3 Tea Cocktails for Spring

Margarita made with hibiscus isle tea.

Hibiscus Isle Margarita

Longer days mean dinner outside and provides the opportunity to create some tea cocktails with a spring flare. Each recipe provides a fun way to mix your tea addiction with a bit of evening fun.

Hibiscus Isle Margarita (Serves 4)

  • 16 ounces of brewed Hibiscus Isle tea
  • 4 oz tequila
  • Juice from a lime
  • 1 tablespoon Agave Nectar

To brew the tea, use 1 tablespoon of the Hibiscus Isle tea and steep in water at 185 degrees for 3 minutes.  Strain off the leaves and refrigerate the tea to cool it down.  If you do not have time to allow to cool in the refrigerator, brew the same 1 tablespoon in 8 ounces of water at 185 degrees for 3 minutes and then strain out the tea leaves pouring the tea over 1 cup of mounded ice.  The ice will melt, getting you the full 16 ounces of tea and the tea will be cold.  In a pitcher combine the tea, tequila, line and agave nectar and stir.  Serve over ice.

Adirondack Beer Cooler (Serves 3)

  • 12 ounces of brewed Adirondack Berries Tea
  • 12 ounces of your favorite IPA beer (this can be substituted with a malty black tea like Yunnan Sunrise or Colonial Breakfast)
  • Juice from 3/4 of a lemon
  • 3 tsp of Agave Nectar

To brew the tea, put 2 tsp of the Adirondack Berries tea into 12 ounces of boiling water and allow to steep for 5 minutes and strain off the tea.  Put in the refrigerator to cool.  If you do not have time to cool in the refrigerator, brew the 2 teaspoons of tea in 6 ounces or 2/3 cup of boiling water and then strain out the tea over a mounded 1/2 cup of ice.  This will cause the ice to melt and cool the tea down immediately.

In a pitcher, pour in the tea, and then add the remaining ingredients and stir.  Assuming the beer and tea where both cold, you will not need ice cubes.

Darjeeling Gin (Serves 4)

Pour the gin into a container with a lid. Put the tea directly into the gin and put the lid on the container. You can leave the container out on the counter or put it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but it gets stronger if you allow it to go over night before removing the tea leaves. In a pitcher, mix together the gin, lemon juice and Agave Nectar and stir. This is a perfect drink to use the tea ice cubes with (Link).

There are plenty of other teas that can be substituted in these recipes, so feel free to play and enjoy.

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Maharashtrain bhakarwadi – Indian Tea Snack

Spiced Maharashtrain Bhakarwadi and a Cuppa

Indian treats to enjoy with your tea: Maharashtrain Bhakarwadi

Maharashtrain bhakarwadi is a sweet and spicy fried treat that originates from western Indian state of Gujarati. It is fun to make and a nice departure from your traditional British accompaniments to tea. I have made these by baking instead of the traditional frying. If you wish to fry, you will want a lighter oil like canola or corn oil for the frying and will keep each piece in the oil until golden brown (about 5-7 minutes).

Maharashtrain Bhakarwadi (makes about 25-35 pieces)

Dough:
1 cup of All Purpose Flour
1 cup of Chick Pea or Brown Rice Flour
2 tablespoon corn or potato starch
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup of sesame oil
1/2 cup of water
Additional water added by Tablespoon while kneading

Filing:
1/2 cup of dried unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup of sesame seeds
1/4 cup of poppy seeds
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 tablespoon of ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon of ground coriander
2 teaspoons of chili powder
1/4 teaspoon of Anise seeds
1/4 teaspoon of onion powder
1/2 teaspoon of Garam Masala
4-5 Mint leaves chopped
2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger
1 clove of garlic grated
1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
Juice from a 1/4 of a lemon

Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Start by mixing together the ingredients for the dough. The dough will be dry and require additional water as you knead. The goal is to get the dough to stick together but not be too wet. When the dough is slightly shiny and no longer cracks as you knead but is not wet, you have found the right consistency. Cover the dough and move on to making the filing.

Dough rolled like a pizza crust with spices.

Maharashtrain Bhakarwadi dough and spicing.

This is a dry filing. You will mix together all the ingredients, including the lemon juice from a quarter of the lemon, and then take a little taste. If you would like a little more spice, add in 1/4 teaspoon of ground clove.

Cut the dough ball in half. Roll out half the dough to roughly 7 inch diameter circle. I roll on a sheet of wax paper to make it easier to roll the final cookie using the wax paper to support the dough.

Once the dough is rolled out. Sprinkle on lemon juice from the other quarter of the lemon you are wondering what to do with. If you already put it in your water, you can also used tamarind paste, just smooth on a thin layer. Pat down, press it into the dough, half the filling. Get it as close to the edge as possible. Then roll the dough into a long flute. Cut it into 1 inch pieces. Repeat this process with the second ball of dough and the other half of the filling.

Place each piece on a cookie sheet. You can brush the tops and outside with a little oil if you would like a darker color to the dough. They should bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. At the 20 minute mark, pull them out and flip them over. Watch carefully after the 30 minute mark as you do not want the coconut or sesame seeds to burn. Once you start to smell the spices after the 30 minute mark, pull them out and get them on a plate.

You can serve immediately or put in an air tight container. They are good for about a week.

 

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Flowering Teas – Artwork in a Tea Pot

Flowering teas in a teapot for two at Dominion Tea - Purcellville Tasting Room

Flower Burst enjoyed at our Purcellville Tasting Room in Loudoun County Virginia.

Flowering Teas are not only a good cup of tea but a beautiful piece of artwork. These relative new comers to the tea world require little work from the brewer and a clear glass teapot to truly enjoy.

History and the making of Flowering Teas

Flowering teas, or blooming teas, surfaced in the Chinese market in the 1980′s and started to make it into the US in noticeable volume in the 1990′s. These teas are a combination of tea leaves and flower petals that are sewn together in a pattern to create a flower when steeped in hot water. Always hand tied, these teas originated from the Yunnan province.

In choosing the flowers and tea leaves, the tea company focuses on the wow factor of the bloom opening and the color contrasts along with the flavor. Typically green tea is used as the base to create what will become the leaves of the flower. The tea may or may not be jasmine scented prior to being sewn together. The artists making these are working with wilted leaves that have not been baked yet, so there are a lot of possibilities on how they introduce flavor into the creation. Usually they are working with older leaves as they will hold up to the sewing and molding into shapes more than the younger.

Once the base is in place, using cotton yarn, they will stitch in the center flowers working from the outer flower petals into the center. Common flowers for this are jasmine, chrysanthemum, osmanthus, lily, hibiscus, and amaranth. These flowers impart their own scent and flavor to the tea. The creation is baked and slowly formed into the bud.

Brewing Flowering Teas

Flowering Burst tea balls and open in liquor.

Flower Burst tied flowering tea.

To enjoy a flowering tea, you really need a clear glass tea pot. Since you are working with a green tea and flower petals, you will need water in the 175-185 degree Fahrenheit range. Place the ball in the pot and then fill with water. The ball will float because of the air pockets formed in the ball while it was being stitched together. With time, the ball will absorb in enough water to start to sink. You can help it along using a spoon or chop stick to hold down the ball. Once you see air bubbles leaving the ball, you should be all set to allow the ball to sit and open. This can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Once the ball opens, feel free to pour yourself a cup of tea.

Using the Flowering Teas for Decoration

So once you have enjoyed that pot of tea, you can use the open flower as a decoration. Grab a glass vase or cup large enough to allow the flower to remain open in the bottom. Put the flower in the bottom and add enough cold water to allow the blossom to be fully covered. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. The vinegar will slow the browning of the flower petals. You will need to change the water about every 3 days and the flower will stay for about 2 weeks before fading becomes very apparent. If may be less if kept in a spot with direct sunlight.

Add flowering teas to your tea collection and enjoy a beautiful center piece as well as a good cup of tea.

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Cleaning Tea Accessories (For Optimal Tea Enjoyment)

Tea deposits brown tannin stains over time.

Before And After – Cleaning Tannins from Tea Cups

At the start of spring, the inclination to clean and freshen up from the winter kicks in and we should use this habit for cleaning tea accessories that may not have been as thoroughly cleaned as needed from our routine use. Below are some tips on how to properly deep clean your tea accessories.

Tea Infuser

Cleaning this tea accessory is generally the easiest since they are usually dishwasher safe and hopefully you have been doing that. However, if you are like me, my infuser is not always near a dishwasher or I don’t want to risk it disappearing from the dishwasher at work. So to help clean out the tea stains soak the infuser in boiling water for 10 minutes and then rinse under cold. Dispose of that boiling water and repeat. You can also use a toothbrush to help get stuck tea leaf parts out of the holes in the infuser. Gently scrub with the toothbrush after the infuser has soak in the boiling water for at least 5 minutes.

Tea Cups & Tea Pots (Porcelain)

So with age, our favorite porcelain tea cups and pots start to turn brown on the inside. This is a natural formation of the tannins from the tea. This is harmless, but if the color bothers you, you can remove it by combining boiling water, the juice and peel from a quarter of a lemon and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Allow it to sit in the teapot or cup for at least two hours if not over night. Pour off after it has soaked and wipe down with a gentle cloth. You may need to repeat if the stain is very stubborn. Before putting in your next pot of tea, make sure you rinse with at least one pot or cup of plain boiling water.

Tea Pots (Silver)

So silver tarnishes both inside and outside. I am not one to put silver polish on the inside of my silver teapot, so this is a better method for getting rid of that tarnish. Line your kitchen sink with aluminium foil, shiny side up, and pour in 1/2 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of baking soda. Then fill the sink about 2/3 full (enough so the tea pot fully submerges in the water) with water that is just shy of a boil. Allow the teapot to soak for 1-2 minutes and then pull it out and dry immediately with a soft cloth.

Before and after photos of tarnished followed by clean silver pots.

Cleaning Silver Teapots in 2 Minutes Flat! (aka a great science experiment with kids)

Tea Pots (Iron)

These pots are the easiest to clean as you can clean them after each use by pouring in boiling water and allowing it to sit for about 3-5 minutes and then drain. Do not use a scouring sponge on this pot as it will cause scratches on its surface. If your iron pot develops rust, all is not lost. Generally, the rust is not a problem to consume and some cultures, like the Japanese, like the taste of tea from a rusted iron pot. If rust is not your thing, take some used tea leaves and put them in the pot with boiling water and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. The tannic acid from the tea leaves will react with the rust and create a coating that will prevent future rust formation assuming you don’t leave standing water in your teapot.

Don’t forget after you have cleaned your tea accessories, you should probably check those shelves in the pantry that are home to your tea collection and review our storage guide to help you determine which teas may need to head to the compost pile. Happy Spring Cleaning!

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First Flush Tea – A Presentation of Spring

Beautiful pink blossoms of a tree at Lake Reston.

Its Spring in the mid-Atlantic but also in prime picking regions around the world.

Spring has sprung in the mid-Atlantic and in addition to flowers in our area this past week saw the first of what will be several first pluckings (first flushes) of the 2016 season. Whether in China, Japan or India, the first flush tea is always considered the most special and typically sells for more money at the tea auctions.

First Flush – Why is it so special?

As we have talked about in the past, terroir effects the tea plant, and the first flush arrives after the plant has been dormant for some time, usually over winter, or during the peak time of year for the plant’s growth leading up to flowering. Of course it is not to the farmer’s benefit to allow the tea plant to blossom as all the growing energy will go into the flower and not into the leaves. Due to that energy, these first pluckings have the most nuanced flavors and usually demand the highest prices, like Pre-Qing Ming Dragonwell or Bai Hao Silver Needle. Both teas carry a taste of light spring grass or flowers.

China First Flush

In China, the first flush comes during the period before Qing-Ming, a big national holiday that is dedicated to the cleaning of the family tomb, to show respect for past relatives and the importance of family, as well as other spring activities like flying a kite. This holiday also falls right around the start of the spring rains. While the rains bring much needed water for the tea plant, they will cause the leaves to loose flavor.

Loose leaf 1st flush Darjeeling from Goomtee Estate

1st Flush Darjeeling from Goomtee Estate in India.

Darjeeling First Flush

In Darjeeling, India, the first pluck will come in late March to early April. A first flush Darjeeling, is practically a green tea with a very light and floral smell, even though it is manufactured as a black. It is truly a reflection of the freshness of spring. While most people are familiar with Second Flush Darjeelings, as that is the Darjeeling that has traveled the globe and has introduced the world to the champagne of teas, it is very different from a First Flush Darjeeling and typically picked in June before the summer monsoons.

Japan First Flush

The first flush in Japan comes in late April to early May. These first flushes go into Ceremonial Grade Matcha, Shincha (not be confused with Sencha), and very top grade Gyokuro. These teas are again lighter and more nuanced flavor adding a sweetness that is not typically found in Japanese greens.

Enjoy a first flush tea next time you get a chance and enjoy a cup of spring.

 

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