Thursday, December 13, 2018

Winter Tea Cocktail: Chai Spiced Hot Toddy

It's the time of year when the activities just don't stop and things get nutty. Parties are in full swing, we're squeezing in time to decorate, bake, and shop on already crazy busy days. Don't forget those wintertime sniffles and coughs that start to creep in. You know what helps with all of those things? A tea cocktail. A chai spiced hot toddy, to be exact.

I love a good hot toddy. It's soothing, warming, and great for all the sniffles and wintertime vibes. A hot toddy is great to soothe coughs and colds, and just makes you feel all warm and cozy inside. Add in black tea and masala chai spices and it becomes perfect for a festive gathering. I wanted this drink to have all the elements of a classic hot toddy, but with added masala chai elements. So all the good stuff, plus more good stuff.

For my Chai Spiced Hot Toddy I'm using some of the spices found in a classic masala chai, but I'm omitting the milk, and adding honey and lemon. I was a bit concerned that the lemon wouldn't work with the cardamom, but it blends together quite nicely.

Tips to consider:
-If you're looking to save time, this can be made with a good masala chai blend, either loose or bagged. 
-You can sub in sugar or maple syrup into this recipe, but honey gives it that hot toddy feel.
-I like using whiskey in my toddy, but bourbon, scotch, or rum also work nicely.
-You can switch the lemon to an orange, which works nicely with the spices. I'd recommend a using rum if you do.
-This can easily be made as a decaf drink by using rooibos. Or if you prefer you can omit the tea altogether. But that's just crazy.

Tea Happiness' Winter Cocktail: Chai Spiced Hot Toddy
Makes 1 tea cocktail

8 oz. water
1 inch piece of ginger peeled and smashed
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
1.5 tsp black tea or 1 tea bag (I like using Assam or Keemun)
2 oz. whiskey (or bourbon, rum, or scotch)
2+ tsp honey, to taste
2+ teaspoon lemon juice, also to taste

lemon slices and peel for garnish

In a small saucepan bring the water to a boil and add the ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Let this gently simmer for 5-8 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the tea and steep for 3-5 minutes. Strain this into a mug and stir in the honey until dissolved. Add in whiskey and lemon juice. Garnish with lemon, and find a cozy spot to start sipping.

This is the perfect drink to shake off the day or give yourself a warm tea hug. Wouldn't it be perfect while sitting by a fire, chatting with friends? You can make this drink without alcohol and it'll still be extremely comforting and warming. Or if you'd prefer something with a bit of chocolate, be sure to check out my masala chai hot chocolate recipe.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Review: Ocha & Co. Organic Japanese Fukamushi Sencha

It's been quite cold in NYC lately, and I've mostly been sipping on roasted, darker teas. But this blustery weather also has me craving something deeply vegetal, fresh, and sweet. Cue this beautiful Fukamushi Sencha from Ocha & Co., which entered my life at just the right time.

Ocha & Co. is an online business focusing on selling the freshest Japanese tea possible. Based in Japan, the company procures their teas on a weekly basis so customers from around the world will receive their teas shortly after they've been processed. The company recently reached out to me to try a few samples, and I decided to start with the Fukamushi Sencha as this is also part of a holiday giveaway we are hosting together (be sure to check it out!).

Japanese green teas can be tricky for me- sometimes they upset my stomach, and if they aren't prepared correctly (which happens much too often in restaurants), they can be bitter and almost undrinkable. But when it's prepared carefully, sencha can be a symphony of greenness (is that a thing? Well, it is now).

This is a 'deep steam' green tea, which is a little bit different from a typical sencha. From Ocha & Co.'s website:
The steaming process is twice as long as usual, breaks down the structure of the leaf, releasing valuable healthy nutrients and bioactives such as beta-carotene and Vitamin E into the brew.
The dry leaves are a rich, deep green. The flat, needle-like leaves are soft and delicate. The scent of these leaves are certain to help cure the wintertime blues. Sweet fresh green peas, tender baby spinach, and spring grass after a soaking rain.

The brewed tea is a vibrant green, with lots of little dark green bits. The liquor tastes as deeply steamed as the name implies. It tastes as if I took the freshest baby spinach I could find and steamed it until it was thick and concentrated. Not a crispy leaf to be found, just lush, soothing greenness (a symphony of it, shall we say?). There is a savory hint to the brew, as if I added a dash of soy sauce to the greens.

I prepared this tea in a glass teapot outfitted with a very fine mesh strainer, similar to a kyusu teapot. This tea needs short steeps, and water no hotter than 185° (I prefer using closer to 170°). You can certainly use a gaiwan, but I'd recommend pouring through a strainer if you don't want to have bits of broken leaf in the brew. This is a good tea for the morning or early afternoon; it's mild in flavor but complex.

If you are intrigued by this tea, please be sure to enter the giveaway I'm hosting with Ocha & Co.! You can win a 100g packet of this tea, as well as a beautiful Tokonameyaki teapot. Thank you to Ocha & Co. for this tea, I greatly enjoyed it. To learn more about this tea, please visit the Ocha & Co. website.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Holiday Giveaway: Tea and Teapot from Ocha & Co.

photo courtesy of Ocha & Co

Last week in my Tea Happiness 2018 Holiday Gift Guide I mentioned teas from Ocha & Co., an online business based in Japan. Ocha & Co. sells small batches of tea that they order on a weekly basis, so customers from around the world will receive their teas shortly after the teas have been processed. I enjoyed Ocha & Co's products so much that I've teamed up with them to offer you a fun holiday giveaway! The winner will receive two prizes- first a 100g pack of the beautiful Fukamushi Sencha, a deep-steamed sencha with a soul-warming vegetal flavor that's packed with umami (review coming this Thursday). Plus you'll also receive a lovely Tokonameyaki teapot, pictured above. This teapot is perfect for preparing Japanese green teas!

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!! 

The winner will be announced at the end of the month. Wouldn't it be fun to win this set after the holiday whirlwind is over? This giveaway is sponsored and managed by Ocha & Co. Best of luck to everyone!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Tea Happiness 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

It's that time of year again! Big family feasts, jingle bells, festive lights, and of course gift giving! I've created a new post of tea gifts for just about everyone on your list. Pay close attention, as I have a few discount codes listed with some of the items! Also stay tuned, as I have a few related giveaways coming at you in the next two weeks! Now, on to the gifts!

Ippodo Tea Set, glass not included

For the Beginning Tea Enthusiast
One of the most common questions I get is 'what should I get for someone just getting into tea?'. A gift set that includes tea and a small teapot is always helpful. I love this little set from Ippodo, as the glass teapot is the perfect compact size, and it's designed with a mesh strainer in the lid so you can view all the beautiful expanding leaves in the pot and strain while you pour. The strainer is similar in design to a traditional Japanese kyusu teapot. It also comes with two green teas that are perfect for an introduction to Japanese tea: Sencha Unro and Gokujo Genmaicha. It's beautifully presented in a gift box, ready to be wrapped.

UNYTea Taiwanese white tea

Teas to Consider
It's impossible to limit tea buying to just a few selections, but here are a few teas I've tried recently that I'd recommend for all types of tea lovers:
-Tea from The Great Mississippi Tea Company. I've tried all three of their teas, and they are all fantastic. It's tough to find the Delta Oolong in stock, as it sells out quickly but the Mississippi Queen (a green tea) and Black Magnolia (black tea) are equally as fantastic. If your tea friends haven't tried this Mississippi grown and processed tea, it makes the perfect gift.
-Selections from UNYTea store. I try to purchase teas from smaller vendors when possible, and UNYTea has a carefully curated collection of interesting teas. I'd recommend purchasing a flight of teas for your gift, perhaps a selection of Japanese, Taiwanese (pictured above), and Chinese white teas to compare.

Ocha & Co teas

-For a Japanese tea enthusiast, I've rediscovered the teas from Ocha & Co. They are an online business based in Japan, and only order teas in small batches on a weekly basis so customers from around the world will receive their teas shortly after they have been made. I recently tried their beautiful steamed Fukamushi Sencha which I recommend (review coming soon!), and they have a nice selection of matcha and other Japanese green and black teas. Stay tuned for a very special giveaway from Ocha & Co coming in the next few days!
-If you have a tea friend that's new to Nepalese teas, you can't go wrong with anything from Nepali Tea Traders. The owners of the company are friendly and passionate about the company. I'm partial to the Sagamartha Gold and Lhotse Black, but a flight of Nepali teas (you could do black, oolong, etc) would make a thoughtful gift, for sure.
-For something else a little different, I love the Doke teas from Lochan Tea Limited, a company run by passionate tea experts. Doke is a small family run garden in India producing big flavors. If you are looking for Darjeeling teas, it's also a great site to check out.

For The Tea Bookworm
I'm a voracious reader, and I love to collect tea books. This year there are two interesting books that stood out for me. First, Tea Sommelier: A Step-By-Step Guide by François-Xavier Delmas and Mathias Minet (of Palais des Thés). I was very skeptical of a book that claims to give you the knowledge needed to become a tea sommelier, but I was pleasantly surprised with the depth of information included in the book. It doesn't take the place of tasting and experiencing teas first hand, but this book is extremely informative. Everything from tea types, preparation, history, serving, and pairings are included. I also loved the illustrations and the many charts included in the book.
Another book perfect for gifting is A Little Tea Book: All The Essentials From Leaf To Cup by Sebastian Beckwith (from In Pursuit of Tea) and Caroline Paul. This is a little book with a surprisingly large amount of tea tidbits. There are all sorts of interesting facts and the book is very well written. I also love the illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton, especially the tea history timeline.

Zens Pi Travel Cup

For the Tea Traveler
My favorite travel tea maker is this Pi Travel Cup  by Zens Lifestyle. I did a review of it a few months ago and I use it constantly in the office. It's great for travel, or for the office. It's also compact and easy to clean. Most importantly, it makes a good cup of tea and is really fun to use. To get 10% off your purchase, use the DISCOUNT CODE: teahappiness10.

For A Little Tea Bling
I have a love of tea jewelry, it's true. You can't go wrong with anything from A Gift Of Tea, and I think I mention her every year since her stuff is amazing  and you can find it in NYC's own T-Shop. I recently also discovered a tea-themed jewelry line from the company Lotus Fun. The jewelry is all handmade, using natural amber and sterling silver for the teapots, and they plant a tree with every order. I'm in love with the pretty tea pendant with a teapot and cups (note, the pendant, first photo above, does not come with a chain), and I adore the tea ring! If you also love this ring, stay tuned- one of the giveaways I'll be running will be for a ring of your very own!! To get 15% off your Lotus Fun purchase, use the DISCOUNT CODE: TeaHappiness

For The Subscription Fan
Tea subscription boxes are popular these days, and there are tons of them out there. I recently got to try a box from Field To Cup. I like that you can select a box based on tea experience, tea type, and caffeine level. I received the November Tea Adventurer box, and was very impressed with the quality and selection (teas pictured above). I also appreciate all the information included about the teas, and how to steep them. And guess what? I have a discount code! To get 20% of your order, use DISCOUNT CODE: Teahappiness20.

I hope this selection of tea gifts helps you check off everyone on your list! Please feel free to contact me with any questions, or if you need further suggestions. Don't forget to keep an eye out for my upcoming giveaways! I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday season.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Review: Golden Yunnan from The Republic Of Tea

It's nice to have a tea or two in the stash that's easy to acquire, fairly inexpensive, and of course tastes good. Many of the teas from The Republic of Tea can be found in certain grocery stores and health food stores, and today I'm reviewing their Golden Yunnan black tea.

I usually prefer to focus on smaller tea companies but I thought it would be nice to give Republic of Tea a try since it's been years since I've had their teas. When the company's 'Minister of Creative Ventures' reached out to send a few samples, I decided to request this black tea since I've seen it in our local Whole Foods, so I know it's reasonably easy to obtain. 

The Dry Leaves
This Golden Yunnan is an orthodox black tea from Yunnan, China. You may also see the same tea referred to as Dian Hong. There are a good amount of lovely fuzzy golden buds scattered throughout. I served this tea during Office Tea Club and everyone had fun touching the fuzzy leaves. The dry leaves have a bittersweet chocolate aroma with a touch of roasted sweet potato. 

The Brew
I decided to brew this in a gaiwan, and it worked quite well. The tea brews to a light mahogany (or dark mahogany, if you're like me and tend to be heavy handed with the leaf and steep time) with dominant notes of malt and chocolate. There is a slightly tangy citrus note as well as lingering spice. It has a thick mouthfeel and is quite soothing. A good tea to have on chilly mornings or crisp afternoons. Add in a couch, a fireplace, and maybe a few butter cookies and you wouldn't need to check up on me for a few days...

The Takeaway and Possible Pairing
This Golden Yunnan tea has enough flavor to drink in the morning (I've been enjoying it as the first tea I brew when I get to work), but is also a nice way to cozy up in the afternoon. As I mentioned, the Office Tea Club enjoyed this one, and we nibbled on cranberry spice cake along with the tea. The cranberries were a little too tart for the tea, as there is a slight citrusy note in the brew that starts to take over with the introduction of the cranberries. Not a bad pairing, just not to my liking. I'd stick with something with buttery and/or chocolatey, but maybe a milk chocolate so the flavors don't get too muddled.

This is a good tea to recommend for novice tea drinkers as it's very forgiving. It can be oversteeped  and it still produce a smooth and flavorful cup. As I mentioned, this is a tea that's easy to find locally, which also makes it a good choice for beginners. I'll definitely keep this one around the office for the cold winter days that are right around the corner. Thank you to The Republic of Tea for providing this sample for review.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Cozy Up With Masala Chai Hot Chocolate

The days are getting shorter, the trees are shedding their technicolor leaves, and I'm starting to pile on the warm sweaters and burrow under cuddly blankets. Naturally, my mind starts drifting towards teas that have a little extra something- comfort, warmth, richness. Winter also means I'm looking for spice and sweet. The only time I really add flavor or sweetness to my tea is for a soothing cup of masala chai. Lately I've been bubbling warm pots of hot cocoa on the stove, and the other day I decided to add components of masala chai into my cocoa. There are many recipes out there for chai hot chocolate, but I'm rather fond of the one that I've come up with. The tea flavor really comes through, and the rich chocolate flavor makes everything super comforting and decadent. This is a warming, hearty cup with flavors (and feels) that will linger well past the last sip.

For the black tea in this recipe, you'll want to use something that brews up nice and strong. We don't need any fancy teas here, a broken leaf or even CTC will do just fine if you have it. I like to use a Kenyan or Irish Breakfast blend, and I've even used bags of PG tips when we have them on hand (my husband likes them, and I admit I don't mind a cuppa now and again). 

My big secret for this masala chai hot chocolate is to start with just the milk, water, ginger, and cinnamon. I like to heat this up and let it barely bubble for about 5-10 minutes. I find the ginger and cinnamon need time to infuse the milk, otherwise they get lost in the stronger flavors of cocoa and cardamom. A very low heat is key here, as the milk will very quickly turn into a volcano of foam cascading onto the stove top.

Tea Happiness' Masala Chai Hot Chocolate
serves 2 (or one very decadent cup)

1.5 cups milk (I like 2% cow's milk but you can use any milk of choice)
1/2 cup water
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I love this one)
2 tbsp (or 2 tea bags) black tea
6 cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
5 peppercorns
3-4 tbsp sugar (to taste)

In a small saucepan combine the water, milk, ginger, and cinnamon stick. Slowly heat this up and let it slightly bubble bubble (do not let this boil or you'll have a milky mess all over the stovetop!) for about 5-10 minutes. Reduce heat and gently whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar (start with 3 tbsp of sugar, taste, and then add as desired). Once this is well incorporated, add the tea and remaining spices. Allow to simmer gently for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure you don't get a 'skin' on the top. Strain the mixture into a small teapot, and serve.

You could certainly garnish the masala chai hot chocolate with whipped cream, or sprinkle additional spices on top, but I like it straight up. The flavors are amazing and I don't think it needs any further embellishment!

Trust me, your kitchen will smell amazing after you whisk up a pot of this masala chai hot chocolate! Everyone will come running in for a taste. You can easily make a larger batch of this, but be sure to monitor the sugar and cocoa powder and taste as you go. 

The kids and I had so much fun sampling various versions of this masala chai hot chocolate, until we found just the right combination of flavors. If you'd like to serve it to little ones, I'd suggest omitting the tea, or at least cutting back on it. It's definitely got a bit of a caffeine kick from all the tea and cocoa. You can also use sweetened cocoa powder or a good quality hot chocolate mix in this recipe, but be sure to omit the extra sugar if you do. 

This weekend, cozy up with a few books, a big blanket and a few cups of this masala chai hot chocolate, and I guarantee you'll be ready for the blustery winter ahead.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

History of the Children's Tea Set

My recent teaware history posts led me to learn all about 18th century European porcelain. During my research I came across a reference to an early children's tea set. I thought it would be interesting to learn a little bit more about the history behind children's tea sets. So of course, I went off on a research adventure that I'm ready to share with all of you.