As the temperature gets colder I find myself reaching for more and more liquid comfort. Tea and hot chocolate isn’t a revolutionary concept but if you’ve never tried it I encourage you to indulge your decadent side. My friend had brought me some dark chocolate and half and half which set my craving aflame, and my play-with-my-food side, so here goes:
Now that first version came out like a decadent dark hot chocolate with an echo of tea flavor. So… I made a regular cup of fairly strong black tea and then mixed together equal parts of the straight tea and the chocolate/tea blend. Then I grabbed my friends and did a taste test. We all agreed that though both were delicious, for tea fabulousness the second option won out. Give both a try and see what you like.
1) Cocoa powder: Using cocoa powder and sugar instead of chocolate – this option is less smooth and luxurious but you have a means of increasing or decreasing the chocolatey-ness without adding fat/cocoa butter. Speaking of which, you could add butter to this method if you want that creamy feel.
2) Instant cocoa packets: Hey, use whatcha got. Sometimes you just have a craving for something chocolatey and maybe you’re a student on a budget or that is just what you have on hand. Why not try heating that up with milk/milk substitute of choice and blending it with a cup of tea in equal amounts.
3) Spicy!: You could do this up like a chocolate chai putting spices like a garam masala blend or just some cinnamon in with the tea when it is simmering. Really good.
4) White chocolate: mix it up with the paler version of this treat.
5) Flavored tea and add-ins: Earl Grey hot chocolate is a familiar option to many tea lovers but you could use a caramel tea, a rose tea, or put lavender or orange extract in the mix (yeah, like those chocolate orange holiday treats).
Go ahead! Play with your tea. We won’t tell. Enjoy!
by Cassandra Vincent
Make your own special brew. No I’m not talking about deadly nightshade or eye of newt. I’m talking about making your own tea blend! Have you ever had just ‘a little bit of this’ and ‘a little bit of that’ but nothing that amounted to enough for one cup of tea and thought, “Hmmm, what if I just threw it all in together and see what happens!” No? Just me? Well, I have had many surprise successes and a few ‘don’t ever do that agains’, but I’ve always had fun. One of the best blends I made recently was combining the remains of a Bai Hao Oolong with some loose herbal peach thing my friend had that was getting old-ish. The combo was so good that all three of us loved it and I had to make another pot. A success!
Another reason to take a hand at blending: have you ever had a tea blend and thought it would be perfect if it had ‘a little more of this’ or ‘a little less of that’ or just didn’t have that one thing in it all? I know I have. I love rose and I love lavender but I’m not fond of raspberry leaf or raspberry flavouring in tea. I only ever found the rose and lavender with the raspberry and I hated it. Solution: getting a black base tea of my choice, rose petals and lavender. Then I could tweak the amounts at will.
For fall time pumpkin spice lattes are everywhere. For that matter pumpkin is everywhere. It’s gotten obnoxious. Once I see pumpkin spice toilet paper I’ll know we have hit the wall with it. But for those who prefer tea there are many such blends out there. I came across a tea shop sampling their version of the pumpkin spice latte and I thought why not try one at home. I used the same style I would with a homemade chai. If you like pumpkin spice and you like tea why not give it a go! Here is what I did:
If you want to get decadent here you can add whipped cream and a piece of candy or if you have a frothing tool you can put a layer of frothed milk on top and sprinkle with the spice of your choice or drizzle some caramel or float a ghost marshmallow in it. The choices are endless!
Making your own delicious concoctions isn’t limited to holiday time of course. This is just dipping a toe in the deep pool of tea blending possibilities. So get your cauldron and start experimenting! Happy Halloween!
by Cassandra Vincent
I appreciate a high quality single origin tea – the fragrance of a High Mountain Oolong or the depth of a good vintage puerh, but I am all for innovation, play and fun too! Tea is a multi-faceted piece of deliciousness. I would never confine it to only a few methods of experience when it is in the nature of humans to create. Tea is an ingredient too! Like a spice or a beautiful fruit – there are many kinds from many places with many applications. This thought made me wonder if tea was ever a secret ingredient on the Iron Chef. It was! I had to find the episode even just to hear the Chairman say ‘TEA!!” with his customary unique power delivery. It is from Season 11 Episode 4, Forgione vs. Kittichai.
Recently when the weather became blisteringly hot (we’re talking record breaking) I dabbled in some tea ‘trends’ like the tea float. Based on the soda/ice cream float, it is an iced tea with ice cream in it (make variations at will). I used Irish breakfast tea and caramel praline ice cream and it was bliss. I also had what is probably the best milkshake I have yet encountered: Earl Grey ice cream with a bit of Thai iced tea to blend it with. It was sweet, it was creamy, it was cool and it was memorable.
Then I tried the salted cream tea thing. If you are not familiar it is taking an iced tea and placing a salted whipped cream layer atop it. Kind of like the cheese tea idea but to my knowledge this one only uses cream and salt. I decided to try a version at home before plunking down $5-$8 for one at a specialized tea shop. Plus I like experimenting – like a mad scientist of tea or something. If you’d like to try it for yourself at home here is what I did:
1. Make an iced tea of choice – I used an English Breakfast blend. If using bags I suggest 2 bags for a 16 oz. tea. As I like my tea strong I used a tablespoon of a loose broken leaf blend. You can use the quick steeping in a small amount of boiling water version then adding ice/cold water to make 16 oz. or do the cold brew overnight thing – leaving the leaves/bags in the 16 oz. of water in the fridge to steep for 8-12 hours or to taste.
2. Add sweetener of choice – honey, sugar, whatever suits your taste. You can leave the sweetener out if you prefer but then you will be without the salt/sweet mélange that this bevy is aiming for.
3. Make the salted cream - Whip 1/8 to 1/4c. COLD heavy whipping cream with a few pinches of sea salt. I suggest sea salt or a good mineralized salt. Regular table salt is too meh. I used my blender to do this and just kept checking to make sure I didn’t go too far. You are looking for a pudding-like whipped texture not stiff peaks or butter. You can also shake it in a container with a tight fitting lid. The key is for the cream to be very cold or it will not achieve the desired texture.
4. Layer the cream atop the tea and finish – I used a spoon to layer the cream. You can then add a sprinkle of a black or pink salt, sea salt or a spice to the top for extra panache and flavor.
I tried sipping it layered and stirring the cream in. I think I preferred sipping it layered. Using a straw didn’t allow for both flavours to blend unless it was stirred and then it lost something. I have heard it compared to a salted caramel latte when using a black tea, but I did not taste that myself. Maybe with a maltier blend or a flavoured blend. I thought it was more like a tea version of a breve just cold. I think a toasted oolong may be another tea that would be good or even a rooibos that has caramel pieces in it if you’re feeling the herbal vibe. I suggest starting with less cream as I found with too much it was just cloying on the tongue rather than satisfying and creamy. But everyone has their unique taste sweet spot so I say use this as a base and test out what works for you.
To the purists: None of these experiments will stop me doing gongfu style brewing of Formosa Ali Shan and the like in my Yixing teapot. I haven’t been corrupted or anything I just had a different bit of fun. I’ve had nitro tea, put matcha in my smoothie and have plans to try this cheese tea thing I keep hearing about which has made its way Stateside from Asia. Tea is fun and I encourage you to have fun with it too!
by Cassandra Vincent
Even though it has been in existence for hundreds of years in Japan, Matcha was a kind of ‘break out’ trend in the West a few years back but the explosion has not slowed down. I am seeing Matcha in all sorts of products including lattes, ice cream, chocolate, coating nuts, in facial products, RTDs, cocktails and on and on. If I see an ad for Matcha underwear with the tag line “absorb it through your butt!” then perhaps it will have gone too far. But who knows, innovation takes wonderful and absurd turns and there are consumers who love them (remember spray tea in a can? ).
The first time I experienced Matcha was in a latte in NYC. It was the most jazzed day from a tea kick that I had ever had to that point but with an amazing sense of calm.
Ma=powdered & Cha=tea
With Matcha you ingest the whole leaf. To add to this already intense idea, Matcha is shade grown resulting in fewer leaves with more concentrated flavor. The plants make more chlorophyll to compensate which results in the seriously deep green colour. This shading also increases the amount of the amino acid L-theanine which is the component that gives the chilled out feeling that balances out the caffeinated effects of the tea and the umami flavor it is known to have by degrees.
If you’ve never had Matcha before you may want to try it in latte or food form first. After all the kick in the pants feeling is great but not so the kick in the stomach. Matcha is intense, and similar to too much juiced kale or beets it can be an uncomfortable experience if too much is ingested too fast without a ‘buffer’ of sorts. That said, cow’s milk will not reduce the caffeine effects of Matcha but it has been found to inhibit antioxidant absorption (ha, so very Khaleesi “it has been found” reminds me of “It is known”). You can use coconut, almond, hemp milk, etc. if that is a concern. Also, make sure to store Matcha in an airtight container, with the air pressed out of it, in the fridge for a longer life as it does more than lose its character – it becomes a gross bitter beast. Aim to consume it within a year or by the date the seller indicates.
There is so much Matcha out there now it can be a challenge to know where to begin. It comes in different grades even. There is some Matcha that is intended for cooking but not for drinking, for example. ‘Ceremonial’ Matcha is the term used to generally indicate drinking Matcha. My feeling is this: if I am ingesting the whole leaf I am more interested in an organic and well-sourced product.
For today’s post we are using Tora Matcha – there is a tiger on the package which is very fitting because you can feel like a tiger after having some Matcha goodness. This is an organic Matcha from Kirishima City, Japan in Kagoshima prefecture. It is USDA and HOAS certified (Hyogo Prefectural Organic Agriculture Society- Japan). There are no GMOs, pesticides or additives.
First I tried it straight up in a hot preparation. Now Matcha can be adjusted like all loose tea – you use more or less per volume of water as suits you. If you are new to Matcha you may want to try it weaker and increase until you hit that sweet spot for you. I used 1 tsp. to 6 oz. of water at about 170 F – yeah Matcha won’t like boiling water. There is the option of sifting the Matcha into the bowl or cup first, but I admit I did not do this (you may wish to if your Matcha has clumped up a bit while being stored in the fridge). I added a little water and stirred to make a paste before adding the remainder of the water. This helps reduce clumping. The use of a Matcha whisk, also called a chasen, is also helpful to eliminate clumping and create a frothy layer on top. The tines (like on a fork) are made of bamboo, are thin, in a circle and close together. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t have a chasen though. If you decide to use a blender or cook with the Matcha it won’t matter. You can also use a wire whisk in a pinch.
I found this Matcha to be deep in flavor and smooth. It was less sweet than some I have had but more meaty or umami than others. It is a good dark green as you can see too.
For a more intense experience, I did the 1 tsp. to 2 oz. water hardcore version. No hair has yet popped out on my chest, but stay tuned. The umami aspect was heightened in this more concentrated preparation and I liked that. It coated the tongue in a satisfying way. Matcha can be used either savory or sweet and this strikes me as a Matcha that may excel in savory uses especially.
I started making a morning smoothie just based on what I had on hand one day: banana, avocado, spinach and pineapple in coconut water (or water with coconut flakes or just water with a splash of the pineapple juice). I now crave it. I thought the Matcha might play well with the other ingredients and I was right. It was fantastic! Here is what I used if you want to give it a go:
Throw it all in the blender and mix till smooth.
Another day I added a tsp. of Matcha to my oatmeal along with chia seeds, butter, cocoa and raw honey. It was an excellent food and caffeine mix that tasted far more interesting than plain oatmeal with a banana in it.
I have plans to explore more Matcha uses down the road. Can’t do too many in one day or I might not sleep for a week! This intense tea is a whole world in itself. Thanks to Tora Tea for reaching out to us and providing the Matcha for this tea adventure.
Connect with other tea fans on Facebook and Twitter and share how you have explored the uniqueness of Matcha!
All Classic Tea Flavored And Funky For Love Of Tea Herbs Infusions Lifestyle And Health Matcha Meditative And ASMR Sessions Recipes And Uses Specialty Tea Brands Spices Tea Accessories Tea Adjacent Tea And... Tea And A Laugh Tea And Art Tea And Holidays Tea And Music Series Tea And TV Tea Around The World Tea Cocktails Tea Events Tea In Film Tea In History Tea Innovations Tea Pros Tea Shops/Shops With Tea Tea Types Teaware