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.

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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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Cacao Shell Tea

 

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

 

*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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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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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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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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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.

 

‘SKusmi While I Drink My Tea

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

SKusmi 1Shortly after Kirsti and I had our life-changing brush with culinary violet on a trip to France several years ago, I was scouring the Internet in my never-ending quest for the perfect violet flavor when I came across Kusmi Violette tea. I had never heard of Kusmi, but as a regular tea drinker and newly-minted violet enthusiast, I immediately ordered a large canister. I was a little wary after the number of disappointments I’d had in my search for a true violet extract, but the contents of this tin did not let me down. The floral scent is delicate beneath the robust aroma of black tea, but it smells and tastes like real violets. The brew instantly became my favorite and has remained so to this day.

Based in Paris since 1917, the Kousmichoff company—shortened to Kusmi—was founded in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1867 and achieved success with its special tea blends, including one that became a favorite with the tsar. Even today, their gilded and vibrantly-colored packaging evokes the Baroque interiors of the Winter Palace and brings to mind steaming samovars and White Nights.

SKusmi 2Kusmi is known for its Russian tea blends, and when my friend Mika returned from a recent visit to the South of France, she surprised me with a sampler containing some of their most popular varieties: Anastasia, Bouquet of Flowers N˚108 (Kusmi’s oldest recipe and the choice of tsars), Christmas Tea, Imperial Label, Kashmir Tchai, Prince Vladimir, and St. Petersburg (both black and green versions). While I normally prefer loose tea, all of the blends are uniquely delicious and fresh in their individual muslin bags. I particularly enjoyed the Bouquet of Flowers N˚108, which combines Earl Grey with citrus fruits and flowers. If it’s good enough for the ruler of Imperial Russia…

Knowing that Kusmi’s Violette tea wasn’t just a one-hit wonder, and having eight other tempting varieties on hand to sip and savor, I hope you’ll ‘sKusmi while I drink my tea.

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Kusmi Tea

 

Kusmi teas are available in the States from the company’s U.S. website and can also be purchased at Amazon and a variety of online retailers.

 

A Bouquet of Tea Roses

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

Rose Tea 1I don’t remember exactly how I was first introduced to Davidson’s teas, but the moment I first tasted one of their rose varieties, I knew I would never forget it. I initially purchased their Valentine Tea to serve to a group of friends on Valentine’s Day. Like Kirsti, I love anything rose-flavored, so the thought of sipping “rich organic Indian white tea, sprinkled with lovely organic scarlet roses and lightly scented with fragrant rose oil” caused me to swoon with anticipation.

It is rare when something exceeds your expectations, but this tea was everything I’d hoped for and more. I could smell the sweet scent of roses before I’d even opened the bag, and the tea itself was beautiful with its profusion of dried rose petals. I watched each guest inhale the perfumed steam rising from her teacup, then sigh in pleasure after taking a sip. Befitting the occasion, everyone fell in love with this tea.

Afterwards, I sat with the Davidson’s catalog and compiled a wish list. I quickly discovered that they offer two other rose-flavored varieties: Jasmine Rose green tea and Rose Congou black tea. Rose Tea 2Since jasmine is one of my favorites, I ordered the Jasmine Rose, while Kirsti asked me to get her a pound of the Rose Congou (which she shared, good friend that she is). Both contain the same aromatic rose oil and dried rose petals as the Valentine Tea, while each has its own individual character.

The Valentine Tea is perfect for those times when I prefer a lighter tea without a lot of caffeine. I enjoy the Jasmine Rose in the afternoons, when the green tea provides a little pick-me-up and the blend of jasmine and roses reminds me of strolling through a sun-warmed garden. The Rose Congou is my choice in the morning when I want to start the day with a more intense, eye-opening brew. All three teas are organic and taste wonderful iced.

Spring may be here with summer on its heels, but you can enjoy a bouquet of tea roses at any time of year with this tempting trio. Pinkies up!

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Davidson’s Organic Valentine Tea
Davidson’s Organic Jasmine Rose Tea
Davidson’s Organic Rose Congou Tea

 

 

Pretty in Pink

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

Pretty in Pink 1Prepare to swoon over this blushing brew, which smells like caramel, tastes like candied almonds, and provides an unexpected pop of color. In its dry state, the Caramel Almond Amaretti tea from Teavana is beautiful enough to use as potpourri. Pretty in Pink 2A fragrant medley including chopped cinnamon sticks, dried apple and coconut, the blend has the warm shades of toffee and honey, which give no hint to the vibrant color of the final brew. On its own, the steeped tea is a hot pink, while the addition of milk transforms it into the soft hue of cotton candy. In either case, it’s a showstopper. Set it out at your next tea party and watch guests marvel at the transformation, or just treat yourself—you deserve it! The intoxicating aroma and warm, comforting flavor make this a swoon-worthy tea to have on hand.

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Teavana Caramel Almond Amaretti Tea