Saturday, April 24, 2010

we all live in a yellow submarine

Back in January, pictures of this beauty started floating around the blogosphere. The sad news? There was no information on where or when it was available for purchase.

The good news? Today I thought I'd give it another search, and low and behold - it's now for sale!

If we weren't in the middle of a complete relocation, I'd be placing my order as we speak. Sadly, I'll be waiting a bit as our current living arrangements and finances are more secure, but that shouldn't stop you from picking up one of these lovelies!

What is it, you ask? None other than a silicone yellow submarine tea infuser, AKA The Tea Sub! Genius? Yes!

Currently available for $14.99 with free shipping worldwide from Animi Causa.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

double spice chai hot chocolate

I typically do not care for chocolate, vanilla, or caramel flavored teas. I do, however, love unusual flavored hot chocolates. So when I came across a post on a tea forum suggesting using a strongly brewed tea as a base for hot chocolate, I knew I had to try it.

I chose my double spice chai black tea from Stash Teas, as it is one of my favorite chai's and I loved spiced chocolates. Oh my goodness, it was delicious. It was a perfect alternative to a simple cup of hot chocolate and would be a delightful twist to serve while entertaining.

Making it was simple enough - 8 ounces hot tea of your choice and 2 tablespoons of instant cocoa mix. Stir until fully combined and serve.

I'm thinking of trying this out with a cinnamon black tea next, but the possibilities are endless! Talk about a grown up version of an old favorite!

Friday, April 16, 2010

plant a tea tree!

In celebration of Earth Day 2010, Adagio Teas is allowing customers to plant a tea tree in their name. The best part is that when the tree matures, Adagio will send them 4 ounces of tea straight from their plant!

Adagio says:
This is no ordinary Earth Day celebration. Join a program where stewardship of our Planet is a year-round activity. Help us plant 2,000 trees in three tea-growing regions — China, India, and Taiwan. Once the seeds are in the ground, we'll invite you to cultivate it virtually, nurturing your tree to maturity. Do this responsibly, and once your tree begins harvesting, you'll reap the fruits of your labor — fresh tea from the tree you've nurtured from birth.

You're able to choose the region where you would like your tree planted - the Fujian region of China, the Assam region of India or the Nantou region of Taiwan. I chose China because its Fujian province yields the country's finest White teas.

I think this is an absolutely wonderful way to celebrate the life of the tea tree in honor of Earth Day. There are still trees left to be planted, so head on over to Adagio Teas and plant one of your own!

If you're looking for some instant gratification while you wait for your tea to mature, be sure to check out AdaptabiliTEA's Signature Blends. Spiced Pomegranate {pomegranate, cherry, & subtle spices} and Mighty Mango Mojito {rum, mango, and a hint of lime} blends are available in 4 oz tins for purchase for only $10 each! I also highly suggest Ari's Berry Fusion - a fruity harmony of rasberry, strawberry and blueberry.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

paulette macarons

One of my new favorite sweets to accompany my tea is the French macaron. During our last visit in San Francisco, I happened to notice a French Macarons shop across the street from our hotel. I immediately added it to my list of places to wander through the next day.

I have to say that the macarons were good, not amazing, but definitely good. {Keep in mind that I only have one other source of macarons - Joie Patisserie - to compare to, which happened to be simply phenomenal}. I surprisingly favored the richer, ganache filled, selections to the fruit selections.

My favorite was hands down the Caramel Macarons, with {much to my surprise} the Rose-Water Infused Macarons a close second. I think I favored the rose-water so much because they somehow tasted just like our almond spritz cookies at Christmas. Other noteworthy selections included the rich Caribbean Chocolate and the Colombian Coffee Macarons.

I think I may not have cared for the fruit macarons as much because they were filled with a gelled fruit center. As a personal preference, I prefer a distinctly flavored buttercream to the sweeter, more subtle gel filling. It's a texture thing for me, I'm funny like that. Strange preferences aside, they were still good, just not my favorite.

Paulette Macarons has locations in Beverly Hills and San Francisco. I would definitely recommend stopping by and giving their Caramel Macarons a try!

Friday, April 9, 2010

why blog?

I mentioned this week on my personal blog that at the end of the day, it's emails from my grandfather from 1,500 miles away stating that he "keeps enjoying all of my pictures and blogs" that keeps me blogging.

So why blog about tea? I'm not keeping my friends and family back in Texas informed on what I'm up to these days. Why bother?

Earlier in the week I was discussing the idea of only steeping your tea for 20-50 seconds and always tossing out the first brew with a fellow coworker in our break room. Another coworker listened intently, and although I knew he had something to say, kept quiet throughout our discussions.

Today he stopped me to share his story.

Around December he gave up coffee due to the withdrawals and crashes he was suffering from due to his dependency. He made the switch to tea and hasn't looked back. He did, however, notice that something was causing mild nausea on his way to work after he drank his tea, but it went away quickly enough each day that he didn't change his habits.

When he heard me talking about steeping tea for such a short amount of time he said his immediate reaction was that "it was total bullshit - that there was no way his tea would have enough flavor or caffeine after being steeped for such a short period of time." He went ahead and decided to try steeping his tea for a shorter amount of time, more than likely to prove me wrong, but he tried it nonetheless. He shortened his steeping time from five minutes to just around 50 seconds.

Guess what he discovered? He's been nausea-free the last few days. There are many factors that could contribute to this result, but in the end he found that steeping his tea for a shorter period of time resulted in the same flavor, less nausea, and longer life of the tea leaves for re-steeping.

So why do I blog about tea? You know that warmth that overcomes your body after a good cup of tea? That same warmth overcomes my soul when I'm able to enhance someone's quality of life - either by exposing them to potential health benefits, or brightening their day by sharing a product that I know, they too, might enjoy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

vital tea leaf - san francisco

I have to admit, that when I came across Chinatown during my wanderings in San Francisco, I was hesitant to enter. Cheap junk and crowded streets just isn't my scene. However, I knew I had some time to kill and figured why not. And boy am I glad I checked it out! I stumbled upon a Chinese tea house called Vital Tea Leaf and met the most hilarious man ever.

Meet Kenny.

"You think my tea shop looks like all the others? You must also think all Asians look alike! Get out!"

The tea might have drawn me in, but his humor kept me captivated for over an hour. He started by sharing his sales techniques:

"You learn two things working here. How to lie so people buy and how to fight. You fight when people don't buy!"

We started by learning that all tea is in fact green tea. "White tea" is the first picking of the green leaves, green tea is the leaves in their natural state, and "black tea" is just the result of roasting or fermenting the leaves. {Similar to how coffee beans are green until roasted black}. Oolong actually translates to "mistake" and is the product of accidentally mixing green and black teas. The flavor of oolong depends on the ratio of green to black teas in the mixture.

"My grandfather say next time someone talks about decaffeinated tea you slap their face!"

Because all tea leaves are essentially the same, just from different regions and plants, there is no such thing as a fully decaffeinated tea. "Herbal teas" are not actually teas at all, but simply infusions of other plants. To call them tea is inaccurate as there are no tea leaves present.

"You like that one?! Now I know what kind of tea to give you. It's called caramel frappuccino. Get out!"

He asked what kind of teas people liked and one woman responded floral or sweet teas. Chinese culture has traditionally only used two things to naturally sweeten their tea - the lychee fruit and jasmine. All other flavors are more recent additions to keep up with trends set in India and Thailand, but are not consumed as much in China itself. Ginger, Ginseng, and Pine {my allergies say "ew!" to pine} are also common additions for their medicinal benefits.

"When you put sugar in your tea, it's like putting 7-Up in your wine or ketchup on your filet mignon. My grandfather say shut up and drink it!"

He reminded us that in Chinese culture, tea is drank as a method of prevention when it comes to various health concerns. Health first, taste second. Adding sugar or cream to tea can actually start to neutralize the effects of the antioxidants in tea - one of the most common reasons people drink tea.

The assortment of teas Vital Tea Leaf has to offer.

For a quick rundown of benefits:
White teas are highest in antioxidants and lowest in caffeine.
Green teas support the body's natural defenses against oxidation, cancer, allergens, and viruses.
Red, Yellow, and Black teas aid in digestion, helping to cut grease and fat.
And the addition of ginseng is the only way to actually get natural energy and focus. Caffeine is simply a stimulant that causes a peak of alertness, mistaken for energy, followed by a crash.

Unlike everything I've heard previously, the Chinese recommend to brew tea for 30 to 50 seconds. {Also, don't forget to toss out the first brew!} Much shorter than the one to eight minutes that I've heard from other sources. I found that when brewing for only 30 to 50 seconds {shorter for black teas, longer for whites} that I didn't need any sugar as there was absolutely no bitterness.

Brewing pots, like this new beauty that I picked up while I was there {you know it's a good tea brewer when there's not a single word in English on the packaging}, drop the tea away from the leaves when brewing is complete. These allow for you to save the leaves for later brewing without over brewing your current cup. With shorter brewing times, leaves can be brewed five to seven times before being tossed out, in turn saving you money.

Looking into Vital Tea Leaf from the street. 

All humor aside, it was actually the most comprehensive tea tasting I have participated in {I tried over 15 different teas}. Although I knew quite a bit about tea already, I actually learned a lot from Kenny, as I've barely come close to sharing all that I learned this weekend. If you find yourself in San Francisco {or Seattle} please check out one of the five Vital Tea Leaf shops. You're in for an education in the benefits of tea, a good laugh, and a delicious selection of loose leaf teas to go home with {I discovered the Supreme Yellow tea which is absolutely delightful}. Not to mention they have some of the best brewers, most gorgeous tea sets, and most unique handcrafted tea trays around. {What I would do for a handcrafted tea tray...}

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

why tea?

A blog entirely about tea? What was she thinking?

Tea leaves are known for an array of medicinal benefits to both the body and mind. In today's fast paced world, we rarely take the time to sit back and relax. From ancient tea ceremonies in Asia, to high tea in England to sipping sweet tea on a Southern porch, tea has forever been an icon of spending time unwinding in good company.

Having been raised in the South, traveled the world, and settled in California, I have enjoyed tea in all of the above ways and more. I find that, in life, I can cope with just about anything with a good cup of tea. In the end, it's all about slowing down and tending to your own needs every so often. Join me as I share my favorite teas, tea ware, tea houses and more!

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