Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tea Recipe: Chocolate Masala Chai With Turmeric

The past few weeks have been unusually warm and humid here in NYC, but I know the chilly weather is creeping in. The wish for fall weather has left me craving warm and comforting sips.  The other day I wanted something chocolatey and spicy, and decided to take my favorite masala chai and give it a few tweaks. I was looking for something tasty but also a little different. I decided to add unsweetened cocoa powder, and on a whim, a wedge of fresh turmeric. I was hoping that the earthy turmeric would play well with the chocolate and spices. It did! The other unexpected ingredient I added is salt. I like to add a pinch of salt whenever I'm baking with chocolate so I thought I'd give it a try here too. I don't know the chemistry behind it, but it really enhances the flavor. It does the same in this recipe! Just a small pinch of salt will do. Since this worked so well, I decided to share the recipe with everyone. I love cooking and baking but I don't share many recipes. Let's change that.

I recommend using fresh ginger and turmeric for this recipe, it makes a huge difference. But you can use dried versions if you'd prefer. It's not always easy to find fresh turmeric! I was really happy with how this recipe turned out. It was so good that my kids greedily slurped up every bit that I gave them, and asked for more. Even my husband who isn't a fan of sweets was impressed with the flavor. Of course, I also saved a generous mug for myself.

Tea Happiness' Homemade Chocolate Masala Chai
Serves: about 2 Time: about 12 minutes

1 1/2 cups whole milk (any milk of choice will do, but I prefer cow's, almond, or coconut)
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tbsp. loose black tea (or 2-3 tea bags)
6 cardamom pods
1 small cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, or 1/2 tsp dried
1/2 inch piece of fresh turmeric, or 1/4 tsp dried

2-3 tbsp. granulated sugar (or to taste)
pinch of salt

Make the tea: In a small saucepan heat the milk and water slowly over low heat until it starts to get warm and slightly bubbly around the edges. Don't do this over high heat, or the liquid will erupt onto the stovetop! Once warm, whisk in the cocoa powder until combined. Then add the tea, spices (I like to crack open the cardamom pods for more flavor), ginger, and turmeric. Let everything lightly simmer (remember, that milk can bubble over!) for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add 2 tbsp of sugar and the pinch of salt. Stir gently until dissolved. Taste, and add more sugar if desired. I like to start with less, and then add more if necessary. Once you have enough sugar stirred in, strain into mugs and sip happily!

Alterations: If you'd like to eliminate the tea to serve it to kids, you can use rooibos, or simply leave the tea out altogether. You can always add a little more cocoa if that's the case. You can also add other flavors to the tea as well, vanilla works nicely.

I'll definitely be making this treat on gray afternoons, and after snowy adventures. Or on warm fall days when I'm wishing it was a bit cooler outside. My kids have already requested this tea for this weekend! I'd love to know what twists you make on masala chai, feel free to share with me in the comments.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Teaware Review: Aloha Aina Ceramics Cup

Teaware is quite personal. Some people prefer fancy porcelain cups and pots, while others want everything necessary for a traditional gongfu session. Teaware fanatics like me want all of it! It's not necessary to have lots of teaware, a few simple pieces will do. But many of us like to collect it and I'm always looking out for potters and artisans that create special pieces.

I recently received a beautiful cup from Aloha Aina Ceramics, so it's time for a teaware review! Aloha Aina Ceramics is based in the south of Mexico. The company was started by Alex Krotkov a teaware obsessive that decided to start making and selling cups (I checked in with Alex and they were not hit by the terrible earthquake). Alex is Russian, and the cups are made using a traditional Russian technique that involves multiple firings. According to Alex, the first two are at about 950° celsius, and then a third at a lower temperature that uses the addition of milk to give the clay additional protection and a unique distressed/wooden look. Alex told me this technique was used in Russia centuries ago and in some workshops they keep passing that technology.

The cup is a perfect size for my daily use. It's about 7 ounces, and holds a full pour from the gaiwan I regularly use. I like this as I can use just one large cup when I'm having a tea session just for me. It's a luxurious feeling to have the large cup of tea all to myself! It also makes it easier if I'm taking my tea set outside since I wouldn't need a separate pitcher.

The cup is perfect to use with any type of tea, as the thick walls will keep the heat in but also spare your fingers. It's easy to hold in both hands (or it'll fit in one, of course) to cozy up with on a chilly day. The designs on the outside of the cup are organic and reflect objects found in nature. The appearance makes it a nice piece to use for a tea meditation. My cup also has a nice crackle glaze on the inside. I can see myself taking this cup along for some tea in the park, or after a hike in the woods. Alex also sent a smaller cup as well, which could be used if you want to share your tea, or give a little tea critic a taste. It's very sweet and I love the designs on it.

Thank you to Alex and Aloha Aina Ceramics for this beautiful cup! If you would like to learn more about the company, you can visit the etsy store here.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review: everydayteas 2016 Nan Nuo Shan

I love to share tea and do so weekly with my Office Tea Club. Today's review is for a tea we recently enjoyed, a 2016 Nan Nuo Shan by everydayteas. This tea turned out to be quite popular among the Tea Club members, and I think it's because it's a sheng puerh that suits many different palates. It's balanced yet 'punchy' and vegetal, with a hint of something sweet.

The Company
On their site, everydayteas considers their product 'Quality teas for the daily drinker'. The site is simple, clean and easy to navigate. The look and feel is reflected in the teas they offer. I like that this clear vision that carries through to the tea.

The Tea
The tea is a 2016 raw puerh from Nan Nuo mountain, in the village of Ban Po Xin Zhai. According to everydayteas, the Puer cakes are stored here in the northeast US in a climate controlled room with 70% Humidity and a temperature of 70ºF year round. This ensures the tea won't dry out during our unfortunate northeast winter weather (my skin feels dry just thinking about it).

We were so quick to dive in to this tea that I didn't take notes on the dry leaves (my apologies!). The wet leaves smelled of steamed spinach and wet rocks. The tea itself tastes strongly of deep green vegetables. Tea Club members observed flavors of kale and cooked spinach. There is also a little bit of what I like to call 'leather', a sharp peaty-scotch essence that reminds me of a leather jacket. Not super strong, but definitely there. I think this essence plus a bit of astringency is what gives it that 'punchy' feeling I described earlier.

The Verdict
These leaves have many steeps to share. We only had a limited amount of time during Office Tea Club, and I enjoyed a few more steeps of the tea after our break was over. As I mentioned before, this tea is satisfying, and...punchy. It has the presence of a young sheng you'd expect, and it's well balanced. A good daily drinker. I can definitely see myself steeping this tea throughout the day, or serving it to friends during a long afternoon of relaxed conversation.

Thank you to everydayteas for the sample! You can learn more about this tea here, and I found out that they'll soon have the 2017 Nan Nuo from the same farmer. I have two more teas from them to share with you, reviews will be coming soon.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

5 Things You Might Not Know About Me

Recently Nicole from Tea For Me Please posted a '5 Things You Might Not Know About Me' post, and asked bloggers to jump in and do the same. I noticed Anna The Tea Squirrel posted one as well, and I thought it would be fun to introduce myself on a more personal level. I am always curious to learn the interests of others, so I figured I'd start by sharing mine. You know I love tea, but here are 5 things that you may not know about me, in no particular order...

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Tea Pairing 101: Green Tea and Mochi

Tea, sweets, and art. Add in a dash of fashion, and I'm one happy gal. What do all of these things have in common? I'm excited to present the next Tea Pairing 101 collaboration with Jee and Georgia! In this pairing we combined a few of my favorite things into an afternoon of green tea and mochi magic. Read on below to see how to pair green tea with a variety of flavors.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: Minos Living Tea Set

Like most tea fanatics, I also harbor a teaware obsession. Since space is at a premium in our apartment, I can't let my whims run wild but I do have a cherished collection including handmade and vintage pieces. When I was recently asked to review a tea set from Minos, I knew I couldn't refuse. More teaware? Of course.

I was pleasantly surprised when the set arrived. It's a sweet little stainless steel pot with matching cup and saucer, sugar bowl, and creamer. I'm not a stranger to stainless steel pots- I have a large one that we use on the weekend for oversized mugs of tea. This Minos pot is small, about 17 ounces, perfect for tea just for myself.

The teapot has a fairly large infuser basket, which makes it great for office use. It's easy to remove and is wide enough to let large tea leaves expand. The teapot has a nice pour, very smooth and comfortable. My only critique is that the stainless steel is thin, and gets extremely hot to the touch. Minos provides three silicone rings in festive colors to put over the pot handle, which keeps fingers cool. But don't touch the side of the pot, like I did out of curiosity. Ouch! Since the stainless steel is thin, it retains heat but not quite as long as I really need for the office. I often need to step away from my desk for 30 minutes or so, returning to a lukewarm brew. But honestly, it's not fair to expect a teapot to keep tea hot for that long.

The teacup is adorable, and is thicker than the pot so it doesn't burn any fingers. It's a nice size to enjoy a small cup of tea, but I can't use this cup for the early morning. That's when I require my largest mug. As nice as it is to pour little cups of tea, I just want a big mug I can slurp from. However, this is the perfect cup to use for an afternoon tea break. I also like the matching saucer.

The matching creamer is attractive and also pours well. I don't often use milk, but it would be nice to  put on a table to serve guests. The sugar pot (didn't get a good photo of it, sorry!) is also quite nice, the only issue is that it doesn't come with a small matching spoon. It's not easy to find a tiny spoon to fit inside. I'd love to see a little spoon included, maybe with a matching silicone tip on the handle. But, perhaps that is asking too much. Maybe it's more fun to have a spoon that doesn't match? If you don't mind hunting down your own matching spoon, it is a lovely little sugar pot.

Overall, this is a delightful little set that is fun to use. Just be sure to watch your fingers. It would be best for teas that use cooler water temps, to make sure you don't run into any unhappy fingertips.

A big thank you to Minos for this set! You can learn more about this set here and here.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Interview: Tyas Huybrechts of The Tea Crane

Photo courtesy of Tyas Huybrechts

Tyas Huybrechts is not just someone that sells tea. He is a Belgian ex-pat living in Japan, teaching Japanese tea culture, and living the beautiful tea life. He also sells tea at The Tea Crane but, as he says, "I don’t actually consider myself a tea vendor, but rather something closer to a missionary spreading the value that tea can bring to our lives." These are the wise words of Tyas.

I'm excited to bring you our interview below. He explains the beauty of Japanese tea culture quite poetically. Find out what teas he recommends for Japanese tea newbies, the challenges of teaching the Japanese tea ceremony, and many more beautiful facts about his tea adventure.