A Perfect Cup of Tea

January 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

There may be nothing like a cup of something warm after a trek through the snow.  And if you spend more than an hour with me you will surely discover my affection for hot drinks.  Namely the species of steeped bliss we call tea.  A luxurious cup of Earl Grey is my current love as it is silky and rich while still leaving a refreshingly caffeinated murmur.  Although I have had a little affair and just reveled in a lovely cup of white vanilla grapefruit.  I would like to share some secrets of infusing a simple cup of hot water with some dried out ground up powder into a ritual of bringing a daily dose of delight into your life.

For starters, it is best to get out of the habit of relying on supermarket ‘Lipton’ teas shake.  These are the lowest grade tea possible and are hardly passable as a blissful tea.  Once you expose yourself to the glory of a real cup of tea, steeped with whole leaves, you may find yourself wondering how so many people are able to drink their stale, flat, and bland daily spot of tea.

There are many, quite convenient ways to find real tea.  Most shopping malls will have a tea shop; Teavana for example has a nice collection and their staff is always helpful.  Another option is Wegmans.  They actually have a large stash hidden between the cheese counter and the organic bulk nuts.  Although, surprise, surprise, I choose to acquire my blends from local vendors.  Pure Blend shows up at my farmers markets doling out their hand blended teas and spices.  I was quite infatuated with the pumpkin chai for a while, and the homemade komucha, a fermented tea containing everything which is good for you, is something sent straight from the Gods.  Similarly, Mrs. Robinsons Tea Shop in Kennett Square has an immense collection of teas; herbal, caffeinated, decaffeinated, fruity blends, and all the tea paraphernalia you could desire.  I could spend entirely too long sticking my nose into cups of the samples.  Enough about the vendors.

 

Making tea is an ancient art form.  I have discovered that the process should not be rushed.  If you are going to rush through the procedure as you would making a cup of coffee, you might as well drink Lipton, or coffee (clearly I am biased).  Take the 10 minutes and enjoy the simplicity of rewarding yourself with a cup of ecstasy.

Fun Fact:  All true tea leaves comes from the same plant.  True teas are black, oolong, green and white.  The difference is when the tea leaves are harvested.  As the tea is harvested younger it brews lighter i.e. black vs white.  Consequentially black tea is rich and heavily caffeinated, while white tea is airy and contains almost no caffeine.  In the morning I like to wake up to a cup of something bright and radient so I opt for lighter white or green teas. When afternoon rolls around and my mind is beginning to lag I steep some gorgeous and awakening Earl Grey spiked with notes of bergamot and citrus.

A Perfect Cup of Tea.
This will steep enough for two small cups of tea, enough for one to linger with a book or two friends to share over laughs.

Warm up a 16 oz teapot simply by filling it with hot water from the tap and allow to sit while you prepare everything else.  This ensure that the pot is hot and won’t cool the water off when you steep the tea.

Heat 16 oz (2 cups) of water.  Different teas require different water temperatures:

Green Tea 160 degrees F 1 – 3 minutes
White Tea 180 degrees F 4 – 8 minutes
Oolong Tea 190 degrees F 1 – 8 minutes
Black Tea Rolling Boil 3 – 5 minutes
Herbal (tisanes) Rolling Boil 5 – 8 minutes

Add 2 teaspoons of beautiful tea leaves to the filter or diffuser.  Similarly, you can use a loose tea bag found at any well stocked tea shop, with 1 teaspoon of loose leaves.

When the water is at the right temperature pour it over the leaves.

Cover the teapot and allow it to steep for the correct time.  Refer to the chart above.

While the tea is steeping add a sweetener or cream or nut milk (for black teas only) of your choice to your tea cup(s).  I always choose honey.  Nothing else.

After 1- 8 minutes remove the filter but save the leaves.  They can be steeped again, up to 3 times.

Pour your gorgeous brew into the prepared cup.

Sit. Sip. And enjoy.

Drink Happily.

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Retox and Detox: 10 Favorite Holiday Indulgences

January 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Exhale.  Its all over.  The glorious gluttony.  The constant consumption.  The indulgent imbibing.  In place of the cream and sugar which has been dominating every nook and cranny of my kitchen I am happily welcoming my old friends, kale and quinoa back into my life.

Perhaps my  body may have an unnatural affection for greens and vegetables, but for the past six days I have been yearning for the super nutritious whole foods which usually grace my plate.  The future of my meals will look something like this: squash stuffed with quinoa and beans; kale and white bean casserole; sauteed greens loaded with nuts; garlic soup studded with brussel sprouts, onions and everything else cleansing.

Although, before I happily begin my post holiday purge, I would like to share some of my favorite indulgences of the past couple weeks.  After all, extravagance may be my favorite aspect of detoxification.

10. Biz’s Cookie Party.  Buckwheat and Quinoa Fig cookies, Mexican Wedding cookies, Peanut Butter chocolate chip, Basic Sugary bliss.  Need I say more?
9. Every Excuse for Champagne.  From Christmas morning mimosas, to raspberry champagne cocktails with dinner, to champagne shots at the stroke of midnight, this beverage has made an appearance too frequently in the past week.  My body always knows when I drank champagne the previous night.
8. Mallory’s Whiskey and Cider.  If there is anything better to warm you from the inside out than a piping hot thermos of Barnard’s apple cider mulled with cinnamon, cloves, a little vanilla, and a large glug of whiskey topped with some fresh whipped cream (spiked of course) please let me know.
7. Morning After Whiskey and Champagne Breakfasts.  Plates smothered with creamed chipped beef, cups filled with v-8 (and vodka?), ovens filled with stratta.  Any of the above are (almost) proven to expunge most nausea.
6.  Desert after every meal.  Leftover cookies, cakes, and meringues, make this mandatory.  Breakfast and that fourth meal between lunch and dinner included.
5.  Phyllo Dough.  What?  Yes.  Not the typical indulgence, phyllo dough has proven to be the perfect companion to everything oozy and gooy: baked brie au bleu, apple and brie quiche, feta and sundried tomato pizza, and endless cheese combinations (see below).
4.  Cheese.  Most of my cheese plates this year were compiled thanks to Talula’s Table.  Favorites included:  Sharp aged gouda, pungent and slaty shroppshire blue, lovely humboldt fog, smooth and delicate rosemary goat.  Similar h’ordeuvres were compiled from layers of phyllo dough brimming with  heavenly marriages of cream cheese and onion pepper jelly, brie with pears and brown sugar, fresh goat with cranberry and pistachio crumble, and gruyere with caramelized onions.
3.  Bacon.  It occurred to me that even as a see myself as a kind of closet vegetarian I somehow omit bacon from the realm of carnivorous consumption.  My new favorite party trick is to fabricate bite sized bowls from a slice of bacon and load them with everything good * instructions below.  Sliced mushrooms melted together with a gorgonzola cream somehow found their way into my cups of salted heaven.
2. My First Roast Duck + Duck Fat Fried Potatoes Everything. A Classic Christmas feast, duck is actually quite easy to make and produces a ungodly amount of animal fat suitable for making the ordinary roasted potatoes exceptional.  My duck was lucky enough to be smothered in honey and rubbed down with a blend of lavender and peppercorns leaving the skin insanely crisp and the meat dark and juicy.
1.  The people and parties which provide the opportunities for extravagance.  Maybe this is a cop-out or cliche but its true.  Eating bacon, cheese, and dessert three times a day may be enough to make one sick, but somehow the wonderful company of friends and family keeps me feeling healthy.  I supposed it could be the additional laughing and smiling around this time of year.  

Bacon Cups:

I used 2 packages of bacon but was not keeping track of how the yield or the actual number of slices needed.  The thinner, leaner cut bacon works best.  Fattier cuts will shrink more.  I also used a very small muffin tin which makes the cups bite sized as opposed to awkward two bite sized.

Cut a slice of bacon into 3 pieces:  first in half and then one of the halves in half.
Make a cross with the two quarters on the bottom of the muffin tin.
Use the long half piece of bacon to wrap around the circumference of  the muffin tin and secure by pressing the ends together.
Experiment with what you have.  This is simply what worked for me.
With all the cups wrapped, place the tin into a casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes or so at 500 degrees until the bacon is quite crispy but not burned.
Let the cups cool and then simply pop  them off, possibly with the assistance of  a spatula.
Load the cups with anything you heart desires.   

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