Tea Love: Instilling a Love of Tea, One Sip At A Time

Admittedly, kombucha is still a bit of a mystery to me, the main reason being that I do not drink alcohol.   Once I read that it was a fermented beverage, I just thought, “Nope.”   However, watching some of my coworkers swear by it and seeing all sorts of recipes for SCOBY (the weird culture of bacteria and yeast that looks a bit like an oceanic creature), I decided to at least do a bit of research on it and know what on Earth I am talking about.

Kombucha Tea: Do the Negatives Outweigh the Positives ...

The mystery of kombucha….

For those of you who have lived blissfully unawares, kombucha, dubbed the most liberal product in America as of 2009, is an ancient Chinese tea-based drink (usually green or black tea) that is brewed with a yeast disc, yielding low levels of alcohol.   Now, it is toted as being a huge part of PepsiCo’s portfolio, despite the fact that it had an alcohol regulation scandal only a few years ago.   Health nuts love it, because it states that it contains vitamins, amino acids, and other buzz words healthy people (and the government) associate with health benefits.   This also implies a non-alcoholic base, so kids and adults can enjoy the drink.   It almost developed a cult following, with people expounding upon its properties to do everything from fix what ails ya to even curing AIDS and cancer (helpful note, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center states that kombucha has not been shown to treat cancer nor AIDS in humans).

Kombucha is prepared mostly by placing the SCOBY in sweetened tea and left to ferment at room temperature for 1-3 weeks, then bottled for 1-2 weeks to contain the CO2 that is given off and increase the natural carbonation of the drink.   From there, the drink is stored in the fridge, at which point it is ready to be sold.   The scandal happened because people did not think of the second fermentation cycle that the drink goes through:

“However, the production and distribution of kombucha halted abruptly for two months in 2010 following a Whole Foods inspection  by Maine Department of Agriculture Consumer Protection Inspector Randy Trahan. During a routine bottle audit at the Whole Foods in Portland, Trahan noticed leaking kombucha bottles. Trahan explained, “Some of the Kombucha bottles on the shelf were leaking. Being a public health official, I know that alcohol is a by-product of the fermentation process. I could immediately see that there might be a public safety issue…Kids could get hold of this and get a buzz.””

After Trahan submitted the bottles for testing, they found alcohol levels ranging from a bit over 0.5% to even going as high as over 2.5%, well above the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s regulations.   The drink was pulled from shelves as a result for a bit while the industry gathered itself again to try a second time in the kombucha boom.

The government stepped in and stated that it would regulate any kombucha products that contain 0.5% or more ABV, even after the product was bottled and continued to ferment.   Trade association Kombucha Brewers International was also founded as a way to educate both consumers and retailers about kombucha, as well as promote industry ethics and labeling standards, working with the government to do so.

With new regulations in place, producers went two ways – some decided to comply with the ABV standards through manufacturing changes and de-alcoholizers, while others used their original formulas and labeled their brands as beers instead.   Purists believe the de-alcoholized products stripped away the health benefits of the beverage that made it so popular in the first place.   However, sales continue to climb, estimated to be about $1.8 billion by 2020.

So, while I might try some of the de-alcoholized kombucha, there’s something to be said about its fascinating history, and the current hype surrounding the beverage!

Sit back, enjoy a cuppa, and let me know your thoughts.

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First thing’s first, I want to give a great shout-out to the Orangeburg Library in Orangeburg, New York.   Yesterday, they invited me to come speak to their patrons about Afternoon Tea and give the low-down on Low Tea.   Over 20 people showed!   Everyone was in wonderful spirits, and we even got to use antique tea cups supplied by the Orangetown Museum and Archives!   I won’t lie, that was slightly nerve-wracking to use those tea cups, but it all worked out and I think we had a wonderful party.   Thank you to all who showed, and thank you to the Orangeburg Library for inviting me!   I am looking forward to my next trip out to your neck of the woods.

And now, onto tea….

Pretty much, I log into Facebook daily because I am an internet addict, as much as I might try to deny it.   I don’t rely on it for the likes or anything, but I am addicted to the recipes that flood my news feed, plus I love the puppy videos that pop up here and there.   Today, upon logging in, I learned it was National Chocolate Week over in the UK!   October 9th through the 15th, citizens across the pond are going to be hopping around to different chocolatiers to get a taste of some indulgence and celebrating a heavenly product.   But, what better way to celebrate your morsel of chocolate than with tea?

One of my favorite chocolate recipes to make are truffles.   Simple, elegant, and, most importantly, fun, you can experiment and make as many or as few as you would like.   Martha Stewart posted about jasmine tea-infused truffles, and that light floral note you get from the tea is well worth it.   Try it out and let me know what you think!

Jasmine Tea-Infused Truffles

Ingredients:

 

  • 24 ounces bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Manjari, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, preferably Valrhona 42 percent, finely chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 6 ounces Jasmine tea
  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups cocoa powder (not Dutch processed), preferably Valrhona, for rolling

Directions:

1. Line a 13-by-9 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap; set aside.

2. In a heatproof bowl, set over (but not touching) simmering water, melt 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate and milk chocolate together until it reaches 120 degrees.

3. Place cream in a small saucepan over medium heat; heat until cream just comes to a boil. Place tea in a medium stainless steel bowl. Pour cream over tea and let steep 10 minutes. Strain cream mixture through 4 layers of cheesecloth.

4. Remove chocolate mixture from heat and add to 1 1/3 cups cream mixture, reserving any remaining cream for another use. Using a heatproof spatula, mix together, starting from the center of the saucepan and working your way to the outer edges until mixture is emulsified. Add butter and mix with an immersion blender until well combined. Pour mixture into prepared baking sheet, evenly spreading mixture with an offset spatula; cover with plastic wrap, pressing down gently on chocolate mixture to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, and up to overnight.

5. Line the back of another 13-by-9 1/2-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Uncover chocolate and invert onto parchment paper; remove second piece of plastic wrap. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, and a steel ruler as a guide, cut chocolate into 1-inch squares.

6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Roll each square of chocolate between your hands to form a smooth ball. Transfer chocolate balls to baking sheet; refrigerate for 1 hour.

7. Melt remaining 16 ounces bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl, set over (but not touching) simmering water. Place cocoa powder in a shallow dish. Place some of the melted chocolate in the palm of your hand and roll a chocolate ball in the melted chocolate to coat, then roll in cocoa powder. Repeat process with remaining chocolate balls. Transfer truffles to an airtight container, stacking truffles no more than 2 to 3 inches high, and refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Bring truffles to room temperature just before serving.

 

October has just started and yes, I have already had a pumpkin-inspired tea.   Around this time, my friends and I stalk the haunted houses, indulge in pumpkin-flavored products, and gorge enough candy where we regret ever committing to a diet in the first place.   We always hear about PSL (thank you, Starbucks), but did you know that there are plenty of healthy teas that are also pumpkin-themed?   Take a look below!

It’s Pumpkin Time! – Family Food Blog

Pumpkin Pie – Made by Premium Steap – A Lifestyle of Tea

I first found out about Pumpkin Pie from a coworker, who was kind enough to bring me a cuppa while we worked endlessly on a project (yay for that project finally being completed!).   It was my first day meeting her, and the topic of tea came up (of course it did).   She told me about this magical Pumpkin Pie and I tried it.   It warmed every sense within, and the taste was divine.   Seriously, I know I rave about tea, but I often sort of shy away from some of the more specialty flavors since sometimes, they just overdo the hype.   But the blend contains pumpkin, cinnamon, and other spices without leaving a gritty or powdery taste in it.   And the best part?   You actually taste the pumpkin!

Pumpkin Chai – Made by DavidsTEA

One of the things that I love about DavidsTEA is that it is environmentally conscious.   Bring in a reusable container, they will fill it up with tea.   You don’t need to drain your pocketbooks buying their air-tight containers (spoiler alert, they are quite awesome and you should keep your tea in an air-tight container regardless, but that’s another story) and their tea is mighty tasty.   One thing to keep in mind though, I tell everyone that their tea is not “pure” in the sense of it ONLY being tea.   They usually have add-ins, and Pumpkin Chai is no exception.   Doesn’t mean that it’s bad, but it does mean you might be getting some sugars that you would not otherwise get in your cuppa.   This tea is spiced with caramel, pumpkin candies, cinnamon, and cloves and advertises as being great as a latte.   Move over, Starbucks!

Sweet Harvest Pumpkin – Made by Celestial Seasonings

My heart is always torn with Celestial Seasonings.   On the one hand, I ADORE their herbal fruity teas.   On the other hand, they sometimes fall short.   This tea is a black tea, automatically making it a bit stronger, spiced with cinnamon, ginger, roasted chicory, natural pumpkin flavor, and more.   So the good news is, the strength is there, not like their peach blend.   Plus, it is also a bit different from the others which streamline to be pumpkin spice thrown into a tin of black tea and then calling it a day.

Bad news about all of these?   All of them are black teas, so all contain caffeine.   If you are looking to watch your intake for whatever reason, stick to a nice cinnamon apple.

For those of you who don’t know, I get Google Alerts in my inbox every day for the words “tea + drink”.   This has yielded some interesting new stories, such as the idea of cheese tea.    Well, the latest alert?   Has me more sad than anything….

 

If you drink coffee or tea over at your office, I HIGHLY recommend you wash your mugs both before and after you drink.   Per Mirror.co.uk, Charles Gerba, Ph.D., professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona, states that 90 per cent of most office mugs carry dangerous germs, and 20 per cent of those carry fecal bacteria.

 

AKA poop.

AKA yuck.

256344-dual-flush-round-corner-toilet-white-open

I don’t want to drink out of toilets anymore than you do.   So, why is this a thing though?   Do people actively bring mugs back and forth from the break room to take a poop?   How do we find and stop these heinous individuals who share more of themselves than you ever care to be exposed to?

In fact, it comes about most often when you use the office communal sponge (thank God I keep mine in my desk).   These sponges harbor germs and might not be thrown out as regularly as they should be.   Therefore, when you wash your mugs using these sponges, you are really just wiping a cesspool into your cup rather than actually cleaning it.

Your best bet?   Take your mug home and wash it in your dishwasher.   You can probably also get away with disposable cups or, as I do, have your own sponge.

Because no one wants to drink poop.

 

I’m Back!

Hi everyone!

First, let me thank the Scotch Plains Public Library for hosting my Tea Love talk yesterday regarding the health benefits and advancements with tea. You guys rocked! Over twenty people, all engaged, and lots of fun.

Second, thanks for sticking around with me! So, as a writer, sometimes life gets in the way. It is hard to come up with new material on a weekly basis that would be worth reading. Then throw in general humdrums of life like full-time jobs, family and friends commitments, and more, and it is easy for things like blogging to fall to the wayside.

I missed it every moment, but I wasn’t good enough to keep up at that point.

Now, I am hoping to step up my game and get it working again! Not only did Scotch Plains invite me back to talk, I will also be speaking again in New York at the Orangeburg Library October 8th! My love for tea and for writing never died, so super excited to get started again.

So keep your eyes open on the blog and on my Facebook page for all things tea 🙂

Happy New Years From Tea Love!

Happy New Years From Tea Love!

Merry Christmas From Tea Love!

Merry Christmas From Tea Love!

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