Tea for 2

Author: Kirsten K., Author: Kirsti Kay, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Tea

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♪ ♫ Here at The Swoon Society
There’s tea for two and two for tea
To toast our anniversary with you…♩ ♬

The Swoon Society turns 2 today!

Join the chorus (and the Doris)
as we celebrate with the festive
Birthday Cake blend from DAVIDsTEA.

..

☕ Cheers to two great years! ☕

Happy Swooniversary!

 

 

Hive Talkin’

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Sweets, Tea, Wellness

Last weekend, I attended an event for Earth Day that included a presentation by The Valley Hive, a beekeeping outfit based in the northeast San Fernando Valley. They were invited to discuss the threat to honeybees and what’s being done to protect them—and, by extension, our food supply. This was serendipity, because I’d been wanting to learn more about The Valley Hive since visiting their kiosk at a local mall and tasting a “flight” of honeys.

Head beekeeper Keith Roberts led the presentation with an entertaining and informative talk about the tools and techniques used in beekeeping. He shared some surprising facts about honeybees, which are more fascinating than I’d imagined. Did you know that a hive functions as a pure democracy, with the bees making decisions by consensus that, scientists have discovered, are correct about 98% of the time? We could learn a lot from them about cooperation vs. competition.

But there IS some competition, which occurs when a queen dies or disappears from the hive. Sensing her absence, the bees will start feeding large amounts of royal jelly to a number of larvae. This high-protein substance causes the developing bees to transform into queens, which, upon hatching, will engage in a fight to the death until a single victor emerges. If one of the queens should hatch before the others, she will spear her remaining sisters in a Shakespearean act of mass regicide (and a few other -cides). Hamlet’s got nothing on the hive.

Despite the drama, this story has a sweet ending. The bees make and store honey for food, but produce much more than they actually need, so we humans can skim a little off the top without harming the hive. Honey is rich in antioxidants and never spoils. It has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties and can speed the healing of wounds and burns. While I hear every spring about eating local honey to protect against seasonal allergies, Keith says the results of this practice have never exceeded the placebo effect in scientific studies (having recently read Suggestible You by Erik Vance, I’ve developed a healthy respect for the placebo effect).

Still, it’s always a good idea to support your friendly neighborhood beekeepers by purchasing local honey (defined as anything within 300 miles). Honey is naturally viscous, so large-scale producers must heat it above a certain temperature in order to fill assembly line bottles quickly, which destroys some of its beneficial properties. If your honey has a thin consistency or never crystallizes, it’s probably been subjected to high heat or “honey laundering,” so buy raw and local whenever possible.

Over the years, I’ve purchased many different varietals of honey, from alfalfa to tupelo, but I’d never had the opportunity to try several all at once until sampling the lineup from The Valley Hive. With just a taste of each, I was able to compare the nuances of avocado, buckwheat, orange blossom, sage, and wildflower honeys. It’s amazing to discover how different they are when experienced side-by-side. Sage and orange blossom, both light and extra sweet, are perfect for adding to hot or iced tea. Buckwheat is dark and strong, so it pairs well with pungent cheeses and imparts richness to barbecue sauce. Avocado was described to me as savory and has an almost buttery flavor, making it ideal for dressings and sauces. I bought a jar of wildflower honey for myself (because floral) and a jar of avocado for Kirsti, who likes to cook.

The best news we heard was that honeybee populations have been steadily rebounding over the past few years after the devastation caused by Colony Collapse Disorder. While CCD continues to be an issue, its causes are better understood today as beekeepers, scientists, and agribusiness work together to protect these vital contributors to the well-being and beauty of our ecosystem.

Small-scale beekeepers are usually passionate about the environment and the integrity of their honey, so remember that the “buzz” word is local. By supporting local beekeepers, you also support local agriculture and promote diversity, so get a bee in your bonnet to find a small-batch producer near you (or online), because when honeybees thrive, life is sweeter for everyone.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

The Valley Hive

 

 

Sharing o’ the Green

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Tea, Wellness

What is it about mints and gum that prompts people to share? I can’t remember a time that I’ve been out with a group of friends when I haven’t had an open tin or pack offered to me. It’s like the universal gesture of amity and goodwill. In this spirit of generosity, I will share with you my sweet secret for healthy teeth, fresh breath, and a strong jaw: Green Tea Chewing Gum from Spry.

As I’ve written about before, I am a stickler for oral hygiene, but I’ve had my share of dental issues over the years. One hygienist I spoke with said she’s seen patients who are meticulous about brushing and flossing, but have new cavities with every visit, while others never floss and don’t brush regularly, yet enjoy a mouthful of flawless pearly whites. Genetics, diet, and lifestyle all play a factor, but you can tip the scales in your favor by chewing gum daily.

Not all gums are created equal, however. Some contain sugar and are little better than candy, while others are filled with artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose. Spry uses xylitol, a naturally-derived sweetener that reduces cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect teeth and gums while neutralizing unpleasant odors.* I also find that Spry gum is slightly tougher than most other chewing gums I’ve tried, which is great for strengthening the teeth and jaw.

Beautiful on Raw gives a concise explanation for how thorough chewing can inhibit bone loss and increase density by applying stress to the teeth and jaw, which draws bone-building minerals to the area. It also increases the flow of calcium-and-phosphorus-rich saliva to help prevent tooth demineralization. I have a friend who is primarily interested in how chewing gum regularly can change the shape of one’s face, giving it a more attractive structure.† In any case, the practice is so easy and the benefits so numerous that it’s time to get busy chewing!

I like to chew gum for 5-10 minutes after I eat and 45 minutes to an hour on my nightly walk. I simply pop a piece in my mouth before I head out the door, then discard it when I return. This way, I get in a good amount of daily exercise without offending anyone by chewing in social situations.

But why green tea? Simply because it tastes great! Sugarless gums all seem to come in standard flavors of peppermint, spearmint, cinnamon, and fruit, but the Green Tea version from Spry has an almost floral note that is refreshingly unique. You won’t need mint to freshen your breath when xylitol is on the job.

This St. Patrick’s Day, instead of looking over a four-leaf clover, turn over a new leaf and start chewing on the idea of deliciously improving the health and beauty of your mouth and jaw with Spry Green Tea gum. Then pay it forward by sharing o’ the green.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Spry Green Tea Chewing Gum

 

Spry gum can be found at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and The Vitamin Shoppe, but many stores don’t stock the Green Tea flavor, so look for it online from Xlear and Amazon.

 

*Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs and cats, so NEVER leave an open purse or container of xylitol-sweetened gum within reach of your pets.

†For this purpose, he recommends Falim gum, which is quite tough to chew. I tried it once and could definitely feel the stress on my teeth and jaw, but I didn’t enjoy the taste or the level of difficulty involved.

 

Tea Drops – The Cutest Tea You Will Ever Drink

Author: Kirsti Kay, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Philanthropy, Tea

rose-earl-grey-tea-dropsForget your single origin oolongs, your hipster matcha tea shops, and your precious high tea at fancy hotels. I have discovered the cutest tea in the world and you can drink it in your own home, wearing that dirty Aerosmith t-shirt while binge-watching Santa Clarita Diet. It’s called Tea Drops and it will make you wonder why you ever bothered with tea bags or fumbled with a messy tea ball.

Tea Drops are individually packaged organic teas pressed into darling little shapes that steep instantly in hot water and contain just the right amount of pure organic cane sugar—a self-contained Cute Bomb! Simply put a Tea Drop in your favorite teacup and pour boiling water over and you have a delicious cup of perfectly measured, sweetened, spiced tea.

Founder and CEO Sashee Chandra grew up in a tea drinking household, but discovered when she started working in the real world that making tea the old-fashioned way was inefficient, especially in the fast-paced environments of today’s companies, so she created a way to make a fancy tasting cup of tea quickly. By shaping tea into fun shapes with sweetener and spices, she created the perfect cuppa for the girl (or boy) on the go. By packaging her tea in biodegradable and compostable wrapping and boxes, Sashee gives us even more reasons to go on a tea spree.

tea-dropsWith flavors like Cardamom Spice, Citrus Ginger, Sweet Peppermint and—my favorite—Rose Earl Grey, there is a tea for everyone. Tea Drops are made from organic tea leaves (not instant tea), so there is some sediment that will linger at the bottom of your cup, but it is perfectly fine to drink. Many enjoy drinking the sediment as part of their tea experience, but you can always leave the last sip if that’s not your thing.

If the adorable shapes and unique flavors aren’t enough to get you to take the plunge, Tea Drops also donates a YEAR’S SUPPY OF CLEAN WATER to a person in need with every order, no matter how small! Without water, there would be no tea, and without tea, there would be no scones or jam or clotted cream, and without scones or jam or clotted cream, there would be no happiness, so it’s so nice to know that by soothing your soul with beautiful tea, you are helping people at the same time. You can also donate $25 through the company’s website to Thirst Project, which provides a lifetime of water to someone in need.

With so many reasons to try Tea Drops, why not join the #CommuniTEA today?

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Tea Drops

 

Click here to learn more about the partnership between Tea Drops and Thirst Project.

 

Almond Joy

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Tea

winter-palace-marzipan-rooibos-1Forget politics. This year, the most heated debate at the Thanksgiving table began when my brother-in-law declared his aversion to marzipan. For the half of us with German heritage, those were fighting words. Although it is beloved by many cultures around the world, marzipan is the German name for a paste made from sugar and ground almonds that is often shaped into special figures to give and serve during the holidays. Growing up, it was a treat to visit my parents’ German friends at Christmastime and receive a gift of marzipan molded in the shapes of fruit.

winter-palace-marzipan-rooibos-2My love for this almond confection is equaled only by my devotion to tea, so it was serendipity when I discovered Winter Palace Marzipan Rooibos from The Tea Shoppe. A ruddy blend with intense almond flavor, this crimson concoction tastes like a brewed bonbon. While rooibos does not contain any actual tea leaves, it makes an herbal infusion that is commonly referred to as “bush tea” in its native South Africa. It is caffeine-free and has a number of health benefits, but the variety was likely chosen in this blend for its warm hue and mild flavor, which allows the almond to dominate.

With its coppery color and flecks of dried fruit and slivered almonds, Winter Palace Marzipan Rooibos would make a merry gift for any almond and/or tea enthusiasts on your list…including yourself! Savor a sip by the tree as you hum O Tannenbaum, or host a holiday tea and pair it with German lebkuchen and marzipan stollen. With a hot cup on hand, you’ll manage those mounds of holiday tasks in a state of pure almond joy.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Winter Palace Marzipan Rooibos

 

Winter Palace Marzipan Rooibos is also available from Amazon and a variety of online retailers.

 

Shell-Stocked

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, History, Hot Drinks, Tea

cacao-shell-teaThis presidential campaign has left many Americans feeling shell-shocked. The divisive rhetoric, constant twists and turns, arguments among friends and family members, and contentious result have brought a new level of anxiety to an already incendiary topic. When I’m stressed, I usually deal with it by making myself a hot cup of tea, enjoying a bit of chocolate, and reading up on a favorite subject—such as American history—which is why I’ve been keeping my cabinets well-stocked with Martha Washington’s cacao shell tea.

The latest twist on drinking chocolate, cacao tea is actually a Colonial American tradition.martha-washington An invigorating brew made from roasted cacao shells, Martha Washington’s Chocolate Shell Infusion is as delicious today as it was during her tenure as First Lady. Cacao shells are the husks that encase cocoa beans before they are removed during chocolate production. When steeped in hot water (at least 10 minutes for optimal flavor), they create a tasty caffeine-free beverage with just a touch of chocolate’s natural stimulants, making it a great way to start the day or end the evening. According to the label, Martha Washington enjoyed sipping cacao shell tea at breakfast.

While the roasted shells have a similar aroma to brewed chocolate, the infusion has its own unique flavor profile. Cacao tea has a delicate bouquet and mild bitterness that is completely unlike hot cocoa or chocolate-flavored black teas, delivering the essence of chocolate without the richness or the jitters. For a treat that’s lighter than hot chocolate and won’t keep me up at night, I add a little milk and sweetener. When I want a more intense flavor, I heat the shells and water together on the stove for several minutes before straining into a teacup. It’s a versatile brew fit for both the White House* and your own house.

tea-party-politics

It was tea that got this party—and these Parties—started, so why not host a post-election tea and serve Martha Washington’s Chocolate Shell Infusion? It may not contain any actual tea, but it might help you form a more perfect union, because whether you gather to celebrate or commiserate, cacao tea is sure to get the popular vote.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Cacao Shell Tea

 

Martha Washington’s Chocolate Shell Infusion is available directly from the producer, Oliver Pluff & Company, which also makes a mint version.

 

*Yes, I am aware that Martha Washington never lived in the White House.

 

The Big Steep

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Tea

back-from-the-deadJust in time for Halloween, DAVIDsTEA has “resurrected” three of its past seasonal teas and boxed them up in a cute coffin (I can’t help myself—it’s cute!). Reminiscent of the Haunted House Collection from Moonstruck Chocolate, this “casket of tea storables” includes two bloodcurdling brews and one fall-friendly flavor to warm your spirits—or summon them.

swampwater

Enjoy drinking this Swampwater.

Kirsti and I recently returned from a trip to New Orleans where we took a swamp tour, so I was eager to try a sip of Swampwater. This caffeine-free rooibos blend steeps to a dark, murky green, but features the bright tropical flavors of papaya and passion fruit. It’s a must-have for your Halloween-themed drink table or bar. Scare up a creepy cocktail by adding a splash of simple syrup and a bit of BOOze.

swamp-water

Avoid drinking this swamp water.

Stormy Nights creates a tempest in a teapot with black tea, dark chocolate, and fiery spices that will reanimate you to face a whirlwind of trick-or-treaters, while the soothing sweetness of coconut and vanilla helps you remain calm in the eye of the storm.

DAVIDsTEA has its roots in Canada, so it was natural for the company to create a blend featuring the sweet sap of the maple tree. Maple Sugar is a black tea with apple, cinnamon, and maple syrup pieces. Evoking the aromas of crisp waffles and hot apple pie, it’s comfort in a cup.

In addition to bringing this trio of teas Back From The Dead, the Halloween collection from DAVIDsTEA includes a Book of Spells with six bewitching blends, a Haunted Castle Box containing a tin of Stormy Nights and a mug with bats in flight, and a ghoulish gathering of teas and accessories. These items are only available for a limited time, so get yours before they’re dearly departed.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Back From The Dead Seasonal Tea Trio

 

 

My Lover’s Cup Runneth Over

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Tea

Lover's Cup 1I enjoy a variety of teas throughout the year, but every February 14th I brew myself a pot of Valentine Tea. I’ve been monogamous for years, but, as Valentine’s Day approaches, I find myself in a quandary, because I’ve recently taken a new “Lover.”

When my friend Stephanie treated me to afternoon tea at Chado in Pasadena a few months ago, it took us at least 20 minutes to peruse the dizzying array of choices on their extensive menu. Everything from white, green, and black teas to original blends and herbal tisanes was represented. I’m terrible at making decisions, but I’m drawn to anything floral, so I opted for the Lover’s Cup: a blend of white tea, rose petals, rose buds, safflowers, and raspberry flavor. I hesitated a bit over that last ingredient, because I’m not generally a fan of fruit teas, but I’m glad I made a date with this blend, because it has blossomed into a passionate relationship.

Lover's Cup 2Lover’s Cup has a similar perfume to Valentine Tea, but its rose flavor is noticeably different. The raspberry is so subtle that, if I hadn’t known it was in the blend, I never would have suspected it, yet there’s a sweetness and intensity to the floral notes that I attribute to the fruit. Valentine Tea is earthier (though no less delicious), but the raspberry in Lover’s Cup seems to enhance the flavor of rose the way that coffee can add depth to chocolate. As a white tea, Lover’s Cup has little caffeine, so my racing heart can only be due to my love for this brew.

Now, the question remains: will my Valentine be mine, or do I drink from my Lover’s Cup? Since I’m sips-positive, I think I’ll choose both this Valentine’s Day and engage in a ménage à thé. It might not be your cup of tea, but that’s what I call a pot party.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Chado Lover’s Cup White Tea

 

The only version of Lover’s Cup currently available on the Chado website is a rooibos blend including rose and jasmine. To purchase the white tea version featured in this post, visit a Chado Tea Room or call one of their locations to place an order.

Le Pain Quo-tea-dien

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Tea
Le Pain Quo-tea-dien 1

photo credit: Mika McDonald

I know a lady named Shannon who embodies the word “fabulous.” Her Facebook posts chronicle a dizzying array of activities, from living in places as diverse as Budapest and Atlanta, to enjoying a concert, seeing the ballet, catching a play, attending a movie premiere, or cheering on the L.A. Kings (Go Kings Go!) seemingly every night of the week in her home base of Los Angeles. When not visiting a museum, strolling through a public garden, or hiking to the top of Griffith Park, she can often be found in an elegant restaurant or bar around town savoring (and photographing) a sumptuous breakfast, lunch, dinner, or cocktail. From the top of her perfect blonde bun to the tips of her bejeweled sandals, she is card-carrying agent of S.W.O.O.N.

Le Pain Quo-tea-dien 2While our lives are very different, we happen to share a love of Tasha Tudor and afternoon tea, so when Shannon told me I simply MUST try the Brioche variety from American Tea Room, I quickly snapped up a bag. The blend is one of the company’s best sellers, and it’s easy to see—and taste—why. I never know if it’s a trick of my mind, but the flavor actually reminds me of bread. And though it may seem redundant, I like to pair it with a simple breakfast of toast or an almond croissant. There’s something incredibly comforting about the aroma and flavor of fresh bread and pastries, warm from the oven…or your teacup.

Now that fall is here and the reign of Pumpkin Spice has begun, I find myself craving the taste of almonds, cinnamon, and safflower blossoms instead. So, while the hordes wait in line for their lattes, I’ll be nesting at home, curled up in a cozy chair with a book and a steaming cup of tea, sipping my daily bread.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

American Tea Room Brioche Organic Black Tea

A Sup-herb Tea

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Tea, Wellness

A Sup-herb TeaEver on the lookout for all things elderflower, I spotted a familiar cluster of creamy white blossoms in the tea aisle of Whole Foods the other day. This organic blend from The Republic of Tea contains elderflowers, green rooibos, and natural elderberry flavor. It has the bright, floral essence of elderflower that I love with just a hint of sweet elderberry. The astringent properties of the flower make this an herbal brew that is best enjoyed on its own or with a little sweetener.

Elderflower is one of five blends in The Republic of Tea’s line of SuperHerb® teas. Apparently, elderflowers have long been used as a folk remedy to promote easy breathing. Who knew? As we prepare to leave summer behind and head into cold and flu season, this is good information to have. And for those avoiding stimulants, the blend is naturally caffeine-free, so stock up on canisters of this “super” herb and you can breathe easy this fall and winter.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

The Republic of Tea Organic Elderflower SuperHerb® Tea

 

In addition to Whole Foods, The Republic of Tea can be found at World Market and many supermarkets and health food stores.