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The Deal with Kombucha

Buzz about Kombucha tea has been echoing from all corners of the Internet for the past few weeks. Madonna and Lindsay Lohan have been spotted imbibing the fermented beverage, and “Kombucha” was a trending search term on Google last week.

Lindsay Lohan drinking Kombucha tea

Photo courtesy of comboutea.com

Despite its recent trendiness, Kombucha tea is nothing new. It originated in China over 2,000 years ago, when it was referred to as an “immortal health elixir.” Kombucha is a mass of yeast and bacteria (yum) which is added to tea and allowed to ferment for about 10 days. During the fermentation period, hundreds of compounds — including B vitamins, alcohol and lactic acid — are released.

Kombucha enthusiasts claim that this yeasty-tea bolsters the immune system, boosts energy, aids digestion, prevents cancer, clears skin, increases the shininess of hair, and more. However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence in favor of these claims. In fact, illness and even death have resulted from the consumption of home-brewed Kombucha due to unsanitary and imprecise fermentation conditions.

Personally, I don’t love the idea of a mass of bacteria and yeast in my tea. But I enjoy a nice beer and yogurt of all descriptions, so I think that I shouldn’t let the description scare me away. Since the dangers of drinking Kombucha are limited to home-brewed versions, and the tea (like anything worth buying) is available at shops all over Brooklyn, I think I’ll pick some up this weekend and give it a shot.

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Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Images, Tea for health, Tea news, Tea trends

 

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Tea App for iPhone

I just discovered a nifty little iPhone app called “Tea.” It allows you to catalog your tea stores and monitor your brewing habits so that you can make your perfect cup every time. Each time you brew a cup, you enter the name of the tea, the type of tea, the amount (in bags or ounces of loose tea), the steeping time, and the temperature of the water. Then, a timer begins and chimes when you should stop steeping the tea. Then, post-consumption, you rate the taste of the tea. Over time, you can deduce from your records the conditions necessary to brew the perfect cup of a particular tea.

I do have a minor off-the-bat criticism of the app; I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not measure the temperature of the water in my kettle before pouring it over my tea. However, when using the app, I enter either 212 degrees (boiling, for black teas) or a non-boiling (for green teas) temperature, if not a an exact value.

When discussing Tea with my boyfriend, an aerospace engineer, he came up with an idea that could really elevate the app. If the collected data could be shared among users, the app could create a series of graphs — one for each type of tea — with points that represent individual ideal cups of tea. The x-axis of the graph would correspond to steeping temperature, and the y-axis would correspond to steeping time. Therefore, if a user observed a clustering of points around a particular temperature-time intersection, the user would have an idea that that temperature-time combination makes a great cup of that particular tea.

Tea is available in the iPhone app store for $1.99.

A more in-depth review of Tea can be found here.

Tea app

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Images, Tea culture, Tea recipes, Tea tech

 

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Trial Run: Chinese Restaurant Tea

As a special treat for finishing the bulk of my exams, I decided to make myself steak tips on the grill for dinner. So I made the trip to Tops, where tips were on sale (yes!) and then moved to the international food aisle to pick up some Kikkoman teriyaki sauce to marinate the steak. While I was there, this caught my eye:

Chinese restaurant tea

Image courtesy of amazon.com

I was THRILLED! As I mentioned in my bio, my childhood consumption of black tea from small, handle-less cups at the Golden Bowl Chinese restaurant in Quincy, MA, was instrumental to my growth into a tea aficionado. I had no idea that such a thing existed in tea-bag form, at a chain supermarket, and with such a slap-in-the-face-obvious name!

Naturally, I bought some and brewed a cup right when I got home. I prepared it just like my grandmother had at the long-closed Golden Bowl — sweetened with a little sugar but without milk. It looked and tasted EXACTLY how I remembered it! Mahogany in color with a delicate, peppery flavor.

In response to my find, my mom said, “Now we just have to track down the Golden Bowl’s egg rolls.”

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2012 in Images, Trial Run

 

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Green Tea and Ginger Granita Recipe

Granita is a semi-frozen, slightly granular Sicilian dessert that is similar to sorbet and Italian ice. Daydreaming about this fabulous summery treat is my way of denying the existence of the terrible Syracuse April weather.

I stumbled upon a great green tea and ginger granita recipe, which serves four, on The New York Times site.

Green tea and ginger granita

Photo courtesy of nytimes.com

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger                                                                                                                3 green-tea bags, or 2 tablespoons loose green tea                                                                                             1/4 cup honey, or more to taste                                                                                                                            Juice of 1 lemon

Procedure:

1. Put the ginger in a saucepan with 3 cups of water and bring almost to a boil, add the tea, cover and turn off the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes, then strain and discard the solids. Stir in the honey and lemon juice and taste. You want a fairly sweet mixture, so add more honey if necessary.

2. Pour the mixture into a shallow glass or ceramic pan and freeze. Stir to break up the ice every 30 minutes or so, until the mixture is slushy and crunchy with crystals, about 3 hours total. If the mixture becomes too hard, pulse it once or twice in the food processor to break it up, or put it in the fridge and stir occasionally until it reaches the desired texture. Spoon into small bowls and serve.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Images, Tea foods, Tea recipes

 

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A Great Tea Groupon

I’m always on the lookout for a good deal. I shop the clearance rack, sift through the piles at thrift stores, and am a shark when it comes to eBay.

So, naturally, the proliferation of online coupon sites like Groupon, CoupTessa, and LivingSocial (I’m a member of all three) is absolutely thrilling to me. Even more exciting, however, is when these sites toss something my way that is perfectly in my wheelhouse.

Today, on Syracuse Groupon, there is coupon for a Flowering Tea Gift Set. The set includes a hand-blown glass teapot, a tea infuser, and 12 different kinds of flowering tea for $19. The set typically sells for $35, which means you save 46 percent!

Flowering Tea Set

Flowering teas add an additional sense to the aesthetic experience of drinking tea, and this is a great way to give them a try on the cheap. And just think of the Instagram photos!

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Images, Tea wares

 

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Trial Run: Blood Orange Tea

When I traveled to Italy a few years ago, I picked up a quart of OJ at a market near my rented apartment. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when a deep red juice poured from the carton into my glass. Afraid I’d accidentally purchased grapefruit juice — healthy but not my favorite — I took a hesitant sip. I was in love! The juice, which I soon discovered was blood orange juice, had a richer and less sweet flavor than the OJ we have in the states.

So, when I was prowling the tea aisle at Wegmans, I was thrilled to see that the Eastern Shore Tea Company makes blood orange tea bags.

Blood Orange Tea

And look how cute the package is!

When I began brewing the tea, I was careful not to get my hopes up. I’ve been burned — literally and figuratively — by flavored teas before. You take a sip of wildberry tea expecting this burst of fruity flavor, and all you actually get is a taste of weak supermarket-brand black tea.

I added a bit of milk after steeping the tea for three minutes; I typically don’t sweeten flavored teas. When I took the first sip, I thought this tea fell into the same disappointing pattern I’ve experienced with other flavored teas. But I inhaled after that first sip and, voilà — an explosion of rich, tangy blood orange flavor filled my mouth and nose! Delicious! I can’t wait to try some of the Eastern Shore Tea Company’s other flavored blends.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Images, Trial Run

 

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High Tea at High Cost

A recent article in The Daily Mail, the UK’s second biggest-selling daily newspaper, reported that many English luxury hotels charge sky-high prices for the indulgence of afternoon tea. The Lanesborough Hotel, a five-star in Knightsbridge, charges 85 pounds for high tea ($134.74 American). London’s The Ritz charges patrons 64 pounds ($101.45 American).

As gasp-inducing as these prices may be, the answer for those who want to enjoy this English tradition without breaking the bank may be as simple as “shop around!” When I was abroad in London last year, a few of my lady friends and I decided to go for high tea at The Milestone Hotel, a five-star boutique hotel located at the southwest corner of Kensington Gardens.

On a beautiful April afternoon, we walked along Kensington High Street, clad in sundresses, espadrilles, wide-brimmed hats, and posh sunglasses. We entered The Milestone, and we were led into the tea room:

The Conservatory at The Milestone Hotel

Photo courtesy of milestonehotel.com

Super-chic, no?

We enjoyed pots of tea of our choice, and several three-tiered trays filled with as many scones and finger sandwiches as we could eat. The scones, served with clotted cream, were beyond divine, and the classic cucumber sandwiches refreshed and provided a satisfying crunch.

The above experience, which lasted a few hours, cost each of us 31.50 pounds ($49.93 American), a much more reasonable price than those asked at more-mainstream luxury hotels. Cost notwithstanding, high tea is a uniquely English experience that I encourage all visitors to enjoy.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Images, Tea culture, Tea foods

 

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