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

Posts tagged ‘Tea’

Most Liberal Product In America – Kombucha

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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Pumpkin Spice EVERYTHING Season Is Back!

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.

Gross Post Of The Week – Wash Your Cups

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.

 

Mountain of Mango Madness!!!!

Before starting, I would like to write an apology.   I have not written the past two weeks due to an unfortunate illness within my family.   This Saturday, October 4th, my grandfather, William Roeben, passed away at the age of 87.   Needless to say, this is a hard time filled with a lot of tears, painful planning, but at the same time, also filled with wondrous laughter and joyous memories as we celebrate and remember his fruitful life.   Please join me as you read this in praying that my Opa goes back home to be with his wife who we lost two years ago, as they enjoy bowling up in Heaven with all their friends.   Thank you.

My Cousin Emily, My Opa, and Me Two Christmases Ago

My Cousin Emily, My Opa, and Me Two Christmases Ago

And now, on to tea…

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So, yesterday for dinner, I had the Inca Tea Mountain of Mango.   For those that don’t know me, I LOVE mango.   I remember the first time I had a fresh mango was in college.   Sitting in my dorm room, no clue how to eat it, I just went to town, burying my face deep into the green skin and pulling at the sweet yellow flesh underneath, smiling my fiber-filled grin with each bite I took.   I was completely hooked.

By the way, since then, I have learned to eat mango in a more refined manner by simply slicing off some mango and eating that way, but admittedly, the other way is still a lot more fun.

Mountain of Mango is one of the herbal blends that Inca Tea sells.   Upon opening the package, I noticed that there was a slightly acidic smell to it.   Not what I was expecting!   When I hear mango, I hear sweet, sometimes overbearingly so.   However, there was something in this one, probably the hibiscus petals, that made the sweet dull down a little bit, which is a plus for those that want to drink tea and not drink a fruit juice.

The tea looked lovely, to say the least.   A unique blend of mango, purple corn, hibiscus petals, rose hip peel, and apple, as well as some natural flavors.   You could actually see each component, which, if you have been to my Tea Love talks, you know is a big deal to me:

Pretty, Pretty, Pretty

Pretty, Pretty, Pretty

When the tea was brewed, it created a red-ish orange hue, kind of like a sun set.   This tea is definitely worth brewing in a clear mug, if you have any.   The acidic smell went down a bit and the tea became more of a soothing smell, matching the taste.   I would not mind waking up to a relaxing morning and brewing myself a cup of Mountain of Mango.   It was sweet, relaxing, and felt like one of those teas that you would wake up early to see the sun rise with.   It is not meant to wake you – it is meant to calm you.

This would also be a good tea to have as an introductory tea for children, should you wish.   Being that it is an herbal blend, there is no caffeine in the tea.   It is sweet enough where kids would like it, but not so sweet that you are going to think there is loads of added sugar in the drink.   It will also be easier to introduce them to more tea-based drinks after using this as a primer.

So sit back, drink up, and enjoy some Mountain of Mango, courtesy of Inca Tea.

Sadly, I will be doing my last tea for Inca Tea this Sunday!   Join in next week as I review Tawantin Black Tea 🙂

Serving You Some Meow With Your Tea

I own two cats, Celeste and “Fat Cat” Freedom.   They have been with my family since about 2001 and have been a fun part of my family ever since.   Celeste is a feisty cat, always wanting to play and running around like crazy.   Touch her tail, and she will “attack”.   Freedom, on the other hand, is more docile, cuddling up next to you and demanding that you pet her.

Fat Cat Freedom Being Cuddly

Fat Cat Freedom Being Cuddly

Celeste, Fast Asleep

Celeste, Fast Asleep

Now, would you pay to pet these cats while you sip on a hot chai?   Or how about a nice, relaxing herbal?   Maybe some green tea?

People around the world are picking up on the trend of cat cafes, where patrons come and either pay by the hour or pay for their meal and as they dine, play with cats.

The trend started in Taiwan where the first Cat Cafe opened in Taipei in 1998, where many apartment buildings ban having pets.   As a result, people do not get the joys of having cuddly companionship while they sip their tea.

However, the Cat Cafe changed this, hosting cats and tea for paying patrons.   The idea became a fast hit, including for those visiting from Japan.   Who doesn’t like a cuddly cat with them while they sip their tea?

One of the more popular cat cafes in Japan, the Calico Cafe in Tokyo, soon opened in March 2007.   Their cafe hosts about 20 cats with over 17 different breeds.   Patrons take off their shoes, sanitize their hands, place personal items in a locker, and rub their faces in the soft fur of their purring friends.   Toys are strewn about the cafe so that you can play and try to lure the cats into your laps in order to pet them while you drink your tea.   The cafes advertise themselves as a great place for friends, dates, and just a nice place to swing by.   After all, in an area where you cannot have cats in your apartment, why not take a sweetheart to have a cuppa and a cat?

Cat cafes in Japan are very strict, however.   Of course, there is the concern for health regulations.   Having an animal in a cafe while you eat can be an issue.   Then there is also the safety of the animal.   Often, there is a long list of rules and regulations when entering one of these cafes, ranging from not being able to pet the cat at all unless the cat initiates contact to not bringing in outside food and catnip.

The trend started growing, spreading to Vienna, Paris, St. Petersburg, and Seoul.   In Canada, you can even adopt one of these cuddly creatures at their Small Things cafe.

Many of the cafes will use cats from shelters or cats that were once homeless or abandoned, serving a humanitarian effort as well as a good cuppa with a unique atmosphere.

So, if you are traveling abroad and miss your feline friend, make sure that you Google “cat cafes” and see if you could grab a cup of tea and a cute kitty as well.

A New Year, A New Tea Tradition

Hello everyone, I AM BACK!!!!!

I greatly apologize for all the hustle and bustle that is going on in my life!   October is the month where my friends and I run around like crazy for Halloween, then November was just insane, then December was Christmas (which we hold at my house), then things busy at work, and ACK!   But no more fear!   I am back 🙂

First and foremost, guess what!   We have another Tea Love talk coming up!   This one is on Sunday, January 19th, 1:30 PM at the West Milford Township Library, 1490 Union Valley Road, West Milford, New Jersey 07480.   As always, we will have a sampling of teas after the talk, so make sure you bring your favorite mug!   Registration is required. To register, make sure you email wmtl@wmtl.org, call 973-728-2822, or visit the Adult/Teen Services desk of the library.   Hope to see you there!

Second, 2014 is on the road and is coming up fast (ACK!   Everything seems to be coming up fast lately!).   So, people are breaking out the party poppers, champagne, and noise makers as they anxiously await 2013’s exit and 2014 grand entrance.

But, where can tea play a part in all of this?

Well, why not borrow from the Chinese New Year for ours?

An image of a 10th century tea offering, found in a tomb in Hebei, China.   Image from TeaGuardian.com

An image of a 10th century tea offering, found in a tomb in Hebei, China. Image from TeaGuardian.com

According to the Tea Guardian, a website whose mission is to promote fine tea as a gourmet habit, an offering of tea is a gesture of respect and gratitude.   Therefore, on New Years in China, children would offer to the elders of the family a cup of sweetened tea, made sweeter by candied fruits and vegetables placed at the bottom of the cup (keep in mind, different fruits and vegetables symbolize different things!).   This was done with great care, with the handle facing the right of the person receiving the offering and the left of the person offering.   The child holds the saucer with both hands as the elder takes the cup by the handle with one hand and the saucer with the other, and sips the tea while listening to child offer well wishes for the upcoming year.

The person offering does not leave empty-handed, though.   The elder, after hearing the well wishes, gives the child a red packet and offers wishes in return.   At one point, the red packets use to hold the wishes, but now they tend to hold trinkets and monetary gifts.

So, this New Years, after making all the noise, the chatter, the clinks, and the mess, offer your elder a cup of sweetened tea and wish them the best for this sure-to-be-wonderful new year.   Start a new tradition that not only celebrates tea, but also celebrates gratitude and the wisdom of years.

A Virtual Trip to The Charleston Tea Plantation

Correct me if I’m wrong, but my personal impression of tea in America is that people tend to reach for the coffee pot before they reach for the tea kettle.   While tea is boasted to have numerous health benefits, something about the addictive coffee still has people hooked on the beverage here in the USA.

However, even with all its coffee obsessions, specialty stores boasting coffee and elaborate contraptions to brew a cup o’ joe, America still has only one place where there are coffee plantations – Hawaii.

While tea cannot boat more than one tea plantation either, it does get you to think, no?

So we’re going to take a virtual tour of this tea plantation and what it is that makes this particular one special – The Charleston Tea Plantation in Wadmalaws Island, South Carolina.

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The Wadmalaws Island, approximately 10 miles long and 6 miles wide, was established in mid-June 1666 when Captain Robert Sanford and the crew of the Berkeley Bay landed on Rockville, South Carolina.   The land is generally viewed as being the most untainted, its only connection to the mainland a bridge that crosses over Church Creek.

The plantation was formally established in 1987.   The soil is sandy, the climate sub-tropical, and an average rainfall at a whopping 52 inches per year, the island is perfect for growing tea with over 320 varieties on the full 127 acres.   Their tea plants are used to grow American green and black teas in particular.   Though technically, the tea leaf can manufacture Oolong, white tea, etc, the company has been so busy with their green and black teas that the company decided to focus on those two.   Since the land cannot be commercially developed, it is a picturesque island that has still remained untouched.

Climbing Onto The Tour Trolley

Climbing Onto The Tour Trolley

The only tea to be produced by these tender tea leaves?   American Classic Tea.   The tea is harvested in May and is celebrated at the plantation’s annual First Flush FesTEAval, complete with music, entertainment and, of course, tea.   Harvesting continues until the end of September, beginning of October, when the plants are allowed to rest for the season (hey, tea needs sleep, too!).

The Charleston Tea Plantation prides itself on the fact that they are an all-natural tea.   Their tea are flavored with natural essential oils.   They do not decaffeinate any of their teas since that would require the use of chemicals.   The plantation does not even use pesticides to protect the plants from all the bugs.

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This proud Green plantation hosts special events, tours and totes a history for America to be proud of.   Their tea is widely enjoyed but both new sippers and purists and their plantation is a beauty to behold.   See about getting a visit in when you are in the area!   You will not be disappointed.

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