Your Herb Garden Can Enhance Your Tea Experience
It is easy to add home grown herbs to your favorite tea. With all the work that goes into maintaining a garden, your herbs can be enjoyed in your beverages as well as food. Here are 3 tips on how to make this the best tea experience possible.
- Pesticides/Fertilizers – Be careful with how you fertilize and protect your herbs. Even if you don’t use a liquid fertilizer or pesticide in your herb garden, if they are used in your yard, transfer can happen with the wind, animals or you. Obviously, rinse your herbs before drying or consuming. Nobody wants fertilizer or pesticide in their cup of tea.
- Dry vs. Fresh – The herbs can be added both ways. You should blend by the cup, meaning pick and add when you are ready to consume. This is because you need to be super careful with storage. Fresh herbs should generally not be stored with your dry tea. The moisture will be quickly absorbed into the tea. Mold can easily grow if it occurs in your dark, airtight container (which is how you should be storing your tea). If you are drying your herbs, you can mix a batch with your tea and store it for later consumption. Just be absolutely certain they have been thoroughly dried. Any moisture in those herbs will find its way to the tea and may cause mold in your mix.
- You can have too much of a good thing – Herbs have beautiful smell and flavor and can quickly overpower your tea. So think of a flavor profile for your tea before you mix. You should also realize it won’t take much herbs to flavor your favorite tea. If you are wondering the ratio to use, with a few exceptions, anything over 10% will over power your tea and generally 5% does the trick.
So have fun playing with your home grown herbs. You will be amazed at which ones compliment tea well.
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Tea Infused Scones with Jam
Tea infused scones are a fun and easy addition to your afternoon tea. This is an easy way to serve something traditional but to put your own spin on it. The recipe below is a British scone recipe, not an American recipe. The difference between the two is very striking. British scones are built to add condiments like butter, clotted cream, and jam. So they do not have sugar in them and a much smaller amount of butter. American scones are built to be eaten as is and so they have sugar and more butter than British scones. The British scone recipe also lends itself to the creation of a savory scone that includes cheese and garlic, which I have given directions on how to add at the bottom.
Scones are best prepared just before you want to eat them as they are meant to be eaten right out of the oven. If you must make them in advance, you should reheat them before serving. I have made a few notes below on which ingredients you can prepare in advance so your scones come together quickly when you want them.
Tea Infused Scones : Ingredients
4 tablespoons of Summer on Cape Cod tisane
1/2 cup of water
1 1/2 cups of milk
1/3 cup of dried cranberries, raisins or currants (you can used any dried fruit, just cut them to the size of raisins)
3 1/3 cups of All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (You can replace about 1/2 of this with vegetable shortening if you wish)
1 beaten egg with a tablespoon of water
Flour for rolling pin and service
For savory scones, substitute the dried fruit with a 1/3 cup of sharp cheddar cheese.
Tea Infused Scones: Steps
Tea Infused Scone – British Style Scones
This step can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to make scones. Put the milk and 3 tablespoons of the tea on the stove top and bring the milk up to just below boiling. Remove from heat and allow the milk to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and return to the refrigerator to cool down. You can also prepare tea infused butter to use in this recipe.
- Set your oven to 425°F. Pull out a baking sheet and make sure it is lightly greased or line with a piece of parchment paper that is lightly greased.
- Bring the 1/2 cup of water to a boil and put in 1 tablespoon of Summer on Cape Cod tisane and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and allow the 1/3 cup of cranberries to soak in the liquid while you are preparing the dough.
- In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, baking soda and cream of tartar.
- Cut the 6 tablespoons of butter into small cubes and by hand pinch them into the flour. Keep doing this until all the flour looks a little shiny. It may seem that there is not enough butter to cover everything. However there is, so keep working until all the flour is coated. It will look like wet sand when you are done.
- Pour in 1 1/3 cups of the tea infused milk all at once and stir briefly. You are looking for everything to stick together. Do not stir a lot as you will lose the bubbles caused by the baking soda and cream of tartar. It should create a sticky dough.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Flour the rolling pin and roll out the dough to 1 inch thick. This will not take long if everything is properly floured.
- Flour a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter. If you do not have one, measure the diameter of a drink glass made of glass and flour the rim of the glass to use as a cutter. You should be able to stamp out 10 scones before re-rolling to get the last couple. You should get between 10-12 scones.
- Place the scones on the baking sheet and brush the top of the scones with the egg wash. This ensures that golden brown color.
- Bake the scones for 10 minutes in the oven. Pull them out and serve. Our clotted cream recipe is a great addition.
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Tea in poetry is a perfect pairing of a beverage that requires patience and observation to enjoy with a means to express that practice to the rest of the world. As soon as tea entered the scene in China it was quickly added to the poetry. This probably has more to do with the fact that it was the scholars and monks, who could read and write, that discovered and promoted tea consumption to the Chinese aristocracy. Lu Yu, who is credited with documenting in writing the process of making tea in the Classic of Tea, studied in a monastery and authored other books including some poetry. Below are two of our favorite tea poems from China.
A Winter Night
One winter night
A friend dropped in.
We drank not wine but tea.
The kettle hissed,
The charcoal glowed,
A bright moon shone outside.
The moon itself
Was nothing special –
But,ah, the plum-tree blossom!
Tu Hsiao-Shan, Sung Dynasty (960-1279 CE)
The Way of Tea
A friend from Yueh presented me
With tender leaves of Yen-Hsi tea,
For which I chose a kettle
Of ivory-mounted gold,
A mixing-bowl of snow-white earth.
With its clear bright froth and fragrance,
It was like the nectar of Immortals.
The first bowl washed the cobwebs from my mind-
The whole world seemed to sparkle.
A second cleansed my spirit
Like purifying showers of rain.
A third and I was one with the Immortals-
What need now for austerities
To purge our human sorrows?
Worldly people, by going in for wine,
Sadly deceive themselves.
For now I know the Way of Tea is real.
Chiao-Jen, T’ang Dynasty (618-906 CE) and friend of Lu Yu
There are many more poems around tea, both modern and ancient, please share your favorites in the comments section. If you fancy yourself a poet, share your own as well!
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Tea Plantation in Fog by Flickr user Matthieu Sévère
So the very early spring weather here in Northern Virginia has has thinking about the current growing conditions in our favorite tea growing regions. The first pluck in China will occur at the end of this month, so here are 3 tea growing conditions you can use to impress or bore your friends the next time weather pops into the conversation.
- Bring on the rain. Camellia sinensis, or tea, needs at least 50 inches of water a year (Northern Virginia averages 38 inches a year). In places like India, it can receive as much as 98 inches of rain a year before it starts to be too much water for the plant. It cannot sit in the water, so well drained soil is a must, which is why you will often find those tea farms on the sides of mountains.
- Cold is not its favorite temperature. Tea grown in the high elevations, like in China or Darjeeling, India, will go dormant as soon as the night time temperatures routinely drop below 50 degrees F. The plant will be just fine and require no intervention so long as the temperature does not drop below 25 degrees F. At that point, the plant needs to be covered to prevent damage to the main stem. Keep mind, in both China and India, these are tropical climates, much like the southern United States. They just happen to be mountains, where that is not the case here in the US.
- Direct sunshine not required. Tea does not need a lot of direct sunlight to grow, as little as a few hours a day. Too much can cause problems for the plant if it dries out the soil. The more complex tasting teas grow in light to moderate shade. Granted, that shade slows their growth. It is that slow growth that helps create the complex flavor.
So keep thinking warm weather for our favorite tea fields, because Terroir of Tea is critical to our final cup.
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In honor of President’s Day, we thought we would highlight some of the tea accessories found at the White House and in the collection of items curated by the White House Historical Association. You can find the images of these items in the digital gallery on their site and see so many other items that where used in the White House. (Yes, we are sending you on a digital scavenger hunt to find what we are talking about.) So here are just 3 of the more unique tea pieces that are a part of our country’s history.
- Lucretia Garfield, wife of President Garfield, selected a silver and ebony tea pot from Dominick & Haff of New York for her tea service. Dominick & Haff where known in the mid to late 1800s as the cutting edge in patterns and designs of sterling silver pieces. The firm was bought by Reid & Barton in 1928, which is why this name is not familiar. This teapot is definitely unique in shape and size, even by today’s standards.
- President Franklin D. Roosevelt & First Lady Elenor Roosevelt received a bright red and gold art deco tea pot, creamer, and sugar bowl from the Crown Prince of Norway. This is a piece reflective of the time period. It is truly eye catching. We are not sure what the tea cups would need to be to properly match this set.
- Our favorite for most elaborate tea cup in the Presidental china, comes from President Hayes. Famous American artist Theodore Russell Davis was commissioned to design pieces that showed native flora and fauna of North America for Haviland China set Mrs. Hayes wanted for the White House china service. Since this was a custom set that included 130 different designs for the 562 piece set, it was no small undertaking for the Haviland Company.
The White House Historical Association has the important job of preserving and giving the public access to the history of our executive mansion. It does a great job doing just that through its amazing website that highlights the history and collections of this famous place. If you haven’t, take some time looking at their collections and learn a little about all that has gone on there. It is a wonderful resource and a fun way to learn about American history.
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