Thursday, July 15, 2010

We've Moved!

Come check out our new (and improved) Steep It Loose blog! Now located on our site, http://theteaspot.com/steep-it-loose/.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pork Loin Brined in Tea

I was given the task to cook for fifteen people this 4th of July weekend. They wanted a gourmet meal in the great outdoors. With only a grill as my friend, I wanted to do something different than the usually burgers and brats. Walking through the meat section of the grocery, I saw a beautiful pork loin that would feed at least 20 people and was on sale. The question was, how was I going to cook it camping? Roasting it was difinately out of the question, since all I had was a grill. Just grilling it was out of the question because I would burn the outside before I cooked the inside. After pondering for a few minutes, I decided I need to brine it tonight so it would cook faster and be tender.

A brine, in cooking, is a process similar to marination in which meat is immersed in a liquid before cooking. Whereas a marination is usually a seasoned, often acidic solution, a brine is a salt water solution.

Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation. The brine surrounding the cells has a higher concentration of salt than the fluid within the cells, but the cell fluid has a higher concentration of other solutes. This leads salt ions to diffuse into the cell, whilst the solutes in the cells cannot diffuse through the cell membranes into the brine. The increased salinity of the cell fluid causes the cell to absorb water from the brine via osmosis. The salt introduced into the cell also denatures its proteins. The proteins coagulate, forming a matrix that traps water molecules and holds them during cooking. This prevents the meat from dehydrating.
In other words, a brine will help breakdown the connective tissue of tough meat, decrease the cooking time, and protect the meat from drying out, keeping it moist and tender.

The basic formula for a brine solution is 1 cup of regular table salt (preferably without iodine) to one gallon of water. While under-brining won't have a negative effect, over-brining can be disastrous. The most basic seasoning that you want to add to your brine is a sweetener (sugar, brown or white, agave, molasses, or maple syrup). As a general rule add 1/2 cup of sweetener per gallon of brine. Make sure you make enough brine to completely submerge the meat.

Being The Tea Spot Chef, I added tea to my brine. Tea is actually an amazing tenderizer. Adding tea to my brine made my pork loin especially moist and juicy. I used our Lapsang Souchong because of it reminds me of camping. Although not my favorite tea to drink, one of my favorites to use as an ingredient because of its smoky aroma and rich flavor.

Pork Loin Brined in Tea:
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup table salt
  • 1/2 cup agave
  • 1/4 cup Lapsang Souchong
  • 3 TBS black peppercorns
  • 1 TBS smoked paprika
  • 1 TBS cayenne pepper
  • 8-10 lb pork loin, cut into 4 segments
  • 1 bunch tarragon, stemmed & chopped (reserve stems for brine)
  • 1 bunch sage, stemmed & chopped (reserve stems for brine)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • twine
  1. In large pitcher, combine all the above ingredients except the pork loin. Stir well to dissolve the salt. Add the stems from the tarragon and sage to the solution.
  2. Place the tarragon and sage leaves in a small bowl and cover with canola oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Butterfly the pork loin. Place the the herb mixture lengthwise across the bottom of the butterflied loin. Roll it like a taquito and every few inches tie it up with a piece of twine. Place the pork in a garbage bag, you will probably want to double bag it so it doesn't leak. Pour the brine over the pork, make sure it is completely covered. Tie the garbage bag, place the pork in a cooler and let brine for at least 12-24 hours. Place ice packs in cooler to 'refrigerate' pork.
  4. Over medium-high heat, grill pork on all sides. Cook until a thermometer reads 135-140 degrees. Take off grill and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Remove twine and cut into slices about 1 in thick.
By the way, make sure your grill is stable enough so if is hit by a ravenous dog, the pork doesn't fall. Thank god, only one of the four pieces fell. 50 points if you can you find the dog lurking around the grill in the above picture?




Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chill Out & Steep it Loose!


Americans consume far too many calories.  And at least a fifth of these calories come from things we drink, according to a March 2006 report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Barry M. Popkin, PhD, Professor of Nutrition, Head of Nutrition Epidemiology, and Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Obesity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The worst offenders are sugar-sweetened soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks, and sugary tea and coffee drinks.
Given Americans’ love affair with iced and chilled beverages, it’s no surprise that iced tea was invented here at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.  A group of tea producers from India had set up a fancy booth to promote their black teas.  The sweltering summer heat and humidity prompted them to serve the tea over ice, just to get people to try it.  In the 100 years since then, consumption of iced tea in the U.S. has grown to over 40 billion cups per year, and it accounts for 80% of the tea consumed in the U.S. today.

A report in this month’s BBC News quotes Public Health Nutritionist Dr. Carrie Ruxton, and colleagues at Kings College London, stating that “Drinking three or more cups of tea a day is as good for you as drinking plenty of water and may even have extra health benefits” – that is, tea’s healthier than water.  Their work, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dispels the common belief that tea dehydrates.  Teas offer antioxidant properties as well, and you always have the option of selecting the caffeine-free herbals.  Rooibos, which isn’t actually a tea at all but a South African plant, has no caffeine, provides plenty of natural flavor, and is quite hydrating, making it a great iced-beverage option.

At The Tea Spot, our message is a simple and powerful one - tea in its freshest form renders incredible flavor, offers unmatched health benefits, supplies the best value per serving, and is eco-friendly.  Iced tea steeped from full-leaf teas is aromatic and flavorful enough to satisfy most palates without adding any sweeteners.  For the past five years, we have striven to change the way loose-leaf tea is perceived and consumed in the home with our STEEPWARE® products, making preparation seamless and delivering individual servings of freshly steeped tea.  Now we’re thinking about offering simple tools to make great-tasting iced teas.  We plan to make it easy to prepare fresh iced teas at home using both hot-brew and cold-brew methods.  Hot brewing is steeping your iced tea the same way you would a pot meant to be served hot.  But if you’re not interested in steeping your tea traditionally, “cold brewing” a pitcher of iced tea is also an option…attractive on a hot summer afternoon.  The process is the same as hot steeping, except that the tea infuser is placed into cold water and left in the refrigerator overnight.

Whatever tea you brew - whether an organic Nilgiri black (my personal favorite), a strawberry-rhubarb flavored green, a bold red rooibos, or a mango-and-passionfruit-flavored black - even if you adjust it to suit some level of sweet tooth with a teaspoon of sugar (at 18 calories) or a splash of lemon, orange, pineapple or cranberry juice - you’re probably not anywhere near the grocery and café “standards” in calorie counts:

0-18 calories home-brewed gourmet iced tea
155 calories in a can of soda
200+ calories in a can of energy drink
280 calories in a 16-ounce bottle of ready-to-drink iced green tea
400 calories in an iced peppermint white chocolate mocha (how many grams of fat, I wonder?!)

So before we go anywhere near discussing the benefits of icing white tea in preparation for bikini season, let’s take the obvious gains first…and do our teeth a big favor in the process.
Steep it loose, and chill out :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chicken Poached in Matcha Green Tea


Matcha
is a powdered green tea. It can be used as an ingredient or made as a tea. With matcha, whole tealeaves are consumed, not just the liquid from the steeped tealeaves, as with other teas. Although Matcha originated by the Tang Dynasty in China (617-907), it was the Zen Buddhists who described the etiquette for tea ceremonies, found in the Rules of Purity for the Chan Monastery, 1103. Although Matcha was created in China, it flourished in Japan, where it is consumed as a daily cultural ritual.

Like all green teas, matcha is credited with providing numerous health benefits. The beauty of matcha is that you can receive the benefit of the whole, high-quality green tea leaf. Comparatively, matcha green tea has a much higher concentration of antioxidants than orange juice or blueberries, two fruit sources well known for their abundance of antioxidant properties.

Matcha has antiviral and antibiotic properties, said to help with digestion by killing harmful bacteria, and even preventing colds and flu. Matcha health benefits include increasing mental alertness with an abundance of vitamin C, plus huge amounts of beta-carotene. Matcha green tea is also known for its ability to provide a meditative, focusing, calming effect on those who consume this remarkable beverage. Studies show that EGCG, the powerful antioxidant in green tea, suppresses the appetite, and aids in the process of turning carbohydrates into energy instead of fat. Matcha is known for its weight loss and fat-burning qualities.

Matcha is a versatile ingredient, popular in beverages such as a green tea latte or green tea smoothie as well as confections, green tea ice cream, and can also be used as a culinary ingredient. It will become a staple.

Below is an easy recipe to open your eyes on how to use it as a culinary ingredient.

Chicken Poached in Matcha, the perfectly easy way to prepare moist, low fat chicken...

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups low sodium chicken broth, or water
  • 1 TBS Matcha
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp red chile flakes
  • 1 bay leaf

Preparation:

In a medium pot, bring chicken broth (or water) to a simmer. Add Matcha to the broth and whisk gently until it dissolves. Add salt, chile flakes, and bay leave. Place chicken breasts in the Matcha broth. Partly cover and gently simmer for 8-10 minutes. Turn off heat completely, and allow chicken to remain in hot water for 15-20 minutes.
Remove chicken and shred with a fork. Reserve the broth. To store, cover shredded chicken with reserved broth to keep the chicken moist and soft.
Serve over a salad for a healthy and light tea-licious meal.
The Tea Spot's Matcha Green Tea is unique in that it’s made from Shizuoka green tea. Shizuoka is a major tea producing region of Japan, known for its incredible sencha teas. Our Matcha tea is also uniquely processed using the SHIMA process (Super Heating In Moisture Atmosphere), a special steaming treatment that uses much higher temperatures than the traditional steaming method, before it is ground into a fine green tea powder.
For more on our Matcha Tea visit theteaspot.com...



Friday, April 30, 2010

Steep up a pot of tea and CUT YOUR STROKE RISK by 21%

According to a study from the UCLA School of Medicine reported in this month's Prevention Magazine, sipping tea may help protect you from a life-threatening stroke. Researchers collected data from 9 studies about 4,400 strokes amongst 195,000 people.  The encouraging trend that they pulled from this huge pool of data was that those people who drank at least 3 cups of tea a day had one-fifth the risk of stroke, compared with those who drank less than one cup of tea a day.  Tea type was not a variable in this study.  So drink up!
Photo: Andrea Doenges, our Regional Sales Manager, sipping her way to heart health at her desk :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Roasted Green Tea Frico toped with Smoked Salmon Tartar

Photo by Fine Cooking

An easy-to-make appetizer to celebrate Earth Day...

Ingredients Roasted Green Tea Frico:

  • 2 cup parmesan, shredded
  • 2 TBS GREEN ROASTED MINT tea, finely grounded


Preparation: Frico, crspy cheese crackers

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix parmesan and green tea in a bowl.
  3. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, sprinkle 2 TBS of cheese mixture in a circle and cook until melted, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Using a spatula remove frico and place over a rolling pin to cool.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Poached BOULDER BLUES Salmon Crostinis

An easy, fun and healthy appetizer to make a party of twenty or two.
Poached BOULDER BLUES Salmon Crostinis

Yields: 12-16 appetizers                 

Cooking with Tea Technique: Poaching


Ingredients:

- 1 whole wheat baguette, 12 -16 crostinis

- 1 lemon, 8 slices 1/4 in thick

- 1 TBS Boulder Blues green tea, loose

- 1 TBS parsley, leaves finely chopped, stems reserved

- 1 TBS tarragon, leaves finely chopped, stems reserved

- 1 shallot, minced

- 1 cup dry white wine

- 1/2 cup water

- 1 lb salmon fillet (1 1/2 in thick), medium diced

- 1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream, low-fat 

- 1 TSP Dijon mustard

- 1/2 lemon, juice & zest

- Salt & Pepper to taste

- Garnish: capers


Preparation:

1. Crostinis: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice baguette (1/4 in thick). Place on baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, salt & pepper. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Reserve.

2. Arrange lemon slices in a single layer at the bottom of a 10 in skillet. Scatter, Boulder Blues, parsley stems, tarragon stems and 1/3 of minced shallot over lemon sliced. Add wine and water.

3. Lay salmon fillets in the skillet, skinned side down, on op of lemon. Set the pan over high heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the sides of the salmon are opaque and thickest part registers 125, about 8 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Using a spatula, transfer salmon and to a paper towel lined plate. Combine crème fraiche, Dijon, lemon juice & zest.

4. To serve: Spread lemon crème fraiche on crostini. Place salmon on top and sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and tarragon leaves.

5. Garnish with capers.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Yo Downtown Boulder ! The Tea Spot's ba-ack...

at the Saturday Farmer's Market that is.  This past weekend was our first showing there, and yes, it was quite clearly a "start", witness the real-time engineering that went into displaying our sign... BUT, the reception was fantastic!  Given that our stand at the Farmer's Market is 1/2 a block from our old retail location, we were greeted by dozens of old customers, who remembered not only our teas, but even ourselves :)  
Bo Olson, a former manager at the downtown Boulder TeaSpot, and continuing to work  with us in Gunbarrel on our e-comm orders and tea blending, is spearheading The Tea Spot's presence at the Boulder Farmer's Market.  He made a classy display of our bulk teas (you can see it in the lower left of the photo).  So nice, in fact, that retailers came up and told us they wanted such displays hanging over our bulk tea offerings.  It was a great conversation starter - people wanted to know the names of all the teas, the types, the origins, the stories behind the blends... and as always, it was fun to talk about the microblending of our loose teas right here in Boulder.  We got to tell our Boulder Locals about the new Farmer's Market pickup option for internet orders, sign interested folks up for our newsletter, and give our samples of our Green Roasted Mint in the chilly morning.
Didn't hurt that it was a gorgeous Spring day and that we have terrific Farmer's Market neighbors... and that the most delicious chai you've every tried, made by Sanctuary Chai, was being served right around the corner in the front part of the Market (in front of BMoCA) and both types (Spicy and Sweet) are made with The Tea Spot's handcrafted loose leaf teas! Happy Day :D

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rob wraps about the Tuffy Steeper

video

Rob Cooke explains why the Tuffy Steeper makes a great tea companion, especially on-the-go...

Anybody else wondering what else he has in his back pocket...???

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Tea Rap! Um wow!

Yeah I can't say much about this except wow and it's hilarious to watch.

It takes a bit of strain at the beginning to realize its about tea, but for 2 minutes, it's worth the watch.