Tea Infused Cocktails

It all started with the sniffles and a steaming mug of spiced cinnamon black tea and honey. And whiskey. Hot on the tongue and warm in the belly. Sip, savor, repeat…after that it’s been a slippery slope experimenting with tea infused cocktails.

 

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Hot Toddy/Totty/Tottie:

1 heaping teaspoon of tea per 8 ounces of water

1-2 shots of Irish Whiskey (eyeball it– and please drink responsibly)

1 Tablespoon of local honey and/or lemon juice

2 Cinnamon sticks for taste and garnish

 

Pour almost boiling water (don’t want to burn the leaves!) over the tea and steep about 4 minutes. Strain the leaves from the tea, add honey and whiskey, stir in and add cinnamon sticks. Enjoy slowly.

 

When to drink: Winter evenings and to soothe a sore throat.

 

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The Hot Toddy is something my cousin (a Murphy of course) swears by. I remember having a conversation via text when he was a little under the weather and he proclaimed the hot whiskey would heal all ailments. As his younger cousin, I trusted him enough to try it next time I had a sore throat, and it was certainly soothing. I make Hot Toddies with Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice, a black tea blend with bold flavors of sweet cinnamon, cloves, and orange peels. An excellent partner for Jameson and just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

 

 

White Tea Sangria:

Two heaping teaspoons of white tea per 8 ounces of white wine.

¼ cup of frozen fruit, your preference.

2 tablespoons simple syrup (Optional. I refrained from using a simple syrup).

For the simple syrup, bring ¼ cup water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in ¼ cup of brown sugar until completely dissolved. Let cool before adding to the mixture.

 

Steep white tea in wine for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator. Pour wine into a glass, add fruit, and stir in simple syrup. For fruitier wine, add the fruit with the tea the night before. Add a slice of lime for garnish. Adapt this recipe by adding a splash of liquor, possibly a gin. Maybe even a tea steeped gin…

 

When to drink: Dinner parties and lazy summer afternoons.

 

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This sangria is a tad tart and not very fruity. I steeped the tea leaves in the wine overnight using a light, earthy tea: The Tea Spot’s Monkey-Picked white tea. It paired well with a light bodied, sauvignon blanc. Refreshing, yet dry. A good base for a sangria–tea or no tea.

For a sweeter, fruitier sangria, like the one I made last July make a strong iced tea and mix with wine in a pitcher (1 part iced tea, 2 parts wine). Add your favorite fruit and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. Just before serving, if you like, make a simple syrup and add it to the tea and wine mixture. I froze raspberries in ice cubes to keep my sangria cold…and because it looks so darn pretty.

 

 

Gin and Tea Cocktail:

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) tea-steeped gin (I used a black tea blend)

1.5 tablespoons simple syrup (equal parts brown sugar and water)

1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice

Ice cubes (for shaking)

A splash of ginger ale (or if you wish, use as a replacement for the simple syrup)

 

To steep gin, use two heaping teaspoons of tea per 4 ounces of gin. Steep the tea in gin for at least 24 hours (I recommend 48 hours). Pour into a shaker, add simple syrup, lemon juice, and ice. Shake. Pour, leaving out the ice, into cocktail glass. Add ginger ale and garnish with lemon peels on the rim or zest lemon over the cocktail.

 

When to drink: After sunset and during pensive contemplation.

 

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This last drink is brand new to me; it had the most steps, involved the most risk and variables, but was the most fun to make (and remake). If you can steep tea in wine, why not steep it in gin and make a martini or cocktail? In my research, I noticed Earl Grey was a popular blend used to steep in gin. Gin is a strong spirit, so it needs a strong blend. I wanted to stay in the black tea family but do something different. Here I used The Tea House’s Blue Lady, a black tea blend with lavender and grapefruit: lightly floral and citrusy.

If you have a favorite tea cocktail please feel free to share!

Bubble Tea Take Two: Homemade

I wasn’t crazy about the bubble tea I had when I was out, but I didn’t want that to turn me off to bubble tea. I love experimenting with tea, have plenty of it, and I bought the tapioca pearls anyway so one afternoon earlier this week I took on the challenge.

The recipe I used is adapted from Rick Rogers’ Tea and Cookies. It was a  Christmas gift from my aunt and I browse through it from time to time looking for some inspiration and this time I found his bubble tea recipe, though I tweaked a few things here and there.

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Ingredients:

3 tablespoons pearl tapioca

Simple syrup to taste

3 rounded teaspoons of your choice of tea

½ cup milk

Ice cubes

I’m still obsessed with the same spring teas I wrote about for my school newspaper earlier this semester so I decided to use two teas from House of Tea. The first is an herbal tea, Fruits of the Forest, and the second is a green tea with green rooibos and ginger.

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The tapioca pearls were hard and starchy. They reminded me of little balls of chalk- quite a contrast to how squishy and sweet they were when I was slurping them through a giant straw in Chinatown.

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Directions:

First, boil 1 ½ cups of water and then add the tapioca pearls. Let them simmer for about 30 minutes or until the pearls are tender and squishy.

While the pearls were simmering, put a second pot of water on for the tea. When that boils take it off the heat for a minute and then add  it to a measuring cup with the tea to steep and cool. I used two different teas, so I used two different measuring cups.

In a third pot prepare a simple syrup (1 cup of sugar stirred into 1 cup of boiling water). Once the sugar dissolves place it aside to cool.

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When the pearls were tender,  them cool for about 15 minutes, strain them, and rinse them with cold water.  Then, put them into a small bowl and pour enough simple syrup over them to be covered.

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I didn’t have a shaker to combine the milk and simple syrup with the tea but I had two different sized cups and I filled the larger one with milk, some ice cubes, and the tea. Because I used two teas I added ¼ cup of milk both times.

I pushed the smaller cup inside, held both together and shook it over the sink until the ice melted and the mixture was foamy. I scooped the tapioca pearls into each of the glasses and poured the tea mixture over them. Don’t forget the big straws to slurp up the bubbles! I saved and washed the straws from my Chinatown outing, but they are available at an Asian grocery store, like the one I went to.

This process takes a little over an hour to set up, prepare the pearls and wait for the tea to cool, but I found some things that can be cut to shorten the preparation time. The recipe called for a beverage syrup (like a simple syrup but fruity) but I did not use it, instead I used some of the simple syrup, which could also be cut in half (I had extra, but I also never add sugar to my tea).

The green tea was sweet at first but had a strong ginger aftertaste. I’ve had this tea iced before and enjoyed it plain but the milk added a subtle creaminess even though I used skim milk instead of whole milk. The herbal tea was very sweet and fruity with a prominent strawberry aftertaste.

Using ingredients I already had (water, tea, milk, sugar), saving the straws, and buying 16oz of tapioca pearls for $1.38 it was much more cost efficient to make bubble tea at home, though I’m not giving up on Chinatown just yet.

Blue Lady Infused Cupcakes

When I went home for Easter Break, I was feeling the need to bake something, which means I was probably stressed because I bake when I’m stressed.

Teetering on a chair, I rummaged through some of my mom’s cookbooks above the microwave and I finally found an ancient Betty Crocker cookbook. Some of the pages were matted with caked on flour, especially the pancake pages. I found a simple white cake recipe and a brown sugar-based icing. A perfect blank canvas to start with.

 

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From left to right: Green tea with green rooibos, Blue Lady, and Fruits of the Forest

I brought home several spring teas I wrote about in The Hawk and I wanted to incorporate them into the cupcakes. A quick way to freshen up a cupcake or cake recipe is to infuse it with tea, and thankfully it only requires an extra step.

For tea I used one of my favorites of the bunch, Blue Lady, an herbal-black tea with an aroma of grapefruit, from The House of Tea. Because it is a black tea, and on the stronger side (a few of them were light green and herbal teas) I figured the flavor would successfully translate into the cupcakes.

Infused tea

 

Infusing is very simple: steep the tea in butter required for the recipe. My recipe called for about a half cup of butter but I ended up using closer to a cup. Usually one teaspoon of tea yields eight ounces of water for a cup of tea but for this recipe I used a couple teaspoons of tea.

In a pot I melted the butter on medium heat (make sure not to burn the butter) and then added about two teaspoons of tea. I let it steep for about five minutes, constantly stirring. I then strained the butter and poured it into the batter.

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The finished cupcakes were light and airy with hints of grapefruit and citrus that complimented the rich icing. So I baked a couple dozen, just enough to forget about the homework load I had…let’s just say I neglected to do any homework but I did make some fabulous treats with tea.

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Calmer Sutra Tea Tasting

Finally, a moment from my studies–my apologies for the hiatus. I went home this weekend, thankful for a break from school so I could focus on tea. Coming home from school for a weekend always has its benefits; one of them is improved photography with the variety of tea ware, better lighting, and more space.

Recently I received a few samples from Calmer Sutra Tea, based in Brooklyn, New York (originating from Melbourne, Australia). Thankful for the opportunity to try a new tea, I’ve decided to share my tasting.

After tearing open my package, I found three teas: Floral Fields Tisane (Chamomile), Peppermyntle Tisane (Peppermint), and their signature chai, Spiced Masala Tea.

From left to right: Chamomile, peppermint, chai
From left to right: chamomile, peppermint, chai

 

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Floral Fields Tisane

Floral Fields Tisane is a chamomile tea with hints of rose petals and lavender. Other than looking delicate with pink rose petals and bits of lavender added to the chamomile flowers, this herbal tea actually smells floral too.  I added a couple of teaspoons to my infuser and let it steep for about five minutes. Go ahead and let it steep longer for enhanced flavor. Like any chamomile tea, this tea is caffeine-free, good for right before bed (when I tried it actually), or if you just need a moment to yourself.

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Peppermyntle Tisane

Peppermyntle Tisane is an herbal peppermint tea with lemon myrtle and subtle citrus notes. Before even drinking this tea, smell it. This is the perfect tea if you’re feeling under the weather– one sniff and it clears your sinuses (and not in a wasabi way). The first sip is immediately invigorating. It floods the mouth and nasal passage, leaving a lingering clean feeling on your tongue.

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Spiced Masala Tea with milk

Finally, Spiced Masala Tea, Calmer Sutra’s signature chai. The chai was much different than what I am used to, though I’m no chai expert. The leaves were wet, because it is infused with honey (please keep refrigerated after opening). The smell reminded me of warm, soft gingerbread cookies. It is an infusion of black tea, with Indian spices like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and ginger root, and is perfect for cold weather. I tried it both with and without milk. As a chai latte it’s creamy with accents of honey (without adding any extra), cinnamon, nutmeg, and black tea.

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Spiced Masala Tea without milk

Usually when I try tea I add nothing to it, so I had a second cup without milk to get a better idea of how the tea tastes, hoping to catch the ginger highlights from the ginger root that the milk might have masked (or I just didn’t brew it correctly). The spices were much more pungent. I think this tea would compliment a big bowl of oatmeal, either as a drink on the side or brewed with the oats for a chai oatmeal.

Stay warm and hopefully spring weather is sooner than we think! Until then, brew yourself a hot pot of tea.

Cheers!

 

Disclaimer: Calmer Sutra Tea provided me with complimentary tea samples but did not ask for a review. 

Afternoon and Cream Tea

I hope your holidays were restful, joyful, and filled with an abundance of family and tea.

The other day I was feeling homesick for my Notting Hill address and inspired by the premiere of Downton Abbey’s fourth season at the same time, so I decided to have cream tea in my living room.

Cream tea is simply a pot of your choice of tea, scones, clotted cream, lemon curd, and jam. I usually brew an afternoon black tea blend for cream or afternoon tea. Just to clarify: afternoon tea is cream tea plus finger sandwiches (cucumber, chicken salad, ham, egg salad, etc) and smaller sweets like macaroons or tiny cookies. Afternoon tea generally takes place between about 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. (the afternoon) but I’ve had reservations as early as 1 p.m. As for cream tea, I’ve had it throughout the day in London cafes, so it’s a bit more flexible and informal.

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Upper left: strawberry jam, lemon curd, and clotted cream. Bottom center: buttery, flaky scones smothered in clotted cream and jam. Bottom right: Hot Cinnamon and Spice tea with milk. Perfection.

One of my current favorite black teas is Harney & Son’s Hot Cinnamon Spice. This time I tried it with some milk. Usually I refrain from adding anything to this tea because it has a much sweeter taste than a traditional afternoon blend, but I’m one for experimentation and I do recommend it as long as it is given a chance on its own first. Please, do not go anywhere near this blend with sugar. Thanks.

I referred to the scone recipe from Rick Rodgers’ Tea and Cookies. It was simple to follow and helpful with tips! I think my scones could be a bit thicker/fluffier– probably to do with how much I patted the dough down before I cut out the scones. Also, the little black dots are not raisins– they are currants (think mini raisin) and can be found in the same aisle.

This was not the only tea adventure I had over my holiday–of course I had to get out and explore another tea room!

After Christmas I went to Chadds Ford, PA with my dad for some afternoon tea at Special Teas Tea Room. Before we grabbed our finger sandwiches, we ordered two bowls of steaming, savory, creamy butternut squash soup to taunt our taste buds (and to be honest this was both our breakfast and lunch, let alone afternoon tea). Needless to say, we were starving.

We shared two pots of tea: a traditional afternoon black tea blend and a Christmas blend with cinnamon undertones. This was a very relaxing place to have tea, the service was timely and the staff was very friendly. I recommend staying a few minutes before you leave to browse their gift shop… they have lots of UK products.

After experiencing a few afternoon teas since I’ve returned from London, I do tend to compare them. Anyone can describe the mechanics of an afternoon tea: tea, scones, two or three spreads for the scones, finger sandwiches, tiny sweets, etc. But presentation, taste, service, tea and table ware, and atmosphere are what really defines and differentiates place A’s afternoon tea from place B’s afternoon tea.

Presentation: Are the cups clean? How about the silverware? Is everything neat and in its proper place? Is it aesthetically pleasing?

Taste: How does everything taste? Sweet? Salty? Hearty? Do you like the tea?

Service: Have you been served in a timely fashion? Too slow? Rushed? Is the staff friendly?

Tea and table ware: Does the tea ware clash or compliment each other? Is it an eyesore or does the contrast work?

Atmosphere: Would you come here again? How were the other customers?

Some places are more formal and chic with glass teapots, while some like to mix and match china for a homey feel. To each his own. It really all comes down to a good quality tea and good company.

Cheers!