Beyond the Leaf
It's the perfect time of year to host an afternoon tea party. Whether it's for Mother's Day or just a gathering of good friends, cook up these delicious recipes, steep up some TeaSource tea, and have a great time!
Even more recipes can be found here. Enjoy!
Goat Cheese and Asparagus Pinwheels
Makes 2 dozen
½ cup goat cheese
½ pound asparagus
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 12-15 minutes until asparagus is tender. Let cool.
Spread each tortilla with a thick layer of goat cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place 6 spears of asparagus in each tortilla and roll up.
Slice each into 6 slices and serve immediately.
Turkey, Pesto and Arugula Finger Sandwiches
Makes 1 dozen
6 slices bread
¼ pound smoked turkey
¼ cup prepared pesto
1 cup arugula
Spread a thin layer of pesto on each slice of bread.
Layer turkey and arugula on three slices and top with remaining three slices of bread.
Cut the crusts off each sandwich and cut into four finger sandwiches.
Ham and Cheese Scones
Makes 1 dozen
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, frozen
¼ pound Virginia Ham, cut into cubes
¼ pound colby jack cheese (or cheddar, swiss, pepper jack, what have you), cut into cubes
¼ chives, chopped
¼ cup milk (plus extra for brushing)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix the egg and yogurt to combine. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate the butter into the flour mixture using a large grater (can also be cut into pea-sized cubes). Mix the butter into the dry ingredients. It should look like a coarse meal.
Add the egg mixture to the flour and butter mix and stir to combine. Add the ham, cheese and chives. Stir to combine. Mix in the milk. The batter will be extremely thick, and pretty lumpy-this is how it’s supposed to look.
Drop scones by ¼ cup full onto a baking sheet. Brush the tops with milk and crack some fresh pepper over the top.
Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown and the cheese starts to melt. Let cool on the pan until ready to serve.
Roasted Shrimp Salad in Endive
Makes 2 dozen
1 pound shrimp, deveined (raw and still in the shell!)
3 heads endive
¼ cup red onion, minced
¼ cup red bell pepper, minced
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place shrimp on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes until shrimp turns pink and just starts to curl. (C=cooked, O=overcooked)
Let shrimp cool. Peel and chop into bite sized pieces.
Combine shrimp, onions, peppers, may, mustard, parsley and lemon juice. Stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Chill for 4 hours.
Cut the root end off of the endive and separate the leaves. Wash and dry well.
Fill each endive leaf with shrimp salad and serve immediately.
PB&J Petit Fours
Make 3 dozen
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons milk
6 slices white bread
1/3 cup strawberry jam
Peanuts for garnish
In a small bowl combine powdered sugar, peanut butter, vanilla and milk. Stir well to combine. There is no need to heat the peanut butter, it will combine with the other ingredients on its own.
Spread the jam on three slices of bread. Top with the remaining slices.
Cut of the crusts and cut each sandwich into twelve squares.
Place the squares on a rack over a baking sheet and pour the glaze over the squares to cover. Place a peanut on each for garnish.
Chill at least one hour before serving.
Spiced Chocolate Petit Fours
Makes 4 dozen (or one 9x13 cake)
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup boiling water
Spiced Chocolate glaze (see below)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and whisk well to combine.
Stir in the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Whisk for two minutes until all ingredients are well incorporated.
Using a spoon, slowly stir in the boiling water. DO NOT OVERMIX, batter should appear very thin.
Pour into an ungreased 9x13 baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
If you wanted to make a cake, let cool completely before adding glaze or frosting of your choice.
If you want to make petit fours, let the cake cool completely and freeze for 1-2 hours to make it easier to cut into 1x1 squares. Place squares on a cooling rack and pour glaze over each, covering completely. Chill until ready to serve.
Spiced Chocolate Glaze
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
6 tablespoons heavy cream
6 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Bring cream and corn syrup to a boil over medium heat. Add the chocolate, cinnamon and cayenne. Let rest 5 minutes until chocolate is melted and whisk to combine.
When I travel to tea country I am searching for teas; but the most memorable thing is always the people. Sometimes it’s the beginning of lifelong friendships, sometimes it’s a just a chance encounter on a dusty road. But I remember the people and keep them in my heart, long after I’ve sold out of the teas.
Since March is Darjeeling month I wanted to show some of the wonderful people of Darjeeling I encountered on my last trip to India.
In the offices of Darjeeling tea master and exporter, Rajiv Gupta, receiving a book on Darjeeling he helped produce.
Sudhanshu Kumar Shaw and his manager by the rolling machine at Giddapahar Estate. This is one of our favorite Darjeeling tea gardens.
At Goomtee Tea Estate, they also have a small greenhouse. Here is the assistant manager of the Goomtee factory making sure I have some fresh flowers when it is time to hit the road.
I took a long walk near the Goomtee Estate, these four teenage girls asked me to take their picture.
Immediately after which, they cracked themselves up.
Tea pluckers at the Rohini Estate. One of the few spots where the Darjeeling tea fields are not scaling up a mountainside.
Enjoying tea at a road-side café in the mountains of Darjeeling.
Watching Indian milk tea being made at a stall in Darjeeling near the Nepalese border.
Kids hanging out, while Mom (see above) makes milk tea, and dad laughs in the background.
Cupping teas at the Castleton Estate with one of the assistant managers of the factory making the tea. You can tell they are first flush teas by light golden/yellow color.
Having way too much fun tasting teas, with the manager of the Belgachi Estate, on the outskirts of the Darjeeling district. As we were standing for our formal photo, he suddenly leaped and shoved that bag of tea into my hands.
Siliguri (the largest town in Darjeeling District); two ladies out and about.
A vendor greeting his customer in the Siliguri market area.
A chai wallah selling her chai on the streets of Siliguri.
Kids, on their way home from school near Kuresong, Darjeeling.
Lots of school kids hitching a ride home at the end of the day.
A retired veteran of the India Gurkha Rifles, living the good life on the Nepal/Darjeeling border. One of the most interesting men I’ve ever met.
Walking down the road in this same Darjeeling/Nepal village, Dilma graciously invited me into her home for tea; milk tea it turns out—she had to run out and milk the cow and get some fresh milk.
Dilma, in the living room of her lovely home; with home-made fried sweet bread to go with the tea. She was incredibly gracious and hospitable to a couple of strangers walking down the road.
Rajah Banerjee, the first organic planter in Darjeeling, and the patriarch of Makaibari Tea Estate.
Planting some new tea plants at Margaret’s Hope Estate.
These guys were playing soccer on the dirt road separating two fields of tea plants in lower Darjeeling. Most of them had family working on the tea estates.
Wherever you go, whatever you do, it’s the people that matter the most.
(although a good cup of Darjeeling can be amazing).
All photos property of TeaSource, and may not be used for commercial purposes without express permission.
Copyright TeaSource © 2015
Sunset at the Sournee Estate in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India.
This post is to kick off our Darjeeling Days Sale at TeaSource both online and in-store; 20% off any Darjeeling tea for the entire month of March. Over the next few blog posts we’ll look at some of the stories, sights, people and FAQ’s of Darjeeling teas.
What is Darjeeling tea?
Typically “Darjeeling tea” refers to a black tea, light to medium bodied, with slight fruity and floral notes, and perhaps a touch of briskness. The steeped liquor usually appears light golden to a darker bronze color with a strong slightly fruity aroma. It is often considered one of the finest teas in the world.
Having a first flush tea (produced that day) at the Giddapahar Estate. Note the very light golden color.
Enjoying another first flush tea, the next day, at the Manager’s Cottage at the Goomtee Estate (different elevation and different mountainside in Darjeeling). Note the darker bronze color.
Cupping another first flush Darjeeling tea at the Rohini Estate. Note the darker color still. Rohini is one of the lowest elevation Darjeeling Estates, which along with the broken leaf style may partially account for the darker cup.
For a tea to be called Darjeeling, it needs to come from the Darjeeling district, state of West Bengal, India. “Darjeeling Tea” is a legally protected geographical designation for teas grown and manufactured in this very specifically defined region “Darjeeling.” This situation is similar to the designation given “Champagne” which is a sparkling wine grown in the Champagne region of France. Sparkling wines grown in other regions of the world cannot be called Champagne.
What is Darjeeling, not the tea, but Darjeeling itself?
Most of the tea producing regions of India—Darjeeling is pretty tiny.
Darjeeling is a small, I mean really small, region in Northern India (actually kind of northeast India).
The Darjeeling District is about 288 sq. miles.
Hennepin County, Minnesota is about 600 sq. miles.
Rhode Island is about 1212 sq. miles.
The Darjeeling district in detail.
The word Darjeeling translates as “Thunderbolt Place.” Darjeeling is very close to Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Assam, and Tibet. It is part of the foothills of the Himalayas.
Is Darjeeling tea rare?
Approximately 10,000 tons of Darjeeling tea are produced each year from the official Darjeeling region. Approximately 40,000 tons of tea are sold each year as Darjeeling. So at least 30,000 of those 40,000 tons are counterfeit. These counterfeit teas aren’t grown in Darjeeling. They may come from Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Bihar Province, other parts of the state of West Bengal outside Darjeeling, and God only knows from where else.
10,000 tons of tea sounds like a lot, but not really. Each year the Assam region of India produces about 680,000 tons of tea.
So Darjeeling teas, relatively speaking, are pretty rare, prized, and they can get crazily expensive.One of the border markers between Darjeeling, India & Nepal; to my left is Nepal and to my right is Darjeeling.
Why are Darjeeling teas special?
They are the highest elevation produced teas in the world. This higher elevation creates a different environment for the tea plant; different temperature ranges in the day and evening, different oxygen content in the atmosphere, different UV (ultraviolet ray) exposure for the plant, and many other differences. All these differences produce a different leaf and a unique flavor and aroma in the cup.
Tea fields along the mountain side at the Margaret’s Hope Estate.
Darjeeling teas are also 100% hand-cultivated and produced; with a tremendous level of care, experience, and expertise in the cultivation, handling, and manufacture of these teas.Hand plucking at the Rohini Estate.
What is the best way to prepare Darjeeling tea?
It’s a black tea; so many people would say use boiling water and steep 3-5 minutes. This is how I made my Darjeeling tea for many years; until I was shown a way that I’ve come to prefer; using slightly less than boiling water and steeping for 2-3 minutes. This cup will be a little bit less astringent, maybe a little bit more sweet or fruity, but with a little less body. Experiment, have fun with different preparation techniques—it’s tea, not the holy grail.
My breakfast pot of Darjeeling at the Best Western Hotel in the town of Darjeeling.
Yes, there really is a Best Western in Darjeeling.
We’ll do a number of blog posts the rest of this month; getting into more detail about Darjeeling and its wonderful teas.
Giddapahar was founded in 1881, and has been in the same family ever since. Surendra Nath Singh and his brother are the fourth generation to be running the estate. And since this garden was brought to my attention about six years ago, they have consistently produced some of the best (and most reasonably priced) Darjeeling teas I have seen.
Take a brief peek at the Giddapahar Tea Estate....
The entrance to Giddapahar Tea Estate, the smallest Darjeeling tea garden. The entire estate, factory, and owner’s home are built on slopes like this.
While small in size, Giddapahar looms large to tea merchants looking for the best quality. Pictured above are a couple of tea merchants from Siliguri, India and Taipei, Taiwan. The three of us met there, while looking for some special teas. In the background is the owner’s home, just a few short steps from the Giddapahar factory.
Having tea in the owner’s office at Giddapahar. Notice the pale yellow color of this delicate 1st flush Darjeeling, which was made that morning.
On the left, one of the owners of Giddapahar, Sudhanshu Kumar, and his factory manager behind the desk; enjoying a break and talking tea. Sudhanshu and his brother Himanshu own and run Giddapahar; it’s been in their family since the 1880’s.
A tea rolling machine at Giddpahar. This machine is close to 100 years old and made in Birmingham, England, it still helps make great tea today.
The heating chamber (and the factory manaager, who is also the only full-time employee of Giddapahar), which is used for “firing” the tea, the last step of traidtional tea manufacture.
Immersing myself in the incredible aromas of just made Darjeeling tea.
Himanshu Kumar, closely monitoring the tea during the manufacturing process. Behind him is a tea sorting machine (that shakes and sorts the different sized particles of tea). The folks at Giddapahar made this tea sorting machine themselves.
Close up of the tea sorting machine. You can see the chutes/funnels that siphon off the different sized particles.
The porch and the vista outside of the owner’s office. The Darjeeling mountainside is so steep here, that the slope drops off at about an 80 degree angle, but the entire slope is still filled with tea bushes that are hand-plucked by local workers.
Step 1: Use Good Tea
This almost always means loose leaf tea. There are some reasonably decent tea bag brands- but we don't know of any great (or even very good tea) that comes in a tea bag.
This first step doesn’t necessarily mean expensive tea. There are some excellent teas that can be had for as little as 15 cents per cup, like our Empire Keemun. But buy your tea from trusted vendors.
Keep following along with us this week as we talk about how easy it is to make the perfect cup of tea!
Step 2: Use Good Water
If your water tastes good without tea, chances are it will taste good with tea. And the opposite is true also. Steeped tea is over 95% water, so this matters a lot.
A few tips:
- If your water does taste bad out of the tap, most of those filters available at Target work pretty well: Britta, Pur, etc.
- Avoid distilled water, your tea will taste flat.
- Bottled water and spring waters are usually ok, although keep in mind that Evian is naïve spelled backwards.
Step 3: Measure Your Tea
3 grams per 8 ounces water
For the non-geeky tea drinker, this is about 1 rounded tsp of loose tea. We're talking about a measuring teaspoon, not the teaspoon in your silverware set. That’s why they call it a teaspoon.
If you have an extremely fine tea, like Classic Iced tea, we would only use 1 level teaspoon. This is because a fine tea has more weight with less volume; while a bulky tea needs more volume to have the same amount of weight.
Step 4: Measure the Water Temperature
If you’ve ever had green tea that was bitter, chances are the water was way too hot. Water temp. is important; you would never bake a cake 50 degrees hotter or colder than the recipe called for; you should be just as diligent with your tea.
Black tea: Boiling
You can hear and see the bubbles breaking the surface of the water; your kettle should be whistling like crazy.
Dark Tea (and Puer):
Just short of a rolling boil, “fish-eye” bubbles are forming on the surface and the kettle is beginning to hiss.
Oolong tea: 190-203 degrees
The steam should be strongly coming out of your kettle’s spout in a steady column, but bubbles should not be breaking the surface.
Green Tea: (and Yellow)
The steam should be coming out of your kettle’s spout in a gentle wafting/wisping motion—like the way steam raises off the frozen surface of a Minnesota lake in February.
White teas: wide variation of temp.
Classic steeping is 170-175 degrees, the very first hints of steam coming out of the kettle. We have taken to brewing some white teas near 180-190 degrees to extract more flavor.
Basically, the hotter the water-the more flavor chemicals (including any bitter flavors) you will pull into the steep water.
The above are general guidelines, and there are many exceptions. All TeaSource packages come with steeping suggestions on the back. These are just meant to be starting points. Feel free to experiment and find what suits you best.
Step 5: Time Your Steep
Another reason a green tea might turn bitter is it may have been steeped too long.
Basically steep the tea until it tastes good to you. Here are some very general guidelines (and there are lots of exceptions to this).
10 seconds to
We realize that’s not
lot of help, so see
our website for more specifics.
One observation: typically the smaller the tea particles (like Classic Iced Tea) the quicker the tea will infuse and steep. And the larger the leaf particles (like Ceylon Lumbini OPA) the longer the tea will need to steep and infuse.
Step 6: Allow for Full Leaf Expansion
Traditional tea balls make terrible tea because they don’t allow enough room for the leaf to expand.
At its most basic, tea is just a dried out leaf. As when you re-hydrate any dried food, that dried food will expand, sometimes dramatically so. Tea leaves will expand 2-5 times in size when they’ve re-hydrated after steeping. You have to allow room for that full leaf expansion, or you will not get the flavor you expect.
- If you must use a tea ball; use the largest honking tea ball you can find, even for a single cup.
- Steeping or infusing baskets work great, and they can fit into individual mugs or teapots.
- T-sacs (individual, do-it-yourself tea bags) work great. They are made of unbleached teabag paper, you just put your own tea in them. And then pull them out at the proper time.
The bottom line: use some method that allows the leaf to fully expand during the steeping time.
Brewing loose leaf tea is easy and completely extracts all flavor from the leaves into the liquid.
Step 7: Stop the Steep
You would never leave a cake in the oven for a long period, past the recommended time. Why would you do it with your tea leaves?
If you leave the leaves in the water, they keep putting more and more flavor chemicals into the water (including all the bitter tasting chemicals). Almost all teas will turn bitter if you leave the leaves in the water.
So, using some steeping device or process that allows you to separate the leaves from the liquid at the right time is essential.
- You can simply pour (and strain) off the tea into a second pot or cup at the right time.
- You can use a infusing basket (like the Finum filter) and simply remove the whole basket and leaves at the right time.
- T-sacs are great, because you just pull out the t-sac and the leaves.
- or you can use a really big honking tea ball.
- If your water does taste bad out of the tap, most of those filters available at Target work pretty well: Britta, Pur, etc.
We are overwhelmed with all the fabulous entries in our #MyTeaSource photo contest!
Here are our winners....
Now this has all of us at TeaSource in Minnesota longing for warmer temperatures and green grass...
"Relaxing with Jasmine Silver Needles while the baby sleeps is a treat!"
We are happy to be a part of a quiet moment in this busy mama's life.
"Tea on my Minnesota Linea"
This tea lover embraces the cold Minnesotan winters for a cup of hot tea. Now that's dedication!
Thank you to everyone who entered, shared, and voted!