Friday, May 29, 2009

Probably not your cup of tea...

Lately, I’ve wondered more than once about what is Tea Tree Oil? There are spray bottles standing around the yoga studio where I go with water mixed with this stuff, and I always spray some on my beloved purple yoga mat after every class, assuming that I’m doing it some good.

As it turns out, Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil obtained by steam distillation of the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, a plant native to Australia. It is no relative of the tea plant. Not even close! According to the American Cancer Society: "Tea tree oil is toxic when swallowed. It has been reported to cause drowsiness, confusion, hallucinations, coma, unsteadiness, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach upset, blood cell abnormalities, and severe rashes. Tea tree oil may cause hearing loss when used in the ears. It should be kept away from pets and children." Great… so why am I putting this stuff on my yoga mat?

Tea tree oil contains terpenoids, used as topical antibacterial and antifungal lotions in a range of products including antiseptics, deodorants, shampoos, and soaps. Historically, the leaves were used as a substitute for tea, which is how tea tree oil got its name. Tea tree has a long history of traditional use. Australian aboriginals used tea tree leaves for healing skin cuts, burns, and infections by crushing the leaves and applying them to the affected area. Do not confuse Tea Tree Oil with tea oil, the sweet seasoning and cooking oil from pressed seeds of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) or the tea oil plant (Camellia oleifera).

So there. You can now safely file this under useless random information…but next time you see some Tea Tree Oil, don’t be tempted to take a swig!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Coffee: The Gateway Drink?

I think coffee needs to try a little harder to be the gateway drink to tea. As it stands now, the gateway is staying shut most of the time. Somehow the muddy waters of the coffee bean act as dragnet, never letting loose those who dare enter its lair. How else do you explain the answer to the question “Are you a tea drinker?” The most common reply: “No. I drink coffee.”


C’mon Coffee, let some of them pass. You opened the gate for me. I still drink 16 delicious ounces of you every morning. I would have never done it without knowing and loving you first, but now I replace my second and third cups of the day with tea. The hair on my arms thanks me. So does the bottom of my desk and top of my knee. You snag thousands of new guzzlers every day. Haven’t you reached your limit yet? Wouldn’t it feel great to purge some of the bloat and let a few of your congregation discover the world of tea? It’s time to grease up the hinges.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Simply Unbelievable- My marathon...an incredible adventure.


Two weeks ago I posted a blog talking about my marathon preparation and even found out how tea benefits athletes. Today I am going follow up with that post and write about my marathon which I finally ran and successfully finished this past Sunday.

The race took place in gorgeous Burlington, Vermont. Going into the marathon I had three goals just like Lance Armstrong says to do: 1)To finish the race 2) To beat my previous time of 4:19:11 3) To get anywhere around 4:00:00. Not knowing what laid ahead of me, I would be happy with completing any of them.

Although the day was expected to be sunny and 70, the morning actually turned out to be around 55 cloudy and rainy which was preferable because then the runners wouldn't overheat as quickly. My boyfriend and I started the race together and unexpectedly ran the first 4 miles through the center of Burlington. I saw my parents not long after we crossed the start line and a little further down I saw my brothers and their friends. The race was packed! It looked like just a swarm of people, hundreds and hundreds of people. We found out that there were about 3000 marathoners and 5000 more people who made up a 2 person and 5 person relay. Typically in marathons the further you get out in mileage the more sparse other runners become. This never happened on this course...there were always tons of people around, but thankfully, for the most part, other people weren't in my way.

So we started off and the first three miles were nice and easy, saw my family again (Mom somehow made it in front of the barricade to cheer for me...don't ask how, she's Italian and she gets her way). After mile 4, my boyfriend took off and the rain really started to come down and sans visor or hat, I was soaked. I didn't notice the rain too much and I did feel like it kept me cooler and more hydrated, but around mile 7 I notice the water dripping off of my hands never went away. Mile 9 we passed back through the town, saw family again, and headed out south of the city. This was a long and somewhat difficult part mentally because you just kept going further and further south and yet, because it was an out and back, knew that you would have to do it all on the way back. I don't wear a watch when I run, I probably should, but when mile 13.1 finally came around I saw that I was just ahead of the 2 hour mark which meant I was keeping a pretty good pace (typically my half marathon races are right around 1:55:00 so I was feeling good about my time).

I was cruising along and all of a sudden during mile 14 WHAM I got a horrible side cramp. I couldn't believe this was happening, I never get side cramps and they are practically impossible to stretch out like other muscle cramps you get. My body immediately slowed down and my mind was racing as to how to take care of it. I knew from back in chemistry class that these cramps occurred due to a lack of oxygen and a resulting build up of acid. I also knew that my family would be standing at mile 15 and I didn't want to be hobbling along just because of a stupid side cramp. I started breathing really deeply and after about 10 minutes the cramp actually went away!

Half of mile 15 was one long continuous hill which probably upset a lot of people but training in Colorado for both the altitude and the hills made this obstacle very doable. My family was standing at the top of the hill and this would be the last time I saw them before the finish line.

The next few miles I started to get very annoyed with this running thing. I believe my body was saying "ok you can stop anytime now" because I started to get a horrible headache, my left hamstring started to tighten up, and the tendon above my right ankle was pinching with every step. The course took us through a few neighborhoods where little kids were handing out oranges, apples and water and I was taking most anything I could get. I believe miles 17-22 were, just like my last marathon, the worst miles ever. I was tired, in pain and mentally done with the race. But I kept going. I had an ongoing internal battle with myself at each water stop...the debate being to take time and stop and stretch to see if it helped my hamstring or to just drink my water and keep going, in the end I did a bit of both. At this point I pretty much hated marathons and wasn't sure I would be able to finish.

Around mile 20 the sun came out and it came out so brightly as if it never had rained that morning. Thankfully at the same time I headed into the bike path which was covered by trees and would keep me shaded from the direct sunlight, but boy was it gorgeous.

As I approached mile 22, they had another clock up and the gun time read 3:30:00 (the gun time is when the gun when off but I didn't pass the start line till 2 minutes after that). Basically I did some quick math and figured out that I had 4 miles left and even though I wouldn't make 4:00:00, I would come in around 4:10:00 if I kept up 10 minute miles. From that point on it was sheer will power that kept me going. Still in pain I just kept moving, kept saying, "just 4 miles left", "just 3 miles left", "you can do it", "keep on keeping on", "you are an athlete", whatever popped into my head that would help me ignore the pain and keep moving. At mile 24 I started picking up the pace. At mile 25 all I kept saying in a singsong voice was "1 mile left, 1 mile left, 1 mile left". It is during these last miles when you realize what you're doing and what you're about to complete. It is surreal. Knowing you've just put your body through and beyond its physical limits. That you've felt pain and pushed through. That you've done and overcome something that most people will not do in their lifetimes, that is what goes through your head.

At the end of mile 25 you come out from the bike path and head into the park where thousands of people are cheering you on. At this point you feel invincible, or at least I did. I passed my family and was grinning from ear to ear...I passed mile 26 and thought...I'm almost done...and around every turn the finish never came! I swear the last .2 miles took forever to end! Finally I did see the finish line and came sprinting through the end where my boyfriend was waiting for me after his finish 14 minutes before!

My final time was 4:10:07, 9 minutes better than my first marathon time. I was exhausted and sore, but the experience was amazing. Having my family there, doing what I set out to do, and completing my goals, truly awesome.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cooking Light - Ultimate Reader's Recipe Contest


Cooking Light magazine has an annual contest, The Ultimate Reader’s Recipe Contest. All recipes submitted must made with at least one ingredient from their participating sponsors. Sponsors include: Newman’s Own, Eggland’s Best, Del Monte Fruit, Al Fresco, Bush’s, Domino Sugar, Lindsay Olives, Over the Moon Milk, Swanson’s and Mexican Haas Avocados.


Being half Hispanic I grew up eating avocados like Southerners grow up eating their grits, although I never really understood how versatile the fruit is until I began making healthier choices and started to ‘really’ cook. As I experimented with this green goddess I began using it in salsas, sauces, spreads, soups, marinades, dressings, oils, drizzles, drinks, desserts, on the grill, as a garnish and even as a topical ointment. The Haas avocado is the fruit of life that is buttery in taste and texture and is amazingly nutritious and delicious. It has over 20 vitamins, nutrients, phytonutrients, helps regulate cholesterol and promote healthy cardiovascular functions. Needless to say, the Haas avocado is versatile, nutritious and is a healthy substitute for ingredients that are high in calories and saturated fats. For example, substituting a healthy Haas Avocado for mayonnaise and using fresh citrus juices to keep the avocados from oxidizing while adding a slight tartness makes this Succotash salad creamy and healthy. Adding green tea to this recipe enhances the flavor and health benefits of this dish. Served as a side or add crabmeat, shrimp or scallops makes this dish a nutritiously light yet completely filling meal.



3 Bean & Haas Avocado Green Tea Infused Succotash Salad Drizzled with Haas Avocado & Poblano Citrus Dressing

Prep Time: 20-30 minutes

Serving Size: 6-8

Level: Easy

Ingredients: Haas Avocado & Poblano Citrus Dressing

  • 1/2 poblano, seeded & chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 lemon, zest & juice 
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 1 Clementine, zest & juice
  • 1 TBS agave
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper (spice to taste)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 TBS BOULDER BLUES Green Tea, steeped into a ¼ cup concentrate, add 2 ice cubes to chill (Or any other fruity green tea)

*Hot to make a Green Tea Concentrate: Steep 2 TBS of tea in 4 ounces water at 175° for 3 min*

  • 1 Haas avocado, pitted, chopped & scooped out of skin (reserve skin for presentation)
  • 1/3 cup avocado oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Ingredients: 3 Bean & Haas Avocado Succotash

  • 2 Haas avocados, pitted, chopped & scooped out of skin (reserve skin for presentation)
  • 1 can corn (15 oz - no salt added), drained & rinsed
  • 1 can black bean (15 oz - no salt added) drained and rinsed
  • 1 can cannellini beans (15 oz - no salt added) drained & rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen edamame, shelled defrosted
  • 1 packet cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 head Napa cabbage, washed and shredded
  • Garnish with lemon sliced and fresh mint

 

Preparation:

1.   Hass Avocado & Poblano Citrus Dressing: In a food processor, add the poblano, mint, vinegar, lemon juice & zest, lime juice & zest, Clementine juice & zest and agave. Pulse to combine. Add cayenne pepper and smoked paprika and pulse to combine. Combine tea concentrate and pulse. Add avocado pieces and combine. While processing, slowly add avocado oil until dressing is smooth. Remove from food processor and reserve.

2.   3 Bean & Haas Avocado Green Tea Infused Succotash Salad: In a big mixing bowl, combine Haas avocado, corn, beans, tomatoes, bell pepper and cilantro. Quickly whisk dressing and fold 2/3 of dressing into the bean mixture. Reserve 1/3 of dressing in a small side bowl to serve with dish.

3.    Presentation: On a large rectangle platter, cover bottom with shredded cabbage. Scoop succotash into empty avocado skins and place them around the platter. Scoop remaining succotash mixture in the middle. Garish with lemon slices and mint leaves. Serve with remaining dressing on side.


You should definitely make this, the next time you feel like making something with an avocado...Then let me know if you think it could win Cooking Light's Ultimate Reader's Recipe Contest..


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Grilling This Memorial Day Weekend?

In Memory of my Uncle Steven Casanova...
He, who was always in the kitchen...

Born November 29, 1949 and died of colon cancer January 22, 2009...

A professor at St. Cloud State University, he served as a student advisor of M.E.Ch.A. and developed the Chicano Studies Program. As an activist, he was involved with "El Movimiento" in many different ways throughout his entire life. He was a Sundancer, spiritual guide, mentor, and council member of the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation. As a self-taught chef, he learned how to cook and was in the middle of writing a cookbook that would guide his culture towards healthy eating. 

Always seeking knowledge and giving guidance, Uncle Steve remains in my heart and in my kitchen. In celebration of his life, I have created the Casanova Burger, a combination of many of his favorite ingredients. Although he'd probably wouldn't eat this hearty burger all the time, since its not the healthiest of ingredients, I know he would have savored every bite if he was here to enjoy it with me this Memorial Day Weekend. With his belly full 'Casanovaness' and heart full of gratefulness, he probably would've even helped me clean up. 



Casanova Burger
Ingredients:
• 1 ½ lb 95% ground beef 
• ¾ lb bulk chorizo
• 8 oz black beans, rinsed and dried
• 2 poblanos, thinly sliced
• 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
• 1 orange, zest & juice 
• 2-3 TBS olive oil
• 2 avocados
• 1 medium tomato, chopped
• 1 lime, zest & juice
• BOULDER BLUES Teasonings (Tea + Seasonings = Tea-sonings)
Note: Tea-soning yields about 11 TBS: Use 5-6 TBS for patties, 3 TBS for sautéed veggies and 2 for guacamole
o 2 TBS BOULDER BLUES, finely ground

o 2 TBS Chipotle Chile Pepper

o 2 TBS garlic, ground
o 1 TBS grange peel, dried
o 1 TBS salt
o 2 tsp marjoram

o 2 tsp back pepper

o 2 tsp thyme

o 2 tsp cilantro flakes

o 2 sp cumin

o 1 tsp oregano
• 6 hamburger buns, light and fluffy, (I like Ciabatta)
• Queso Machego, 10-12 ¼ in slices
• Optional: 1 cup sour cream
• Garnish: 1 orange, 6-8 slices & pickles

Prep Time: 15 - 20 min / Cook Time: 10 minutes 
Serving Size: 6 - 8

Preparation:
1. Heat grill to medium-high. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
2. Tea-sonings: Grind BOULDER BLUES green tea. In a mixing bowl, add the BOULDER BLUES and combine with Chile garlic, orange peel, salt, marjoram, pepper, thyme, cilantro, cumin and oregano. 
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, chorizo, black beans orange zest, lime zest and 6 TBS of Tea-sonings. Form 6 – 8 burgers. Set aside to tenderize.
4. Add onions to skillet and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add Tea-sonings, poblanos, juice from orange and sauté until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Reserve.
5. As the poblano mixture sautés, place the burgers on the grill. Cook to medium rare or medium, about 4-6 minutes on each side. Take off grill, place on foil, put cheese on top and tent, letting the cheese melt.
6. Guacamole: In a medium-mixing bowl, mash avocado. Fold in tomatoes and zest and juice from lime and 2 TBS of Tea-sonings.
7. Lightly toast buns
8. To Plate: Place buns on each plate, spoon sour cream in small side dishes. Top base of bun with guacamole, layer burger, top burger with poblano mixture and spoonful guacamole on top of bun. Garnish with an orange slice and a pickle.

My promise, which I made at my Uncle Steve's funeral, to finish his cookbook (actually it is more like start & finish since I only have 3 of his recipes), is alive and well. This recipe will definitely be part of the cookbook. Which means I need your help to make this Ultimate Burger Recipe. The next time your grilling burgers, grill the Casanova Burger and post or e-mail me any suggestions, comments or cooking techniques that might help improve the taste, flavor or presentation of this burger because this recipe needs to be the Ultimate Burger Recipe...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Show us some love.. & get a FREE $15 Gift Card!

We are thrilled to announce the launch of our TUFFY STEEPER, a compact silicone tea steeper...


... and receive your FREE Gift Certificate by email within 1 business day. Attach your name & your email address in order to receive the gift certificate.



Offer Expired... June 15th, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spring Cleaning

For me "Spring Cleaning" is a dreaded deed tied to the season, reminding us at least once a year that our houses (and warehouses) deserve some TLC. And today was the day in our warehouse.

We just launched 22 new loose teas sold in bulk online earlier this week. So today we sorted, organized, labeled, shelved, arranged, and rearranged our warehouse to make room. The upside, beyond having an organized warehouse, is trying all the teas that we hadn't had a chance to try yet.

For me, this included Cocoa Mate - a really smooth & roasty cup, not the usual grassy mate I'm used to. And the subtle chocolaty flavor (given off by actual chocolate chips!) blends well with the flavor of the roasted mate - the super dark leaves of yerba mate pictured to the left - yumm!!

Curiosity finally got the best of me, and I also tried a Chrysanthemum Green Pu'erh Tea Brick (aka tuo chas). This is a cool looking and unique tasting brew that comes all balled up in compact little brick (perfect for tossing in your purse for taking tea on the go) . Just be forewarned that when you bust one of these guys out to steep on the road, you'll look nothing short of a tea geek. So be prepared to explain what the hell you're drinking. The history of tea bricks is as old as the history of tea, tied to the Silk Road and the spice trade between India & China. Here's a list of our other pu'erhs - some aged green & some aged black, however, this is our only one in brick form. Here's some more background info on pu'erh, so that your tea geek knowledge can be up to par with your tea geek tea selection. Drink up, and enjoy!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Triple-Threat Position with your Whole Leaf Tea

Rinsing or washing your tealeaves doesn’t have to be an exact science but I do think that it’s an important process that’s worth taking. The rinsing technique is most commonly used in gongfu tea preparation as a means to cleanse and purify the steeping vessel as well as the leaf before starting the actual infusion of the leaf itself. Here’s a great guideline that you can use thanks to our friends at Imperial Tea Court if you’re wanting to learn more about the intricacies of gongfu tea preparation. http://www.imperialtea.com/classroom/GongfuPrep.htm


For those of you that don’t use traditional Chinese tea ware to prepare your loose tea, however, you can still easily employ this method with your tea.


I find that our Steepin’ Cup is a really easy vessel that you can use to employ this method. Here are the quick steps that I take prior to infusing my leaf…


Simply portion your whole leaf tea into the infuser, drop the infuser into the cup, pour your hot water to a level where it just starts to cover the leaf, and cover with lid. I sometimes utilize a swirling method at this point but you can also just let the leaf soak for 10-15 seconds. After that time period simply invert the lid, remove the infuser with leaf and place on inverted lid. Dump the rinse water from your cup.


As my old friend John Moreau used to say when I squared up to shoot a jump shot at Camp Virginia, “Now YOU ready!”


That’s right! Exposing your leaf for 10-15 seconds prior to your infusion means that you’ll have the following benefits to work with: a preheated vessel, a clean leaf, and a leaf that’s already warmed to a temperature close to the tea that you’ll consume.


It’s almost akin to the triple-threat position in basketball… Kobe Bryant demonstrates nicely here. But instead of being in a position to pass, shoot, or dribble the basketball you’re now in a position to steep, drink, and be merry with your tea! How’s that for a stretchable (but still ballpark) analogy!



photo from http://lakers.topbuzz.com/gallery/v/kobe-bryant/kobe-bryant-triple-threat-position-fullj_getty-71797704jb008_lakers_clips_2_41_03_am.jpg.html


You should know that the rinsing technique is most commonly used with Oolong and Pu’er teas but I find that it works well with all of the teas that I drink. In fact, it’s become my little pre-ritual technique for almost every cup or pot that I make now. Besides… it’s all about putting yourself in a position that produces the best tasting and most enjoyable cup. Take note Kobe.


So try these simple steps before you start your infusion and put yourself in the triple-threat position with your whole leaf tea every time!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Simply Running, although Running isn't all that Simple....


You would think all one would have to do to run is throw on some sneakers (or tennis shoes for all those Colorado folks) and go. Once you get into long distance running or racing, this however, is not the case. You have to make sure you have the right shoes, the right amount of water, find out which energy gels you want to use, how to evade overuse injury....you get the idea. I am currently training for my second marathon, The Vermont City Marathon, which I'll be runnng in two weeks. I am nervous as all hell. I've already run 1 marathon, 4 half marathons and a smattering of 5 and 10K's, but gearing up for the 26.2 miles never gets easier. I think this is partially because no matter how much you train, how good you feel before hand, anything, and I mean ANYTHING can happen during the race.

Now my first marathon I feel like I got lucky, I was tired and lonely around mile 22 and my legs started cramping up a bit, but that is to be expected. Other than that I had no major injury, no blisters, no tweaked hamstring or IT bands or anything else that typically comes up from long distance running. I'm thinking this might be the reason why I'm nervous for my upcoming marathon, I'm nervous I won't get this lucky a second time.

For the past month I've been training pretty regularly, rolling out my muscles, avoiding all alcohol, and eatng the appropriate carbs, protein and fats. Since I drink tea all the time, I wanted to see if there was any benefits of my tea drinking that would aid in my running. My search lead me to another blog post that spoke about that very issue. It started off describing tea as a great alternative drink to coffee before a race for non-coffee drinkers "tea is the pre-run drink of choice. Although tea only provides about half as much caffeine as coffee, it can be much easier on the stomach, especially for runners who have prerace butterflies." The blog then went into various tea types and the health benefits of each such as...

Green and white tea, "the least oxidized teas have the highest [nutritional] value, especially due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Green and whites also do the best job of any of the teas of boosting the body’s ability to utilize fat as an energy source."

Black teas on the other hand, "contain more of the antioxidants that inhibit cancer growth and lower cholesterol. One study has shown that drinking just a cup a day of black tea can cut the risk of heat attack by 44 percent."

The blog post also described that drinking herbal teas like mint and chamomile have no caffeine so the night before you can drink them and still fall asleep. What the blog post failed to mention however, is that one of my favorite teas, rooibos, like our Red Rocks, is actually rehydrating and has tons of vitamins and minerals and therefore is a favorite with athletes.

So we've realized that running is no easy feet (pun intended) I do now know that everyday, in addition to all my training and nutritional awareness, that my mutiple cups of tea are aiding me with anti-oxidants, anti-inflamatory properties and keeping me hydrated for the long haul.

It's time to go run!






To read more of this blog post, click here http://devinesports.com/Article.7+M5e73a27535f.0.html?&cHash=3d0a4e9cf4&tx_ttnews%5Bpointer%5D=2

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Green Tea Cucumber & Avocado Soup

Last night I taught a hands-on cooking with tea class at Chef's Catalog cooking School in Colorado Springs, CO. The group was fun and eager to learn how to incorporate tea into different recipes. The following refreshing cold soup not only cleanses the palette and is easy to make but is healthy and always 'Simpy Tea-licious'.

Green Tea Cucumber & Avocado Soup

Ingredients:  
  • 3 cucumbers, peeled, & cut
  • 3 avocados, peeled, pitted & cut
  • 1 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 limes, zest & Juice
  • 1 orange, zest & just
  • 2 TBS TeaSpot BOULDER BLUES Tea Leaves, grounded
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 TBS BOULDER BLUES Tea, steeped into a 1/3 cup concentrate
*Hot to make Tea Concentrate: Steep 2 TBS of tea in 4 ounces water at 175° for 3 min*

*Make Iced Tea / Conserve Tea Leaves: Re-steep same tea leaves in 24 oz water at 175° for 2 min & chill for 3 hours*

Preparation:  
  1. Puree the cucumbers in a blender until completely smooth
  2. Add the avocados, yogurt, lime juice, BOULDER BLUES concentrate and blend until silky smooth 
  3. Add BOULDER BLUES and other seasonings and stir
  4. Chill thoroughly
  5. Optional: Serve each portion with a garnish of about one teaspoon of diced cucumber & a dollop of yogurt & herbs 


Monday, May 11, 2009

"Surely your mother taught you how a lady drinks tea"

This quote, by Bess Truman, shows how integral tea and tea traditions can be to the mother-daughter relationship. In the case of me and my daughters, it's been more about "surely... how to MAKE tea" (maybe the 3 of us need some training on the drinking side!)

The best cup of tea i've had in a long, long time, i had in my older daughter's dorm room recently. Many of us have forgotten what the dorm environment can be, wrt garbage pickup, kitchen area (!) and, heaven forbid if you should need to use the bathoom (!!)... by now, you should be getting the picture, and maybe even a few sensory reminders of college dorm aromas have wafted into your mind.

I showed up at her school, tired as a dog from my trip, with business meetings earlier in the day. She offered that i could take a rest for a few hours while she went off and worked, before we went to dinner, which i gladly accepted. When 2 hours later it was time to get up, i was still tired, so she made me some tea - right in one of our own steeping mugs, of course. Some strong, black tea. We've dubbed "black tea for Russians" the blend of Bolder Breakfast teas minus the chocolate and the Puerh. Quite honestly, i don't know if it was the fact that at sea level you can get the boiling water hotter, or whether she's truly surpassed me in the art of steeping tea, but the mug of tea she served me was simply exquisite! As good as or better than in any tea room anywhere... and of course for me, the sweetest cup of tea ever :)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Loose Leaf Tea: help a friend


It took at least 8 weeks into my employment at a loose leaf tea company before I brewed my first cup of tea. It was one of those deals where you try to hide the fact that you really have no idea what your doing by avoiding that thing at all costs. It was no small feat this constant dance I did around the break room. Had I entered, I risked the request called out from the CEO's office: "Will whoever's in the kitchen make me some tea?" I would have nightmares:


"Yikes! How can I get out of this with my dignity in tact? I was hired for my operational and organizational abilities, how should I know how to make a cup of tea? I'm a coffee drinker for crying out loud. OK settle down, all of the tools are here: hot water, ceramic mug, steeping mechanism, unlimited choices of tea. Uh oh, too many variables: what kind of tea; how much tea do I use; which water temperature works best; how long do I steep; why is this green tea brown; all tea comes from the same plant, what???? AAHHHHH!"


Gives me chills just thinking about it. Similar to the dream about walking into my high school English final and I haven't been to class in months. Finally, under the guise of "wanting to provide the best possible customer service," I asked a co-worker to explain to me how to make different types of tea as if I were an idiot, so that I could then pass along this process in layman's terms to beginners. Of course she had no idea that I really was this idiot. And of course I was only fooling myslf. Regardless, the bonehead seminar began and within 5 minutes, I was an expert in tea FAQ. Thus began the wild ride that is my affinity for loose leaf tea. But I would still be avoiding the break room and the possible nightmare-triggering request from the CEO had I not figured out a way to overcome the intimidation factor. So as I type these words, I vow to help one and all with the simple task of steeping loose leaf tea.


Your friends don't dislike tea. They just don't know how to make it, no matter what they tell you. Help them learn.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Drink more tea to keep swine flu at bay!


Okay, so here i'm researching tea health benefits for a new section launching on our website next week... and all around us, even here in relatively uncrowded Boulder, are signs reading "please be considerate of others and don't attend [HOT AND GENEROUSLY SWEATY] yoga class if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms"! So of course, i'm looking for specific anti-bacterial health benefits in our teas that would help keep the flu at bay, and VOILA, comes along Dr. Murray Grossan, to be quoted in an article published in today's issue of Advance (a journal for nurses) stating that he believes the same methods patients use to prevent sinus infection and colds may also help prevent swine flu. Among them are over-the-counter nasal gels, tea, chicken soup and a good night's sleep. "Tea can boost the body's defense fivefold," Grossan said. "The chemical in tea, L-theanine, transforms into ethylamine in the liver. Ethylamine is a molecule that primes the response of an immune blood cell, one of the T cells. These T cells, called gamma delta T cells, prompt the secretion of interferon, a key defense against infection. Tea is also high in antioxidants and actually stimulates cilia action." So there - another reason to drink up and feel good about it!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mother's Day Tea Party Brunch


Above is my beautiful, sweet yet feisty mother, Linda Casanova-Abrams. She has taught numerous invaluable lessons through the years, consciously and subconsciously. Like many of us, we sometimes only show our appreciation for our mother around this Hallmark Holiday. I, of course, am no different. My mother is coming in on Friday for a nice relaxing Mother's Day weekend and I am scrambling around trying to plan something special. We rarely spend much time together since we both work very hard and live far apart. Manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, yoga, shopping, dinner, gardening...??? 

One of the most essential lessons my mother taught me was how to cook & entertain. She signed me up for cooking classes when I was 7 years old. From then on, it was hard to get me out of the kitchen. My passion to cook has intensified over the years and my love for food has helped me create balance in my life that includes delicious meals (cooked with tea, of course) accompanied with amazing relationships.

Needless to say, I will be celebrating Mother's Day by giving her what she always gave to me: a healthy yet scrumptious home cooked meal made with much TLCT (Tender, Loving Care & Tea).
 


Oolong Infused Prosciutto & Veggie Frittata
Prep Time: 20 min / Cook Time: 15 - 20 minutes
Serving Size: 4 - 6
Level: Easy
Season: Spring / Summer

Ingredients
• 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
• 1 shallot, diced
• 1 medium Squash, chopped (about 1 cup)
• 1 medium Bell Red Pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
• 2 cups Mushrooms (Shiitake, Baby Bellos & Oyster), diced
• ½ bunch Asparagus, diagonally sliced into 1/4 in wide sliced (about 2 cups)
• 8-10 Large Eggs (Egg White Optional)
• 1/3 cup Soy Creamer (Optional Heavy cream)
• 2 TBS VINTAGE OOLONG Tea yielding ½ cup *Oolong Tea
concentrate, chilled (or any hand-rolled single-estate oolong tea)

*Hot to make Oolong Tea Concentrate: Bring 5 oz water to a boil and let cool for 2-3 minutes, which will bring water to 180°, a good temperature to steep oolong tea. Place 2 TBS of tea in an 8 oz measuring cup. Pour 4 oz hot water over tea leaves and steep for 3 minutes. Strain tea leaves and place liquid in refrigerator to chill. **Reserve tea leaves and re-steep. Oolong tea is great hot or cold. Add some Champagne and create tasty sparkler.

• 2 ounces sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped
• 1 cup Dubliner Cheese, grated (About 4 ounces)
• 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
• Garnish: 1 avocado, chopped & 1 tomato, chopped

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to broil
2. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium - high heat. Sauté onions until soft (Optional: add 1 tablespoon of chopped already steeped Oolong tea leaves). Add pepper, squash, mushrooms and asparagus and sauté. Cover and let cook for 3 - 4 minutes.
3. Whisk eggs and creamer in a large bowl. Add chilled steeped oolong tea and whisk more thoroughly.
4. Pour in egg mixture to the veggies in the skillet and gently stir. Cover & reduce the heat to low and cook until eggs are almost set (about 8 - 10 minutes). Evenly add Prosciutto and basil to skillet and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Loosen edges with spatula and turn off stove.
5. Sprinkle cheese on top, place in oven and cook until the top starts to brown (about 3-5 minutes). Take out of oven and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Loose edges with spatula.
6. The double flip: Place a large serving plate over the pan, and carefully invert to turn out the frittata. Place other large serving plate over the frittata and flip again so the cheese side it facing up. Let sit for 5 - 10 minutes
7. Cut into wedges & serve.
8. Optional: Garnish with Avocado & diced tomatoes. Serve with BOULDER BLUES Tea infused fruit salad and whole grain toast.


Messages in the morning, $120, followed with a of spicy bloody mary's, $12, and a 'tea-licious' frittata, $25, coupled with spending time with me mom...PRICELESS...





Monday, May 4, 2009

Forget the great taste & cancer-fighting effects - It'll make you skinny!!

Last Friday Marie Claire was buzzing about white tea, for it's slimming effects. Although I find it slightly depressing that women's mags focus so much energy on being thin, any way you look at it, white tea is a great healthy beverage choice. They posted the following article online May 1st:


White Tea Could Make You Slim

New research has revealed that white tea, which has a high concentration of antioxidants, increases metabolism and boosts slimming. Compounds in the tea prevent the formation of new fat cells and help burn off old ones.

It is claimed white tea, which is made from the buds and first leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant may carry even more health benefits than the more popular green and black teas which are made from the same plant.

Nutritionist Marc Winnefield of German skincare firm Beiersdorf AG which carried out the research said: "In the industrialised countries, the rising incidence of obesity-associated disorders including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes constitutes a growing problem.

"We have shown that white tea may be an ideal natural source of slimming substances."


Here are links to our hand-picked, loose leaf, white teas:

Organic Monkey-Picked White: 100% organic & fair trade certified, single-estate, white tea

Snowflakes: white tea tips that resemble the well-known silver needle tea

Meditative Mind: white tea blended with green tea jasmine pearls & rosebuds



Friday, May 1, 2009

Hey Tuffy Steeper, What's Your Name?

I think the worst thing about being an unpaid intern is that I don’t get my own desk. Everything is shared, and usually in a state of disarray when I show up. Cracker crumbs on the desk, pencils on the floor, wonky keyboards, various post-it notes scattered around that say things like: “Danielle. Guy from hotel called. 617-594-9862.”One major bonus of having my own desk means that I can stash my personal necessities—in addition to the standard office supply fodder—conveniently in, on, and near it. Extra shoes, chap-stick, lotion, my favorite mug, photos of celebrations long passed, and perhaps most importantly: my secret stash of loose leaf tea and steepware. You know, the things that make a desk as home away from home as can be, despite the fact that piles of paperwork, renegade paperclips, and runaway bric-a-brac serve to remind me that I am, regretfully, at work. But alack! No desk is to be had for the time being. This means I must be on-the-go at all times, carrying everything I could possibly need between leaving home for work at 8 a.m. and leaving class at 10 p.m. in one trusty behemoth of a bag. Notebook, folder, keys, gum, two pens, one pencil, a stack of business cards, one hair stick, hand sanitizer, sunglasses, a voice recorder, mini brush and USB drive, wallet, hand lotion, eye drops, sunglasses, a delightful assortment of snacks and lip gloss, a Reese's Peanut Butter egg--whoops, nevermind, and a used copy of Jane Eyre all currently reside here. Perhaps I shouldlearn to live with less, but such is my lot: hauling my portable life on trains, buses, temporary desks, and classrooms.

Fortunately for me, a miraculous device has finally been created so that this process of hauling my crap around can include loose leaf tea. I don’t know about the rest of you, but no matter how small a steeping device is, it’s never. small. enough. Fragile parts or awkward shapes certainly don’t make them handy for travel, while loose leaf steeping mugs for travel essentially have yet to be perfected. Enter the Tuffy Steeper. This silicone steeper is, quite literally, what I have been waiting for all my life. Okay, not all my life, but ever since my loose leaf tea-drinking odyssey began two-and-a-half years ago. It collapses conveniently into a flat circle about a ¼” thick, and the combination lid/saucer fits snugly into the top, making it a cinch to add to my ridiculous bag of stuff. Since I’m already waxing girly with the contents of my purse, I’ll go ahead and make things worse by announcing that I just love that it’s purple.

The Tuffy Steeper also proves its genius in practice. As I fumble around in the office kitchen one morning, I’m quite pleased to be busting out my loose leaf tea in the workplace once again. Now I will say this: Unfortunately, this wonderfully roomy steeper is a smidgen too large (at the top) for my standard-issue 8 ounce coffee mug. Fortunately, it really had no affect whatsoever on my ability to steep tea. The top part of the steeper stuck out of the mug, and so what? If I had my own desk I’d also have my own (bigger) mug (instead I borrow a lonely mug from the dish rack). Cleanup at the end of the day involved nothing more than a quick swish of tap water before I was on my way to class. Personally, I think it would be pretty slick if these things had a sort of plastic sleeve or protective disc that the infuser could fit into, so that you could toss it around and not worry about those rogue cracker crumbs and extraneous debris getting all over it. In any case, I’m just chuffed that I can have my luxury loose-leaf tea to go.

Ode to Tuffy Steeper. And Colorado.