“Storm in a Teacup”?

Yeah, yeah, “don’t judge a book by its cover”—but in reality, that cover and that title are exactly what make us pick up and open said book!

So when confronted with the Irish tea blend “Storm in a Teacup,” well of course I had to pick it up and buy it.


I expected a rather rousing brew, especially as the package promises “a stormy, spicy herbal blend with a breeze of anise taste.”

The tea itself, a Special House Blend by Cupán Tae in Galway, is a very pretty blend of blackberry leaves, fennel, mullein flowers, balm, aniseed, ribwort leaves, apple bits, rosehip peels, marigold petals, elder flowers, elderberries, peony petals, and peppermint.


The brew is a dark brick color, with an herbal aroma of fennel and mint.

And the flavor? Mild, muted, definitely not what I’d consider “stormy spicy.” It’s pleasant, with a flavor less fennel-y than the aroma suggests. A bit floral but not like flowers. It’s herbal sweet.

This would be a great tea at bedtime, soothing and calming. But storm? Not so much.

However, storm in a teacup? Well, that’s a different thing.

So What Is a Storm in a Teacup?

This idiom—meaning something that has been exaggerated out of proportion—goes back centuries. Around 52 BC, Roman statesman Cicero wrote Excitabat fluctus in simpulo meaning “He was stirring up billows in a ladle” (The Phrase Finder) or Excitabat enim fluctus in simpulo ut dicitur Gratidius, translated as “For Gratidius raised a tempest in a ladle, as the saying is” (Wikipedia).

Various sources offer differing timelines of the sentiment as used in English. According to The Phrase Finder, the first English version is found in a 1678 letter from the Duke of Ormond to the Earl of Arlington:

“Our skirmish . . .  is but a storm in a cream bowl,”

and the first English “tempest in a teapot” in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, in 1825:

What is the ‘tempest raging o’er the realms of ice’? A tempest in a teapot!

followed a few years later by Catherine Sinclair writing:

“As for your father’s good-humoured jests being ever taken up as a serious affair, it really is like raising a storm in a teacup.” (Modern Accomplishments 1838)

Wikipedia, however, says that Lord Chancellor Thurlow of England used “tempest in a teapot” in the late 1700s, and that the Prime Minister

is credited for popularizing this phrase as characterizing the outbreak of American colonists against the tax on tea.

Irish landscapeAlthough Thurlow was quite wrong about those colonists, this phrase could actually fit the Irish tea blend—trumpeting “storm,” but actually brewing up into a soothing and understated balm.

–Martin, G. “The meaning and origin of the expression: tempest in a teapot,” The Phrase Finder, 2018.
–Wikipedia. “Tempest in a teapot,” October 21, 2017.


Misty Morning Dew, an Irish Herbal Tea

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, Ireland may well be on our minds. Or beer. But it’s still morning so I’m going with tea.

Like this quintessentially Irish tea (at least by name), Misty Morning Dew, blended by an Irish tea shop.

misty-cliffsWhile the poetic name evokes softness, the tea itself is actually quite bright.
Purchased at Cupán Tae in Galway, the package describes this Special House Blend simply as a “naturally flavored blend of herbs and fruit melange,” forcing me to go to their website for more complete information.

The ingredient list: lemon grass, hibiscus, peppermint, and natural flavor.

Not sure where the “fruit” is, but this caffeine-free blend consists of sage-green lemon grass  interspersed with green peppermint leaves and bright hibiscus.


The tisane is a strong red color with a hint of brown, and yields an aroma that is dominated by lemon grass.mmd-brew-2-webThe flavor, as expected, was also strongly lemon grass, but in a pleasant way. A slight citrusy fruity note peeks through. There was also a feeling of mint—a sort of cooling in the back of your throat—more than a flavor of mint.k-w-mmd-web

This light and refreshing tea doesn’t really say misty morning dew to either my daughter (shown here) or me.


Rather, its brightness more clears the mist, which is, after all, a very pleasant way to greet the day.

(And although we didn’t intend it, our choice of a “bright eyed and bushy tailed” mug was entirely fitting!)

Misty Morning Dew is available for purchase at cupantae.eu.

To read a bit about why the Irish are known for their teas, see my March 2017 blog: Tea in Ireland: Mainstay—to Moral Decay—to Mainstay

Herbal Japanese Mulberry Leaves Tea, an Antidote to a Lousy Morning

The weather sucks with the lousy rain turning into heavy wet snow and I have a migraine and my car is making a loud scraping sound whenever I turn left.


I totally get that these are very minor complaints in light of, well, pretty much everything else that’s happening pretty much all around us pretty much every day these days.

Still. Sometimes you just need small pleasures to mitigate the irritations.


Therefore, I pull out my Japanese Mulberry Leaves.

This herbal tea consists of small pieces of very dark green flat leaves that have lime-colored veins.


The tisane’s aroma is slightly sweet, subtly grassy, and the infusion is a clear bright lemon color that has a touch of lime.


The flavor matches the aroma, with unique earthy/grassy and herbal notes. It’s soft and smooth, reminding me of all that’s right with the world.

The Japanese Mulberry and Silk

Growing as a small tree or shrub, the Japanese Mulberry (Moraceae family) is native to Japan’s mountainous areas. For centuries it has been cultivated for its leaves, which are fed to silk worms.

Silk production originated in China, coming to Japan around BC 28. By the Heian period (794–1185 AD), the upper classes wore silk while the rest of the population was relegated to hemp and ramie (JRB Silk Fabrics).

The kimono was the most important Japanese garment. It was worn by fashionable ladies, sometimes as many as twenty kimonos at a time, all made of the thinnest, finest, most transparent silk, giving a rainbow appearance as the coloring of each layer melted into those above and below. (JRB Silk Fabrics)

The hardy mulberry tree handily supported the silk industry, even with repeated harvesting of its leaves.

The Japanese Mulberry and Possible Health Benefits

Further, the mulberry tree’s bark, fruit, leaves, and roots proved useful for more than silk worm food—so much so that “ancient Japanese society held the tree sacred” (Dr. Schar). Its medicinal applications included drinking the tisane made from the leaves.

A famous Japanese medical text oddly entitled, “How to take care of yourself by drinking tea” written by the Japanese Buddist monk Eisai, in 1211 AD, . . . states that mulberry is excellent for the people suffering from thirst. In the contemporary world we know he was referring to the thirst associated with diabetes. (Dr. Schar)

A lot of research on diabetes is currently being conducted with mulberry leaves. For example, one recent study  indicated that 1-Deoxynojirimycin from mulberry leaves lowered blood glucose, triglyceride, and total cholesterol levels of diabetic mice (Diabetes Week 2017).

My Cup of Japanese Mulberry Tea

Regardless whether this tisane has an effect on diabetes, it does have an effect on my mood.

Yes, the weather still is dreary and my car still makes that disconcerting noise, but my migraine is clearing and the tea is delicious.

–”The history of silk,” JRB Silk Fabrics, accessed March 1, 2018. http://www.jrbsilks.com/history-of-silk
–”Japanese mulberry,” Dr. Schar, accessed March 1, 2018. http://doctorschar.com/japanese-mulberry-morus-bomcycis
–”Researchers from Hefei University of Technology report new studies and findings in the area of type 2 diabetes (metabolic effect of 1-deoxynojirimycin from mulberry leaves on db/db diabetic mice using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry . . . ),” Diabetes Week, July 17, 2017, p. 84.

Japanese Mulberry Leaves available at TeaHaus.com.

So What Do YOU See Out Your Window When You’re Making Tea?

When I make a cup of tea, usually this happens:


And my usual view out my office window is:


Yeah, lots of excitement out there.

Although I do have to say that the other day, on the other side of our building, there was this view of a hawk enjoying lunch on the side of the road . . . but then again my husband says this is a common view, even in the city:


It was much more interesting for a couple of guys in the UK, however.

While James Hill was brewing tea, his dad found a shark in James’ back garden. And no, James does not have waterfront property!

He evidently found a small-spotted catshark that perhaps had been dropped by a passing cormorant. (Click here to read about this incident!)


As James put it,

It’s just the silliest thing to try and explain to someone: “Oh yeah, I was making a cup of tea and a shark fell from the sky into my garden.”

Luckily it’s only a smaller species.

And certainly not who I’d be expecting to drop in for tea!

Source: Shipman, Alex. “Man ‘perplexed’ after finding SHARK in son’s back garden as he made cup of tea,” Daily Record, February 18, 2018.

Love-ly Teas for Valentine’s Day

Chili Chocolate tea, a TeaHaus blend
Poem Launches a New Holiday

Cupids, roses, and chocolate—surprisingly, they have long been associated with Valentine’s Day. Chaucer evidently first linked romance and St. Valentine’s Day—in, fittingly, a poem—back in 1382.

every bird cometh to choose his mate. . . . on seynt Voantynes day

Centuries of romantic words followed, with the Victorians sending gifts and cards adorned with cupids.

chili-brew_1_0366-webChocolate Arrives on the Scene!

Chocolate as a luxury item reached Spain in the 1500s. The Industrial Revolution heralded the way for mass production, finally making chocolate affordable—and encouraging innovators such as Lindt, Nestlé, and Cadbury.

Along with Hearts and Kisses

Cadbury not only came up with “eating chocolates,” but in 1861, inspiration struck and he adorned heart-shaped boxes with cupids and rosebud motifs.

Valentine’s Day as we know it had begun!

Here in the States, Hershey started mass producing his immensely popular chocolate kisses in 1907, and soon afterward the Stovers began marketing chocolates in heart-shaped boxes.


And Dessert Teas!
o'connor-brew_0382-webToday is the day to indulge in rich chocolate and sweet strawberries—so savor a decadent dessert tea.

After all, what can be better than chocolate and strawberries and tea? (Maybe more chocolate?)

A perfect ending to a meal or for sipping on a chilly winter’s evening, lovely with a friend

Teas pictured, available at TeaHaus:
top, Chili Chocolate, a TeaHaus blend of black tea, cocoa beans and powder, and chili pepper pieces
Smooth Strawberry Dream, a blend of honeybush, caramel pieces, and strawberry pieces and leaves
O’Connor’s Cream, a blend of black tea and cocoa pieces

Pairing Tea with Chocolate: A Heavenly Match!

Chocolate and tea. They form the base of my food pyramid—hey, they both arguably offer health benefits!

And paired? Well, that’s just another name for perfection.

Orange Blossom oolong & Pure 67% Chocolate

Because the right pairing of chocolate and tea will bring out incredibly delicious nuances of both.

But you do want to use high-quality loose leaf tea and high-quality chocolate because only then will you have the complexities and layering of flavors that make pairing so wonderful.

Here’s an example of how this can work:

lts_webLast night Lisa, of TeaHaus (Ann Arbor, MI, shown here), and Dana, of Mindo Chocolate Makers (Dexter, MI, and Mindo, Ecuador), teamed up for a tasting.

Mindo was one of the U.S.’s first bean-to-bar chocolate makers. They buy organically grown heirloom Arriba Nacional cacao beans (which have a chocolaty–nutty flavor) directly from the growers in Ecuador, and then oversee the fermentation and drying stages.

They complete the process themselves, with no part of the cocoa pod going to waste. The pods themselves are used as compost under the cocoa trees, also conveniently housing the midges that pollinate the trees.

upper left: roasted cocoa bean; lower left: nibs; right: Vanilla Rustic chocolate

The shells of the roasted beans are used to flavor other products—including tea! TeaHaus adds cocoa shells and nibs (the part of the bean used to make chocolate) to several teas to impart a wonderful chocolate flavor.

The pulpy fruit of the pod is made into Miel de Cacao, which is a bit like balsamic vinegar. And the nibs themselves are stone ground, and the chocolate then tempered and molded.

With Pure 67% Chocolate, Lisa paired Orange Blossom oolong tea (pictured at the beginning of this post). The tea’s light floral liquor balances well with the chocolate’s tanginess. With a higher content of cocoa, 70% or more, you could go instead with a full-out orange tea.

The Vanilla Rustic chocolate, shown above, is crunchy rather than smooth. Rustic chocolate is ground for less time than smooth chocolate, and the organic sugar crystals are stirred in afterward rather than being ground with the cocoa beans. In this case, the chocolate was paired with Nepal Mystic tea, which is similar to a first-flush Darjeeling. It has a smooth finish, and, due to when it is harvested, has a slight bite, which makes it ideal with the bourbon vanilla of the chocolate.

Andrew’s Blend tea & Candied Orange Zest Chocolate

Candied Orange Zest on 77% chocolate is one of my favorites, and it pairs beautifully with Andrew’s Blend tea, whose chai and dark chocolate flavors meld with the orange.

Lisa noted that if cream is added to the tea, the fat will bring out the chocolate flavor even more. (BTW, Mindo shells and nibs are ingredients in this Haus blend.)

Assam Mokalbari tea, malty and complex, complements Cinnamon Rustic chocolate.

White Peony tea & Michigan Cherry Chocolate

For the 77% Michigan Cherry, Lisa balanced the boldness of the cherry with White Peony tea, which has a 60:40 silver needle-to-leaf composition. (A full silver needle tea would be too delicate, so you want a new style white tea, which contains young leaves in addition to the silvery buds.)

And for the darkest chocolates, place the chocolate on your tongue and let hot tea wash over it. In this case, Lisa used South Korean Seogwang Sencha with its sweet grassiness luscious against the complexity of the Pure 77% chocolate.

Korean Sencha & Pure 77% Chocolate

Pairing chocolate and tea encompasses more than just a cup of tea and a square of chocolate, however.

A parmesan-cheese-sprinkled-with-cocoa crisp, served with a lettuce salad—whose dressing combines Miel de Cacao, chocolate rooibos tea, pressed garlic juice, and olive oil—for example!

Or how about handmade marshmallows melted onto grahams and dipped into a warm, rich chocolate milk-Baileys-lapsang souchong tea-Mindo chocolate drink?!


Think outside the teacup and chocolate bar!


And thank you to Dana of Mindo Chocolate and to Lisa of TeaHaus!


NOTE: Chocolate may be ordered at mindochocolate.com and tea at teahaus.com.


Eating Tea

EAT tea? As opposed to drinking it?

Why not? We eat other leaves.
EMT facade_crop_2306But first off, why tea?

Well there’s that whole fantastic flavor and huge variety thing that tea has going for it. But on top of that, brewed tea is loaded with micronutrients called polyphenols, which are found in plants.

Of the polyphenols, tea is high specifically in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids. In fact,

since nearly 95 percent of tea’s polyphenol compounds are flavonoids, tea ranks among plants with the highest total flavonoid content (Bliss 2003).

And according to the George Mateljan Foundation, “in the U.S. the largest single source of flavonoids is black and green tea.”

So are the health benefits the same if you EAT rather than drink tea?

tea leaves growing
Tea leaves

Short answer: it’s complicated.

Brewing tea leaves in hot water pulls out nutrients differently than when the leaves are simply eaten.

However, researchers have shown that compared to other green teas, matcha—tea leaves in powder form—has a much higher level of at least one type of flavonoid (Weiss and Anderson 2003).

On the other hand, heavy metal and pesticide residue may be more of an issue when eating entire leaves, so you want to ensure your leaves have been tested for these contaminants.

And why bother EATING tea when brewed tea is so delicious?

Because tea leaves can add flavor to just about anything! (Consider any health benefits from the tea itself a bonus.)

If you listened to the recent Food Bloggers Association interview with Lisa, a tea sommelier, in my last post, you heard about her businesses and learned that she is passionate about both drinking (TeaHaus) and eating tea (Eat More Tea).

spice-blend-5-webTea-infused gelato, caramel, marshmallows, hard candy, French macarons. Spice blends, from savory to sweet, with tea as the primary ingredient. Endless possibilities.

For example, I wouldn’t have ever thought of sprinkling black currant and orange blossom tea on chicken or veggies, but Lisa’s Tea Thyme Spice Blend No. 5—which includes these teas—elevates the whole over the parts.

Tea Thyme Spice Blend No. 5

High-quality loose leaf tea serves as the base; citrus peel along with thyme and other savory spices complete the blend. The promise of the potent aroma doesn’t disappoint—I find this flavorful combination absolutely terrific.

So the next time you want to jazz up that vanilla cake or roasted veggies, reach for the tea tins and explore the culinary diversity of tea for yourself!

–Bliss, R. M. “Brewing up the latest tea research,” AgResearch Magazine, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2003.
–”Flavonoids,” The World’s Healthiest Foods, George Mateljan Foundation.
–Weiss, D. J. and C. R. Anderton, “Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography,” Journal of Chromatography 1011(1–2):173-80. Sept. 5, 2003