Holiday Cookies with Tea: Maple Chai Cookies & White Chocolate Frosted Matcha Cookies

Holiday season is upon us! With Thanksgiving just around the corner and holiday parties not far behind, we thought we’d share a couple of our favorite recipes for cookies that are made with tea. These treats are a delightful way to show off your love of tea to friends and family – or maybe try out a new flavor for yourself! We find that maple chai cookies offers a wonderful contrast to darker, smoky teas like Dominion Caravan, while the matcha cookies pair excellently with Japanese greens like Shincha.

Maple Chai Cookies

Maple Chai Cookies

Maple Chai Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup real maple syrup (Grade B syrup will give you a darker, richer flavor. We sourced ours from a local producer, Vale of the Blue Ridge Maple)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons maple chai tea

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease baking sheets or line with silicone baking mat.
  2. Grind maple chai tea to a fine powder in a spice grinder or food processer and sift out any remaining large particles.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together. Add egg, syrup, and vanilla. Mix until blended.
  4. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and powdered chai. Stir into wet mixture until well combined.
  5. Using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop, form dough into 1-inch balls. Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart and flatten slightly.
  6. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool on wire rack.

 

Matcha Cookies with White Chocolate Frosting

Matcha Cookies with White Chocolate Frosting

Matcha Cookies with White Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons matcha
1 large egg
1½ cup bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1-2 cups white chocolate pieces or chips, as needed
Red sprinkles or decorative sugar

 

 

 

  1. In a small bowl, sift matcha until smooth and free of clumps.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together softened butter, sugar, and matcha about three minutes until smooth. Add egg and mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed throughout.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Add dry mixture to wet and mix until a uniform dough forms, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  4. Cover dough and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease baking sheets or line with silicone baking mat.
  6. Using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop, form dough into 1-inch balls. Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart and flatten slightly.
  7. Bake 13-15 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are set, but not brown. Rest on baking sheet for 3-5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.
  8. Melt white chocolate in a double boiler, then generously dollop over each cookie, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Top with sprinkles or decorative sugar as desired.

By Jen Coate

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Almond Tea: How to Make Your Own

Almond blossoms and the fruit which is found in almond tea.

Almond Blossoms by flickr user Victor R. Ruiz (CC BY 2.0)

Almond tea is becoming harder find, and that is not surprising. Most almonds in the United States are grown in California, which is suffering from a record drought. Like any orchard crop that requires water, when it doesn’t get enough it will not produce enough high quality final product. This sends the cost sky rocketing, making it harder for for industries that use almonds as an ingredient to keep their costs in line with what consumers expect. Adding higher cost to an ingredient that dramatically cuts the shelf life of your end tea product already, and eliminating almond tea makes good economic sense for most high quality tea producers. However, that doesn’t mean an end consumer cannot make their own almond tea in smaller batches to enjoy at home.

Before we get to the recipe,there are a few things you need to know about almonds.

Shelf Life of Almond Tea

Nuts and tea have very different self lives making it very tricky for a tea blender to come up with a high quality product, in a quantity that is cost effective, that features a nut as the main flavor component of the tea. Most nuts, once cut or crushed start to release their oils and in return take in air, moisture, and bacteria, which starts the spoiling process. Almonds are usually only good for two months, under the best storage conditions, once they have been cut. If you are blending that with a tea that is good for 24 to 36 months you have effectively killed the shelf life of your tea. So to ensure a good quality flavor and try to keep your tea from going rancid because of the nuts, extracts are used to apply the majority of the flavor. In fact, if you look at most teas with a nut like flavor, you will not find nuts in them, but extracts and flavors, which bring out the nut taste. Citric acid and other preservatives can be applied to the nuts to slow the degradation, but that is very tricky in tea as the boiling water will release the preservatives, usually causing a bitter flavor. Now, at home, the use of preservatives is not necessary as you will be making smaller batches that are not traveling to various stores and sitting in storage for who knows how long before being consumed. So we will use a combination of extract and almond pieces to make our tea recipe.

Almond Flavor and Size

Almonds have a very subtle flavor, which usually comes out bolder when toasted or cooked. So you would think boiling an almond would help bring out more flavor, but it doesn’t. To really get an almond flavor after applying boiling water, you need extract. Just putting in almond pieces will not get you the flavor you are after. When blending tea, we are constantly worried about the size and shapes of ingredients so that they all balance together to distribute evenly in the bag that is going to be shipped and stored in fashions out of our control. So we have the ingredients cut to the right size to complement the size of the tea leaves being used. At home, this may not be much of a concern to you but if you care about the almonds being distributed in your tea evenly you will want to follow our instructions on creating the almond meal instead of just using the sliced almonds. If even distribution does not bother you, then free to use larger almond pieces.

Almond Tea Recipe

Almond Tea usually includes extract to bring out the flavor.

Home Made Almond Tea

This recipe is geared to get you 15 cups of tea. If you do not think that is enough, you can double this recipe, but don’t go too large as the almonds will only keep for maybe 1 to 2 months (Do you really know how old that almond is you just bought off the shelf?). 2 oz of tea is about 30 cups or 1 months worth if you drink a cup every day.

1 oz of your favorite straight black unflavored tea (English Breakfast is my favorite for this. If you use Irish Breakfast, add an 1/8 teaspoon more extract)

3/4 teaspoon of almond extract

1 1/2 tablespoons of almond pieces or slices (skip the roasted or salted ones – look in the bulk food aisle of your grocery store)

For easier grinding, lightly heat the almond pieces in a dry cast iron pan. You can leave them in their long enough to toast them, but really you are just warming them up. Be careful not to burn them as it will ruin the tea.

For even distribution of the almonds, buy slivered almonds and put the warmed almonds and extract into a mortar and pestle and grind down until it looks like corn meal. Scrape into a glass jar (quart size or larger) or ziplock bag and then add the tea. Shake until everything looks evenly distributed. Pour the tea out onto wax paper and allow to dry at least 12 hours. At first this is going to have a very heavy alcohol smell from the extract. Don’t worry, as it dries that will disappear. You will notice after a few hours the smell gets smoother and more almond like. You can then put the tea back into the sealed bag, glass jar or air tight container, remember to keep it in the dark. If you need to speed up the drying process, you can use a dehydrator at its lowest setting for about 1 hour, check every 20 minutes as you run the risk of burning the tea.

You will brew this like any other tea. 1 teaspoon or 3 grams per 8 ounces of water, steep in boiling water for up to 5 minutes. Don’t be surprised if it is a little cloudy, that is the oil for the ground almonds.

Now that you have a base recipe for almond tea, you can get creative and try it with other subtle flavored teas like Vanilla Yunnan. Enjoy your new tea and don’t forget to drink it more frequently so it is gone before the almonds go bad!

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Tea Culture in Afghanistan

In looking at the per capita consumption of tea across the globe, it was hard not miss the fact that Afghanistan imported almost 10 pounds of tea per person a year. That is enough to make over 1,500 cups per person per year. This type of consumption implies that there is a strong tea culture within Afghanistan that is worth exploring.

Tea culture in Afghanistan developed in part due to geography and trade.

Map of Afghanistan (Public Domain)

Geography and Tea

Afghanistan is a landlocked country, just about the size of Texas, that serves as the gateway to Asia from the Middle East. Being seen as corridor to Asia by land has subjected this country to constant invasion by all sorts of foreign countries from the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, to the more recent invasions by the Russians in 1978. This location bred great ethnic diversity. While the formal census of Afghanistan people does not include ethnic orientation, the 2004 constitution lists 14 different ethnicities (Central Intelligence Agency, 2015). This same location introduced the tribes in Afghanistan to tea early on, as China sent traders out to get other goods in return for silk and tea. Given its arid climate and poor water supplies, tea gave the tribes a beverage that was non-alcoholic and easy to transport.

Hospitality and Afghan Tea Culture

Afghan tea culture comes in part from the tradition of offering food and beverage to guests

Traditional Samovar – By Kmrhistory (Own work) – CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Even though there is great ethnic diversity in Afghanistan, there are several cultural norms that cross all beliefs. Hospitality is the main one. Hospitality is so important in Afghan culture that it is embedded in children stories and considered a reflection of personal reputation. It is always expected to give food and/or beverages to everyone who is visiting you. Both will continued to be served until the guest signals that they are full and even then the host is expected to ask if they are sure and it is not uncommon to hear the host say “But you have not had enough.”

Tea culture plays a large role in showing hospitality. It is not uncommon to be offered tea when entering a business or a friend’s home. A common tea served in Afghanistan is called Kahwah. It is a combination of green tea, cardamom pods, cinnamon bark, and saffron strands. It may also include peppercorns, ginger and almonds. Much like the traditional Masala Chai Tea from India or Kashmiri Tea from neighboring Pakistan, each family has their own recipe. These ingredients are typically mixed with boiling water in a samovar. The tea is dispensed from the samovar and sugar is added before serving.

So you too can share a small piece of Afghanistan hospitality, below is a recipe for Kahwah Tea that serves 4 (so invite some friends over).

Kahwah Tea

4 cups of Water

4 cardamom pods, cracked

½ inch piece of cinnamon

4 strands of saffron

3 teaspoons of green tea

1 tablespoon sugar or honey

4 blanched almonds, chopped into small pieces

 

Add the cardamom pods, cinnamon, and sugar to the water and bring it to a boil. Allow to stay at a boil for 5 minutes and then remove from the heat source. Add the green tea and saffron, put a lid on the pot and allow to steep for 3 minutes. The saffron will cause the liquid to turn a light orange color. Strain the liquid into a teapot. Put the almond pieces into 4 tea cups and pour the tea over the almond pieces and enjoy.

 

Sources Cited
Central Intelligence Agency. (2015, May 27). The World Fact Book: Afghanistan. Retrieved from Central Intelligence Agency: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/af.html

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Earl Grey Tea Infused Vodka Cocktails

Adding tea to your cocktails is really easy to do and makes for a unique beverage to serve at your next get together. It seems counter intuitive to blend together tea, a beverage associated with health and mental clarity, with alcohol, which is associated with the exact opposite characteristics. However,opposites can and do blend well together. Keep in mind, the British have been putting tea in their alcoholic punches dating back to the 1700’s.

Loose Leaf Earl Grey Tea Infused Vodka

Earl Grey Tea Infused Vodka

History of Tea and Alcohol

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a little bit of the history around tea and alcohol. In China, the two rarely mixed. While the Chinese have been making alcohol, starting with beer from millet for over 9,000 years, it was consumed differently than tea. Beer was produced because straight water could not be trusted for consumption. Tea was consumed as part of a religious and health ritual, it was not really seen as a replacement for water. That may be because it came on the scene much later than beer.

Interestingly tea came onto the wider cultural scene just as alcohol consumption in China was thought to be at its highest. The consumption of tea was thought to be the highest level of sophistication. In order to gain the favor of the emperor, much of the upper class abandoned alcohol for tea. The Tang dynasty (790-835 CE) saw the rise of the tea culture in upper society, replacing the beers,wines and grain alcohols that had been consumed previously. Alcohol became so frowned upon that wine making disappeared from the upper parts of Chinese society until it was reintroduced by the Portuguese and British in the early 1800’s. Tea quickly got added to alcohol by sailors on the trading vessels. Beer would go bad during the trip, and once it did, it was turned into punch with other spices and tea added to hide the off flavor of the beer. As an American, who takes my clean water for granted, it is hard to imagine that beer was the primary drink for sailors, but without clean water, beer was the safest beverage to consume.

Earl Grey Tea Cocktail Recipes

Flavor infused vodkas have become popular over the past couple of years and it is super easy to infuse your favorite vodka with tea. The first rule to remember, if you won’t drink the tea don’t put it in the vodka.

Earl Grey Vodka

1 tablespoon loose leaf Earl Grey tea

8oz vodka

Combine both ingredients together in a container and allow to sit for 8 hours before tasting to ensure you have the flavor you want. If you chose to use a tea bag instead, cut down the time to 2-3 hours,otherwise you end up with bitter vodka. Feel free to substitute other black teas for the Earl Grey. If they are flavored or blended with other spices, you may want to check at the 4-6 hour mark to see if you have the flavor you desire.

So now that we have a nice base for the cocktails, it is time for a few drink recipes.

Earl Grey Vodka Martinis: A delicious experiment.

Finished Earl Grey Vodka Martinis

Earl Grey Martini (Serves 2)

4 oz of Earl Grey Iced Tea

2 oz of Earl Grey tea infused vodka

1 tsp of Agave Nectar (this can be substituted for 1 tsp of Simple Syrup)

Mix the three ingredients together and then serve in a martini glass. Garnish with a slice of orange or orange peel, if you wish.

 

Earl Grey Tonic (Serves 2)

4 oz of Earl Grey Iced Tea

4 oz of Earl Grey tea infused vodka

3 oz Tonic Water

Pour the vodka into a highball glass over ice cubes. Then pour in the iced tea,followed by the tonic water. Stir and serve. If you want something extra special, make ice cubes using earl grey ice tea.

Note:  If you are fine with a little less Earl Grey flavor, you can replace the iced tea with the tonic water.

 

There are many more recipes you could make with your Earl Grey tea infused vodka. So feel free to play and share your favorite recipes with us.

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