Tea Pairs Well with Thanksgiving Feasts

Lapsang souchong tea
Lapsang souchong tea

It’s nearly turkey time—and you’ll want to include tea in your holiday meal plans!

Cooking

Even The Week magazine is in on tea’s culinary possibilities, using lapsang souchong tea both as a rub for the turkey and as a glaze (see their Food and Drink section).

This intensely smoky tea lends a nice smoky touch to meats, veggies, soups, beverages—anything that some smokiness would enhance.

Either grind the leaves and use directly, or infuse any liquid with the leaves and then strain out. (Tip: using loose leaf tea will give you a lot more flavor than tea bag dustings, but either will work.)

Eat More Tea has an incredible spice blend with lapsang as its base, their Spice Blend #1, ideal for holiday cooking.

Masala spice blend #3Cooking and Baking

Another versatile blend by Eat More Tea is their Spice Blend #3, a warm chai, or Masala Spice.

Lisa, owner of Eat More Tea, suggests adding this blend along with a bit of olive oil to cubed sweet potatoes before roasting them.

She also uses this blend in place of traditional pumpkin pie spices. It’s quick, plus puts a novel spin on an old standby.

And of course, Drinking

While you may reach for your favorite, why not try something new? Add that Masala Spice—or your own favorite combination of spices—to any black tea or coffee!

For more tea choices, TeaHaus currently has a monthly brew sampler collection featuring Lisa’s Haus Blends that will bring truly unique tastes to your holiday table.

Say It with Sage

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When you really want another helping but know that you shouldn’t—brew up a steaming cup of this strong tea. With its warm notes of sage and hint of orange, it’s the perfect substitute for those calorie-laden sides.

Leaving you more room for dessert!

Victorian Earl Grey

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And while you are waiting for that dessert, sip this take on Earl Grey. Traditional bergamot yields to light floral, with rosemary lending a savory note.

Tea Thyme

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And the leftovers! This sweet and savory tea has thyme and orange melting into bittersweet black currant—and pairs beautifully with that turkey sandwich.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Pumpkin Chai Tea, Fall’s Favorite Flavors

pumpkin-fondue-webPumpkins are part of fall—but no more are they relegated to merely pies!

Their warm flavor lends itself to soups and fondues (shown here) and breads and cakes.

So it stands to reason that pumpkin would meld wonderfully into a warm, spicy chai, as evidenced by the Pumpkin Chai Haus Blend by TeaHaus.

This fragrant blend of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, pepper, nutmeg, dehydrated pumpkin, allspice, and vanilla on a black tea base is full of autumn colors and flavors.leaves-webIt brews up a heavenly aroma,brewing-1-weband delivers a chestnut cup.infusion-webI like to add a bit of raw honey and half & half for a creamy chai that boasts pumpkin pie spiciness:add-honey-webPerfect for watching the autumn leaves on a crisp day!fall-montage-webA bonus: it surely can’t hurt that according to many research studies, tea, pumpkin, and spices all offer some level of health benefits. Pumpkins don’t accumulate heavy metals but do contain plenty of antioxidants. Spices also have antioxidant and antibacterial effects. And myriad studies have shown the benefits of drinking tea.

So pumpkin + spices + tea = a win-win-win combination of fall favorite flavors!


Pumpkin Chai tea is available at TeaHaus; click here to read more.

Blueberry Buckle Tea, an Autumn (calorie-free) Treat

Buckles have a long history in the United States. This delicious cake—filled with fruit and topped with streusel—was baked, and maybe even created, by the colonists. Its colorful name refers to the crinkling, or buckling, of the streusel topping as the cake bakes.

While many fruits work well in buckles, blueberries are commonly used. For the colonists, this was a familiar fruit, as blueberry varieties are found around the globe.

For a calorie-free version of this classic, how about a cup of steaming Blueberry Buckle Tea?

Created by TeaHaus in Ann Arbor, this blend is a pretty combination of white tea, mallow blossoms, blueberries, oatmeal, and cinnamon. Because white tea is barely oxidized, the dry tea leaves look like they have been recently plucked!

Blueberry Buckle tea leaves

The brewing process fully unfurls the large leaves,

Blueberry Buckle tea after brewing

and yields a light yellowish-brown infusion.

Brewed Blueberry Buckle teaThe aroma? Sweet fruity and spicy cinnamon in equal measure.

With its white tea base, this is a more delicate tea, but with clear blueberry flavor tinged with cinnamon. Rounded out by oats and mallow blossoms, sipping this tea is like indulging in a hot slice of blueberry buckle just out of the oven. A wonderful autumn treat!

Blueberry Buckle Tea is available only at TeaHaus; click here for details.

How Many Types of Tea Do You Have in Your Cupboard? (I’m guessing not 64)

I suppose the average person has a couple different kinds of loose leaf tea in their cupboard . . . which means that the thirty-some here are probably a bit much.myriad teas in pantry
And the fact that this is only half of what’s actually in my cupboard . . . well, there can be lots of valid reasons/defenses for harboring so much tea!

  • Some of this is my daughter’s. Really.
  • People give me tea.
  • I keep trying new teas.
  • Some of these are better iced, some are better in the winter, some are caffeine free, some go better with food, you get the picture.

When I inventoried what I had, I found that I fully covered black, oolong, green, and white teas, both with aromas and the classics. Further, I have rooibos, fruit, and herbal teas. Plus a decaf black aroma. And four totally unidentified teas. Sigh.

With so many teas that are available, it is easy to see how one person can end up with 64 of them! Of course the drawback is that some of this will obviously lose its prime flavor by sitting too long in my pantry.

But here in Michigan, we enjoy/endure some wildly different weather. And when both temp and humidity are insufferably in the nineties, an icy fruit or green tea is heaven. But when a bitter wind howls and there’s a foot of snow on the ground, a hearty black aroma beckons.

If you have limited yourself to your favorite couple teas, maybe it’s time to explore what else the tea world offers. You will be amazed at the diversity you will encounter!

(Oh and if you drop by my house, I probably have your favorite tea. . . .)

Darjeeling Tea: Beloved, Prized, and at Risk

Darjeeling teas are among the world’s most prized—and pricy—teas. Imagine if they were in short supply.leaves_4148-web

Oh wait, they are! According to the secretary of the Calcutta Tea Traders Association:

There are no Darjeeling teas for auctions in October. This is an unprecedented situation. . . . there is no tea that can be put up [for] sale. This has never happened.

brew_4154-webWell, it’s happened now!

As I wrote earlier (see Will There Be Darjeeling Tea in the Future?), the tea gardens were shut down during a months-long strike in the region.

Every garden. Shut down.

This was a huge problem because:

  • Darjeeling tea can be produced only in Darjeeling—so now, here they are with no Darjeeling tea for the rest of 2017. Most of the year’s harvest was lost.
  • The tea gardens were the area’s largest employer so the costs to the employees have been immense. Many were forced to seek work elsewhere and they are not returning to the tea gardens.
  • With the tea plants overgrown and the gardens weedy (most of these gardens are organically grown, without pesticides), the forecast for 2018–2019 is pretty bleak.

wet-leaves_4156-webClearly things are never black-and-white, and very real issues precipitated the strike and brought complex problems into the open. But while tea workers did win a bonus, at least one of the foundational issues—that of a separate state for the Gurkhas living in Darjeeling—has not been resolved.

So the social/political/economic issues continue. For tea workers, those problems are compounded with the very serious disruption of the tea industry.

Yes, bringing it to a standstill forced people to confront issues. But the fallout will impact the tea industry—and the lives of the tea workers—for possibly years.

Besides the loss of this year’s tea:

  • The untended gardens will compromise future harvests because the plants are stressed and ill-prepared for the winter’s dormancy. This in turn will impair spring growth (that prized first flush, which, along with the second flush, underwrites the rest of the year).
  • With Darjeeling tea unavailable or too expensive, suppliers and consumers are already turning to other sources, such as tea from Nepal.
  • Tourists too are traveling elsewhere, delivering yet another blow to the region.

Come spring, will there be a first-flush Darjeeling?

It’s anyone’s guess.


Tea pictured is first-flush FTGFOP1 Steinthal, from one of Darjeeling’s oldest gardens. Many of the original plants still grow here, making them some 165 years old! Steinthal, along with other Darjeeling teas, is available at TeaHaus.

Source: “Four months post Gorkhaland agitation, Darjeeling’s tea gardens still reeling from trouble,” by I. Duttagupta, The Economic Times, October 17, 2017.

Tea Leaves Blended with Coffee Beans. Really.

When this is placed before you, well, who needs anything else?dessert-webBut truly, a solid tea serves as a wonderful counterpoint to this dessert’s sweet richness. And here at Cupán Tae—located in Ireland’s captivating city of Galway—there are many fine choices.

While I went with the sturdy, no-nonsense Irish Breakfast, my far more adventurous daughter opted for Dreamy Creamy Galway Tea—and more than one bag of this decidedly dreamy creamy brew found its way home with us!tea-pkg-lt-webBlended specifically for Cupán Tae, Dreamy Creamy Galway Tea is definitely not your typical loose leaf tea blend!

Here, black tea leaves are sprinkled with jasmine blossoms—and whole roasted coffee beans.

brew_lt-webWhen brewed, the tea yields a dark copper cup and offers up a nutty, sweet aroma that is strong and warm.

So what do tea leaves and coffee beans together taste like?

Surprisingly perhaps, no one flavor dominates.

Rather, the elements balance well, with a pleasant nuttiness. The coffee beans seem to give a roasted note to the tea, while the jasmine results in a bit of sweetness.

I was not expecting to enjoy a beverage that combines tea leaves with coffee beans. All tea drinkers know that putting coffee into your travel mug, for example, means that you will never again be able to use that mug for tea! But this brew has a nice balance, with roasted, rather than coffee, notes, particularly when hot. I did find that as the tea cooled, I could taste a hint of coffee.

Intrigued? Give it a try! At their charming Galway location or the Cupán Tae website.

Cupan tae tea shop(And by the way, if you are baffled about their name spelled “Cupãn” on the storefront and “Cupán” on the tea packaging, so am I.)

The Cinnamon of Autumn Teas

Cinnamon may well be autumn’s quintessential spice. Where would pumpkin and apple pie be without it?! Or your favorite chai on these chilly evenings?cinnamon-3-web

Culinary Spice Extraordinaire

Although the Western world tends to reach for cinnamon as part of dessert, this versatile spice is capable of so much more.

Native to Asia, the bark of the Cinnamomum evergreen tree has been used for centuries in Asian and African cuisines.

Cinnamon is harvested during the rainy season when the bark is more pliable; the bark is then rolled into the familiar sticks. The word “cinnamon” derives from Greek kinnamōmon, which itself came from the Hebrew qinnāmōn.

From the Middle Bronze Age

Gløgg, glüwein, mulled wine anyone? Cinnamon is an essential ingredient, but these beverages are actually latecomers to the mulled wine world.

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Much earlier, ancient Egyptians were imbibing spiced medicinal wine, and in 1700 BC, revelers in a Canaanite palace were quaffing red and white wine that contained honey, mint, juniper berries—and cinnamon.

To the Middle Ages

Cinnamon eventually reached Europe, signaling wealth and prestige during the Middle Ages. It was used in baked goods, beverages, and meat-based dishes—and the more extravagant the use, the higher your social status.

The 1475 wedding of George, Duke of Bavaria, and Jadwiga of Poland required a staggering

386 pounds of pepper, 286 pounds of ginger, 257 pounds of saffron, 205 pounds of cinnamon, pounds of cloves, and 85 pounds of nutmeg (Freedman 2003).

Incidentally, cinnamon may have masked the taste of meat spoiling, with meat being another of those upper-class perks.

To Today—A Spice for Health?

This aromatic spice has been used medicinally for millennia, and today we know that cinnamon indeed has many health benefits.

The caveat is that much more research needs to be done. Like tea, the properties of cinnamon depend upon many factors such as where and how it is grown, the concentration used in the study, and the cinnamon variety.

Cassia cinnamon is the variety most likely to be found in our kitchens because it is more flavorful and less expensive, but Ceylon cinnamon seems to offer more health benefits. In high doses, cassia cinnamon is actually toxic.

Even with all the ambiguity, research does suggest that cinnamon may improve the function of insulin.

Like tea, cinnamon has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. In fact, when heated, its antibacterial benefits evidently increase.

Recent studies suggest that cinnamon also helps protect against cognitive problems, including Alzheimer’s disease.

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So what’s not to like about cinnamon? Especially when blended with tea! 


Sources:
Flavours and Fragrances of Plant Origin, FAO–Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy. 1995.
–Freedman, P. “Spices: how the search for flavors influenced our world,” YaleGlobal Online. 2003.
–LaMotte, S. “Cinnamon: Pantry staple—and medical powerhouse?” CNN. August 29, 2017.
–Seema, J. et al. “Effect of Cinnamomum zeylanicum extract on scopolamine-induced cognitive impairment and oxidative stress in rats,” Nutritional Neuroscience 18(5). 2015.
–”Spice pages,” Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages. http://gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com.
–Wilford, J. N. “Wine cellar, well aged, is revealed in Israel,” The New York Times. November 23, 2013.