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
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.
August 23, 2015
How often do I hear customers complain about how much tea stains their teas – black tea that is!
The culprit: tannins. These are water-soluble, dark colored compounds found I the tea leaf that not only contribute to the discoloration of your teeth, but also cause its bitter flavor. The oxidation processes increase the amount of tannins and therefore black teas – which are fully oxidized – tend to end up with a higher amount of these compounds.
It seems, though, that a little addition of milk to your cup might prevent that from happening. A study published in the “International Journal of Dental Hygiene” found that casein, the main protein in milk, binds to the tannins in tea and thereby prevent the staining.
The magnitude of the color change on extracted teeth used in the experiment was comparable to the color change seen by vital bleaching products and more effective whitening tooth pastes.
I’d call this good news for all of us who love black teas and don’t want to miss out on their full and robust flavors just because of some annoying tannins!
Source: world tea news
August 21, 2015
Well, maybe not so much anymore! Since Rooibos, also called Redbush or Red Tea, has found its way into the cups of many tea lovers, its cousin Honeybush is following suit. More and more tea vendors offer it and more and more tea drinkers stray into the world of herbals to enjoy this tasty and healthful drink.
Like Rooibos, Honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia) is only found in the western part of South Africa. It’s honey-scented, deep yellow colored flowers give the plant its name. During Honeybush’s flowering period, the plant is harvested, cut allowed to oxidize, and then dried.
Like the name implies, Honeybush has a sweet taste with an engaging earthy fragrance. While the natural sweetness makes additional sweeteners unnecessary, it does hold up well to milk and honey which enhance the natural flavor.
Honeybush is also low in tannin, rich in antioxidants and contains several essential minerals. It ahs been used for years to treat coughs, lower blood sugar and ease cramps. Like many herbals, Honeybush is caffeine free and therefore the perfect night cup!
To properly prepare Honeybush, use 1 tsp of dried herb in 60z of boiling water and steep for 5-8 minutes – but don’t worry about over-steeping – due to low tannin content, Honeybush is very forgiving and never turns bitter.
New in this category at Souvia is our ” Peach/Apricot Honeybush” where the mild Honeybush is the perfect complement for the flavor of ripe, juicy peaches and apricots! A must try – especially iced!!!
August 17, 2015
Not only have roses been used to express sentiments in many ways, they have scented lotions and perfumes and their medicinal properties have been revered throughout the ages. Roses have also made their way into the kitchen and added culinary finesse to many recipes.
We found that this simple pound cake is enriched by the flavor and aroma of roses and a nice addition to nice cup of Darjeeling or Ceylon tea!
1, 8oz package crème cheese
1 1/2 cups butter
3 cups white sugar
1 cup dried baby rose buds
3 cups all-purpose flower
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325degrees F and grease/flour a 10″ bundt cake pan. Add white sugar and rose buds to a food processor and pulse until well blended, set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add rose sugar gradually and beat until fluffy. Add eggs two at a time, beating well with each addition. Add the flour all at once and mix well. Add vanilla. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 80 minutes. check to see if cake is done after 1 hour.
My suggestion would be to enjoy this with a nice cup of Kenilworth!
August 16, 2015
September is National Organic
Certified Organic Label
Harvest month and therefore a good opportunity to take a closer look at what exactly this means when it comes to your tea purchases and how to navigate the different package labels.
The USDA ORGANIC label is showing up on more and more products and many of us rely on this label to deliver consistent quality.
The organic label indicates that an agricultural product – and tea is an agricultural product – has been produced through approved methods. These methods consist of cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. This means that synthetic fertilizer, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering may not be used!
The growing of organic tea is relatively new, dating back about twelve years. The rules under which organic tea is produced are fairly complicated and tightly controlled. The tea crop must be grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. It relies only on natural organic matter such as compost, plants and trees to provide the necessary nutrients and ground cover. There are two categories of organic tea production:
- In the first category, you will find teas that have been certified organic by one of several international agencies.
- The second category includes teas that are grown according to traditional methods, following the principals of organic growth, but are not validated by a certified agent. These are often teas from smaller tea gardens whose owners simply cannot afford the certification fees, but take pride in the superior quality of their teas.
When a tea is labeled “certified organic”, it has met the conditions by at least one of the regulatory agencies. That does not, however, mean that all non-organic teas contain chemicals and are unhealthy. Some teas have been grown organically for centuries, in spite of codes or set rules.
Tea consumption worldwide is growing and the demand for high quality, certified organic teas is increasing, yet the production is driven mainly by cost.
For the consumer it is not always easy to decipher which teas are organically grown. Here in the U.S., the certifying agency is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and certified organic products are clearly labeled.
On the other hand, a tea can be grown organically and certified by the appropriate agencies in Japan, England or Germany, yet the consumer here will not be aware of this due to the lack of labeling.
The better known certifying agencies whose logos might appear on products sold in the U.S. are Germany’s Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement, Switzerland’s Institute for Market Ecology and Japan’s Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS).
With the increasing demand, a wide range of organic teas are now available, but even without organic production methods, tea is actually a very clean product whose cultivation and production is tightly controlled and monitored.
Some tea growers work in harmony with nature and produce what is called “bio-dynamic” tea. This means that the seasons, the weather, the waxing and waning of the moon and the interaction and interdependency of different species of insects, birds and animals are all taken into consideration when planting. This approach of tea farming links with ancient agricultural practices.
Demeter International is one of the bodies that runs a biodynamic certification program and invests in raising awareness of ecological patterns and sustainable farming activities.
So while the USDA ORGANIC label reflects the quality of the agricultural product you are buying, it is by no means the only seal for organically grown products. If you have questions about the origin and production of the tea and agricultural products you are buying, ask your grocer or tea purveyor for information on its origin and production.
Celebrate National Organic Harvest month with us at Souvia and check out the specials we have on our extensive selection of certified organic teas.
August 14, 2015
These days, I love to hang out pool side with friends, cook out and try out some new cocktail recipes – of course with tea and herbs!
This Moroccan Mint Granita can be prepared with or without alcohol. It s cooling and refreshing on a hot summer day!
For the Moroccan Mint Granita use
2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp gunpowder green tea
1/4 cup plus 2tsp chopped fresh spearmint leaves or 2 tbsp. dried leaves
1/4 cup plus 2tsp sugar
spearmint leaves for garnish
In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the tea and mint leaves. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain into another container, and blend in the sugar to taste. Let cool to room temperature.
Pour the tea mixture into a 9-5-inch loaf pan and place it in the freezer. After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the freezer and stir to break up the ice crystals. Return to the freezer and repeat every 30 minutes over a period of 1 1/2Â to 2 hours, until the ice acquires a firm, smooth consistency.
To serve, scoop into glasses or demitasse cups and garnish with mint leaves. For best flavor, serve the granita the same day.
Makes 4 cup, serving 4-6
August 7, 2015
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has been used by herbalists around the world for thousands of years. From China, where it has been used to heal sore throats, treat respiratory and digestive problems it made its way westward. Hippocrates, the Greek physician Dioscorides as well as the German abbess/herbalist Hildegard von Bingen all swore by the powerful healing properties of this sweet tasting root.
The plant itself is perennial, reaching 2 meters in height from a root system of taproots and branch roots. It can be found in southern Italy, Spain, Russia and other countries east of the Mediterranean. While it still grows wild, it is now extensively cultivated to meet global demand and to protect the plant.
The materia medica of the American Botanical Council indicates that licorice is in the FDA ‘s list of herbs generally regarded as safe.
Parts used are the rhizome and root.
Licorice has widely been used to
- relieve coughs, sore throats, break up congestion
- soothe the digestive tract
- support adrenal function and combat stress fight disease-causing bacteria and the fungus responsible for vaginal yeast infections
- stimulate and strengthen the immune system
- strengthen and balance the female reproductive system
Licorice is 50 times sweeter than sugar and is added to chocolate to extend the sweetness of sugar. It is also used by brewers to give body and color to porter and stout. Did you know that licorice is an ingredient in the Irish ale “Guiness” and used to flavor the Italian liqueur “Sambuca”? It is used in the make up of many other products, but interestingly the popular candy “licorice” does not contain licorice root but gets its flavor from a distant cousin “anise”.
To make a decoction that can be taken for coughs, colds and to soothe stomach ulcers, put 1 1/2 oz of licorice root in 1 1/2 pt of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain and drink as required.
While licorice is considered safe, it is not recommended during pregnancy and for those with liver conditions, severe kidney disfunction or suffering from hypertension. If taking prescription drugs, it is always advisable to consult with your physician first before taking any herbals medicinally.
August 3, 2015
There is nothing like fresh herbs straight from the garden, but how do we make them last for more than just a few days.
The first step is to make sure the herbs are harvested carefully so that you reap all the benefits. They should be picked/cut when the oils responsible for flavor and aroma are at their peak and before the plant flowers. Harvest early in the morning before the heat of the day.
Herb flowers have their most intense oil concentration and flavor when harvested after the flower buds appear but before they open.
Annual herbs can be harvested until frost (here in Arizona that means January) and perennial herbs can be clipped until late August.
There are several way herbs can be preserved including drying, freezing, adding to oil, making vinegars and butters.
Drying – Flowers can be hung upside down or spread out on screens. Do not dry herbs in direct sunlight. Drying time is typically three weeks, but here in the desert with the lack of humidity, it can happen much quicker. Drying time will also vary with the moisture content of the herb. You can tell when the herbs are ready if their consistency has become crumbly. Check this by just rubbing a leaf between two fingers. Store the herbs in glass jars and be sure to label the container with herb name and date.
Conventional ovens can also be used to dry herbs. Spread herbs on a cookie sheet and dry at the lowest temperature setting as possible. Check often!
Dried herbs can be substituted for fresh herbs in many recipes and herbal preparations such as syrups, elixirs and tincture.
Until next time…..