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Brazilian Guava Tea - great over ice! (ETS image)

Brazilian Guava Tea – great over ice! (ETS image)

Summer is a relative concept. Which may have some influence on how you consume tea. When I was growing up back in the Northeast, summer began with pools opening on Memorial Day, followed by school letting out. A period of heat followed, the pools closed on Labor Day and school started again. Leading up to that were the dog days of summer, typically the hottest and in many places the most humid time of the year.

Which is all just a memory now that I live in balmy Arizona, where summery type weather lasts from about March to October and I suspect it would be decidedly different for anyone living in a cold clime like Alaska.

Since my esteemed editor has also written about dog days and tea (great minds thinking alike and whatnot) I won’t devote much space to defining them, except to say they occur sometime in July and August, depending on whom you ask, and they get their name from the fact that the ancient Romans associated them with Sirius, the Dog Star.

What all this means for tea drinking, assuming you live in a place where the seasons are more clearly defined than hot, hotter, hottest, and groan, is that there’s still plenty of good iced tea drinking weather to be had, even as we reach the dog days. Hot weather and iced tea drinking seem to be a natural fit, especially here in the United States, where we don’t drink much in the way of hot tea but we do put away considerable amounts of the iced variety.

But the former might not be such a bad choice (hot tea, that is) during warm weather, according to some accounts. They suggest that hot beverages might actually have a cooling effect when consumed on a sultry day. There’s a little more to the notion than I can summarize briefly so I’ll direct you here and here for more details.

Not that I’m convinced, mind you, and like so many Americans my choice of tea during the dog days and the rest of summer will be a nice cool glass of iced tea. No word, by the way, on whether drinking iced tea in cold weather can warm you. But I doubt it and although we’re still drinking iced tea during the dog days most of us will be turning our thoughts to what hot tea might be best to soon ward off the winter chill. That’s present company excluded, of course, but that’s another story and one that I’ve related here.

See more of William I. Lengeman’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.

Monk’s Blend is great when chilled or with ice. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Monk’s Blend is great when chilled or with ice. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

You’ve no doubt heard of the Dog Days of Summer. But what about the Dog Days of Tea? No? Well, let me enlighten you. First, a bit about what the Dog Days of Summer are.

Date-wise, these Dog Days occur mainly in the months of July and August here in the Northern Hemisphere. They are typically the warmest and often the most sultry days of the year. The name “Dog Days” comes from Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (big dog). This star is so bright that ancient Romans thought that, like the Sun, our planet was heated by it. In Summer, Sirius rises and sets generally at the same time as the Sun does. So, it seemed that the extra heat during these days came from this “dog star.” The period of time (20 days before and 20 days after the conjunction) are named “dog days.” after that star. Generally, this is from around July 3 through about August 11. The extra heat, though, comes from the earth’s tilt on its axis.

So, what are the dog days of tea? These are the days when iced tea reigns supreme. Of course, the ice doesn’t last long in such high temperatures, so you need lots of it, which also means that you need to steep the tea up a bit extra strong. The melting ice will dilute the tea to a fairly tolerable strength.

Some of us are totally committed to hot tea, so our Dog Day Tea Time is held indoors where a sufficiency of air conditioning is available. And since, like many others, we consider a generous supply of scones, biscuits, and other goodies to be proper accompaniments, this is another reason to stay indoors. It avoids bugs (especially wasps and bees) being attracted to our feast and helps keep our appetites sharp.

When the cooler temperatures return in the Fall, we can once again contemplate that nice outdoor setting for our tea time. Until then, we’ll stay safe and cool indoors. Enjoy!

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.

Thai Milk Tea (From Yahoo! Images)

Thai Milk Tea (From Yahoo! Images)

Look up “thai tea” online and you end up with page after page of search results about Thai Milk Tea. So I wanted to highlight five things for you to know about this cool tea treat.

1 This Is NOT the British Style of Tea with Milk

The British are famous for enjoying their tea black, strong, and with milk and sugar (a lump or two). Thai Milk Tea involves strong black tea and milk and sugar, but the similarity ends there.

2 Ice Is Part of the Recipe

Something you will never see in British style tea with milk is ice. No way. No how. Yet, it is essential to Thai Milk Tea, at least as how us Westerners make it. This style of tea is meant to be a Summer time chiller, and how do you chill without ice? (Well, okay, there’s the refrigerator, but you get my drift here.)

3 Typical Ingredients

While the recipe is fairly simple, each ingredient plays its part. Start with black tea, of course, preferrably one from Thailand, but a good Assam is a great option, and loose leaf if possible. Use about 3 ounces. Fresh water (about 6 cups) heated to a rolling boil is best. Milk is essential (duh!) and is usually both condensed and either whole, half & half, or (for the true afficionados) the stuff called “coconut milk” (actually, nothing chemically like milk, so if you’re lactose intolerant, this should be a good option). Thai spices are to be expected, with star anise, ground tamarind, and cardamom being the most commonly used.

4 Typical Preparation

Steep up the tea leaves and spices in the boiling water for at least 5 minutes (you could go to 7 or 8 minutes to get it extra strong and add a bit of extra sugar to cover any bitterness). You’re going to be diluting the tea with the milk and ice, so an extra strong tea is needed here. Strain out the tea leaves and spices. Stir the sugar into the hot tea and stir until thoroughly dissolved. Add the condensed milk, if used, and stir to mix. Cool the liquid to room temperature. Put ice in tall glasses, pour in tea to about 3/4 full, and top off with cold milk or coconut “milk.”

5 Don’t Stir!

A key feature of Thai Milk Tea is that layer of milk at the top of the glass, so whatever you do, don’t stir! You’ll be tempted, but that would totally spoil the experience. Just grab a straw and enjoy!

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.

Iced tea weather is upon us, but for some folks that ice poses a problem: dilution. As ice cubes melt in your glass on a hot day they can water down your tea, weakening it to the point where it’s barely more than water. That can cause many tea drinkers to say “Tea, please…and hold the ice!” But there are solutions.

Ice cubes in your tea? The choice is yours. (From Yahoo! Images)

Ice cubes in your tea? The choice is yours. (From Yahoo! Images)

Several helpful people online have pointed out on numerous occasions their little secret to enjoying an iced tea without that dilution factor. They make ice cubes from some of the tea. Clever! And one of those things that as soon as you hear or read it you say, “Of course!” It seems so obvious. And so easy to do. Just steep up the tea, fill your cube trays, and pop them in the freezer (some folks advise letting the tea cool to room temperature first – your choice here). Then, when they’re nice and frozen, steep up more of the same tea (or if you want to get a bit funky, use a different tea and mix things up a bit), and add the tea-flavored ice cubes in. They will melt and blend in with the other tea.

Those of us who avoid iced tea at all costs (and even chilled tea) will find another meaning in this article’s title: we stick to our hot tea no matter what the season (just as there are those who stick with their iced tea even in the most frigid of weather). There is a real difference in the tea’s flavor when the temperature of the liquid changes. Even a small drop from piping hot will alter things. Actually, for me a slightly cooled tea is best since it will be able to sit on my tongue a little so I can more fully appreciate the various flavors. Tea is not a beverage that should be swilled by those who want to experience those flavors and their attendant aromas. Chugging a bottled tea that has been chilled or a tall glass of iced tea will certainly quench your thirst but have little real tea flavor in it.

Thus, this time of year I and many others say, “Tea, please…and hold the ice!”

Whether you stick with hot tea or go for that iced tea (with those tea-flavored cubes of ice), enjoy the flavors and have a great Summer!

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.

I ran across a press release recently that announced that a certain well known convenience store chain was rolling out something called “fresh-brewed” iced tea in its stores. Which got me to wondering. I’ve seen this phrase used before and have never thought much about it, but just exactly what does fresh-brewed tea mean? I have my own thoughts on the matter. Which is to expect that “fresh-brewed” iced tea would be tea made on the spot from actual tea leaves.

But exactly how would this work, especially in the busy environment of a convenience store or a restaurant or somewhere where the employees don’t necessarily have a lot of time to spend on steeping tea leaves? As it so happens, the press release in question suggests that actual tea leaves are steeped as needed, with a “proprietary blend of black tea leaves” that are “brewed fresh throughout the day” and “dispensed from lined, stainless-steel urns.” I’m sure we’ve all seen the latter in our convenience store or restaurant of choice. On the flip side, the company also offers a liquid tea concentrate for those times when circumstances preclude whipping up a batch of the real thing.

According to the web site of a firm that claims to be the top supplier of iced tea to the foodservice market in the United States, they deliver “fresh brewed taste prepared from choice tea leaves,” using blends of tea leaves from China and other parts of Asia and South America. They go on to reveal that they use a patented type of square tea bag in which said leaves are actually contained and steeped. So it appears that for this foodservice iced tea behemoth, at least, fresh-brewed might actually mean what it says.

Of course, like anything else in the great wide world of tea, methods and results are sure to vary from place to place. As a general rule, I’ve found that iced tea that’s available in these settings often leaves a lot to be desired, with some of it dipping into the barely drinkable category. But that’s not a given and I should point out that one of the best iced teas I’d ever had the good fortune to sample was served at a restaurant I used to frequent – from one of those “lined, stainless-steel urns.”

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

C 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.

"Iced Tea: 50 Recipes for Refreshing Tisanes, Infusions, Coolers, and Spiked Teas" by Fred Thompson (screen capture from site)

“Iced Tea: 50 Recipes for Refreshing Tisanes, Infusions, Coolers, and Spiked Teas” by Fred Thompson (screen capture from site)

Fred Thompson has written books about a variety of beverages, including lemonade, hot chocolate, and bourbon. But with iced tea season getting under way for so many of us it’s as good a time as any to mention the other beverage he wrote about. Yes, that would be iced tea. Iced Tea: 50 Recipes for Refreshing Tisanes, Infusions, Coolers, and Spiked Teas is not exactly a new release. But it’s kind of an old standby and it’s worth looking at again, given that it’s the time of the year for this sort of thing.

Here’s a volume that came out relatively recently (last year) that I somehow missed. But there’s no time like the present to give it a mention. Tea parties are not my sort of thing, but if they’re yours you might be interested in The Vintage Tea Party Year, by Angel Adoree. It “takes you on twelve months of parties, celebrations and teatime treats as well as introducing more games and craft projects for your chosen theme.”

Which seems to be the follow up and/or companion volume to the author’s The Vintage Tea Party Book: A Complete Guide to Hosting your Perfect Party, which came out a year earlier. If that’s not enough of this sort of thing for you, then take a look at Vintage Tea Party, by Carolyn Caldicott, which was published the same year.

I wrote about clipper ships and most notably the Cutty Sark in an article that was published here a while ago. If you’d like a much more in-depth look at the Cutty Sark you should probably check out the forthcoming Cutty Sark: The Last of the Tea Clippers, by Eric Kentley. It’s described as “the eventful history of one of the world’s most famous and celebrated ships.”

I might have let it slip before that the British are rather fond of tea. If you doubt it even for a moment, then consider the name of this very blog site, for starters. Not that I really needed to convince you but if you’d like to read about how tea came to be such a big deal for the British try Tea: A History of Britain’s Greatest Love Affair, by Paul Chrystal. Which promises to reveal “how tea has defined us and informed our way of life over the last 500 years.”

See more of William I. Lengeman’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.

Awhile ago I tried a bunch of teas served cold just to see how they’d do. The results were less than predictable and rather uneven – ranging from “ugh, what is that?” to “wow, where have you been all my life?” I wanted to summarize of few here in case you want to run your own taste test.

A couple of notes before starting: 1) I don’t add ice to tea, since that would require the tea to be steeped stronger than usual to balance out the dilution when the ice melts; instead, I let the hot tea sit on the counter and come to about room temperature, then put it in the refrigerator for a few hours or even overnight. 2) Cloudiness in tea is merely a matter of aesthetics and generally does not affect taste.

7 chilled teas that you might want to try (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

7 chilled teas that you might want to try (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

1 Japanese Sencha Kyoto Cherry

High-quality green tea with sweet cherry, rose petals, and morning rose flavor. Fresh and smooth with reasonable depth and body. The cherry flavoring and subtle rose hints give the tea a wonderful exotic character.The chilled version was refreshing, with the cherry taste maintained, and good as is but better with sweetener.

2 Monk’s Blend

An incredible cup that has the sweetness of pomegranate and the exotic scent of vanilla. Fruity notes of grenadine and caramel create a unique, heavenly flavor.Black tea, calendula petals, and natural flavors are a great combo. The chilled version had a wonderful fruity flavor permeating the liquid. You may want a bit of sweetener, but I liked it as is. This is a tea that gets natural sweetness from grenadine and vanilla – two flavors that go well together. You can read my full experience here.

3 Mercedes Apple Spice Herbal

No true tea in this, just apple pieces, rose petals, cinnamon, cloves, and more.This herbal is caffeine free and starts with a flavor that is like the crisp character of autumn apple delicately layered with exotic cardamom, cloves, and pepper that turns to a light lingering cinnamon punch at the end. Ingredients include cinnamon, ginger, apple pieces, hibiscus and cornflower petals, stevia, cloves, pepper, cardamom, and natural flavors. The cinnamon is a bit problematic and can turn this infusion bitter. That was certainly our experience when we tried it. Sweetener is definitely advised, but you might want to steep up a little first and chill it to be sure.

4 Darjeeling

A blend of only the finest Darjeeling tea, regarded by many as the “Champagne of Teas.” This tea is light yet has a distinctively fragrant taste. The chilled version can be fine as is or can be made even better with some sweetener such as agave or honey.

5 PG Tips

A slight edge was evident as we let the liquid flow over our tongues before swallowing. However, it’s much milder in chilled form than hot, but not as mild as the Devonshire Tea. Again, we added a bit of sweetener to give a complete test. It took slightly more in this tea due to the edge. (More about PG Tips.)

6 Bohemian Raspberry

An enticing blend of Sencha style green tea with natural raspberry flavoring. Sencha is typically comprised of dark green, needle-shaped leaves that infuse a pale green to yellow liquid with a sweetish, honey-like finish and mellow grassy undertones. This version adds in sweet raspberry notes. The chilled version was fruity and naturally sweet.

7 Blackcurrant Black Tea

This is black tea with blackcurrants, cornflowers, and more.The first thing you will notice is that this tea, chilled in the glass, is cloudy. What matters, though, is the taste and, to a lesser extent depending on the sensitivity of your “sniffer,” the aroma. Here both the taste and aroma call out for sweetener. I recommend some raw sugar, some tupelo honey, or an artificial sweetener of your choice. The tea has the potential to be quite refreshing on a hot day.

That should give you a nice line-up of teas to try chilled as hot weather descends on the Northern Hemisphere.

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.

Iced Tea and Accessories (ETS image)

Iced Tea and Accessories (ETS image)

I don’t drink hot tea anymore. I wrote about it here, so I won’t cover it again except to say that it’s always iced tea season for me. But here in the northern hemisphere spring is in full swing and summer is approaching, and so one could safely say that it’s coming up on iced tea season for all of us.

With that in mind I shall endeavor to share a few things I’ve learned about tea over the years. Not that I’ve found out any great and mysterious secrets of iced tea or anything like that. One of the first things I would share about iced tea is that as far as taste and quality are concerned, it’s not really that much different from hot tea. You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear and you’re not likely to make a good cup of tea – hot or cold – unless you start with good tea.

After that, most of the same cautions that apply to hot tea apply to the iced kind. Time and temperature are critical, so make sure that you’re not steeping your tea too long. If you want “stronger” tea use more leaves rather than steeping the leaves longer. Understeeping is a no-no too but probably not nearly so common. I can think of numerous cases where I’ve seen people throw a bunch of tea bags and hot water in a container and let them sit for a very long time in preparation for making iced tea. Which is iced tea that’s likely as not going to end up being very bitter.

Temperature is the other key part of the tea equation. While most people here in the United States will make their iced tea using black tea it’s safe to say that just about any type of tea that tastes good hot will also taste good iced. I can’t think of any exceptions right off the top of my head. Hot or cold, you can sum up tea and temperature by saying that it’s important to make sure the robust teas like black are steeped at high enough temps while you should beware of overheating the more delicate ones like green.

As far as how to make iced tea, I’d wager that just about any method that obeys the rules above should turn out good iced tea. My own method is to heat water in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave and then steep four cups worth of loose leaves in a gravity type infuser. Which I mix with cold water and pour into a one-quart plastic bottle which I’ve filled halfway with water and frozen.

See more of William I. Lengeman’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.

sweet-tea-150x150I’ll admit it right up front. I’m not much of a fan of sweet tea. But that’s okay. The many fans of this syrupy variation on black tea don’t really need my approval. What I didn’t realize until recently is that there’s apparently something of a controversy brewing about this concoction that’s said to have got its start somewhere in the American South.

Which is what is the tricky part – determining exactly where sweet tea did originate. As the Charleston City Paper recently noted, “the Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce officially launched the Sweet Tea Trail with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.” This matters to the world at large because Summerville has taken to claiming itself as The Birthplace of Sweet Tea, has trademarked this catchy phrase and even begun advertising itself as such.

What the article goes on to note, citing a few earlier articles that are part and parcel of said controversy, is that this claim is apparently not true. Tea was actually grown in Summerville between 1888 and 1915 (and is grown in the Charleston area to this day) but the claim that tea was first iced there in 1890 at a reunion of Confederate veterans there doesn’t work for everyone.

After addressing the alleged deficiencies of the claims for Summerville, the author of the article goes on to speculate on where sweet tea might have actually originated. He cites a 2008 book called Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, whose authors found accounts of something resembling sweet tea as far back as 1868 – and in the North, if you can imagine such a thing.

After that this notion apparently started to take hold and, as the article notes, “iced tea recipes are rife in cookbooks from the 1880s and 1890s,” many of which recipes advocated adding sugar to the mix. However, those who are fond of picking nits might note that sweetened iced tea is not quite the same as sweet tea, the latter of which is prepared in a very specific manner.

All of which goes on at a little more length and in a little more detail than yours truly cares to know about, especially given that this is a drink I find mildly appalling. But if you’re interested in all of the nitty-gritty details I’d encourage you to take a look at the article.

See more of William I. Lengeman’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.

 

Sugar cubes (stock image)

Sugar cubes (stock image)

I’ve never been particularly keen on sweetened tea. I don’t know if that puts me in the minority of tea drinkers but the fact is that there are plenty of people who do like their tea sweetened. Enough to apparently make it worthwhile to do a research study on the topic. Or a bunch of research studies. Here are a few thoughts on some of the more noteworthy ones of these that I was able to locate.

It’s not about sweetened tea, in the strictest sense of the word, but a research study focused on green tea candy is close enough for me. As students of mouthwash and toothpaste commercials may know, gingiva is another word for our gums. The study was carried out some time ago by German researchers, who found “that the oral application of green tea catechins and polyphenols might have a positive influence on the inflammatory reaction of periodontal structures.” Which is as good a reason to eat tea candy as any, I guess.

Sticking with the dental theme for a moment, another study took a look at “the relationship between caries levels and sweet tea consumption.” While us Yanks might think first of the American South when we hear the term sweet tea, this study was actually carried out by British researchers on Iraqi sweet tea drinkers. Their probably not so surprising findings were that “exposure to sugar increases the intake sugar and the risk of dental caries.”

I’ve never been all that keen on flavored teas either, but even if I were I’m not sure what I’d think about a mix of sweet pepper, apple and black tea. But that didn’t stop Chinese researchers, a few years ago, from trying to make “a new composite health drink” out of these very same elements.

Not surprisingly, given tea’s reputation for containing potentially health-giving compounds, some people are driven to wonder what happens to those compounds when you add sweeteners and whatnot to the mix. A few years back Indian researchers rolled out a study that looked at the influence of milk and sugar on the antioxidant potential of black tea. Their results seemed to be somewhat mixed, but for the most part the milk and sugar appeared to have negative effects.

As for the effects of honey on antioxidants, well, don’t fret. Portuguese researchers took on this question in a study published earlier this year and found that honey “potentiates the antioxidant activity of lemon-flavoured black tea, increasing the reducing power and lipid peroxidation inhibition properties, as also the antioxidant contents such as phenolics, flavonoids and organic acids including ascorbic acid.”

See more of William I. Lengeman’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.

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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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