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

Saturday Morning Tea

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Welcome back sun!

As George Harrison sang, “it feels like years since it’s been here”.

With a booming thunderstorm last Thursday night, our weather finally turned from cool and drizzly to hot and sunny.  Summer’s finally here. And with the warmth, it’s time to make some iced tea!

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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.

I’d love to hear your ideas on how to reduce sugar intake!

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

~George Harrison