Sometimes it's the adventure that calls, and other times it's the chill. Steeping tea is relaxing to me both to do and to watch. It calms my mind and my body and I hope it will do the same for you. This session is without music, along the lines of ambient and ASMR experiences it is just the sounds of the tea making, the water, the room the movement.
I am steeping a milk oolong here. It isn't a super high quality one so I only did four rounds in this gongfu inspired session. The creaminess disappeared quickly, but gave way to the feeling of a beach at the ocean with the salt water flowing over slate. The leaves did a beautiful unfurling in the water. Enjoy.
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I am not ashamed that during this past year as an artist I became a member of the covid cocktail club (can I hear a “yes” from my fellow members?) I’ve often used tea in cocktails and to infuse spirits, but not long ago I discovered a new way to get tea in my more potent drinks - tea bitters.
Thanks to moderate reopening I was at an awesome vintage bar with a friend. This place has actually been around since the 1700s and has so far survived the pandemic. I was looking for something simple, so I went for vodka and soda with bitters on the rocks. I asked about the bartender’s selection of bitters. That got me wondering if there are any tea bitters out there. Smart phone at the ready I found a few of them. One was chai-based with a ton of spices and another where the tea seemed like a background player. But then I found 18-21 Earl Grey tea bitters. That sounded much more like tea was the star (as it should be), so I tried them out.
They weren't as Intense or aromatic as I thought they would be. There are many versions of Earl Grey out there and this is more a subtle version than a triple bergamot version, but still a tasty easy way to get a tea buzz. I found myself using more than just a few drops of them in the simple cocktails I was making. First, it was great just having the bitters and vodka over ice with club soda or plain seltzer. Then I started playing around and found a couple of other satisfying combinations.
Most of the recipes I found online were more complex than I wanted to be (or had the access to be at the time). Sometimes simple is what’s needed. I played with what I had on hand and came up with the following. One cocktail uses St. Germain liqueur and another, inspired by a tea I used to drink, uses fresh blackberries and fresh sage. The recipes are below. These are our household names for these cocktails. It's 2021, we're not out of the woods yet, so get your tea cocktailing on!
Bring Me Flowers and Tea
1 dropper full of Earl Grey tea bitters (or to taste)
½ oz. St. Germaine
1 ½ oz. vodka
Top with seltzer or club soda to taste
You can either put the top 3 ingredients in a glass with ice, stir and then add seltzer, or put the top 3 in a shaker with ice, shake, strain into glass and then add seltzer. I tried both and prefer the first.
Note: Often bitters are used in cocktails as a little extra spice, just a few drops in a recipe. To keep it simple I'm using the tea bitters more strongly here. Alternatively, you could brew a plain black tea in a couple ounces of water, use that in the cocktail with a few drops of these Earl Grey bitters for extra panache.
4-5 fresh blackberries
2-3 fresh sage leaves
Sugar to taste
1 dropper full of Earl Grey tea bitters (or to taste)
1 ½ oz vodka
Seltzer or soda to taste
Muddle together the fresh blackberries, Sage leaves and sugar in a glass or shaker (If you want a chunky cocktail use a glass, if you want to strain it clear use the Shaker. No judgments.) Add bitters, vodka and ice and either stir if using the glass, or shake and then strain into a glass if using the shaker. Add Seltzer or soda to taste.
If you give these a try let me know on Twitter or Facebook. Happy cocktailing!
Here are some more entertaining articles from fellow covid cocktailers:
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Hey tea lovers! I have a couple of very cool tea focused Christmas gift ideas to share with you from Adagio Teas. They sent me their 2020 Tea Advent Calendar and 12 Days of Christmas tea ornaments gift to check out. The video above gives you a sneak peak of what’s inside. Don’t worry, it’s not a spoiler alert. I only show one tea in the Advent Calendar so you can still be surprised with a new tea every day. The 12 Days of Christmas comes with a tea list though, and I do reveal that.
The advent calendar is available in tea bag or loose tea format. Note, the teas for the loose version are different than for the bagged one. So get both! (I like ‘and’ in this case more than ‘or’.)
I have already dug into these teas and want to share notes on a couple. The black Cream Tea, which is in the 12 Days... as Eight Maids a Milking Cream Tea, tastes as good as it smells. I don’t buy a lot of flavored teas but sometimes they just hit the right note. The leaves have a scent of sweet cream. Brewed it is creamy and slightly sweet on its own, but I think the taste is brought out best with honey and a bit of milk.
This tea is also available in a sample size, 3 oz., 16 oz. and a 15 bag box. The tea base is Ceylon and there is no sugar or dairy in it, just natural flavoring.
Another holiday inspired tea is the Pu-erh Chorange, available loose and in bags. It smells and tastes like the classic Terry’s Chocolate Orange candy! (Now I want one.) I liked this tea naked (The tea, not me. Though I have nothing against naked tea drinking. Drink your tea wearing what you want!) It’s also great with a bit of honey to bring out the sweetness. The puerh is gently earthy, round and smooth creating a great base for the balancing act of the chocolate and orange.
On the caffeine-free end I tried the Rooibos Nutcracker. The hazelnut and chestnut notes were what really grabbed my attention in this blend. It also includes apple, cocoa nibs and caramel flavor. I folded some homemade whipped cream in this tea and it was like Christmas dessert in a cup. This is a good one if you want to roll around in the season without getting a caffeine high.
It’s an unusual holiday season for many. I realize I am appreciating every moment of beauty, fun and kindness more than ever. Wishing you some of the joy of the holidays in your cup.
Note: Though Adagio did provide teas I am not an affiliate and these are just links to products mentioned for ease. Enjoy!
Happy International Tea Day everyone! This is the first official observance of this international day. For those who don’t know, this isn’t just a day to celebrate your tea love. This day was created to put a focus on the needs of tea workers, the industry, the importance of sustainability, and the worldwide impact of tea economically as well as culturally.
Brief Tea Day History
An unofficial International Tea Day was celebrated in 2005 in New Delhi. It is now an official day of observance each May 21 as decreed by the United Nations General Assembly:
“In 2015, during a meeting in Milan, Italy, the IGG on Tea discussed the idea of an International Tea Day. The proposal was then endorsed by the FAO Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) and subsequently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2019” - Wikipedia
Drought, Prices and Hard Times for Tea Workers
The tea industry has been hard hit by recent droughts and fires that have actually destroyed some ancient tea trees particularly in the Yunnan province. (Check out my Tea from a Drought Year post.)
When you see a higher price point for some of your favorite teas, especially the rare ones, understand that there are plantations and workers who have been dealing with reduced harvests and lack of employment prior to covid-19 because of drought and fire damage. The cost increases are justified considering the smaller yields. The taste of the tea when it has gone through a drought is really unique it is and worth the higher price point for that too.
To learn even more about this official day check out the United Nations site. There was also a webcast today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) bringing together professionals from major tea producing countries around the world. They discuss tea varieties and how they are part of cultural events and pay homage to those who have passed on the love of tea from generation to generation. You can see the webcast here: http://www.fao.org/webcast/home/en/item/5271/icode/
There’s been a lot of talk about mindfulness in regard to health and how we view our world. International Tea Day is a great opportunity to appreciate the beverage you love, the earth that nurtured it, and all of the human hands that came together to bring it to you. In some ways tea really does bring the world together.
Share a picture of your tea or tell us what you are drinking in social!
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