Mighty Leaf News
New ingredients come in every year in the tea world. If you consider the herbal tea world, there are half a dozen bases for all herbal teas. These include chamomile, mint, hibiscus, and rosehips, which form the flavor foundation for many herbal teas. They're all many centuries old and used widely. But rooibos has only been a worldwide tea ingredient for 25 years.
China, Japan, Great Britain, and other cultures offer a tea ceremony that is uniquely theirs. In the United States, we are a nation of immigrants and an American tea culture reflects this. As the American traditional approach to food has revolved around producing and consuming large quantities, there is a shift at play, demanding higher quality. With tea, we had a strong cultural bias early on because so many British came and settled here. Paul Revere was a silversmith and made teapots. The New England area was a little England. American colonists emulated the British style of tea-making to a degree up until the American war of Independence. Then, tea went from being the beloved drink of the country to a symbol of oppression. We became a coffee-drinking nation at that point, encouraged by the British-rival French who had already begun coffee cultivation in Martinique. In the 21st century, we are now becoming more well-versed in tea. The cultures of tea around the world are becoming more known and popular here too.
Britain's relationship with tea has everything to do with the British empire. The demand for tea made the empire happen. Without the demand for tea, I don't think it would have gotten as big as it did.* Morning is one part of the ritual as the traditional cuppa breakfast tea is drunk first thing, usually prepared with black loose tea. The ritual of tea continues into the afternoon tea. High tea derived its name from tea set on high tables for maids, cooks, and butlers of the big houses where they had a cup of tea and snacks at around 4 p.m., standing around a high table because there was no time to sit down. Low tea was the name for the tea service presented upstairs to the estate owners at low tables, and among finery.
If you go to China and partake in a traditional Chinese tea ritual, you will find the Chinese tea ceremony celebrates the tea itself and puts a lot of emphasis on the style and skill of the person brewing it. The ceremony is social and can be very formal or informal. One person takes charge of the brewing and commands the tea. The practice uses a gongfu style of multiple infusions that is done using a wooden tray with a small teapot and cups. The vessel that actually steeps the tea can either be a typical teapot with handle and spout, or it can be a special lidded cup called a gaiwan. The gaiwan cups consist of three parts: the saucer, small cups without handles, and lid. The lid keeps the tea warm inside the cup and acts as a strainer when sipping. With a teapot, hot water gets poured over the pot and is also used to refresh the leaves. The teapot might be a yixing terracotta teapot that is dedicated to brewing just one type of tea, or one simply made of porcelain or glass.
The holidays are a great time to play around with teas while you bake. Inviting friends to gather and bring a few batches of cookies to share over a pot of tea is a great way to celebrate. And, if you think about it, tea has become quite popular in baking. Part of that has to do with social media. Platforms like Pinterest help streamline baking with tea into a mass cultural frame of mind. Anytime I see tea cookies on a menu, I'm intrigued and tend to try them. I've eaten a lot of tea cookies and the one thing I'm left with is the notion that there is not enough tea flavor in the cookies — this is true with chai and matcha. Perhaps that's a lack of understanding how to make the tea flavor strong in baking without taking it too far? Here are a few ways I like to bake cookies with tea.
When the average American thinks of chai, I would venture to say what they envision is what you can purchase at coffee shops or cafes and is expected to be a pretty milky, sweet, and spicy black tea concoction made at the espresso machine with steaming milk.
My family is not terribly traditional or ceremonial when it comes to the holidays. While we indulge in spiked eggnog at Christmas, tea always makes an appearance at each holiday. Here are several ideas to create your own tea tradition.
As we enter the holiday season, we enter a time of gathering together. With holiday parties, come holiday menu planning and tea can factor into the festivities.
Scour a store for tea and you will probably find that the prices for the teas offered can vary wildly. The best comparison for this kind of variance can be found in the world of wine, where a bottle of two buck Chuck can be procured as well as bottles that run in the range of several thousand dollars. Caviar is expensive. Fish sticks are cheap. Let's explore expensive whole leaf tea to consider the cost.
During my time as a barista, I made countless lattes. Traditionally a latte starts with a perfectly pulled shot of espresso and 8 ounces of freshly steamed milk poured on top, leaving ¼ inch room for foam with the consistency of melted ice cream to top it off. Tea lattes were a bit of a red-headed stepchild back then and I'm excited to see they are now being given the attention they deserve.