Tea for Tuesday (on a Wednesday) – Just Peachy III

With Thanksgiving upon us, everybody is probably thinking about food, but maybe not about beverages.

Ice tea is a good classic beverage option. It can be made from scratch for pennies per serving, and it’s a lot more elegant than a glass of sofa pop next to a plate of turkey and all the trimmings.

Here’s one way to make classic sweet iced tea. Click here.

A variation is fruit tea — peach tea is one of my favorites. Click here for that. Include cranberry juice for a Thanksgiving variation

But if you find you have zero time for either of those and want to offer something other than soda pop, fruit juice, or milk, then powdered drink mixes might work.

I tried a lot of powder drink mixes over the summer in my search for a perfect peach tea. (And for convenience because sometimes, I just don’t have time for anything else.)

While scratch is oh-so hard-to-beat, there are some drink mixes that I actually enjoy. The iced tea drink mix that came out on top for me was Crystal Light Peach Iced Tea. I tried many others. I’m not always a fan of Chrystal Light. But this Peach Iced Tea won me over because I can taste the tea and the peach. It has a light, refreshing flavor with enough tartness to taste fruity without overpowering the flavor of the tea or peach. Some mixes add so much malic acid, that it’s hard to taste much else. Those tend to taste tart and nonspecific fruity.

Crystal Light Peach Iced Tea is a sugar-free option that uses artificial sweeteners (Aspartame). That may scare some away (and make others happy). If you don’t drink aspartame, this isn’t the drink mix for you. It nearly kept me away, but in the end that nice peachy tea taste won me back. But I’m hoping they come up with a version using Stevia.

Crystal Light Peach Iced Tea is available in boxes of single-serving, on-the-go pouches or pitcher size packets. Either one is handy in a pinch.

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Tea for Tuesday: Just Peachy II

This is part II of my journey to finding a good, traditional, southern, peach tea. I made the real stuff, here, using Lipton or Luzianne tea and real peaches. But in this post I investigate using only flavored tea bags to make peach tea.

In my search, I purchased gobs of peach-flavored tea bags thinking that one of them would yield enough peachy tea flavor to make a good, classic peach tea without harming any fruit in the process.

Sadly, I was unsuccessful. Mostly.

You’d think:

Tea + peach = peach tea. No problem, right? It didn’t exactly turn out that way, though many of teas yielded something yummy. And they all call themselves peach and are tea. Or are they?

The rundown of suspects:

Bigelow, Perfect Peach

Lipton, White Mangosteen Peach

Celestial Seasonings, Country Peach Passion

Lipton, Peach Mango

Celestial Seasonings, Sleepytime Peach

Bigelow, Green Tea with Peach

English Tea Shop, Ginger Peach Tea

I’ve also tried some loose-leaf teas, but I’ll stick to tea bags for this blog post.

Bigelow, Perfect Peach

I should have known this wouldn’t taste like classic peach tea from the fact that the label said “herbal.” It has no actual tea leaves. So it lacks tea flavor. It has a nice peach aroma and some peach flavor, but it’s mixed with cinnamon flavor too. It claims to taste like peach pie. It might, if you use a lot of cinnamon in your peach pie. That said, it is pretty yummy. It is a nice alternative to the classic apples and cinnamon tea. I can see myself drinking more of this as the days get cooler this fall. So yum, but not classic peach-tea yum.

Lipton, White Mangosteen Peach

It’s like they got it right, but then they said, “wait, no. Instead of  traditional tea-flavored peach tea we’re going to swap out the black tea leaves and replace them with white tea leaves. Won’t that be nice?”

Wait. What?! Black leaves matter! (Did I just go there?)  And on top of it, I just noticed that it’s a green tea, yet they call it white. They need to get their colors correct. I have nothing against white or green tea, and this actually has a really pleasant peach taste. I’m not sure what a mangosteen is (maybe it’s what’s white), but it doesn’t mess up the peach. It can stay. I just miss the classic tea flavor it might have had if it used black tea leaves. That said, I like it, and I’m on my second box. That’s saying something. I just have to ignore the fact that it’s not the tea I was looking for.

Celestial Seasonings, Country Peach Passion

I knew going into this one that there would be no tea flavor because Celestial Seasonings is an herbal tea (or tisane) company. I was hoping for a solid, country peach flavor though. This one tastes mostly fruity to me. Fruity and herbal with some peach flavor. That’s about it.

Lipton, Peach Mango

This has peach flavor. And it’s not bad. It also has mango flavor and a good bit of hibiscus. I like mango and hibiscus, so I like this one. But it turns out it is also an herbal tea, so it doesn’t actually taste like the tea part of peach tea. I may or may not have known this when I purchased it.

Celestial Seasonings, Sleepytime Peach

I knew this one didn’t contain any tea leaves. It’s an herbal Sleepytime tea, so no caffeine. I was hoping for more peach flavor. I probably knew it wouldn’t have much, but it was on sale, and I was deeply entrenched in this peach-tea obsession. I was bad. It’s more herbal tasting with spearmint and lemongrass and a little bit fruity. It’s like drinking Sleepytime tea right after you took a bite of a peach, but you already finished eating the peach. It’s not a bad bedtime tea (if you need to use it up).

Bigelow, Green Tea with Peach 

This one has some of the same problems that the White Mangosteen Peach tea has. I don’t get a classic peach tea flavor because it uses green tea instead of black. That said, it has a pretty good overall flavor. It somehow manages to taste like peach and pit fruit without tasting especially fruity. I like it. It’s it tastes like green tea with peach (so the name is super fitting), but it doesn’t taste like a traditional southern peach tea either.

English Tea Shop, Ginger Peach Tea

I actually purchased this one at a Mashalls (or T.J. Maxx), so who knows if I’ll ever be able to find it again. But I had to try it. It was only about $4 for 60 tea bags. And it turned out to be pretty darn yummy. It actually uses black tea leaves so it tastes like there’s traditional tea in it. It has a nice peach aroma and some of that comes through in each sip. This would be quite a win … except that it also has ginger in it. It’s fairly similar to Republic of Tea’s Ginger Peach Longevity Tea. I’ve purchased that one several times too, and it is very good even though the ginger makes it a gingery peach tea instead of just peachy. So it’s almost classic peach tea! But not quite. Another one so close in my search for classic peach tea using only tea bags.

A Little Success

So after sampling each individual tea, I tried mixing them all together and adding an extra bag or two of classic black tea (because clearly that’s part of the equation) and voila a pretty darn good tea! I’d leave out the Sleepytime tea because it’s a bit too herbal. But the others resulted in something quite good. The cinnamon and ginger were softened by all the other stuff, so those flavors became a nice accent flavor while the peach and tea flavors shined through. Because normally I don’t add 7 or 8 tea bags to a cup when I make tea, I find I can simplify this combo by using a traditional black tea like Lipton or Luzianne plus Lipton’s Peach Mango or White Mangosteen Peach. Simple. And yummy. A bag of  Ginger Peach or Perfect Peach add a nice twist of spice when I want something different. Sweeten to taste and enjoy!

Copyright 2016 Debora Kapke (but feel free to share as long as you link back and give credit).

Tea for Tuesday on a Thursday – Just Peachy I

Along with classic iced tea and sweet tea, I especially love a good peach tea. So began a search for a great peach tea that I could make at home.

There are three major roads to peach tea.

1. Scratch recipe with real tea and fruit.
2. Peach-flavored tea leaves in tea bags or loose.
3. Instant, peach tea powder or liquid drops.

Today’s blog covers peach tea from scratch. There are still some excellent peaches to be found. Get ’em while you can!

Peach Tea from scratch. 

The process is fairly simple. This makes about 3 cups of peach iced tea. It partly depends on how juicy your peaches are. (Scale up the recipe for more tea.)

1.) Make 2 cups of iced tea concentrate. My process is here. Let the tea cool some while you work on the peaches.

2.) Peaches! Start with 3 cups of cut up juicy ripe peaches. (Cut out any bruises.) This is a great way to use up super ripe peaches.

3.) Finely chop peaches in a food processor or blender.

4.) Add about a half tablespoon of lemon juice to the peaches as you blend. This perks up the taste and helps keep the peaches from oxidizing (turning brown) too quickly. (I know the tea is brown, but …)

5.) Strain the blended peaches. If you like it pulpy, use a mesh strainer with larger holes. If you hate chunks and pulpy bits, then use a fine mesh strainer or a even strain a second time through a coffee filter (it will drip through slowly though). The leftover peach pulp can be used for frozen ice pops or peach purée in baked goods or peachy apple sauce, etc.

6.) Add the nectar (juices) to tea that has cooled some.

7.) Sweetener or sugar can be added to bring out the sweetness of the peaches. Start with about a tablespoon or two of sugar. Adjust to your liking. Mix in the sugar before you put the tea in the fridge so it can dissolve well. You can also use a non-sugar sweetener, but keep in mind the peaches add a lot of sweetness on their own. So taste as you go.

8.) Keep your fresh peach tea in the fridge.  Serve over ice. Yum.

Variation Z.

Zombie* Peach Ice Tea

I make what I call Zombie* Peaches anyway and this makes it easy and quick to make real peach iced tea. This yields about 2-1/4 cups of peach tea (not including ice).

1.) Make iced tea.

2.) Make Zombie Peaches. (You’ll want to make them ahead of time by several days if possible.)

3.) Pour the tea over ice. Zombie Peaches already have sugar dissolved in them, so you don’t need to add more. But you can adjust to your liking by adding extra sweetener. If you add extra sugar, add it before the ice.

3.) Stir peach liquid into tea. Add about 4 or 5 tablespoons of the syrupy juice from a jar of Zombie Peaches per 2 cups of iced tea. Use more or less to taste. You can add some peach chunks too (or not). And you can add a squirt of lemon too. Stir well. (Keep in mind that remaining Zombie Peaches should always have enough liquid to cover any peach chunks to prevent mold, so it’s best to use some chunks as you use up the liquid. Chunks can be frozen into super yummy home made Popsicles. Served as a topping for ice cream. Or just spoon them in your mouth because, yum.)

The beauty of Zombie Peach Iced Tea is that it is usually fairly clear and not cloudy like blended peaches. Zombie Peaches last for weeks in the fridge so it’s easy to make ahead of time and whip up a glass of peach iced tea when you like.

This same process can be used with other fruit like raspberries and strawberries.

Enjoy!


*I know the name “Zombie Peaches” may not sound very appealing. When I originally named them, had been thinking “zombie” because the fruit seems like it should be dead but it lives on and on. Zombie, right? Plus my daughter had a zombie ranger summer camp that she loved! So we had zombies on the brain. But zombies get pretty yucky looking. Vampires, on the other hand, stay relatively youthful and well preserved. And this is about preservation. So maybe I should call it Vampire Peaches? Both zombies and vampires are forms of the undead, right? Humm. Maybe I’ll post an updated recipe with a new name.
Copyright 2016 Debora Kapke

Tea for Tuesday – Ice Ice Baby

I know it’s not Tuesday. I almost finished this on Thursday. I thought maybe I could call it Tea for Thirstday. (Get it?) But now it’s Sunday. So … I’m just leaving it Tea for Tuesday. 

A class reunion in August and trip to visit friends near Nashville, Tenneessee, and later my dad in the Carolinas, reinforced my love for southern cooking and beverages. I visited a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store one too many times. 

I drank a lot of iced tea all summer long. Iced tea is almost as favorite a beverage as its hot counterpart. 

In the south, iced tea is almost always served sweetened. I’ve said before that in the south if it isn’t sweet then it’s just a hot beverage gone cold. I’ve been to restaurants that didn’t even carry unsweetened tea. Those that carry both varieties sometimes call sweet tea “Iced Tea” while the plain version is called “Unsweet Tea.”

I may not like sweet tea as syrupy as some (blame my Northern / Midwestern origins), but I love a good iced tea with the right balance of astringency, flavor, and sweetness. This Labor Day weekend is a good time to drink even more! 

Iced tea is natural and real brewed tea even has health benefits. It can be very economical. Plus you can control the sweetness when you make it yourself!

Not all tea is created equal — true for hot and iced. The tea matters! There’s a specific flavor I want. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Lipton and Luzianne both give a lot of the flavor I’m looking for. I’m sure I could make excellent iced tea using expensive, loose-leaf tea. But for me, nostalgia rules where iced tea is concerned. Why spend the extra money?

That said, I like several variations on iced tea — peach tea, strawberry tea, hibiscus tea, and half & half tea aka an “Arnold Palmer” (1/2 tea, 1/2 lemonade). All can be yummy. I’ll save those for another post.

For classic iced tea I use Family Size tea bags. It takes a lot of tea to make really good iced tea. One puny, single-serving tea bag will tint your water brown, but not much else (unless you want a really small glass of iced tea). 

As a busy mom, I find it easiest to make the tea in a 4-cup glass (Pyrex type) measuring cup with a pour spout. I usually heat the water in the microwave. (Be careful if you add tea to super-heated microwaved water. It can boil over. Use a container that is larger than you need.)

Directions on both Lipton and Luzianne are similar. I don’t change much at the beginning. 

1.) Heat 2 cups of water to a rolling boil (Again, be careful if microwaving. The boil may not actually roll until you add the tea, but still be hot enough.)

2.) Add 1 Family Size tea bag.

3.) Steep 3-5 minutes. (I leave it for about 7-10 minutes. Any longer can make the tea bitter.)

4.) Remove tea bag (squeeze gently) and sweeten to taste. (More on this, below.)

So here’s where I mix things up.

Luzianne’s instructions say to add an additional 2 cups of cold water and then chill (ya know, just relax a little). Lipton’s iced tea instructions start with 4 cups of water and 2 Family Size tea bags, but the ratio of water to tea bags is the same as Luzianne’s. Then Lipton says you should stir in 6 cups of ice cubes (or 4 cups cold water) and refrigerate. 

What? Water down my tea on purpose?

I personally don’t add extra water or ice to the tea until I’m ready to drink it. I let the tea concentrate cool some on the counter before refrigerating, or I just pour the concentrate over ice in my glass (some ice will melt). Even better than a glass, I often use an insulated stainless steel bottle with ice. It will stay cold for many hours and not “sweat” (no condensation on the outside). (I have too many stainless steel bottles. That’s another story.) Most of my stainless steel water bottles hold about 17 ounces, so I get a full bottle plus extra with 2 cups of tea concentrate plus ice.

It’s easy to add water later if you find the tea to be too strong. Adjust as needed. It’s not easy to make tea stronger if it gets too watered down. Plus if you keep the tea in the refrigerator, adding more water just takes up more space in the fridge. 

So just make the tea concentrate and be happy! And chill.

I usually like iced tea with a little squirt of lemon. Sometimes I add it, sometimes I don’t. I also like it sweetened. Individual sweeteners may vary.

It’s practically impossible to dissolve sugar in ice-cold tea (it takes a very long time). So add any sugar while the tea is still very hot.  About 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar for each cup of tea seems to be standard for sweet tea. But use more or less to taste. Stir well. Or make a simple syrup to add to the tea later. Simple syrup is just a lot of sugar dissolved in boiling water. Make sure it’s still a liquid when it cools (not hard candy). 

I don’t always want real sugar in my tea. I know. In the south, I’m probably considered a heathen. But sugar is bad for my teeth and not great for my waistline either. I already eat too much of it.

So what do I like? I like a mixture of sweeteners.

The following amounts are based on about a 14 ounce serving of tea concentrate served over ice (ice that will partly dissolve). Some of the water comes out with the tea bags, so it’s not a full 16 ounces any more.

If I’m going sugar free, then I like 2 packets of Stevia in the Raw plus 1 packet of sucralose (like Splenda). Stevia on its own tastes a little too weird to me. The sucralose seems to even out the taste nicely without adding too much weirdness of its own. Plus this way it’s mostly natural. Just 1/3 mystery ingredient! Both dissolve fairly easily even in cold tea. 

If I’m going to go a little wild (I know how to live it up, don’t I?), then I like Truvia Baking blend. It’s a mixture of sugar and Stevia. Since it has sugar, it’s best to add this while the tea is still hot. The flavor is close to real sugar, thanks to the, you know, real sugar. I’ve also mixed this combo with sucralose for a good sweet tea flavor that has very little sugar. That would be 1 teaspoon of Truvia Baking blend plus 1 packet of sucralose. Using Truvia alone, I’d go with 2 teaspoons. Adjust to taste.

Try some variations yourself and see what you like best. Enjoy and have a cool Labor Day weekend!

  

Northern Girl in Nashville

Earlier this month I drove to Tennessee for a high school reunion. It was one of those x0th reunions. I won’t say which number. It was great to see friends, take in a few sights, and enjoy some southern cooking. I was nostalgic even before I hit the road.

Being born in Chicago, Illinois and living there until the age of 12 meant my tastebuds experienced childhood and early puberty in the up-north-and-Midwest then took an abrupt dive south as teen angst and adulthood hit me in the heart of Tennessee (and later the Carolinas and Virginia). 

Part Chicagoan and part Nashvillian, I am now 100% mishmash of north and south.

The flavors of the south sunk their roots deep in my soul and regularly give a little wiggle to make sure I’m paying attention. So when I crave comfort food, it is usually southern or country dishes. (Though, I will gladly accept pizza or sushi or tacos too.)

I love fried catfish and okra. Corn bread. And more recently pimento cheese spread (but it better be the good stuff). Tree-ripened peaches and homegrown strawberries…

While in the Nashville area (Lafayette, Mount Juliet, and Cookeville), I ate delicious, genuine southern biscuits and garden-grown corn-on-the-cob picked a few steps from the door and grown surrounded by a century farm (one in operation for over 100 years). I got to enjoy good food with dear friends. 

I drove a long way in a short amount of time (1300 miles crammed in to three days). But driving had its advantages.

Along the way there, I went through Sevierville, Tennessee. Sevier County is the original home of Dolly Parton. It has some beautiful land and views and is now filled with tourist attractions and outlet stores too. The one that caught my eye and pulled me off the interstate was the factory outlet store for Lodge Cast Iron.

I have long loved a good, well-seasoned cast iron skillet, and a cast iron Dutch Oven has been on my wish list for some time. The factory outlet store was filled with all these and more. I felt like a kid in a candy store with really heavy candy. I got a lid for my skillet at home and a very small Dutch oven. Just think of all the yummy food these heavy treasures can cook! 

I have a specific fondness for southern beverages too.

Iced tea is one of those. If you’re from the south you know that I mean sweet tea. Because in the south, if it isn’t sweet then it’s just a hot beverage gone cold.

So I’ve been on a mission this summer to make perfect ice tea and peach tea. Be in the lookout for a new Tea for Tuesday! 

My dialect is perhaps a bit more north than south, but it can jump almost all over the place. A little twang will pop out when I’m not expecting it (especially if I’ve talked to any southern friends recently).

It’s not just the drawl. In the south, for example, grown women can call each other “girl.” 

“Hey, girl!” “How y’all been, girl?” All sprinkled with a dash of twang that makes it seem perfectly okay to call somebody “honey” or “sweetheart” even if you just met and don’t even know their name.

Y’all are probably familiar with the term, “y’all.” In Chicago we said, “you guys.” It was unisex and if you had a strong Chicago accent it was pronounced, “youse guys.” Singular is “you” or “youse.”

I can say, “you,” or, “you guys,” just fine. And I occasionally say or write, “y’all,” too. (Maybe more times than I care to admit.)

But I have a hard time calling any grown woman, “girl.” Picture Arnold Schwarzenegger (as the terminator) saying, “hey, girl,” with a little southern twang. (Look at me! I’m trying to do slang!) Yep, that’s how I feel, and I’m pretty sure that’s how I sound too. It’s best if I just step away from the expression. 

But food is free game! My game. My tastebuds speak many languages.

My gracious hosts sent me on my way with an ample supply of yellow squash, tomatoes, pears, cucumbers, and corn too. 

Recipes ensued and there was much yummyness. 

There were happy memories too. I might have to go back again soon. (Or at the very least visit a Cracker Barrel.)


Cucumber and Tomato Salad (a mix of genuine southern-grown cucumbers and tomatoes with northern-Virginia, balcony-grown tomatoes, red peppers, and fresh herbs) – totally refreshing yummyness on a hot day.

Tra for Tuesday: Bananas

One of these days I’m gonna post exactly what what goes down the first time around without fixing the many typos that proliferate from typing in WordPress on my phone’s tiny keypad. 

As it is now, each time I type I feel I have a one-in-three chance of hitting the letter I wanted. 

I’ll bet you’d never guess but this is actually supposed to be a post about tea (and on Tuesday) — Tea for Tuesday. But I made one typo then another and another and, combined with autocorrect, pretty soon the topic completely changed. 

It’s like 100 monkeys in a room with 100 typewriters. Something’s bound to happen but not what I planned. My fingers are the money’s, wait, see … My fingers are the m-o-n-k-e-y-s, monkeys.

Somebody needs to give my them a bandana, no a banana. No, that wouldn’t help either. 

Wait, I know what I want.

Perhaps you’ve seen spikes or horns? Some people have objects surgically implanted under their skin. (Do they find tattoos and piercings too blasé or mainstream?) Either way, useless fluff!

I want a stylus tip implanted in my finger! If that goes well, maybe I’ll do all ten. (Actually, maybe three or four would be good — thumbs and index finger. See, I’ve put some thought into this.)

Release the monkeys!

(I’ll drink more tea and write about it again soon, maybe even on a Tuesday.)

Tea for Tuesday: Numi Emperor’s Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh is not everybody’s cup of tea. I’m not even sure it’s MY cup of tea. It can be strange stuff — neither black, green, white, nor oolong. It’s an earthy fermented brew unique in both creation and flavor.​

Today, I’m reviewing Numi’s Emperor’s Pu-erh. Of all the pu-erh I’ve tasted this one comes out as a good, basic, organic starting place that is pretty easy to find (though you may want to shop for the best price or look for a sale) and gives a baseline for what to expect from other pu-erh.

At it’s best, pu-erh is earthy and woodsy. It can be almost pleasantly musty. Or it can smell and taste like moldy socks on a hot day. An old fish pond. Potting soil. Mushrooms. A hint of smoke. Chocolate. Malt. Sweet. And oily if that’s even possible. Sometimes there are hints of all of those flavors from the very same leaves. What the heck? Weird stuff.

Numi Emperor’s Choice Pu-erh has just a hint of fishy smell or essence of seaweed aroma and a hint of smokiness. After steeping for a few minutes it tastes woodsy and earthy with a hint of resinous-ness (is that a flavor or even a word?). I don’t find much of a mushroom flavor in it, but it can have a bit of chocolate and malt. Overall the woodsy taste is pleasant. The fishy smell seems to dissipate fairly quickly, but it can be off-putting if you’re not expecting it. The brew is dark and slightly reddish. I can steep a couple of cups from one tea bag, but not as many cups as some of the loose leaf pu-erh that I’ve tried.

Why in the world would anybody drink fishy dirt tea?

Not all Pu-erh tastes like fish or dirt. Pu-erh is supposed to be chock-full-o health benefits, as is most tea. But pu-erh is supposed to be extra good for digestion, cholesterol, and weight loss. That sounds good to me. Plus I just plain like trying lots of kinds of tea. I first tried pu-erh several years ago, and I’ve been trying it again recently. I’m still not sure that I like a lot of it. And I feel like the more I know, the less I know.

I learned recently that there are two kinds of pu-erh — raw (or Sheng Cha) and ripe (or Shu Cha). The raw variety is the kind that ages over many many years and develops a unique flavor. Sometimes it’s called green pu-erh. Or “aged raw pu-erh.” It can be pressed into bricks, cakes, disks, or tuo cha (little cup-or-bowl-shaped disks). Properly aged, it can become a coveted delicacy and quite expensive. If properly stored it will continue to age and change over time.

The ripened version is also aged, but with a lot less time involved. The fermentation process is speeded up to mimic what can happen to the raw green version over many years. So the ripe kind is usually aged for a few months. (It can also be weeks or years depending on the tea.) Moisture is controlled. Microbes are added. It can be loose (and later bagged) or pressed into the same shapes as Sheng Cha.Then it becomes “ripe,” is dried, and is packaged.

In the end, both Sheng Cha and Shu Cha end up a dark and almost reddish color with a mellow, complex flavor.

Ripe pu-erh is the tea you’re probably going to find most easily in grocery stores or American tea shops. This is what Numi’s Emperor’s Pu-erh is. There probably aren’t many microbes still living on this tea further maturing it, but it may change some with age and it has a very long shelf life.

Once you get used to Emperor’s Pu-erh try other pu-erh teas and judge from there if you like them better or not. Your tea really shouldn’t taste like actual moldy socks on a hot day or a dried fish pond, but just a hint of that is not uncommon. Enjoy! 🙂

  

 

Tea for Tuesday: Tea for Health and Wellness

Teavana finished up many sale items and rolled out with seven new tea blends this week as part of a new “Wellness” line. Each new tea has a specific health benefit as well as a lovely aroma and presumably good flavor too. I got to try one of them.

Their new blends are Defense, Purify, Rejuvenate, Recover, Rev Up, Comfort, and Serenity. These are mostly blends of actual tea as well as fruit or fruit flavors and sometimes herbs. I’m not sure if any of the ingredients are organic. The store folks said, “yes,” but I don’t see that on the website right now (I could be missing it). For blends containing citrus peels organic is the better way to go. Sprays sit on the outside of the fruit and can leach into the peel.

While you can’t tell much about taste from any of the Wellness tea names, you can tell more from the descriptions and the ingredient lists.

For example Rev Up is a blend of black, oolong, and green teas mixed with mango, apples and passion fruit for a lot of tea flavor enhanced with a tropical kick. It claims to boost your metabolism with the blend of tea. With black tea and oolong, it certainly has caffeine so there’s at least some real potential for boost there. I like that it’s a blend of real tea and a nice, but not overpowering, fruit flavor.

I was able to try Rev Up as an iced tea. It tasted like a real-tea iced tea along with tropical fruit. I most noted the mango flavor, but I’d say there’s certainly a blend. I think I’d like this one in the summer, but I could see drinking it hot in the winter as well. It is similar to their Limited Edition Holiday tea called Joy but mixed with a bit more tropical fruit instead of just apricot.

The new blend called Comfort contains ginger, orange peel, lemon, rooibos, chamomile, spearmint, fennel, peppermint, and more. Teavana claims these can help you balance yourself and feel good. I’m not sure how well that claim is going to sit with the FDA (we shall see), but I do know that many of those ingredients — ginger, fennel, and mint — can help settle nausea or an upset stomach. I certainly feel better when my stomach is not upset. This is one of the few Wellness blends with no actual tea in the mix. That’s good if you have an upset stomach as the caffeine of real tea can be rough on a stomach. Plus caffeine can make some folks feel unsettled emotionally too. Chamomile, on the other hand, is very gentile and soothing. My grandmother let me drink chamomile ea when I was a kid.

Other teas are Defense with extra vitamin C (I have no idea how much) and white tea along with spices, pineapple, lemongrass, and blackberry leaves.

Purify with jasmine-scented white tea, apples, hibiscus, rose hip, beetroot, orange, and rose petals. It says these ingredients will help to keep you hydrated. Well, drinking liquids certainly helps to keep you hydrated, so there’s that. The red from hibiscus and beetroots makes it a really pretty blend. The pigments in those are also good anti-oxidants.

Rejuvenate with gobs of caffeine (for a tea) from black tea and yerba mate is energizing along with spices like ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom.

Recover claims a detox affect with citrus, mint, and green tea.

Serenity is their relaxing blend with chamomile, blackberry leaves, lemongrass, lavender, rose, apple, lemon balm, beetroot, and orange. This is the other blend with no real tea or caffeine. It’s another pretty one to look at. Chamomile and lavender are usually considered soothing and relaxing. Lemon balm may help releave depression in some people.

I’ll look forward to trying some more.

On a side note, my order for sale items I purchased online at Teavana.com are all listed as “on hold.” Apparently, if one item ends up out-of-stock, the warehouse puts the entire order on hold (not their official policy according to their website, but that’s what’s happening to me and many other folks). We shall see if I get any of my order. Ugh! I may have to drink some Serenity or Comfort if this doesn’t go well (or check out some other tea vendors).

I hope all is well with all of you.

 

 

Tea for Tuesday: Teavana’s Maharaja Chai Oolong Review (and Sale Notes)

All right, tea! It’s this post-Christmas time of year that Teavana digs out what’s left of the year’s batches of tea and puts them on sale for 30-75% off. It’s a good time to stock up if you find a favorite listed. And it may be a good time to try something new too.

Keep in mind, some of the sale teas will be discontinued (most of the tea that’s 75% off), so when these are gone, they’re gone. (I’ve added a partial list of discontinued teas to the end of this post.) It’s good to stock up if a favorite is listed. Some tea is just marked down to make room for fresher batches, so why not try a new blend or some black tea pearls?

You can not only find tea on sale but also lots of tea ware such as tea pots, tea strainers, mugs, and travel tumblers (many of which come with their own tea strainers).

One of my favorite styles of travel tumbler is on sale, the Stainless Steel Tea Tumbler. They call it the “Chai Tumbler” on the website, who knows why “chai,” but you can use it for any kind of tea. A similar model was called simply, “Stainless Steel Tea Tumbler.” Since my old version has lost it’s vacuum seal, and no longer keeps the heat as it once did, I might have to grab a new one. This is my favorite because it doesn’t have a push-button on top (those are hard to clean properly). The one I like has a regular screw-on lid that doesn’t leak and is easy to clean. When mine was newer and insulated properly, tea could stay hot for 6 hours (and warm for even longer). The Teavana store at our mall has this same style of Stainless Steel Tea Tumbler, but different patterns on the outside — one is somewhat holiday specific with words like “tinsel” and “twinkle” emblazoned on a white matte finish, the other is a shiny ombre cranberry red.

Also on sale for 50% off is the ever-popular Maharaja Chai Oolong tea. It’s a flavorful, well-balanced chai made with oolong instead of the more traditional black tea. Oolong is less likely to get bitter and adds a hint of floral fruitiness to the mix.

In this chai, I note pepper, cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. Also present is nutmeg and cloves. There’s something that almost sparkles on the palate — a mint-like sensation without any mint. And it’s all mellowed out by the addition of carob (with it’s chocolate-like taste) and chicory for a smooth richness. It has a fair amount of natural sweetness without adding sugar or honey, but you may prefer to add some if you like your chai sweet.

Keep in mind that temperature, how much tea you use in a cup, and brew time make a huge difference in taste, and I especially find that to be true with a lot of chai blends. The volatile components release at different temperatures. If you don’t like it at first, try brewing it differently. Or if chai is too spicy for you, mix it with a little plain tea of your choice to pump up the tea and bring the spice down a few notches.

This is one of those few chai blends where none of the spices seems to overpower the others. It becomes a new whole. A really yummy whole. Nice on a cold winter’s day (which, hopefully, we’ll get a few of).

Enjoy!

Updated to add this note: The discontinued teas include Acai Matetini Mate tea, Toasted Nut Brulee Oolong tea, Tomato Lime Cocktail, My Morning Mate, Grape Wulong Oolong, and Marshmallow Macaron. I’m guessing there are a few other discontinued teas that they simply didn’t have in stock. The list is usually longer. Many of these are no longer offered online, but you may find an actual store with some of these (or others) still in stock for a VERY limited time.

Also, the sale on non-discontinued teas probably ends on January 3 January 10. Traditionally, they only have the sale once or twice per year, so act quickly if you’re interested. Lots of yummy teas are available. Local brick and mortar shops may have a somewhat different selection of sale items from those on the Teavana website. Teavana will roll out with new teas on January 11.

Merry Happy Christmas 

Every single year since I became an adult, Christmas has compressed the time (from October to December) into a wee little chunk not bigger than a light snack.

When I was 8 years old, 10 days until Christmas seemed to take forever. Now, 10 days fly by in what feels like ten minutes. I scramble to hold on a little longer. Fingers digging in. It’s a desperate attempted to slow it down a little. I’ll brobably break a nail.

Two days ago, I was running errands and I took a photo of a sign at a store screaming out that it was only 2 days ’til Christmas. I felt angst. 

Now, all the things I wasn’t sure I’d get done — all the things I’d planned to do — are either done or not done. Fixed in time for Christmas of 2015.

We had a good one.

It’s unusually warm this year. Our indoor temperature was 80 for a while. Chocolate truffles melted on the inside.

My daughter and I visited Santa yesterday. A camera crew intetviewed the big man just before our turn. Then they got shot of my lovely daughter with Santa. We’ve been going to see him for the past 11 years. He’s s great Santa and always so nice. So It was fun to see her with him on the news channel’s website.

Today I sang:

Oh, the weather outside is frightful [-ly] warm, but the fan is so delightful. And since we’ve no place to go [yet], let it blow, let it blow, let it blow.

This may very well be the warmest Christmas I’ve ever experienced. 

No matter what the temperature on the outside, though, spending time with family and loved ones always feels good on the inside.

We hope your day was a good one filled with many blessings. 

  
In other news, seeing as time was nice and squished this week, I figured, “what the heck,” and tried to squeeze even more stuff in. Probably not enough room in this chunk of time for more. Invariably, I drop  the  ball (or at least “a ball” or, even more accurately, several balls) because of this type of cramming. 

This week I dropped the tea ball (among others). I missed posting a Tea-for-Tuesday tea review. It was Thursday before I realized I’d zipped past Tuesday and was planted in Wednesday. Oops, missed my turn.

So next Tuesday it will be. Enjoy until then. 

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