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.

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.)

Why Great Loose Leaf Tea Comes via Germany

From One Perspective, as Tourist

There is something special between kids and their grandparents. A bond, a pact, between them that tacitly circumvents the parents.

So as a teenager back in the early 1970s, I was lucky enough to travel several times with my grandmother, visiting her brother in Kassel, Germany, and seeing the country through her eyes.

We did a lot of walking around the city and through parks.

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Including a bit of touristy stuff.

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And we ate and drank around my great-uncle’s coffee table, a new experience for me. There was wine of course, along with orange juice with seltzer. Coffee too, plus a whole lot of tea, which we sipped from delicate glass teacups.

But what I learned only this morning is that Kassel has its own little claim to fame in the tea world!

To Another, Rooted in History

Which takes us back to World War I. Which was truly awful.

Humanity, however, perseveres. Compassionate innovators in the medical field, for example, sought to mitigate horrific injuries. And on another plane, people worked to ensure that tea would remain available.

Now this isn’t totally trivial. Although economic factors undoubtedly were involved, tea and coffee are embedded into our social fabric, and numerous studies have shown how the actual beverages and the ceremony around them can positively impact our mental and emotional well-being.

So when the British navy interrupted the tea trade during the war, the Germans—anticipating life after the war—established the German Tea Association in the centrally located city of Kassel on April 21, 1917.

The tea companies, however, were mainly in Germany’s north end, so the Association soon relocated to the port city of Hamburg, located along the Elbe River in northern Germany.

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Elbe River, Hamburg (undated photo; probably early 1970s)

To Today, and Looking Forward

Over the past century, global tea production has increased tenfold, and with tea being as popular as ever, it seems likely that this trend will continue. Last year, 200,000 tons of tea came into Hamburg! (From what I calculate from 2016 statistics, this is about 11–12% of the world’s total that is exported from the countries of origin.)

Germany has emerged as a leader in tea processing, upholding strict standards in tea quality—both for flavor and to ensure no pesticides or heavy metals are present. To meet these requirements, the tea is rigorously tested for contaminants, and tea tasters do the rest.

And lest you think tasting tea all day would be a dream job, consider this:

a tea taster samples 400 types of tea every day and has mere seconds to decide whether to purchase,

according to Maximilian Wittig, the Association’s current managing director.

Tea that passes all testing is either packaged for distribution throughout the world, or is first blended (mixtures of different teas, such as breakfast teas) or flavored (e.g., with herbs, spices, dried fruit, flower blossoms, or oils like bergamot).

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And here I am, looking at Kassel and my early experiences there with yet another perspective. And Happy 100th to the German Tea Association!

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East Frisian tea with rock sugar and heavy cream. In this region of Germany, 300 liters of tea per person are consumed (in England, it’s only 200 liters/person).

Source: “German tea association celebrating 100th anniversary in Hamburg,” Hamburg News. September 4, 2017.

What Is Yerba Mate Tea?

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Want a nice evening herbal tea that helps you sleep? Yerba mate is not it!

Yes, it is an herbal, being the dried leaves and twigs from a variety of holly that grows in South American rainforests. And yes, legend says it is a gift from the gods.

But, it promises to keep you alert to any rainforest predators with its three naturally occurring stimulants—the same as found in tea, coffee, and chocolate!

Mate: Its Brew

A cup of mate contains caffeine, theophylline and theobromine—all of which readily cross our body’s blood-brain barrier, giving us that energy boost.

mate-leaves-webHowever, it’s complicated. Scientists try to tease out what causes what, but each of these elements work differently. And sometimes they work together.

For example, caffeine keeps us awake and theobromine seems to help us sleep. But together, they may work as a stimulant! Go figure!

There are other pluses to this brew. Mate is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols. Because it is low in tannins, a strong brew will not be bitter—which means you can let the leaves remain in the liquid.

But then, how do you drink it with all those bits of leaves floating around?

Mate: Its Gear

Well, if you want to be really traditional about mate, you need a chia and bombilla. That is, a hollow gourd to hold the mate, and a strainer straw to filter out the bits of leaf.

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Mate: Its Heritage

gaucho_no-border-webPeople have taken advantage of mate’s effects for centuries, although there was a blip in 1616 when a disgusted governor of the Spanish province in Argentina attempted to stem its growing popularity by banning it.

Economics often win out, however, and the Jesuits were soon cultivating—and profiting from—the plant (touting the fact that it wasn’t alcoholic, whatever else its perceived vices).

By the mid-1700s, the larger-than-life gauchos came onto the scene, becoming folk heroes in Argentina and Uruguay lore.

Prizing their independence as they roamed the South American pampas, gauchos subsisted on game and wild cattle.

Unparalleled horsemen, they traveled lightly—with bola and knife as weapon and tool, and woolen poncho as coat, blanket, and protection.

And they drank yerba mate.

Mate: Its Own Day

On Argentina’s calendar, November 30 is National Yerba Mate Day!

But why wait until then to see what South Americans have been enjoying for centuries?

Brew it in any cup for 5–10 minutes, strain out the leaves, and decide for yourself if it is indeed a gift from the gods.


Sources:
–”Health benefits of methylxanthines in cacao and chocolate,” by R. Franco et al., Nutrients 5(10):4159–4173. October 2013.
–Garsd, J. “Tea Tuesdays: Gift of the moon, bane of the Spanish—The story of yerba mate,” NPR, The Salt, March 17, 2015.
–Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Gaucho South American History,” Encyclopædia Britannica, n.d.
Note: Gourds, metal straws, and mate available at TeaHaus.com.

What Is a Samovar? With Tea, a Russian Tradition

samovar-webHallmarks of a Russian novel: (1) a maddening fluidity of names (I mean, really, how many nicknames does one person need?), and (2) the samovar.

Because when tea came into Russia, not only did the Russians embrace this new beverage, but they made it completely their own. Today, the samovar continues to evoke Russian culture and hearty, smoke-tinged tea, hauled thousands of miles by caravan.

But what exactly is this contraption, and why did the Russians end up using it?

After all, the Chinese were using stoneware teapots, and the Europeans were importing both stoneware and porcelain pots from China (see earlier post on early export ware from China).

In the first decades of trade, Chinese teaware did accompany the tea. But those caravans were traveling through Mongolia, where metal kettles were used, so in the 1770s the Russians used the Mongolian design to develop the samovar: sam (self) + varit (to boil), or self-boiler (Nordbye 2013). Or, according to another source, they derived the samovar from Tibetan hot pots (Delaine 2015).

Either way, they quickly caught on.

The Lisitsyn brothers—who lived in Tula, renown for its metalwork—made their first copper samovar in 1778. Less than a century later, Tula was producing 120,000 samovars annually (Master Russian), and by 1900, 630,000. Made of various metals (including copper, iron, brass, nickel, silver, even gold) or porcelain, samovars combined functionality and prestige.

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So how does this really-scary-looking thing work?

Fuel (such as charcoal or wood chips) was stuffed into the pipe that runs through the middle of the samovar. As the fuel burned, it heated the water held in the urn-shaped portion of the samovar.

Meanwhile, tea concentrate, zavarka, was made in a small teapot, which was generally set atop the samovar so that it stayed warm.

To make a cup of tea, a small amount of concentrate was poured into a teacup and diluted with hot water from the samovar (hence the faucet, as seen in the drawing). Sometimes more than one concentrate was made, using different teas. The various concentrates were then combined in the cup and diluted with water.

And the tea itself?

The tea used for the concentrate must be a blend that was very strong yet didn’t become bitter when kept hot for long periods of time. Blends today are often made from black loose leaf tea from India and/or China, and often are slightly smoky, reminiscent of caravan campfires. (See my previous posts on when tea first arrived in Russia and about that first imported tea.)

Traditionally the tea was served black but the drinkers would hold a sugar cube in their teeth as they sipped their tea (Nordbye 2013). Tea nowadays may be sweetened with honey or jam as well.

Now if you don’t have a samovar at home, no worries. You can simply brew strong, hearty Russian Caravan or Russian Samovar loose leaf tea in your own cup or pot, perhaps adding a dab of your favorite jam. Ideally accompanied by your favorite Russian novel.


Sources:
–Delaine, L. “Tea time in Russia,” Russian Life, russianlife.com/blog/tea-time-in-russia, accessed October 2015.
–Master Russian. “Russian samovars,” masterrussian.com/russianculture/samovars.htm, accessed July 2017.
–Nordbye, N. “The great Siberian tea road,” Russian Life May/June 2013.