey brownies. But I suppose I also love the fudgy, dense kind too. They go perfectly with tea, don’t they? I decided that instead of a brownie to pair with tea, I wanted to put tea right in the brownie!

It was tough to choose a tea to add to a brownie. I was close to doing Earl Grey, since I love how it pairs with chocolate. But then I decided to go a completely different route. I’ve recently been playing around with masala chai and chocolate, and realized this would make a fantastic brownie! A little sweet, a little spicy, and that smooth chocolate flavor to round everything out. Here’s my recipe!

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Tippy’s Masala Chai Brownies

½ cup butter (1 stick)

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup flour

¼ teaspoon cardamom

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon cloves

Heat your oven to 350°F. Line an 8” square baking pan with tin foil or parchment (make sure it overlaps a little to give you something to hold on to when you lift the brownies out of the pan) and grease the lining. In a small bowl sift the flour and spices together and set aside.

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In a small saucepan combine the butter and chocolate. Heat on low and stir until everything is just melted and combined. Pour this into a bowl (or use the same pot if it’s big enough) and stir in the sugar. Using a whisk beat in the eggs one at a time. Slowly stir in the flour and spices mixture until combined.

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Pour mixture into the lined pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until it’s just soft but not too firm in the middle. Cool in the pan on a wire rack (if possible. We sometimes just leave the pan to cool on the stovetop). Once cool, carefully lift the foil or parchment, and cut into squares. Enjoy!

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There you have it, Dearies! These brownies are on the fudgy side, which I think works very well with the chai spices. I think this would pair well with a nice robust Assam or bright Kenyan black tea.  Happy National Brownie Day!

Black Teas to get you through Black Friday!

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Oh goodness Dearies, I barely see Kat these days! She’s already busy running about getting her holiday prep started. Between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas coming up, she has endless to-do lists. I see her briefly in the morning and then we sometimes meet for a late-night relaxation sip. Watching her breeze around the house for a few days, I decided to come up with a list of black teas to give her a bit of pep to get through the holiday crazy. Especially that Black Friday shopping! She’s planning on getting up very early (even before this tea cup likes to be awake!) and going all day long. Here are a few of our favorite black teas I’m lining up to keep her awake and ready to go!

 Irish Breakfast- I can’t think of a better way to start the day! This is a super strong blend of black teas, perfect to wake you right up. This tea has a hearty dose of Assam which is malty and bold. It’s a bit stronger in flavor than English Breakfast but they’ll both do the trick. Sometimes they are blended with Kenyan, Ceylon, and Chinese black teas as well. Each blend tastes a bit different so you should try as many brands as you can to see what you like best!

 Keemun- this is a Chinese tea that’s great for the morning or early afternoon. It can be a little earthy, little bit sweet, with a hint of smoke. Very uplifting and energizing!

 Darjeeling- perhaps it’s getting a bit later in the day and you want something to get you through but not give you a big boost. A delicate 1st flush Darjeeling is floral yet earthy, a nice balance of more subtle flavors. It will restore your energy and the flavor will also give you focus and calm.

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Kat has found a new favorite to keep her shopping energy up. I mentioned Tea India teas in our Diwali celebration post, and Kat now keeps the Orange Pekoe tea on hand for moments when she needs a pick-me-up. It’s a bold Assam tea, perfect for mornings or early afternoon. She’s even made it iced a few times, an carries it around in a tumbler. Quite a versatile tea! Earthy, bold and bright, it holds up well both hot and iced.

 These Black Friday teas are of course great for any occasion. I’d stick with them in the morning or early afternoon if you are sensitive to their pep effects. Do you have a favorite black tea to wake you up and keep you going?

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?

Autumn Teas

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Dearies, do you have a favorite time of year? There is something I love in every season, but cool breezes, bright sunshine, and vibrant leaves gently floating to the ground just makes me feel happy, warm, and fuzzy. This time of year Kat takes endless walks in the woods, and sometimes she’ll tote me along with her. I love listening to the leaves swish as she walks while the birds merrily chirp all around us. I’ve been gathering our favorite fall teas to keep on hand in the kitchen. A sip of these in the morning or after a hike is the perfect way to enhance a beautiful fall experience. Here are a few of our favorite fall teas.

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Masala Chai- Newman’s Own Organic Chai. Wake you up and warm you up! Kat has tried many masala chai blends over the years, and she just loves the balance in this one. The organic ingredients of ginger, cinnamon, black pepper cloves, and cardamom are exactly what she looks for in a good chai. These are actually the same ingredients she uses in her homemade version. Often times there is too much cardamom or cinnamon in chai, but the flavors here aren’t too spicy or strong, they all play happily together. Kat likes to steep this tea nice and strong for about 5 minutes, and then adds a few dashes of milk and a tablespoon of honey. Kat loves that she can easily find this tea at her local Stop & Shop, and never worries about running out. She finds this tea comforting and invigorating, and craves it quite often!

Cranberry- of course cranberry flavor is associated with fall! There are many teas that have added cranberry to their blends. It adds a pleasing tartness that is easily balanced with a dash of sweetener. Sips of cranberry tea will bring you to an inviting holiday table with leaves gently falling outside the window. Cranberry teas are bright with a fun combination of sweet and tangy notes.

Cinnamon- cinnamon is always a staple in our house during the cooler months. It’s warming and perfect for all sorts of dishes and drinks. Kat bakes with it, adds it to her morning oatmeal, even swirls a bit in her black tea. You can find it in endless blend combinations, or just add it yourself like Kat does.

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Rooibos- rooibos has an earthy flavor that’s perfect for this time of year. It also has a red hue reminiscent of the falling leaves. Rooibos is perfect any time of day since it doesn’t have caffeine. You can add other flavors to it or drink it straight up! You could get creative and make a cranberry or cinnamon rooibos blend all on your own. There are many rooibos blends out there, so definitely give a few a try this season.

I do hope you’ll let me know what your favorite fall teas are! Do you enjoy any specific flavors or particular types of tea?

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!

Teas for Dad on Father’s Day

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Father’s day is almost here, and I’m sure many of you are in the middle of brainstorming what to get for Dad. I’m going to bet many of you have tea-loving fathers! Even if Dad hasn’t had much experience with tea, a tea-themed Father’s Day gift could be just the thing to start him on his tea adventure. I just happen to have a few suggestions on what teas to select and gift to Dad.

If Dad is a coffee drinker, a nice strong black tea is a nice choice. You can go with a malty, sweet Assam, slighty smoky Keemun, or perhaps for something with more punch, like an Irish Breakfast blend. Strong black teas are always a nice tea for coffee drinkers to start out with. They get that brisk flavor they crave, but with different nuanced flavors.

If Dad is a scotch drinker, how about something with earthy nuances like a puerh? This tea is aged and produces leathery, and wet earth notes that always reminds Kat of scotch. It also can cost far less than an aged bottle of scotch! Kat is seriously considering a puerh for her father, who likes to end a busy week with a small glass of scotch.

If he’s a fan of camping how about a lapsang souchong? The smoky flavor will bring him right to the campfire. It’s a strong black tea blend that brews up nice and strong. It’s also a good choice if he’s a fan of smoky meats like bacon! Perhaps a breakfast pairing of pancakes, bacon and lapsang to surprise Dad on Father’s Day!

One of my most favorite choices for dad is Chai. The blend of earthy black tea and strong spices are sure to please a father with a refined palate. This is an especially great choice for the foodies! Kat is a big fan of chai, and often makes her own homemade version from black tea and fresh spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. But usually she is pressed for time, and reaches for a packaged blend. Lately she’s been especially fond of an organic chai from True Goodness. Kat’s mom knows she loves a good chai, and found this one in her local Meijer store. Her mom is so sweet, she’s always looking out for new teas for Kat to try! She tries to find adventurous blends that Kat may not have seen before. But it’s hard to stump my Kat- she tries as many new teas as possible. Her mom likes that this tea has no artificial flavors (you’d be surprised at how many tea blends have artificial flavors!) and contains organic ingredients. She decided to send Kat a box, and it’s been our go-to for months now. It has just the right amount of malty, earthy tea, warm cinnamon and ginger, spicy cardamom, clove, and pepper. I just know the Dad on your list is sure to love this tea! Won’t Kat’s mom be surprised when she sees this tea included in her husband’s Father’s Day gift!

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If you have young children, I just adore the idea of a special father/child tea party! Create a special tea time just for dad and his little ones. Wouldn’t this be the perfect way to get some quality time together? You can work with your children to pick out everything from the menu, the teas, and the décor. They’ll enjoy being so involved in the process. I love the idea of creating special time for Dad and his children, it’s so hard to find time to slow down and enjoy family.

Don’t forget the teaware! There are many fun mugs out there, something to match your father’s style. You can even custom make a mug with a loving message, or a lovely picture of his children. Or how about a clear glass mug with infuser, so he can watch his leaves dance and steep. This will let him get more involved in the tea making process. If he’s interested in gadgets, a variable-temperature kettle would be a fun gift. This way he can choose the exact temperature for his tea, depending on tea type. There are even tea-makers on the market, which you could choose if you’re looking for a fancier gift.

What do you think of these ideas, Dearies? Do you have any to add? Feel free to contact me through twitter or Instagram if you need any further suggestions! I hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day!

There’s More To Tea Than Lipton

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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!

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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!