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TOLSLL_CHM_-00_loose-leaf-tea-chocolate-mintWhat do you give a tea lover for Valentine’s Day? Chocolates. Chocolate Mint Tea, that is, and it happens to be our other Tea of the Month for February.

The Chocolate Mint Flavored Black Tea blend from English Tea Store is the delectable paring of chocolate and mint. This tea delivers a bright and coppery infusion and a chocolatey mint flavor that is especially prominent when milk and sugar are added. We find this tea tastes best when served hot, but it can also be enjoyed over ice. Using flavoring oils, not crystals, gives the tea drinker an olfactory holiday before indulging in a liquid tea treat.graphics-chocolate-975107

Rather than write more about the traditional chocolate Valentine gift, I’d like to point out a new feature on our site that starts with this tea. It will be slow in coming, as all good things are, but you will no doubt find it helpful. One by one your tea merchandiser Tammy is added very detailed information on each of our teas. Here is what she is presenting for the Chocolate Mint:

Cup Characteristics: Fresh lovely mint combined with full flavored chocolate tea that is wonderfully reminiscent of an after-dinner mint
Infusion: Bright and coppery
3d-graphics-teaIngredients: Black tea, Blackberry and Peppermint leaves, and Natural flavors
Caffeine/Antioxidant Level: Medium/High
Grade(s): OP (Orange Pekoe)
Manufacture Type(s): Orthodox (Traditional leafy)
Region: Nuwara Eliya + Dimbula + Uva
Growing Altitudes: 4000-8500 feet above sea level
Shipping Port(s): Colombo

~Your Editor

Ceylon greenOur first February tea of the month is ceylon green. Imported from Sri Lanka, our Ceylon Green is characterized as smooth and subtle. According to wikipedia, tea production is one of the main sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka. Originally known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka is an island country in the Indian Ocean. Great Britain occupied the coastal areas during the Napoleonic Wars to prevent France gaining control. In 1972 Ceylon’s name was changed to Sri Lanka when it became a republic. Currently, tea accounts for 2% of Sri Lanka’s GDP, generating roughly $700 million annually to the economy of Sri Lanka. It employs, directly or indirectly over 1 million people. Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth largest producer of tea. With all of these amazing stats, Ceylon Green is still one of the unsung heroes. Most of Sri Lanka’s tea exported is black, and green tea is typically imported from Asian countries.

Ceylon in tea refers to a location, not a type of leaf. Ceylon Green tea is prepared from the fresh leaves of the tea plant, unlike Ceylon Black, which is made from the aged stems and leaves. Ceylon Green is often described as “full bodied and pungent, with a malty or nutty flavor.” Whether you go with that or “smooth and subtle,” you will get 15% off if you purchase it now! I have no doubt our readers will weigh in with their own adjectives.

~Your Editor

With December coming to a close, the frantic holiday rush picks up and it’s hard to find a good time to wind down and relax with a good cup of tea. My seasonal picks for the month of December from the English Tea Store are sure to delight and soothe even some of the most frazzled holiday preppers.

For a good holiday tea to entertain your guests who enjoy tea, English Tea Store’s Holiday Spice is a must. The spicy flavors and a hint of orange will take you into the spirit of the holidays along with a burst of energy to keep you going. I enjoy my cup without milk and a hint of sweet.

(c) Crystal Derma for ETS use, all rights reserved.

(c) Crystal Derma for ETS use, all rights reserved.

For those in the mood for some mint flavor, you are in for a treat! The English Tea Store chocolate mint tea is a good pick-me-up. At first, I thought chocolate tea was not my thing and I am a huge chocolate lover but I felt not in tea. Once I opened up my bag, however, I was in heaven. A minty chocolate scent burst up to my nose and I thought to myself, This is tea? I immediately brewed my cup in anticipation, sweetener and milk nearby. I expected it to taste a little bit like a peppermint mocha and it does, but not as strong as I thought it would be. Milk made the flavors more subtle yet. Delicious.

Finally, my favorite is the peppermint tea. If you have never tried peppermint tea, you must. Fine tea leaves allow room for minty flavor in your cup. It’s good any time of day, even before bed since it’s caffeine free! Plain sweetener is just fine but some honey is also good for more natural sweetness. I like to mix both. If you like peppermint with a caffeinated kick, I would suggest the Stash White Christmas tea if you order it before it’s gone. It has not only peppermint but a bit of ginger in it.

I hope you join me again next month for January’s tea roundup. In the meantime, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings!

~CD

Mint Tisane (Photo source: article author)

Mint Tisane (Photo source: article author)

I was recently reminded just how wonderful fresh mint tisane can be when I had occasion to order it at a restaurant. Numb from the cold, and in need of a hot drink without caffeine (it was late in the evening), I was loathe to order a “herbal tea.” I knew that would more than likely mean a sub-standard brand of bagged chamomile, lemon, or some other similarly mundane tisane. But to my surprise I saw “Fresh Mint Tea” listed at the bottom of the drinks menu. I ordered it without hesitation.

When the tisane came, I knew I had made the right decision. With the mint leaves protruding out from the tall glass, it was both aesthetically pleasing and smelled wonderful. Through the glass I watched the water turn a deeper shade of green as the leaves released all of their minty goodness.

Although technically not a tea (it contains no Camellia Sinensis leaf), fresh mint tisane, or herbal infusion, is something I really enjoy. The fresh mint is significantly more flavourful than the crushed and pulverised leaves found in bagged mint tisane. The fresh leaves also make for a really beautiful cup of tea—there is a reason that fresh mint tisane is usually served in glassware!

On top of all that, it is ridiculously easy to make, so there’s no need to hold off trying it until you find a restaurant that serves it. All you need is water and some fresh mint leaves. Just boil the water and pop the leaves in, letting them to steep for 5-10 minutes, depending on how flavourful you like your tisane. You don’t even have to pull the leaves off the stem—in fact, if you leave the leaves on, it makes them easy to remove from the tisane, and you don’t have to worry about straining them out.

Easy, and deliciously fresh.

See more of Elise Nuding’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.

Chocolate Orange Flavored Black Tea

Chocolate Orange Flavored Black Tea

Chocolate and tea — two great tastes drawn irresistibly together through the corridors of time — become even more prevalent during the Winter Holidays. Believe it or not, what seems like such a natural combination now was not always so. “Really?” you ask. “Really,” I say.

In the beginning the world was innocent and chocolate was yet to be discovered. Then, lo, the cacao bean and all its wonders came to the attention of the Maya in a part of this globe that rises above the oceans in the Northern Hemisphere. The Europeans were introduced to it when Christopher Columbus and others brought some back from their travels. The popularity of hot chocolate drinks soon rivaled ale.

Tea came to the European continent about a couple hundred years later. At first, it was too pricey for the every day folk, who still turned to hot chocolate shoppes for their afternoon pick-me-up (not to mention the inns serving their coffees and ales). Within about 50 years the price of tea was down enough to lead to increased consumption and the opening of tea rooms. They soon rivaled the hot chocolate shoppes.

One day a light bulb went on over some enterprising genius’ head (which was pretty amazing since the light bulb hadn’t been invented yet), signaling the idea of joining chocolate with coffee and, of course, with tea! It’s been a mad rush ever since to try new combinations.

Just about every tea vendor out there, including Stash, The Republic of Tea, and Revolution, has a version or two or three of a chocolate tea. Some of those combinations are more successful than others, and some are more common than others. Flavors more commonly combined in teas with chocolate: caramel, cherry, coconut, hazelnut, mint, orange, and raspberry. Teas most commonly used are green and black (including pu-erh).

Bubble Teas with chocolate are one of the most popular flavors in Asia. Chocolate is also a great way to make honeybush and rooibos infusions palatable.

Chocolate Mint Flavored Black Tea

Chocolate Mint Flavored Black Tea

Part of the problem when people try a chocolate tea is expectation. Many in the U.S. hear the word “chocolate” and think “Hershey’s Kisses,” that is, milk chocolate. However, cocoa kernels and carob pods (a popular substitute) are usually what is used to add chocolate flavor to tea. Also, chocolate comes in several varieties, including bittersweet, semi-sweet, and baker’s chocolate. (There is also something called “white chocolate” which has no cacao in it and so is not really chocolate.) Bear this in mind before you imbibe. The taste may be a bit off from your previous experience with chocolate.

Balance is another big issue. Often, one flavor or another dominates. Getting the tea, chocolate, and other flavors (if any) such as mint to “play nice” and present a harmonious taste experience is tricky. Achievable, though.

While looking into chocolate teas, I came across an amazing statement: “I drink teas with flavorings because I don’t like the taste of black tea.” Here’s a novel suggestion for that person: Drink something else and leave all that delicious black to tea to those of us who appreciate it! Now, before all you tea vendors out there start quivering with indignation, let me emphasize that those flavored teas you make certainly have a wide audience — mostly “newbie” tea drinkers of which there seems to be an inexhaustible supply. Eventually, though, they “graduate” to teas like a Clonal 2nd Flush Darjeeling with its natural chocolaty flavor after a bit of education on the wonders of true teas (some breakfast blends are often said to have a chocolaty quality, too).

Guess what? The best news of all is that both tea and chocolate could be beneficial to you.

Of course, you can always pretend that your tea has chocolate in it by drinking it from a chocolate-colored mug. Mind over matter! You could also be content to simply enjoy your tea with something chocolate flavored such as Sticky Fingers Cocoa Chocolate Scones.

Whatever you choose, take a quick moment to thank those Maya centuries ago for recognizing the treasure inside those cacao beans. Enjoy!

Don’t forget to check out A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!

Tiger Wing ChocoMintName: ChocoMint

Brand: Tiger Wing

Type: Black tea / yerba mate blend

Form: Paper bagged tea, individually wrapped

Review: So what if it’s in a paper tea bag? This stuff is tasty! Plus, its a chocolate fix in a convenient, virtually calorie-free form. What’s not to love?

For those of you not in the know, Tiger Wing is an alternative brand from our friends at Golden Moon, purveyors of fine loose-leaf tea. While Golden Moon specializes in beautifully packaged whole leaf teas, Tiger Wing offers flavored blends in convenient, individually wrapped teabags. Designed to appeal to the “youth” market, this old lady still manages to appreciate them.

Take ChocoMint, for example. This is a decidedly energizing drink made from a base of mate and black tea, flavored with ginseng, cacao pieces, and chocolate/vanilla/mint flavoring. Yum. Granted, it isn’t a particularly sophisticated beverage, but if you are a person who appreciates the combination of chocolate and mint, it is hard to go wrong by drinking this stuff. The cocoa flavor is strong, with a kick of mint in the finish, and a nice bit of vanilla balancing the blend.

Packaging: I love individually wrapped paper tea bags. Carry one with you in your pocket, wallet, or purse so you can have your fix anywhere that offers hot water.

Recommendation: This is a great tisane for serious chocolate lovers. While it isn’t sweet, if it is the cocoa that you crave, ChocoMint ought to keep you happy for a good long while. If you do need a bit more sweetness, some sweetened almond milk or a bit honey ought to do the trick.

Caution: If you are avoiding caffeine for health reasons, stay away from Tiger Wing ChocoMint. The combination of black tea and mate, both stimulants, is a serious kick. For the same reason, don’t be tempted to substitute ChocoMint for your evening cocoa: You’ll never get to sleep.

[Editor’s note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

© 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.

Golden Moon Vanilla MintName: Vanilla Mint

Brand: Golden Moon

Type: Blend of green and black teas, flavored

Form: Loose leaf

Review: I confess that this tea had me at first sniff. The blend of crisp mint and rich vanilla reminded me of the “Mint Meltaway” candies of my youth. I couldn’t wait for the tea to infuse.

I wasn’t disappointed. The lovely vanilla/mint nose continued in the infused cup. This tea, with a base of black and gunpowder green teas, medium-light in body and infused to the sort of rich gold-green that is typical of gunpowder greens. This is a strongly flavored tea, with the mint dominating, though the vanilla provides a substantial backnote. I detected the gunpowder tea in this blend: Its strong, roasted notes added some substance. I am not so sure about the black tea, however, and wonder if it was added to give the tea enough body to sustain its strong flavors.

Incidentally, Golden Moon’s Vanilla Mint was good for a second steeping, and if anything, the toned-down mint notes made it even tastier than the first infusion.

Preparation Tips: Golden Moon recommends using “freshly boiled water” to prepare this tea. My own suggestion is to bring the water temperature down a notch, maybe to between 200F-208F. The blend of black and green teas makes the temperature question a tricky one, but I think that this tea is better steeped with slightly cooler water than is recommended. Golden Moon also suggests a 3-4 minute infusion, which is a little long for my taste. This tea is strongly flavored, and the mint can get to be a bit much if allowed to steep too long. Try 2 minutes instead. I found that a shorter infusion kept the mint from overwhelming the tea, plus the sweet and lovely vanilla notes got a chance to shine.

[Editor’s note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

© 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.

By Alexandra Hoover [reposted from our sister blog]

High on catnip?

High on catnip?

If you’ve ever wanted to experience firsthand what catnip is all about, you may want to make this catnip tea. It also includes chamomile, lemon balm, mint, and lemongrass. You need half a cup of catnip, a fourth of a cup of mint, a fourth of a cup of lemongrass, three-fourths of a cup of chamomile, and one cup of dried lemon balm.

This recipe is especially worthwhile if you have a garden. If you have been growing catnip, but don’t have a cat, here is your chance to try something new and appropriate. (Yes, catnip can be used by humans!)

To prepare it, mix all the ingredients together. Make sure you keep them in a sealed container until you want to make the tea. When you are ready for your catnip delight, put two teaspoons in a mug of boiling water for a maximum of five minutes. Take the herbs out, unless you prefer your tea to be strong. In that case, enjoy them in your cup for as long as you like.

Catnip tea does not produce the same affects on humans as it does cats. After drinking a sip, you won’t roll around on the floor, pouncing on imaginary objects. It is calming and welcome after a stressful day or taxing activity.

In addition to the tea’s sedative qualities, it provides numerous health benefits. For instance, catnip tea will relax your muscles and relieve nervousness. It also possesses anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is beneficial for most people with one exception–avoid drinking this tea if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Whether your cat will drink this tea is another story altogether. Stick to the liquid variety and your cat will stick to the herb.

Fact: Did you know that catnip belongs to the mint family?

What is Mint? Mint is a flowering plant that grows in many areas of the world, its leaves are often prized for their sweet and cooling scent and flavor.  Mint leaves are often infused in boiling water to produce a flavorful drink known as a tisane, or are added to tea leaves to produce a flavored tea.

Mint Tisane vs Mint Tea: People often use the term “mint tea” to describe two very different beverages. Many “mint teas” actually have no tea in them at all, but are instead an infusion of mint leaves. In the tea industry, an herbal infusion such as this is more properly called a “tisane”.

On the other hand, true tea (made from the camellia sinensis plant) is often blended with mint to create a refreshing beverage. The best-known mint tea is probably “Moroccan Mint” which is made from blending spearmint (usually) leaves with gunpowder green tea from China.

Why the Distinction is Important: The first reason is an aesthetic one: Mint tisane and mint tea are two very different beverages, each with their own flavor characteristics. The second reason has to do with health: All tea, even “decaf” tea, has caffeine. If a person must avoid caffeine for health reasons, they absolutely need to know whether the beverage they are drinking has caffeine in it.

Types of Mint: While there are several types of mint, the mints that most often end up in a tea or tisane are peppermint and spearmint. Peppermint has a decidedly “sharp” taste, as its name suggests, and works very well in blends that include chocolate flavoring. Spearmint has a smoother, more herbal flavor, and blends well with green tea and lemon flavoring.

Using Mint in Blends: When using mint in your own blends, be careful! Mint does tend to dominate and overwhelm other flavors, so add just a little at a time. Mint is very good in iced tea blends.

Cautions: Some people are allergic to mint, and others may find that it exacerbates symptoms of acid reflux or heartburn. For mint cautions, check out this page on Medline.

[Editor’s note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

© 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.

It never ceases to surprise me how many people apologize for wanting to put sugar in their tea, as if admitting a serious tea-drinking faux pas. I’ve always invited my guests to do what makes them comfortable and to drink their tea in any fashion they feel most pleasing. Still, I get meek apologies as if they feel that sugar in tea is just plain wrong. It got me thinking, is sweetening one’s tea a low-brow act of tasteless vulgarity?

Tea and Sugar

Tea and Sugar

Asian cultures traditionally drink their tea without any additives, yet the British are fond of sugar, milk and lemon! Traditionally, Russian Tea has a cube of sugar. In India, chai is sweetened by milk and honey and in Arab nations, Moroccan Mint Tea has quite a lot of sugar. So why then should Americans, who have a renowned appetite for sugar, feel apologetic when asking if it’s alright that they add sugar?

Quite often, a touch of sweetness brings out the taste of the tea. Yet, understandably, sugar is not a health food. There are many reasons to stay away from sugar (especially refined sugar).

You may want to explore some alternatives. The most obvious is honey (and all different types at that). Reported to have antimicrobial & antibacterial qualities and also good for soothing sore throats, this natural fruit sugar works with your body to increase energy and immunity.

Then there is Agave Nectar, which I have been using with much satisfaction as of late. I like that it does not crystallize and is easier to use. This natural sweetner is slowly becoming more readily available in local supermarkets as it gains popularity.

Another natural sweetner alternative is stevia. Stevia is a plant with very sweet leaves. Occasionally, you will find that stevia is used by many tea manufacturers to sweeten their blends. If not, either mix it in with your loose tea or find powdered versions at your natural health food store – but don’t use too much! This stuff is 30x sweeter than regular sugar!

No matter how you like your tea, never be afraid to enjoy it the way you like it most!

For more great articles, check out Madam Potts’ blog, Mad Pots 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 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, LLC, and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2017. 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, LLC., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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