TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

October 22, 2014

Ramblings: Tea time treats

The word tea doesn’t refer only to the leaf or the beverage — sometimes tea refers to a meal. A British working man might come home and ask his wife “What’s for tea?” just as we here in the USA ask “What’s for lunch … or dinner?”

I originally developed this recipe after a trip to Québec and Montréal, where we had — as usual — purchased a fair quantity of their wonderful maple syrup. Two things I’ve always loved are maple syrup and sweet potatoes. When I fix candied sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving I always include maple syrup, and thought there must be other ways to pair up these two complementary flavours.

Another long-time favourite is almond butter. It’s healthful and it tastes so good. I use it as cake filling, in smoothies, and of course slathered on anything in the baked-goods family. Finally the light bulb went on: why not put them all together?

Well, it worked even better than I’d hoped and it has become one of my favourite teatime recipes. Especially when I can use the sweet potatoes from our own garden, which start to mature in mid-October, just in time for Thanksgiving. I’ve served this simple spread with scones, biscuits, crumpets, toast, and even shortbread many times. Perfect paired with a fragrant Darjeeling, or a malty Assam, or perhaps a smooth Ceylon tea.

Sweet potato butter

The first sweet potato we pulled from our garden this year. It weighed a whopping 800g (1.75 lb) — and it was yummy!

Be sure to use the best quality pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B, which is less refined and much more mapley. Almond butter is available at many supermarkets next to the peanut butter; if you can’t find it, try a natural foods store or look online.

You can cook the potatoes by boiling or baking, tho’ I prefer to cut them into cubes, place them into a shallow bowl, cover with a damp paper towel, and nuke for about twelve minutes or until tender.

Serve this yummy treat at your next autumn tea and I almost guarantee you and your guests will smile. Be sure to let me know how you like it!

Sweet potato butter
About 1-1/2 cups

1-1/2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes (about 2 large potatoes)
2 Tablespoons almond butter, unsweetened and unsalted
2 Tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Place the potatoes into a mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients to the mashed sweet potatoes. Mix well by hand, or purée briefly in a blender or food processor for a smoother texture. Serve with biscuits, scones, crumpets, or tea bread. The butter can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about two days, but is best served as soon as possible after preparing. (Tip: Be sure the almond butter is at room temperature before mixing it in.)

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All content Copyright 2014 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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October 8, 2014

Review: A new tea book

I recently received a copy of Modern Tea: A fresh look at an ancient beverage, the new book by Lisa Boalt Richardson, who is best known in the cyberworld as Lisa Knows Tea. As I had gotten out of the habit of blogging for some time it seemed like the perfect opportunity — or perhaps inspiration? — to resume my ruminations on tea and all things related to tea by reviewing this charming little book.

Modern Tea: A fresh look at an ancient beverageYou might think that with all the books about tea already on the market there is nothing new to say on the subject. Well, you would be mistaken. While Modern Tea is chock-full of the usual introductory tea topics — tea origins, types of teas,  how to purchase, steeping and storing recommendations — it also goes well beyond the basics.

For those who are beginning their journey into fine tea — or who you might want to lure into the world of tea! — Modern Tea provides everything they’ll need to know within its 164 pages. Lisa’s breezy writing style draws the reader in, as do the lush photos (by Jenifer Altman). Don’t be fooled by its slimness and casual demeanor, however; there’s good, in-depth content here.

And for those readers who are too cool for school, who know all the basic stuff, there are lots of details about the art of tea tasting, pairing tea with foods, and cooking with tea; on the other end of the process there’s a section on dark teas and tea processing in general, along with historical tidbits.

For me, the highlights of this book are the many personal reminiscences the author shares with us about her travels to tea-origin countries and her experiences in the tea fields and tea factories and tea houses. I’ve pretty much come to accept that it is unlikely that I will ever travel to the tea lands of Taiwan, India, Japan, and Sri Lanka, so these vicarious experiences are about as close as I’m ever going to get — and Lisa’s descriptions are so clearly painted that it really is almost like being there with her.

Whether you’re a tea newby, an old pro, or somewhere in between, you’re sure to find something new and interesting in Modern Tea. Drink up!

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April 10, 2013

Ramblings: A tea quandary

Filed under: exotic tea,friends,tea,tea review,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 2:22 pm
Tags: ,

Dictionary.com defines quandary as “a state of perplexity or uncertainty, especially as to what to do; dilemma.”

If the word can be expanded to define a specific place, well … it’s where I am right now.

teapotI like to sample new teas, and I like to review them, and I think I do a reasonably good job reviewing teas as a consumer — a tea drinker, not a tea taster. Apparently a few tea vendors think so too, and have offered me samples in exchange for reviews. Seems like a fair enough bargain when the teas are good and the reviews are honest.

But what about when the teas aren’t so good?

Well, that’s what’s happened: A new — or at least new to me — tea vendor offered me a few teas to sample and review. While I love the familiar folks I do most of my tea business with, it’s very exciting to find a new source. So I said “Sure,” described my picky preferences, and happily waited for the tea to be delivered.

Unfortunately, once the tea arrived things went downhill rather quickly. The individual packages of tea were not airtight — they were barely sealed. Glassine envelopes with the top folded over twice and then stapled shut does not cut it when it comes to tea. Not only does it not keep the tea fresh nor protect it from damage (what if the shipping package were caught in the rain or dropped in a puddle?), this type of semi-permeable paper does nothing to prevent cross-contamination between the different types of teas. This is a particular problem when at least one of the teas is strongly flavoured — scented with flowers, smoked, or with added flavouring — as was one of the teas in the sampler pack. Even tho’ I had made it very clear that I neither drink nor review these types of teas.

As you might imagine, there were no discrete aromas discernible when I opened the individual envelopes of dry leaf. In fact, there was precious little aroma at all. And needless to say — tho’ I’ll say it anyway — this lack of distinction carried into the cups. Yes, against my better judgment at this point, I steeped up each sample tea (except the flavoured). With all the crazy nasty stuff finding its way into edibles these days it took some effort to ignore the poor packaging and forge ahead with tasting the teas.

The results were predictible: Little aroma, little taste. That’s how it works.

I sent an email note to the vendor, describing effective tea packaging, explaining that under the circumstances I would not review the teas, and offering to review more carefully-packed samples. That was last week, and I still haven’t heard back.

blog-please-no-garbage

I like to sample new teas, but …

Some of you probably want to know who the vendor is so you can avoid doing business with them. I’m not going to tell you because I don’t think it’s fair to the vendor not to give them a heads-up and a second chance. Some of you will argue that before opening a tea business the vendor should have researched proper packaging methods and materials. And you’re right: it’s not like this information is a big ol’ secret. You’ll further argue that I’m not being fair to consumers — you tea drinkers — if I don’t identify the “culprit.”

Maybe that’s true. And that’s my quandary. And I hope you’ll forgive me but I’m still not going to reveal their identity.

I’d like to say this to all tea vendors and potential tea vendors: We who love tea very much want to sample your products, like them, and write glowing reviews so you can grow your business and keep producing wonderful teas.

And this to both tea vendors and tea consumers: If you notice that I haven’t reviewed a particular tea, it could be for many reasons. Perhaps I haven’t sampled it or haven’t gotten around to reviewing it. Maybe the tea didn’t suit my taste. Maybe I have no reason. Or perhaps the tea, or the packaging, or the service, or all of these were simply bad, and I just don’t want to write a negative review because it may affect somebody’s business.

I think I’ve solved my quandary by leaning towards discretion, and hope you agree with that decision. For me, at least, it was the right one.

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All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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