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Exploring, sipping & delighting in all things tea.
Just put the kettle on. One lump or two?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dragon Eye Tea *Guest Post*

Photo from Parisassoc
Dragon Eye tea, also called Tea Pearls or Buddha's Tears or Dragon Tears is a very special tea made from whole leaves laboriously hand-rolled into small balls. The kind I have is from the mountains of south-east China and is called Tai Mu Long Zhu. It has a lovely delicate flavour with a floral jasmine note. Only the top two leaves and bud are used to make this kind of tea, which is then stored with extra fragrant Jasmine flowers, which give it its exquisitely delicate flavour and aroma. Because of the extra work involved, it can be quite expensive compared to other loose-leaf green teas, but after trying it you'll probably agree that other green teas are simply no comparison! There are several ways to prepare it, but this is what I was told by the nice Japanese lady who works at the tea store where I usually get my tea. It will nicely serve a couple of cups each for  3 - 5 people so is perfect for inviting guests over for a special occasion.
Photo by Entso

You will need a Japanese-style tea pot, which has a fine built-in sieve that will keep the loose tea leaves from running into your cup. Heat up some water and start with about 25 pearls in the bottom of the tea pot. As usual with green tea, the water shouldn't be at a rolling boil, around 80° C is about right. Instead of messing about with a thermometer, I usually heat the water until bubbles are just starting to form on the bottom of the kettle. I'm told the Japanese call this "fish eyes."

Photo by Travis

After pouring the water the first time, let it steep for about 2 or 3 minutes until the leaves are mostly unfolded. As with 'flowering tea' watching the leaves slowly unwrap themselves can be a soothing and meditative experience, so don't miss it! After the leaves have mostly opened up, pour a little bit into each person's cup. The first brew will probably be the strongest, so you won't need a lot.

Photo by Travis

As long as the water hasn't cooled too much, you can use it to steep the leaves at least 2 or 3 more times. After the pearls have unfolded, you'll need much less time to brew; probably only 30 seconds or so. Because it is a delicate young tea, the water doesn't have to be extremely hot to bring out the flavour, so the water should still be usable even after sitting in the water cooker for 15 or 20 minutes while you enjoy the tea. The prepared tea should be a very light and transparent yellow-green colour; if it starts to become brown it's probably too strong and bitter and you'll miss out on the delicate and subtle flavour. If the tea is too weak, just pour it from the teacup back into the teapot, gently swirl and let it brew for a few more seconds. I like to use white tea cups so you can better judge the strength by the colour of the tea. If you only make one or two cups, you can even leave the leaves in the teapot and use them again the next day. The leaves will dry out a bit and lose a tiny bit of flavour, but this type of tea usually carries a lot of aroma and will still be quite tasty.

Photo by Travis

 You can also prepare individual cups by placing three or four pearls in the bottom of the cup (more of you're using a larger cup or mug). After letting the tea pearls unfurl, stir lightly, sip and enjoy! You won't need a strainer; as long as you sip carefully, the leaves should stay in the bottom of the cup. And as with a teapot, you can refill your cup with hot water several times without replacing the leaves.

Photo by Yuichi Sakuraba

Because of the delicate flavour, this tea is best unsweetened, so it fits well with a small sweet. A perfect snack to go with it is a Japanese treat called Dorayaki, which is two rice meal pancakes with a sweet red Azuki bean paste filling. You can sometimes find these at Asian shops and if you poke around, you should be able to find plenty of recipes online as well.

Enjoy!

A guest post from A Man on the Hidden Path aka @hiddenplace.
Thank you Sir for your wise words.Chin chin...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Juxteapositions

We're jolly good fans of herbal teas. We like pretty much all of them. Although sometimes, you can still get a little bored and fed up of drinking the same old peppermint, chamomile, rooibosch or berry. Don't get us wrong, we do like these teas and find them very refreshing, but to liven things up now and again we like to mix things up a bit.


Mixed herbal teas are readily available all over the place and we enjoy them very much too but sometimes it is nice to create your own flavours by mixing teas that aren't already mixed and boxed up.


Today we tried Yogi rose tea with a standard redbush/rooibosch. It was very refreshing. Nutty, woody, sweet and rounded with a delicate hint of rose. Very warming as the weather began to shift and the blue skies clouded over. We have used a basic supermarket brand of rooibosch (typically grown in the region of the Western Cape province of South Africa, and renowned for it's high levels of antioxidants, caffeine free and low tannin levels) but it was delicious all the same.


And the rose tea, well this is the best brand of rose tea we have found so far. Some other brands don't have as strong a flavour as this one and the other spices added compliment it immensely. The ingredients of the rose tea are hibiscus, chamomile flowers, elderflower, linden flowers, rose petals, cinnamon, lavender flowers, yarrow, ginger, black pepper, fennel, turmeric root, natural flavour, sunflower petals, alfalfa, buckhorn, cardamom, cloves and dried kombucha drink. So altogether an amazing mix which is incredibly calming and delightful on the palate.

We would normally brew combinations of tea in a teapot, but on this occasion we chose a sturdy floral decorated mug (one of our favourites!)

Do you ever combine different tea bags to make up your own flavours? What do you like best?

Another few you can try are...
  •  Yogi Choco tea with a peppermint tea bag (this is pretty amazing!). Chocolate spiced tea with a hint of mint. Mint chocolate. Mmmmmm.

  • Liquorice and peppermint. This is a fine smooth deal.

  • Clipper Wild berry tea with rose is very soothing and sweet.

  • Chamomile & vanilla with a fruit tea. Warming and rounded.

  • Fennel and spearmint. Calming and zingy and a clarity enhancer indeed.
So there you have a few combinations to have a go at. Do let us know if you manage to come up with any other fantastic combinations.

If you ever want to be more involved with us here, get in touch. You could always write a guest post (any tea or crafty or vintage subject matter) for us, a tea and bakes (sweet treat recipes) post, send us some images for our T.ART (tea inspired art) or if you have any photos of tea accessories to showcase, send them on over and they can be part of our Your cup of tea section.

Well...time for a chamomile & vanilla for us.

Chin chin...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Baking Cupcakes *Guest Post*

The cupcake is the prettiest and daintiest baked treat by far. Just bigger than bite-sized, the cupcake can be as sweet and indulgent as it likes, with no reservations for health or nutrition. The cupcake isn't an everyday food, it's a treat food. That doesn't mean, however, that they can't be gluten-free.



These little cupcake tarts are from Little Bertha bakery in Melbourne. They are chocolate fudge and orange, and use a pastry case instead of a cupcake case.



These cupcakes, also from Little Bertha, are carrot and cinnamon with a butter cream icing. Here are some tips for baking your own sweet delicious cupcakes at home.

  1. Always use electrical scales for measuring out your ingredients so that your quantities are exact. An imbalance could tip your cupcakes over the edge into disaster. The moisture and consistency of a cupcake is so important. A dry cupcake is not a pleasure, and a moist cupcake will flop and fall and won't support it's toppings, which will mean that it will collapse and look sad and depressing. Cupcakes should not be depressing!

  2. Clean your oven regularly. I know that this sounds like a boring tip, and it's definitely not as fun as baking cupcakes, but it's still really important. Clean your oven with a gentle scourer or cloth and the bake a dish of lemon juice, lemons, and water for 30 minutes at a high temperature. Doing this will eliminate residual smells from your oven and keep you from baking with burnt carcinogenic spillages.

  3. While baking, don't open your oven for at least the first twenty minutes, if at all. Opening the door will make the results uneven and mess with your cooking time.

  4. Always sift your flour and sugar.

  5. Measure out your ingredients before you start.

  6. Never cook with frozen ingredients, and always let your butter and milk come to room temperature before using them.

  7. Test your cakes with a skewer before proclaiming them done.

  8. You can test the freshness of your eggs by placing them into a bowl of water. A fresh egg will sink, having the minimal amount of air in it. An old egg will float. Fresh eggs are the best for baking.

  9. You can try doing sugar substitutes if you want to avoid cane sugar. Beware that this will change the taste of your cupcake though. Sugar substitutes include maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar, stevia, honey and molasses (which is very strong!).

  10. Cupcakes are meant to to be pretty and attractive, so have fun with the icing and the decoration of your cakes. This is where you can really get creative. Doing an icing in a flavour that compliments the flavour of your cake can be a good way to make your cupcakes different. There are classic flavours, like choc-mint or choc-peanut butter or vanilla red velvet, but you can invent your own!
Thanks Ivy from Little Bertha! Do check out their website. It's very cool.

Chin chin...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Miffy magic


Some of us went to Rotterdam recently as we were involved with a music festival over there. It was a great time to explore what Holland had to offer in terms of tea. Bringing us a wide selection of herbal teas, always with small pots of honey. We stupidly forgot to take any photos of us dining with our tea, but it may have been because we were also quite inclined to some of the Dutch beer over there.


So as a little momento, as we boarded the ferry, we made it a must to visit the duty free section as we stood and waved as Holland became a tiny dot on the horizon, with tears in our eyes. Sniff sniff. Bye bye tea with individual pots of honey, bye bye beautiful harbours and amazing public art, bye bye beautiful bicycles and the amazing cycle system. We would miss you but we needed something to remind us of our great time over there. And that's when we spotted this sweet little Miffy mug.


We noticed, upon returning to the Isle of Tea Towers that the colours would go very nicely with a teal and tangerine corner, stocked up with books a-plenty. We have recently fallen in love with these colours, mixing blues, browns and gorgeous greens.


And then we realised we have never shown you our lovely set of vintage tin coasters we picked up from a vintage fair we went to a while ago, just for a measly two squid.


Nice huh?!

Ah, be sure to check out the Miffy website. It's rather special and talks to you. Would be good for those little people many of us have hanging around, or those bigger people that have perhaps never properly got big.

Next up... A post all about cupcakes and a giveaway is on the horizon!

Chin chin...
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