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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January is Hot Tea Month!

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Dearies, did you know that January is Hot Tea Month? That’s right, we get to celebrate our favorite warm beverage all month long! Of course, we celebrate tea in little ways every day. But Kat is planning tea parties, a tea tasting, and a make-your-own tea bag party in January to show her love for her favorite beverage.

 If you’d like to try and make your own tea bags, you can check out my previous post here. Kat is going to have all kinds of loose teas and herbs out on a table for her friends to blend and make their own tea bags. We’ll have lively music and of course some nibbles as well. Isn’t it a fun idea? Guests get to go home with all of their teabags and can remember the party every time they steep up a cup. If you’re looking for more fun tea party ideas, don’t forget to check out my pinterest page!

 She’s also thinking of hosting a black tea tasting party. She’ll have black teas from all over the world, including China, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and India. This is such a fun way to learn the nuances of tea based on region. You can do it with any type of tea. Just pick a category and find as many different teas as you can, grown in as many places as possible. Set up multiple pots with cups for everyone. You can taste each tea side by side and talk about the similarities and differences. Give everyone a little notebook and pen for writing tasting notes. Kat is thinking of doing a green tea tasting next!

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Another way Kat is celebrating hot tea is by highlighting some of her favorite teas she drinks every day. These are the workhorse teas that don’t get as much recognition as their fancy counterparts. A tea she reaches for every day is a lovely mild green by Harris Tea. This is a dependable, tasty tea that brews up consistently delicious every time. She keeps a box at work, and there are bags of it in her purse. She is never without it! She also keeps their decaffeinated black tea on hand for late day sips. She’ll brew up a cup with a squeeze of lemon and teaspoon of honey for a soothing cup that reminds her of her grandma Char. My Dear Char used to always give her a little decaf tea with honey and lemon when she was visiting. Kat most enjoyed slurping up the tea with the honey spoon. Kat often serves this decaf tea to her niece Camille, and together they are making their own special memories over a warm cup of tea. If you are interested in trying this tea and don’t live near one of the local grocery stores that carries it, you can purchase it online through Amazon.

 My dearest tea friends, how are you celebrating Hot Tea Month? Get creative! Its a great reason to highlight all of your favorite teas! I’m tipping my cup to all of you tea lovers out there. Happy sipping!

Tropical Teas For Winter

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As we head in to the chilliest and darkest of the winter days, Kat is trying to keep things warm and cheerful.  I’ve suggested ways to get cozy with tea in previous posts, and we’re always thinking up ways to get creative. Recently I overheard Kat’s friend Stacie talking about her trip to Hawaii, where she had the most delicious tropical fruits. I started dreaming about a tropical beach paradise, and then it hit me- why not bring the tropical flavors to the teacup, and create a warm and cheerful atmosphere?

I started thinking about Kat’s favorite warm-weather fruits such as mango, papaya, and pineapple. These are flavors that can be found in many tea blends to bring a feel of island breezes to a freezing cold day. I started rounding up tea pairings such as a papaya herbal tea to pair with coconut macaroons, and pineapple green tea with toasts spread with mango chutney. So many possibilities! Kat even downloaded a tropical playlist filled with Caribbean and Hawaiian music.

Dried tropical fruits are easy to find, and you can blend them up and steep in boiling water for a delightful treat. We also love adding ginger for a bit of a zing. You can add these flavors to your favorite green or black tea as well, for an extra boost of tea. Right now we’re adding a few pieces of dried papaya to a bag of green tea and a little knob of ginger. Steep for about 8 minutes and add a dash of honey. That sunshine will be beaming on your face in no time at all!

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I’ve been helping Kat brew up some of her own tropical blends, and have also found a few of our old favorites that contain her favorite beachy flavors. Right now a box of HEB Mango Black tea is in our heaviest rotation. Kat picks up a box of this tea every time she visits family in Texas. She always makes a trip to the store to stock up! Kat likes to describe this tea as ‘Juicy mango deliciousness’. It’s a wonderful combination of malty black tea and sweet mango. A few sips of this tea and you’ll imagine the snow melting away. We keep this tea on hand all year long for iced sips in the summer and images of fresh tropical flowers in the winter.

Dearies, what are your tea tricks to keep the nasty winter chills at bay? Do you have your own tropical blends that you whip up? I’d love to hear your ideas!

 

Teas to Pair With Hanukkah Foods

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The holidays are all about family, fun, and food. Kat is planning all sorts of events, including a big Hanukkah feast She is doing a pot-luck dinner with each friend bringing a different dish. I’ve decided I’m going to be doing the tea pairings. That’s right Dearies, each course is going to have a tea paired with it. Just call me Tippy the tea sommelier! Here’s what I’m planning to pair with each course:

Our appetizer will be freshly fried potato pancakes (latkes). Oh how I love these pancakes that are crispy on the outside and warm and chewy on the inside. Traditional toppings include apple sauce, sugar, and sour cream. It took me awhile to decide on a tea pairing, and I’m going to serve a second flush Darjeeling with the latkes. Darjeeling has natural muscatel grape notes, and this will pair nicely with the toppings. It’s also a tea with a bit of body too it, to cut through the fried latkes. A first flush Darjeeling would be too subtle for this strong flavors, so make sure you get a second flush!

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Our main course is going to be a luscious beef brisket. It’s savory with lots of sweet carrots and earthy potatoes. This is a comforting dish that’s on the heavier side, perfect for chilly nights. I’m going to pair a bright and bold Ceylon tea with the brisket. It’s very strong to hold up to the stewy flavors and will bring out the sweetness in the carrots.

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For dessert, Kat is frying up jelly donuts (sufganiyot)! This is a labor intensive dessert, but one that is worthy of the holiday. For Hanukkah it’s symbolic to serve things fried in oil. This represents the miracle that the Hanukkah lamp oil lasted for 8 nights instead of just one. For the sweet donuts, I am going to pair HyVee Chocolate Mint tea. I think this tea is the perfect thing for just about anything sweet! It has a lovely combination of chocolate and peppermint that your guests are sure to love. Kat finds it refreshing and quite perfect for wintertime. Since we’re just serving the donuts, this dessert-flavored tea will enhance the end to our dinner party. This is an herbal tea so everyone can enjoy it, even the little ones! Kat’s niece Camille just adores this tea for the sweet chocolate flavor. Kat often gives Camille a few bags of her own to take home.

Happy Hanukkah Dearies! I hope all of your festivities are delicious and fun!

Giving Tuesday

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Holiday season seems to be the time to focus on gifts. Kat’s got her long list of friends and family that you need to get gifts for, and she’s been hunting for the perfect gift for everyone. Now is the time when I start to gently remind her that she needs to consider her charitable donations as well. We’re spending so much time and effort on family and friends, but what about organizations that need our help? I know it’s not easy to switch gears, but Tuesday November 29th is Giving Tuesday. That’s right, a few days after Black Friday and Cyber Monday there is a day that is focused on giving back.

There are of course many ways in giving back through volunteering, charitable donations, and supporting companies that directly donate profits to those in need. There are many tea companies that help support farmers and communities around the world. I was recently steeping up a bold cup of black tea for Kat, and noticed something on the box that I hadn’t seen before. Harris Tea donates $.10 from each box to the Alzheimer’s Association. They have committed a minimum annual donation of $25,000. Isn’t that fabulous? I was thrilled to find out that one of Kat’s favorite brands of black tea is giving back. If you’d like to learn more about Harris Teas you can visit their website, and shop their selection on Amazon.

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Kat loves the Harris black tea because it is straightforward and brisk. It reminds her of afternoons with her grandmother Char. They would often have a formal cup of tea in the afternoons and her gran would let her steal sips of Harris black tea until she was old enough to have a full cup of her own. Kat relished these days with Char, sitting and sharing special stories. Each sip of this tea brings those memories flooding back and gives her a warm satisfied feeling. She has also discovered their mellow, relaxing green tea as well. She keeps a few bags in her purse, and some in her desk at work. It’s the perfect tea to recharge with in the early afternoon.

To learn even more about these teas you can check out my previous post here. Dearies, I do hope you spend some time thinking about what you’ll do for Giving Tuesday! There are so many ways to give back.

Tippy’s Autumn Mulled Tea Recipe

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There may still be a warm breeze in the air, but very soon things are going to start getting crisp and chilly. The leaves will start to turn, everything will start to smell wonderfully earthy, and Kat will start cooking warm, comforting dishes. It’s my job to get the beverages ready for the cooler weather, and I have the perfect recipe to share with you today. Something comforting, and spicy, like a warm fuzzy sweater in a mug. Have you ever tried mulled cider? It’s warm apple cider with delicious warming spices heated through it. I was thinking about how Char used to make the most wonderful mulled cider, and realized it’s easy to add these flavors to tea. Very similar to masala chai. Who doesn’t love a good chai?

I started with chai and traditional mulled wine in mind, and made a few tweaks. Here’s the delicious recipe I came up with:

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Tippy’s Mulled Tea

3 cups hot water

4 slices of orange peel

4 whole cloves

3 cardamom pods

2 1-inch pieces of cinnamon

1 tsp sliced fresh ginger

3 bags orange spice tea

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Use a peeler to carefully create your orange peel slices. Try to just get the orange part, and not the white bit, as that is a bit bitter Bring the water to a boil, and add the orange peel and spices.

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Lower to a simmer, and let it cheerfully bubble together for 10 minutes. Dearies it’s going to smell amazing in your kitchen! Enjoy that aroma, turn off the heat and add the teabags. Let everything sit for another 5 minutes. Taste, and you can let it sit even longer if you’d like. Strain the mixture. We like to serve the tea in mugs and let our guests add honey to their liking. Or you could add a few tablespoons of honey after you strain the spices.

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I decided to try using Private Selection Orange Spice tea in this mulled brew. One of Kat’s favorite teas, it is a lovely black tea blend that is infused with orange, cinnamon, and cloves. She brings it out as soon as the first few leaves start to lazily float to the ground. A perfect autumn and winter tea, It’s comforting and will enhance all of the wonderful mulling spices.

This is the perfect drink to whip up when you’re feeling chilled and in need of some comfort. It’s also well suited for a gathering- your friends will smell the warm spicy aroma as soon as they enter the front door. Happy mulling!

Tippy’s Green Tea Granita

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If you’re looking for a new way to refresh yourself in the late summer weather, look no further than an icy cool granita! This cooling treat is similar to a slushy, but with more crunchy texture. It’s super easy to make, and will instantly cool you down. It’s also very easy to customize using your favorite flavors. I’ve been experimenting, and decided that green tea, ginger, and lemon is my favorite combination so far. The only equipment you need is a sheet pan or shallow glass pan, and room to stash it in your freezer.

1 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger

3 cups water

3 green tea bags

Simple syrup

1 lemon zested and juiced

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First, make a ginger-tea infusion. Bring the 3 cups of water to a boil, add the ginger. Boil the ginger for about 3 minutes and turn off the heat and let sit for 30 seconds. After this step, add in the teabags (this is because you should never use boiling water for green tea, it’s too hot and can make the brew bitter). Steep the ginger and tea together for 10-15 minutes.

Add in half the lemon juice and three tablespoons of simple syrup. Give it a taste, and add more of both as desired. You can make it as sweet or tangy as you like!

Once the flavor is to your liking, pour the mixture into your pan of choice. We like to use a small shallow glass pan, since it’s all we can fit in our freezer. It works just perfectly! Freeze the mixture for about 30 minutes or until it’s just starting to become solid. Then, fluff it with a fork.

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For the next 2 hours, check on the mixture every 30 minutes (it may need much more than that but keep checking since every freezer is a little bit different, fluffing and stirring to create broken ice crystals. It should be slushy with lots of crunchy ice crystals. That’s when it is perfect to serve and enjoy. If your mixture gets too hard, you can leave it in the fridge for a while, or even blitz it in the food processor for a few seconds. This recipe needs a little attention, but it’s super simple, and in no time you’ll have a perfect summer dessert. Kat recently made this recipe for friends with great success. They loved the crunchy green tea flavor! The zing of ginger and tart lemon makes this light and refreshing.

For this granita Kat used Harris green tea. It has a mild vegetal green tea flavor and is perfect to add to any recipe. Kat loves this tea because the green tea flavor is balanced and not overpowering. It’s not too vegetal and is super smooth. For a different spin on this dessert, Kat is actually thinking of making the granita with an herbal tea for her niece Camille. She’s visiting next week and it’ll be the perfect refreshing treat! One bite of this crunchy, frozen treat will instantly cool you down and you’ll imagine you’re in the crisp autumn weather. Dearies I hope you enjoy my favorite new icy treat!

Types of Teabags

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Kat strives to drink as much loose leaf tea as possible, but she also has space in her cupboard for bagged teas. Many bagged teas can contain high quality tea, and are easy for on-the-go use. Kat keeps a few tea bags stashed in her purse at all times. She never wants to be without her favorite teas. It’s never fun to drink a poor quality tea, so she always ensures she has plenty to spare.

There seems to be differing stories as to how the tea bag was invented. Many folks believe that it started in 1908 when Thomas Sullivan, an American tea importer sent loose leaf samples out in silk pouches, and the recipients plopped the whole pouch in the water to steep instead of removing the leaves first. They liked this method so much that they asked for more. But it appears that there is a patent filed in 1901 by Roberta Lawson and Mary Molaren in Milwaukee for something that appears to be very similar to the modern tea bag. They called it a ‘tea-leaf holder’ and was a ‘pocket-like device’ made out of mesh fabric. Using this holder only a smaller amount of tea would be used for one cup, instead of wasting larger quantities of tea making a whole pot that the tea drinker may not finish. This brought an easy, mess-free solution to tea making. After years of experimenting with different fabrics, paper teabags became popular.

The sack style of tea bag was in use until about 1944 when the rectangle became popular. You can of course still find two types of rectangle bags- the ones with a tag and the ones without. Not much changed until the late 80s/early 90s when round teabags were introduced by Tetley (who invented the round bag is also in dispute). It seems that this style wasn’t much of an improvement, but more of an aesthetic change. The pyramid shape was later invented by Brooke Bond. The shape gives the tea leaves more room to expand. Teabags now also come in a few different materials. They can be paper, cotton, gauze, nylon, silk, or biodegradable cornstarch. Phew, dearies is that enough choice for you?

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For me, I believe that you should enjoy the tea, and not worry what type of bag it comes in. Kat has recently started drinking a few pyramid shaped teabags from HEB. She picks a few up every time she visits her favorite cousin in Texas. Her favorite right now is the Mango Black. The robust, malty black tea base is accented with a subtle, sweet mango flavor. It’s a warm tropical breeze amidst this frigid winter weather. She enjoys this decaffeinated tea in the late afternoon as a warming sip after coming out of the cold, and as an evening relaxer. The pyramid tea bags have plenty of room for the leaves to expand, and are the perfect size for Kat’s favorite large mug that she wraps both hands around.

If you’re looking for the ease of a tea bag but would like to use your own loose leaf teas, how about using disposable DIY filter bags? These are large empty tea bags that have an open flap, so you can fill them with your own tea, and then close and brew. Kat keeps these around the house for iced teas. The bags are quite large, and she can put as much leaf as she needs for a whole pitcher. It infuses the tea the same way a traditional tea bag does. These disposable bags can be found in most grocery and health food stores.

Whatever shape you choose, you’re sure to get a delicious cup of tea. Do you have a teabag shape preference? I’d love to know!

Household Hacks With Teabags

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I’m a bit of a nosy teacup, and every now and then I get a glance at Kat’s store receipts when she leaves them on the table. I am always amazed at how much she spends on cleaning products! Why does she need so many different fancy cleaners? Char had a little secret for cleaning her house, and I decided it was time to share it with Kat.

Can you believe tea can be used for cleaning? I still remember the day Char discovered tea as a cleaning product. We were at her favorite little Chinese restaurant, the one that always had a line out the door for their divine noodle soups. As Char was about to rest me on the table, a waiter came by and poured black tea all over and wiped it down. You can imagine our surprise to see it was clean as can be. After this experience, Char did a little research on using tea to clean around the house. She discovered it’s a perfect, natural cleaning agent!

Char’s favorite use for black tea was to clean the floors. She’d take 3-5 teabags and let them steep in a large pot of boiled water. Once it cooled down she’d transfer to a bucket, and mop. Once dry, I couldn’t believe how those floors shined! I could see my reflection all the way from the countertop. She used the tea solution for the kitchen tile as well as the living room hardwood floors.

Black tea is also perfect as a window cleaner. Make a strong brew with 2-3 teabags per 8 ounces of water. Once it’s fully cooled you can put it in an empty spray bottle, or dip in a cleaning cloth. Wipe down, and marvel at the results.

Kat recently visited a tea shop that left a big bowl of used tea leaves in the bathroom. When she asked about this, she was told that the leaves act as a deodorizer. She’s tried this in her own bathroom with great results. Odors are absorbed, and the leaves look like potpourri. It also makes a great conversation piece. You can even try this with used tea bags in the refrigerator.  Simply leave them in a small bowl. That cut onion won’t be bothering your butter anymore!

Cleaning with tea is economical, easy, and non-toxic! The hardest part is resisting a sip while you are cleaning. Do you clean with tea? I’d love to hear your tips!