National Tea Month (Jan) – Masala Chai

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​Masala Chai is a black tea brewed with a variety of spices, and varies depending on the person making and drinking the chai. The word chai is simply the Chinese word for tea, although Western tea drinkers will often refer to this drink as Chai Tea or Chai Tea Latte, which is more than a little redundant.

Masala chai is originally from India and its surrounding environs.

There is no standard recipe for masala chai although all have four basic ingredients:

  • milk
  • sugar
  • cardamom
  • ginger

The recipe I used was adapted from this DIY Chai Spice Mix recipe and in addition to milk, sugar, cardamom, and ginger listed above, I also included allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper.

I put all of the fresh, whole spices into a blender and once they were blended and mixed, I added any powdered spices that I had. I followed the ratios of the recipe above.

My brewing recipe was as follows:

2 cups of milk, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the masala chai mix, 3 black tea tea bags (you can also use loose tea, whatever your preference). I set the saucepan to medium and brought it slowly to a boil, stirring occasionally. One word of advice would be to cut off the strings from the tea bag. This may let the tea loose, but I found some bits of string slightly caramelized with the sugar, so I would avoid that next time.

Once the tea was boiling, I poured it into a Pyrex measuring cup and poured it through a tea strainer into a mug. There was a lot of sediment between the spices and the loose tea, but the strainer did its job and it was a delicious, warm cup of spicy tea for a cold, winter morning.

Masala Chai: Top, L-R: 1. Homemade chai spice mixture, 2. Putting all the ingredients in the saucepan on medium, 3. Just after boiling; Bottom, L-R: 4. Pouring into the Pyrex, 5. Pouring through tea strainer into the mug, 6. The final look in the mug. Mmm, delicious. (c)2019


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A second method of brewing would be to make your tea as usual. Steep your tea bag, and add 1/2 tsp (or your preferred amount) of chai masala powder with any sweetener you like (or leave out the sweetener). Stir well and I would still pour through a strainer.

National Hot Chocolate Day

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This was the lovely set-up my daughter did for her Secret Santa sleepover. This was the Hot Chocolate buffet: a variety of hot chocolate, peppermint candy canes, a wide range of marshmallows, and festive reindeer napkins. (c)2019

Hot Chocolate Gift Sets I put together for my kids. Penzeys Hot Chocolate Mix and a jar of mini marshmallows. Simple, cute, inexpensive, thoughtful, and delicious. (c)2019

National Tea Month – PG Tips

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​PG Tips was started in 1869 (this year is its bicentennial) by Arthur Brooke in Manchester, England. It was named for its pre-digestion properties as a digestive aid until after World War II when regulators ruled that tea did not help in digestion. The tips in the name referred to the part of the tea leaf used.

Tea in stringed bags were launched in 1985 and the current triangle/pyramid shaped bag (no strings attached) were offered in 1996.

Knowing the importance of adverts, Brooke’s slogan was released early in the history of PG Tips: 

“Good tea unites good company, exhilarates the spirits, banishes restraint from conversation and promotes the happiest purposes of social intercourse.”

Today was the first time I’ve read that slogan, and it very nicely sums up the experience of tea and sharing a cuppa.

While I was in Wales, I drank tea every morning, sometimes several times during the day. At home, I normally prepare my tea in a mug, but what I discovered in Britain was that it was so much better steeped in a pot and then poured into a warm cup. Glorious. Decadent even. I was fortunate to find a wonderful tea cottage in Llanrwst. It was set on the other side of the bridge alongside the Conwy River. It was beautiful, homey, and very tea cottage-y. I ordered white tea with scones and jam.

Tu Hwnt i’r Bont, Llanrwst. (c)2009-2019

I re-created that wonderful repast this week for my breakfast, using my last bag of PG Tips. Drinking it I realized how perfect it tasted and I’ll be going out to get some more!

Scones: Blueberry (Starbucks), Strawberry Yogurt (Starbucks), Cranberry Orange (Archer Farms) with butter, jam, marscapone, and the perfect color of PG Tips tea I have ever seen or tasted! (c)2019

I’d like to share an anecdote from when I was visiting a friend of mine. He is originally from Wales (which is relevant), but now lives in the US. I was visiting him and his roommates. He and his wife had gone to sleep, and a few of us stayed up for tea. Friend #2 set the water to boil in the kettle on the stove. We were talking and when the kettle began to whistle we ignored it, finishing up the thoughts we were making. Out of the bedroom comes British friend, says nothing to us, turns off the kettle, pours the boiling water into the waiting cups and goes back to bed. The rest of us watch this with mouths open. He did not remember doing this in the morning. The tea is strong in the British.

Every morning, he made me a cup of PG Tips with milk and sugar and I’d discover it on my bedside table. It is still one of my warmest memories.

Tea Time Tuesday – Tea Kettles

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I love my tea kettle!

My husband has been asking for an electric tea kettle for forever, and I just did not see the point of it. Even when our whisling kettle stopped working (we’ve gone through two or three of them), we could boil the water in a regular saucepan, but I have been convinced. We use it every day, sometimes several times throughout the day.

Please read or re-read my original post here: Tea Kettles

Our Hamilton Beach Tea Kettle. (c)2018-2019

Tea Time Thursday – Salisbury Tea

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​What stands out most vividly in our brief visit to Salisbury was the wacky tea shoppe that Kathy and I wandered into. There were so many things on the wall, it was hard to miss the tiny flowery wallpaper. There were small round table with two or three chairs. I think they were metal, like patio furniture rather than wood, and they were all white. I feel as though a doily factory exploded in this shoppe. People were there, chatting quietly, sipping tea, adding milk, dabbing creme onto scones, the click of the spoon hitting the tea cup unmistakable and nearly constant.

At the back of the shop was a counter where you got your order and behind the counter were three old women. Ancient would be more apt. They were all quite deaf or extraordinarily hard of hearing. Although they didn’t have one, it would not have surprised me one whit if they had one of those ear trumpets that you would put into your ear and had someone scream into.

They were shouting orders back and forth and repeating as necessary because of the hearing. It was very much like the Where’s the Beef commercials.

As Americans, we were already loud, but not quite loud enough for this place.

I’d like a tea with milk please.

What?

Tea. With milk, said a little louder.

What?

One more time.

She turned to the lady behind her, in the more kitcheny area and repeated my order.

What? came the reply from the back.

The first woman repeated it.

What?

A third woman back there repeated it even louder and was met with a silent nod as tea kettles were poured and prepared and given to us on a tray. We must have paid but I don’t actually remember paying. I also don’t recall if we got anything to eat with our tea.

We sat and sipped and listened in astonishment as our conversation was repeated with the customers who came after us. We grinned occasionally at the absurdity of it all.

It was so perfectly, stereotypically British that I would not have been surprised had Mrs. Slocum come out of the back complaining about her day.

I don’t remember what was upstairs – there was a little shop, but I do remember going up the narrow stairs and then coming back down relatively quickly. We slid past other customers coming in, back onto the narrow cobbled walkway, under the stone arch that had been there since before America was a nascent thought and back to the hostel; or more likely to the hostel for the first time after our very British sustenance. Tea cures all ills, and with its special powers we were able to walk the rest of the way to the hostel where we would stay the night and then continue west by train through the lush green countryside bordered by grey sky.

January in England. We made our own sunshine.

National Tea Month – Adagio’s Fandom Tea Blend

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Today’s Tea:

The Walking Dead Daryl

This tea consists of mambo, honeybush vanilla, mocha nut mate, cocoa nibs, and cloves. This blend is perfect both for a morning, get ready for work drink or a late afternoon treat. It’s a dark blend that works with and without milk. (I prefer without.) The cocoa nibs give it a bit of sweetness, but adding sugar perfects the flavor in my opinion.

This was a gift from a close friend. It came in a sampler box with four other teas from four other fandoms. Also included in this custom made set were Loyalty House Blend (Harry Potter/Hufflepuff), Supernatural Survival Tea (Supernatural), Donna Noble (Doctor Who), and Civil War Remedy Tea (Captain America). What was so very funny about the Civil War one was the box was a light sepia color and had a picture of an old-fashioned medicine bottle. When I didn’t look very closely at it, it took me until I actually tried it to realize that it wasn’t tea in retrospect of the American Civil War, but of the Captain America movie subtitled Civil War.

Each tea has its own unique flavor that is ver reminiscent of the fandom and characters it is made to represent. These are all loose teas, but for those new to loose tea, there are make your own tea bags, tea balls, tea strainers, and other methods for brewing loose tea.

Fandom teas is something of a specialty of Adagio, although they also offer all of the regular teas and tea blends that you might be looking for as well as accessories and teaware. Their teas are reasonably priced as is shipping and they run sales throughout the year. It’s definitely worth a visit to their website to see what interests you.

Sampler size tin, tea strainer, mug. (c)2019

Teatime Tuesday

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A Nice Cup of Tea [George Orwell, 1946]

I discovered this gem through The Telegraph’s 2016 piece on Orwell and the perfect cup of tea. After re-reading 1984 and having Orwellian references since the 2016 election, this was something of a breath of fresh air to see Orwell’s name attached to. It’s kind of amazing what you find with a simple Google search.

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National Tea Month

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Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary.

 – Chinese Proverb

I don’t know who decides these things, but rules are rules. January is National Tea Month, not to be confused with National Hot Tea Day (this coming Saturday, January 12) or National Iced Tea Month (June) or the United Kingdom’s National Tea Day (April 21). I’m certain there are more if you choose to look for them. (I don’t.)
Tea has been around forever, longer in fact than Christianity, by about sixty years. Officially discovered in 59 B.C., but more than likely around prior to that, tea has developed into a cross-cultural, multi-faceted sensation, sometimes a curiosity that has its own rituals, not only ethnically but also individually.

It’s been used for medicinal purposes. Still is.

It is offered monthly by my therapist, something to do with my hands, I suppose, although I usually settle on cold water.

It is the morning beverage of choice by a plethora of people, writers at keyboards, spiritual directors at retreats, teachers awaiting their classroom full of eager faces, business people scarfing down toast or filling travel mugs to take with. Many cups of tea grow cold during the daily work of their drinkers. I have the dregs of tea leaves and sugar granules at the bottom of my morning cup right now.

There are formal tea ceremonies, welcoming honored guests or memorializing those who have gone.

There is High Tea and Cream Tea, hot and cold bubble tea, and tea as an afternoon meal.

There are teas that aren’t teas – herbals and infusions, also called tisane that are easier to offer as tea than explain the difference between tea plants and other plants. Actor Benedict Cumberbatch recently went on a rant about chamomile not being tea at all (see my reference to tisane above; chamomile is a flower). On a related note, my friend Tom never removes his tea bag letting it continue to steep as well as teaching me long ago not to squeeze my tea bag (it makes the tea acidic), a practice that I now cringe at when I see others do it.

Tea has been used as protest, albeit a waste of perfectly good tea from Boston to Washington DC to Manchester, England (April, 2018), although in Manchester, he didn’t get rid of it, but serve it in protest to war (make tea, not war).

From its initial popularity in the Chinese Tang Dynasty to the drinking of tea that spread across Asia through Portuguese priests into Europe during the 16th century and soon after becoming part of UK culture beginning in the 17th century continuing through the present day.

It is India’s most popular hot beverage, and Ireland drinks by far the most tea in Britain at four cups per person per day, some as much as six cups a day.

Many people have their own recipe for the perfect cup of tea. I prefer to follow Douglas Adams’ specifications. I did this for a few years and it really was better; perfect, in fact.

Since getting our electric kettle, I drink tea nearly on a daily, sometimes multi-daily basis, and like to try new teas depending on my mood, although overall I prefer black tea as the base. When we went to Ireland and Wales for a family function, my kids brought back bags and bags of British candy; I brought back tea and Welsh cakes, and it still wasn’t enough.

For Christmas gifts this year, I blended my own Masala chai, which was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed doing it, deciding how much of what to put in. I did have a base recipe (that I will share in a future week).

For the next three Wednesdays, I will share a different type of tea that I’ll have drunk during the week past. I’ll share something of a review, a photo perhaps, and links to find those teas plus at then end, possibly the first Wednesday in February, all the tea links I have. Even the grocery shelves have plenty to select from.

In addition to those four Wednesdays (including today), I will also share a few of my other tea posts from years past. If you can’t wait, just check the search box on the left and find some on your own schedule.

Onward to today’s tea: 

Twinings Prince of Wales tea. Twinings has been manufacturing tea for over three hundred years, so I’m going to guess that they’ve gotten the hang of it.
The Prince of Wales tea is a bit less strong than the English breakfast tea from the same company that I often drink. It is also less strong (by a mile) than the Welsh tea I brought home from Wales. Part of the strength of the tea I brought home, which I should have read on the box is that it’s made specifically for the Welsh water. When I was there I didn’t notice a strength difference, but when I got home it was more than I’d expected. I’ve adjusted to it, but it took a few tries.

The Prince of Wales tea is a lovely black tea that is mild and a bit woody. It is blended from several provinces in China and was originally created in 1921 for THE Prince of Wales at the time who went on to be crowned King Edward VIII. I like it both with and without milk and always with a bit of sugar. It’s my primary choice for the mornings to go along with eggs and toast, a bagel, or the ever more common for me, healthier oatmeal with craisins and granola. I can drink several cups of this a day and it’s also my go-to for a late afternoon cup. It’s good during the autumn and winter, but I have no prejudice – I’m a hot tea drinker year round.