For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the heart of Winter is upon us. In the U.S., that can range from freezing cold with 12-inch snowfalls and high winds to desert highs in the 70s (the poor darlings have to wear sweaters!) and the vague threat that something moist will actually fall from the skies. Hee! Whatever the weather is like where you are, there is a perfect Winter tea for you to enjoy.

The Perfect Tea Indoors When There’s a Blizzard Outdoors

A crackling fire, warm fuzzy slippers, a few layers of pullovers, a fresh batch of scones hot from the oven… hmmm… something’s missing here. Oh, yes… tea!! But it needs to be the right tea. Here is my tea of choice:

  • Blackcurrant Black Tea — A naturally flavored Ceylon black tea from estates at more than 5,500 feet above sea level. Wonderful very berry deep blackcurrant aroma and flavor with no chemical aftertaste. (my review)
Blackcurrant Black Tea (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Blackcurrant Black Tea (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

A Grey Day Tea That Will Turn the Skies to Blue

Monk’s Blend (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Monk’s Blend (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Winter and grey skies go together like — you guessed it — scones and tea! And those grey skies can convey a feeling of anything from bleakness to coziness. For hubby and I it’s usually the latter. Grey skies are perfect background for a wonderful teatime, and that teatime can make those grey skies as cheerful as blue skies. A tea that is particularly effective at achieving this:

  • Monk’s Blend — A tea that delivers an incredible cup with the sweetness of pomegranate and the scent of vanilla. The liquid has light and fruity notes of grenadine and caramel that create a unique, heavenly flavor. (my review)

Tea You Can Drink While Wearing a Parka (But Not Necessarily While Skiing)

Snow being one of those precipitous Winter events, people tend to associate activities like skiing with Winter, too. Even if you don’t ski, you could find yourself part of a “ski party,” that is, a group of folks spending time at a ski resort, with some of them schussing through that powder of icy crystals. Since the outside temperatures are usually at freezing or below, warm attire such as parkas are worn. I remember one such ski trip where I was the only non-skier in the lot. Bundled in a parka, I relished a nice pot of hot tea all to myself. Ah! Can’t remember what tea that was, but here’s a tea that would be good to try:

Nine Bend Black Dragon (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Nine Bend Black Dragon (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

So, is there any one perfect Winter tea? I doubt it. There are many, for each of us has that perfect one all our own. Enjoy and stay warm and cozy!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thanksgiving is once again upon us. And tea is an important part of this annual gathering of kith and kin. No matter what you traditionally serve in your house, there is a tea that is perfect to go with it.

Pumpkin Spice Flavored Black Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Pumpkin Spice Flavored Black Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Flavored teas are especially welcome at such times, and not just any flavors but typical flavors for this time of year. Pumpkin, cranberry, cinnamon, apple, oranges, and various spices. These carry through when the Thanksgiving feast is done and into the Christmas season.

A few options:

Stash Tea has a number of Fall and Winter flavors that will go great with whatever your feast consists of (note that Stash – and some other tea vendors – mislabels their spiced teas as “chais”):

  • Stash Chai Spice Black Tea — Very aromatic, slightly sweet, strong, and penetrating flavor, with lingering notes of almond. Excellent plain or with milk (regular or evaporated) and sweetener.
  • Stash Christmas Morning Black Tea — Black teas and jasmine green tea in this breakfast blend makes a rich, multi-layered drink. Brisk and sweet. Full-bodied. Lovely aroma. Enjoy it hot or iced, with milk and sugar or plain.
  • Stash White Christmas Tea — A unique blend of white tea, cool peppermint, and a hint of ginger. Add a touch of sugar or honey to bring out distinct flavor notes.
  • Stash Orange Spice Tea — Full-bodied black teas from India, Sri Lanka and China, with cinnamon from Sri Lanka and sweet California orange peel and orange oil. Aromatic with flavors of zesty orange and spicy cinnamon.
  • Stash Chai Green Tea — Lung Ching (Dragonwell) Chinese green tea and cinnamon, whole cloves, cardamom, ginger root, and sarsaparilla. Flavorful and spicy, great with milk and sugar any time of the day.
Blue Q Pleasant Holidays with Family Tea  (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Blue Q Pleasant Holidays with Family Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Other brands have some wonderful flavors, too:

  • Blue Q Pleasant Holidays with Family Tea — A black tea spiced with ginger, cardamom and cinnamon.
  • Harney & Sons Holiday and Spiced Teas — Available in festive blends like Hot Cinnamon and White Christmas, these teas are sure to please. Don’t miss Hot Cinnamon Spice and Indian Spice.
  • Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea — A sweet and spicy tea with a blend of cinnamon, orange, and sweet cloves. Very seasonal aroma and taste!
  • Revolution Orange Chocolate Green Tea — An amazing combination of flavors: chocolate, oranges, and green tea. The aroma will make your mouth water!
  • Taylors of Harrogate Spiced Christmas Tea — Created by master tea blenders especially for the Yuletide season, but popular year round. Black China teas, tangy lemon peels, fruity orange peels, cinnamon and safflower petals. Enjoyed with a bit of honey.
  • Twinings Christmas Tea — Expertly blended black tea with traditional spice flavors of cinnamon and cloves. The aroma will get you into that special holiday mood. Enjoy plain or with milk and sweetener.
  • Twinings Cranberry Green Tea — Green tea with the essence of fresh cranberries for a great fruit flavor that pleases all the senses.
  • Twinings Orange Bliss Black Tea — A fresh citrus tasting tea combining the awesome flavor of freshly squeezed oranges with an exquisite black tea for delightfully sweet tea you will love.

As you’re getting that Thanksgiving menu all set up, be sure to include teas. They will enhance that festive mood and please your guests’ tastebuds!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Butterfly bunsThese look complicated but are really very easy to make, the basic sponge recipe is the same as for a Victoria Sandwich cake and they are usually filled with butter cream which, again, is easy to make.

100 g  or 4oz butter
100 g  or 4oz caster (superfine) sugar
2 medium eggs
100 g or 4ozs Self Raising Flour

Heat the oven to 190C, 375 F, or gas mark 5.

Cream the butter and sugar together either with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer, until light and fluffy, beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of flour with each egg to prevent curdling. Gently ‘fold’ in the remaining flour. Do not beat at this stage!

Put paper cases into a bun tray and half fill the paper cases with the mixture and bake for about 15 minutes until firm. Test by pressing lightly the top of one bun and if your finger leaves an impression they are not done!  Put the buns onto a wire rack to cool.

When cold cut a small hole into the top using a spoon or a knife, remove this piece of sponge and cut in half. Place butter icing into each bun and arrange the ‘wings’ on top. Dust the top with icing sugar.

The butter cream is made from 50 g or 2oz of butter, 100 g or 4oz sieved icing sugar, vanilla or other flavouring of your choice. Beat everything together until combined. They do freeze individually but I think you will find that as soon as they are finished they will be gone!  Mine usually last two days!

20141117_111106If you have ever had afternoon tea either in the US or the UK, you may have had a little cake/bread called a scone along with your tea. You may have had it with some fruity jam and clotted cream or maybe some jam and Double Devon cream. A great thing about scones is the many ways one can enjoy them. They can be eaten plain, with just jam, lemon curd, maybe some fresh fruit, or they can be made salty or with little pieces of fruit. I don’t know what I would do if I ended up in a place that sold a huge variety of scones. I think I would probably take at least one of each home (or someone would have to drag me away from the display)!

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the origins of the scone are believed to have originated all the way to Scotland in the 1500s at the Stone of Destiny (Scone) where Scottish Kings were crowned. How it became part of afternoon tea was all thanks to Duchess Anna of Bedford (1788-1861). One day, she got hungry during the afternoon in between meals, so she asked to be brought some tea and a light meal to her in her living quarters and scones were included in her little meal. She enjoyed them so much that she asked for it every day, even inviting friends to enjoy with her and since then, it has become a tea time ritual.

Kevin Hickey, who hails from the UK and owns The English Tea Store, says scones are to “be a delivery system – a base for a good jam. Just a little bit of flavor, not too sweet, so you can put the jam with lots of fruit pieces on it, as well as the clotted cream.” It’s good it scones are typically a bit salty because the balance of the tea is very refreshing. “In England we didn’t eat much lunch. We ate a huge breakfast, and a tiny lunch if anything, so afternoon tea was used to keep the edge off around 2 or 3 pm, and keep the energy level up.”

When I became more interested in tea, I began to make scones at home to accompany my growing tea addiction. I took on a challenge with my first scone recipe. It was a cheese and onion one but it took FOREVER to make! But in the end, it was WORTH it! Second time around, I had looked online for scone recipes and I had to experiment several times before I could finally get it right. A simple, easy recipe that was not too fancy was my goal and I finally succeeded when my dad wouldn’t keep his hands off my scones (it’s good for me since I don’t have to toss them in the trash). I like to add raisins in my homemade scones to add a burst of sweetness.

Cheese SconeThe supermarket I work at sells scones in our hot bakery, made fresh daily. They sell out rather quickly, so I have not been able to try one just yet but from what my customers have told me, they’re delicious! Or you can always purchase scone mixes online whether you’re in the mood for plain or something fruity or spicy (one of our popular ones like apple cinnamon) for a freshly baked scone made in a pinch. You can cut the scones into triangles or have a cutter and cut them into their signature round shapes. If you’re like me and you don’t have the cutter or have trouble working with the triangles, you can use some other cookie cutter or use a glass to make them round. No matter the shape or size, a scone is a scone. Pair it with your tea and relax as you have a lovely tea time with family or friends. Don’t forget the jam and cream!

~CD

Editor’s note: if you want a great do-it-yourself recipe, read our recipe blog.

Christmas cracker 3When I’m not blogging, I work in a supermarket as a bagger and a cashier. My store carries these Christmas crackers during the holidays, which up until last year, I thought were edible crackers like Ritz or Jacob’s Cream Crackers. They sold for about $10-$12 which made me wonder to myself, “Why so expensive? They must be really good crackers if they’re being sold for about twelve bucks.” My question was answered when I saw someone popping one open on the telly (I must warn you, my vocabulary is somewhat British at times. My family thinks I’m a bit weird but I do not care).

Christmas cracker 1Now just what exactly is a Christmas Cracker? A Christmas Cracker is a type of favor, kind of like New Year’s when you have those little plastic poppers that burst out confetti and little ribbons and they make a loud POP! These, however, are much different. They’re usually set at the dinner table at Christmas dinner in England next to the dinner plates and are usually opened by two people, much like a wishbone, and whoever has the larger half gets to keep the crown inside. Some people open them as one. Sometimes people give the little items inside away to friends or family members. Almost everyone has a different tradition during the holidays.

Here’s a little background on these: a sweet maker named Tom Smith had seen some French “bon bon” sweets while travelling abroad. Once he came home to England, he tried to make his own “bon bon” with a little message or joke inside but unfortunately, these didn’t sell very well. People of Britain were not as familiar with such a foreign item. One night, while sitting by the fire, a crack came from one of the logs, which gave Tom an idea. How interesting would be if his sweets and toys made a noise, like a POP, once they were split open? Since then, the Christmas crackers pop when split open. Since then, the crackers became a hit.Christmas cracker 2

When Tom passed away, his three sons inherited his business, which was beginning to thrive. It was one of his sons who later added the well-known paper crowns to the Christmas crackers in the 1900s. Over the years, many kinds have been created for Christmas crackers. Some have characters on them, others are fancy with shiny paper, and some are just basic with holiday print. Sometimes Christmas crackers are used for other occasions than Christmas. They have been used for coronations and other events. It is said that even the British Royal Family have their own custom made Christmas crackers!

Once I got these Christmas Crackers in my hands, I used my niece and nephew as my guinea pigsCharlie xmascracker . The kids got a real kick out of these! Along with the standard paper crowns and silly jokes, some unusual little goodies came out of these crackers. My niece even got a hair barrette out of one of the crackers! It made me happy to see them laugh at the funny jokes, wonder about the unknown magic tricks (my 9 year old nephew especially), and even exchange some of the toys between each other.

Charisma xmascrackerSeeing the reactions of my niece and nephew and even their other aunt (my sister) made me definitely want to add Christmas crackers to my holiday traditions list. I wouldn’t mind buying them every year and bringing them to whoever is doing Christmas in my family so that everyone has a little surprise and cheer. It saddens me that these are not as popular in the US but glad that they’re sold here for the ones who miss the holidays back in Blighty.

~CD

Cheese scones are delicious smothered with butter, cut into two with melted cheese on top or just on their own.  You can make plain scones without the cheese or sweet scones with sugar. Whichever you decide the results will be good I assure you.

175 g  or 6 ozs (3/4 c) Self Raising Flour
50 g  or 2 ozs (1/2 stick) Butter
75 g  or 3 ozs (1/3 c) grated strong cheese
a little milk and or a beaten egg

Heat the oven to 220 C, 425 F or Gas mark 7.  Prepare a baking sheet with some baking parchment.

Cheese SconeRub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, stir in the grated cheese, reserving a little for the top.  Make a well in the centre of the bowl and add a little milk or beaten egg until a soft dough is formed. (It is difficult to say exactly how much liquid you will need because flours do vary so I am afraid it is trial and error!) Sprinkle your unit top with flour and turn out the dough. Roll out with a rolling pin or just flatten slightly with your hand. Half an inch thick is good.  Using a scone cutter make about 6 or 8 scones and put onto the baking sheet. Brush the tops with milk or egg wash and sprinkle with the reserved cheese. Bake for about 10 to 15 mins until golden brown and firm sided.  Enjoy.

~JB

 

Brewing Tea

Tea is becoming a popular beverage and new tea drinkers are asking for clear, easy instructions on how to brew. For those people who are new to tea or veterans of the fabulous beverage, there are a few simple steps to a perfect cup of tea. The first step to brewing the perfect cup of tea is to heat the teapot before adding tea. To do this, all one needs to do is add boiling water to the teapot and swirl it around to bring it up to temperature. Pour it out and select your favorite tea. Keep in mind that adding boiling water to a cool teapot will immediately cool the hot water and the concept is to maintain the proper steeping temperature.

PG Tips Tea Bag

The second step is selecting either loose leaf tea or tea bags. For those people who choose to use loose leaf tea, a large teapot with a tea strainer is a good place to start. A large teapot is ideal for this type of tea to allow the hot water to circulate and allow the leaves plenty of room to bloom during the steeping process. Tea bags are also suitable for making a perfect cup of tea, but they do not give the tea enough room to move about during the steeping process. Fortunately, many newer teabags are of a pyramid shape alleviating this problem. Regular tea bags routinely use fannings and tea dust to enhance flavor. Also, be sure to move the bag around a few times to circulate the water. Now that you have selected loose leaf tea or tea bags, it is time to mention measuring your tea. Measuring tea is very important to ensuring a pleasant flavor and aroma. The typical rule is to use 1 teaspoon of tea per cup (8 oz.) of water for a perfect cup of tea. If you are brewing a pot of tea then the ratio is 1 teaspoon per person plus one for the pot. Along the line of measuring water and tea, one needs to pay attention to the temperature of water used. Different teas achieve their best taste when using the optimal water temperature. For example, both green tea and white tea taste best when brewed with steaming water (150°-180°F).

Loose Tea

The final step in making the perfect cup of tea is proper steeping times. I will admit it is very easy to over steep tea and produce a cup that is less than pleasing. A general rule of thumb is the heavier the tea, the shorter steeping time. For example, black tea will steep for 2-5 minutes in water at a rolling boil, whereas green and white teas need to steep for 1-4 minutes in steaming water. Herbal teas are steeped for 5-7 minutes in water that is at a rolling boil. Do these ideas inspire you to brew a perfect cup of tea? I do not know about you, but I am ready to get my teapot, strainer, tea, and teacup and enjoy a delicious cup of tea. My favorite tea is Black currant tea manufactured by the English Tea Store. What is your favorite flavor of tea? Please, leave a comment and share. It is always exciting to hear from readers. Enjoy!

Vienna

Hello everyone, this is Julia from over the pond with my first blog and recipe.  These Viennese fingers and rosettes are made with a kind of shortbread mixture and are very rich.  I hope you enjoy making them and eating them with a nice cup of tea.

6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 oz (1/4 cup) caster (superfine granulated) sugar
6 oz (3/4 cup) self raising flour
Few drops vanilla essence (extract)
Finishing ingredients of your choice (jam, icing, melted chocolate, etc.)

Preheat oven to 160C/320F/gas mark 3.

Cream together the butter and sugar thoroughly; stir in flour and a few drops of vanilla.

Put mixture into a piping bag and pipe fingers about 3 inch long, or rosettes or both onto a baking tray and bake for about 20 mins. When cool sandwich together with jam, chocolate or butter icing. Or dip the ends in melted chocolate.

~JB

You have a tea pantry, right? No? Well, that needs to be the first step here. I’ll wait until you toss aside all of those food items taking up the space in there … tick tock, tick tock, tick… all done? Great! Time to see what “must have” teas you need to have in your tea pantry!

Some “must have” teas you can always count on for a great cuppa! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Some “must have” teas you can always count on for a great cuppa! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

The Basics

Just as with food where you need to keep sugar, flour, and other basics on hand, so it goes with tea. Let’s keep it really simple here. Experts will tell you that there are anywhere from four to seven or eight basic tea types. But let’s just stick with two: black and green.

  • Black: A blend is best here so that it’s balance of flavors can go with a wide variety of foods or stand on its own at your Elevenses or Afternoon tea times. A nice one is English Breakfast Blend No. 1 Tea. You can serve it hot, iced, straight, or with milk/sugar (British style).
  • Green: Great to have on hand even if you usually drink black tea. We all need a change of taste now and then. Or you may want to have them alternately during the day. Whatever the reason, be sure to have some on hand. Again, stick with a basic. There are many types of green tea, but Gunpowder, Sencha, or even a Ceylon Green Tea are great options here.

Personal Favorites

Okay, that gets the mainstays out of the way. Now it’s time for the special ones. After all, flour and sugar do not a meal make. And so it is with teas. You will need some teas that are extra special or flavored in a way that you really, really like.

  • Special ones: These are the premium teas. An extra special white tea such as Adam’s Peak versus just a generic white tea, or a rare and totally hand-made tea made from leaves hand-picked from old tea trees, or a pu-erh processed in an extremely limited quantity by a true tea master. These are just a few options. The point here is to have something really special on hand for those private tea moments or even a special cuppa with someone special.
  • Flavored ones: Think of these as that special package of cookies or box of chocolate truffles. Something to indulge in to a limited degree as a bit of a treat. Earl Grey comes to mind, and not just because Captain Picard claimed this as his tea of choice, but because it has remained a favorite since it was first created in the 1800s. But others would be some fruit flavored such as Monk’s Blend or Rose Sencha or a nice Spiced Chai. Seasonal choices are good, too, such as Pumpkin Black Tea in the Fall and Peppermint in the holiday season.

Odds and Ends

Even teas that are just there, some how, in your stash deserve a place in your pantry. I still have a tea I bought during one of those impulse moments at one of those shopping mall stores, and every now and then I pull out the well-sealed package, steep some up, and re-seal and store the package for the next time. You might also have such a tea or two on hand, plus the teas that you received as gifts at some point in time from some well-meaning gifter.

Keep ’Em Organized

Whatever teas you have, keep ’em organized. It helps you grab the right one at the right time. You wouldn’t want to grab those truffles instead of that bag of flour, right? So you wouldn’t want to pull out that special hand-made tea when you want that breakfast blend tea. A proper order will assure that you can enjoy that cuppa whenever the urge strikes. Cheers!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

20141117_111106pumpkin spiceI brought home a package of our Pumpkin Spice Scone mix for the weekend, with the promise of baking them and bringing them to our merchandising meeting. These are the kind where you just add water. For comparison, I also baked a batch of regular scones. The instructions on the pumpkin spice were easy to follow but the mixture was a little crumbly. More along the line of a pie crust flaky, the drop-biscuit type of scone was difficult to form. They turned out crunchy in the oven after the 12-15 minutes stated. The flavor was mild, without overpowering cinnamon or clove. They paired well with the double devon cream.

Next week catch our informative blog on scones, and be prepared for some lively debate!

 

 

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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