Saturday Morning Tea

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It’s that time of year again when my company shuts down and we all get 9 glorious days off from our regular work schedule. I’m leaving for the airport shortly to go visit my family in Michigan so I’ll leave you with my favorite method for making iced tea.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend, dear tea friends!

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I make iced tea with the “cold brew” method. It’s so easy to make iced tea this way. Gather up your supplies either in the morning before work or in the evening before bedtime. This will give the leaves sufficient time to steep either all day or all night.

You’ll need a container, a tablespoon and some tea leaves. For my iced tea, I use a glass pitcher I purchased at Target and some organic green South African Rooibos. I’ve written about this herbal before here and here.

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Spoon your tea leaves into your pitcher, using one tablespoon for every 6-8 ounces of water. Next, pour your water into your pitcher. I recommend either bottled spring water or filtered tap water. Hard water can definitely affect the taste of your tea.

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Now all you have to do is place your container in the fridge. That night or the next day, strain the tea into another container to remove the leaves. I use a large Pyrex measuring cup to strain my tea into. Then I clean the leaves out of my pitcher and pour the tea back into it. You can also use an infuser or tea filter papers to put your loose leaves into, making cleanup easier.

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There are so many variations with iced tea creation. You can put lemon or orange slices in either while the tea is steeping or after you strain it. Or, you can fill your glass halfway with iced tea and then pour some flavored seltzer water in for a fizzy iced tea. The possibilities are endless!

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I’m enjoying my iced tea plain with ice and a bowl of fresh blueberries on plain yogurt. Mmmmm…. I’ve been exploring ways in which I can remove sugar from my diet because I believe there is just way too much of it in the food we buy. Even my Stonyfield Farm yogurt cup, while it’s very delicious and organic, has sugar added to it. So, I’m now buying plain yogurt and mixing it with fresh fruit, depending on what’s in season.

Saturday Morning Tea

On this breezy, late summer morning, I can feel a change in the air as a new season steadily approaches. Hello fall. I’m looking forward to your clear, rich colors and letting the haziness of summer go.

As I watch the tree limbs bow and sway outside my window, I quietly sip an herbal infusion from the Yerba Mate plant.

Ilex paraguariensis is native to subtropical South America and is a member of the holly family. Like the tea plant, yerba mate is a shrub or small tree. Its name translates to “cup herb”, referring to its popularity for infusing and drinking.

Drinking yerba mate from a shared hollow gourd is a common social practice in many South American countries. A metal straw, called a bombilla, is inserted into the gourd for sipping.

I steeped my yerba mate for 8 minutes in just below boiling point water.

Interestingly, while all other herbs do not contain caffeine, this herb does. However, studies have shown that the components found in the yerba mate leaf produce a different effect on the body, working directly on muscle tissue instead of the central nervous system as caffeine usually does. Further studies have also shown that it lowers cholesterol and has an anti-obesity effect.

The golden yellow liquor is mild with a pronounced sweet, grassy flavor that is quite delicious. I also found it to be incredibly smooth with the sweetness lingering on in my mouth, leaving a refreshing taste.

I think that this is a great herbal drink to explore if you are caffeine sensitive and looking for a beverage to refresh but not overstimulate.

What are you drinking this weekend?

“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.”

~Mary Byrant

Saturday Morning Tea

My morning tea today is not a tea at all but an herbal which has a long history of many uses worldwide: culinary, medicinal and as a delicacy. The dried root of the ginger plant also makes a wonderfully spicy beverage when infused!

Technically known as the rhizome of the ginger plant, Zingiber officinale, this was grown in the Jinxuan Province of China. Ginger cultivation began in China and Southeast Asia and then spread to other parts of the world such as the Caribbean and Africa.

Its characteristic odor and taste comes from the volatile oils found in the root.

I steeped the ginger pieces for 8 minutes in boiling water. As it brewed, the water became cloudy, giving my glass teapot a mysterious, underwater appearance.

The aroma of the infused “tea” is fresh and spicy. Sometimes, herbals can be confused with real tea which comes from the camellia sinensis plant. Just like tea, each herbal comes from its own specific plant. Almost all herbals, not tea, are caffeine free.

The frosty, lemon-colored liquor tastes quite zesty with tart notes of lemon. Ginger “tea” is often used to soothe nausea and motion sickness. I am enjoying it for its delicious flavor.

Ginger has a distinctive warming quality to it, making it perfect for sipping on a cold winter’s day. That said, its warmth also has a refreshing quality that is cooling me down on this hot, muggy morning.

Try adding a splash of infused ginger to your next glass of iced tea and spice it up!

“In the sacred traditions, the first thing you do in the morning is ask for blessings from the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Because all of the work you are going to do that day will change the universe.”

~Laura Esquivel, Writer

Saturday Morning Tea

Ah, the first day of May. I think it’s one of the loveliest months of the year here in New England. Everything is bursting with new growth and blooms, a color feast for the senses wherever you look. In honor of May, I am sipping the infusion of the tea flower. Not the tea leaf as I usually do but the flower itself of the tea plant, camellia sinensis.

The flowers are white but turn a golden yellow when they are sundried after picking. They do contain caffeine but it is much less than the leaf, making them a perfect choice for caffeine sensitive tea lovers.

The infusion steeps to a light golden color, much like the dry flowers. The aroma is honey sweet with a faint whisper of apple.

The flavor is quite sweet and lightly floral with hints of caramel. A wonderful refresher for any time of the day, hot or iced.

I’m enjoying my tea flowers in my newest teabowl. I wrote about it here. I love to drink lightly colored infusions in it so I can see the wonderful spiral on the inside of the bowl.

This weekend I am dusting off and pulling on my garden overalls and see what can be done in my new little yard. Perhaps a small grouping of colorful blooms here and there to lift my heart everytime I return home.

“All my life through, the new sights of nature made me rejoice like a child.” ~Marie Curie

Saturday Morning Tea

Here in New England, this is the kind of day we wait for all winter long – brilliant sun, azure skies, no clouds and temps forecasted near 50. A glorious day for walking!

This morning I am delving back into the herbal world to share an interesting tisane that I’ve been enjoying as my evening cuppa lately.

Ocimum tenioflorum, commonly called Holy Basil and known in India as Tulsi,  meaning “the incomparable one” in Sanskrit.

There are 2 types of Holy Basil, one with light green leaves and one with dark. I have prepared the darker variety, also called purple leaf probably because the leaves have a purplish tinge to them.

Many Hindu families have Tulsi growing in pots outside the entrance to their home. The Tulsi plant is venerated as a goddess and every year a ritual is performed marrying her to the god Vishnu. This ceremonial marriage is called Tulsi Vivah and it signifies the end of the monsoon season and the beginning of the Hindu wedding season.

Tulsi has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic remedies. Studies have shown its benefits in quite a few conditions ranging from regulating blood glucose to pain relief to reducing cholesterol levels. I’ve also read that its great for easing stress.

I steeped the leaves for 8 minutes in boiled water. The amber liquor has a distinctive clove, anise/licorice aroma which carries over into its taste.

Sweet and spicy pepper notes mingle with a hint of cinnamon and fruit. I bet this would be lovely iced.

I’m looking forward to a warmer time when iced drinks will be regularly enjoyed.

The fresh air is beckoning….enjoy your weekend!

“When we emerge into the bright landscapes of the sun everything looked brighter, and we felt our faith in Nature’s beauty strengthened, and saw more clearly that beauty is universal and immortal, above, beneath, on land, in heat and cold, light and darkness.” ~John Muir

Saturday Morning Tea

This morning holds the promise of a warmer day as the sun streams through my windows and illuminates my space. I reach for my tea things and realize that I haven’t shared an herbal with you in a very long time.

So, without any further ado, meet Rooibos Vanilla, my herbal choice for this morning.

This particular rooibos is flavored with Bourbon vanilla. Vanilla flavoring is derived from the vanilla orchid, a flowering, climbing vine species from the orchid family. The trumpet shaped, creamy flower has a sweet scent, opening in the morning and closing in the late afternoon. In its natural habitat, the flowers are pollinated by a variety of stingless bees called Melipona as well as certain hummingbirds. Most commercially grown vanilla is pollinated by hand.

Here’s an illustration of the Vanilla Planifola, a species of vanilla orchid, from Kohler’s Medicinal plants.

Spooning 2 teaspoons in my glass teapot’s infuser basket, I steeped my rooibos for 8 minutes using boiling point (212 F) water. The deep russet colored leaf infuses to create a rich, deep amber liquor.

Besides being flavored with vanilla, there are pieces of vanilla pod sprinkled in with the leaf.

South African Rooibos is a bush grown in the Cedarberg mountain region of South Africa. The leaves are harvested and processed much like the tea plant, creating both “green” and “red” Rooibos. The Afrikaans word Rooibos means “red bush”. When the leaves are allowed to oxidize (similar to black tea), they turn a beautiful reddish brown.

Some people think of vanilla as a rather bland flavor as in it is the most boring ice cream flavor there is. Not me. I experience it as a sweet, uplifting spice that can take your senses and your imagination to lush, exotic places perfumed with lovely, delicate orchids.

The sweet vanilla combines with the hint of citrus in the Rooibos to create a pleasant melding of aroma and taste. When you’re looking for a late afternoon or evening caffeine-free respite, this is the perfect choice. I drink it plain but it would stand up well to any additions like milk and sweetener. You can ice it, too.

I’ve been in my new place for 3 weeks now and am trying to find and gather all of the threads that I had dropped during the moving process, namely, my Taos free range knitted wrap. I would love to finally finish it and wear it! So, look for some “ta-da” moments coming, hopefully, soon.

In my life’s chain of events nothing was accidental.  Everything happened according to an inner need.” ~Hannah Senesh


Saturday Morning Tea

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On this sunny, late July morning, I’m getting off the tea path and venturing onto the herbal path.

This dried flower has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. Here in New England, we commonly see it blooming from August all the way up to the first frost in October.

Have you guessed what it is yet?

You’re absolutely right – it is the chrysanthemum flower. In this case, yellow chrysanthemum. In my research, I have discovered that the Chinese use both the white and the yellow flower for medicinal purposes.

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I steeped the flowers for about 8 minutes in boiling hot water, resulting in a luminous, pale yellow infusion.

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Called Ju Hua, it has a cooling affect on the upper body so it is mainly used in Chinese medicine to reduce or clear heat from the body, such as bringing down a fever or high blood pressure. I have read that it is also a digestive aid, especially for greasy foods and can help with head congestion.

What a beneficial herb! I like to drink it for its honeyed, floral taste with notes of sage and pepper.

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Yesterday I purchased this lovely teabowl. The fabulous texture makes it look like it’s dripping with icing. Mmmm…

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A path dips down into my new bowl and awakens my imagination.

Where will it take me?

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

~J.R.R. Tolkien