In this final installment on tea, I show you a few more teas and the contents of the box LH sent from California.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
I promise this is the last blog post on tea, for now. If I find something new I’ll let you know. Besides, there are plenty of other subjects in the pipeline. Missed the previous posts? Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.
Beverly’s Chanterelle Mushrooms
Our friend Beverly is currently enjoying a plethora of fresh chanterelle mushrooms, which she is fortunate enough to find on her property. There are occasional mushrooms growing here at the Casa de Rurale, but they don’t look like that. I’m afraid of finding the wrong kind of mushroom so I don’t even bother. Beverly says that they smell fruity, like apricots, so that’s a strong indicator.
She and her husband harvest them daily and dry them:
Beverly will either use these delicious morsels immediately or dry them like this. Chanterelle mushrooms don’t last once they’re picked, so they need to be used that day or dried for longer-term storage. Dried chanterelle mushrooms are available in many grocery stores and online (and at Amazon, of course.) They’re not cheap, so you understand why Beverly is excited about being able to harvest them for free. Same reason I like the wild blackberries that arrive in late April and finish in late June.
Coming Soon: Easy Dirty Keto
I’m now in possession of a review copy of Emilie Bailey’s new Easy Dirty Keto cookbook, (thank you, Emilie!) and it’s looking pretty good so far.
Spaghetti Squash with chorizo? Oh, YEAH!! (When BF is not home, of course.)
I’ll explain more in a future blog when I’ve had more time to review and of course, try a few recipes. The release date is scheduled for August 23rd, next week. The Kindle version is available now, and you can pre-order the paperback book.
BF will, of course, be pressed into service as a taste-tester, along with anyone else who shows up at the house when I’m making some of these. Hey–he liked the broccoli cheese soup from Emilie’s Vegetarian Keto book, so there just might be something he likes here, too.
Most of the ingredients are technically “keto,” or “low carb,” but some are a bit less conventional. Many recipes use ingredients that are technically “low carb,” but not the usual “clean eating” type. Why didn’t anyone tell me that there is now a sugar-free version of Cool Whip?
Emilie made the announcement on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and in her email to her list. This book, she says, is likely to be her last–unfortunately.
Blog post coming. Back to the subject of tea.
A couple of months ago, I went into the pantry and opened the jar of decaf tea bags that I kept on my desk at Boeing.
It just collected dust. The tea bags are wrapped. The jar has a tight-fitting lid, so the contents were fine.
And then I saw it: three Lipton decaffeinated tea bags, at least ten years old. I remember the original conversation with LH, so I posted this on Facebook and tagged her.
She commented, “Omg that Lipton needs to go!!! It wasn’t any good when it was fresh lol!!”
Honestly, I only posted the picture because I thought she’d get a kick out of it, and I was right. Those three tea bags did go out. After trying real British tea, you can’t go back to Lipton. it just doesn’t taste right anymore.
The Gift Of Tea And Nibbles
LH said on the post, “send me your address and I’ll send you some good tea.” I did, and a few weeks later, a heavy box arrived. The mail lady, as usual, gave me a funny look.
I wasn’t expecting all this! But LH was very kind and sent me all kinds of delicious British things, some of which I’d never seen before. Obviously, I am very appreciative. I’d like to send her something, but as of yet, I haven’t figured out exactly what.
Understand that LH lives in Southern California, where, like Houston, Dallas, and other big cities, you can buy things like that. (No, not New Orleans, and not Baton Rouge, either, except in Cost Plus World Market–sometimes.) There was the packet of Typhoo (I still can’t find the picture) and Yorkshire tea, LH’s favorite:
Plus, something I knew about from watching a great Britcom called The Thin Blue Line, but had never tried: Chocolate Hobnobs.
These cookies are the favorite of the show’s protagonist, played by Rowan Atkinson. Oh, my GAWD they are so good!
They are neither sugar-free, gluten-free, nor keto. Save these for an occasional treat, and don’t eat more than two at a time in a 24-hour period. Trust me on this–they are that good, and hard to resist.
There was the shortbread from Scotland which is divine:
We can also get the regular Hobnobs at Cost Plus World Market in Baton Rouge, along with BF’s favorite Jammy Dodgers. I don’t see the chocolate ones there. Yes, Amazon has them too–but if you order them in warm weather the chocolate may melt. I’ll look around next time I’m at Whole Foods or a bigger Rouses to see if maybe they carry them locally.
WF told me later that she likes the regular Hobnobs, but not the Chocolate Hobnobs. Of course, it’s funnier when you hear Rowan Atkinson talk about his Chocolate Hobnobs. They go well with tea or coffee, or in BF’s case, milk.
LH also included a couple of British candy bars, which, thankfully, didn’t melt because it was April and not that hot yet. Cadbury’s Flake is interesting.
We realized on the second one that it’s crumbly:
The other one is also from Cadbury, but called Crunchie:
The sweets didn’t last long enough for the blog post, although we didn’t have them all at once. We tried to wait. Everything was delicious and appreciated. We enjoyed these with respect.
Earl Grey/Lady Grey Tea
Earl Grey Tea is a specific blend of tea, not a brand. It’s a standard black tea blended with bergamot, a type of citrus fruit. The result is a sweeter type of tea than the usual black teas. This is not to be confused with what’s called “sweet tea” in the south, iced tea with plenty of sugar.
The story goes that this blend of tea was created for Charles Grey, the Earl of Grey, who served as the British Prime Minister from 1830 through 1834. He introduced it to British society, and the tea became well known in the years since. He allegedly saved the life of a Chinese mandarin’s son, and the mandarin sent him a gift of Chinese tea. The Earl requested that a tea vendor re-create it (allegedly teamaker Richard Twinings, according to their website) complete with oil of bergamot, and it’s been Earl Grey Tea ever since.
But the Earl never set foot in China, so there’s that. And it may have been created to cover the taste of hard water in Northumberland.
Lady Grey was created as sort of a counterpoint to Earl Grey by Twinings in 1994, although many brands now have their own version.
It’s a nice tea that’s permeated with a fresher flavor and distinct orange taste that replaces the stronger bergamot flavor in the Earl Grey variety.
LH didn’t have a box for the tea bags she sent. I just said, “thank you.”
Which One is Better?
If you try them side-by-side as LH suggested, you definitely taste the difference. It’s not that one is necessarily better than the other, although LH’s preference is for Lady Grey tea.
Comes down to personal preference, as always. As it turned out, I had a box of decaffeinated Twining’s Earl Grey in the pantry from my desk at Boeing.
I have no idea how long I’ve had this tea, but I suspect it was bought between 2010 and 2012. The tea tastes just as good as it did when I first bought it. Twining’s, like a lot of tea manufacturers, puts their tea bags into sealed plastic packets, unlike the porous paper wrappers around Lipton Tea bags.
LH insisted I try them side-by-side, so that’s what I did. They’re both very good but have different and distinctive flavors. Pick the one you like best and enjoy it in your favorite cup.
Then there’s green tea, which is described as having a “vegetal taste.” The first time I tried it (years ago!) my first thought was that it tastes like someone mowed the lawn and brewed the clippings. I know, I know, it has its devotees, and it’s full of antioxidants and the like. It’s the same thing as black tea but not oxidized. Mostly it’s popular in China and Japan, and very caffeinated. If you like green tea, go for it.
But because LH sent me a little box, I decided to try green tea again:
If you sip it without anything in it, that “vegetal taste” comes right through.
It’s not like chamomile.
But if you add cream and a sweetener, it tastes like. . .tea. Your choice. I can’t say that it’s bad, of course, it’s just not as exciting as English Breakfast tea.
After watching many episodes of multiple British TV series, I eventually bought a few teapots too. Why not? I have some from Cost Plus World Market, and one from IKEA, that I like for the colder months.
They also make a smaller version of this teapot, which may be in my next order.
I also started making teapot cozies from a sewing book and I have them for all the teapots. They work well and look good, with obvious American touches like a southwestern print for one of them.
For my birthday last year, I ordered two boxes of Typhoo decaf from The English Tea Store. I also bought myself this little cutie:
I just didn’t realize it was that small when I ordered.
See, I used to have a “tea for one” set that I bought somewhere in Houston. It held a fair amount with a nice-sized cup. I don’t remember where I got it, and I don’t have it anymore. Decided that I’d get another one because this is what I normally drink tea from these days:
It’s what the British call a “beaker.” With the Texas flag on it, right? So, the little red tea-for-one set, well:
Yes, it’s tiny. The price was right, and it’s cute. It will probably go into the china cabinet I’m planning to get from IKEA, one day.
When I sent a picture of it to our friend WF in Turkey she sent back a voice message on Facebook Messenger. Mostly, she was giggling. WF and her husband were very amused at my tiny little red tea-for-one set.
Finding British Tea In America
Well, online, of course, unless you’re lucky enough to live near a place that sells this sort of thing like LH. Two of my favorites are:
- Teadog, which sells just teas from all over the UK, Canada, and Northern Ireland, and guaranteed fresh
- The English Tea Store also sells UK foods, sweets, tea ware (like the little red teapot set), gifts, accessories, and even their own blends of tea. Some of their tea-for-one sets are very pricey like this Royal Albert set that you can just see Hyacinth Boo-kay using.
You can also just do a search to find tea sellers in the US, too. That’s how I found both of those. When Teadog was out of something, The English Tea Store had some.
Remember that import stores that carry multitudes of incredible things from around the globe were just a car ride in Houston. Phoenicia Foods is one of the biggest, and I bought so many things there in addition to tea. Those cookies from Poland were delicious. And they ship, too!
HEB and Central Market, of course, are also repositories of all manner of incredible foods, ingredients, and imported things in the larger stores. Unfortunately, they no longer ship–everything is curbside pickup or delivery if you’re lucky enough to be in the area.
Also, understand that “imported” to a Texan means “from outside of Texas.”
There’s always Amazon, which is the source of all the affiliate links in the blog. Don’t forget that Amazon is also a great place to research just about anything you’re interested in, even if you don’t buy it there. Be forewarned that sometimes food things sit in an Amazon warehouse for quite a while.
Until Next Time
There’s one person I know who probably won’t try British tea (but maybe the Chocolate Hobnobs if he hasn’t already.) That would be Neighbor E in Houston, bless him, who is a fan of the chai latte, and he makes them at home. Anytime I see this, I think about you, Dude:
Admittedly, when we went to the opening of the big new HEB in Clear Lake, he was right next to me getting free coffee. That’s the only time I ever saw him drink any. Well, it was free, after all.
Tea is a huge world, much like coffee and wine. Finding a new favorite may be as simple as a visit to your local grocery store, or to an online vendor. You can drink a different tea every day and never try every tea available. Once you find one you like, bookmark it and try another one.
Tea is wonderful, as discussed in Part 1 of this topic. But today I’ll tell you how I became a fan of British tea, and why it’s better. Better make a pot for this one.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Another week, another “where did the time go” moment. Last week, BF dragged me out of bed early to run an errand in the Baton Rouge area. We were actually in Prairieville, so there was no visit to Trader Joe’s, Joann Fabrics, or Cost Plus World Market. He went to work at 2:00 pm, so we were under a time constraint. We also needed dog food so we didn’t risk becoming dog food.
While Houston–and most of Texas–is still roasting, we’ve been fortunate with plenty of intermittent rain that keeps the temperatures below 90F degrees. If I could “gift” rain to Texas, I would.
I decided to cut this second blog post of tea into two because it’s just that long. Part three is next. But I have some other news first.
RIP: The Boy
On a few occasions, I’ve mentioned a friend of ours I affectionately nicknamed “The Boy.”
I called him that because, well, we’re old enough to be his parents, but we didn’t mind. His real name is Triston Pennington. A nice guy, well-liked, and had a lot going on with a sense of humor that sneaks up on you. We enjoyed having him over, and he was a favorite dinner guest. He and BF were coworkers and were also occasionally working on something car-related outside of work.
Unfortunately, on Saturday night, it ended. Everyone is stunned. We got the call from their manager just after 3:00 am Sunday morning.
Triston was involved in an accident on the east side of town, and he didn’t make it. He was driving by himself at about 11:00 pm, and we know for certain is that he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The Louisiana State Police’s investigation is ongoing. The funeral is Friday. Triston’s Dad is dealing with so much, and BF has offered to help. He’ll be picking up Triston’s vehicle this week from the impound yard once the LSP finishes its investigation.
Little Roasty Potatoes
On one occasion, BF notified me that Triston would be joining us for dinner while I was in Hammond. Think fast, Amy! I bought a bag of fingerling potatoes at Rouse’s to roast with whatever else I was making. All it took was a light drizzle of olive oil, a shake of salt, and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning on a parchment-lined pan. Mix them to coat, then roast at 425F for an hour in the countertop oven.
The next day, BF came home and told me that Triston really enjoyed the “little roasty potatoes.” When he came back for dinner another time, I cut some larger potatoes down to bite size and did the same thing so he could enjoy them again. Maybe I should call them “Triston’s Potatoes.”
If you are so inclined, please say a prayer for his Dad and everyone who worked with him. We miss him already.
Hatch Chile Days Return
I got a text from Neighbor E this morning. He visited the lovely HEB on Clear Lake City Boulevard and saw the Hatch Chiles on display.
HEB is supposed to have some Hatch Chile dark chocolate tomorrow. E will be all over that, as I would if I were there.
Rouse’s also has Hatch Chiles, but I haven’t made it to Hammond to get some. BF will definitely be unhappy when I do. They’re only available for a little while, so if you’re a fan, don’t wait to buy yours.
Neighbor E also had a visitor this morning:
Egrets are one of the many birds native to the Gulf Coast, as are Great Blue Herons. They’re also weird birds. They just show up anywhere they like. Makes you wonder if they’re related to cats in some way.
Anyway. . .let’s talk tea.
Discovering British Tea
Let me just say that although I love coffee, I also love tea. But now, as I say, I’m picky. Years of watching Britcoms taught me how to make a proper cup of British tea. Except I don’t put lemon in mine.
Many years ago, I was at AWAI’s Copywriting Bootcamp in Delray Beach, FL, where I met many people that I still keep in touch with today. (Thank you, Facebook.) One of them is a British lady, LH, who married an American, and now lives in California.
We were talking one morning over breakfast with another AWAI member from Houston. I happened to mention that they had “real British tea” in the hotel rooms with the coffee supplies. LH replied that she normally just brings her own tea because it usually isn’t. (LH doesn’t like coffee.)
After breakfast, we took a walk down to the closest Publix in Delray Beach, to get some supplies for ourselves and our companion. When we passed that spot in Publix, LH pointed out, “this is real British tea.”
I saw PG Tips in HEB many times, but never paid attention or even bought a box. Turns out, real British tea was right there all along. I said, “Oh, I can buy that at H-E-B when I get home to Houston.”
I did, and it’s delicious! I boiled the water, put the distinctive triangular tea bag in the cup, poured the hot water in, and walked away for a few minutes. Just like you would with Lipton, right? Well. . . .
This must be what Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force pilots drink before they hop into the cockpit of their planes. MAN, that tea is strong!
I worked on the third floor of the Bay Area Building. I felt like I could fly right off that back balcony, singing, I Believe I Can Fly. You get away with that ONE TIME.
I ended up giving the rest of the box to a lady upstairs in ISS who was not only British but drank PG Tips from the time she was small.
It even comes in an extra strong version. Yes, I’ve tried that one time–never again. Avoid anything that makes your teeth wiggle.
Fortunately, PG Tips does come in decaf,
This decaf tastes exactly like the regular version without staying awake for 36 hours. Maybe next order I’ll get a couple of extra boxes, it’s that good.
I’ve seen small boxes of regular PG Tips available in a few places here; Whole Foods is one. I got the extra strong from Vitacost once. I keep the real thing around for emergencies where I need to be awake.
I’m out of decaf right now but will be ordering more soon since it’s not available locally. In fact, I only saw small boxes of decaf in The Fresh Market in Houston, once upon a time.
You Only Get The OOOOH! with Typhoo!
Typhoo is another brand of Britain’s finest tea that comes in a very good decaf version. I have some round bags of Typhoo decaf, but LH kindly sent me a packet of the real thing. More on that in the next post.
I can’t find the picture of this one, but the round tea bags come in foil sleeves to keep them fresh. And the decaf Typhoo is also flavorful.
Typhoo doesn’t have the heart-racing, mind-altering strength of PG Tips, but it’s still an excellent British tea. TV cooking show host Nigella Lawson made cute commercials for the brand a few years ago. On the company’s website, a quote from her mentions that she never leaves the country without a box of Typhoo in her suitcase. Understandable.
Typhoo Tea has graced Britain’s teapots since 1903. Both regular and decaf are available at Cost Plus World Market, Amazon, TeaDog, and The English Tea Store, as well as some grocery stores. I’ve bought it at the Cost Plus stores in Baton Rouge and New Orleans a few times. I bought it frequently in Houston at the Cost Plus on Bay Area Boulevard.
Our British expat friend WF reminds me that “British Tea” isn’t actually grown in Britain. India, Sri Lanka, and a few other places, yes, but not anywhere in the UK.
The “real British tea” that was in our hotel rooms at the Delray Beach Marriott so many years ago was this:
Scottish Breakfast Tea from Taylors of Harrogate, the company that also makes the delicious Yorkshire tea we also like. (Yorkshire happens to be LH’s favorite.) After my return to Houston, I found more of this wonderful Scottish Breakfast tea in Central Market. I was so happy I bought a box.
But life went on and I never bought it again, until recently. Amazon carries this amazing tea, in 20 individually wrapped bags, boxes of 50 un-wrapped tea bags like the one in the picture, boxes of 100, and the loose leaf version. However, I can’t drink that every day, it’s too strong, and there’s no decaf.
I bought two 50-count boxes a few months ago from TeaDog.com (more on them in the next blog post.) The Post Office sent one of those great big vans to deliver the tiny little boxes in a small shipping box. I’m stocked for a while.
Scottish Breakfast Tea Is A Type
There are multiple brands of “Scottish Breakfast Tea.” Turns out it’s a blend that goes well with Scotland’s soft waters. It’s made from a blend of Indian Assam and African teas. Taylors of Harrogate just so happens to be the one I’m familiar with, but I’ll happily try another brand one day.
In addition to Yorkshire and Yorkshire Gold teas, the company also makes decaf. It’s equally good, just like the original. Yorkshire Gold tea is an orange pekoe. They even make a Yorkshire tea for hard water, which someone from Houston reviewed on Amazon.
This brand of British tea has been around for more than 300 years and is enjoyed worldwide. It’s still run by the same family and has a royal crest. It’s considered the preeminent British tea. Readily available in grocery stores and online, the company produces hundreds of different teas. Many come in K-cups.
It’s just plain tea. Compared to the other British teas, Twinings doesn’t have the thing that makes you go oooohhh.
The company has a USA site as well as a UK site. The UK site has more gifting and accessories than the US store has, including a nice range of tea ware. Well, maybe I can order this lovely set from that site.
If the currency exchange rate isn’t too bad one day.
Other Brands Of Tea
There are quite a few British teas available in the US, somewhere. Way too many Americans have tried British tea, either on a visit or some other way like me, and do not want the American cuppa anymore. British brands just seem to taste better, and are made for anyone who is serious about their tea.
Admittedly, I keep several brands around, and BF has no idea what they are. He drinks milk, Coke, and water occasionally, and sometimes orders sweetened iced tea in a restaurant. He wouldn’t know what to do with a cup of hot tea, though I’ve offered him a taste many times. The tea in the pantry is, in his opinion, simply taking up space.
I’ve bought their decaffeinated Afternoon Tea many times at Phoenicia Foods in Houston.
It’s also available online (Phoenicia ships!), as are their other teas, including English Breakfast. Nobody’s ever heard of it here that I’ve found. Ahmad’s is also good tea, regular or decaf, such as their Evening Tea, which I bought occasionally in Houston.
Fortunately, it’s readily available online, and not terribly expensive, either.
There are several brands of tea that are called “builder’s tea”, but there is an actual brand called Builder’s Tea. The term is colloquial for very strong (and inexpensive) tea that builders enjoy.
Truly teas for the workers:
Neither was the US, mate.
I have not personally tried this tea myself. But our friend Beverly recently tried some. She received a box of it in a gift basket some time ago. She posted: “I have a box of Builder’s I’m afraid to try. It has caution markings around the top for heaven’s sake.”
But recently, Beverly decided to make a pitcher of iced tea with Builder’s Tea. Beverly and her family live in rural Georgia, where they have roughly the same weather we have, and iced tea is normal during summer.
Until you make it with real British Builder’s Tea.
Beverly said that after drinking a glass, “I didn’t blink for four hours.”
Don’t say I didn’t warn you, OK?
Tazo’s Awake English Breakfast Tea
I mentioned this in the previous blog post.
Tazo is a readily available American brand. Their Awake stands up to the British teas, but not with nearly the punch of PG Tips.
It has just the right amount of heart racing I need in the afternoon. Not too strong, but a tasty tea that’s close to British. Thankfully, Winn-Dixie carries it locally.
Another American brand that LH introduced me to is Stash, which is a bit stronger than Tazo.
Equally good, and I do buy it occasionally when I find it. Both Stash and Tazo have a wide range of tea flavors, available in most grocery stores and online.
Newman’s Own and Store Brands
Newman’s Own also has an English Breakfast Tea, which, in my opinion, is decaf. It tastes all right, but it won’t give you a boost, a jolt, or even a nudge when you need it. It’s not bad, though.
And then just a few weeks ago, I discovered that Winn-Dixie now has its own brand of teas, including English Breakfast tea.
We were in the Hammond store, and I found some, two boxes for $4, although it’s now $2.69. It’s a good tea, but it’s not nearly as tasty as, well, real English Breakfast Tea.
I don’t see this tea on their app or website anymore, so I wonder if it’s already been discontinued. Still, it’s not bad for $2.69.
Our local Winn-Dixie is being renovated, and it’s almost finished. I’ll have pictures of that in an upcoming blog. More room, more stuff, self-checkouts, and it’s fabulous. BF is not amused.
HEB has its own brand of English Breakfast Tea, Earl Grey, as well as many others. (There’s also a Central Market Organics brand.) HEB has more tea than they had when I shopped there regularly. I remember their store-brand tea being the same high quality as many others I’ve bought. But it’s been a while.
More Coming Soon
The third part of the tea post is next, complete with pictures, including the wonderful box of things LH kindly sent me from California.
I’m working on a couple of other food-related topics, and as promised, will show you the recipe for the blackberry galette. We’re due to make another one for BF soon.
Do you like iced tea in summer or hot tea in the wintertime? Or is tea just something that’s always in your pantry?
We’ve been drinking tea for hundreds of years. It’s so readily available that we don’t give it a second thought. In this first of two blogs, I’ll introduce you to tea. In the second, I’ll tell you about British tea and why I think it’s the best. Put the kettle on, make a cuppa, and I’ll tell you more.
Hello again, Dear Readers:
I intended to write this blog post weeks ago, but time got away from me again. Right before July 4th, we both got sick. No, it wasn’t that, just some weird Louisiana swamp bug. BF got sick first, then me. We didn’t visit a doctor or hospital, so no testing for the you-know-what. We’re fine now, so what’s the point?
I’m dividing this topic into two parts because nobody wants a 5,000-word plus blog post. Besides, after a certain point, it’s diminishing returns from Google.
If you haven’t seen the video of HRH Queen Elizabeth having tea with Paddington Bear, this YouTube link takes you right to it. The video became available after my last post.
Around The Casa de Rurale
It’s summer, and it’s HOT. Everywhere. Houston is again seeing multiple days of temps above 100F. At least there are amusing memes, like this one:
If you can bake lasagna in your mailbox, why not? Remember, your stove/oven is 220 volts, whereas your mailbox is free solar power.
Yes, that’s a joke. It also might be a violation of federal law, but I haven’t checked. In other news. . . .
Emilie Bailey, The Texas Granola Girl, has a new book on “dirty keto” coming out soon. The term means that you’re not a strict practitioner, and you bend the rules a bit—like me. I’ve signed up to be a reviewer—again. Emilie will be sharing some on Instagram soon. If they are kind enough to send me an advance copy, I’ll be doing a review and cooking some delicious food (whether he likes it or not.) But her recipes are awesome, and I’ll be buying a copy if they don’t. More details when I have them.
The wild blackberries are gone. I’ve picked a gallon-sized freezer bag of them like last year but should have picked more. (I still have last year’s harvest in the freezer.) Buddy, aka, Broccoli Stir-Fry, discovered their deliciousness when I took him outside and fed him some by hand. The pit bull doesn’t seem to care for them anymore. We’ve had little rain this spring, leading to the vines shriveling up early. Then a deluge followed.
BF requested a “real” dessert using our blackberries, “with flour and sugar.” While I was looking for something to make, a perfect recipe arrived in the mailbox. If you’re a subscriber to The Pioneer Woman Magazine, you’ve probably seen this galette already.
Guess what? He loved it. I’m planning to make another for him as soon as I get more ingredients. It’s easy, fast, and bakes up nicely. The second go-round will be both to make him another treat and for a blog post to publish here.
Speaking of animals, both the new cat and the dog had their vet appointment with destiny a few weeks ago. Neither has figured out yet about the trip to Hammond or what happened during their naps. They’re fine.
Ready for a cuppa?
Legend has it that tea came from China in 2732 B.C. when Emperor Shen Nung drank hot liquid after some leaves blew into his cup of boiling water. (Would you do that?) Odd, but that’s what I’ve found in several references. He felt invigorated after this brew (hello, caffeine!) and the Emperor began encouraging people to cultivate this incredible plant. He became known as “The Father of Tea.”
My other favorite drink, coffee, was discovered around the 5th Century in Africa and the Middle East. Coffee reached Europe first, and tea shortly thereafter. So, tea is the elder statesman here, although coffee became the American favorite after The Boston Tea Party.
Leaf tea was the norm, until one day, tea bags happened. Legend on the Internet credits New York vendor Thomas Sullivan as the inventor in 1904 (or 1908, depending on your source.)
The story goes that he sent out his tea samples in little silk bags. People just brewed the tea with them because they thought that’s what you did. However, the first patent for a tea bag apparatus was filed in 1897, with another mesh-bag invention patent in 1901, so someone else got there first.
Eventually, tea manufacturing expanded, and American tea became primarily bagged. The British didn’t take to tea bags until the 1950s, although Tetley did bring the idea back to the UK.
Our Brit friend WF, a UK ex-pat in the country of Turkey (officially, the Republic of Turkiye) wants you to know that her resident land is one of the biggest tea drinkers in the world.
Today about 96% of tea is in a bag, with loose tea being the outlier.
Pekoe And Black Teas
Black tea is from the Camellia sinensis plant. Once picked, it’s allowed to dry and oxidize. This tea is grown in Sri Lanka, India, and Africa, and was discovered in China in the mid-17th Century. This type of tea is most of what’s consumed in the US as iced tea. It’s a stronger flavor than most others.
You’ve probably seen the term “orange pekoe” for years. I didn’t pay attention until recently. But “orange pekoe” is tea grown in Sri Lanka and India, distinguished by its orange tips.
“Orange pekoe” is also part of the grading system for tea. It’s the lowest grade of tea, indicating that the tea is comprised of whole leaves, not bits and dust like some commercially produced types. But it’s a high grade of tea, meaning that it’s produced from the prime leaves. This tea doesn’t taste like orange, either.
Did you know that Lipton Tea is a British brand?
I didn’t, either. Still, it’s just regular tea in the US, available in every grocery store in America.
Like most people in the US, Lipton is just what you bought. Here in Louisiana people also buy Community Coffee’s brand of tea, or the store brands.
That’s what we had. As kids, we had Lipton tea every night with dinner, freshly made with lemon and sugar by the pitcher.
Nobody considered decaffeinated tea. We just drank it and rarely had soft drinks. My mother believed every urban legend around, such as kids weren’t “old enough” for coffee. The old wives’ tale said not to give your kids coffee, “because caffeine stunts their growth.”
My siblings and I are all over five feet. I don’t know how it would “stunt growth,” since caffeine is a stimulant. And how many kids since then grew up with caffeinated soft drinks and Frappuccino?
Hot Tea In A Cup
My Grandmother introduced me to hot tea when I was a teenager, but it was more of a treat. When I got older, I drank tea because that’s what I was used to having.
Before coffee shops were everywhere, I’d have a cup of tea in the morning, whether at home or at the workplace. Coffee and tea were also available in the offices where I worked, or I just brought some as I did at Boeing.
Never mind that the tea had more caffeine than coffee. We didn’t have Google back then to find out these things. I started drinking coffee when I was about 22 after I’d married and moved away.
But I always kept Lipton around and sometimes had Twinings. Lipton was the standard, as well as store brand teas. Later I used decaf for iced tea so I could drink it all the time.
Then I discovered British tea, and that was the end of the relationship. I’ll explain that in the next blog post.
I’ve tried this a few times, and it’s quite caffeinated. It’s considered an herbal tea and is made from Ilex paraguariensis, a plant in the family of holly. Yes, as in the holly berries you see at Christmas.
Fans of Yerba Mate make multiple claims about it, including easing depression, relieving fatigue, helping weight loss, and other conditions. If it works for you, great. But there’s a simple explanation.
Exactly—and if you have high blood pressure or another condition that caffeine aggravates, avoid Yerba Mate. (NOTE: I’m not a doctor, nurse, scientist, or medical professional, just someone who reads and speaks from experience.)
I tried it once or twice, and I think this is the brand I bought in Houston. Honestly, it didn’t do anything but give me plenty of heart-racing, no handsome guy in sight. Caffeine can also make me very hungry, grouchy, and jittery in large amounts, so it invalidates any other potential benefits. That’s OK, I’ll just have some PG Tips if I need that much of a jolt; it tastes much better. (More on that in the next blog post.)
Tisane: What Is Rooibos Tea?
One tea I do not like is Rooibos. It just doesn’t taste good to me. I’ve tried the Celestial Seasonings brand as well as one or two other brands. I tried to like it, but I don’t. Rooibos is a tisane, a fruit or herbal type of tea.
Turns out rooibos isn’t a true tea at all. It comes from a South African herb plant, the Fabaceae plant family. When the leaves are harvested and dried, they are brewed into a reddish-brown herbal infusion. It’s also called “African red tea” or “red bush tea” by the tea industry. It’s sometimes made with vanilla, as with the Celestial Seasonings variety. But it’s not enough to kill the awful taste. You can read more about rooibos here.
Orleans Coffee sells some very nice tisanes that are not Rooibos. This includes my favorite, called Blue Eyes. I have some in the pantry and make it now and again; I should get some more soon. It’s sweet and fruity but not overwhelming. I make it by the cup occasionally for iced tea.
Bonus: Cooling Off
I used to drink iced tea all the time. Period. I made it in great big plastic pitchers of decaf. I just let the tea bags sit out overnight in the water, and it was ready in the morning.
When I used to see Dr. Davis in the Woodlands, they always had a large pitcher of cucumber-infused water in the lobby. I loved it. But when I made a pitcher of it at home on a Friday afternoon, I couldn’t stand it on Sunday. I never made it again, but I will drink infused water if I’m out somewhere and it’s available.
One day, about 10 years ago, I just didn’t want iced tea anymore, and I haven’t had it since. After that, I simply added lime juice and Sweet N’ Low to a cup of ice water. Not lemons, just limes. That’s what I’ve been drinking since June of 2012, right after the Boeing layoff. I still have three unopened, plastic-wrapped boxes of H-E-B decaf cold brew iced tea in the pantry, because I’m too cheap to throw them away.
When limes recently became as much as $0.75 each, I went looking for something else to drink. I’m not accustomed to paying that much for limes. Then again, I’m not accustomed to paying $15 for a box of five dozen eggs, either. But that’s what they sometimes cost now. I wondered about a temporary replacement for limes in my water.
On a trip to our local Winn-Dixie, I was looking for my usual Community Coffee and Tazo Awake tea. They have a nice section with a good selection of local coffees and different teas, including Bigelow. But sitting there, on the shelf, were two boxes that caught my attention:
Hello, What’s this? Bigelow’s new Cold Water Infusions! It looked too interesting to pass up, so I didn’t. Winn-Dixie only had two flavors, as did Walmart. Didn’t take long for inflation to strike a new favorite:
When I went back to Winn-Dixie to buy more, I found more flavors. As it turns out, there are six flavors in all:
- Watermelon Cucumber Mint
- Cranberry Lime Honeysuckle
- Blackberry Raspberry Hibiscus
- Blueberry Citrus Basil
- Strawberry Lemon Orange Blossom
- Peach Lemonade Acai
That Amazon link takes you to bundles of packages, not individual boxes like you get in the grocery. Subscribe and save? Don’t tempt me.
These are caffeine-free cold-water infusions that you just add to ice water and let it infuse. If you leave the bags in the water longer than 10 minutes. . .nothing else happens. Tea, on the other hand, will get bitter.
Walmart had a couple of boxes of the Peach Lemonade Acai flavor, and I bought them. I think that was an accident that they had them. I finished that flavor first because. . .I don’t like that flavor much and just wanted to use up the bags. Much as I like peaches, this one just tastes funny.
As it turns out, there are multiple brands of these cold-water infusions. I’ll try them as I find them. Remember that I’m not in Texas anymore. Anything new on the market takes months if not years before it’s available on this side of the Sabine River.
If you’re not familiar with it (and I’m not, but it’s pronounced “AH-sigh-YEE”) it’s a berry native to Central and South America. It’s been promoted as a “superfood” here in the US, and sold as frozen puree or powder because they spoil quickly once they’re picked. No, I’m not jumping on that bandwagon, nor the one around goji berries.
Irony: my favorites are the first two, Watermelon Cucumber Mint and Cranberry Lime Honeysuckle. Those are the first two I found, and the two that our Walmart normally carries. Chances are I’ll be sticking with those going forward. But I have something to drink that isn’t as expensive as limes and is ready almost immediately.
Is it any good?
It is, but it’s not heavily flavored like, say, Hawaiian Punch. It’s an infusion, which is probably a $20 word for tea, but you don’t need hot water. Just add it to ice water and leave it to sit for eight to ten minutes.
It’s a bit like that cucumber water at Dr. Davis’ office, but a tad bit fruitier. In my steel Starbucks venti (24 ounces) cold tumbler, I use two of the bags, along with a single packet of Sweet ‘N Low. But that’s just me.
It’s tasty and less expensive than the limes right now, so that helps. But people are buying those limes in Walmart and Winn-Dixie because I see the supply decrease. I also hear Spanish here, which was unusual a few years ago.
Until Next Time
The next blog post will discuss my full introduction to British tea. It includes a very nice gift of British tea and other goodies from the UK that LH sent from California. She sent them in April, and delays mean I still haven’t finished the blog and uploaded the pictures.
Our friend Beverly is also working on another blog post for us.
Also in the queue are blog posts that are a little more serious. Yes, they’re food related, but I haven’t finished them yet.
Stay cool and Enjoy!