Loose Leaf Tea

Are you dissatisfied with your cup of tea? The reason for this may be you are making tea mistakes. Did you know tea leaves expand during the brewing process and tea can be brewed too long? Read on to see if you identify with any tea mistakes.

Mistake #1:    Several tea drinkers believe tea purchased at their local grocer is good quality. The reality is these tea bags contain dust and crumbs of tea leaves. In all actuality, tea tastes best when brewed from loose-leaf tea leaves.

Tea bags were invented 100 years as a way to send samples to customers. Therefore, the trend caught on and over the years severely affected the quality of the tea.

Mistake #2:    Using tea strainers that are too small. Most people who drink tea own a mesh infuser ball that can only brew one cup at a time. Rather than using a mesh infuser ball, it is a good idea to consider switching to a t- sac for brewing loose-leaf tea. Using a t-sac will create an improved tea drinking experience since there will be room for the tea leaves to expand releasing their flavor.

Mistake #3:    Brewing tea using tap or microwaved water. Tap water has a chemical aftertaste and microwaved has a slight metallic taste. Both of these factors can significantly affect a tea’s taste. Instead of using tap water placed in the microwave, the best choice is cold filtered water. You will notice a difference in the flavor of your tea.

Electric Kettle Starter Kit

Electric Kettle Starter Kit

Mistake #4:    Forgetting to shut off your kettle or not emptying it after each use. Unfortunately, many rust out inside or the bottom gets burned. I will admit purchasing a quality kettle can be costly, but it will pay for itself within the first few cups. To prevent your kettle from getting ruined do not leave the water boiling until it evaporates, empty the unused water every time, and leave the lid open so it can air dry.

Mistake #5: Incorrect water temperature or brewing the tea too long. Green teas need rapid steaming water and black teas need almost boiling water to brew properly. Green teas brew quickly in two minutes, whereas black teas need 3-4 minutes. Over brewing green tea makes it taste like an over cooked vegetable. Over brewed black tea has a bitter flavor.

Mistake #6:    Using cream or half-n-half instead of milk in tea. Cream and half-n-half camouflage the flavor of tea. All you need is a touch milk to enhance the flavor of your tea.

Tea Canister

Tea Canister

Mistake #7:    Tea is not stored properly. The best place to store tea is in a tea canister away from the stove. It needs to be protected from heat, light, moisture, and other flavors. Tea absorbs other flavors surrounding it. Therefore, if you place it next to cayenne pepper your tea will taste like cayenne pepper.

Do you make any of the tea mistakes? If you do, it is okay many fellow drinkers probably commit the same errors. If you are a lucky person who is a tea expert, that is fantastic. Either way, sit down and enjoy a cup of tea.

© 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 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.

A classic OLS/ETS blog entry originally published 02.03.2009

 

Green Tea

Wouldn’t it be great to find a great tasting beverage that has the potential to improve your health? There is such a beverage – tea. Research has indicated that tea is healthier than water. This definitely a positive point since tea has more flavor. So, what are the potential health benefits?

Research has found that tea is healthier for your body than water. Surprising, since popular consensus states water is the healthiest beverage for your body. Findings have been reported that tea rehydrates the body as well as provides disease-fighting antioxidants. Tea may offer protection against stroke, heart disease, and several types of cancers.

Do you want more reasons to drink tea? Drinking tea has potential benefits such as boost the immune system as well as strengthen teeth and bones. Tea may also improve artery function by aiding in blocking LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol).

How about drinking green tea? Research has found that senior citizens in Japan who consumed one or more cups of green tea per day were less likely to present cognitive and memory problems. Green tea contains EGCG, which appears to reduce the production of a toxic protein that clogs the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease.

All these healthy reasons make me want to get my infuser and brew a cup of tea. Health benefits and delicious taste make this an excellent beverage of choice. If only everything that tasted good proved to be healthy for us.

© 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 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.

A classic OLS/ETS blog entry originally published 01.23.2009

Victoria sandwich JanuaryI mentioned in another post a Victoria Sandwich but if you do not know what a Victoria sandwich is then here is the recipe.  A very easy cake to make that does not keep well but then after the first bite you will not want to keep it but eat it with a cup of Tea.

This is commonly called a fatless sponge:
2 medium eggs
75 g or 3 oz Caster Sugar
75 g or 3 oz Self Raising Flour
A little hot water.

Heat the oven to 180 C, 350 F or gas mark 4 and grease or line a 7 inch (18 cm) cake tin.

Whisk the eggs lightly and then add sugar and whisk well until thick and creamy.  Lightly fold in the well-sieved flour and about a tablespoon of hot water.  You can add vanilla extract or other flavouring at this point.

Pour mixture in the prepared tin and bake for 25 – 30 mins.  Turn out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.  When cold slice and spread the bottom half with warmed jam and the top half with whipped cream and sandwich together.  Sift icing sugar on the top and enjoy.

~JB

YuleChristmas would not be Christmas without the food and a Yule log is something that is easy to make, looks impressive and taste good.  I use a Swiss roll basic recipe and cover it with chocolate butter cream.  So first we will make a Swiss roll, which is basically a fatless sponge.  You will need:

2 eggs
3 oz Caster (superfine) sugar
3 oz  Self Raising Flour
1 tablespoon hot water
Vanilla essence/extract

Prepare a Swiss roll tin by greasing and lining well with baking parchment.  Oven 220 C, 425 F or gas mark 6-7.

YulelogWhisk the eggs lightly and then add the sugar and whisk well until thick, creamy and almost white in colour.  Lightly fold in the flour with a metal spoon,  (take your time and fold in thoroughly) then add the hot water and vanilla essence.  Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 10 mins.  Test by pressing gently but firmly with a finger if no impression is left your sponge is done.  Turn the sponge out onto sugared paper and trim the crisp edges off.  Make a shallow cut at one end to aid the rolling process.  If you are using jam and cream roll the sponge up with the paper inside and leave to cool.  Warm the jam first before spreading it.  Once cool spread your filling and roll up tightly.  Cover the whole thing with chocolate butter cream, I used equal quantities of butter, icing sugar and Cadbury’s Milk chocolate. (I used milk chocolate because I do not like plain but plain gives it a better colour so if you like plain use it!)  Fork over the butter cream to make it look like the bark of a tree.  I have cut the log into two pieces for the photograph so you can see the inside.  Again I used a plain sponge because our family are not keen on chocolate but by adding 1 oz of cocoa powder in place of the flour you can make a chocolate Swiss roll.

~JB

Have you heard the publicity surrounding organic and fair-trade tea? If you have not, that is okay too. In all truth, I just heard about organic and fair-trade tea fairly recently. Turns out that tea is harvested by a number of people in developing countries working for menial wages and grown using harsh chemicals that can harm humans and the environment.

Fair Trade Symbol

Typically, tea is produced by manufacturers paying their workers extremely low wages and making them work in substandard environments. Fair trade stops these unfair practices by companies paying their workers a fair wage and working to improve the living standards and educational opportunities for their workers and families. A further explanation fair trade is it is an alternate economic model striving for globalized economic equality by honoring a fair price for products, fair wages, and safe working conditions for workers. Fair trade also works to eliminate unnecessary intermediaries thereby enabling and empowering the farmers and artisans to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global market.

USDA Organic Symbol

Organic tea is harvested without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or insecticides. Teas of this type are great for the environment, because the soil is enriched with natural compost and a layer of mulch to retain moisture while providing extra nutrients as it breaks down. Organic tea is also beneficial for farmers that tea plants can live more than 100 years. In addition to being good for farmers and the environment, it is good for you too. Organic tea provides superior flavor and health benefits from increased polyphenols and catechins. Both organic and fair-trade teas are more costly than traditional, industry-standard tea. In my opinion, it is worth it to pay a little more for a beverage that does not harm the environment or exploit its workers. It feels good to purchase tea with a conscience, which is why I choose tea by Organic Garden. The teas from this manufacturer have a delightful aroma and wonderful taste. Try a cup for yourself and tell me what you think. Enjoy!

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

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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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