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.


Talking S.H.O.P.

Author: Kirsten K., Author: Kirsti Kay, Fashion

TSS S.H.O.P.If you thought our logo and S.W.O.O.N. stamp would look great on a shirt, tote, mug, or button, you were right! You’re also in luck, because The Swoon Society S.H.O.P. is now open for business.

On the new S.H.O.P. page of our blog you can read descriptions of each item and click the link for the Site Hosting Our Products to purchase clothing, drinkware, and accessories.

The only thing better looking than our logo on a T-shirt is you wearing one, so head over to The Swoon Society S.H.O.P. and bag some SSwag!

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The Swoon Society S.H.O.P.



Hot Off the French Press

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Hot Drinks
French Press 1

Cabaret Brewed Chocolate

Several years ago, I was introduced to the concept of brewing chocolate when I read about Cabaret Brewed Chocolate in a magazine. Seduced by the description of brewed, whole, raw cacao beans blended with evaporated cane juice to produce a thick liquid the consistency of maple syrup, I quickly purchased a jar online. The label recommended mixing two teaspoons of the syrup in one cup of hot water as an alternative to coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, adding milk, if desired. I prepared a cup and was…disappointed.

My favorite online review of the product listed one of the cons as, “Misleading expectation of decadence.” Many reviewers commented that the brew tasted like weak chocolate tea, instead of the rich cocoa flavor they were expecting. To my palate, it was surprisingly tangy with a slight chocolate overtone. I put it on a shelf and didn’t touch it for a couple of weeks, until one night when I was craving something sweet and made another cup, doubling the amount of syrup and adding a little milk. This time, I enjoyed it and ended up drinking it over the next few weeks until the jar was empty. A while later, I decided to place an order again when I found that the product had been discontinued. My adventures with brewed chocolate were over almost before they had begun.

French Press 2Years later, my friend Ray—a fellow chocolate enthusiast—alerted me to a new brewed chocolate product he’d discovered called Choffy. Following a similar process as that for producing coffee, cacao beans are roasted, ground, and sealed in 12 oz. bags. The product looks and brews just like coffee. To prepare Choffy, the company recommends using a French press, but any method for making a cup or pot of coffee will get the job done.

Now, I know why they chose the name, obviously: Chocolate + Coffee = Choffee → Choffy. But that word. It’s a lot to take. However, nothing so trivial as word aversion will deter a true chocoholic searching for a new angle, so I ordered a bag. This time, with no false illusions about brewed chocolate, I liked it. That tangy quality is still there, but the chocolate flavor is much more pronounced. I also enjoy the flexibility of making a weak or strong brew and choosing my own sweetener. I have not yet developed an appreciation for “black” Choffy, so I usually add milk and always sweeten the pot (or cup).

French Press 3Choffy comes in five varieties: Ivory Coast, IC Dark, La Española, Volta, and Volta Dark. Ivory Coast is the original and classic Choffy, while La Española is recommended for coffee lovers. I prefer the IC Dark for its bold flavor, although I usually purchase a variety set containing all three grinds. Volta and Volta Dark are Choffy’s newest flavors, and I haven’t had the opportunity to try them yet, but they are described as “exceptionally rich” and smooth. Whichever bag I grab, the first thing I do before making a cup is to stick my face in the opening and inhale. The heady aroma of roasted, ground cacao beans never fails to give me a lift.

I’m not gonna lie to you, though: brewed chocolate is an acquired taste. At least, it was for me. It doesn’t have the familiar flavor of hot chocolate, nor does it taste anything like coffee. So what makes it a Sip Worthy Of Our Notice? For one thing, it has an intriguing and unusual profile for those who desire something different. The theobromine in cacao is a gentler stimulant than caffeine, so it makes a nice alternative to coffee for people who want to reduce their intake. As a nightcap, the brew is lighter than hot cocoa and satisfies a chocolate craving without adding a lot of calories.

If you’re a chocolate lover, you’ll definitely want to add brewed chocolate to your repertoire. You may not switch to “Choffy” as your safe word, but if you want to make the switch from coffee, tea, or hot chocolate to a stimulating substitute, Choffy is a safe bet.

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In addition to brewed chocolate, the company sells its own set of French presses. Choffy can also be found at various retail locations using this map.

‘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



Loca for Mokka

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

I am not a morning person. For most of my life I’ve leapt out of bed with just enough time to throw on some clothes, run a brush through my hair, and grab a toaster pastry or a bowl of cereal before heading out the door. Savoring a mug of freshly-brewed coffee isn’t in the cards, so I never developed the habit of most Americans to start the day with a cup of joe. I acquired a taste for afternoon tea instead and almost took pride in the fact that I drank coffee only a few times a year.

Loca for Mokka 1A while ago, I started seeing bottles of cold-brewed coffee on the shelves of various local markets. The idea of simply adding hot water to a ready-made concentrate appealed to me, so I decided to try it out and found that I enjoyed having a cup of coffee with my croissant on the weekends. Using the concentrate, I began to drink coffee more and more frequently, although not enough to become addicted (unlike my co-swooner, whose sunny personality has been known to turn dark when her caffeine fix is not delivered in a timely manner).

Loca for Mokka 2One day, when I’d run out of cold-brewed coffee and hadn’t yet been to the store to buy another bottle, I saw an open bag of Maui Mokka coffee in my mother’s refrigerator, which she’d brought back from a recent trip to Hawaii. The bag was full and it smelled divine, so I decided to appropriate a small amount to hold me until I could buy more concentrate. Having only tea accoutrements, I put the coffee in a pot with hot water and let it sit for a few minutes before pouring the brew through a fine mesh strainer. Delicious!

When I ran out, I pilfered more coffee from the green bag in my mother’s fridge. I figured she wouldn’t notice such small amounts, but this went on for more than two months. On the day I realized that there were only a couple of scoops left in the bag, I knew the jig was up. Loca for Mokka 3Innocently, I asked her, “How attached are you to this Maui Mokka coffee?” This is my sly way of saying I want something (i.e., “How attached are you to this cookie?” “How attached are you to the rest of these potato chips?”), and the response is, invariably, “Oh, you can have it.” So I was dismayed when she said, “I’m saving it for when Sophia arrives [her friend who was soon to visit from Greece].” Damn.

I had to come clean. She was none too happy, so I offered to buy another bag online. In doing so, I discovered that MauiGrown Coffee refers to their Mokka variety as “our Champagne of coffee”—and that it was going to cost me more than $40 to have a bag shipped from Hawaii. Crime doesn’t pay, but I did!

Since then, I’ve had to drink other brands, but—though I’m by no means a connoisseur—I haven’t liked any coffee as well as the Maui Mokka. And, although my mother often drinks decaf, I suspect that she asked me to order the decaffeinated version for her because she knew I wouldn’t touch it. So I got the decaf and she got the last laugh. Alo-ha!

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Maui Mokka Coffee


Maui Mokka coffee can be obtained by ordering from the MauiGrown Coffee website or by hopping on a plane to Hawaii. I recommend the latter.


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