October 12, 2015
If you are a friend of cocktails, you will “fall” for those seasonal concoctions that will not only please your palate, but have an added health component. Before mixing the cocktails, you start by creating the base alcohol. In our case, this is a Chamomile Grapefruit Rye and a Hibiscus Flower Gin:
Chamomile Grapefruit Rye
It’s almost time for grapefruit to come into season and this cocktail recipe will dress the favorite breakfast food up for a night out on the town.
3/4 cup loose chamomile
1 cup Grapefruit peel
One liter bottle rye whiskey or bourbon
one quart container
Mix everything together, cover and steep for at least 2 1/2 hours. Taste and continue to steep until the desired flavor is achieved.
Hibiscus Flower Gin
Hibiscus is praised for its many heart health promoting properties and adds a beautiful color to this elegant cocktail.
1 liter bottle dry gin
1/2-1 cup loose hibiscus leaves (dried)
one quart container
Mix all ingredients together, cover and steep for at least 2 hours.
Once you have your infusions ready, the mixing can begin. Here is a recipe I found in The Herb Quarterly for a Hibiscus Gimlet
Take 2 oz hibiscus gin, 1 oz lime juice and .75 oz sugar syrup, 1 sprig of thyme.
Fill the shaker with ice and add all ingredients. Shake vigorously – serve on the rocks garnished with a hibiscus petal or thyme twig.
October 2, 2015
While tea and herbals have a relatively long shelf life, it is important to adhere to a few guidelines to maximize this amount of time you can enjoy them.
- the average shelf life for loose leaf tea is about 1-2 years
- keep your tea in an airtight container, like a metal tin or colored glass container
- store it in a dry place such as the pantry at a temperature that does not exceed 90F
- Matcha can be stored in the refrigerator, but should be kept in an airtight container to avoid absorption of nearby foods
- Tea does not really spoil or go bad; it is more likely to lose its flavor and aroma and will produce a stale cup.
- herbs and spices, like tea, are sensitive to temperature fluctuations as well as moisture and light. Light will strip herbs not only of their natural color, but also leach key nutrients
- store them in glass containers or tins at a temperature not exceeding 90F and at a humidity level not exceeding 50%
- herbs have a fixed shelf life and are best used within 6-12 months for spices, leaves and flowers and 12-14 months for roots, barks and berries.
September 28, 2015
We get lots of questions on teas, herbals, and nutrition – Here’s one of the more frequent ones:
Q: I can’t have any sugar and was wondering if your tea that has candied fruit, yogurt chips or chocolate has sugar in the tea when brewed?
A: The short answer is, yes , some flavored teas do contain ingredients such as candied fruit, that have sugar. H
The longer answer is that you will end up with very little sugar in your cup from the tea itself. For example, the fruit bits are fruit and do have some natural sugars in them, But, you are not eating the tea. That means that only some of the sugars actually make it into the cup. Our suppliers estimate that a cup of a tea with fruit bits has about 4-5 calories. In summary, the amounts of sugar are small but it is there.
If you have to abstain from sugars completely, choose a straight black, green, white or oolong tea instead. These teas have plenty of flavor and character to satisfy even the most demanding palate.
September 25, 2015
When we think of tea growing countries, the countries that come immediately to mind are China an India – maybe Sri Lanka and Kenya too. While they are certainly the heavy hitters – producing the majority of the tea consumed worldwide, there are other areas that either have been growing and cultivating tea for a long time or are budding new sources for boutique teas. Among these lesser known countries are:
The first attempts of tea growing in Australia were made in the 1800s but it was not until the middle of the 20th century when the company, Madura Tea, was founded that tea was commercially grown in New South Wales. It was a mixture of the Assam and Chinese variety.
Ethiopia is relatively new to tea growing. Since 1978, 5435 acres have been planted on two state owned plantations. Until 1989, Ethiopia imported its tea from Africa and China and the state owned tea plantations helped reduce these imports. Now, tea grown on these estates is beginning to find new customers in the European market.
Tea grows at elevations of 5,500 ft. on the Sahambavy tea plantation. The manufactured black teas are similar to the best African teas. Production is seasonal, with growth slowing during the dry season of May to September.
With the growing interest in tea, it is not surprising that farmers worldwide are trying their luck in growing Camellia Sinensis. Here in the U.S., a small estate in South Carolina – now owned by the Bigelow family – used to be the only place until more recently, tea farms were established in Hawaii. While still a long shot from producing the quantity and quality of the more traditional countries, it is a start and shows that we can expect new and exciting flavors of this age old beverage!
(reference: The New Tea Companion)
Elderberries can be made into a syrup
While there are many herbs to help treat cold and flu symptoms and to shorten the duration of an illness, elderberry (Sambuccus nigra) is Mother Nature’s version of the flu shot and can actually help prevent you from contracting the virus. Elderberry syrup is Europe’s most esteemed formula for colds, flu, and upper respiratory infections.
Just how does elderberry keep the cold and flu at bay?
Flu viruses are primitive organisms that need the body’s cells as a host to replicate themselves. They puncture the cell walls with little enzyme-coated spikes called hemaglutinin and so break into the cell. Research has shown that elderberry has chemical compounds that disarm these spikes and prevent the virus from entering the respiratory cells thereby working in a prophylactic way.
Growing up in Germany, my mother got us through the winter by making sure we got our daily dose of elderberry Syrup. (The adults, on the other hand, preferred a glass of elderberry wine!) She would make many batches of the syrup and I have kept up with this tradition in my family as well.
In recent years, elderberry syrup has been gaining in popularity here in the U.S. too and can be found in many health food stores. But why spent a lot of money, if it is so easy and fun to make in your own kitchen. All you need is:
½ cup of dried Elderberries
3 cups of spring water
½ -1 cup of honey
In a saucepan, bring the elderberries and water to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover and let simmer for 30 to 4o minutes. Strain the liquid, making sure you mash the berries in order to get every drop of the decoction. Add the honey to the warm liquid and fill in a glass bottle. The syrup will keep in the fridge for 3 months. Take 1-3 tbsp per day for as a preventative remedy.
Elderberries are safe and can be taken over extended period of time!
*(don’t give honey to children under the age of 1)
September 21, 2015
Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too! Just add a little matcha to the mix and you can can calm your guilt ridden concious that it is okay to have another piece of this delicious shortbread – afterall – while your are indulging your sweet tooth, you are also getting a boost of green tea antioxidants.
I give these Matcha shortbread cookies a thumbs up!
2 cups of cake flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp matcha
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and alt until blended.
Beat the butter at medium speed until creamy and then slowly add in the granulated sugar. Set mixer to low speed and add flour mixture and matcha in several steps until it forms a soft dough. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and chill.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or leave ungreased.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 3/4 inch-thick slab, about 5 by 8 inches. Transfer to baking sheet and bake until lightly golden and firm tot he touch – about 40 minutes.
Slip the parchment with the shortbread onto a hard surface immediately sprinkle the shortbread with sugar. While still warm, cut the shortbread into 1 1/2 -inch pieces.
Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2 inch squares.
Try our new Blueberry or Raspberry Matcha in this recipe for added flavor!
September 18, 2015
Caffien in my cup?
It is certainly an interesting topic and one that comes up frequently at the tea shop. Many customers seek to limit their caffeine intake or even completely avoid it altogether. Most consider it unhealthy but it seems there is no real consensus among experts on the answer to the question whether caffeine is friend or foe!
Fact is that caffeine is a bitter substance, naturally occurring in some plants as their protective measure against insects and microbes â€“ a natural pesticide! In the human body, caffeine increases metabolism and stimulates the nervous system, which leaves us more alert, feeling less tired and a little more cheerful â€“ nothing to complain about if you ask me! Negative effects such as heart palpitations, headaches and sleeplessness are typically the result of too much caffeine or sensitivity to it. For most people, though, the moderate consumption of caffeine is not harmful.
Truth is also, that the level of caffeine in your favorite drinks varies greatly and that not all caffeine is created equal. Let’s take a closer look at the makeup and effects of caffeine in your cup of tea:
How much is in my cup?
This is one of the most asked questions we get. The answer is: A variety of factors determine the caffeine content in the dry tea leaf and in the steeped leaf.
- Since caffeine is a pesticide, the younger shoots and leaves have more caffeine than the more mature tea leaves. The type of tea plant, soil texture, climate, and elevation all play a role in how much caffeine the tea leaf produces.
- Processing methods also matter when it comes to the caffeine content in your cup. Green and black teas undergo different processing and the oxidation step of black tea production changes the cellular structure of the leaf in such a way that caffeine is more readily available to dissolve in water.
- Steeping time and water temperature have a great impact on the caffeine level in your cup as well. Caffeine is water-soluble and the longer it is exposed to water, the more caffeine molecules are released â€“ in short, the longer you steep your tea, the more caffeine will end up with. This explains in part, why your green or white tea tends to have less caffeine than your black tea. The recommended steeping time for most green and white teas is 2-3 minutes, whereas black tea is typically steeped between 3-5 minutes.
How does tea compare with other sources of caffeine?
Due to the many factors contributing to the caffeine content, it is difficult to provide exact measurements. On average, however, an 8 oz cup of black tea has 85 mg caffeine and an 8 oz cup of green tea has 40-60mg of caffeine. In comparison, an 8 oz cup of drip coffee contains 135 mg, a 12oz can of Coke 34mg.
Why does tea give me a lift and not a jolt?
- The caffeine in tea is called theine (tay-eene) and metabolizes differently in the body than the caffeine in coffee. Researchers found, for example, that the high content of antioxidants found in tea slows the absorption of caffeine, resulting in a gentler effect that seems to last longer and does not end with the abrupt let-down often experienced with coffee.
- Besides caffeine, tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine (L-tay ah neen). L-theanine is relaxing and counteracts the stimulating effects of caffeine by increasing those neurotransmitters in the brain whose overall effect is to quiet brain activity. Instead of getting the jitters, tea drinkers experience a sense of calm with improved brain function. Recent studies also show that L-theanine may help protect the liver, alleviate high blood pressure and improve immune system function.
Are decaffeinated teas better for me?
During the decaffeination process, the tea leaves are first moistened before the caffeine is extracted using a solvent. Ethyl acetate, methylene chloride, or highly pressurized carbon dioxide strips the caffeine from the leaves. To remove any solvent residues, the leaves are steamed and finally dried again. The decaffeination process greatly reduces the amount of caffeine, but won’t remove it completely. On average, a cup of decaffeinated tea still has 5mg caffeine.
Teas decaffeinated with the gentler CO2 method retain most of the health properties, but even here, some of the antioxidant properties may be lost.
In summary, caffeine consumed in moderation, is well tolerated by most people and may even provide benefits to health and well being.
For those, who must or want to avoid caffeine completely, we recommend herbal infusions, such as rooibos, chamomile, peppermint or lemon balm since herbals do not contain any caffeine at all.
Ref. Dr. Paul Holmgren, PhD, www.Drpaulsupdates.org
September 11, 2015
September is the month to start thinking about the cold flu season and how you can rev up your immune system to fight those nasty bugs.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) with its anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties is just the right herb tostrengthen your body’s defenses. Start by making elderberry syrup that harnesses all the goodness and health of these berries, tastes great and can be used in many ways.
For the syrup, you will need
1/2 cup dried elderberries
3 cups water
1 cup local honey
Bring the elderberries and water to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Then strain the berries through a cheesecloth and add 1 cup of honey to the liquid. Fill in bottles and keep in refrigerator for up to three month. Take 1-2 tbs daily for prevention or 1tbs every 3 hours to relieve symptoms.
On a hot summer day, use the syrup to make a delicious and refreshing drink. Use one ounce elderberry syrup and mix it with 2-4 ounces of sparkling mineral water. Add some ice, garnish with a lime and drink to your health….
August 28, 2015
Last weekend, I found this great chocolate cake recipe. Usually chocolate is enough to throw my resolutions out the window, but I wondered how I could make this recipe a wee bit more enticing.
I looked through my tea cabinet and stopped at the tin with Earl Grey – bergamot and chocolate – what a noble combination.
Serve this cake at your next tea party and you will WOW everyone!
1 1/3 cups boiling water, 2 1/2 tsp loose-leaf Earl Grey tea
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda, 1tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup buttermilk, 1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 ounces, 1 stick unsalted butter
Preheat the oven toÂ 350 degrees F. Spray a bundt or tube pan with vegetable cooking spray. Lightly flour the pan.
Prepare the tea, steeping the leaves 5 minutes.
In a large bowl,Â combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk or mix thoroughly. Add 1 cup of the steeped tea ,reserving the remaining 1/4 cup for the glaze.
Add the buttermilk, melted butter and eggs. Using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat the mixture for 2 minutes. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 30-45 minutes and cool in the pan for 15 minutes before taking it out of the pan.
For the glaze, melt 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and 4 tbs. butter in a double boiler. Stir in the remaining tea and spoon the glaze over the cake.
Let set for one hour, then serve at room temperature – of course with a cup of EARL GREY!
August 24, 2015
Older Posts »
Red Clover (Trifolium pretense) is one of the oldest agricultural crops and has a long history as a religious symbol. The Celts of pre-Christian Ireland revered and legends tell that it inspired the Irish symbol – the shamrock!
- Did you know that Red Clover was the model for the suit of clubs in playing cards?
- It was used as a charm against witchcraft during the Middle Ages.
- Clover cordial was a popular drink in the early days of San Francisco
Medicinally, Red Clover has much to offer. Not only is it high in many important nutrients including vitamins and minerals, it also has antibiotic properties, is a diuretic and expectorant.
Red Clover is recommended in the treatments of whooping cough and dry coughs. Used internally, it can help with skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis.
It has also been used in the treatment of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and lymphoma. While it’s anti-tumor effects have to be substantiated by scientific studies, there is no doubt that Red Clover is one of the best detoxification herbs and respiratory tonics.
Take it as a tea (it actually tastes quite good!) , tincture or combine it with herbs like marshmallow to increase its healing effect.