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!

Adding Ginger To Your Tea

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This time of year Kat likes warming flavors to soothe and comfort. I’ve written about warming teas before, but I thought I should focus on one of her most favorite flavors: ginger. Dearies, do you enjoy ginger in your tea? If you’ve never had ginger tea before, it’s a must! It’s a zingy, versatile flavor that goes well with both green and black tea. It’s also lovely with rooibos and tulsi!

You can really take just about any tea and add some ginger flavor either with fresh or dried ginger. Kat loves fresh ginger and always has some in the kitchen. If you have some time, her favorite thing to do is peel and slice a 1-inch piece, and boil it in a saucepan with a cup of water for 5-10 minutes. You can leave the ginger steeping in the water as long as you like, especially if you like it super spicy. She then will add in a teaspoon or two of loose tea, steep, and then strain. Or she’ll strain the ginger water into a mug with a patiently waiting teabag. Add in a dash of honey and/or lemon, and you’re good to go! A deliciously warming cup of tea.

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There are times when we run out of fresh ginger, or just need our ginger tea fix as quickly as possible. On these occasions Kat reaches for HyVee ginger tea. Kat just loves this tea and always has a box in the cupboard. It’s quite convenient and steeps up the most delicious, spicy cup of tea. It is herbal so it has no added tea, just pure ginger goodness! Kat drinks this tea in the evening, uses it as a base for masala chai, and even adds it to baked goods. It gives a ginger zip to anything you add it to.

As I mentioned, ginger is an important component of masala chai. It’s one of our favorite beverages to make this time of year! Check out my previous post for recipes and ideas. Stay tuned, I’ve also got a masala chai hot chocolate recipe coming soon!

So Dearies, while the leaves start to swirl and the temps drop, reach for some ginger tea! It’s just lovely this time of year.

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!

 

Re-steeping Your Tea Leaves

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Tea isn’t just a delicious drink, it is also economical. Even the most expensive tea leaves seem a bit more reasonable when you realize those leaves can be used more than once. Dearies, don’t get rid of those leaves after one cup! You can get a few servings of tea with just one batch of leaves.

For whole leaf teas, you can get quite a few steeps out of those leaves. The color and flavor of the teas change after each steep. Many teas get lighter, but oolongs and pu-erhs will start to change drastically. New flavors will be introduced after a few cups. I love hearing Kat’s reaction as she goes for her 3rd or 4th steep of one of these teas. She is always amazed at how the flavors transform.

If you are using a bagged tea, whole-leaf bags are best to get more than one steep. Bags with small leaf bits will not do as well. When the leaves are cut into small pieces, the flavor is infused much quicker, so there is less to give in a second steep. But it never hurts to try and see what happens.

Black teas will lose the most flavor after a couple of steeps. But the larger the leaves, the more you’ll get out of them. Pu-erh teas are amazing for re-steeping. Some can get upwards of 20 steeps! Oolongs also hold up to many steeps and green teas can get a few as well. Basically the larger the leaf, the more life you’ll get out of them.

Kat and I always steep up a storm, and here are a few of our re-steeping tips:

-Be careful making that first serving of tea. You don’t want to over-steep the leaves! That will take away some of the power for the next infusion. To make sure you don’t over-steep your leaves, follow the suggested steep time and temperature for the tea, and use a timer.

-If you are using a teapot or cup, use a tea strainer for the leaves. That way you can take the leaves out once they are infused and stop that steeping process.

-You can also use a gaiwan, which is a traditional Chinese tea vessel. When brewing in a gaiwan you generally use more leaves, steep quickly, and empty the liquid out each time you infuse into a separate cup. If you’d like to learn more about using a gaiwan, you can check out this helpful guide.

-When you re-steep you may want to increase the brew time just a little bit with each steep. The leaves are losing their potency, and can use the extra infusion time.

It’s difficult to say exactly how many steeps you can get out of a particular tea. Taste is subjective, so just go with your palate. Don’t be afraid to try one more steep. If the brew still tastes good after a few infusions, go for one more!