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


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


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

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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Q&A with Christian Van Luven, owner of Roji Tea Lounge

Christian Van Luven is the owner of Syracuse’s Roji Tea Lounge. He sat down with The Teatotaler to talk about tea, his business, and why Syracuse is the perfect setting for a tea house.

The Teatotaler: When and why did you open Roji Tea Lounge?

Van Luven: At first we were living in NYC when one of our friends, who was working on Marshall St., suggested we open up a sushi or bubble tea place there. We were big fans of bubble tea in Chinatown at the time, and the idea of opening our own place seemed like the right time and direction for us. After a year of planning, site selection, menu changes, logo, and name, Roji Tea Lounge finally opened its doors in May of 2004.

TT: What is the demographic that patronizes the tea house?

VL: I would say it ranges by the time of day. During the afternoon, it’s a good meet up destination for people downtown, or a place for teachers and students to relax and sit with their laptops. During the weekend nights it becomes an alternative to the bar scene, where many college and high school students can come and socialize while feeding their tea and dessert cravings! Sometimes those days swap, so I guess we have a very broad demographic!

TT: What is your favorite tea? The most popular in the shop?

VL: I am a big green tea fan. I like Houji-cha [a Japanese green tea that is roasted in a porcelain pot over charcoal], as well as Genmai-cha [green tea combined with roasted brown rice]. The most popular in the shop would be Chai, Keemun [a fruity Chinese tea], and Mountain Grape, a flavored Sen-cha blend.

TT: Your mission statement declares that “we are all equal in front of tea.” Could you explain this philosophy further?

VL: This is kind of our interpretation from what Sen no Rikyu, who was heavily influential in Japan on chanoyu (“way of tea”) meant, that regardless of age, sex, political views, or color, tea is meant to be enjoyed by all, and the mind should be at ease when enjoying it! I would also recommend reading, for those who want more of an understanding of what influenced us, to read “The Book of Tea” by Okakura Kakuzo. It really explains what direction we want to go with Roji.

TT: I have an ongoing series of posts in my blog entitled “The Great Debate: Tea vs. ‘Fee.” Do you drink coffee?

VL: I tried coffee, on a regular basis (meaning more than the occasional once every five years or so) for the first time last year. My friend was experimenting with “fire roasting” coffee beans, using maple or oak wood. It actually tasted amazing, but it also gave me the quick highs and a crashing low effect! I have not really touched it since. I don’t know if I’m adapted to drinking it, maybe it’s just not for me, but I still enjoy the smell of it, oddly enough.

TT: How would you describe the physical aesthetic of Roji? What are you trying to accomplish?

VL: Right now we are in between phases. We have a second room that was added three years ago. We have it set up in “tatami” room fashion, and everyone sits on the floor. Our main room is surrounded by couches and small tables. It definitely gives you a relaxing vibe as you enjoy your tea. This year we are trying to work with the city for a grant to rebuild some of our furniture and counter space. Using reclaimed wood pieces, it will give our shop a unique aesthetic as well as complement the tea! I’m hoping that will happen in the fall.

TT: Why does Syracuse need a place like Roji?

VL: As society seems to keep moving at a pace faster than we realize, there are few places where you can come in and drop the worries of the day, even for a short time. We’ve always looked at this as an oasis from the outside, which is where we came up with the name Roji (which means “the pathway that leads you to the tea room”). Over the years, the vibe and crowd may change, but the overall goal has always been to provide excellent service to our customers and provide a comfortable atmosphere to enjoy their tea.

Roji Tea Lounge is located at 108 E. Washington Street, Syracuse, N.Y.


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Trial Run: Green Tea

Believe or not, until this morning I had never drunk hot green tea. I can just imagine all the green tea fanatics out there, aghast that I’d never sampled what they consider to be the best shade of tea leaf.

Let me explain myself. As detailed in earlier posts, my tea drinking habit is one that was passed down matrilineally. My great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother only drank or drink Irish and English teas, which are black teas. I’d tried green iced tea (meh), but never the hot stuff. So when I was at the supermarket yesterday, making my usual rounds of the tea aisle to see what enticed me, I picked up at box of plain-and-simple Salada green tea with lemon.

I fixed myself a cup this morning, being careful to let the water cool a bit after reaching a rolling boil. I also let it steep for only about 3 minutes (I can’t stress enough the importance of following steeping directions — steeping temperature and time profoundly affect both the taste of your tea and the health benefits you receive from it).

Overall, I liked it. I typically take milk (always) and sugar (just a pinch if the tea is strong) in my cuppa, but I drank the green tea au natural. It tastes earthier and a little sharper than black tea, and stronger than the white teas I’ve tried. The aesthetic experience of drinking green tea as opposed to black felt different, but that’s probably just psychological. I’ll try a different green tea next time it strikes my fancy, but for now I’m gonna stick with black.

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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Trial Run


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The Tea Harvest

A mini-photo series on’s PhotoBlog illustrates how tea is harvested by hand in China.

A handful of tea leavesPhoto courtesy of’s PhotoBlog. Carlos Barria / Reuters

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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Images, Tea culture, The business of tea


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