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Monday, January 23, 2012

January is Hot Tea Month! Sip a cuppa with me!

A woodland tea party
could possible attract some
magical friends!
Pour yourself a cup of hot tea and sit for a spell.  We are going to talk about  Camellia sinensis.  No, we are not going to gossip about some famous movie star or dish someone who lives down the street!  We are going to talk about Tea because January is Hot Tea month.

All "tea" comes from the same species of plant (Camellia sinensis).  Now there will be differences in the tea leaves because of different varieties of the plant, growing/harvest season, processing, part of the plant and origin.  And remember, Rooibos (redbush tea from Africa and herbals are not true tea, they are "tisanes".)
The western (has nothing to do with Texas!)  tea industry now recognizes 5 types of Tea.....
White Tea....
Minimally processed tea
 is an antioxidant-rich tea with a delicate flavor. The main white tea types are Silver Needle, White Peony, Darjeeling White and flavored white tea.
Fired Green Tea........
Chinese style (fired) green tea
Chinese-style green teas are often heated over a fire or coals, or they are fired in a convection oven. Long Jing ('Dragonwell') is the most popular type of fired green tea.
Steamed Green Tea.......
Japanese style green tea
Most Japanese-style green teas are steamed rather than fired.
Oolong Tea.....
Partially oxidized tea
Most oolong teas come from Taiwan and China. The main styles are Bao Zhong (a.k.a. 'Pouchong'), Semi-Balled, Oriental Beauty, Wuyi Oolong, Phoenix Oolong and flavored oolong.
Black Tea.....
Heavily or fully oxidized tea
Black teas are often classified by origin. 'Ceylon' is the former name of Sri Lanka, so many Sri Lankan black teas are simply called 'Ceylon teas.'
Pu-erh Tea...
Fermented Tea
Pu-erh tea is different from all other major tea types in that it is fermented.
Photo by
tea leaves drying...oxidation.
So you may be wondering, "What the heck is oxidized tea?  Oxidation in tea making essentially means letting the tea leaves be exposed without intervention to air, with varied periods of exposure being needed for different kinds of tea.

Tea leaves will begin to wilt and oxidize (a process caused by intracellular enzymes) as soon as they are picked. As their chlorophyll breaks down, they turn darker, and this accounts for the variation in tea types.

Oxidation can be stopped by artificially heating the tea leaves, which will deactivate those enzymes. Once oxidation has been stopped, the tea leaves are dried out.
Really, if you start studying about Tea the amount of information is mind boggling.  And have you ever gone to the grocery store with the intention of becoming a tea connoisseur and looked at all the teas on the shelf.  Yeah right, you have regular old black and regular old green....and some herbals, and if your grocery is larger than ours, well, you might have a few specialty teas.  Or if you are lucky enough to get to Winnsboro and stop in at Art & Espresso on Market street, Marilyn has a good sampling of tea, black, green, oolong, jasmine, chai, fruit and herbals.  So, next time you venture to the big city, (we go to the FRESH store in Tyler) then you can start to pick out some really good teas.  Where to start?  That really is a personal preference.  My favorites are the black teas....I love Earl Grey mixed with a smokey Lapsang Souchong.  But, Cousin Sandra does not like the taste of Lapsang Souchong but loves the mild fruity blends that you can achieve with White teas.
Let me give you a few places to go to start your tea education.....About.com has a mini email course about tea....coffeetea.about.com or check out Tea Time Magazine online....a little more frou-frou, but has gorgeous photos of china tea sets, lots of great recipes and good tea information.....www.teatimemagazine.com/

Yours truly as a
Tea Party Hostess!

Let's Have a Tea Party!
Don't you just love a tea party?  I do.  I always have and always will!  When I was just a wee lassie I would have tea parties with my little plastic horses.  I guess I wasn't into dolls but give me a plastic horse any day.  And I must have been a budding herbalist because I can remember brewing grasses, pine pollen and whatever was blooming for the horse tea.
I will put the water on to boil.....oh, and by the way, you can get as fussy as you want with the following procedures. But, I like to keep things simple.  We have filtered water which is best for tea making.  Doesn't add any strange tastes to the tea.
While the water is getting hot, let's "prime" the tea pot.  And having a tea pot is so much fun!  Actually, we have several nice pots, but my fave is just a simple green ceramic pot.  Anyway, priming the pot, means warm the pot with some warm water.  I usually add some of the water heating on the stove but you can always use warm tap water.
Now, the temperature of the water is where you can really get technical if you desire.....

Black tea: 4 to 5 minutes at 212°
Oolong tea: 4 to 7 minutes at 195° to 210°
Green or white tea: 2 to 5 minutes at 165° to 175°

Since I am not going to take the temperature of the water, this is my rule of thumb...
for black or oolong teas
bring the water to a boil, take off heat, let sit for a bit, then put in tea pot.
Steep about 5 minutes

green tea or white tea
bring the water to almost a boil, take off heat, let sit for a bit, then put in tea pot
steep about 2-3 minutes

herbal teas (which I like really strong flavored)
Bring the water to a rolling boil and then immediately add to pot.
steep at least 10-15 to whenever minutes

And PLEASE do not heat your water in the microwave.  I am not anti-microwave, but tea or herbal tea is where I draw the line!

Ladies taking afternoon tea.
 Mary Cassatt, artist
courtesy ofen.wikipedia.org

Now the tea is made, the table is set and we are ready for a relaxing afternoon of sipping and munching!

"Oh, dawling, what is this delightful tea you are serving this afternoon!?!" 

Well, dear, let me see.  This afternoon I am serving some wonderful herbal teas (tisanes).....

My favorites....two StarDragonfly Herbal blends....

Evening in the Garden....Roses (from my favorite rose bush), Chamomile and Lavender

Garden Calcium....Thai basil (from our gardens), Oat tops and Nettle

Or how about a blend of....say, Chamomile and Cinnamon or Lemon balm and lemon peels?

Then there are some very simple teas, some we have talked about in past posts.....

Ginger.....add a little organic lemon juice and some honey...very satisfying on a cold evening, especially if you have tummy ache.

Cinnamon tea...(steep a cinnamon stick in boiling water for 15 or more minutes) or make Ginger/Cinnamon tea.........1/2 c. thinly sliced fresh ginger
              6 c. water
              2 cinnamon sticks
              2 tbs. honey
This tea is actually my favorite winter time herbal tea.
Really, I could go on and on about tea, tisanes and any combination of tea and tisanes, but, we will cover these in future posts.
And it really wouldn't be a tea party without some delicious snack!  Here again, you can get as fancy as your little heart desires!  From sandwiches to fancy desserts, to actual meals, anything can be served at a tea party!  NO RULES!  Dontcha just love that!
Shortbread cookies!
Photo by
I like my tea with a piece of homemade short bread or a lemon scone.  Life is good!
Well, thank you so much for stopping by....wish I could have all our readers out to the farm for a tea party!  Hope all is well in your world!
Yours, Susan
If you are cold, tea will warm you.  If you are too heated, it will cool you.  If you are depressed, it will cheer you.  If you are excited, it will calm you.
Gladstone, 1865
Daffodils are starting to emerge!
Is Spring really coming soon?


  1. What, no recipe for the shortbread or scone? Thanks for the education on teas. . .now must go make a pot to warm up!

    1. Apologies about the lack of recipes! I have a great shortbread recipe to share and am perfecting my lemon scone recipe.....sounds like a future post! Hope your tea warms you up!

  2. Great dissertation on tea. I have so much to learn. I drink black tea, green tea, Earl Grey, some herbals and your lemon balm. I'll try some lemon peel with it.

    I am trying to perfect my grandmother's scone recipe without much luck so far. Includes currents and you cook in a iron skillet dusted with flour. Must taste great if you're camping or walking the highlands.

    If you host a tea party, I'll try cooking them again.Just in case, would bring a lemon cheesecake as well.

    1. Hello, Fairy Godmother Orchid! I just love your name! Thank you for your compliment! For years Lipton was the only tea I knew, and then a couple years ago, Cousin Sandra and I visited a Tea Shop and my life has never been the same! With your Lemon Balm tea, I would probably zest the lemon, first, the peel can be bitter. I love to experiment so you could try it both ways. And as for scones. Scones are so like biscuits. The more gently they are handled the better they are. I just get the batter put together, then turn out and cut. And you say you would bring a lemon cheesecake to my tea party? When should we have one? Let me know!