Sunday, December 28, 2008

How to steep the perfect cup of loose leaf tea

Have you been drinking tea that is bland or bitter? Or do you feel that the process of making loose leaf tea is time consuming? Don’t give up. The perfect cup of tea is just around the corner. Preparing loose leaf tea can take the same amount of time as preparing any of your favorite beverages. Yes, this includes opening a bottle of wine.

Living with the Tea Drinker, I begin most mornings sipping the perfect cup of tea. But, how do you achieve this on your own, with out the Tea Drinker by your side? Focus on The “Three Ts” : Tea, Temperature, and Time. Properly brewing loose leaf tea will change your tea drinking habits. You will not go back to commercially bagged tea. Nor will you want to bypass any of the steps below.

Of course, water is vital. "Just add water" is the Tea Drinker's motto. And, filtered is preferred. But, to elaborate on The “Three Ts” :

1)Tea- Fresh loose leaf tea is the key. Does it smell good? If there is little or no aroma , you may have stale tea. Remember to buy from a reputable purveyor. Also, the amount of tea you use is very important. Approximately 1 teaspoon for 6-8 oz of water. Too much tea will make your cup astringent and bitter. Also, it’s a waste of tea. And not enough tea, will make for a weak cup. No Wimpy Teas. If you are a wine drinker, you will know that I borrowed that line…

2) Temperature- Any tea nut will tell you that the temperature of the water is essential. To boil it down for you: Black/Oolong/Pu-erh tea –just about boiling- 205 F. Green & white–just before boiling- 175-185 F. It all depends on the tea. Easy. If you want to use recommended temperature times, and a thermometer gadget- check out the Tea Drinker’s guidelines.

3)Time- Once again, we are not talking about consuming your time, just the correct steeping time. Always start by following the recommended steeping time on the package of tea. Use a kitchen timer, stove timer, stop watch, count jumping jacks, whatever it takes, but make sure you time the steeping.

It's not a "T", but another essential item is your infuser. I love this one.

So, what are you waiting for? Go make the perfect cup of tea. I started today with a wonderful single estate Ceylon. Okay, the Tea Drinker made it for me. So, maybe in my house it takes “The Four Ts" to make the perfect cup of tea.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Blood Orange Black is Back!

Alert the masses, stop the presses, Drink the Leaf’s most popular flavored tea is back in stock. The Tea Drinker was in an extremely good mood this past week. Blood Orange Black has been missing in action for the past 5 months. This popular tea hails from Sri Lanka, and our supplier resides in Germany. Try to figure that one out.

It’s been like a covert operation around here for the last month-Tea Drinker on the phone, “Okay, did you get my order? I will take as much as I can get.” Mumbling to himself, “Alright, I am tracking it, and it should be here any day now." To me, "No, I can’t leave the premises until BOB arrives- it should be here any minute now.” The phone has been ringing, and the website buzzing with requests to fill orders. Tea Drinker has been arranging “drops” all over town.

What’s so special about this tea? It is because it’s refreshing in the summer, and comforting in the winter? I think most like the balance of this bold black tea mixed with the bright flavors of an orange essence. It’s an attractive tea, too. And affordable. This tea seems to have it all. It is addicting, and the orange flavors are not sickly sweet. In the New Year, Drink the Leaf has plans to dive more into blending tea. An interesting process where you select a high quality black tea, and mix it with natural ingredients. Such as, vanilla bean, cardamom, and other spices, and essences. I am excited. My vote is for a pomegranate tea. For now, I will settle for Blood Orange Black for the season. Let's hope that it doesn't sell out before the end of the week! Give it a try

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Winter Salad

This past week I had the pleasure of dining at the Martini House in St. Helena, CA. I had a bowl of cream of mushroom soup, and a nice glass of Soave to chase it down. My dining partner ordered the Winter Salad(Mixed Chicories, Fuyu Persimmons, Point Reyes Blue and Candied Pecans, Creamy White Balsamic Vinaigrette). The presentation was inviting, so,I boldly pushed my bread plate towards her salad, and Viola! I was a lucky recipient! The next day, I re-created this salad for a holiday pot luck party. And today, I decided to surprise the Tea Drinker with chestnut dumpling soup, and, you guessed it, the Winter Salad again. Well, I already mentioned that I really liked it…

Here's my version of the Martini House salad. It’s very easy to make, and the reward is in the flavors and appearance.

1.Mixed Greens (include radicchio). I bought pre-packaged greens at the grocery store.

2.Persimmons- peel and cut into slices- the first persimmon I ever had was at a friend’s dinner party. Its a must every winter.

3. Pomegranate seeds- Do not be intimidated! Cut the pomegranate in half and pluck out the seeds. The seeds give amazing texture to the salad, and a burst of flavor with each bite.

4.Crumbled Gorgonzola- my favorite

5. Candied Pecans- I mixed pecan halves with orange juice, and brown sugar, and baked at 350 for 15 minutes.

6. Apple Cider Vinegar, a dab of Honey, and mix in Olive Oil. At the restaurant they used White Balsamic Vinegar, which I did not have in my pantry! My version was delicious.

7.Toss together, and put on a white platter. The colors really pop, and now you've just created a very festive winter salad.

The verdict is still out on the Chestnut Soup. We are about to have dinner. Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My Top Favorite Gift Ideas

Brace yourself- the holidays are upon us. Last night, we decorated our Christmas tree which easily resembles Santa Claus' bulging belly, only more lop-sided. My husband felt I was getting ahead of myself- way too early in the month for putting up a tree. Let’s see, there are 18 days left to the 25th. I know it’s not the “12 days”, but if you count shopping, wrapping, and holiday parties - you’re basically there!

Speaking of shopping, this is where I will shamelessly plug my favorite gift ideas for this holiday season. Order for your friends and family, or put these items on your own wish list for Santa. I conveniently tacked my list on the fridge- eye level.

To Give:

  • “Let it Snow”Gift Pack – Great tasting tea. Why would'nt you want to drink “snow” teas during the holidays? Well, maybe you would pass- if you lived in Buffalo...In any case, you can’t beat the price- $11 for 2-2oz bags.

  • Serenity Tea Pot- Recently we used this teapot to steep our afternoon cup of tea. I was impressed with how long the tea stayed hot. I kept commenting to my husband- “Wow, this teapot really retains heat.” A few minutes later, “Wow, the tea is still hot.” Even later- “Wow…” I am not sure my husband appreciated the play by play, but you get the picture! Great gift at $28 includes the cups, too.

  • Jade Oolong- This tea just received a great review from Lainie mentioned that this tea was the best, and etc. I totally agree with her. $15 for 2oz. Which produces about 20 cups of tea, not including multiple infusions.

To Receive:

  • Organic Peppermint Herbal Tea- I have a thing for peppermint, or anything mint. Yesterday, I bought Organic Peppermint Cookie Crunch ice cream from Three Twins, at the Oxbow Market in Napa. Delicious. Convince someone to buy you this tea- it will last longer than ice cream, and it is probably healthier, too.

  • Mini Water Kettle- We received this as a Christmas gift a few years back- BT(before tea). Today, it is our prized possession in the house, and is used everyday. Quick and easy. Also, great for heating up water for oatmeal.

  • Red Peony- This very well might be my current favorite Drink the Leaf tea. First, it just looks cool. I love plopping the rosette right into my tea cup. The aromas are great, and the flavors are intoxicating. Treat yourself. Also, this tea has been highly rated by the reviewers. See previous post- Red Peony- Are you a contender?

Well, its time to get back to counting down the days until Christmas. This year we are stealing away to the coast. I've already started my packing list: tea, wine, books, wine, cheese, tea, and wine. All set.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thankful & Movin' it!

There are many things that I am thankful for- beginning with my husband, family and friends; I never imagined Napa Adventure Boot Camp to be on the list. Almost 14 weeks ago, I embarked on a new challenge. I rise at 5am most mornings to meet my Boot Camp comrades, and sweat it out for an hour, all under the watchful eye of our fearless leader, Jeff. This time around, I was determined to get in shape once and for all.

Really, what was I thinking? I hate the cold, and love sleep. Why on earth would I want to get up early and run around a middle school play ground with 20 other women? Was it because I reached the “40” mark this year? Or was it because my love for food and wine was becoming an Olympic sport in its own right? Basically, I needed to start movin' it!

This year’s Thanksgiving Day began with Boot Camp. You know you have turned a corner, when you work out on Turkey day. I must have a screw loose. But the energy of my fellow campers, and the dedication of our coach, moved me to get up and go. For this gathering we were told to bring an unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots, and if we dared, find a guest to bring, too. I tried for a week to convince the Tea Drinker to be my workout partner. I showed him my moves. Honey, look- can you do this? This is called a Sumo Dead Lift, or this is really hard- The Burpy- a painful combination of a squat, plank, and jump thrust into the air! My husband was not buying it. In the end, I found a willing friend to join me in the pain- she bought my enthusiasm. There is something rewarding and devilish about bringing a newcomer to Boot Camp. With sweat glistening on her face, I imagined my friend confirming to herself that she always knew that I was nuts. Cool. However, now my friend wants to bring me to her torture Pilates’s class. You know what they say about paybacks.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I ran through obstacles & hurdles, grunted through sit- ups, and complained about the jumping jacks. It was all worth it, especially knowing that the real treacherous sport was ahead of me - “Wine-ing and Dine-ing”...

Check out the madness- posted by Napa Boot Camp on You Tube
Can you find the Wife of the Tea Drinker?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

10 Questions for

The Napa Valley Register runs a business feature each Wednesday asking “10 Questions” of a local business owner. One of the questions always asked is- “What other business person would like to see featured?" This week’s business owner, Dawn Croft, Consultants 2 Business, answered...drum husband, Dan, The Tea Drinker, Drink The Leaf. It got me thinking. I have a few questions for him myself. So here we go—

1) How do your start your day?
Tea Drinker- It begins with my wife bellowing “TEA” from her bed, then shortly after...”CAFFEINE”, referring to black tea!

Wife-Oh. Okay, that’s true.

2) What’s your biggest challenge at work?
Tea Drinker - Day dreaming about which wine we will be having with dinner, and pushing my cat off the keyboard at least twenty times a day.

3) What’s your favorite memory from your trip to China?
Tea Drinker- While at a Shanghai tea shop, I stated to my wife, “Honey, I’ll handle this, my territory, I will order the tea.” One problem, the menu was in Chinese Characters. I faked it and pointed- ending up drinking a nice oolong.

4) What’s the strangest question anyone has ever asked you?
Tea Drinker-
“So, you’re steeping wine leaves?!”
I guess ,the causality of having your business in Napa Valley, if there is one!

5) Who is your ideal customer?
Tea Drinker- A REPEAT one.

6) Who is the CEO?
Tea Drinker- Is the correct answer my wife?

7) Are you ever going to clean the garage?
Tea Drinker- Yes, after my wife puts together the China Photo album.

Wife-Okay, fine!

8) Any tips for the first time tea drinker?
Tea Drinker- Yes, remember to add water.

9) What is your favorite quote?
Tea Drinker-“Drink the Leaf, Don’t Smoke It!” - anonymous.

10) How do you end your day?
Tea Drinker- Listening to my wife bellow…WINE TIME!

Wow, I feel much closer to my husband now. Thanks for reading and check back often.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Red Peony- Are you a contender?

It’s a very opinionated world out there. No doubt. It took me a few pleas to convince my husband to submit his teas for review. What if they don’t like them? he worried. Being in the wine business, you pray if they write about you, that it is all glowing and gushing; nothing less. I told him to not worry. Every day he went on I found him surfing their website morning, noon and night. Okay, now I was getting worried, too. I am the one that convinced him to take the leap. Seek someone else’s opinion. Not to just rely on what we think- What do we know? states on their website that they are a group of tea lovers and tea writers from all over North America. All the big tea producers are reviewed on this site, while Dan’s company consists of himself, his mascot, Little One, and an occasional plug from his wife on her blog! I was hoping I wasn’t setting him up to have his dreams dashed.

Not to worry. I was in Boston, sipping wine, I mean “working”, when I received the call. Drink the Leaf Red Peony was reviewed. And, it was a favorable review! Whew. I went back to my wine, gave him my congratulations, and stressed it was not a surprise to me. They are great teas that he took the time to personally select and review, and offer to his customers. Now, I just have to talk him through the waiting period of the other ten samples that are out there for review. Living on the edge of the the tea world.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wine, Women & Shoe-less

“Hello. My name is Teresa, and I have Shoe Insecurities.” That should’ve been my opening line at this weekend’s Wine, Women & Shoes Auction held in Sarasota, FL. The weekend consisted of almost 500 women attending wine and shoe pairings, wine tastings, a fashion show, and wine dinners in beautiful homes along the coast. All the festivities benefited a wonderful local charity, Forty Carrots.

At the wine and shoe pairing seminar, I watched women attendees make their way to their seats adorned in amazing shoes, and it was all I could do to steady myself on my well-travelled dusty, but sensible Nine West pumps. Okay, right, focus. I was asked to discuss what type of shoe pairs with Chardonnay. Quick, think! As various brand names – Manolo Blahnik, Fendi, Jimmy Choo, Chanel, Emilio Pucci- danced around my head and whizzed past me- all I could do was pray that no one was looking at my feet! My shoe insecurities quickly turned into shoe envy as the giddiness in the room came to an all time high as women complimented each other on their shoes. Then, I remembered I was really here to talk about the wine. Ah, yes, my comfort zone. Exhale. Maybe I could distract this crowd from looking at my feet by dazzling them with our wines. I launched into the history of ZD Wines, talked about the 2007 Chardonnay, recommended wearing lovely sandals (pointing at someone else’s feet) all while sipping this flagship wine! I heard a few –ohs and ahs, and was getting caught in the moment,and exclaimed triumphantly- “I would like to donate my shoes to the cause!” Hmmm, no takers…..

Darn. I would need to think fast. The next day was the fashion show, and you guessed it, I only had the shoes on my feet. Darn again.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Kickin' Chicken & Poblano Pepper Chili

There is something about Fall that makes you want to curl up on the couch, with a cup of tea, and settle into a great book. I definitely enjoy taking this time to read through my stack of books, but flipping through cooking magazines takes the cake! My favorite cooking magazine is Fine Cooking, with Gourmet a close second. Over the years, we have worked out a pretty good system for all those recipes that you tear out of magazines. We go through the pile, pick one for Sunday's dinner, prepare, enjoy, and then vote if we feel it will make the cut into our Green Recipe Binder. We do not get attached or emotional( ie- we have been known to throw out an entire meal, and promptly order take-out pizza)- the recipe is either IN or OUT. This approach works for us. Instead of having a bunch of recipes that we are not passionate about, we have a binder filled with our favorites.

From time to time, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Food section has a recipe that peaks my interest. The Chili’s On article, by Amanda Gold, was a stand out for us, especially with cool dark evenings at our door step. We tried two recipes over the past couple of weekends. One was a hit, while the other one we felt needed a bit of tweaking! Chicken & Poblano Pepper Chili left us thinking about the next opportunity we might have to make this comforting and inviting meal…

Give it a try, and let us know what you think. We loved the consistency and simplicity of this chili, and you can’t beat the roasted Poblano pepper flavor. The recipe does not instruct how to roast the peppers. I put them in the oven at 375 for about 20 minutes turning once, until the skin is black in spots. Then placed the peppers into a paper bag for a few minutes- locking in the steam - the skins will peel off easier after this process. We made this dish in less than an hour. Easy enough for a weeknight meal. And, of course, like most chilis, it tastes even better the next day.

Note: the link to the article -lists all the recipes, search down until you find the the right one for you!

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Longjing, Dragon Well, Green Tea

This past summer Dan and I went to China. It has occurred to me that I have yet to absorb the impact of this wonderful journey. Basically, we returned to the States and hit the ground running, with China in our wake. Our intention in visiting China was to learn the culture behind this amazing country, especially the lovely history of tea, our favorite beverage. Well, at least its right up there with wine…This adventure turned into bits and pieces of experiences that are heartwarming to recall.
We traversed the country visiting Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. However, a side trip to the tea region of Hangzhou, was really a stand out for us; especially after being amongst the hustle and bustle of lots of people, construction, noise, and pollution for almost two weeks. As new and exciting as those cities are, you can imagine this side trip was a true respite. We took a train from Shanghai to Hangzhou, and on this journey sat next to a young man in his thirties. He was from Taiwan, and an engineer who was about to spend two months in Beijing working with the Olympics. He was looking forward to getaway trip with his wife before he left for his work assignment. Hangzhou - deemed by the Chinese as a piece of heaven- fit the bill. Imagine our surprise, when we ran into this man while checking into the resort. He was curious how we knew about this far away place in the mountains- a place that most Westerners weren't aware of. One answer- the Internet! Hey, our mission was to drink the famous Longjing loose leaf green tea while relaxing at the Fuchun Resort in the mountains of Hangzhou. Mission accomplished.

Much like wine in our lives, tea is also connected with experiences. I truly got a kick out of watching my husband drink Longjing tea precisely from the source of where it was created- it is a memory that I will always cherish. We continued to drink Longjing, also more commonly known as Dragon Well, every day that we were in our little oasis. This green tea is reminiscent of fresh cut grass, and a depth of flavors.
We followed our dreams, and made it happen. Now back in our home land, each time I drink loose leaf green tea, I drift back to memories of our trip to China. Whether its tea, wine or food- remember to try and share it with someone, and you will indeed create a memory for life.

Make it an adventure!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Need to calm your mind?

What makes you feel tired, wiped out, dehydrated and headachy? Bikram Yoga. I know, you probably thought I was going to launch into the list of wines that I drank last night with dinner. Nope, -just tried Bikram Yoga for the first time this morning at a new studio in Napa, CA. With only DTL House Celyon and a piece of toast in my system, I headed out the door to tackle a new experience. If you have never tried this type of Yoga, please do yourself a favor, and give it a try at least once. It’s a combination of lots of sweat, 26 stretching postures, concentration, and a feeling of accomplishment. I was told “no experience necessary”….

To set the scene- the temperature in the studio is 105degrees with 40% humidity. Now, I love heat, but 90 minutes of this- I was dreaming of my hometown Buffalo, NY, and willing up memories of brushing heaps of snow off my car! The class room was filled with both men and women, scantly clad, (I really should’ve at least worn a short sleeved shirt!), working our bodies into different posture exercises. Each posture’s purpose is to move oxygenated blood to one hundred percent of the body- restoring each organ. The result: lean and toned muscles, calm mind, and a toxin-free system.

At the end of 90 minutes, you really do feel that you can accomplish anything, if you put your mind to it. That is until you get home, and you are so darn tired, the only thing you can do is a take a nap! Why was I so tired? Because my body was beginning to cleanse….headache?....because I was dehydrated. The instructor suggested that I drink a lot of water today. Just like the Tea Drinker’s motto at Drink the Leaf- “just add water!”.

I will go back. But, first I need to explain to my husband that I am taking Bikram Yoga, not “burping yoga” which is what he thought I said when I ran out the door this morning!

Just Go, Drink tea, and water!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chamomile, not just for sleepy time!

Recently while dining at a local restaurant during lunch time, I asked for the tea list. I was surprised to see Chamomile listed- hey, its lunch time- I need a boost, not a nap, afterwards. At the time, I thought it was silly to offer this selection in a restaurant. Chamomile should be enjoyed while cuddled up in bed surrounded by great books- a perfect recipe for a good night’s sleep. I recant- I still believe the ideal setting is bed and books, but recently I opted for Chamomile because I had an upset stomach during the day. Immediately, I felt better. Could it be this wonderful herbal beverage can help with digestion? We have all heard about the health benefits of tea, and I personally feel that I may have found the perfect “stomach settler”!

I called to share this news with my Mom, and guess what? She had just ordered DTL Chamomile for the same reason. She told me to check out one of her favorite websites people’s pharmacy. Lo’ and behold- chamomile stimulates your appetite and helps with digestion!

So, enjoy Chamomile after you eat. There’s nothing wrong with being a little sleepy, full, and happy!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Blind Tasting Tea

Quite a few years ago, Tea Drinker, (aka my husband) told me he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life: study tea and open an on-line loose leaf tea company. I warmed to the idea, mainly, because tea, beyond Lipton, was something that the both of us knew little about! Why go with something safe and obvious, and pursue winemaking in Napa Valley? Way too predictable for us!

As he dove into learning about tea, I continued my education with wine. We approached tea the same way we approached my wine studies- surround your self by all things tea/wine, and do lots of blind tastings. Blind tastings take away any preconceived notions about what you are sampling, and help you fine tune your palate. In case you’re wondering, we do not wear blind-folds, and spin each other around, nor do we stab at the air trying to find the tea cup. Sounds like a great game after a night of drinking wine, though.

We sample teas that are sent to us by our distributors and taste without knowledge of supplier, price, and grade. We have a basic scoring system giving points for color, aroma, flavor, and finish. We usually taste by variety- all green, black, or etc, and focus on a region. I can guarantee you that the Tea Drinker has personally selected all of your DTL teas, primarily as a result from these blind tastings. Recently, we tasted nine different Darjeeling teas. And Drink the Leaf Selimbong Estate came in first place. We also found another Darjeeling tea from a single estate that will be added soon. So, remember trust your palate- always look for balance in life, wine, and tea. It’s the key!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Eeek- No Tea Balls, please

In my travels, I noticed that if I bring up loose leaf tea- its inevitable that someone will bring up the Tea Ball! Ah, dreaded- little metal object that is lost amongst other gadgets in your junk drawer. Folks, it constricts the tea leaves, not allowing them to unfurl properly! Tea balls get in the way of releasing the true essence of a tea leaf. I know, you only thought I talked about wine in this crazy manner. I am now on a mission to encourage and convert loose leaf tea drinkers to go ahead, launch that tea ball into the gadget abyss, and confidently move onto the tea infuser. You will never go back! Try this

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pu-erh & Fajitas

Honey, there’s a special on China tonight, let’s have fajitas!

Typically our day begins by planning what we should have for dinner, and whether it’s a tea night or wine night. Like most people, I assume. Okay, maybe not. On this particular day it was decided to be fair and do it all: fajitas, wine, and then drink Pu-erh and watch The Discovery Channel, which was airing a series on China. Having been to China this past summer, we were interested.

Pu-erh. I love this tea. It’s quite earthy, and a prefect way to end an evening after eating spicy food. I would not recommend starting your day with it, though. It’s more of an acquired taste. The caffeine is low to moderate, and I have discovered that I have no problem falling asleep. True, since I missed the special on TV. My husband offers two pu-erhs on his website. I prefer the Golden Pu-erh. It’s smooth, only a bit earthy, and has a nice toffee/caramel note to it. Sort of reminds of me a cognac. I had never heard of Pu-erh until my husband started researching tea. So, if you have not had it before, give it a try!
Just to note- it is not lost on me, that we had Mexican food, while chatting about how excited were about seeing the China special.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

So, What does your husband do?

I am asked this question on a regular basis. I start by reiterating that it’s a long story…from Buffalo,NY, to kitchen manager, to wine buyer in Aspen, to winemaking in Napa, to tea drinker. “Tea?!”, they yell. I can almost feel my husband cringe as he imagines everyone picturing him sitting with old ladies, surrounded by lace-- all with pinkies in the air. However, most everyone exclaims: “ You know, tea is hot, right now”. That's true, and becoming more and more popular . Phew. After a few more inquires, a plug of his website:, and discussion of whether my husband ever drinks coffee….we get back to talking about wine. My safe zone.

Yes, I have the glamorous life of traveling around the country representing a wonderful, family owned Napa Valley winery. Glamorous in the sense that I am up at the crack of dawn most mornings, out way too late, meet fascinating people on a daily basis, and the best part- talk wine and food all day. Oh yeah, there is quite a bit of selling going on, too. As I traverse the country, I can’t help think of the Yin and Yang in life-- mine in particular. Wine & Tea. Imagine- A phone call to my husband while sitting at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta, enjoying a huge glass of Napa Valley Cabernet, while Dan is in Napa sampling a new arrival of the spring harvest tea. So, who’s YIN and who’s YANG? Check back often for the adventures of Tree & Dan. Its filled with travel, food, wine, hopefully adventure, and of course, loose leaf tea!