Drinking Tea In Different Settings

Recently my husband and I took a little getaway hiking vacation and rented a cabin in the woods. We love these kinds of vacations and tend to do them about once a year. They are great because we can take things as fast or slow paced as we like and it is wonderful to spend some time going on beautiful scenic hikes and connecting with nature.

One thing I really wanted to do on this trip was spend some time enjoying tea outside. Our cabin had a massive deck with multiple levels and various seating, so I thought I would find some really great little spots to sit and have tea. Unfortunately it did rain off and on while we were there and one day was brutally hot and humid. We did not let this get us down and went with the flow and perfectly timed getting out of the way of a massive downpour rain shower. This did however mean my opportunities for the outdoor tea were a bit limited, but did manage one fantastic session.

One of the afternoons we had decided we were done hiking for the day and were relaxing in the cabin and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to go out and have a calming and beautiful tea session outside. I gathered up my supplies, my travel gong fu set from Tea Thoughts, my thermos from Den’s Tea, a blanket, and a sample pack of sencha from Pugs and Pigs. (Click on the names to go to the websites)

I arranged a little tea area on the deck where I could overlook the lush grassy yard and trees. Birds were singing and some squirrels and chipmunks were around and I sat down to have tea. Using the slats in the decking as my tea tray, I steeped up my first round of Chants Sencha from Pugs and Pigs. The weather was beautiful, the scenery so calming, and when I took that first sip it was magic. Never have I had a moment of tea and setting blend so seamlessly. The sencha was fresh and light, full of green grassy flavors so it was as if I was drinking in the landscape before me. It was delightful and the further I went through my gong fu rounds the more relaxed and transported I was to this amazing tranquility. I lost track of time, I was soaking it all in, but eventually my tea did run out of flavor.

Having tea outdoors can really take your experience to a new level, especially with something like a great quality sencha that blends so well with grass and nature. I think the biggest thing with setting up an outdoor tea session is to not make it too complicated. Brewing vessel, water, tea, cup, and go. This is why I really like bowl brewing for outside, it is simple and all you need is water, bowl, tea. Nothing to time, just pour, drink, refill. This gong fu session I had with my travel gaiwan though was delightful. (For more info on bowl brewing, check out this blog post I did: https://teafueledwriter.com/2021/03/29/lets-talk-bowl-brewing/ )

Connect with tea, connect with nature, and feel how the two play off each other. Tea is nature, remember where it comes from as you drink it and all the hard work that went into making that one handful of tea leaves. Taking the time and small bit of extra effort to fully embrace a tea session and allowing it to recharge you can be a taste of everyday brilliance.

Thanks for reading and taking this journey with me!

Tea Blending Class With Monarch Tea Co

In May I took Monarch Tea Co’s virtual Tea Blending Class, and it was a blast. They offer a few different virtual classes all taking place on Zoom. Recently they added an iced tea and cocktails class to celebrate the warmer months. Tea 101 and Tea and Chocolate are a couple other classes.

For the classes you sign up on their website and reserve your spot in advance. The class sizes are limited so make sure you grab your spot when you’ve decided on a date. Shortly before the class date, you will receive a box full of supplies. For the Tea Blending class, this was a big box chock full of teas, herbs, spices, and other great tea inclusions. You also get a tea tasting wheel, craft paper bags, and fill-able teabags. Katie, the owner of Monarch Tea, also sends you an email with instructions and ideas for how to set up your supplies for the class. You do want to start preparing early so you are all ready to go when the class starts.

Set up for blending

For the blending class, she recommended gathering several bowls and spoons to have all your ingredients laid out in front of you, but there are other options for set up if you do not have that many bowls or space available. You do want one larger bowl and a spoon to do your blending in, and a cup of your favorite tea to sip on while everything gets started. She also suggests gathering any other teas or ingredients that you might already have and want to use along with the ingredients in the kit. I added cardamom, cocoa shells, ginger, and spearmint. I have done some experimenting here and there with making my own blends a cup at a time, so I was very excited to learn more of the theory behind blending.

A little while before the class began, I set up my blending space with all the ingredients and bowls. I got my electric kettle and some extra cups for testing out my blends and made a small pot of Houji-genmaicha and waited for class to start.

At the beginning of the class, Katie did mention that it was fine not to talk if anyone happened to be uncomfortable doing so, it was fine to just watch or comment through the Zoom chat. We began with everyone introducing themselves and saying their favorite type of tea and what they were drinking. Katie kept things moving along at a good pace to maximize our hour and a half of time. We started off learning about the history of tea blending and then moved to some theories for the basics of how you might want to create a blend. This came with a chart and ratios which I enjoyed and thought was a great springboard for knowing what we should do. Of course she gave examples of how you do not have to follow that guide with blending, really it is a lot of test and see what might work.

Then we talked briefly about each of the ingredients that came in our kits and she had us smell each of them as we went along. This was where I think I got the best advice because in smelling them you may be drawn to certain things to start with and you can use the scents to help figure out what might go well together.

The blending portion of the class began and she put on some music while we worked. Katie was there for any questions we had and she gave us some book recommendations on blending.

The smell of the Mango Love tea that was one of our ingredients had been tempting me with its scent throughout the whole class, so I knew I wanted to do something with that first. Its lime scent smelled so delicious as it had been wafting my way by the breeze from the open window. I paired it up with a Sencha base and added a little chamomile and rose to give a floral touch. I mixed them all up and loaded some into one of the teabags and set it to steep as I started work on a second idea.

Though the recommendation was to have one blending bowl, I brought a couple extras, this way I could work on multiple things and keep adjusting my blends as I tasted them. Katie did encourage us to name our blends and share the names if we wanted, but I couldn’t think of anything during the class. Afterwards I came up with Spring Mango for the first blend. Katie also said if we came up with a good blend to share it with the others. After trying my first tea, I decided it needed a bit more flavor so I added more of all of my inclusions, then I typed my blend into the chat to share.

Second Blend

For my second blend, I wanted to do something with rose. Starting with and English Breakfast base, I added a little rose petals and then decided to make it chocolate by adding some cocoa shells. Chocolate and rose sounded like a good combination, but I wondered it it needed a little something more, so I smelled though the ingredients again and landed on cinnamon. I’d heard of some rose and cinnamon blends and I do like cinnamon in my hot chocolate so it sounded like a good fit. Now the trick was to not overpower with cinnamon, so I started small. On trying this blend I decided to go with a bit more cinnamon and cocoa shells. I loved the way it turned out, chocolaty, floral, with a bit of spice, definitely my favorite of the two blends. Spicy Valentine is the name I chose for this one.

Everyone was getting into good blending zones mixing up all sorts of fun ideas, but then our time ran out and we had to wrap up the class. Probably the only thing I would want to change about the class would be to make it longer. It may also be nice to have a bit earlier in the day, because trying caffeinated teas at seven or eight can get you a bit wired. I understand the time thing though to make it at a decent time for several time zones. I was actually the only one in my class from the United States, everyone else was from Canada, which is where Monarch Tea Co is based.

My Blends

I would recommend Monarch Tea Co’s classes to anyone looking to learn more about tea or looking to have some fun with tea. The blending class was very enjoyable and I have heard some rave reviews about the other classes as well. They all come with plenty of tea so you can keep the fun going even after the class ends. It was nice to get to spend some time with people and discuss our shared love of tea.

Thanks for spending some time with me and learning about my tea blending, I hope you have a lovely day!

Cardamom And Rose

Lately I have been quite obsessed with the combination of cardamom and rose. I love how these two flavors work together, the light, pleasant, calming floral with a warm touch of gentle spice.

This obsession was sparked by the Silk Tea Co’s Desert Rose tea. This tea has decaf green tea, cardamom, rose, and lychee, which blend so magically together and create a delicious and relaxing cup with a slightly spiced Moroccan vibe.

After trying this tea I knew I needed more of this combination so went looking to buy some cardamom. Several tea shops sell cardamom pods on their own and so do many grocery stores. It can be a bit pricey but it is worth it. I know I wanted good quality cardamom and I happened to come across a post from Nazanin (@teathoughts) talking about her love for The Chai Box. So I went to check them out because the blend she mentioned was cardamom and rose and she said it was very good.

Taking a closer look, they have several chai blends with all sorts of combinations as well as individual spices you can buy to create your own blends. I bought some of the Hill Station blend (cardamom and rose chai) and a bag of cardamom pods.

Now if you want something that will really wake up your senses, it’s their cardamom, hand picked in India like all of their spices. It has a brilliant green color and the scent of warm citrus and pepper. When you’re making the Hill Station Chai and the blend meets hot water an amazingly intoxicating scent perfumes the whole room. Such a beautiful fragrance and a lovely addition to the tea making experience.

Their blends come with instructions printed on the bag and (at least with the Hill Station) they have directions for both western style brewing and stove top chai with milk. Western brewed with a little honey and a splash of milk, this tea is very good. Citrus notes and a hint of gentle spice from the cardamom blend so well with the soft rose floral. It’s a simple blend, but so fresh and flavorful, I greatly enjoy it.

I tried the stove top recipe as well, this way really perfumes the kitchen with amazing smells. However I did not prefer this tea blend with the recommended amount of milk. By no means was it bad, I just liked it much better with less milk.

Continuing with my cardamom obsession, I broke open one of the pods I got from The Chai Box and mixed that and some rose petals in some white tea to see what would happen. The flavor was fairly light, but did add a nice depth of flavor and interest to the tea. I think next time I would use more cardamom.

I am continuing my experiments with adding cardamom to different teas to make my own blends and will write a recipe post when I come up with something really special to share.

For the longest time I didn’t think I liked cardamom, but now I have discovered I actually love and crave it. Always good to try out things in different ways since you might be surprised by what you like.

Do you like cardamom? What tea inclusions have you been loving lately?

Thanks for joining me, hope you have a lovely day!

Matcha Mini Shaker from Den’s Tea

Recently I bought a neat little tea gadget, the Matcha Mini Shaker from Den’s Tea. This is a unique little product which they designed and have patent pending, to help you make powdered teas (like matcha) quickly, easily, and inexpensively.

Now, I am all for practicing traditional ways of making tea, I love assembling the teaware and slowing down to get into the full ritual of making tea. However, sometimes it is nice to have something to make your tea making easy and fast. The Matcha Mini Shaker is also at a great price point of $2.00, for those new to trying powdered tea it is a much cheaper commitment than having to buy whisk, bowl, sifter, and scoop.

I bought this partly because I wanted to test how well it worked and partly because I was trying out some new kinds of powdered teas for the first time and did not want to commit to buying all the accessories yet. I purchased some of Den’s Tea’s Houjicha Powder and Powdered Benifuki teas to use with the shaker. I adore houjicha (or hojicha) and had a pretty good idea I would like it in powdered form too, but you can never be fully certain. Even though it is called a matcha shaker, I did not get any matcha. I found when I tried matcha before that while I enjoy the taste, the caffeine content makes me feel like I am vibrating and I do not enjoy that sensation.

I have found houjicha powder intriguing though, since houjicha teas are so much lower in caffeine. It also gets to be very tempting to buy some when I keep seeing people posting delicious drinks and baking recipes with houjicha.

Anyways, back to the shaker. I think it works very well and does a great job mixing up the powdered houjicha. You add 1/2 teaspoon of powder and 1.5 ounces of water and shake. Some recipes I have seen do call for 1 tablespoon of powder, in which case you have to repeat the process again, but it is simple and quick. Once you have your little shaker of concentrated tea, you can add it to more water (hot or cold), some kind of milk, or Den’s suggests pouring it over ice cream. Loads of possibilities.

Inside the Shaker

So far, I have made a hot houjicha latte with 2% milk and maple syrup. It was creamy, yummy, and reminded me of hot chocolate. There is a video on my YouTube channel if you would like to watch you can click here. I also made a cold drink with water, chocolate almond milk, and ice. This one was okay, but I think I needed a better ratio and possibly less or no ice.

Houjicha Powder

Lu Ann, over on The Cup of Life Blog has two delicious sounding salted caramel hojicha recipes which I do plan to try soon. Houjicha Co. has several recipes on their site as well including a strawberry one which I would like to try. Be assured more tea experiments are coming.

All in all, so far I really like Den’s Tea’s Matcha Mini Shaker and their Houjicha Powder. Be on the lookout for more houjicha fun.

Thanks for joining me for a bit and I hope you have a lovely day!

Moroccan Mint Tea

It’s always fun discovering a new tea company, especially when you can clearly see the dedication and care they put into the quality of their teas. Serenitea Apothecary was recently put on my radar and while they have a smaller selection, all of their teas are made with organic, high quality ingredients.

I received a sample of their Moroccan Mint tea to try, I had only had one other Moroccan Mint tea before so I was very excited to test out this one. Moroccan Mint teas are blends typically made with a Chinese green tea, usually gunpowder green, and spearmint or peppermint. A simple blend but such a lovely cup of tea when done well. Serenitea Apothecary’s version uses organic gunpowder green tea and peppermint leaf.

The loose tea itself did not have a lot of scent to it, like you would expect from a mint tea. I hot steeped up a small pot first and was very impressed. The tea was so smooth, gentle and relaxing. The flavors were extremely well balanced where neither the green tea nor the mint took any dominating or sharp characteristics. Simply a lovely and soothing pot of tea in which you could clearly tell the quality of the ingredients and the mastery of the blending came into play to make it wonderful.

This tea gave all the indicators for being a delightful summer iced tea so I brewed some more up to chill next.

I steeped up the tea hot, let it cool, and then chilled it in the fridge. Chilled, the tea was very refreshing and would be perfect for a nice drink on a hot day. I think the peppermint comes out a bit more when chilled which gives an extra icy cold effect.

Preference-wise I do think I enjoy the tea better hot, but when chilled it was also a nice, refreshing, and enjoyable drink. Neither version needed any sweetening, the flavors came out beautifully on their own.

I very much enjoyed getting to try out this tea and I am running out quickly so will probably need to order some more soon.

Thanks for joining me, and I hope you have a wonderful day!