Thursday, January 17, 2019

Teaching Kids Through Tea Parties

Throwing a tea party is a fun way to teach kids about tea, and they can learn important life skills too. Children benefit from all forms of play where they're able to use their imagination and get creative. Why not use a tea party to fuel those growing minds? I've written about the benefits of sharing tea with kids, and tea parties are a perfect way to help kids learn the etiquette of tea party manners, taking turns, learning to be mindful, and get a little knowledge about tea along the way. Children as young as 4 can enjoy sitting at a tea party and learn the importance of interacting with friends. I recently written about the history of tea sets for kids, but why not take those tea sets and make them more than just toys?

Setting Up
You don't need a fancy tea set-up for your kids' tea party. Adult or kid sized cups will do, and actually mismatched cups make things more colorful and fun. You can do any sort savory and sweet foods you'd like. I like to serve everything as finger food, since that's a traditional way to serve afternoon tea treats. You can even just keep it to a simple tea sandwich and a few cookies. Get the children involved in the planning and set-up, they'll feel more ownership and involvement in the party.

For the tea, you can use all sorts of herbal blends. I've done workshops for kids using floral, fruity, and herbaceous blends and the kids really are game for trying everything. I wouldn't recommend giving children large amounts caffeinated tea, but a a sip or two of green, black, oolong, or white tea could help them better understand different types of tea. If you're serving even a sip of caffeinated tea to children other than your own, you should get permission from the parents first. Also having the leaves available to touch and smell is a great way for them to interact with the tea.

Learning Life Skills Through Tea Etiquette
Throwing a tea party will teach kids valuable life skills through tea etiquette. Here are a few examples:
-Learning how to behave around a table. Sitting (relatively) still, listening to the individual talking, and learning how to ask questions are all things you do at a tea party, and these are important skills to work on at an early age.
-Waiting your turn is an important skill, and the tea party setting makes it fun. Waiting your turn to take tea and sweets, or waiting your turn to ask or answer a question.
-Sharing! Need I say more?
-The absence of electronics- knowing when to put the devices away is so vital these days.
-Saying 'please' and 'thank you'. This takes constant practice and repetition. Putting it in the context of a tea party makes it fun, and it will become second nature after enough practice.
-The fun in tasting and trying new things. Kids will be more interested in trying new foods if it's in a setting where they see their peers enjoying it. They'll also learn to slow down and taste.
-Learning that tea is for everyone, not just adults, and for both girls and boys.

Learning Basics About Tea
Through a simple tea party, kids can learn simple basics about tea. Here are just a few of them:
-Learning how to prepare tea in a pot. You can use loose leaves or tea bags, but it's helpful for kids to learn how tea is made.
-If you're using loose tea leaves, kids will get to see how tea can vary in shape, size, and color based on how it's processed.
-They'll learn there are different types of tea, and also how different herbs and flowers can be used for tisanes.
-Children will see how a tea set isn't just something you play with, it's for enjoying tea with friends.

Once children are in elementary school other subjects can be added, such as:
-How different cultures drink tea.
-Historical tea facts.
-More in-depth information on tea growing and processing.

As you can see, there is so much children can learn through a simple tea party! Teaching kids about tea is a new series I'll be featuring much more on the blog in the coming months. I've given tea seminars to children in the past, and as a mother of two little ones I have a bit of first hand experience in the matter. I look forward to sharing more with everyone soon.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Recipe: Fresh Turmeric And Ginger Tea

Living in NY means being in contact with innumerable of people on a daily basis. In one subway car alone, you're stuffed in surrounded by people who are often coughing and sneezing (and who knows what else). This is the time of year when everyone at the office is sick, and the kids keep coming home with sniffles. I decided it was time to pull out the soothing wintertime teas. I like to drink tisanes with turmeric and ginger when the cold and flu season hits. I find turmeric, honey and ginger incredibly soothing for coughs, sniffles, and sore throats. Add in a bit of lemon, and it's even better. I recently created a recipe for fresh turmeric and ginger tea that is the perfect remedy for the wintertime blues.

A few months ago a neighbor gave me a jar of a Korean tea concentrate that is essentially a thick concentrated paste of yuzu, ginger, and honey all mixed together. To prepare, you simply dissolve a few teaspoons in hot water. I love the ease of having this concentrate in the fridge. But the store-bought tea is a bit too sweet for me and it's not always easy to find in the store, so I thought I'd create my own version of zingy ginger tea and add a healthy dose of turmeric.

Turmeric always seems like a good idea, especially during cold and flu season. Lemon too, for the added vitamin C. I love how the yuzu flavor tastes in the jarred version that I have, but yuzu is quite difficult to find and lemon is a great substitute. Fresh turmeric can also be tricky to find (I had to check a couple of stores before I found it), so you can substitute ground turmeric in the recipe if necessary.

Tips To Consider
- If you're using fresh turmeric, be careful of staining! This stuff is potent. My fingernails were yellow for a couple of hours afterwards, even after vigorous hand washing.
-I grated my ginger and turmeric by hand, which can be a bit of a pain. If you have a food processor or mini-chopper, use it!
-I like to use raw honey in this preparation, it supposedly has more nutrients. But any honey will do.
-You can absolutely use ground ginger and turmeric for this recipe, but you won't need as much. Fresh turmeric is difficult to find, and can be expensive, so please go ahead and use ground. I note the measurements in the recipe below.
-You can thinly slice pieces of lemon and add it to this mixture, but I prefer just using the zest and juice. The white pith of the lemon isn't as pleasant to chew on, but it is edible.
-To zest the lemon, I love using a microplane to get every last bit of zest, but a regular grater with tiny holes also works just fine.
-This recipe makes enough for quite a few teaspoons of concentrated tea paste. I like to keep mine in a sanitized jar in the fridge, as it keeps for a couple of weeks. I hoard small jars after they've been used, exactly for this kind of purpose. My husband gets a bit annoyed with our cabinet overflowing with empty jars, but hey, they come in handy!

Tea Happiness' Fresh Turmeric and Ginger Tea 

2 tbsp fresh grated turmeric, or 3 tsp ground
3 tbsp fresh grated ginger, or 1 tbsp ground 
1/4 C. Honey
Juice and zest of 1 small lemon 

1 cup freshly boiled water

Peel fresh turmeric and ginger before grating. Once grated, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly to create a marmalade-like paste. Add 1-2 teaspoons of the paste to a mug, and pour in hot water. Stir to dissolve. 

Add the remaining paste to a clean, small jar, it keeps in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

Add as many teaspoons of this tasty mixture as you like to hot or cold water for tea. Too much ginger for your liking? You can use more water, and less paste. I also sometimes top up my mug with a bit more lemon juice if I'm feeling really under the weather. This is a versatile drink you can make hot or cold, but I love a steamy cup of this in the winter or any time I'm feeling sick.

Even when I'm not feeling sniffly, I love keeping this tea in the fridge to enjoy on winter evenings. Just plop a few teaspoons in a mug and mix with hot water for a soothing, delicious warm hug. For a more authentic Korean yuzu citron tea, check out Jee's recipe at Oh How Civilized. For something warming with a bit of booze, try my chai spiced hot toddy recipe. How are you staying healthy and warm this winter? Would love to know all of your hot tea remedies!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

How To Grow Tea, Pt. 1: Growing Camellia Sinensis

watering the tea plants
One of my most favorite tea activities of 2018 was watching tea seeds grow into new little seedlings. Discussing new beginnings and growth felt like the perfect way to welcome in 2019, so here we go! My first post all about growing tea at home. I'll walk through everything I did, mention what worked, and what didn't. Growing tea at home is a learning process, so this is part 1 of the installment: germinating the seeds through transplanting to mid-sized pots.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Festive Earl Grey Champagne Cocktail

As you can see, I've been obsessing over tea cocktails lately. I love a festive cocktail, and holiday time is the perfect excuse to get creative. New Year's Eve is almost here, and I've been thinking about tea and champagne, as one does. Wouldn't it feel glamorous to sip on a tea infused champagne cocktail while ringing in the new year?

I was going back and forth about what type of tea to add to the champagne, and settled on earl grey. If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you'll know I'm not a fan of earl grey on its own, but I love adding it to things. In this cocktail it gives a bright citrus accent that works nicely with the fizzy wine.

Earl grey is black tea with added bergamot flavor (either natural or otherwise). I was originally going to also add orange juice to this cocktail, to enhance the citrus kick from the tea. But I was thinking it should be a little bit more boozy, given the occasion. I decided cointreau would work nicely since it has a strong orange flavor.

Tips To Consider:
-You can use tea bags or loose tea here, whatever you have in your cabinet. But...
-If you are using loose leaf tea, I find it's easier to infuse the tea in a teapot, then strain the mixture into a pan to dissolve the sugar.
-Any sparking wine will do here- champagne, cava, or prosecco, any bubbly wine with a similar flavor profile would work.
-I use a homemade earl grey simple syrup for this cocktail (recipe below), but if you don't have time to make it, you could just steep up a cup of earl grey tea and add sugar to taste. But the earl grey simple syrup really adds a bit of extra flavor to this cocktail.
-You can serve this cocktail in champagne flutes, and I also love old-fashioned coupe glasses, they give a little bit of extra style.
-For garnish you could add a curl of orange or lemon peel. I love using edible gold stars, they are a fun way to add a little bit of bling to the situation.

Tea Happiness' Earl Grey Champagne Cocktail
Makes 2 cocktails

Earl grey simple syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 3 tbsp earl grey tea)
Champagne, or similar sparkling wine

First, make the earl grey simple syrup: bring 1 cup water to a boil, turn off the heat and add 3 tbsp of earl grey tea, or three teabags. Allow to steep for 5-10 minutes and strain (I like to use a teapot for this step). Bring the tea back to a medium heat (you don't want to boil here) and add in the sugar. This may seem like a crazy amount of sugar, but trust me it works. Stir until completely dissolved. Allow this mixture to cool, and put it in the fridge until chilled. A couple of hours should do it.

Assemble the cocktail: put two tbsp of chilled earl grey simple syrup in the bottom of your champagne glass, then add 1 tbsp of cointreau. Top with the sparkling wine. Garnish with a curl of lemon or orange peel if desired. Or for a little bit of sparkle, try adding a few edible gold stars.

This cocktail is perfect for a New Year's Eve celebration, or even for weekend brunch. Why save the festive feeling for just a special occasion? It makes a great addition to sweet or savory brunch foods. And really, who doesn't love a little bit of bubbly now and again? Wishing you all a very Happy New Year! Thank you so much for reading the blog, and I look forward to a new, tea-filled year to come. I have lots new tea stories to share. Cheers!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Tea Cocktail: Oolong Milk Punch

The last time I was in London I had a delicious afternoon tea experience at The Punch Room that included historic British recipes and tea cocktails. The most memorable tea cocktail we had was a milk punch. I've been thinking about that milk punch every since I tried it, and I finally decided to create one of my own, with a bit of a tea twist: the oolong milk punch!

Traditional English milk punch is a crystal-clear drink even though milk is added. How is this achieved? Well, you do add milk, but the alcohol curdles it and the curds are filtered out. This seems like a bit of a hassle, and I realized that using a milk oolong would create the milky mouthfeel and flavor, without adding actual milk!

After doing a bit of research I discovered that milk punch was popular in colonial America as well, in fact Benjamin Franklin had his own version of milk punch. Some recipes contained black tea, some contained green tea, and some didn't have any tea at all. I took a few traditional recipes and made a few tweaks. Instead of milk, we're using the milky oolong. Instead of brandy I'm doing a mix of brandy and cointreau. Instead of sugar, I decided on simple syrup to make mixing a bit easier. All of this combined to make my oolong milk punch.

Tips To Consider:
-Please don't use your fancy Jin Xuan tea here. The nuances will be lost in the cocktail. As much as I hate to say it, a flavored milk oolong is actually a good choice. Many of the inexpensive milk oolongs on the market are actually flavored to get that creamy taste and texture. Something like this tea would be just fine. You want a strong buttered popcorn flavor here, nothing subtle and delicate. 
-This recipe traditionally uses dark rum or brandy, but I like to also use grand marnier. The burnt orange flavor and little bit of sweetness works well with the lemon and oolong. Since grand marnier does contain sugar, I added less simple syrup to the mix. You can omit the simple syrup altogether if you don't want it too sweet. 
-You can add spices to this tea cocktail, such as nutmeg and cloves for a festive kick. They're also in many of the traditional recipes.
-I like to serve these in vintage punch cups that I just happen to have at home (what, doesn't everyone have vintage punch cups?), but of course any cocktail glass would do. Or if you have small teacups, that would also work nicely.

Tea Happiness' Tea Cocktail: Oolong Milk Punch
Makes 3 cocktails
1 large lemon
1.5 cups water
2 heaping tbsp milk oolong tea (see above for info)
1/4 cup dark rum or brandy
1/2 cup grand marnier
1-2 tbsp simple syrup (to taste, here is a recipe, it's super simple to make)

Using a vegetable peeler, peel off strips of lemon rind for the garnish. Juice the lemon and set aside.

Heat the water to about 180°, and steep the tea in a small pot for about 5 minutes. You can't over-steep here, you want the flavor good and strong. Allow tea to cool fully, and strain.

In a cocktail shaker combine the tea, alcohol, and lemon. Give a few shakes to combine. Add the simple syrup to taste, and stir. Pour into glasses and garnish with a few strips of lemon rind.

I love serving punch for holiday gatherings, and this oolong milk punch is flavorful and unexpected. Plus, you don't have to deal with curdled milk. The sweet citrus flavor is perfect to wake up the palate before the start of a meal, and pairs nicely with salty snacks- especially buttered popcorn! If you're looking for more winter tea cocktail ideas, be sure to also check out my chai spiced hot toddy. Wishing everyone a joyous holiday season! Cheers!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Holiday Tea Giveaway: Field to Cup Tea Explorer Box

Photo Courtesy of Field To Cup

You're busy running around and buying gifts for everyone, so why not try winning a little something for yourself? Take a moment from your holiday craziness to enter my giveaway with Field To Cup! In my Holiday Gift Guide, I mentioned Field To Cup as a great choice for anyone looking to give the gift of a tea subscription. I like that you can select a box based on tea experience, tea type, and caffeine level. Now you can win a box for yourself!

One lucky winner will receive Field To Cup's December Explorer box, and you'll also get to pick your caffeine preference (low or regular). You'll receive 4 teas, tea filters, and an in-depth steeping guide. A perfect way to treat yourself after the holiday rush. I've tried two boxes from Field To Cup, and the teas have been high quality with a nice selection.

Do you also need to purchase a last minute holiday gift? You can't go wrong with a tea subscription box! Field to Cup also sells individual teas and teaware if you're not ready to commit to a subscription. To get 20% of your Field To cup order now, use DISCOUNT CODE: Teahappiness20.

Enter the giveaway below! Please note this giveaway is open to US and Canada residents only. There are multiple ways to enter...

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.