Fridays are always difficult, as my energy level is at its lowest point. This morning I am enjoying a very basic but always tasty Yorkshire Gold. The color is truly uplifting on this gray, rainy day. Through my sleepy gaze, the liquid looks like a sunrise. The taste is always strong enough to rev me up, even on the gloomiest day. I think I need another cup...
Today I'm steeping a toasty Tie Guan Yin from Radiance. Today's Steep Thoughts are reflections on the times I desperately need of a cup of tea. Yes, I drink tea all day long, but there are moments when it is crucial. Below are some recent examples, along with the tea I wish I had been drinking.
I know I need a cup of tea when...
...I race home from work, and bust through the door with 20 minutes to make dinner. My daughter runs up to me totally naked (mommy! I'm naked!), and my 15 month old son starts wailing as soon as he sees me. I have to cook while holding him. He is over 25 pounds. (A Ceylon to wake me up)
...I wake up with the kids and bring them into the living room to find that the cat pooped on our rug. Again. We just replaced that rug. (Should have made a Jasmine scented tea to soothe my nostrils. Or perhaps a Pu-erh for amusement)
...Trying to stifle a laugh at an important meeting every time someone says Cox. (a malty Assam to distract me)
...Realizing in said meeting that I've used the word 'like' in a sentence more times than an 80s valley girl. (keep drinking the Assam)
...Trying to enjoy a relaxing moment on our deck while listening to our neighbor spew creative expletives. (White Peony. Works in so many situations)
...Waiting on a very long line at the grocery store for 20 minutes without moving an inch. The person in front if me is cursing into her phone and the person behind me smells like a dead fish that has been out in the sun for three days. All I need to purchase are bananas, organic lollipops, and recycled toilet paper. I consider ditching the line but I know our Coordinator of toddlery (Just like Tina Fey, I hate using the word 'nanny') will freak out if there are no bananas for our son tomorrow. (Asked the woman with the potty mouth to hold my place in line and grabbed an Ito En iced black tea)
...I simultaneously get a phone call, three emails, and an in-person pop-in about an issue at work. (Needed a soothing Genmai Cha)
...Dealing with the preschool options in Brooklyn. (a Darjeeling that helps me pretend that I'm somewhere far away).
There are of course many, many more situations. When are you most in need of a cup of tea? What do you reach for?
Today I found myself in Chelsea Market, and I ordered Thai food for lunch at Chelsea Thai, where they also have Thai grocery items for sale. While I was waiting for my lunch, I noticed they sold Thai tea powder! A huge bag for $5. How could I resist? I rushed back to my office with booty in hand, anticipating a free moment to investigate further.
When a steeping moment arrived, I tore into the package. I was hit with a Thai Iced Tea smell. It's hard to describe, but it's sweet, and tamarind-y with an undertone of spices that I can't recognize. My fingers are stained orange just from opening the package! This is lethal stuff. I was in the office, but just couldn't resist making a cup. I steeped some of the mixture in hot water, and just added 2% milk and sugar. The smell is unmistakable. It's exactly what the Thai Iced Tea in our local restaurants smells like. Very promising!
The taste was a little watery, and not sweet enough. Apparently I was not brave enough to add the proper amount of tea. I added two packets of sugar for a small cup of tea, but it is still nowhere near as sweet as the Thai Iced Tea I've had before. When I get home I'll try using sweetened condensed milk. That should help, and also add the right texture to the drink. But the overall flavor is exactly what I am looking for! How exciting!
This will definitely make the next round of Thai Tea Ice Pops better. OK so it's not exactly an 'all natural' beverage that I usually go for, but it's a fun and tasty occasional treat.You can drink it hot or cold!
If I ever purchase a bottled tea, I usually get one of the wonderful, unsweetened drinks from Ito En. Usually bottled teas are far too sweet for me. I want to taste a bit of tea with my sugar, which is hardly ever the case with the bottled selection out there. They are also hard to find without added flavorings aside from lemon.
Today while browsing in a local grocery, I noticed a few bottled Argo teas. I've been to the nearby cafe a few times, but never noticed the bottled offerings, as I usually have to get a bubble tea. Most of the teas in the case had something I wasn't interested in, either a flavor, or use of rooibos. But then I noticed the Carolina honey drink. The ingredients were only black tea, cane sugar, honey, and lemon juice concentrate. That sounded promising. I've been burned by this combination before, but I was in the mood to try again.
Upon opening the bottle, the scent of honey immediately hits me. It actually smells like real honey, which is a good thing. But I was still worried about how much was used. The tea tastes very much like the hot tea and honey mixture my mother would give me when I had a sore throat. It is quite sweet, but the taste of actual honey instead of just sugar was very pleasant. A bit of black tea cuts through the sweetness with a bitter bite. The added lemon juice also helps reduce the cloying sweetness. The honey creates a comforting, soft feeling on the tongue. It was strange to drink an iced tea that was so soothing, but of course it worked for me.
This tea is still too sweet to drink on a regular basis, but it is definitely a good one to keep in mind on a hot day. A good choice for National Iced Tea month! The nifty glass container can also be reused, which is always a plus to me.
I always find that tea is a great digestive, especially when I've eaten something greasy. Over the weekend a friend and I enjoyed a walking tour that was dedicated to cheese. After almost 4 hours of cheese tasting, my belly was happily full, but needed some help. I knew we were close to Sanctuary T, a little restaurant that has been on my list to check out. It was a chilly, misty day, and a warm cup of tea was the perfect end to our cheese extravaganza.
The restaurant had the doors wide open with plants outside, which was cheerful and inviting. Even though it has a trendy SoHo address, there was stroller parking for the little ones. The restaurant has a simple decor, but with the loud music that usually accompanies a NYC brunch. It's a narrow space with a (tea) bar and wooden tables. The furniture has a slight Asian feel, but the venue lights are low, and coupled with the loud music it didn't feel like the serene teahouse described on their website. But happy to be inside, we selected our teas. The tea menu is far smaller than other tea focused establishments, but there was basically one of everything- one Ceylon, Assam, Oolong, a few greens, etc, and even a pu-erh. I needed something strong to revive me, so I tried the Golden Yunnan. Our tea came out in two huge mugs with strainers on top. I noticed many tables had been given wooden tea timers, but we didn't have any. Just the simple instruction of 'let it sit for 5 minutes'. I choose to believe this is because my friend told our server that I was a 'tea expert'. But it was probably an oversight.
The golden Yunnan was exactly what I was looking for. Sweet, bold, with a nice malty base. Caramel and cocoa notes came through as well. It had an invigorating aroma and gave me the lift that I needed. My stomach was grateful. I was happy that we were given the tea in a strainer so I could steep it as long as I wanted. I did think it was unnecessary to bring out a plate of rock-candy sugar without asking. My friend and I do not take sugar in our tea, so they could have used it for someone else instead of wasting it. Although it did look very appealing on the rustic wood plate.
I was surprised by the mugs used for serving the tea. I was expecting a pot of tea, not an oversized mug. The mugs were plastic on the outside with an inner glass lining. Very similar to the glass tea tumblers that have suddenly popped up everywhere, such as the Libre. I love the idea of sturdy plastic on the outside with a glass lining that is healthy, and flavor-free. Since I wasn't 'on the go' I think I would still have preferred a pot over a huge mug. I imagine the tea cooled off much quicker in a big mug, and I felt compelled to drink it faster. Pouring tea from pot to cup is a sensory experience that I come to expect at a teahouse, or even a restaurant.
Like many tea houses in NYC, Sanctuary T offers some tea related events. There are some events for children, which is a nice addition for a downtown tea place. Even with the many tea focused establishments in the area, it is nice to duck out of the rain and enjoy a mug of tea with a friend here. I imagine it is more peaceful during the week, and one could relax and contemplate a mug of tea. But on the Saturday afternoon we were there, the music was loud, and the crowd seemed to be more interested in brunch than trying tea. It felt like a typical NY brunch scene, but with much better beverages!
Sanctuary T- 337B West Broadway, NY NY 10013- Recommended
This past weekend I decidced to make Thai iced tea in ice pop form. Aside from finding the time for it, I was faced with several challenges. First, I needed a recipe that used black tea, since I didn't have a prepackaged Thai tea mix. Then I needed to figure out the correct amount of sweet milk to hold up to the freezing process. I also had to to figure out if making Thai tea in pop form even made sense at all. Especially since my daughter is obsessed with ice pops, and I don't want her to see these around the house!
After a little bit of research I decided to use this recipe because it used black tea, and also had some interesting spices. I didn't have evaporated milk, but used sweetened condensed milk, star anise, a few cardamom pods, a piece of cinnamon stick, and a blend of Ceylon, Assam, and Keemun teas that I had on hand. I made about 3 cups of tea, not the 1 cup that this recipe calls for. So I added a little bit more of the ingredients. I boiled the water, steeped the tea and spices for 5 minutes, and then strained into a pitcher to cool. Once it cooled down I added some of the condensed milk. It tasted sweet but not as sweet as it should, so I added a little bit of sugar. The result tasted more like a sweet chai, and not Thai iced tea, but I think it's because of the cardamom.
I have to admit that I was a little afraid of the sweetened condensed milk. I've never worked with it before, and it was very sticky and, well, sweet. It reminded me of a caramel. It was so sweet that I didn't want to use too much of it. I was also hesitant to use cardamom pods, as they are very strong. But I decided to get crazy and just go with it. I felt a little like a mad scientist, just adding a dash here, and a spoonful there. I filled the molds and popped it in the freezer and went on with my day. I checked on it a few hours later, when the kids were ready for bed.
The end result wasn't bad, but it didn't have the familiar taste I was looking for. There was a bitter bite of tea, and a dry feeling on the tongue. The star anise gave a nice hum to the flavor. But it needed to be a little creamier and definitely sweeter. My fear of condensed milk was the main culprit. A great first try though. The pops are still refreshing and definitely taste like tea, even if it is more like masala chai. I think next time I need be more generous with the condensed milk, and sugar. I'll also use less cardamom. I may try to add tamarind if I can find it, and maybe vanilla.
It was a fun first attempt! Not exactly what I was going for, but it gave me the confidence to try again. This may open the door for other tea ice pop ideas...
While enjoying a 'bubble tea' from Argo, I was thinking about the fact that the only sweet iced teas I enjoy are the aforementioned, and Thai Iced Tea. I was browsing my favorite websites while slurping my tea and landed on a tasty looking fudgy ice pop recipe. This is where the little light bulb appeared over my head. This weekend I am going to attempt to make Thai Iced Tea pops! I do not have traditional Thai red tea (and it is difficult to find without added artificial colors), but I'll use a Chinese black, along with a fairly traditional recipe.
Seems like a perfect way to celebrate National Iced Tea month! Iced tea pop post coming soon...
We've been having a particularly hot week in NYC and it's very appropriate that June is National Iced Tea Month. Even in warmer weather I prefer hot tea to cold, but there are times when I'm just super thirsty and I want to drink my tea quickly. I'm visualizing a very hot day when we've just finished working in our little garden. Icy cold tea is perfect for that occasion.
Iced Tea is also a great replacement for soda drinkers. You can lightly sweeten it up, add fresh mint, fruit juice, extracts, etc. But I like my tea plain and simple. Straight up black tea, nice and strong (the only exception of course is bubble tea!).
We boil a big ol' pot of water, add about 6 teabags, and let it steep for a long time. Sometimes we'll forget about it for an hour or two, and it's still perfect. I don't usually add much ice (if any) because I don't like to dilute the flavor at all. This reminds me of the cold HK tea I had recently. My husband likes lots of ice, and our bold brew holds up well. We've been storing our iced tea in bottles I've used for Kombucha, as they are the perfect size for the fridge. We don't really have room for a huge container.
If sweet tea is your thing, I'd suggest using simple syrup instead of sugar. Sugar does not fully dissolve in cold water, making your iced tea unsweetened at first, and then unbearably sweet at the bottom. Simple syrup is easy to make, and you can just pop it in the fridge to keep on hand all summer long. It's just one part sugar to one part water. So you can use a cup of sugar, and a cup of water, put both ingredients in a pan, bring to a boil, and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool, and you have a perfect sweetener for iced tea.
Feel free to leave your iced tea favorites in the comments!