Tuesday
Sep162014

Tuesday Tea - September Selection Club - Simple Loose Leaf

Plan Description:

When you join Simple Loose Leaf you will tour the world and explore the wonders of tea. Our members embrace the discovery of new passions and rekindle their forgotten loves through our carefully curated menu of teas. Select a plan, make tea selection, and get a package!

Where to Purchase: 

Simple Loose Leaf - Not Starving Yet readers, use coupon code NSYSELECTION25 to receive 25% off when you sign up for the Selection Club

September Selections:

Green Pekoe Tea 
Assam FTGFOP

Shou Mei White
Four Seasons Oolong
Herbal Chai
 

Four Seasons Oolong

Review:

Simple Loose Leaf tends to alternate between pu'erh and oolong in the monthly box. I have yet to acquire a taste for pu'erh and don't generally review it during Tuesday Tea, but I will almost always choose oolong when I see it. Oolong tea has been my favorite for as long as I can remember. This month they didn't let me down, we have a high quality Taiwanese green oolong that I believe comes from Mountain Tea Company.

The first steep of this tea was lighter in flavor, but packed a sweet, yet floral punch which became stronger in subsequent steeps. By the time I reached my fourth steep of this tea it developed a somewhat vegetal flavor with hints of floral mixed in. While earlier steeps of this tea were somewhat creamy in texture, later steeps began to develop a hint of dryness. I was impressed not only with the flavor, but also with the number of times I was able to steep the tea. Even my fourth cup had wonderful flavor, I could very likely have gotten a fifth steep out of my leaves, but in my sick and clumsy state I managed to drop my steeper sending my tea leaves flying everywhere. This week is already starting off on the wrong foot, but at least I have a great oolong to help me on my road to recovery.

My Rating: 80/100

Would I order this again? Yes. This is exactly the type of tea I want to see in my selection club box.
Herbal Chai

Review:

Normally I dither about which teas to select for my monthly box from Simple Loose Leaf, but when I saw this tea on the menu for September I knew immediately it would be one of my selections. I tend to drink a lot of chai once the weather cools off because the combination of spices gives me an illusion of warmth. Since this summer has been unusually cold I've already pulled out my packages of chai and have been happily drinking them for the past few weeks.

Chai tends to vary widely in methods of preparation as well as ingredients, but every chai I've sampled in the past has one thing in common: it's made with black tea. The fact that this particular chai is made with a rooibos base didn't escape my notice, in fact, i'm rather intrigued by the idea. As you know I've been drinking a lot of rooibos lately to help with the swelling in my hands. While the flavor of rooibos has slowly grown on me I still find the rather medicinal taste unappealing and prefer heavily flavored blends. In other-words this tea should be right up my alley.

My first sampling of this blend was not prepared in the traditional method (with milk and sugar) as you can see from my photo. I had just opened the package and taken a huge sniff when two things happened. First of all, I caught a good noseful of black peppercorn which caused a huge sneezing fit. Secondly, I discovered that my son had finished off the last of the milk while I wasn't looking and all we had left was a really old carton of coconut milk. Not to be deterred, I decided to prepare this like I would any rooibos blend and was greeted with a huge burst of flavor on my first sip. The cardamom and black peppercorn were the flavors that were the most prominent and I was happy to find that the cinnamon wasn't as noticeable, but rather something hidden in the background amongst the other spices. I find that many spice teas on the market this time of year are laden down with cinnamon, so this was a welcome change.

My husband was kind enough to bring me a gallon of milk on his way home from work, so one of the first thing I did this morning was prepare a cup of chai on the stove with 2% milk and sugar. I'm not sure which way I prefer this tea, I think ultimately it comes down to what I'm in the mood for at the particular moment. When I prepare this using traditional methods it makes a nice after dinner treat, yet when prepared like any other tea it's a nice, calming drink I can have before bedtime.

My Rating: 90/100

Would I order this again? Yes! This could quite possibly be my new favorite chai.

Not Starving Yet readers, use coupon code NSYSELECTION25 to receive 25% off when you sign up for the Selection Club

Disclosure:

In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that Simple Loose Leaf has provided me with a free subscription to their service. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Monday
Sep152014

Vanilla Bean Peach Butter

I know I say this every year, but where in the world has summer gone? It seems like yesterday I was spending my days working on my tan, or what passes for a tan in Wisconsin, while my son spent his day swimming in his wading pool. Those days are behind me for now, fall has made an early appearance and the past few weeks have been down right chilly for the tail end of summer. As much as I'm sad to see my lazy days outside come to an end, I do look forward to the flavors that fall brings. I love all things pumpkin and spice, but I'm not quite ready to embrace them yet. I still have several pounds of juicy summer peaches to put up, so I've been taking advantage of the cooler weather to make fruit butter. Several weeks ago I made a small batch of No Fuss Crock-Pot Apricot Butter. It turned out so well that I've decided that my remaining peaches are destined to become fruit butter as well. I've put up about 6 pints over the last few weeks which means this winter I can pull out a jar and enjoy a little taste of summer when things are looking cold and dreary. With our high temperatures hovering in the low 50s I have a feeling it's going to be a long cold winter this year. I'm going to need all the reminders of summer that I can get! 
Peach Butter
makes 5 half pints

Ingredients

5lbs peaches
1 vanilla bean
1 cup white sugar 

Equipment

immersion blender (optional)
water-bath canner or stock pot with lifter
7 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
jar grabber
magnetic lid lifter
funnel 
butter knife
ladle
clean dish towels and cloths 

Directions

  • Remove the skins from the peaches. Boil a large pot of water, add peaches, and blanch for 1 minute, or until skins start to crack. Depending on the size of your pot you may need to work in batches. 
  • Transfer blanched peaches to cold water and once cool the skins should easily peel off. Remove pits and skins, then place in crock pot. 
  • Open vanilla bean pod with a knife and scrape the insides into the crockpot. Once insides are removed, toss the entire pod in with the peaches.
  • Cook on low for 8 - 10 hours. Make sure to leave the lid off to allow the steam to escape. 
  • After 8 hours the contents of the crock pot should have reduced roughly in half, if they have not you can continue to cook the peaches down until they have reached the desired consistency. 
  • Remove vanilla bean pod, add sugar, then stir until well incorporated.
  • Fill hot canning jars and process using the water bath canning directions below.
Processing times for this recipe are 15 minutes for elevations of 0-1,000 ft and 20 minutes for elevations of 1,001-6,000 ft. These times are for quarter-pints, half-pints and pints only.
  • Before canning sterilize your canning jars, rings, potato masher, and any other equipment that will come into contact with the apricot butter. You can do this easily by putting everything in the dishwasher and running it. Just don't put your equipment in with dirty dishes.
  • While your jars are sterilizing fill your stock pot with water and let it boil. It takes awhile for a large pot of water to boil, so keep this in mind. You don't want to fill your jars before your water is ready.
  • Once you're ready to fill your jars, place a sauce pan on the stove. Add your canning lids and fill pan with several inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the sealing wax on the lids to soften for several minutes.
  • Fill sterilized jars with hot apricot butter leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top. Remove air bubbles with a knife, wipe the rims with a clean damp rag, place lids on top and fasten ring until finger tight.
  • Place sealed jars on a rack in the canner or stock pot. Make sure jars are covered with water and that the waterline is about an inch over the top of the jars, then cover pot with lid.

    You do not want the jars coming into contact with the bottom of the canner or stock pot because they will bounce around and likely break.
     
  • Process half pints and pints for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Time starts once the water has come to a complete boil again. You may need to add boiling water to keep the water level up as the jars are processing.
  • Remove jars from canner, set on a clean dish towel, and let them rest for several hours until cool. You should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. 
  • To check the seals of your jars press the center gently with your finger. If it moves up and down the jar is not sealed. You can either reprocess using a new lid never reuse an old lid or once the jar is cool, eat the apricot butter. You know you want to and you deserve the treat after such hard work!
  • Label with detailed contents and date, then store in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Other Notes

If you aren't happy with the texture of your butter try using an immersion blender to create a smoother texture. I don't mind the chunky texture so I generally skip the blender.

I prefer to order Madagascar Vanilla Beans in bulk on Amazon from JRMushroomsAndSpecialties. The cost per bean ends up being around $0.80 each, you won't find that kind of price locally. My least expensive local source has been Cost Plus World Market where a 2 pack of smaller beans costs $2.99. 

If you're new to canning and want a more in-depth tutorial I highly recommend purchasing the most recent edition of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and Canning. It's full of helpful tips, recipes, and best practices to follow when canning.

Disclosure

This posts contains my Amazon affiliate links.  I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Please keep in mind that this is a necessary evil to cover my expenses in running this blog so I can continue to provide you with quality content.

Tuesday
Sep092014

Tuesday Tea - Coconut Calypso and Egyptian Chamomile - Steeped Tea

About Steeped Tea

Christa Jones, a consultant for Steeped Tea, contacted me several months ago with an offer I couldn't refuse. She sent me a package of teas of some of their best selling teas so I could share them with you. Before she emailed me I wasn't familiar with this Canada-based company so Christa urged me to take a peak at their seasonal brochure so I could get a feel for their offerings. In addition to the wide range of teas they stock they also carry teaware and tea inspired edibles like Chocolate Chai Muffin Mix and Matcha Mousse.

Steeped tea isn't your typical tea business. While they do offer ordering online, they're actually structured more like Mary Kay (makeup) or PartyLite (candles) and use direct sales to spread the word about their teas. The idea of a house party may not be for everyone, but it is a great way to share your love of tea with others. According to their website "this company began as a passionate search for the perfect cup of tea. Along the way we discovered that the secret was who you shared it with." Well Steeped Tea, I couldn't agree more.

Today I'll be sharing two teas with you, Coconut Calypso and Egyptian Chamomile. You can also read my reviews of the two teas I shared last month, Piña Colada and Crème Carmello.

Coconut Calypso

Tea Description:

Coconut has never tasted so good with this fun and unexpected flavor.

Ingredients: Pai Mu Tan white Tea, coconut pieces, rosebuds, blue mallow flowers, natural flavors.

Other Information:

Leaf Type: White (flavored)

Where to Purchase: 

Canada - if you live in Alberta you can contact Christa Jones to host your own Steeped Tea Party. Otherwise you can find the nearest Steeped Tea consultant here

United States - My US readers can order Steeped Tea online here

Suggested Brewing Tips:

Serving Size: 1 teaspoon per 8oz serving

Water Temp: 175°F

Steep Time: 4-5 minutes

Review:

Out of the six teas I've sampled from Steeped Tea, Coconut Calypso is the most colorful. The large leaves of white tea are sprinkled with blue mallow flowers and delicate pink rosebuds, giving it a somewhat romantic feel. As much as I love the way this tea looks, it is unfortunately the one I enjoyed the least. To start off, it has such an unappealing smell that I struggled to drink it. Scent is such a huge part of what I enjoy about tea, if the tea doesn't smell good it ruins the entire experience. The unpleasant scent does tend to dissipate as the tea cools and isn't nearly as noticeable when I cold steep this blend overnight. It seems to come out at its strongest when the tea is prepared hot. So as a solution, I've stopped preparing this tea hot.

Problem solved, well, sort of...

Unfortunately I didn't care for the taste of this blend either. There is a very one-note flavor that is supposed to be coconut, but doesn't quite taste like it. Instead it comes across as overly sweet and blatantly not coconut. Some flavors are more difficult than others to recreate believably in tea and coconut is squarely in the pretty well impossible to recreate category. This is why I tend to stay away from coconut heavy teas. As a side note, this blend also left an oily film on my ingenuiTEA, which I use for steeping, and on the drinking jar I put my tea in. It took a lot of scrubbing with baking soda and vinegar to remove it, which only added to my frustration with this tea.

My Rating: 62/100

Would I order this again? No. I didn't enjoy the scent or flavor of this blend.

Egyptian Chamomile
Tea Description:

Ancient Egyptians enjoyed chamomile for its calming taste.

Ingredients: Egyptian chamomile blossoms

 Other Information:

Leaf Type: Herbal

Where to Purchase: 

Canada - if you live in Alberta you can contact Christa Jones to host your own Steeped Tea Party. Otherwise you can find the nearest Steeped Tea consultant here

United States - My US readers can order Steeped Tea online here

Suggested Brewing Tips:

Serving Size: 1.5 teaspoons per 8oz serving

Water Temp: 208°F

Steep Time: 4-5 minutes

Review:

Our second tea today, Egyptian Chamomile, is one of the first teas my mother gave me when I was younger. It was a staple in our household, normally reserved for those nights we couldn't sleep or weren't feeling good. It is known to be a mild sedative and also for its ability to calm an upset stomach, which is why my mother always pulled it out when we were sick. It is also naturally caffeine free so you'll commonly see it listed as an ingredient in various herbal and bedtime blends. The flavor is mild and somewhat sweet with a slight taste of apples. You can drink it on its own, blend it with other herbals, or serve it with a large drizzle of honey to ease a sore throat. While I don't generally purchase chamomile on its own, it is still something great to have on hand. You'll find it listed as an ingredient in many of the teas in my cupboard.

My Rating: 79/100

Would I order this again? Possibly. I prefer to grow my own, but in a pinch I'd pick up another package of this to keep in my cupboard for those nights I can't sleep.

Disclosure:

In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that Christa Jones a Steeped Tea consultant has provided me with tea for review. As always, all opinions are my own.