Freshly Made Herbal Infusions…at The Kitchen in Sacramento, California

Well, that terrible cough / cold and flu virus finally made it around to our house.  I was not immune…was down and out for over 10 days…but my bright spot is that it hit me on the drive home from our relaxing, beautiful 10 day vacation.  One in which there were several delightful tea moments.

The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento is a spectacular dining event – dinner is held in an open, appealing environment with a demonstration kitchen in the center of the room.  We experienced this destination point dinner last year and were wildly impressed and throughly enjoyed the entire scene. I will post about their seriously gorgeous foods later. The fresh, fragrant, flavorful, ingeniously combined, unique ingredients and preparations we were exposed to were stunning.  However, I missed ordering their fresh herbal infusion (as I am not usually an herbal tisane fan, I opted for their loose leaf teas).  Well, my darling husband decided I should try their freshly cut and prepared herbal tisanes…so he took me back there this year for our anniversary as a nice surprise.  Interestingly, the dining experience was as exciting as last year, the food even more inventive and delicious with their fine new chef, David Chavez and I left thinking we will surely get back to The Kitchen every year!  It is awesome! And they accommodate any dietary restriction, happily, and with creative, flavorful adjustments.   Below are photos of our  fresh herbal tisanes, infused table side…they were delicious and made me rethink what an herbal infusion can be.  I ordered the “soothing” with rosemary, mint, ginger, and orange zest…it was just as named…soothing. And it was an excellent way to end this incredible meal.  I plan to make my own fresh infusions as my herbs perk up a bit in my garden this spring.

Baskets of fresh herbs, cut to order, infused in iron tetsubin pots...just delicious

Baskets of fresh herbs, cut to order, infused in iron tetsubin pots…just delicious

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Drink Tea…and Tisanes (herbals)  It’s good for you!

Samovar Tea Lounge…San Francisco Here I Come

The February issue of Food And Wine Magazine had a beautiful article about the modern teahouse.  Titled, Time For Tea, by Megan Krigbaum, she writes; “Spectacular new imports have helped create a tea obsession on par with the cult of coffee.  Here’s the latest news on the antioxidant rich drink.”  We are introduced to several beautiful tea shops, tea ware, and recipes.  In a few days, I am heading up to San Francisco…and am definitely going to spend time at Samovar Tea Lounges she writes about.  They look to be my idea of THE modern tea lounge…ones that I wish existed near our home.  Below are photos from their website…I will be taking my own and sharing with you soon, along with a bit of feedback as to which teas hit the mark for me and which pairings with foods were memorable.  In looking at their International tea time menus…they are reminiscent of how I laid out Tea With Betty (my tea manual)…seems what inspired me to write the book has, at last, come into existence in Northern California…

 

Samovar Tea Lounge...there are three locations...I plan to hit all of them when in San Francisco...

Samovar Tea Lounge…there are three locations…I plan to hit all of them when in San Francisco…

 

Various photos from Samovar Tea Lounge locations in the Bay area...can't wait to visit them all

Various photos from Samovar Tea Lounge locations in the Bay area…can’t wait to visit them all

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Reviewing these tea houses ought to be great fun…and they look to be so healthy too…

 

Gratitude…Reflected Upon Over A Cup of Tea (Best of 2014)

As we launch into 2015, I am grateful for a multitude of things, many of which I will continue to embrace and indulge further as we enter the new year.   I am so appreciative of … the support of my awesome family;  inspirational meetings with my hype girl (Hilary);  improving my downward dog thanks to my sister and Megan increasing my mindfulness through yoga;  the nerve to dance like a fool to Adam Levine’s, Map, and Taylor Swift’s, Shake It Off,  as a painless way to exercise;  the arrival this year of four gorgeous, bouncing baby boys into our family; and the “never taken for granted” gift of health which allows me to do any of these things.  And of course…I appreciate the comfort and joy of my daily tea ritual…which is always healthy, tasty, interesting, and motivating.   While restrictions in diets abound, particularly as we age, quality teas afford me the opportunity to explore and imbibe in an unrestricted manner.  There is a tea for any feeling, season, occasion, and need.  It’s versatility and breadth of variety continues to astound and fascinate me.

2014 brought several unique tea experiences my way.  I chose some of my favorites to reflect upon …below…

Beginning with the end in mind–at the end of 2013, we enjoyed trying the Darjeeling Tea Martini at the St. Regis “Tea and Tinis” event.   It impressed me enough that I tried making my own recently with my good friend A. — the champagne of teas with vodka…very tasty.

Darjeeling tea martini at "tea and tinis" end of 2013

Darjeeling tea martini at “tea and tinis” end of 2013

Then we were wowed last February while in Sacramento with the seriously spectacular eating and drinking experience at The Kitchen Restaurant ...while I enjoyed a lovely oolong served in a tetsubin iron pot…I later wished I had known of their fresh herbal tea preparation.  I would have opted for it.  They cut the fresh herbs and infuse them right in front of you . And while I am not usually an herbal infusion fan, this one looked to be special…guess we will have to go back 🙂 )

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The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side -- to your liking ---

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side — to your liking —

For our book group, I made my own stunning marbled tea eggs (with yolks perfectly centered by moving the egg slowing through the boiling water the first few minutes of cooking).  These made for a tasty small bite sandwich made with my angel biscuit (from a Martha Stewart Living recipe), served with a jasmine pearl tea…

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled tea eggs...served within an angel biscuit with mayonnaise...a tasty two bite sandwich...love the fragrant aromas from the eggs soaking in Chinese black tea, star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon stick

Marbled tea eggs…served within an angel biscuit with mayonnaise…a tasty two bite sandwich…love the fragrant aromas from the eggs soaking in Chinese black tea, star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon stick

In May, we were thrilled with the tea shops we explored on our trip to Portland, Oregon…what a great tea city.  Steven Smith Teas was an exceptional, contemporary, quality tea experience. My husband and nephew loved his teas, his tasting, and his packaging.  Of course, he should know what he is doing…as he began with Stash teas, created Tazo and sold it to Starbucks and now is focused on his own brand.

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Steven Smith Tea Room...the best tasting ever.

Steven Smith Tea Room…the best tasting ever.

We then came on an excellent tea shop much closer to us, in Del Mar, Ca…called Leaf and Kettle. Their tasting was performed in darling little tasting cups, and the way they used a martini shaker to prepare their iced tea inspired me to get our own shaker out and now is the preferred way for us to make the coldest, freshest iced tea.

Leaf & Kettle Tea Shop...Beautiful, contemporary, over 100 teas waiting for you to taste...well, maybe just three at a time...excellent and knowledgeable staff too.

Leaf & Kettle Tea Shop…Beautiful, contemporary, over 100 teas waiting for you to taste…well, maybe just three at a time…excellent and knowledgeable staff too.

 

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We tasted and purchased several teas.  My favorite was No. 49 Iron Goddess Reserve Oolong...we also took home a fruity tisane I would be infusing for an  iced tea tasting class...it was called Island Tradewinds - a blend of coconut, kiwi and ripe cherries.  Light and refreshing...

We tasted and purchased several teas. My favorite was No. 49 Iron Goddess Reserve Oolong…we also took home a fruity tisane I would be infusing for an iced tea tasting class…it was called Island Tradewinds – a blend of coconut, kiwi and ripe cherries. Light and refreshing…

Leaf & Kettle tasting using a gaiwan lidded cup and tiny tasting bowls made for a special experience

Leaf & Kettle tasting using a gaiwan lidded cup and tiny tasting bowls made for a special experience

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I then re-discovered a favorite shop in Irvine…the first contemporary tea shop I came upon about 10 years ago – Cha for Tea...still making excellent infused tea to order.

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My new tea ware from Laguna Beach’s Spice Merchants is functional and beautiful…and I enjoyed doing a tea 101 class there in September…

Tea 101 ... ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach...an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

Tea 101 … ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach…an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

 

Now…wonder what’s in store for 2015?  I have a few ideas and look forward to sharing my finds and experiences with you.  And remember…Drink Tea…it’s good for you!!

Happy New Year!

Your Entire Life Leads You To The Next Step…

I found this quote scribbled on a pad I pulled out of an old box of papers I had stashed away some time ago…I like it. These kind of sayings inspire me.  The Natasha Bedingfield song, “Unwritten,” touches me too…she writes…

“Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten”

A few months ago I ran into a former work associate/friend – this incidental “run in” at a Cinco de Mayo taco party on the bluff in Dana Point led to my life’s next step…and, you may have noticed, has distracted me a bit from posting here about my favorite tea and food rituals 🙁 .

Ironically, while I got the opportunity to take on a job I’ve wanted to do for a long time…teaching part time at a wonderful university… this experience also led me back to the tea shop that first got me excited about what I call – the contemporary tea shop  – Cha For Tea in Irvine.  On my first day teaching, I had a long break between classes and sought out Cha For Tea…hoping it was still in the same location.  It had been ten years since my first visit to their tea bar. Back then, when the tea barista handed you your cup of tea, he said, “if this needs any kind of adjustment, let me know, we’ll make it to your liking”.  Well, I found them.  Not surprisingly, they were humming with business…they really focus on preparing your great cup of tea.  Your tea choice is steeped in front of you with a timer in your individual infuser. Thrilled that I re-discovered this fabulous tea bar, I ordered a brew.  When the tea maker handed me my cup, she said,  “if this needs any kind of adjustment, let me know…bring it right back to me”.  I had to smile, how cool.  Awesome!  For me…there is great comfort in ritual.  I love my tea rituals – and to tie it to fulfilling one of my life dreams made it even more special.

Cha for tea…check them out.

Cha For Tea, Irvine...your tea steeped to order in an infuser...adjusted to meet your taste...

Cha For Tea, Irvine…your tea steeped to order in an infuser…adjusted to meet your taste…

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Cha For Tea has three locations...

Cha For Tea has three locations…and offers tasty food to eat in or take out

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Infusers and other tea gear

Infusers and other tea gear

Tea 101… Practice Makes for YOUR Perfect Cup!

Last week we held an intimate class called Tea 101 at the fascinating, old-world styled spice / tea shop in Laguna Beach called Spice Merchants.  I posted about them last week here.  I hadn’t put on an “intro to tea” class in awhile; therefore, while pulling the materials together for the class, I was reminded of just how simple preparing a great cup of tea can be, and yet, how easily it can go all wrong.  Below are a few photos of our class set-up at Spice Merchants.  Our students were engaging and really interested in learning more about tea.  We had fun while tasting four different pure teas from the shelves of Spice Merchants, paired with a few tasty food bites.  Below are my tea making tips…it’s almost as easy as boiling water…a little practice will get you the results you desire.

Tea 101 ... ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach...an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

Tea 101 … ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach…an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

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In Tea With Betty, my tea manual, I include details of what key ingredients are needed to make a good cup of tea (there are 4)…along with steps about how to accomplish this fete :-).   While preparing a great cup of tea to your taste should be as easy as boiling water and tossing in some tea leaves….it’s often not…there are questions such as … what type of water to use? And at what temperature for which tea?  What type of tea to  use? Just how much tea for how much water?  And how long should the tea leaves sit on the water? Then, how do you effectively get the leaves off the water?  And finally, when do you add things such as milk (for black tea only plleeease!) …all these considerations go into the simple process of preparing a great cup of tea.  It sometimes feels like all the stars need to be aligned for the resulting brew to come out just the way you want it. Whew.

However, it is REALLY simple.  Here’s what you need.

1).  Good, clean, fresh spring or filtered water.  Tap water may have chlorine or other minerals which can distort or cover the lovely flavor of your delicate tea leaf as it exudes it’s liquor.

2). Use quality, leaf teas… tea leaves (not tea dust). I am careful to know where my tea leaves originated from…I primarily use teas from Harney & Sons, Mighty Leaf Teas, Adagio Teas, Tea Forte, Numi Organic Teas, Peet’s Teas, Steven Smith, Tazo, and a few others.  Spice Merchants teas are sourced primarily from these established tea purveyors.  It matters where your tea leaves come from…you are dousing them in water and ingesting the liquor these leaves leave behind…I want to know if these leaves are from a farm using sustainable practices and fair trade methods.

Variety of leaf teas on display

Variety of leaf teas on display – whole leaves, no tea “dust”…

Quantity of leaves to water ratio is where you will want to “test things out a bit to meet your preferred taste”; however, a rounded teaspoon per 8 ounce of fresh water is the place to start.

3). Water temperature makes a difference and varies depending of the type of tea you are brewing…just to boiling 212 degrees for black teas.  Greens and white teas scorch at this temperature, so go lower with these tea types (160 – 190 degrees).  Don’t boil your water to death, the oxygen in the water as it is coming to temp assists in releasing all the excellent flavor from your tea leaves as you pour the water over the leaves.

4) Brewing time matters.  Do not steep your tea longer than recommended or it will taste bitter.  The reason many Americans say they don’t enjoy tea is that they have experience leaf teas that have sat on the water too long and gotten astringent…not a pleasant thing to consume at that point.  Remove the tea (liquor exuded from the steeping leaves) as soon as they are done steeping.  Pour the tea into another warmed pot to serve or into your awaiting cup.

That’s it…not too difficult.  And practice a bit with a few steepings to determine what your favorite taste is…in the end, it is all about what you prefer.  Practice does make the perfect cup of tea for YOU!

 

 

 

 

What’s Been Going On? Relaxing, Reading, & Drinking Tea (of course)…

The past month just flew by for me… so, while my posts are normally singularly focused on a specific topic…this one will be a “mish-mosh” of sharing and catching up…and yes, we will end up with some tea talk too.

What’s been going on? Relaxing on the beach, reading food history books, and consuming plenty of tea…

Life's A Beach...in Carlsbad Ca. this summer...my spot is the one on the far left...

Life’s A Beach…in Carlsbad Ca. this summer…my spot is the one on the far left…

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We just returned from our annual family vacation to the beach in North San Diego County.  It’s just sooooo enjoyable having sustained time with the family. This was our tenth year with lots of sun, sand, boogie boarding, Uno Mod ( the new favorite game for us), and Auntie V. bought the boys their own Monopoly game.  Each morning, just a short walk from our condo, my favorite French pressed tea latte from It’s A Grind, the local’s coffee shop, was waiting for me.

My French Press Latte...ready to be "plunged" by one of my grandsons (they liked pushing down the leaves with the press button).  This is a comfortable, cool, local coffee / tea shop...lots of locals...we are locals for one week a year :-)

My French Press Latte…ready to be “plunged” by one of my grandsons (they liked pushing down the leaves with the press button). This is a comfortable, cool, local coffee / tea shop…lots of locals…we are locals for one week a year 🙂

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On the literary front…I’ve been fully engaged and enlightened by reading two books on the history of food.  They are literally changing my view of eating…both books were purchased from the famous, city-block sized Powell’s Books from our Portland trip last spring.  Am so glad that I have the actual books (not e-book format) so I can go back and forth and easily re-read portions.  Check these out!  The question of “what’s for dinner?” will never be the same (or simple) after finishing these well-crafted and researched books.

Outstanding food books...Reading Empires of Food is truly enlightening as the authors chronicle the fate of people and societies for the past 12,000 years through foods they grew, hunted, traded, and ate...and offers devastating insights as to what's to come... Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, a James Beard award winning book, is engrossing and makes you think about the politics, perils and pleasures of eating...both make the question "what's for dinner" not such a simple answer ...

Outstanding food books…Reading Empires of Food is truly enlightening as the authors chronicle the fate of people and societies for the past 12,000 years through foods they grew, hunted, traded, and ate…and offers devastating insights as to what’s to come… Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, a James Beard award winning book, is engrossing and makes you think about the politics, perils and pleasures of eating…both make the question “what’s for dinner” not such a simple answer …

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A gift from a friend…sometimes, friends surprise you with their thoughtfulness…as my exercise buddy did last month.  She knows I love tea, and she loves Tea With Betty, so when she and her husband were downsizing, they  decided that this beautiful Chinese tea set should come to me.  I am looking forward to serving tea from it and inviting her over…a dim sum tea with some of our mutual friends…when the weather cools a bit.

I was handed this beautiful, somewhat mysterious looking, Chinese box...

I was handed this beautiful, somewhat mysterious looking, Chinese box…

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I was handed this beautiful, somewhat mysterious Chinese box...lifting the lid exposed this stunning tea set...finely painted with a story I will attempt to figure out on the pot and cups...each are meticulously and finely detailed...the cups are double walled so easy to handle...just lovely.

Lifting the lid exposed this stunning tea set…finely painted with a story I will attempt to figure out on the pot and cups…each are meticulously and finely detailed…the cups are double walled so easy to handle…just lovely.

 

Lastly, exciting news? Tea Classes are coming.  I will be teaching Tea 101 classes at the Spice Merchants in Laguna Beach in October.  Next week I will share  information on Spice Merchants.  We plan to do several tea classes – specific to various tea types, countries of origin and brewing methods.  Watch for the details coming soon!