Tea tasting party

Lady B. hosted a tea tasting party for the Victorian Tea Society winter tea, our first tea of 2018!  She set the stage with this cute teapot invitation that required lifting the lid to learn the details: Lady B. would provide all the food but the guests were to bring a teapot and share their favorite tea!

As always, Lady B. welcomed her guests with inviting signs leading up to her house.  It’s always a new adventure to visit her as there is always something new to see in her garden!  On this visit, I spied some joyful signs:

Inside, Lady B. decorated the house and tea table with teapot and teacup themes for her tea tasting party.  See if you can spot them all in the following photos!

The tea tasting was a grand affair with 7 different teas and the stories that went along with them!
Lady B: Rooibos (A friend introduced Rooibos to Lady B. and it has since become her favorite tea!)
Lady K: She first tried Scottish caramel pu-erh when trying to reduce her coffee habit and learning of its weight loss benefits.
Lady J.: She first tried Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) tea (herbal) at a tea house that had its own lemon verbena bush.  Lady J. was so impressed that she now harvests her own lemon verbena leaves from her garden.
Lady S.: She first encountered Sunny slopes (herbal with apple, kiwi, orange peel, rose petals, and strawberry) at a coffee cart.  She had been suffering from a sore throat and the owner recommended Sunny slopes.  It’s now her favorite tea!
Lady T.: Chocolate mint rooibos (Lady T. really prefers ginger peach tea but was not able to get her hands on her favorite brand so she brought her 2nd favorite tea)
Lady M: Genmaicha (green tea) is special to Lady M. because it’s the tea that she was served when she was welcomed and married into her Japanese family.  The tea, while very delicious, is her favorite because of its sentimental value.
Lady H: Read about Yogi tea (black tea) to see why it’s one of my favorites.  On a side note, my everyday go-to breakfast tea is Yorkshire Gold (black tea).

The teas were all delicious but wait until you see the foods!  Lady B. made all the food herself!  Having hosted a few tea parties myself, I can tell you that this is a Herculean task to attempt on one’s own (Note: I do not recommend this!).  The time and attention that Lady B. put into this tea party is no small feat.  She did a beautiful job!

I love the quilled rose at the top of the menu

Creamy broccoli soup with brown rice and teapot shaped toast

Spring lettuce cucumber salad with Boursin cheese and Rooibos tea

Crustless quiche with tomatoes and asparagus

Grilled veggies (red pepper, olives, mushrooms, artichokes) on French baguette toast with herbed cream and goat cheese

Veggie bean teapot on Muenster cheese toast

Sandwiches, left to right, clockwise: Veggie bean teapot on cheese toast, Cucumber carrot on rye, Grilled marinated veggies on French bread, Artichoke hummus turkey roulade with havarti cheese and asparagus, Avocado egg salad canape on spelt bread

Lady B. experimented with making her scones in advance by shaping and freezing them.  They looked perfect out of the freezer but they did not rise during baking.  According to the King Arthur Flour website (must read!), chilled/frozen scones will yield a higher rise and should be allowed to “thaw” only as long as the oven is preheating.  I think the experiment is worth repeating and I appreciate Lady B. blazing the way with new baking techniques!

Although, as Lady B. pointed out, they did end up looking a bit like teapots AND they were delicious! 🙂  Everyone devoured them enthusiastically.  The homemade lemon curd was also excellent!  After the scones course, Lady B. announced we were going to have dessert outside in the garden and gazebo!

In the gazebo, the pink (Lady B.’s favorite color!) and white table was replete with parasols in addition to teapots and teacups.  It was such a cute theme!

The ladies outdid themselves with the hostess gifts, as Lady B. was very touched by them all.

Cross stitch by Lady T.

CUTE TEA THING: Tea charm bracelet by Lady S.

And last but not least, Lady B. had a surprise gift for each of us: customized cross stitched tea towels!  Each one was unique.  This one is mine and the design is very me, don’t you think? 🙂

“Something special for someone special”

Thank you Lady B. for your time and care in creating the beautiful tea towels and for hosting a memorable and delectable tea tasting party!  I look forward to sipping tea with you again soon.

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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 the Yogi Tea brand.  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 Teas.  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 think I am 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 …


This beautiful Japanese bone china tea cup was a gift from my friend Lady 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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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

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.

The Witches’ Tea 2014

It’s THAT time of the year again, when the witches, spirits, and vampire rule the nights.  It’s also time once again for my witches, Witch Agate, Witch Broomhilda, and Witch Hazel, to gather for our annual ritual, The Witches’ Tea!

It wouldn't be a Witches' Tea without a proper Witches' candle!

It wouldn’t be a Witches’ Tea without a proper Witches’ candle!

DSC040272 DSC040334

BLT salad with bleu cheese dressing

BLT salad with bleu cheese dressing

Roast beef with horseradish cream, smoked salmon and cream cheese, hummus and cucumber, and Nutella and biscoff sandwiches

Roast beef with horseradish cream, smoked salmon with dill cream cheese, hummus and cucumber, and Nutella and Biscoff sandwiches

Mocha pyramid, raspberry cheesecake, chocolate moussecake

Mocha pyramid, raspberry cheesecake, chocolate mousse cake

Assorted French macarons, petit fours, brownie triangles, and lemon squares with clotted cream

Assorted French macarons, petit fours, brownie triangles, and lemon squares with clotted cream

Witches Tea favors, ripe with magick herbs and spices

Witches Tea favors, ripe with magick herbs and spices

DSC03998 (Small)Masala chai
(adapted from Anupy Singla’s Vegan Indian Cooking)

1 3 in. cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom pod
1 star anise (or 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds)
1 (1 inch) slice of fresh ginger
2-4 whole cloves
2 black tea bags or 2 tsp. loose leaf black tea
1/2 cup milk or non-dairy milk (optional)
1 tsp. sugar, or sugar to taste (optional)

Using a mortar and pestle, lightly pound the spices until scents are released.  Add the spices to 4 cups of water in a saucepan. Boil water until it turns light to medium brown. Add 2 black tea bags and simmer for 2 minutes until dark brown. Discard tea bags. Add ½ cup milk and 1 tsp. sugar, or sugar to taste. Strain tea before serving. Enjoy!

DSC04008 (Small)Masala chai powder
(adapted from Anupy Singla’s Vegan Indian Cooking)

2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 black cardamom pod
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground fennel

Ground the black cardamom pod in a spice grinder.  Mix spices together.  Keep in airtight container for 6 months.  To make chai, add 1 tsp. of the masala mixture to boiling water.  Add 2 black tea bags or 2 tsp. loose leaf black tea, 1/2 cup milk or non-dairy milk and 1 tsp. sugar, or sugar to taste (optional).  Enjoy!

Last but not least, the best part of the Witches’ Tea … Witches tea fashion!  Fantastic fascinators!

Spiders and sparklies, oh my!

Spiders and sparklies, oh my!

Halloween elegance at its finest!

Halloween elegance at its finest!

Everyone has a few bats in the belfrey!

Everyone has a few bats in the belfrey!


Black rose with black feathers and white pearls, yes please!

Happy Halloween!  Happy Samhain!

“When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.”

— Author unknown

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