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October 30, 2015

Chai –Spiced Tea of India

Filed under: Phoenix,Tea Culture,Tea Enjoyment,Tea in Arizona — wbwingert @ 10:10 am


While not quite noticeable here in Phoenix, fall has officially arrived. It has always been my favorite time of year with the brisk morning air, the changing colors of leaves and the overall slowing pace of life. Fall also brings the taste of warming spices such as cinnamon, clove and ginger which find their way into many foods and drinks. It is the time for apple pie, ginger snap cookies and a cup of Chai.

During the past decade, Chai drinks have taken the United States by storm, and there are many blends and recipes available on the market today.  Generally, if you order a Chai here, you will be indulged in a cup of spiced black tea, with or without milk – in India, however, you will simply get a cup of black tea.

The reason is that in India as well as many Eastern European countries, Chai is the word for tea. It is derived from the Mandarin word “Cha”, also describing tea, which is still used in Japan and China today. While in India, people refer to all tea as Chai, in the Southern part of the country, a cup of chai is prepared in the British style, with sugar and milk. In the Northern part, however, people like their tea flavored with spices and call it “Masala Chai”.

Legend tells us that it was the chef to the royal king of India who first created this tea by scenting it with exotic spices from his kitchen like nutmeg, cloves and cardamom. The king, entranced by the unique and wonderful taste announced that this drink would from now on only be served in his court and he forbade the chef to divulge the ingredients to anyone. Long after the king’s death, however, the recipe filtered down from the royal family to aristocracy and then to the masses, with each group adding and deleting spices to their taste, including cinnamon, pepper, fennel and more.

Today, the combination and amount of spices varies, but cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper are usually part of the traditional blend. Other recipes may include, ginger, cumin or coriander.

It is a little like a chili recipe – while there are certain main ingredients that are common to every good chili, recipes vary and each chef  may have a secret ingredient to create uniqueness. Masala Chai recipes also vary from region to region and the proportion of spices is typically the secret of the preparer. Nowadays there are even blends that deviate from the traditional black tea base  and use green tea, a blend of black or rooibos .

If you want to prepare Masala Chai from scratch, choose a good whole leaf black tea from India or Sri Lanka since these teas have the body to stand up to the spices you add.  Other ingredients include at least four spices (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove, pepper, fennel, etc.), water and milk. Place the tea and spices into cold filtered water, bring everything to a boil and simmer for 3-7 minutes. Strain the tea and add warm milk and sweetener to taste. For a richer Masala Chai, boil and simmer the spices directly in milk.

To usher in the fall season (regardless of temperatures), visit us at Souvia and ask for a sample of our traditional masala, green or red chai!


Olivia- Chaiwallah at Souvia Tea

October 26, 2015

The Legend of Dragonwell

Filed under: Tea in Arizona — Kwingert @ 10:00 am




Dragonwell,  also known as Lung Ching,  is one of China’s top ten teas. It has its origin in the West Lake region of Hangzhou  in the  Zheijiang Province.

This green tea, which stands out because of its unique leaf style -achieved by pressing the leaves flat during the pan-firing process. Dragonwell has rich aromas of lightly toasted rice or cashew. It is only lightly astringent and has a pleasantly lingering after-taste.

Like many teas whose name is rooted in legend, the name Dragonwell has a story that dates back thousands of years.

  •  The “well” that gives the tea its name is a local well in the West Lake area of Hangzhou.
  • There are two different legends explaining how the “dragon” ended up in the tea. In one story, the residents of the town believed that a dragon lived in their well who was responsible for bringing them rainfall. They would plead with him to bring rain in times of drought.
  • In the second story, the wells were full of a very dense form of water. When the rains fell the lighter rainwater resting atop the spring water swirled like a twisting dragon.

Dragonwell truly makes a special cup of tea. It is one of the few teas where you can watch the agony of the leaf unfold in front of you. Use a glass vessel and add the tea leaves. Pour the water over the leaves and watch them wake up, releasing their wonderful aroma and flavor!


October 23, 2015

Feeling a bit sneezy?

Filed under: herbals and fruit blends,Tea and Health,Tea in Arizona — Kwingert @ 10:10 am



The weather Gods are having their fun with us. We are going from unseasonably hot to the wet and cool in just a few days. I am hoping that this is just a fluke, and we will finally get to enjoy fall temperatures. However, we still have many customers come into the store plagued by allergy symptoms.

Itchy eyes, runny nose and sinus headaches are keeping many from enjoying Mother Nature. On the other hand, Mother Nature also offers a natural remedy to nagging allergy symptoms.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), is a valuable herb with many health benefits – alleviating allergy symptoms being one of them.  What herbalists have known for a long time has now been substantiated by modern science.

A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2009 showed that Nettle leaf blocks histamine receptors, and acts to block prostaglandin production by the COX-1 and COX-2 pathways. It also blocks the release of enzymes from mast cells. All those effects together make this a pretty potent anti-allergy medicine.

Other studies demonstrated that nettle also reduces sneezing and runny nose for people with allergies.

Best of all – unlike other anti-histamines, Nettle (freeze-dried is best for allergies!) does not cause drowsiness!





October 12, 2015

Cocktails of a Different Kind….

Filed under: Tea in Arizona — wbwingert @ 10:10 am


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

Herb and Tea Storage – What’s Best?

Filed under: Tea in Arizona — wbwingert @ 10:08 am

herb drying


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.