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.