The Original Yogi Tea Recipe

Believe it or not, I was interested in the ritual of afternoon tea long before I actually started drinking tea!  I know that is a bit of an oxymoron, like hanging out at a coffee shop but not drinking the coffee.  Since I don’t drink coffee (I can’t handle the caffeine in coffee), I never gave tea a chance.  It’s one of the reasons it took me so long to “discover” the joys of afternoon tea.

I only started drinking tea in 2010 after meeting M. who owns a tea shop.  M. convinced me to try drinking white tea.  Surprisingly, I had no adverse reaction so that was the beginning of my tea craze!  From white tea, I graduated to drinking black teas, green teas, oolong, pu-erh, you name it!  Today, I enjoy drinking tea just as much, sometimes more (!), than I enjoy the foods of afternoon tea.  A pot of good tea deserves its own spotlight.

Coincidentally (maybe not … are there coincidences?), M. also introduced me to Kundalini yoga 2 years ago and I learned that Yogi Bhajan, the spiritual teacher who introduced Kundalini yoga to the US, was also the mastermind behind Yogi tea.  If you are a tea drinker, then you are familiar with Yogi brand teas.  Who doesn’t love the inspirational messages found on the tea tags of Yogi tea bags?  Isn’t that the main reason we all drink it?  I do. 😉
0129171646So here comes a confession: I don’t like Yogi tea.  Many of their tea blends contain two ingredients that I’m not fond of: Licorice root and stevia (I don’t like my tea sweet!  And yes, stevia is used in Ayurveda!).  Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), a commonly used herb in Ayurveda, has many benefits including calming ulcers, boosting immunity, lower blood glucose, and easing sore throats and cough.  I don’t like licorice root because, for some odd reason, it throws off my tastebuds and temporarily, all I can taste is a metallic sweetness, akin to the aftertaste I get from aspartame, stevia, and other artificial sweeteners.  Yuck!  It also increases saliva production in my mouth which is an unpleasant sensation.  I might be sensitive to it but I can’t find any information supporting such side effects.  Since it’s unpleasant, I avoid it.  Likewise, if you are pregnant, have heart disease, high blood pressure, or take certain medications, you may want to avoid consuming licorice root.

Back to Kundalini yoga … after class, my teacher always serves “yogi tea.”  Drinking tea after class with your teacher and fellow students is a longtime tradition in Kundalini yoga.  The act of sharing tea together is intended to foster community.  The tea itself is a tonic for the whole body and meant to revitalize and warm the body.  In the beginning, I didn’t want to try the “yogi tea” because I equated it with Yogi tea, the brand.  Then my teacher revealed that she made the tea herself and that got my attention.  Apparently, there was an “original” yogi tea recipe that started the Yogi tea brand!  This original yogi tea recipe included 5 traditional Ayurvedic spices: Ginger root (anti-inflammatory), black pepper (blood purifier), cardamom seed (aids digestion), clove bud (strengthens the nervous system), and cinnamon bark (aids in calcium absorption).
dsc07218-smallAccording to the Yogi tea website, when blended and brewed, these 5 “delicious and aromatic spices leave you feeling vibrant and alive, while supporting overall well-being.”  A hint of black tea supports energy and milk is added to complement the spices (soy or other milk substitutes may be used–I like almond milk).  In a nutshell, yogi tea was created “to deliver a healthful benefit to the body and a delicious flavor to delight the spirit.”

The original yogi tea recipe is no longer on the Yogi tea website but I found it in the Internet Archive (long live the Internet Archive!).  I’m documenting it here because I don’t want to lose the recipe again.  Things are never permanent in cyberspace …

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This beautiful Japanese bone china tea cup was a gift from my friend S. It belonged to her mother who was a woman after my own heart so I am very honored to have such a lovely memory of her!

“Feel Good, Be Good, Do Good.”
–The guiding principle of Yogi tea

The original Yogi tea recipe
(yield: one 8 oz. serving)

10 ounces of water (about 1 1/3 cups)
3 whole cloves
4 whole green cardamom pods, cracked
4 whole black peppercorns
2 slices fresh ginger root
½ stick cinnamon
¼ teaspoon black tea
½ cup milk or milk substitute

Using a large pot, bring water to boiling and carefully add spices. Cover and boil 15 to 20 minutes, then add black tea. Let sit for 3-5 minutes, then add the milk and return to a boil. Upon reaching a boil, carefully remove from heat and strain. If desired, add honey for sweetness.


The original yogi tea recipe is something I make and enjoy on a weekly basis.  I drank it this past winter when I caught a cold and it seemed to help calm my coughs.  The ginger is always warming and comforting where my stomach is concerned.  I drink it cold or hot, any which way!  It’s caffeine free so I even drink it at night as a dessert tea or night cap.  Putting aside the supposed health benefits, it just tastes darn good!  NOTE: The Yogi tea version of “yogi tea,” Classic India Spice Yogi Tea, has a different formula than the original yogi tea so I highly recommend trying the recipe above!

I have yet to read the Teachings of Yogi Bhajan (one of these days!) but I’ll leave you here with one of my favorite quotations from the guru himself …

by Yogi Bhajan

Yogi Bhajan (Photo: Source not identified)

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Movie Idols and Classic Films Tea

You are invited to a Movie Idols and Classic Films Tea!  Lady T. hosted the 2nd Victorian Tea Society tea of 2017 with a show-stopping, star-studded event.

Oh yes!  We got the red carpet treatment …

… and, of course, there were surprise appearances by A-list celebrities from the past and present!

Lady J. and I arrived on the red carpet first and as we made our way out of our “limousine,” a pair of familiar feet suddenly appeared before us!

Lady J. exclaimed, “Hey, WHERE did YOU come from?!”  Indeed, it was as if Mary Poppins suddenly dropped down from sky, Lady S. was so light on her feet!  It was truly a magical (and spooky) moment!

One by one, the stars began arriving.  Can you name the following stars, movies, and/or characters who showed up to Lady T.’s party?

Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables), Alicia Silverstone (Clueless), Rosalind Russell (Auntie Mame), Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), June Allyson, Chinese movie star on vacation (Zhang Ziyi), Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins)

Inside at Party Central, touches of Hollywood graced the sky, walls, table, trees …

During our meet and greet, Lady T. served up delicious cocktails worthy of any Hollywood party!

 

 

When Lady T. initially announced she was going to host a “Movie Idols and Classic Movies Tea,” I asked her to define “classic.”  Lady T. told me that for the purposes of her tea, the term “classic” could refer to any decade.

When I hear “classic movie,” my mind conjures the Golden Age of Hollywood from the silent era to the talkies and technicolor … movies such as Dracula, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, movie stars such as silent film stars, Louise Brooks, Charlie Chaplin, and Lillian Gish, or the 1950s and 1960s glamour of Katharine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, or Elizabeth Taylor.  Regrettably, I haven’t seen many “classic movies” mainly because they were shown on TV late at night, when I was already in bed (all good children are in bed by 8pm, right?).  However, I was not completely deprived because I did manage to catch The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, and various Shirley Temple movies enough times to be able to recite or sing lines from those movies, which is a testament to how often certain movies are rebroadcast on TV, and always during the holidays.

Shirley Temple (date and source unknown)

Flower Drum Song (1961)

Mei Li (Miyoshi Umeki): “You smell good. You wear incense to scare away evil spirits?”
Linda Low (Nancy Kwan): “Oh no, to attract them!”

Flower Drum Song Orange Oolong Tea (photo by Lady J.)

I love Lady T.’s nod to Nancy Kwan with this Oolong tea and beautiful teapot.  While doing some research for this post, I came across an article, “Talk tea & see” in Time magazine (April 11, 1960), on a Nancy Kwan fansite (claims to be official) that I thought was about Nancy Kwan and tea (wow, what were the chances?).  The article made my jaw drop and I can’t resist including it here because I could scarcely believe what I was reading (say whaaaat?!):

Wonton-sized Nancy Ka Shen Kwan (5 ft. 2 in., 104 lbs.) is the most delicate Oriental import since Tetley’s tender little tea leaves. Last week 20-year-old Nancy was before the cameras in London filming The World of Suzie Wong, and from the first frame the part fitted like her own freckles. Furthermore, the new “yum-yum girl” has saved the movie … Lest anyone have any doubts that her East-West blend can stand comparison with Hollywood’s well-known brands, company flacks have already hastened to announce that under her high-buttoned cheong-sam (the Chinese sheath with the slit skirt), she is the equal of any Occidental. But Nancy promptly corrected the claim that she has “the ample bosom of the Nordics.” Said she demurely: “It is big for the Chinese, enough for the English, maybe small for Italians.”

Nancy Kwan in Flower Drum Song (1961)

A reflection of old Hollywood (or just Hollywood!), it is pretty crazy to think that this was considered a “compliment” at the time.  Sadly, the pressure and expectation for women to play by certain rules in order to be successful, accepted, or validated are still alive today, not just in Hollywood but in general.  The more things change, the more they stay the same?  Old wine in new bottles?  Alas, I could go on and on but this subject is technically inappropriate for pleasant afternoon tea conversation so let’s get back to Lady T.’s tea!

To test our movie knowledge, Lady T. unveiled a game to see how many movie quotations we could identify.  I got only 5 of the following correct.  Our special guest, Lady C. was a real movie buff and her impressive movie knowledge earned her 11 correct answers!  Congratulations Lady C.!  Playing games inevitably made us hungry (especially the sole “man” of the party, Harrison Ford), and Lady T. started off the celebrity tea with Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite, Chasen’s chili.  According to Hollywood folklore, in 1962, Elizabeth Taylor paid $200 to have 10 quarts of chili from Chasen’s Restaurant in Hollywood shipped to Rome, where she was on location filming Cleopatra.

Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Raintree County (1957)

Elizabeth Taylor Chasen’s Chili–by Lady T.

An American in Paris (1951)

Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly): “That’s, uh, quite a dress you almost have on. What holds it up?”
Milo Roberts (Nina Foch): “Modesty.”

An American in Paris (Strawberry Romaine Salad)–by Lady S.

Sandwiches (Cool Hand Luke Egg Salad Sandwiches, Gregory Peck Ratatouille Sandwiches (Veggie Sandwich), Chinatown Sesame Cilantro Sandwiches, The Wizard of Oz Cucumber Sandwich

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Dorothy (Judy Garland): “Someplace where there isn’t any trouble … do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or train. It’s far, far away… behind the moon… beyond the rain.  Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high …”

The Wizard of Oz cucumber sandwiches (to get paper-thin bread, use a rolling pin to flatten sandwich bread)–by Lady ML

Chinatown (1974)

J.J. “Jake” Gittes (Jack Nicholson): “Listen, pal. I make an honest living. People only come to me when they’re in a desperate situation. I help ’em out. I don’t kick families out of their houses like you bums down at the bank do.”

Chinatown cilantro sesame sandwiches–by Lady J.

The actress, Bea Arthur, was a vegetarian and this mushroom toast was her preferred way to start her day, every day.

Bea Arthur’s Vegetarian Breakfast (by Lady B.) and Claudette Colbert Cheese & Olive Puffs (by Lady K.)

Claudette Colbert

Splash (1984)

Remember the scene in Splash when Madison (Daryl Hannah) digs into the lobster at the restaurant? 🙂

Alan (Tom Hanks): … I do wanna talk about what happened in the restaurant.
Madison (Daryl Hannah): Oh, I am sorry, that’s how we eat lobster where I come from.

Splash- Shrimp — by Lady T.

Annie Hall (1977)

Annie Hall (Diane Keaton): “It’s so clean out here.”
Alvy Singer (Woody Allen): “In Beverly Hills, they don’t throw their garbage away — they turn it into television shows.”

Annie Hall Carrot & Pineapple Muffins with Lemon–by Lady T.

Tea at Five (2002)

Tea at Five was a one-woman play, written by Matthew Lombardois, based on Katharine Hepburn’s autobiography, Me: Stories of my Life (1991) which included stories about her life at the Fenwick estate, her family home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, where afternoon tea was a daily ritual.

Katharine Hepburn with tea and brownies? (unknown date and source)

Katharine Hepburn: “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies–by Lady Henni

American chef, Ruth Reichl, claims, “The best recipe I have for brownies comes from a friend who got it from a magazine about Katharine Hepburn. It is, apparently, her family’s.”

Katharine Hepburn’s brownies
(from Epicurious)

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Melt together 1 stick butter and 2 squares unsweetened chocolate and take the saucepan off the heat.
2. Stir in 1 cup sugar, add 2 eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and beat the mixture well.
3. Stir in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. (In the original recipe, 1 cup chopped walnuts is added here as well.)
4. Bake the brownies in a buttered and floured 8-inch-square pan at 325°F for about 40 minutes.  You can cut these brownies into squares, once they have cooled.

Or you can try my vegan gluten-free brownies…

Vegan, gluten free brownies
(yields 16 brownies)

2 Tbsp. unsalted almond butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 chia eggs (2 tablespoons ground chia* + 6 tablespoons water, whisked)
1/2 cup finely ground, blanched almond flour
3/4 cup chocolate chips

* NOTE: 1 Tbsp. chia seeds = 2 Tbsp. ground chia seeds. Can also use ground flax.

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.  Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together almond butter, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and chia eggs, using a spoon.
  3. Add cocoa powder, almond flour, salt, and chocolate chips to the wet mixture and mix with a spoon until incorporated.
  4. Pour batter into pan.  Smooth batter into an even layer.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool for 1-2 hours. Slice into 16 brownies. Enjoy!

La Dolce Vita (1960)

Journalist: “What do you think you like most in life?”
Sylvia (Anita Ekberg): “I like lots of things. But there are three things I like most. Love, love and love.”

Anita Ekberg’s Swedish apple cake–by Lady C.

Gone with the Wind (1939)

Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh): “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)

Gone with the Wind Strawberry Rhubarb Fool–by Lady T.

We certainly had some great movie conversations and I got a list of everyone’s favorite movies so I can watch them later on Netflix. 🙂  Thank goodness for Netflix because I would not be able to see classic movies otherwise!  Even when brick ‘n’ mortar video rental stores were the norm, classic movies were still in short supply.

Lady B.–Little Women (1949)
Lady C.–Auntie Mame (1958)
Lady Henni–American Beauty (1999)
Lady J.–Anne of Green Gables (1985)
Lady K.–Clueless (1995)
Lady ML–Arsenic and old lace (1944), An affair to remember (1957)
Lady S.–Blade runner (1982)
Lady T.–Gone with the Wind (1939), In the heat of the night (1967)

What is your favorite movie of all time?

Thank you Lady T. for hosting a memorable and fun tea for the ages!  It was an honor to have tea with your famous friends–I learned so much and ate too well! 😉

Just for fun, I came across these entertaining “Cup of fame” tea bag holders.  Go ahead punk, make my tea!

I’ll end this post with a quotation from D.’s favorite movie …

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick): “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Disclaimer: Tastes Like Tea is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Queen for a day tea

Today, Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 91st birthday.  In honor of her birthday, I’m posting Lady B.’s “Queen for a day” tea from last year! 

Lady B. surprised us all when she announced that she did not want any assistance with her upcoming tea for the Victorian Tea Society.  She said she wanted to pamper us and make us all feel like a “Queen for a day!”  Wow!  Talk about Royal Treatment!

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Royal invitation

Queen B.’s royal invitation instructed guests to “wear tiaras and bring (their) best manners.”  My favorite queen of all time is, of course, Queen Elizabeth I (isn’t she everyone’s favorite?!?).  I once went through a phase where I went crazy over everything Elizabeth I, especially books and movies.  I decided to pay tribute to Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, the epic poem dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I, by dressing up in a Renaissance costume, complete with a garland of eucalyptus, peacock feathers, and green foliage for my hair.  I planned to arrive to Queen B.’s as the Faerie Queene!

The road to Queen B.’s was strewn with rose petals and a Fairy Crossing!  My heart danced a little jig and I knew then I was in for a special treat.  Queen B. sure knows how to make a Queene feel at home! 🙂

Fairy crossing

Queen B.’s Fairy Crossing (click on photo to enlarge)

After the Fairy Crossing, the queens were invited to sit on this welcoming bench as their arrivals were announced.  Notice all the crowning touches from the pillow to the accents, the curtains, and the bench cover!

Queen B's crowning glory

Queen B’s crowning glory

Once inside the palace, we admired this enchanting table in the foyer while Queen B. made an unexpected grand entrance from the staircase!

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Enchanted welcome table made by Queen B. requiring 6 yards of tulle!

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Queen B's crowning touches everywhere!

Queen B’s crowning touches everywhere … including the “other throne” room (aka commode)! (click on photo to enlarge)

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More crowning touches and some Victorian flair!

Before Royal Tea was served, Queen B. instructed us on how to be queenly with “Her Royal Highness Lessons, course 101.”

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Click to enlarge

After we successfully completed the course, we made a Coronation Toast to Queen B. to initiate the Royal Tea.

Coronation toast

Coronation toast

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Her Royal Highness Butternut squash soup

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Enchanted broccoli avocado berry salad

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Starting at 12:00m, clockwise: Kensington Palace Turkey and Provolone, Her Majesty’s Ham and Swiss Cheese, Princess Diana’s Tiara Smoked Salmon Mousse Canapes, Once Upon a Time Egg Salad, and Royal Coach Curried Chicken Salad Croissant

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Queen’s Throne Shrimp cheesecakes (these were amazing!)

Royal scepter fresh fruit

Royal scepter fresh fruit

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Tea time double chocolate scones

Double Chocolate Scones
Yield:  12 scones

2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 c. unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder or unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. fresh orange zest
1/4 t. salt
1/3 c. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 c. dark chocolate chunks (I used chocolate chips)
1 c. heavy whipping cream
l large egg
3/4 c. pecans or nuts of your liking *optional
Preheat oven to 425F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, orange zest, and salt, whisking well. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add chocolate chunks, stirring to combine. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine cream and egg, whisking well.  Add to flour mixture, stirring until just combined.  Dough will be sticky.  IF mixture seems dry, add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a dough forms.  Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet.
*Optional sprinkle scones with large decorative sugar or coarse raw sugar.
Bake until a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean, 8 to 12 minutes.  Cool on baking sheet for 5 min. and serve warm.
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Chocolate Cream
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/3 c. chocolate chips or more depending how chocolately you want it.
In a medium saucepan, heat cream til very hot, but not boiling.  Remove from heat and add chocolate chips whisking til melted.  Pour mixture into a heatproof glass or metal bowl and set in a larger bowl filled with ice.  Let cool whisking occasionally.  Using a hand-held mixer, beat chocolate mixture at high-speed until stiff peaks form.  That’s it.  Easy peasy!

After the scones course, we assembled outside to have dessert in Queen B.’s gazebo.

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Ha, I didn’t even notice until now that I captured a lizard running across the path in the foreground! 🙂

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Crown fold napkins, lace crowns on bottom of teacups. and embroidered crowns on lace coasters (stiched by Queen B. herself!)

Crown fold napkins, lace crowns on bottom of teacups, and golden embroidered crowns on lace coasters (stitched by Queen B. herself!)

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Dreams Do Come True strawberry cheesecake

A royal thank you!

A royal thank you!

To Her Royal Highness, Queen B.
I rarely venture out of my kingdom so imagine my delight and appreciation for the great efforts you made to make me feel at home with reminders of my beloved Faerie Land.  I was equally enchanted by your resplendent palace, scrumptious royal tea, and the company of charming visiting queens from other faraway lands.  Thank you Queen B. for the royal treatment and unforgettable afternoon.  I hope you will visit me in my kingdom someday.

Your humble servant,
The Faerie Queene

“It’s all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you’re properly trained.”

–Queen Elizabeth II

Happy birthday to The Queen!

Passion for Purple Tea

Lady B. threw a surprise “thank you” tea in honor of Lady J. who served as our Victorian Tea Society (VTS) coordinator for the past six years.  Additionally, Lady J. introduced the ritual of afternoon tea to several of us (including yours truly) so we had much to be thankful for!

The biggest challenge in planning the surprise tea was scheduling.  Finding a day/time that suited Lady J. but also the rest of the VTS members was difficult (4 months in the planning).  In the end, six members were able to make it, so it was well worth the effort!  Secondly, organizing a ruse for a visit to Lady B.’s house without giving away the surprise was yet another challenge.  Lady J. thought she was visiting Lady B. for an afternoon of quilting.  Lady J.’s reaction was priceless.  She was genuinely (and maybe even shockingly) surprised, especially when we all yelled, “Surprise!” and she couldn’t figure out what the surprise was.  After all, it wasn’t her birthday, there was no special anniversary, and … why were we all dressed in purple?

As Lady J. stepped down into the sitting room, everyone yelled, “Surprise!”

Since Lady J.’s favorite color is purple, we decided to honor her by hosting an all-purple tea by wearing purple and serving purple foods!  Ironically, between seven of us, none of us owned any purple table settings!  Lady J.’s monopoly on the color purple is indeed indisputable! 😉  But Lady B. got creative and did a beautiful job utilizing existing resources!  Good job, Lady B.!

Using clear glass and white tableware works for any occasion! Dress up the table using flowers from the garden, accessories such as candles and ribbons, and choice tablecloths.



Purple sugar!

Three types of purple themed tea were served: “Recognition” Huckleberry tea, “Tribute to you” Vanilla Rooibos tea, and “Thankful for you” Blueberry black tea.

A really, really cute knitted tea cozy by Lady S.

Lady S. knitted these cute and lovely tea cozies which looked fabulous on the tea table and also kept the tea nice and hot!  I secretly (well, not so secretly–I declared it aloud) wanted to wear them as hats!

Another really, really cute knitted tea cozy by Lady S. This one has violets with yellow flower buttons!

Gratitude toast with pomegranate juice

The menu offered many ways to say thank you to Lady J.  Purple dishes with sentiments of gratitude!

Click on menu to enlarge

Great beginning …

“Heartfelt thank you” spinach & purple cabbage salad with “Forever grateful” Bleu cheese or Ranch dressing by Lady B.

Enticing savory and tea sandwiches …

“Twice as nice” purple sweet potato hummus & roasted veggie on naan and Cheddar and pickled red onion on brioche toast by Lady S.

Pickled red onions
(From the kitchen of Lady S.)

1 medium red onion, halved and sliced thin, then rinsed in cold water
1 cup mild vinegar (red wine, white wine, or rice vinegar work well—if you use white vinegar, dilute with water in a 50/50 ratio)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Place sliced onion in a mason jar or heat proof bowl.  Bring vinegar, lime juice, sugar, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan just enough to dissolve sugar and salt.  Pour hot vinegar mixture over onions and let sit for at least 30 minutes.  Refrigerate.  May be eaten right away or kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

“She’s got the beet!” Beet and purple potato stack with dilled goat cheese by Lady Henni

“Sincere thanks” egg salad & purple cabbage sandwich by Lady B.

Spring chicken salad sandwiches on purple bread by Lady MH

Palate cleanser …

“Friendship” Blackberry and watermelon fruit on a skewer by Lady B.  Notice the lacy “fan” on the ends of the skewers–we are big “fans” of Lady J.! 🙂

“Much obliged” Huckleberry cream scone with “Danke Schon” Devonshire cream, “Gracias” lemon curd, and “Merci” Huckleberry jam by Lady B.

Perfect ending…

“You’re the best” purple (lavender) moon cakes with peanut, coconut, and sesame filling by Lady ML.  These are known as “snowskin” mooncakes which resemble mochi in taste and texture.  Gorgeous AND delicious!

Gift for Lady J. — Memory book by Lady K. (Beautiful job, Lady K.!)

And now for some purple fashions!

Lady S. knitted matching purple spring hats for all of us!  Thank you, I love my hat! 🙂

Lady J.’s necklace from Cuba. It’s a recycled fork!  Cool!

Matching recycled fork bracelet!

Thank you to Lady B. and all the wonderful ladies of VTS for a colorful afternoon tea that Lady J. will not soon forget!  The table setting and foods were fantastic!  Lady J., thank you for your leadership, guidance, friendship and for sharing the joys of afternoon tea with us.  We look forward to enjoying many more afternoon teas with you!

Kumquats and tea, just in time for spring

My Dad has a dwarf kumquat tree that yields hundreds of fruits at a time!  Originating in China, kumquats are known as “gold oranges” in Chinese and symbolize good luck.  The size of grapes, kumquats are eaten whole (skin, pulp, and seeds) and are the smallest citrus fruit in the citrus family (NOTE: They are not part of the genus Citrus but classed in their own genus, Fortunella, named for the botanist Robert Fortune who introduced the kumquat to Europe in 1846.  And there I thought the name, Fortunella, was a nod to the Chinese meaning of kumquats–still, an appropriate name and happy coincidence! Interestingly enough, Fortune is actually better known for a different achievement.  A real live tea smuggler, he is best known for introducing tea plants from China to India via the British East India Company in 1848.  His actions may have helped India achieve its status as the world’s second largest producer of tea after China.  How’s that for a kumquat-tea connection?!)I’m not a big fan eating kumquats out of hand so I’m always trying to find new ways to consume them.  I like using them like lemons (try squeezing them over your salad or fish!) or oranges.  Though kumquats are too small to juice like oranges, you can make a kumquat puree with your Vitamix (just add whole kumquats) that you can add to your smoothies.  You can even freeze the puree for a rainy day.  My current obsession, however, is using kumquats for tea! 🙂

Kumquats are rich in Vitamin C and fiber so you can get both in the morning with your cup of tea!

Crush a kumquat, add a Earl Grey tea bag and hot water!

Kumquat Earl Grey tea
(Idea from Nola)

Crush a kumquat in a teacup, add boiling water and your favorite Earl Grey tea (one tea bag or loose leaves).

The kumquat actually intensifies the bergamot flavor in Earl Grey tea!  I didn’t expect that but learned that the essential oil of kumquat peel is rich in bergamot.  I did not care too much for the tartness that the kumquat juice imparted to the tea so I might squeeze the juice out next time and use only the peel.  If you like bergamot, try adding a kumquat to your morning tea.

In traditional Chinese medicine, kumquats are used to treat a cough (by eliminating phlegm) or sore throat.  Try any of the (hot tea) recipes below the next time you have a cold.  If nothing else, the Vitamin C will do you good. 😉


Kumquat honey “tea”
(Great for a cough or sore throat!)

Kumquats, halved
Honey

Squeeze the kumquats halves, releasing their juice, into a teacup.  Throw in the kumquat halves, honey to taste, and add boiling water.  Stir and enjoy!


Kumquat fruit tea (pour hot water)

Kumquat fruit tea
(popular in Taiwanese tea houses, recipe adapted from various sources)

4 kumquats, halved
1-2 slices of lemon or lime (optional)
1 Tbsp. honey or 1 inch sized rock sugar
1 Tbsp. loose tea leaves or 1 tea bag
(Chinese black or green tea, smoky varieties also work well)

Squeeze the kumquats halves, releasing their juice, into a teapot.  Add the kumquat halves, lemon/lime slices (if using), and sugar.  Add the tea leaves to the tea strainer and pour boiling water to cover the tea leaves (see photo above).  Steep for 5 minutes.  Enjoy hot or cold.  (I don’t add the lemon/lime since the kumquats are tart on their own.  If you like the flavor of lemon/lime without adding tartness, I suggest adding the rind only)


I really like this recipe for a kumquat “tea” concentrate.  This would be great to have on hand during the summer, to whip up a refreshing pitcher of fruit drink or iced tea.  It would also be great atop plain oatmeal or yogurt!

Kumquat “tea” concentrate

Kumquat “tea” concentrate
(Recipe from Angel Wong’s kitchen)
Makes approx. 1 jar

2 dozen kumquats
3 – 5 key limes or 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup water

Slice the kumquats and key limes, remove and discard seeds.  Add sliced kumquats, limes, honey, and sugar into a saucepan and cook until mixture is thick and bubbly.  Add the water and cook for 5 minutes more until caramelized.  After the mixture has cooled, transfer to a clean sterilized jar.  To serve, add 2 big dollops of concentrate to a tea cup and mix with boiling water.  Stir and enjoy, or add a black tea bag if desired.  Store leftover concentrate in the refrigerator. 


I hope this post inspired you to incorporate kumquats into your afternoon tea ritual.  During my research for this post, I was very amused to learn that kumquats made an appearance in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix so I will leave you with this striking visual–you may never see kumquats in the same light again :):

“According to the magazine, if you turned the runes on their heads they revealed a spell to make your enemy’s ears into kumquats.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

NOTE: For all you Harry Potter fans, the unnamed ears to kumquats transforming spell first appeared in the 1 September, 1995 edition of The Quibbler.  When Harry Potter and Ron Weasley first encountered Luna Lovegood, she had been reading The Quibbler upside down, supposedly in an attempt to read the runes to reveal this spell.

Rosewater pistachio shortbread

I would never mess with a really good chocolate chip cookie–it doesn’t need improvement. I don’t quite feel the same way about shortbread. To me, classic shortbread is a good cookie base with simple ingredients, making it the ideal cookie for infusing with different flavors, right?  I know a few diehards who would prefer if I just stuck to making classic shortbread but I recently gifted myself with not one but TWO new shortbread molds which will finally allow me to bake more than one batch of shortbread at a time! Oh my, think of the possibilities! 🙂

Last month, I had grand plans during Chinese New Year to experiment with Chinese influenced flavors for shortbread but Time escaped me and I missed the window of opportunity (next year, I promise!).  Instead of dwelling on bygones, I decided to look forward to the next new year’s holiday for more timely inspiration, the Persian new year, Nowruz.  Spurred on by a recipe in the February 2017 issue of Bon appetit, the timing was perfect for developing a Persian flavor influenced shortbread in time for Nowruz: Rosewater pistachio.

Rosewater pistachio shortbread
(basic recipe adapted from Lucy Ross Natkiel’s Nut Shortbread recipe in The gourmet shortbread book)

1/2 cup butter, cold
1/2 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
1 cup flour, minus 2 Tbsp. (unsifted)
2 Tbsp. rice flour*
1 Tbsp. rosewater
1/4 c. shelled roasted unsalted pistachios

Using a food processor, add all ingredients and pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs and the butter is fully incorporated into the flour. Spray the ceramic shortbread pan very lightly with a non-stick vegetable oil spray. Pour the shortbread “crumbs” into the shortbread pan, and working out from the center, firmly press the dough into the pan. Prick the entire surface with a fork. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes, or until it is lightly browned. Be sure that the middle is thoroughly cooked and doesn’t look slightly opaque or the shortbread might stick in the pan.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you flip the pan over onto a cutting board. If the shortbread does not come right out, put a cutting board on top of the pan (the cutting board should be bigger than the pan) and while holding the pan against the cutting board, turn it upside down and firmly tap one edge of the pan against the board. This should loosen the shortbread and it should drop out. Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while it is still warm, otherwise the edges will not be clean.

*You can skip the rice flour and just use 1 c. flour, if you wish. The rice flour makes a flakier cookie.

Happy new year!  Happy Nowruz!

“Yesterday is gone and its tale told. Today new seeds are growing.”

– Rumi

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Spanish Flair Tea

Lady J. was on a Mediterranean cruise that took her to a shop in Spain where she found a teaspoon with a flamenco dancer on its handle. She was so enchanted by it that she wanted to buy a few more but there was only one lonely spoon available.  As Lady J. was leaving the shop, the excited owner called her back, “Señora! Señora!”  He rummaged through a drawer and managed to produce exactly 7 more spoons for a total of 8 spoons!  Lady J. couldn’t believe her luck and snatched up the entire lot.  This is how a special teaspoon inspired a theme for an afternoon tea!

The teaspoon that inspired an afternoon tea!

The flamenca teaspoon that inspired an afternoon tea!

“Bienvenido!  You are cordially invited to a Spanish Tea!  Come dressed with Spanish flair!  Add a rose, fan, Mantillla shawl and/or peineta and feel like you’re in Spain!”

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Lady J.’s creative invitation!

dsc07228-smallimg_3210-smallAfter sharing her story of how a teaspoon inspired her creative spirit, Lady J. wanted us to share a creative project we’d worked on in the past or were currently working on.  We were all very impressed to hear each other share about our creative endeavors in areas such as sewing, scrapbooking, making memories, baking, luncheons, home organization, and music!

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Photo by Lady K.

Photo by Lady K.

Really cute condiment dishes from Spain

Really cute condiment dishes from Spain

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Centerpiece of Spanish majolica plates, fans, and succulents in ceramic pots

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Salt and pepper shaker

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Notice this flamenca teaspoon! All the spoons were different!

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Sugar bowl

dsc07230-largeLady J. came up with a wonderful vegetarian Spanish tapas style menu and picked some delicious herbal teas for a siesta.  Lady J. served an iced hibiscus sangria (non-alcoholic) and 2 hot teas from Teavana: CocoCaramel Sea Salt (dulce de leche, anyone?) and Berry kiwi colada.

Hibiscus sangria iced tea

Hibiscus sangria iced tea (infused with blood oranges, lemons, strawberries, blackberries and pineapple) (photo by Lady J.)

Sopa de ajo

Sopa de ajo (Castilian garlic soup) by Lady Henni

Sopa de ajo
(Adapted from many recipes by Lady Henni)
Serves 4

4 c. veggie stock (or other stock/broth)
1 c. bread cubes (1/2″ cubes, rustic loaf of crusty bread)
10 cloves of garlic, minced
3 eggs, slightly beaten (yolks broken up and slightly mixed with whites)*
1 1/2 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
Pinch of saffron threads
1/4 tsp. black pepper (optional)
Chopped red and yellow bell peppers for garnish (Viva España!)

Heat up some olive oil and add bread cubes.  When bread is slightly browned, add minced garlic and stir until garlic is fragrant.  Add veggie broth, saffron, paprika, and black pepper (if using).  Bring the soup to a boil and pour eggs into the soup slowly in a stream.  Stir the soup while the eggs cook.  Serve immediately.  Garnish with chopped red and yellow peppers and parsley.

* If desired, you can poach the eggs whole instead of breaking them up.

Spanish olive salad

Ensalada de Oliva (Spanish Olive Salad) (Recipe from Pillsbury) by Lady T.

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Veggie paella (made with couscous, onions, peas, carrots, and red bell peppers) by Lady J.

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Champinones al ajillo (Spanish Garlic Mushrooms) served with crusty bread (Recipe from Lovefoodies) by Lady MH

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Pan con Tomate (Spanish-Style Grilled Bread with Tomato) (Recipe from Serious Eats) by Lady K.

Pan con Tomate
(Recipe as taught by my friend S.)

Cut a crusty loaf of bread into small pieces and toast the bread.  Rub a clove of garlic on the surface of the bread.  Cut a ripe tomato in half and rub the open half onto the surface of the bread making sure to get tomato goodness and juices on the bread.  Discard the tomato skin.  Drizzle bread with olive oil.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Enjoy!

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Spanish Tortilla (Potato Omelet) (Recipe from Food 52) by Lady ML

Frutas Frescas (Fresh Fruits) by Lady J.

Frutas Frescas (Fresh Fruits) by Lady J.

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Churros Bollos (Churro Scones) by Lady S.  These scones were to die for!

Churro oat scones
(From the kitchen of Lady S.)

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. oat flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. (1 stick) very cold butter cut into small cubes or grated on a box grater
2/3 c. cream

Topping: 3 Tbsp. sugar mixed with 1 tsp. cinnamon

Sift together dry ingredients.  Using a pastry blender, fork, or food processor, add butter.  Work until texture is like lumpy oatmeal being careful not to overmix butter.  Add cream and work just enough for dough to come together into a ball.  Flatten and roll into a 1 inch thick circle (about 9″ in diameter) and cut into 8 wedges.  Sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar topping.  Use a flat spatula to place scones 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet (these scones spread a bit so don’t put them too close together!). Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 mins.

Serve with clotted cream or Devonshire cream, fudge sauce, dulce de leche, chocolate cream, caramel sauce, lemon curd, etc.

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Tarta de Santiago (Almond Cake) (Recipe from The Bossy Kitchen) and Chocolate covered carquinyolis (Catalan biscotti) by Lady B. (photo by Lady J.)

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Tea favors from Lady J.: Custom shortbread cookies by Penny’s Place. Notice the cookies are shaped like fans!

After this wonderful feast, Lady T. declared she was so full she could not eat another bite and would have to skip dinner.  I laughed at her misfortune but, to my chagrin, later discovered that I too could not eat another bite so no dinner for me either!  Thank you Lady J. for hosting an unforgettable afternoon!  My only regret was that I couldn’t take a siesta in your garden after the tea. 🙂

La comida a reposar; y la cena a pasear.
(After dinner rest a while, after supper walk a mile)

–Spanish saying