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The Tea Plant Blog

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Skidmore Sips


We at Sip Tea Lounge would like to wish everyone a safe and happy Halloween.  The Fall chill is in the air.  It's an eventful time of year and we have started the season with some wonderful pairing events.

On October 6th we had the pleasure of hosting a pairing for some amazing Skidmore Alumni who live in our area.   During this pairing, five teas were matched with five baked goods from the Sip Tea Lounge kitchen.


The already wonderful pairings were made even better by the company of an amazing group of Skidmore graduates from a wide range of graduating classes.  Sip Tea Lounge is honored to have shared tea with this group.  Thank you for being our guests for this very special event.  We enjoyed sharing tea and stories together.



For those of you who missed it, here is a recap of the menu:


Pairing 1: Genmaicha with Musubi
Originally enjoyed by Japanese peasants because the addition of rice made the tea more affordable, Genmaicha is now a favorite of all tea drinkers. This Genmaicha tea is made from a combination of steamed green Sencha, roasted brown Japanese rice and sorghum which, when popped, resembles popcorn. Brewed, this tea has a comforting aroma with hints of spinach and popped corn. It brews a bright green-yellow liquor.
Musubi (known also as Onigiri) is a delicious Japanese comfort food. Made with sushi rice filled with pickled Umeboshi plum, coated with toasted sesame seeds and wrapped in Nori, Musubi is the perfect partner for Genmaicha tea. Two comforting tastes that pair great together.



Pairing 2: Matcha Tea with Vegan Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cup
Originating in China, this tea was brought to Japan first by Japanese Zen monks who shared it with aristocracy. Made from Tencha leaves of shade-grown tea plants, Matcha powder is whisked into a fluffy froth often used in Japanese tea ceremonies. Popular among the health conscious, Matcha encourages a focused and relaxed mind. Brewed, Matcha makes a thick green paste-like tea.

Sinfully Delicious Vegan Peanut Butter Cups pair well with

Matcha. The creamy texture and sweet taste of the peanut butter cup combines nicely with the bitter Matcha to form a bittersweet symphony of flavors.




Pairing 3: House Spiced Black Chai with Toasted Coconut Brownie
In India,“Chai” means “tea.” A cup of “chai” typically consists of a black tea with milk and sugar. We invite you to share our own artisanal-spiced chai blend. Made with black tea and organic dried ginger, black and white peppercorns, star anise, fennel, cardamom, Ceylon cinnamon, cloves and allspice, this tea will rock your world.
The rich chocolate taste and coconut texture pair well with the big and spicy black chai blend featured here. The strong, yet slight sweetness of the tea brings out the best in the brownie.


Pairing 4: Russian Caravan Tea with Russian Tea Cookie
Russian Caravan is a black tea blend from China with a distinct smoky aroma and flavor. Rising in popularity in the 1700’s, when black tea from Wuyi Mountain in Fujian Province was exported by caravan to the north, this tea became a popular item in Russia. The tea, which picks up aromas very easily, was carried via caravan along the trading routes. Repeatedly exposed to campfires in transit, the tea developed a smoky flavor. Those who tasted it liked the smoky notes and started ordering “smoky tea” from the producers. As a result, the tea was named “Russian Caravan.”
It’s hard to believe such a tiny cookie can have such a big impact. The creamy, nuttiness of this powdered sugar coated Russian Tea Cookie can really pack a punch. That is probably why it pairs so well with the smoky, slightly bitter Russian Caravan Tea. This combination proves the saying that “good things come in small packages.”


Pairing 5: Chamomile Lavender Herbal Tisane with Maple Walnut Bar
Chamomile blended with lavender come together to make a soothing, calming herbal tisane.
Sip Tea Lounge’s Maple Walnut Bar pairs nicely with Chamomile Lavender. The sweet, yet light maple flavor of the bar is enhanced by the elegant Chamomile Lavender Herbal Tisane with its characteristic apple notes.


LOCATION:
SipTea Lounge
286C New york Avenue 
Huntington NY  11743
631-683-5777

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Organic Eats: The Basics

- by Christina Frangione

When you walk into Sip Tea Lounge for the first time, you may hear a staff member proudly proclaim that everything is baked in our kitchen using local and organic ingredients whenever possible.  Some people are thrilled to hear that, while others may brush that information aside, unsure what’s so great about this buzzword “organic.” What makes organic food so special, and what does the word even mean?
Scones made fresh every morning at Sip!
“Organic” farming is nothing new and has been practiced since man first began cultivating the land.  The distinction between “organic” and “inorganic” did not have to be made until farming and food production involved practices so far from what early man did. Some people began to catch on that these practices were not healthy for humans, animals, or the environment as a whole and therefore had to define what “organic” should be.  Practices such as using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, ionizing radiation, sewage sludge, irradiation, or genetic engineering to ward off disease or promote growth are not allowed for organic products in the United States.  Additionally, meat, dairy, and egg products must come from animals that are not given antibiotics or growth hormones (http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/brochure.html).
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) website, the organic label indicates a product that has been produced according to their guidelines which are intended to “integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity” (http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop).

The USDA Organic Seal

What does organic mean for the consumer?  Will eating delicious treats such as scones, cinnamon buns, or pie made with organic ingredients help you lose weight, feel better, or save the polar bears?  Quite simply, just because something is labeled "organic" does not necessarily mean it is healthy.  Eating too many “organic” brownies can have some of the same effects on your body as eating too many non-organic brownies.  You may notice yourself physically feeling better eating organic, but it is not a miracle diet.  You will almost certainly feel better mentally, however, knowing that you have done a small thing to help both your own health, and the health of the environment.  Although the polar bears may not survive simply because of your choice to consume organic products, the collective efforts of those who choose to be conscious of these issues will continue to make a difference in the world. 

(Note: Sip Tea Lounge is not a certified organic facility, nor do we claim to be.)


Suggestions for Further Reading:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cool Down with Cold Tea: How Do You Brew?



As the temperature increases, folks stop by Sip Tea Lounge to cool down.  Some say that drinking hot tea will cool you.  Others like to drink only iced tea in the summer.

There are many ways to make iced tea.  Most people use one of the following methods:

1) Sun Brewing 
2) Brew hot tea first, then pour it over ice
3) Cold Brewing 

Each method has pros and cons.  

At Sip Tea Lounge, we do not brew sun tea.  While this method may be a good way to make delicious iced tea at home, it requires outdoor space and time during the day, when the sun is shining.  Additionally, placing something out in the sun, during such extremely hot weather, may promote the growth of microbes or bacteria so it is very important to be extra cautious when using this method.

Brewing tea leaves hot first is a fast and easy way to make any tea iced.  When there is no time to plan ahead, this method makes the most sense.  The process is simple:

1) Fill a teapot with an infuser with loose tea leaves
2) Pour hot water over the loose tea 
3) Steep the tea for the desired amount of time 
4) Pour the tea over ice  
5) Refrigerate 
6) Serve

When using the above method, some like to use extra tea leaves during the brewing process to make the iced tea result in a stronger brew because the tea may become watered down when poured over ice.  The problem is that the tea can become bitter.  If you have a refined palette, the bitterness is apparent in the finished product.

The third method for making delicious, smooth and refreshing iced tea is to cold brew it:

1) Use a sterilized pitcher or jar (approximately 30 ounces)
2) Place 5-8 teaspoons of tea into the pitcher (the amount depends upon the tea used)
3) Pour cold water over the leaves
4) Refrigerate the brewing tea for somewhere between three and twelve hours (the brewing time depends upon the tea used)
5) Serve

The most difficult part about cold brewing is planning ahead and waiting for the finished product.  Then again, good things come to those who wait.

It is important to note that, the best result will depend upon the particular tea and how long it is brewed.  The best brews come with experience, experimentation and continual tasting.  For example, some tea, such as certain Japanese green teas, get better and sweeter with longer cold brew steep times.  Other teas may be at their best after only four hours.  Once brewed, the tea may also change as the time passes.  

When cold brewing herbal tisanes that do not come from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), it is best to give them a quick rinse in hot water before icing them, particularly if you are harvesting them from your own garden or if they are farm fresh.  The rinsing will help clean dust, dirt and other residue off of the herbs.  We also recommend using organic herbs wherever possible to prevent pesticide residue.  

The rules noted above for brewing iced teas are not hard and fast.  They are just suggestions.  After all, in the end, this is your cup of tea.  No tea is the same, but with anything, practice makes perfect. 
Happy brewing!

SIP TEA LOUNGE
286C New York Avenue
Huntington NY  11743
631-683-5777

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Grit: Who's Got It?

"A determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop." 
Robert Hughes 



A few years ago a friend (insecure epicure) shared with me a New York Times Article about the qualities that have been found in successful individuals. More recently, a TED talk appeared on the same subject. The topic of how to be successful is popular. People will tell you that going to a good school and getting the best grades will help you land the perfect job.  Or they will say that finding the right job is all about who you know. Life is not that easy.  Connections are great, but if you do not step up to the plate, motivate yourself, take initiative and follow through on completing a task from start to finish, eventually you will come to a dead end and lose the opportunity for growth. It takes hard work to move ahead.

Whether the goal is to run one mile or 100 miles, find your dream job or lose five pounds, it can only be achieved with hard work, focus, tenacity and a plan. Ultimately, it is not the one college degree, the single connection or the "smartest" individual that achieves the most success.  One must stay on the entire journey and jump all the hurdles along the way.  The real question is: Do you have the grit to stick to the plan, stay focused and reach your goal?  Will you do whatever it takes.  Will you do it humbly?  Will you do it well, no matter the task?

It is easy to make excuses.  Articulating a goal is hard, but dealing with the hurdles on the road to achieving it is harder.  It is tempting to blame others when the going gets tough, but ask yourself, are you tough enough?  


Can you handle criticism?  Can you take advice?  Can you do something with the feedback you are given and become a better person?  Do you have grit?

In my own life, I am getting better at hearing advice I do not want to hear.  It means taking criticism that can be harsh.  It involves thinking until my brain hurts.  It is a lot like running a race or completing a physical activity. It is hard work, but it feels so good when it is done.   To be honest, I also like the process.  After all, the learning is in the doing.  

Luckily, at the beginning and end of the day, I have tea to help me slow down and reflect.  Tea allows me a moment to look at the big picture, stop and make a plan, refocus, reenergize and keep going strong.  

What is your goal?  What tools do you use to accomplish it?  Do you have grit?  

- Nicole Basso 







Friday, June 21, 2013

TEA...To Help Your Garden Grow


- By India Kushner 

As you know, we're all about being earth-friendly here at Sip, from our ceiling made from barn wood, the VOC-free paint we used to paint our walls, or using only organic products in our food. Did you know that, as a tea drinker, you can be earth-friendly too? When you're finished using your tea leaves, instead of just throwing them in the trash, compost them!
For those who don't know, composting is a completely natural process in which brown and green vegetable matter is kept moist and turned regularly until it starts to "rot" into a dark material full of bacteria, microbes, and fungi, which is loaded with nutrients for your plants!

Not only will composting help your plants grow but it's beneficial to you too. Most of the things in your trash can actually be composted, thus greatly reducing the amount of trash you throw out. You'll also save money on fertilizer.
To get started, you need a container for your scraps. You can make your own or buy one. There are many ways to make your own.  One way that Mother Earth News suggests is to use a 3-to-4 foot wide "cage" of chicken wire, welded wire or plastic garden fencing. Put the cage in a corner of your garden, where the rainwater will carry the compost nutrients to feed your plants. If you have a small garden, put it as close as possible to the garden.  

For more ideas on building your own compost bin, you can also check out Stopwaste.

If you don't want to make your own container, contact your local garden store or search for "compost bins" online to find one that you can order. 

What exactly goes in your compost? In order to fully "rot", compost should contain a good mixture of nitrogen, carbon, moisture and oxygen. This means a combination of green materials (nitrogen) and brown materials (hydrogen). Eartheasy has a good list of things that can go in the compost.
Examples of green materials include:
-vegetable scraps
-grass clippings
-lawn and garden weeds 
-green comfrey leaves
-flowers, cuttings
-coffee grounds
-tea leaves (and certain kinds of tea bags)

Examples of brown materials include:
-leaves
-shrub prunings
-straw or hay
-pine needles (but not evergreen tree needles)
-wood ash
-shredded up newspaper/paper
-corn cobs/stalks
-cut up cardboard
-dryer lint
-sawdust pellets
-wood chips/pellets
Other ingredients include: 
-eggshells 
-garden plants

Never add meat, oily or greasy food/paper (such as cheese), manure from meat-eating animals like dogs and cats, or herbicide-treated grass/clippings.

Some people like to use a ratio of 2 or 3 times as much browns as greens, while others prefer equal amounts of both. Whatever your formula, make sure your compost isn't too wet or too dry. If it's too wet, add more dry material like leaves. If it's too wet, water it a little with a watering can.

Put a lid on the mixture of materials and take time to turn the compost pile with a gardening fork regularly. To turn the compost, just stick the fork in and mix up the contents. It will take a couple of months to have mature compost, but turning more often will help to speed up the cycle.

It's that simple! 

To make it even easier, keep a small container in your kitchen for food scraps. Gardeners Edge has a ceramic pail with charcoal filters.  It looks nice and the filters help prevent odors in the kitchen. It also comes in stainless steel or bamboo.

To learn more about composting, also visit:
Mother Earth News (see the video for "The Perfect Compost Recipe.") 

What's that?  No room for a compost bin? Grab a friend who already has one and make a compost tea bag! No, this is not a tea that you drink.  This is a drink for your garden!  Compost tea is a liquid fertilizer made by soaking compost in water.  

This recipe for the perfect compost "brew" comes from "The Essential Gardening Encyclopedia" written by Bonnie Lee Appleton:

1) Put a shovelful of compost into a bag made of cheesecloth or burlap.

2)Tie the bag closed and suspend it into a garbage can, bucket, or watering can filled with water.

3) Keep it covered for a few days.

4) Once it has steeped, use the liquid to drench the soil at the base of plants you want to fertilize. It's a particularly good way to fertilize container-grown plants. Or, dilute the liquid with water until it is the color of weak tea, then spray it on plant leaves. Because the nutrients are dissolved in water, the plants can take them up immediately for a quick burst of energy.

5) Reuse the "tea bag" several times, then add the soaked compost to the garden.
Now that you have your very own compost, sit back, drink a big cup of REAL tea, and watch your garden flourish.

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Great Father's Day Gift Ideas!

Father's Day is Sunday, June 16th. Not sure what to get dad? Here are some suggestions from Sip Tea Lounge:


Assam. Dad likes to brew something, but it ain’t coffee?
Who Needs Coffee?
If dad is switching from coffee to tea, or if he’s been searching for a strong, smooth, full-bodied black tea with a rich flavor then Assam tea, from Northern India, is the the one.  Since this tea can really show its strength, it is a great choice for breakfast. A dash of honey or a splash of milk will make a nice complement.  But, since we’re purists, we suggest trying it black first.  Sip Tea Lounge has a few Assam Teas.  If you’re trying to do your best for dad, you’ll get an A+ for Assam.

If you’re bringing dad to Sip for this tea...
Assam pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s Cinnamon Buns and Maple Walnut Bars.

Darjeeling.  Is your dad a sharp cookie? 
So Distinguished.
The fine leaves of a top grade, smooth 1st Flush Darjeeling tea have hints of spice and fruit.  Sip Tea Lounge has several estate Darjeeling teas.  All are perfect for the dad who likes the best of everything.

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea:
Darjeeling pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s Crumpets, Scones and Ginger Bars.

Genmaicha. Give him breakfast in bed.
Get Comfortable.
A delicious Japanese tea made from a combination of steamed green Sencha, roasted brown Japanese rice and sorghum which, when popped, resembles popcorn.  This tea makes a wonderful breakfast beverage or the perfect addition to a savory rice dish.  Because this tea has a good amount of caffeine, it is also a great choice for a quick-pick-me-up.  When brewed, this tea has a comforting aroma with hints of spinach and popped corn.  It brews a bright green-yellow liquor.  Originally enjoyed by Japanese peasants because the addition of rice made the tea more affordable, Genmaicha is now a favorite of so many tea drinkers. Could it be dad's favorite?

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea...
Genmaicha is delicious with Sip Tea Lounge’s savory Musubi.  It also goes well with the sweet, powdered sugar Russian Tea Cookies. Bring dad in to try some.

Gunpowder. Think all men like guns? What they really like is Gunpowder Tea.
Pack a Punch.
First time green tea drinkers and those looking for a tea that packs a punch should give this a try.  A full-bodied green tea from China, Gunpowder has slight hints of smoke.  Because some Gunpowder green tea is visually similar to English gunpowder pellets, some say that is how the tea got named.  The small, tightly rolled, shiny pellets are evidence of this Gunpowder Green Tea’s high quality.  This tea brews a light green liquor. Guys like Gunpowder.

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea...
Gunpowder pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s sweet or savory Scones.

Houjicha. Ground your dad.
Be Grounded.
Made from the twigs, stems and veins of the Camellia sinensis plant (the tea plant), this low caffeine green tea has a deliciously sweet, nutty aroma and earthy, comforting taste.  Houjicha is a unique green tea because the brown color and twig and stem appearance may make it seem like a black tea.  This tea is perfect for any time of day, but since it’s lower in caffeine, it is a good late afternoon and evening choice.  Houjicha brews a brown liquor. You'll have dad thanking you for grounding him. Go figure!

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea...
Houjicha pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s Apple Galettes.

Pu Er Tea: Make history with dad.
Travel the Tea Horse Road.
Whether bing, cubes, bricks, tuocha, gourds or other shapes, Pu Er tea is made from the broad leaf tea plants from China’s Yunnan Provence.  Pu Er can be either “Sheng” (“Raw”) or “Shu” (“Cooked”.)  The flavor profile will differ depending upon which one you select.  

Sip Tea Lounge serves both Sheng and Shu Pu Er.  

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea...
Sheng pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s Ginger Bars.  Shu Pu Er pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s sweet or savory Scones.

Russian Caravan: Dad likes camping? 
Light My Fire.
This black tea blend from China has a distinct smoky aroma and flavor.  Rising in popularity in the 1700’s when black tea from Wuyi Mountain in Fujian Province was exported by caravan to the north, this tea became a popular item in Russia.  The tea, which picks up aromas very easily, was carried via caravan along the trading routes.  Repeatedly exposed to campfires in transit, the tea developed a smoky flavor.  Those who tasted it liked the smoky notes and started ordering “smoky tea” from the producers.  As a result, the tea was named “Russian Caravan.” Bring the campfire to dad.

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea...
Russian Caravan pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s Turtle Cheesecake Bars, Cinnamon Buns and Lemon Bars.

Hawaii White Tea. For a dad who likes to ride the waves.
Hang 10.
This very special white tea from The Big Island of Hawaii is perfect hot or iced.  Long leaves mixed with downy buds produce a yellow-green liquor with hints of flowers and fruit.  Meant to be savored, this made-in-the-USA tea is lovely, beautiful and delicate. No man can say no to that!  It brews a light green-yellow cup. Let dad relax.

If you bring dad to Sip for this tea:
Hawaii White Tea pairs well with Sip Tea Lounge’s Maple Walnut Bars.


If you're not sure what dad likes, you can always purchase a Sip Tea Lounge Gift Card! Or, contact us and we'll help you make a great gift bag to surprise dad on Father's Day.  Oh yeah, the tea is also available to buy by the ounce.  To see more teas, visit our retail website too, www.theteaplant.com


Sip Tea Lounge
286C New york Avenue
Huntington NY  11743
631-683-5777

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fathers of Tea

In celebration of Father's Day on Sunday, June 16th (this coming weekend), we want to share some highlights about a few of the important men who helped to shape the history of tea.  Tea has a very long history.  Thousands of years long.  Many individuals have helped to build that history.  This post is only meant to highlight a few.  If you're interested in learning more, you can always take the Sip Tea Lounge Tea 101 Class, "Enjoying Tea."  In the meantime, enjoy this post, which is written in the spirit of Father's Day.

Shen Nung:
Legend has it that the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung is responsible for taking the first sip of tea in 2737 B.C. During Shen Nung's time, it was common to have spring water boiling outdoors, in a vessel, over a fire.  The story goes that Shen Nung was outside taking a nap while some water was boiling nearby. A breeze blew a few leaves from a tree into the hot water.  The Emperor smelled the brew that was created and tasted the liquid. As he drank, he decided that he wanted to gather additional leaves so that he could brew more tea.  The tree from which the leaves came was what is now known as the Camellia sinensis (the tea plant).

The above story is thought to be a legend because the Camellia sinensis was discovered much later (206-220 A.D.).  It is possible, however, that Shen Nung experimented with tea leaves given that he worked with medicinal plants, was knowledgeable about agriculture and agricultural tools, and helped educate others on the subject.

Lu Yu:
Lu Yu lived from the mid 8th to the early 9th Century A.D.  It is said that this very influential Chinese figure in the history of tea was abandoned by his parents and raised by monks.   One of the monks taught Lu Yu how to grow, pick and prepare tea.  Lu Yu became a literary scholar and eventually wrote Cha Jing (The Classic of Tea), which became the first book about tea.

Bodhidharma/Siddhartha:
There are several versions of the story of Siddhartha and the cultivation of tea.  This one is among the most colorful.  In the 6th Century A.D., Siddhartha, a prince from India who became a monk, embarked upon a journey from India to China to spread Buddhism.   Meditation was an integral part of Siddhartha's journey. Although Siddhartha promised never to fall asleep during his years of self-imposed meditation, legend has it that he couldn't stay awake.  Upon falling asleep he is said to have dreamt about all the women he ever loved.  Furious at himself for sleeping, he tore his eyelids off and buried them deep into the ground, next to the tree where he was resting.  He left again to preach Buddhism.  Upon his return to the tree months later, Siddhartha found that his eyelids had rooted and generated a bush.  He discovered that the leaves of this bush kept him aware and awake.  He told his followers about the plant.  They gathered seeds and cultivated the tree in other locations nearby.  As it turned out, the tree was the tea plant.

Esai:
Esai, a Japanese monk who went to China in 1187 to study Chan Buddhism (known as Zen Buddhism in Japan), is said to have returned to Japan with tea seeds to plant in Uji.  Esai is credited with writing the first book about tea in Japan.  A book about cultivating and using tea for medicinal purposes, Kitcha Yojoki  (also known as Maintaining Health by Drinking Tea and The Book of Tea Sanitation) was published in 1211.

Sen-no Rikyu:
Many important figures came before Sen-no Rikyu in Japan.  They paved the way for him to develop what is now called Chanoyu or The Way of Tea.  This tea master formalized the tea ceremony and created standards and traditions that are still followed today during the Japanese tea ceremony.

Sip Tea Lounge
286C New York Avenue
Huntington NY  11743
631-683-5777
www.siptealoungeny.com
www.theteaplant.com


 

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