Witch’s Brew: Blending Your Own Tea

For Halloween, let’s brew up some unique tea blends using existing teas. Over the next four weeks, we will walk you through the craft of blending tea while creating four new blends to enjoy. So grab your measuring spoons, cup and infuser and join us on our blending adventure.

1st Recipe: Strawberry Jasmine

This blend is a mix of our Strawberry Oolong and Jasmine Green teas. Generally a tea blender would not opt for this mix as the density and size of the two teas are not similar, so the possibility of separate in the final storage container is rather high. Separation has to be considered as it leads to an inconsistent flavor on a cup by cup basis. So this is a blend you would make by the cup as opposed to making it in a large scale.

In crafting this blend, we choose to favor having a stronger Strawberry flavor with a Jasmine highlight. Picking a flavor to focus on is critical in making a tea blend. Ironically, if there are too many flavors in a blend it becomes hard for the drinker to figure out what they are drinking, which leads to confusion and a nonoptimal tea experience.

Recipe for Strawberry Jasmine – 12oz Cup

3 tsp (flat) – Strawberry Oolong

1 tsp (flat) – Jasmine Green

Steep for 3 minutes in 175°F water.

2nd Recipe: Caramel Apple

This blend combines our Dulce de Leche and Apple Blossom teas. Pretty routinely you will find that flavored teas are inspired by other food combinations. When building a blend on a known flavor it is important to think about what components are in the flavor and is there a dominant flavor characteristic. For Caramel Apple, the caramel is dominant with a slight apple finish. So you will notice that in this recipe, if you want more apple, adjust the Dulce de Leche down and the Apple Blossom up. Much like our last recipe, this is a blend to make by cup as the Dulce de Leche is rooibos based, making it very small and dense, while the Apple Blossom is puerh based, making it big and lite.

Luckily, this blend combines teas that require boiling water and have the same steep time, so no adjustment is needed there. If you have not had puerh before, we would highly recommend you drink some Apple Blossom on its own. It is a great introduction to puerh and its earthiness, without being overwhelming.

Recipe for Caramel Apple – 12oz Cup

2 tsp (scant – less than full, think 90-95% full) – Dulce de Leche

1/2 tsp (flat) – Apple Blossom

Steep for 5 minutes in 208°F water.

3rd Recipe: Almond Joys

When aiming to recreate a known flavor profile, in this case a famous candy bar, the goal is to find the balance in the flavor. Sure, a cup of tea will not contain the sweetness of the candy bar, which gives you some flexibility in what flavor to amplify. So feel free to play with the ratios to highlight either the chocolate or the coconut of this combination. We combined our Chocolate Almond Fantasy and Coconut Oolong to make this cup of tea. If you need that sweetness as well, add your sugar after you brew.

Blending with nuts is a tricky business, first you need them cut into the right size to roughly match the size of the tea leaves and then you need to factor in their shelf life. Slivered nuts have no where near the shelf life of tea. A good black tea can easily stay fresh, when stored correctly, for 5 years. Slivered nuts, on the long side, might have 1 year, but are more likely going to start to turn bitter at 6 months. So if you like teas with nuts in them, drink them frequently and do not save them for the future.

Recipe for Almond Joys – 12oz Cup

1 tsp (round) – Chocolate Almond Fantasy

1 tsp (flat) – Coconut Oolong

Steep for 4 minutes in 195-200°F water.

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwitterpinterestrss

Easy Chai Latte: Do it Yourself at Home

Autumn is nearly upon us, and nothing says fall flavors like the comforting warmth of a chai latte. This sweet, spiced, and creamy twist on traditional chai is a perennial coffee shop favorite, and for good reason! While there are many recipes online for how to replicate chai lattes at home, we’ve gone ahead and developed a ridiculously easy, no-fuss method for the autumn brew, no special equipment required. And did we mention that it’s easy to customize? You can try this recipe with traditional Masala Chai, Maple Chai, Chocolate Chai, or even – for that extra dose of fall spirit – Pumpkin Spice Chai.

For this easy at-home latte, you will need:

  • 2 heaping tablespoons of your favorite loose-leaf chai
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar, honey, or your sweetener of choice
  • 1 cup milk or non-dairy substitute, divided
  • Freshly ground nutmeg, cinnamon, chocolate shavings, or other garnishes as desired.

To prepare, start by steeping your chai in freshly boiled water for five minutes, then straining out the leaves. This will create a chai concentrate. Sweeten your concentrate to taste. Gently heat 2/3 cup of your milk or milk substitute in the microwave or on the stove until steaming, then stir into your concentrate.

For a quick and easy foam topping, take the remaining 1/3 cup of milk and pour into a small glass jar with a lid. Fasten the lid tightly and shake the jar vigorously for about thirty seconds. Remove lid, place jar in microwave, and heat for thirty seconds. The agitated milk will froth up as it heats. Remove from microwave (carefully, as jar may be hot) and scoop your milk foam onto your latte mixture. Garnish with your favorite toppings.

By: Jen Coate

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwitterpinterestrss

Vietnam: Snow Shan Tea

Vietnam is a country long steeped in surprisingly ancient tea traditions, although it is often overshadowed by such industry giants as China, Japan, and India. But unknown to many Western tea drinkers, this small country has a lot to offer when it comes to tea varieties, one of the most impressive of which are the Snow Shan teas. Named for the fine white down that can be observed upon the plucked leaves, these teas are truly unique not only for their excellent flavors, but for the special cultural significance that they hold for the people of Vietnam.

Snow Shan teas are grown high in the mountains of northern Vietnam, where the country is bordered by the eastern edges of the Himalayas. Although this tea region crosses multiple provinces, the largest growth area of Snow Shan is in Ha Giang, Vietnam’s northernmost point. Throughout the country, differences in climate, geography, and terrain produce unique impacts on the tea’s terroir, which in turn leads to many variations in aroma and flavor. In Ha Giang, many of the wild tea trees from which Snow Shan is harvested are over a hundred years old (some are said to be nearly a thousand) with massive trunk sizes over a meter in diameter. A far cry from the small shrubs from which many industrially-produced teas are farmed! These ancient trees are carefully tended by the indigenous ethnic peoples of the regions in which they are grown, such as the H’mong or Dao, who carry with them many generations of Vietnamese tea tradition.

Snow Shan White Tea Buds

Among the subgroups of Snow Shan teas, one of the most interesting and outstanding offerings from Ha Giang are Snow Shan White Tea Buds, grown on the high mountain slopes of Mt. Chiêu Lầu Thi in the rural district of Hoàng Su Phì. Rather than plucked leaves, these woody small bundles (resembling pinecones) are actually harvested from unopened stem buds, taken from the main trunk and branches of the ancient tea trees. When infused, they release a light and delicate aroma in a pale golden liquor, with sweet floral and woody flavors leaving a lingering aftertaste of subtle spice. We are not exaggerating when we say that there is no tea anywhere in the world that can quite compare!

High Mountain Snow Shan Black

Another fantastic example of the best qualities of Vietnamese tea is the High Mountain Snow Shan, a black tea with large full leaves from mature trees grown at elevations around 1,400 feet high. The resulting tea is very smooth and mellow, but still rich with complex flavors and aromas.

While still a relative newcomer to the modern orthodox tea market, Vietnam has a lot to offer when it comes to truly unique tea experiences. If you have yet to try Vietnamese tea, Snow Shan varieties can be a wonderful place to start.

By: Jen Coate

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwitterpinterestrss

Lotus Blossom Tea

As you can probably tell by our post history, we love exploring the intersection of tea and culture. For any country that has been producing tea for a long time, certain cultivars or blends are often seen as being particularly emblematic of their cultural heritage. Chinese Dragon Well, Japanese Sencha, Indian Masala Chai – the list goes on. In this post, we’re going to take a look at another such tea of national importance: Vietnamese Lotus Blossom tea.

Tea Scented In a Lotus Flower (unfortunately it can’t travel outside Vietnam).

            For the Vietnamese, the lotus flower is prized for more than its rare beauty and sweet fragrance. Vietnamese poetry and philosophy has long praised the blossoms as symbols of purity, perseverance, hope, and optimism, as the seeds take root in deep mud, sinking below the surface every night before rising to bloom with the dawn. Officially recognized as the country’s national flower, the lotus is a staple of Vietnamese art, architecture, cuisine, medicine, and (of course), its tea.

            The art of infusing tea leaves with the scent of the lotus blossom is said to date back to the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1883), during the reign of King Tu Duc. During the night, when the blossoms were at their most fragrant, the king’s servants would row across the lake to carefully open the closed petals and fill the flowers with green or yellow tea, binding them shut with silk ribbon to keep the tea leaves dry. In the morning, the newly-scented tea would be harvested and served to the king with his breakfast.

            The modern production of traditional lotus tea is still done entirely by hand, although methods of scenting have changed. According to the expertise of Hanoian tea crafters, the only suitable blossoms for this scenting are West Lake lotus flowers. While white, yellow, and green tea are still used for scenting, Russian tea production practices in the 1980s introduced and popularized the use of black tea as base.

Lake of the Returned Sword in downtown Hanoi, Vietnam facing Ngoc Son Temple.
Hồ Hoàn Kiếm or Lake of the Returned Sword in downtown Hanoi, Vietnam

After being harvesting, the base tea is subject to repeated phases of drying to give it a moisture content of 2-3%. Once this is achieved, it will then be ready to be infused with fragrance. Lotus flowers, plucked before dawn to ensure their finest aromatic quality, are harvested for their stamens, which are mixed with the tea leaves. The tea and stamens are left blended together for 36 to 48 hours, during which time the tea will absorb the fragrance and flavors of the lotus flower. When this scenting period is complete, the tea is again dried and then hand-sifted to remove the lotus stamens, after which it is ready for packaging.

Due to the exclusivity of these prized lotus flowers, and the laborious process involved in its production, traditional lotus blossom tea is a treasured commodity in Vietnam, and a rarity in the American market. But its heavenly floral fragrance and smooth sweetness make it a must-try for any tea enthusiast.

By: Jen Coate

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwitterpinterestrss

5 Additions to Iced Tea

Multiple Herbs in a Garden for Tea

Last week, we talked about how to brew up simple syrup, which is a wonderful (and easy!) way to add sweetness and flavor to your iced teas. But syrups alone aren’t the only way to jazz up an iced tea. Throughout June, we’ve been experimenting with fun flavor combinations for our favorite teas, and we’ve put together a list of our top five things to try. The best part? They’re no-fuss and easily accessible – some of them might be in your garden right now.

Try a different citrus! Iced black tea and lemon is a classic combination, but other citrus fruits are a great way to add a zesty brightness and tartness to your tea. Try pairing Nilgiri or other black teas with fresh orange slices, or add a few dashes of lime juice to Coconut Oolong for a beautifully tropical combination.

Mint is a must-have for food and beverage recipes alike, and with good reason! This hardy herb is easily grown in the backyard and can’t be beat for its refreshing, cooling flavor. Try adding a few sprigs to your favorite fruit teas – we especially love pairing mint with our Georgia’s Peach and Pear Raspberry Green. For an additional boost of flavor, try muddling a few leaves at the bottom of your glass before adding tea.

Lavender makes a sweet and soothing addition to many teas, with its heavenly aromas and calming properties. We especially love it with our Strawberry Oolong. As always, when harvesting flowers and herbs yourself, take care to ensure that the plants are grown free of any pesticides or other chemicals.

Fresh lemongrass has a flavor profile very similar to many citrus fruits, but with less tartness and a subtle ginger spiciness. Add a few stalks to Japanese Sencha or Vietnamese Green to add a herbal complexity to these fresh green tea flavors.

Basil is a culinary heavyweight with a lot of versatility – a little sweet, a little savory, with a wonderful minty freshness and peppery finish. Try adding a few bruised leaves to our New World Vanilla for a sweet, rich, and earthy experience, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, to Earl Grey to bring out the bergamot’s bright pepper notes.

We hope that these ideas inspire you to try out some flavor combinations of your own! Start small with your additions, as a little bit of flavor can go a long way, and don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment. You never know what unexpected flavor combinations might surprise you.

By: Jen Coate

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwitterpinterestrss