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allprodpackagesSo I thought I’d heard it all. That is until, I learned about gourmet tea cookies sold by Botanical Bakery located in Napa Valley, California. Sondra Wells, “planter, baker, tea cookie maker” and now owner of Botanical Bakery, began creating her tasty treats 10 years ago when preparing for a dinner party. That first cookie, Lavender Tea Cookies, was a big hit with her guests. Unknowing, this was the beginning of Botanical Bakery. A company that prides itself for its quality ingredients and creative cookie recipes.

lavenderlifestyle_tiLavender Tea Cookies, is quite unique with its dominant butter and lavender flavors. A lover of butter cookies, I found the taste of the former ingredient delicious and the taste of the latter distinct. Delicately sweet, Lavender Tea Cookies contains: organic unbleached flour, organic sweet cream butter, organic pure cane sugar, organic lavender buds, and vitamin E. While dense and buttery, the lavender left a slight vegetal after taste.

Intrigued, I was compelled to move on to Cinnamon Basil Tea Cookies. Crafted with the same ingredients, albeit twocinnbasil_ti1 modifications – no lavender, instead basil and cinnamon. Upon removal from the packaging, the basil was immediately recognizable. My first bite, was robust with butter and basil, yet the cinnamon was surprisingly mild. A typically dominant spice, I found the cinnamon enhanced the buttery flavor by adding a second layer of sweetness. Visually, Cinnamon Tea Cookies, looked unlike any cookie I’ve ever seen. Pieces of basil were intermingled throughout the petite cookie.

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After nibbling on both cookies, it was definitely tea time. With the kettle preparing to boil, I opened the package containing my last cookie. Cardamom Tea Cookies smelled divine. One of the reasons I love chai tea is because it often contains cardamom. Thus the combination of cardamom and butter made me giddy just thinking about it. My first bite solidified not only my love for this cookie, but my decision to brew a cuppa chai tea. Again, the ingredients were the same as the last two cookies, minus the cinnamon and basil but with the addition of green cardamom.  I found Cardamom Tea Cookies sweet and spicy and truly delicious. Perfect for eating along side a cup of tea.

Armed with a hot cup of chai tea, I finished each cookie, saving Cardamom Tea for last. The taste of each cookie was further enhanced by a sip of tea. Botanical Bakery cookies are sweet enough to enjoy alone, but not so sweet as to alter the taste of the tea. The perfect complement.

To learn more about Sondra Wells and Botanical Bakery or to place an order, visit their website at http://botanicalbakery.com. Until we meet again… Happy Tea Drinking!

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My first glimpse of Ebie’s Almond Tart had me drooling. A lover of rich desserts, the simple yet decadent ingredients had me longing for a taste. I appreciated Jacoba, the writer of Just Food Now, for sharing this wonderful recipe with me. (Click on the link – there are additional almond recipes.)

Of course never one to think about dessert without thinking about tea, I thought… “What tea would I pair with this dessert?” My choice – White Peony by Pearl Fine Teas.

Below is the recipe and some commentary from Jacoba herself about Ebie’s Almond Tart:

“I am going to supply this recipe exactly as it appears in her very old, already disintegrating, handwritten book, but am converting quantities to metric ones for ease of reference.

Line a deep tart tin with sweet pastry and spread with apricot jam. Half fill with a mixture made as follows:

  • Beat 125 grams of butter with 125 grams of sugar
  • Add 4 large eggs one at a time 
  • Stir in 125 grams of ground almonds
  • Add a pinch of salt.

That was it!!!  Bake Ebie’s Almond Tart in a preheated oven on 190 C for 30 – 40 minutes.”

So you ask… why White Peony? While White Peony is flavorful it is a White Tea and thus is significantly milder than a black or green tea. Thus the taste of the tea will not overpower the taste of the almond tart.  Simultaneously, the natural sweetness of White Peony allows one to enjoy a cup without the addition of sweetener.

Now it’s your turn… What tea would you pair with Ebie’s Almond Tart?

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The term “High Tea” and “Afternoon Tea” are often used interchangeably when discussing the ritual or ceremony of tea drinking. Many tea rooms offer ritual tea drinking by reservation only. Including Mrs. Teapots, the subject of yesterday’s post describing my belated birthday outing with friends.

I decided to conduct a little research to determine where this custom originated and to clarify once and for all the difference between the terms “High Tea” and “Afternoon Tea” if there were any. It was my understanding that the notion of high tea derived from Great Britain, thus I sought to find a legitimate source of information. In my search, I happened upon the UK Tea Council, from whence I pulled my research information. Additionally, I saw this website quoted by other sites when defining High Tea.

I learned that while tea was part of the staple diet of the poor, among the rich, tea drinking was evolving into an elaborate social occasion. Afternoon teas probably had their roots in the ladies tea-parties of the seventeenth centuries, but evolved during the eighteenth century into something of a national institution. Tradition has it that afternoon tea was ‘invented’ by Anna Maria, the wife of the seventh Duke of Bedford, who in 1841 started drinking tea and having a bite to eat in the mid-afternoon, to tide her over during the long gap between lunch (eaten at about 1 o’clock) and dinner (eaten at around 7 o’clock). This swiftly developed into a social occasion, and soon the Duchess was inviting guests to join her for afternoon tea at 5 o’clock. It did not become instantly popular elsewhere though, partly because in fashionable circles dinner was eaten earlier, leaving less of a gap to be filled by afternoon tea. But by the 1860s the fashion for afternoon tea had become widespread. Such teas were elegant affairs, with tea drunk from the best china and small amounts of food presented perfectly on little china plates. On offer might be bread and butter, scones and cakes, and sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

Some poorer households also adopted the practice of afternoon tea, and in some areas women pooled their resources and equipment in order to make such occasions affordable. But more common among the working classes was ‘high tea’. During the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, when most people worked in agriculture, the working classes tended to have the main meal of their day at midday, with a much lighter supper late in the evening. But after the industrial revolution, more and more people were employed for long shifts in factories or mines, and hot midday meals were thus less convenient. They were also not appropriate for the increasing numbers of children who were at school during the day. The custom developed of having a high tea in the late afternoon, at the end of the working day, consisting of strong tea, and hearty, hot food. Unlike afternoon tea, high tea was the main meal of the day, rather than a stop-gap between lunch and dinner.

I truly appreciate the UK Tea Council writers for explaining the difference in these two customs. In the future, I intend to be more conscientious when discussing tea customs. If the meal served with the tea is on the lighter side, I shall refer to it as Afternoon Tea. Whereas if the meal is hearty in nature, I shall refer to the event as High Tea.

Please share your tea-drinking experiences. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking! 

Reference: United Kingdom Tea Council, A Social History of the Nation’s Favourite Drink, retrieved electronically on April 26, 2008 from http://www.tea.co.uk/index.php?pgId=98

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As a belated birthday gift two of my co-workers treated me to “High Tea” at Mrs. Teapots. It was a wonderful time amongst friends!

You can experience High Tea at Mrs. TeaPots at various times throughout the day. A reservation is required – but other than that your only responsibility is to arrive on time. Our reservations were at 1:15 p.m. and we did not leave until 2:45 p.m. This was my first tea experience at Mrs. Mrs. Teapots and I enjoyed the leisurely pace in which the courses were served.

Our first order… the tea. The three of us shared two pots of tea – Royal Wedding and Apricot Cream. I know very little about either of these two teas; therefore, I can only provide a modified review. The first tea I had the pleasure of drinking was the Apricot Cream:

Name: Apricot Cream

Aroma: Apricot

Liquor: Burnished orange

Flavor: A definite fruit flavor. The apricot was sweet, yet not overpowering. I tasted with and without honey – the honey enhanced the apricot flavor

After enjoying a delicious cup of the Apricot Cream. I unceremoniously progressed to the Royal Wedding:

Name: Royal Wedding

Aroma: Sweet – not necessarily fruity.

Liquor: Light brown with red tones.

Flavor: Sweet yet floral flavor. A combination I have never experienced. I tasted both with and without honey – it was enjoyable either way.

Once the tea arrived, the food immediately followed. I will describe the food by courses.

Course 1: A salad of mixed greens, carrots and tomato with your choice of dressing – Apricot Vinaigrette or Ranch. I opted for the Apricot Vinaigrette. The dressing was delicious! The dressing reminded me of a well seasoned Italian dressing with the addition of fresh apricots that added a pleasant sweetness. There was also a fantastic slice of cheese and asparagus quiche.

Course 2: Zucchini bread and chocolate chip scone – white and milk chocolate. This was served with a tasty pistachio cream – a mix between butter and cream cheese. In addition there was a dainty champagne glass filled with fresh fruit.

Course 3: This course included well seasoned chicken salad on a croissant AND a tasty , bite-sized pretzel sandwich. The pretzel sandwich was made of pretzel bread sprinkled with a little salt, a strawberry cream cheese spread, a moderate slice of cucumber and tomato. This was the best finger sandwich I have ever eaten. I would have taken four of those over the chicken salad. This is not to say the chicken salad was not good, but the pretzel sandwich stole the show.

Course 4: A medium slice of chocolate cake, a fabulous pecan tart, AND a chocolate covered strawberry.

Please understand each of us were served every item listed above. I was unable to finish it all, not to mention completely stuffed. You can only imagine my surprise every time I received the next course.

If you are ever in the Kentucky area you must visit Mrs. Teapots. Not only will you receive superior service, you will enjoy delicious tea while seated in the most quaint environment. Mrs. Teapots is chock full of teas and tea accessories to not only ooh and aah over, but to purchase as well. The best part of it all… you will never leave hungry!

Until then…Happy Tea Drinking!

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