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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Yes, this is a tea blog. I don’t want anyone getting scared. But I’ve never been one for beverage bigotry. Being open minded about what can be done with tea opens up new realms of adventure. I was contacted by Howard Sobel (Ohio’s Bean Brain) of Crooked River Coffee out of Cleveland Ohio about pairing his coffee with tea. Tea and coffee together is an adventure I’ve been wanting to go on. Because I know the quality of his coffee is stellar, having had it before, I was even more jazzed by the idea. I’m going to share recipes I tried, benefits of drinking tea and coffee, and details from my chat with Howard on getting the best flavor out of your coffee.
Tea and Coffee Together
Tea and coffee blends aren’t new, they just aren’t super common. Now, tea is of course my best friend, but I‘ll hang with a good coffee sometimes. If you like both combining them is a new taste exploration.
There are benefits to imbibing both tea and coffee. There’s a great (and funny) article by Dave Brummert over at Evolv about the positive impact of chlorogenic acid in coffee and how the benefits in green tea are given a bump with coffee intake.
Another article by Heidi Hackler at the Chopra Center talks about the immunity and other boosts that come from both beverages.
Pairing the right coffee with the right tea is key. Howard sent me three blind samples (I think he was testing me on what I remember about his coffee. It was fun, though I wasn't spot on.)
Beans: small, dry, a medium cocoa brown
Taste: winey with a sweet start and citrusy finish
I thought it was: Tanzania Peaberry
It was really: Ethiopian
I had the right region but the wrong country. Howard said that my taste description was right on for coffees from that region of the world. I used this coffee in a coffee and green tea mix (see recipes below)
Beans: larger beans, dry, medium brown
Taste: fuller bodied, woody, smooth, more of a pleasantly bitter finish
I thought it was: South American. I had a fleeting thought it might be Sumatra, but dismissed it.
It was really: Sumatra!
I should have stuck with that fleeting first impression. This is very versatile coffee. I used it for the Down and Dirty, Dirty Chai and Customized Chai (recipe below)
Beans: mixed sizes, dark, oily
Taste: smooth, initial sweetness gives way to chicory, charred wood, leather, easy finish
I thought it was: a blend, but that’s all I got
It was really: ?? They forgot what they sent me, lol! So it’s the mystery coffee blend of a dark roast and an African coffee.
Here is what I played around with. With the Sumatra, I decided to try a variation on the famous ‘dirty chai’. Chai tea, with all of it’s warm spiciness and creamy deliciousness is a good fit for a coffee blend. A strong, full bodied black tea and spices stand up to the boldness of coffee without getting lost. I did two variations.
Down and Dirty, Dirty Chai
When all you have are basic chai tea bags and brewed coffee, you can still have a take on this more common tea and coffee blend. This is aimed at a 12-16 oz mug. (Does anyone actually drink a 6 oz. cup anymore?)
Customized Dirty Chai
make coffee by preferred method: espresso shot, french press, drip, cold brew….-( I like making a cold brew concentrate, then heating and adding to the chai. I enjoy cold brew coffee best. The lowered acidity means no stomach issues for me.)
Note: You can make the chai in one pot. Simmer spices in water. Then add milk and sweetener. Bring to simmer again, then turn off heat and steep tea in it. Strain into cup and add coffee.
Spices to try for a customized chai:
*These spices don’t do as well with long steeping times. They can become overpowering or change in flavor
Green Tea Coffee
This combo was trending a few years ago. This was a combination I thought could go either way. I mixed Sample A, the Ethiopian coffee, with a Ceylon sencha tea that had matcha in it. I thought the winey and citrusy notes of that coffee would pair well with the green tea, or be the best bet of the three.
It completely surprised me. I enjoyed the mix of the two. I brewed the coffee in a pour-over style and made the tea separately to honor the different water temperatures and brewing styles for each. After brewing, I mixed approximately three quarters green tea with one quarter coffee. The unique personalities of both the tea and the coffee came through the blend.
Then I made a green tea coffee latte:
Similar to the green tea coffee, this is a simple blend. I used a loose black puerh, steeping one teaspoon for 3 minutes. I brewed coffee Sample C, the dark mystery blend, in a pour over style.
I also liked this one mixed 50/50. This puerh has enough body and flavor to stand up to the bitterness of coffee without getting lost. I’d say the puerh even mellowed the coffee.
A Bit About Howard
and Crooked River Coffee
Crooked River roasts their coffees in-house. You can’t ask for fresher unless you pick the beans yourself beforehand (but leave this to the professionals and you can just enjoy the pristine beans.)
Old Fashioned B2C Personality
CRC sells wholesale of course, but also has retail clients they sell to via a farmer’s market and directly. They vend at their local farmer’s market because that is the place they get to engage with the consumer. Howard tries to take new customers from a lackluster experience to a great coffee experience. “We try to get into people’s palates and encourage them to experiment a lot. I like to be a teacher. That’s part of the joy of being in the business for 28 years.” - Howard
They have a website, but the way to order retail through Crooked River Coffee is to call the office at (440) 442-8330 and have a chat. They have a low retail minimum of 2 pounds of coffee per order.
Howard's Tips for the Best Coffee
Starting with fresh beans and grinding before brewing yields the best cup. Make sure the fineness of the grind fits the brewing method. Store beans in an airtight container away from sunlight. Don’t put them in the freezer.
Check out this coffee grind graphic from The National Coffee Association (Note: coarse is good for cold brew too):
If you don’t have a quality water filtration system at home, buy spring water. It’s a quick fix. Though it costs more it ensures you don’t have chlorine, lots of bacteria, scale, or sediment (which will damage your coffee maker).
Keep temperatures between 195 and 205 degrees to avoid scalding
A Note on Blooming: When coffee is fresh it gives off quite a bit of carbon dioxide when brewing. The gas pushes the water away from the coffee as it releases. If you pour a small amount of hot water over the grounds and let them sit for 20-30 seconds before brewing more flavor is released in the brewing process. Give it a try!
If you love quality coffee like you love quality tea check out Crooked River Coffee for some of the freshest, most delightful coffee you can get. Then go wild! Use herbs and other tisanes like chocolatey cacao husk and orange peel to enhance your creations. If you take a dive into this blending fun let us know on Facebook and Twitter what you create.
Thanks to Howard for supplying the coffee for this adventure. There was no other sponsorship or affiliate links in this post.
This is not a Yes that's makeup. I was inspired by a beautiful illustration of a Chinese dragon to turn myself into one for Tea Halloween style. My bandmate Philip and my friend Elexis also let me get creative with their lovely faces and you can see the results in the gallery below.
I love the creativity of Halloween time. To me every day is Halloween in that way, but it is great to have so many more people join in - the costumes (especially the creative mash ups), the decorations and the Halloween inspired tea settings! It is also the time for warming spices, the flavors of fall.
I did a simple scones and tea for my friend Elexis and I. I had some leftover pumpkin puree from another recipe and wanted a scone that used that. Seek and ye shall find upon the internet! I found this cool recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction. It has some great, specific baking tips in it like freezing and grating the butter which results in deliciously flaky scones (if you don't overwork the dough, easy does it).
I was feeling my inner child and gave these scones a Halloween twist with a coffin cookie cutter and some red icing for fun. Kind of reminded me of the first short story I ever wrote when I was nine. A vampire story of course. I still remember how hilarious it was acting it out in front of the class.
Have you enjoyed a Halloween Tea yet? Share your pictures with us on Facebook and Twitter. And show us your costumes so we can celebrate your creative spark!!!
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I love tea gifts and when my friend Joanne went to London and brought me back some Mariage Frères Love Song Tea I was jazzed! Thanks Joanne! So this is a mix of a brief review and a cocktail suggestion.
First, a sip of history:
Founded in 1854 and named for a family with a long history of trading in various goods, Mariage Frères supplied tea and tea accessories to hotels and salons of the noble classes. The main shop has 650+ teas from 36 countries including rare varietals and their signature blends based in perfume tradition.
Love Song Black Tea
This tea embodies the romantic notions of Paris to me, with the flavors of roses and almonds in a black blend base. There are actual rose petals and pieces of almonds not just flavoring. There are no further details on the blend on the website, but I found it can be steeped to a deep strength or to a lighter brew by adjusting the amount of tea without losing balance. It is a quite broken leaf so the steep is quick. At 3 minutes, using my usual amount of tea it was quite strong.
The blend has a lovely balance between the almond and rose flavors – neither overwhelm the tea blend which tastes like it includes a bold Indian leaf. The sweetness of the blend is brought out in different ways when adding cream and/or sweetener of choice. I found I could drink this with or without milk if I brewed it light to average strength. The Love Song Tea line includes a green and a rooibos version also.
Tea & Champagne
We decided to say hello to the New Year with a bubbly glass of fun that includes tea of course. Mixing champagne (or sparkling wine) with other flavors is hardly new. If you have not yet paired the bubbly with tea you may want to try these combinations for any time you are feeling festive – birthdays, weddings, launching of a new project or just because life is worth celebrating.
A very simple, low effort way is pairing a pre-made kombucha of your choice with a champagne/prosecco/sparkling wine. I like the brut or dry versions for a less sweet result. If you put the kombucha in your flute first then pour the bubbly leaving some room at the top you can perfect your mix adding more kombucha or bubbles to taste.
Another option is to steep a strong tea of choice to mix with your bubbly. That is what I did with the Love Song black tea. General suggestion: Steep double the amount of tea you would usually use for a cup in half the water. Here is the lowdown:
I am looking forward to a new year of festive tea adventures to share with you and wish you all many reasons to celebrate in the coming year! Cheers all!
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