In a previous blog I told you about the great finds I had this year at the church and library book sales. I was thumbing through Williams-Sonoma “Entertaining” that I purchased for 1/7th the original cost – and helped give to charity – when I cam upon their idea of a table favor or gift for the guest. They suggest that you might gift them with samples of teas that were served at your event, enough for a pot of tea tea for each guest – assuming you use loose leaf teas. You will need enough extra tea to give each guest enough for a pot of each tea, small glassine envelopes (the ones that look like wax paper), ribbon, decorative self-stick labels, a hole punch and a pen – or if your penmanship is as bad as mine, a computer and printer and sheets of printer acceptable labels. Prepare the labels with the type of tea clearly printed on them. If you can do calligraphy, even better. You may want to make a second set of labels with brewing instructions for the back of the bag. Scoop the tea into each envelope, keeping track of the types of tea in each. Stand the pouches up to move the tea to the bottom of the bag. Fold the top down 1/2 inch and seal with the correct label. Punch two small holes at the top of the envelope and thread a length of decorative ribbon through the holes and tie into a bow. Arrange the sachets on a tray or in a basket. Or you could place them in a small gift bag that you have decorated with rubber stamps, stickers and or ribbons and place at each place setting. Use ribbons, labels and bags to match your decorations. The glassine will preserve the tea a little better than placing them in tea sacs. Use your imagination. I am sure that your guests will appreciate the extra efforts you took to send them home with a momento of the event.
I love books. I miss my Borders store greatly. So I was thrilled that one of the local churches and the county library had book sales on the same day. Because I love bargains, too. Old cookbooks are a favorite. So, I now have “The Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Cook Book” from 1959. I must have been a popular book because I saw three that day. While there are some recipes that make me cringe. One is for “Hurry-up Hot Tea” which, believe it or not, recommends that you keep a jar of instant tea handy for a bracing cup of hot tea. Measure the tea into each cup according to the label directions; fill with boiling water; stir. Oh, come now. Really? Instant tea must have been new then. However, there was one recipe that I think will come in handy for the holidays. It’s “Tea for a Crowd”. It’s a recipe for tea concentrate. And I quote. “Planning a tea? A tea concentrate make serving large groups easy. At teatime, all you have to do is pour a little concentrate into each cup and fill with ho, hot water. The tea can be strong or weak — its’s the amount of concentrate that makes the difference. Or just before serving you can combine the concentrate with the hot water in a large teapot — 1 cup concentrate to 6 cups boiling water.
“Tea concentrate for 40 to 45 servings: Bring to a high bubbling boil 6 cups freshly drawn cold water. Remove from heat and promptly add 1/4 pound loose tea, stirring in leaves. Cover; steep 5 minutes. Strain into teapot.
“Concentrate cloudy? Add the hot water at teatime will make it sparkle again.”
That’s a pretty good start. I have a couple of suggestions. You can strain or you can put the tea leaves in large tea filters – paper or mesh. Four ounces equals 113.36 grams (for those of you metric folk) or 1/4 pound. For the purposes of this recipe and the time period it is from, I can safely assume this is black tea used int he recipe. As the size of the tea leaf varies with the quality of the tea, weighing is recommended. And as black tea weighs more than others, for green tea you would use about 2/3 the weight and for white only about half. And, I would suggest that while you may chill the concentrate and add to hot water a cooler tea will result. Perhaps a tea too cool. Another idea is to place the concentrate in a thermos or airpot. And finally, I would suggest that instead of a “high bubbling boil” that the water just come to the boil to conserve as much oxygen as possible. By making the tea ahead – I would not suggest it be more than 2 or 3 hours – you do save a bit of last minute grief and it is easier to carry. Enjoy.
It’s hard to believe that 46 years have passed since James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock first started their five-year mission to seek out new life and new civilizations. I was young enough to be a Chekov fan then. Then came Star Trek – Next Generation. Jean-Luc Picard and Will Riker expanded the galaxy even more. Not only that, but Captain Picard reintroduced me to tea, specifically Earl Grey.
Growing up I shared Bigelow Constant Comment and Plantation Mint with my mother. My grandmother drank Lipton. If I was lucky in the summer we found Plantation Mint instant and had iced tea. Once I got to college, however, there were a lot of “all-nighters” studying for nursing exams and writing a 32 page paper for each patient I would be caring for – 4 a week, plus term papers, and the other classes. I needed caffeine. Lots of caffeine. The sorority house where I was a dormie – they didn’t have enough sisters to fill the rooms – always had a coffee pot full. Granted it could be 15 hours old, but it was coffee. And when I began my nursing career, there was coffee in the unit kitchen. And when anesthesia school started and we attended EVERY delivery – that’s when a lot of them occurred in the middle of the night – and took call – well, you grabbed what was there quickly. It was that pot of 15 hour-old coffee. I learned to drink coffee hot or tepid or cold.
But, there was Jean-Luc Picard. Walking up to a wall and saying “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHsgt4NN9GA in case you’ve forgotten. And I became intrigued. Just who was Earl Grey and why did he have a tea named after him? And what did it taste like?
The Earl Grey that the tea is named for was the 2nd Earl and he was a British Prime Minister in the 1830’s. He received a gift of black tea flavored with Bergamot oil, which is from an Italian orange. According to one legend, a grateful Chinese mandarin gave it to him after one of the Earl’s men saved his son from drowning. This is highly unlikely as the Chinese did not know about Bergamot oil. Jacksons of Piccadilly claim to have invented the recipe and have had it in constant production since. The Grey family says the tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for Lord Grey, to suit the water of Howick Hall, the ancestral Grey home. The bergamot was to offset the lime in the local water. Lady Grey used the blend to entertain her London guests and it was so popular she asked if it could be sold to others, which is how Twinings came into the picture.
Earl Grey tea is not only good as a drink, but has been used as a flavoring for many types of cakes, chocolate confections and even in savory sauces. Here at the store Inggrie of TehKu Teas has blended Earl Grey and added mallow flowers. Earl Grey de la Crème. My favorite. Of course, now , the doctors say I have to limit caffeine.
So, thank you, Jean-Luc, for reigniting my love of tea and expanding my horizons.
OK. The easiest way is to make reservations and come to Unicorn Wine Guild for tea. The next easiest is to do it yourself.
Make a list of 4 to 6 close friends. You might also want to include a couple of newbies in the group, but be sure that they are included in the conversation and don’t feel left out. It is a great way to introduce the new neighbor, club member, etc.
Make, buy or e-vite the group. Be sure to include a respond by date. You can even ask them to each bring a plate of their favorite dessert. In this case indicate the size of the group. It’s OK to ask.
Send out these invitations at least two weeks in advance. In this modern age, the longer the notice, the better. Saturday or Sunday afternoons are often the best time.
For your tea you will want to have 2 or 3 varieties of tea. Make sure that one is caffeine free such as a fruit or Rooibos.
A couple of days before the party gather your supplies – tablecloth, napkins, plates, cups and saucers, tea pot, silverware. Be whimsical or formal. Paper or china. The choice is yours. This will give you time to shop to complete your needed items. To ease the cost of entertaining, many recommend that if using china to collect plain white china or clear glass. This way the china lasts year round and you can accessorize with patterned linens (or paper). A centerpiece adds sparkle to the table. Choose flowers or a whimsical arrangement. It is nice to give a small gift to each participant. These can even be arranged as the centerpiece.
A few hours before the guests arrive, prepare two types of tea sandwiches, cut into triangles and cover in the fridge until serving time. You might also want to prepare something like a simple fruit dish. Don’t forget the milk, lemon and sugar cubes.
Arrange the food as a buffet. Serve iced tea in pitchers and hot tea in teapots. Let the guests serve themselves. (While one lump or two is wonderful for hot tea, it doesn’t do so well for iced. Having a small pitcher of simple syrup is a great benefit to the guests. It’s easy. Just stir equal amounts of sugar and hot water until they form a solution.)
Above all, have a good time with your friends. Don’t worry that it’s not perfect. The point of the whole thing is to share in friendship.
I love tea, especially black tea. But, somewhere along the line in the last few years my body has rebelled against caffeine. I have inherited a heart arrhythmia that requires a zap to the chest to fix. Not fun. Not cheap. So, I limit my caffeine consumption and save it for a piece of chocolate, and the occasional half cup of decaf coffee or a treat of a cup of tea – usually the second brew. My new love is Rooibos. A tisane from South Africa also known as “Red Bush”, many consider it to be a more healthy alternative to Camillia sinensis.
South African Bushmen harvested the Aspalathus linearis for centuries. However, as the number of Bushmen declined, it was almost lost. In 1772 botanist Carl Humberg rediscovered the plant. In 1904 Benjamin Ginsberg began production of a commercial product of Rooibos. During World War II when importation of tea from China was especially difficult, it saw a rise in popularity. Still expensive, it wasn’t until Annique Theron wrote a book on it’s health benefits in 1968 that production increased and thus became more affordable.
Rooibos undergoes oxidation and fermentation like black tea with an end result of containing more antioxidants. It is naturally decaffeinated as it contains no caffeine to begin with and has fewer tannins. With fewer tannins, the body can more easily absorb iron and thus the person feels more energized. It has a sweet and nutty taste.
Not only is Rooibos tasty as a hot drink, it makes a refreshing iced beverage. So, if drinking tea too late in the day makes you jittery or delays your rest, try substituting Rooibos. Use a heaping teaspoon brewed with 180 degree water for 7 minutes for a fine drink. Enjoy.
Dawnya Sasse has been one of my mentors since I began my journey to open the tea portion of the winery. I share with you, with her permission, a definition of teas.
As I talk of different teas here at Tea Party Girl, you will find a definition for the different types here:
- Assam-Like wines, teas are often named based on where the tea is grown. In this case, Assam tea is a black tea grown in Assam, India. Assam tea is the base for many of the breakfast teas, i.e. English Breakfast. Assam tea will give you a bold, malty flavor.
- Ceylon-Ceylon tea is also named for where it is grown, Sri Lanka (previously the island of Ceylon). It is a black tea with a lighter, crisper taste than Assam.
- Darjeeling-Sometimes called the champagne of teas because it is coveted above other teas and often more expensive. It is grown in India. Its taste is fruity and spicy. Most Darjeeling teas are black teas. If a Darjeeling tea is described as a “first flush”, it is describing when in the year the tea is harvested, as this affects the taste.
- Green-If a tea is green, it has undergone less oxidation, the process of the tea plant chemically changing to yield a different result (black teas go through the most oxidation). Green tea has traditionally been popular in the East; however its popularity in the West increased radically when the health benefits of green tea were introduced during the last decade or two.
- Lapsang souchong-This tea grows in China and is pan-fried resulting in a smoky, earthy brew. This is reminiscent of the days when tea came from China to Europe over land. It gathered the flavor of the traders’ fires. It is one of the more bold flavors of black tea and has been said to be an acquired taste. Also said to be popular with men.
- Oolong-a tea that is less oxidized than black tea and more oxidized than green tea. It is mainly grown in China and Taiwan.
- Yunnan-Named after a China province, it is also called Dian hong tea. It is often used in tea blends. High quality Yunnan is identified based on the amount of leaf buds or golden tips of the tea plant present in the tea. These are harder to pick which is why their presence is valuable. This tea turns bitter quickly if over-brewed, but can handle multiple infusions (the leaves can be brewed more than once).
- Earl Grey-a tea named after a British Prime Minister from the 1800s. It is flavored with the oil of bergamot, a citrus fruit.
- White-Tea is classified as a white tea when it includes young-growth tea leaves AND buds, resulting in its pale color. Oxidation of the tea is stopped through steaming or frying the leaves. It’s more delicate, therefore more care is needed in its handling, and often fetches a higher price. It cannot handle boiling water and needs to be steeped at about 180 degrees.
- Dragon well-Also named Longjing tea and drank by emperors, Dragon well is a high quality green tea and China’s most renowned out of about 700 of their teas. It is hand-picked which can increase the cost and pan-fried providing a delicious chest-nutty flavor.
- Rooibos-A red “tea”, more correctly a tisane, not made from the camellia sinensis plant, but the rooibos plant grown at this time only in South Africa. This “tea” is also called honeybush and comes in almost every flavor imaginable. The South Africans enjoy rooibos with milk and sugar and even share it’s mildness with their infants. It is becoming popular outside of South Africa because of it’s lack of caffeine and other health benefits, and it’s mention in the popular novel, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.
I will add definitions of other teas as I add them to my articles. If I miss one, be sure to let me know!
Dawnya Sasse is the author of Tea Party Girl.com and is a long time educator in the art of tea. Grab 52 FREE Afternoon tea recipes by subscribing at http://www.TeaPartyGirl.com You are going to love it!
Unicorn Wine Guild carries over 30 teas that have been imported and blended by Teh-Ku teas in Dublin, Ohio.