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Blueberry Tea Shortbread CookiesMy girlfriend Chara, owner and founder of WanderingLotus – a mobile yoga studio, came over in preparation for our upcoming yoga and tea event. As always, we began our meeting with the usual ritual… I put on a pot of tea and Chara procures a yummy sweet treat. I am a complete sucker for sweets – not candy – but cake, pie, cobbler, ice cream, pastries, decadent cookies you name it, I love it!

This time, Chara brought a box of BISCOTTEA, gluten-free, blueberry, tea, shortbread cookies.  We were a little nervous, because of the gluten-free tag, but thought we would try them out anyway. Initially we were a little surprised, because the cookies in the box looked distinctly different from the picture on the package.  We sort of looked at each other as if to say, “Are these the right cookies?”.  Then we conducted the smell test… blueberry tea shortbread cookies smell delightful – just like blueberries. Not surprising, but definitely a plus considering the visual inspection.

The tentative first bite proved to be tasty.  Traditionally, I do not eat gluten-free products so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  Blueberry tea shortbread cookies were not as dense as some shortbread cookies I have enjoyed in the past.  This is not a bad thing, just different.  The cookies were crumbly and slightly dry, similar to the crisper portion of a scone.  The taste of tea was definitely evident as was a mild blueberry flavor.  The cookies were not overly sweet and paired well with our tea – sweetened Moroccan Mint and later with an unsweetened oolong.  The only drawback – the cookies left a slighty gritty feel in the mouth – which really isn’t that big of a deal.

BISCOTTEA, blueberry tea shortbread cookies are manufactured in Issaquah, WA.  With a desire to make cookies that taste homemade, founder Laurance Milner uses the following ingredients: gluten-free all-purpose flour, sorghum flour, butter, sugar, cornstarch, xanthan gum, organic white tea from China’s Fujian Province, organic natural blueberry flavor, baking soda, and salt.  Additionally, according to the website, BISCOTTEA™ is more than just a cute play on words; it’s the result of a four-year search that started in 2003 when Laurance Milner, a Specialty Food entrepreneur and tea drinker, determined to create BISCOTTEA to pair perfectly with tea. You can now purchase BISCOTTEA,™ in four additional tea flavors:

  • African Honeybush: Made with sweet herbal tea leaves grown on the same unique South African mountains as the Rooibos (Red Tea) plant.
  • Mint: A mixture of organic peppermint and spearmint leaves farmed in Oregon.
  • Chai: A blend of organic chai spices, including cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, and pepper.
  • Earl Grey: A combination of organic Darjeeling tea, estate-grown in India, with natural Bergamot Citrus flavor.

To purchase BISCOTTEA, visit their website www.biscottea.net to locate a retailer near you.  Or you can make a stop at your local TJ Maxx, where Chara purchased our box of BISCOTTEA.  Until then… Happy tea drinking!

A toast to the grace of the pot,
ready at all time
To give up its emptiness
for the tea
.

~The Minister of Leaves

Lavender Oolong Tea

The last two weeks I have felt physically crappy – some days better than other – but today is the worst.  I am in need of some sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so-you-can-rest medicine!  It’s funny how, when feeling under the weather, we seek to surround ourselves with things that bring us comfort.  For some that means comfort food, for others comfy pajamas, a favorite blanket, or a childhood pillow.  Depending upon the ailment, there are times when hearing the voice of a spouse, loved-one, or best friend provide the needed level of comfort.  Sometimes it’s a hot steaming cup of tea.  The subject of today’s tea review and comfort of choice – Lavender Oolong.

Composition: Alishan oolong infused with natural lavender

Dry Visual: Light and dark green leaves tightly rolled with stems present.  Thanks to Naivetea for the great photo.

Dry Aroma: Delicately floral – the smell of lavender is unmistakable with a hint of oolong.

Flavor: Lavender Oolong is a lovely floral infused oolong.  The oolong is mild with a distinct floral quality – I’m sure you are not surprised – that is present in the cup from the first sip to the last.  Full-bodied, Lavender Oolong creates a heavy feel in the mouth.

There is no astringency, therefore Lavender Oolong can be enjoyed without sweetener.  There is, however, a mild dryness that becomes more pronounced throughout the cup and into the next infusion.  Nevertheless, I prefer to drink Lavender Oolong without sweetener.

Liquor: A yellow hue.

Brewing Time: I steeped Lavender Oolong in 190 degree water for  one minute during the first infusion and two minutes during the second infusion.

Manufacturer: Naivetea

Caffeine: Yes.

If you have had the opportunity to enjoy a cup of Lavender Oolong tea, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

**Tea was provided by Naivetea as a sample.

Moroccan Mint Tea

“Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we’ve no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It doesn’t show signs of pausing,
And I’ve bought some corn for popping,
The lights are turned way down low,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

When we finally kiss goodnight,
How I’ll hate going out in the storm!
But if you’ll really hold me tight,
All the way home I’ll be warm.

The fire is slowly dying,
And, my dear, we’re still good-bying,
But as long as you love me so,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

~ Sammy Cahn

It may not be Christmas time, but this song is apropos for the amount of snow we’ve seen in the Midwest during the last two weeks!  The first snowstorm brought with it about eight inches of snow. The second snowstorm showered us with eight inches of snow and this last one dumped yet another eight or nine inches of snow.  While many of you along the east coast had 30 inches, 15 inches, and who knows how many inches during this last storm may think us Midwesterners are rookies, I’ve had enough!  Call us what you will – I’m officially tired of the snow!  The only highlight of the snowstorms… the enormous amount of tea that continue to fill my cup each day.  In particular, Moroccan Mint, with whom I’ve communed with daily – multiple times per day. Even more surprising,  my non-tea loving husband has sipped  a cup with me every night.  Although I must admit, several of his cups included two shots of Jack Daniels.  Hot Toddy’s just in time for Mardi Gras!

Composition: Organic gunpowder green tea and organic peppermint

Dry Visual: Characteristic of gunpowder, the green tea resembles very dark green almost black tightly rolled musket pellets.  The mint consists of broken lighter green leaves with brown stems present.

Dry Aroma: Delightfully minty.

Flavor: Moroccan Mint is a great blend of green tea and mint.  One flavor does not overpower the other in this cup of tea. It would be interesting to know the type of green tea used as the tea does not contain any vegetal, sappy, or grassy qualities. After conducting a little research, I discovered that many varieties of tea have been used to make Moroccan Mint. It is smooth and flavorful. If you are a lover of mint tea, you will definitely enjoy this brew.

There is no astringency, therefore Moroccan Mint tea can be enjoyed without sweetener.  However, I chose to drink Moroccan Mint with plenty of sweetener as is customary in Morocco with one caveat… I did not follow the Atai method of preparation. Having steeped multiple cups this week, I have alternated between Sugar-In-The-Raw and honey as my sweeteners of choice.

Liquor: A dark yellow hue.

Brewing Time: I steeped Moroccan Mint tea in water that ranged from 175 degrees to 185 degrees for four minutes during the first infusion and five minutes during the second infusion.

Manufacturer: Sage Moon Herb Shop

Caffeine: Yes.

If you have had the opportunity to enjoy a cup of Moroccan Mint tea, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

While not a stranger to the concept of tea cozies, I never actually owned one.  That is until recently when I became the proud owner of two HOBs from  Thistledown.  Of course, I understood the concept of the tea cozy coined the HOB by Thistledown, but must admit I was curious about whether they actually worked. So when, my brother-in-law and his girlfriend Dee came over for dinner I was excited to try them out for the first time.  Armed with two steaming pots of tea – lavender oolong and strawberry oolong, I prepared to settle the debate once and for all.

After pouring cups of tea, I dressed the strawberry oolong with the smaller of the two Thistledown HOBs. The lavender oolong went naked or commando as others would say while Dee and I sipped and talked.  Sated and ready for a second cup, it was time to test my theory…

The actual pot of strawberry oolong felt distinctly warmer than the lavender oolong.  When poured into a teacup, the strawberry oolong liquor had remained warm and ready to drink while the lavender oolong required microwave subjection to reheat.  It was official, my Thistledown Tea Cozy definitely kept the pot of tea warm for a longer period of time. The test duration was 15 minutes, but the HOB is capable of keeping a pot of tea warm much longer.  (Check out the Heat Retention Experiment found on the Thistledown website.) I was pleasantly surprised! Now convinced of the HOBs utility, I’m compelled to share a bit more about this great product.

The HOB is the latest in Thistledown’s line of tea warmers and is available in two sizes 20 ounce and 40 ounce. As described by Thistledown, the HOB is constructed with two layers of high-tech mylar batting.  This batting insulates with both a layer of mylar reflecting heat back into the teapot and layers of polyester preventing heat conduction away from the teapot.  Perhaps you are familiar with mylar batting, but I however, am not.  So I took a trip to Fabric.com for help.

According to Fabric.com, mylar batting is the material that makes pot holders, oven mitts, and casserole covers safe. The material is breathable and won’t break down with washing. It contains hollow fibers that resist conduction while the reflective mylar resists radiant energy. The energy, hot or cold, is reflected back to its source. This is key to how the HOB is able to keep your pot of tea warm for an extended period of time.

Now you know the “why” and “how” the HOB works, let’s talk about its construction. The bottom of the HOB  also has two layers of mylar batting, acting like a built-in trivet.  As you can see from the picture, the HOB completely encases the body of your teapot. It is extremely easy to use: simply sit the teapot between the two “clam shells”, flip over the top and clip together with the buckle. Yes, there is a buckle – simple yet practical construction. But the greatest thing of all… the fabric is washable.

For years I have always called products like the HOB a tea cozy.  Thistledown has chosen to call this new product a HOB for two key reasons – 1) “tea cozy” was too feminine and 2) HOB defined means a shelf in the back of a fireplace used to keep things hot.  The name HOB is a perfect fit!

My HOB is pictured in the beginning of this review, while my other is two-tone red and brown.  Be sure to keep your eyes open for many new colors and patterns available from Thistledown this spring.  The photo on the right depicts a few.

To purchase the HOB visit Thistledown’s website where they retail for $35 for the 20 ounce and $40 for the 40 ounce.  If you have used this product, please share your experience.  Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

**The HOB was provided by Thistledown as a sample.

2009 Tea Escapade's Tea Custom Contest WinnerDuring the month of December, Tea Escapade ran the 2009 Tea Custom Contest.  After reviewing many contest entries, it was exciting to select a winner.  Contestants were required to share their tea custom in 350 words or less.

The custom may range from simple (using the same special teacup or mug) to complex, however it must include the following criteria:

1. Tea is shared with at least one other person;

2. The custom occurs regularly i.e. every Christmas, once a month, on birthdays, etc.

3. The custom is special to those who participate.

Tim Morra submitted the annual tea custom shared with his girlfriend.  It was thrilling to read and select their tea custom as the winning entry for the 2009 Tea Custom Contest.  As the contest winner, Tim received a Mighty Leaf Tea – Tea Top Brew Mug and an assortment of Mighty Leaf teas! Hopefully Tim both enjoys his prize and shares it with his girlfriend!

Below is Tim’s tea custom:

“While my girlfriend and I have copious quantities of green tea every day with dinner, it has become a tradition over our 4 years together that we perform a special ceremony at Thanksgiving.  Before the bird is finished and the wine is opened, we each dim the lights, light up a ginger-scented incense candle, and sit across from each other, silently for a minute of two.  Two beautiful designed ceramic tea cups and a teapot brimming with Japanese Sencha sits between us and we each close our eyes and pray to ourselves. After this initial meditation, we open our eyes, pour a cup and hand it to each other.  We decide who begins and it usually her.

She smiles and speaks of something about which she is thankful.  She then brings her cup to my lips and tips it slightly so that I may have a sip. It is then my turn and I speak of something about which I am thankful, and I tip my cup to her lips.

Typically, we talk about things outside ourselves that we are happy and thankful about, and also mention things we adore about one another.  All this continues until the teapot runs down. She and I then sit together for a final minute of silence, staring into one another’s eyes.  Then, the turkey and pumpkin pie await!”

I hope you enjoyed reading Tim’s Tea Custom. Make 2010 your year to create and practice a tea custom of your own.  Maybe you will be the winner of the 2010 Tea Escapade – Tea Custom Contest.

Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

Most people have a favorite program or two they watch every week.  Two of my favorites include Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. Dressed in comfy clothes and armed with a cup of Green Tea Soothing Mint tea, it was with eager anticipation that I flicked on the television. Imagine my disappointment tonight at the realization that both shows were repeats.  After watching repeats from mid-December to mid-January, it was great to finally, finally watch new episodes.  Instead of laughing and/or crying with my favorite characters, I’m surfing the net and working on a new pet project.

Composition: Green tea and spearmint

Dry Visual: The leaves are broken and resemble fannings. Other details are not easily discernable – the tea is contained in tea bags.

Dry Aroma: Very minty.

Flavor: Green Tea Soothing Mint is flavorful, but mild.  The green tea is not easily discernible – I was unable to detect any of the characteristic green tea flavors. For example, Green Tea Soothing mint does not contain any vegetal, sappy, or grassy qualities.  However, the spearmint contained in the ingredients dominates this cup of tea.  If you are a lover of mint tea, you will enjoy this brew.

There is no astringency, therefore Green Tea Soothing Mint can be enjoyed without sweetener.  After allowing the cup to cool, I am convinced that tea lovers can drink Green Tea Soothing Mint hot or cold.

Liquor: A rich golden yellow hue. The cup is clear.

Brewing Time: According to the directions, the recommended steeping time is 2 – 3 minutes.  No water temperature was designated so I opted for 185 degrees for 3 minutes.

Manufacturer: Salada Tea

Caffeine: Yes.

If you have had the opportunity to enjoy a cup of Green Tea Soothing Mint, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

**Tea was provided by Salada Tea as a sample.

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