21 February 2011 - 18:54A President’s Tea

Most presidents are defined by their action (or inaction) in the country, not their tastes.

But today, Presidents’ Day, I wanted to spotlight a certain president who did have a rather unique interest in what, at the time, was a rather exotic flavor.

Teddy glad to see the tea train rolling inOur 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, was known to have definite culinary opinions and specific favorite foods.  According to Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks in the 1968 book The Presidents’ Cookbook, Teddy’s one great gourmet interest was gourmet tea.  According to Poppy and Patty, his most favored tea was Hu-Kwa, the characteristically smoky tea commonly known as Lapsang Souchong.

It seemed that he much preferred his teas to his alcohol, as it was also observed that Teddy would only serve one wine at dinner (this leads one to believe, probably rather correctly, that all previous administrations were party animals).

This may have been a different story, though, if TR had been around to try a tea cocktail or two - I have a feeling that he would have liked the Smoked Earl Grey cocktail.

So on this day dedicated to presidents both current and former, I steep a cup of hu-kwa in honor of probably the most decorated and celebrated tea aficionados in history!

No Comments | Tags: History, Tea Musings

18 February 2011 - 17:496 Years and Going Strong!

Just wanted to take a moment to cordially invite all my readers to join Tavalon this weekend (Feb 19-20) at the 6th Annual NYC Coffee and Tea Festival!

The festival runs on both Saturday and Sunday, 11- 5pm both days, on the 11th floor of the 7W New York Building at 7 W 34th Street.

be there!It is truly a tea (and coffee) lovers paradise - plus, you get to try a bunch of our teas and meet the whole Tavalon gang!

And for all you tea cocktail lovers, there is an extra-special treat: I will be giving a seminar on Sunday at 3:30 pm on how to craft these intoxicatingly delicious treats.

For more information on the festival, please visit their website.

Hope to see you there!

1 Comment | Tags: News, Tea Musings

14 February 2011 - 19:10Valentine’s Day After Dark

Cupid’s arrows are flying and sweet nothings are being whispered into many an ear.

look good after darkYep, it’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air.

And what better way to celebrate than with one of our most romantic blends, After Dark.

The naming of this blend has multiple meanings.  First and most obvious, this is a caffeine-free blend that won’t give you the jitters, but there is another sexier meaning as well:  One of the main ingredients in this blend, hibiscus, was once thought by local traditional practitioners in Western Nigeria to be a powerful aphrodisiac.

While this may seem like a stretch, science does seem to back it up - at least in a small way.   A recent study shows that hibiscus does seem to have an anabolic effect similar to that of androgen a male hormone.  In other words, it seems to help in protein synthesis that “enhances sexual abilities” in males.

So a happy Valentine is as easy as a cup of tea!  Who knew?

1 Comment | Tags: Health Benefits, Tea Musings

4 February 2011 - 17:55A Rabbit’s Cup of Tea

the rabbit!As many of you know, yesterday marked the beginning of the yearly Lunar cycle, also known as Chinese New Year.

This year, the zodiac cycles to the Rabbit, whose personality is amiable, soft-spoken, and elegant - just like that of a good cup of tea!

So what better way to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit than with a “GUNG HAY FAT CHOY!” and a nice cup of Chinese white tea?

Just stay away from the bunnies while drinking - no one likes a Hare in their tea!

Happy Chinese New Year!

No Comments | Tags: Tea Musings

20 January 2011 - 18:32A Well-Deserved Break

yikes!When I switched on the news this morning and heard that today is National Coffee Break day, I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Finally, a clarion call to all the java junkies in this country to take a break from their normal brew!  And what better substitute for your morning cup than a nice, hearty cup of tea?

It’s still got some caffeine in it for you (although it is a better buzz), it is even easier to make, with no complicated gadgetry to fuss with  - and hey, we’ll even let you add some milk and sugar to a few of them if it helps you adjust (after a few cups, you’ll realize it tastes even better without).

So nation, today - National Coffee Break day - is an excuse to take a break from a bad habit and turn over a new leaf (a tea leaf, that is).

Happy celebrating!

2 Comments | Tags: News, Tea Musings

12 January 2011 - 17:29A Momentous Day

Yesterday was not only a cool day to write (1/11/11), but also a very special day to my heart: National Hot Toddy Day!

what a great day!This beverage may seem relatively new, but in fact it is one of the first recorded tea cocktails!

The Hot Toddy emerged around the early 1700’s in Scotland, created to make the taste of their rapidly emerging domestic whiskies more palatable.  The Scottish took water from a local Edinburgh water source, known as the Todian Spring, heated it (to remove the impurities) and mixed with honey and spices. Those who could afford it also added a few tea leaves to the concoction (it was still fairly rare and very expensive at the time).

Over the years, the beverage took on the moniker Hot Toddy (“toddy” being a slang term for the aforementioned Todian Spring), which is still what it is called to this day.

That being said, the Hot Toddy has come a long way from being a vehicle to make shoddy spirits more appetizing.  Check out two of my Hot Toddy recipes here and here.

Happy Hot Toddy Day!

1 Comment | Tags: History, News, Tea Musings

6 January 2011 - 19:02Keepin’ Things Hot in January

hot stuff!As many of my readers know, January is not only special because it marks a fresh start to a new year, but it also celebrates our favorite beverage in its most traditional form.

That’s right, January is National Hot Tea Month!

And while I can’t proclaim with any kind of conviction that Shen Nung, the legendary Father of Tea, first sipped his tea in this wintry month, the legend does clearly state that the first cup was indeed hot.

With a new year just beginning and so many choices out there for hot teas, I encourage all to step out of their tea-comfort zone and try something new…you’ll never know what amazing and exciting discoveries may be made!

No Comments | Tags: Tea Musings

3 January 2011 - 18:56New Year, New Name (Mostly)

In probably the boldest New Year’s Resolution this Tea Sommelier has ever read, Sri Lanka officially announced today that it would remove all remaining references to the name Ceylon from all state institutions.

ceylon logoThe name Ceylon refers to the old British colonial name, itself a transliteration of the Portuguese “Ceilão” the original European discoverers called it.   The British took over control of the Indian ocean island in 1815 and relinquished power in 1948.  However, many groups within Sri Lanka stuck with the old name of Ceylon up until this day.

One rather notable exception to this decree is that the world-famous tea that comes from this region will not have to change its name - after all, why would one want to give up all the hard-earned notoriety and have to start afresh?

It is so interesting to hear that, although politics may change the world from time to time, a sense of pride in ones art - in this case a perfectly balanced black tea - still can speak for itself.

No Comments | Tags: News, Tea Musings

30 December 2010 - 18:43Tea Recipe: the Ball Dropper

don't drop the ball!Looking for the perfect cocktail to ring in the new year?

What better way to celebrate the arrival of 2011 than with a tea-infused champagne cocktail?   Not only is it sophisticated and delicious, but it can be made in the time it takes for the ball to drop!

Happy New Year to all!

The Ball Dropper
1/2 oz gin
1 oz fresh orange juice
1 oz After Dark, chilled
Generous dash of Campari
4 oz champagne, chilled
Simple syrup, to taste
Twists of lemon and orange peel (garnish)

Pour the Campari, gin, tea and orange juice into a flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with lemon and orange twists.

4 Comments | Tags: Recipes, Tea Musings

28 December 2010 - 17:48Reading the Assam Tea Leaves

Climate change is an issue most people accept (most sane people, at least), but few actually experience in an obvious way in their everyday lives.

That is why I was especially surprised to learn that the main culprit behind the massive drop in production of Assam teas seems to be just that.

climate change is a-comin'Scientists point out that, in the last 60 years, rainfall in Assam has fallen by more than 20% and minimum temperature has risen from 65°F to 67°F (2 degrees may not seem like a lot, but that may be all it takes to diminish the polar ice caps a little more, which could have a tremendous impact on the entire globe).

This seems to be the most compelling reason that in just two years, from 2007-2009, production of Assam tea has decreased nearly 13%.

And a further decrease is expected this year.

The article then goes on to speculate that climate change may even be to blame for a change in the flavor quality of Assam tea, stating that the “creamy and strong flavour is no more.”  I am a bit more hesitant to believe this, as there are many other contributing factors that are more likely to effect this (such as change in fertilizer, cultivation methods, etc), not to mention the fact that our very own Assam Finest changed very little in terms of flavor and appearance in the past 3-4 years.

However, it is always a wake-up call when one sees the effects of global warming and climate change hit so close to home.

It is a reminder that this is not just a problem that scientists lament about, thousands of miles away - it is real, and it is on a global scale.

And it is we, supposedly the most civilized beings on the planet, that are the stewards of the Earth. If something needs to be fixed, it is us that needs to fix it.  If you are interested in helping, in even a small way, here is a great website to use as a jumping-off point.

Let’s keep our teas (and planet) vibrant and wonderful!

No Comments | Tags: News, Tea Musings