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

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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.

 

Going Native

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

Going Native 1I rarely consume dairy milk, but I wasn’t crazy about most of the alternatives until I discovered the wonders of coconut milk. I’m not talking about the highly diluted version sold in Tetra Paks that you can find on store shelves next to the almond, soy, and hemp milks. I mean the thick, creamy coconut milk sold in cans that is located in the ethnic foods section of most supermarkets.

I found my way to canned coconut milk when I was looking for a natural, non-dairy creamer to use in my morning coffee and brewed chocolate. I like to control the amount and type of sweetener I add, but all of the soy and coconut creamers I’ve come across contain sugar, and the milk alternatives are too light to replace creamer. When I decided to try canned coconut milk, I went…well…coconuts!

Going Native 2Over the years, I’ve tried many different brands and grades of coconut milk, and Native Forest is, in my opinion, the best of the bunch. It comes in three varieties, but I’ve only seen the Classic and Light versions at my local market. The Light Coconut Milk has a beautifully smooth texture and a mild, sweet flavor that mixes well with coffee and tea. It can be thinned with water and poured over cereal or used in any recipe that calls for milk. I use the full-fat Classic Coconut Milk to make non-dairy ice cream and whipped coconut cream. Melt a bar of dark chocolate in a pan of hot coconut milk for the most swoon-worthy cup of hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted.

All of Native Forest’s coconut milks are organic and come packaged in BPA-free cans. Once opened, the milk should be consumed within four days, but I get around this by freezing it in ice cube trays. I just pop a few cubes out every couple of days and let them thaw in the fridge until I need them. The cans are shelf-stable for years, so I always keep several on hand.

This past week, I saw Native Forest coconut milk at Trader Joe’s, where they were selling it for half the price I normally pay. Previously, I’d only found the brand at health food stores and high-end markets, so I asked an employee about it. He said that Trader Joe’s is repackaging its own coconut milk and sourced the Native Forest brand to offer as an alternative in the meantime. I have no idea how long the situation will last, so I suggest you look for this fantastic deal and milk it for all it’s worth.

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Native Forest Organic Coconut Milk

 

Native Forest coconut milk is sold at Whole Foods and some health food stores. It is available at Trader Joe’s for a limited time.

 

Update 7/20/16:

Native Forest Coconut Milk PowderNative Forest now offers a convenient Coconut Milk Powder. Just like their canned coconut milks, the powdered version is vegan and gluten-free. It dissolves instantly in hot water, making it ideal for use as a non-dairy creamer. It also comes in a resealable pouch that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, so it’s great for travel or if (like me) you don’t have a fridge at work. Mix with cocoa powder and a little xylitol for a quick and easy sugar-free hot chocolate. That may not sound appealing in the midst of this heat wave, but fall will be here before you know it, so enjoy your summer vacation and be sure to take the powder when you take a powder.

Native Forest Coconut Milk can be purchased at Sprouts, the stores mentioned above, or online from AmazonEdward & Sons, and Thrive Market.

 

‘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

 

 

White Rose Iced Tea

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cold Drinks, Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Recipes

White Rose 1One thing you will soon learn about us over at The Swoon Society is that we love any food or drink involving floral notes. There is something so lovely about a cupcake with rose frosting or a cocktail with violet liqueur. Some people don’t like eating or drinking things that taste like flowers, and some extracts or liqueurs can be too cloying or sweet, but when the stars are aligned and the flavor is just right…man, it’s magical.

One of my quick, non-alcoholic, go-to party drinks is iced tea made with Numi White Rose tea. It’s organic and light and definitely not too sweet. People are always curious about it and when they taste it, they kind of go crazy. Even guys like it. It’s very refreshing and turns a ho-hum beverage into something people talk about and, well, swoon over.White Rose 2

WHITE ROSE ICED TEA

3 Numi White Rose tea bags
2 cups boiling hot water
1 quart cold water
Handful of bruised mint leaves
2 Tbsp agave or sugar (optional)
Ice
Organic rose petals and mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Place the tea bags in the 2 cups of boiling water and let steep for about 7 minutes. Let cool. Pour tea into a pitcher and add the cold water, mint and agave, if using. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or more. Pour into glasses with ice and serve with extra mint leaves and organic rose petals for garnish. Serves 6.

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Numi Organic White Rose Tea

 

Numi Tea is also available at many grocery and specialty stores, including Whole Foods, Sprouts and World Market.

 

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