Australian coffee and tea chronicles

My husband and I spent two weeks visiting our son who lives in Australia. Our last visit to Australia was 27 years ago when I was about my son’s age. Love the big hair, eh-yea?Patty & koala

The food and drink were wonderful, never had a bad meal. Coffee and tea were available everywhere.

The Australians love their coffee, drinking it all day and late into the night. Coffee shops are on every corner and most of them are not marketed chain stores. Lattes are called flat whites, pictured above.  At home in the U.S. I have pretty much given up coffee and milk, so drinking these were a leap of faith. The cows in Australia must be happier because the milk was creamier and frothier and didn’t make me ill. The baristas made each cup of flat white with love swirling me their signature on each one whether it was a ceramic or paper cup. I saw very few Starbucks but McDonald’s restaurants were quite prominent and they all had McCafe’s inside. McCafe’s served coffee and tea and were lovely respites serving, wait for it…..macarons!

I didn’t abandon my love for hot tea. It was everywhere also. All of the hotels we stayed at had kettles to boil water for tea.

The best part about drinking coffee or tea at a shop was enjoying a sweet or pastry.

Tim Tams are Australian favorites so I stocked up at duty free on my way home. They are chocolate covered cookies with caramel filling. They now come in a variety of flavors.

Tim Tams

Family friends from Australia had told us about the Tim Tam Slam for years. The first coffee shop we saw in the Brisbane airport validated that it really exists. The steps are: 1) bite off the diagonal corners of the Tim Tam. 2) use it as a straw to slurp up a warm cup of tea or coffee, 3) pop it in your mouth and enjoy the melted Tim Tam.

tim tam slam

We’ve been home for a few weeks now. I have returned to my daily spot of tea, sans sweets and pastries. The relaxed feeling of sipping coffee or tea lingers in memory. A moment of civility. Cheers.

great barrier reef

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Spring Green

I spent the past week in the snowy mountains. Upon returning home the trees have burst out with flowers, shoots of grass have sprouted, and the sun has warmed the earth.  I’m feeling green. The color of spring.

Two months ago for the tea party I made goodie bags with Matcha green tea. I started drinking it during menopausal years for an energy boost. According to Wikipedia Matcha green tea is a finely milled or fine powder green tea.  Japanese tea ceremonies focus on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha. Matcha is used to flavor and dye foods such as sobi noodles, ice cream, pastries and even a Japanese candy called wagashi.

Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves. The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before harvest & can last up to 20 days, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight.This slows down growth, stimulates an increase in chlorophyll levels, turns the leaves a darker shade of green, and causes the production of amino acids in particular L-Theanine. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked. After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled out before drying, the result will be auokuro tea. If the leaves are laid out flat to dry, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tencha. Tenchacan then be de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.

It can take up to one hour to grind 30 grams of matcha. Now I know why it is so expensive. I purchased 1.5 ounces for $14.

Matcha green tea

My fellow blogger, jothetartqueen has made many recipes with Matcha green tea. She is a trained chef and I appreciate her talents and daring skills.

For my challenge I made macarons and candy laced with matcha.I’ve made macarons before check out this earlier posting.

Match tea macarons from  Mélanger :: to mix

100 g egg whites

35 g egg white powder

125 g almond meal

125 g powdered sugar

2 tsp Matcha green tea powder

Syrup: 150 g sugar and 50 ml water

Directions

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  At the final changes of whipping the meringue, and add the matcha tea powder.  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

green tea macarons

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.  Refrigerate to set.

baking sheets of macarons

Chocolate ganache 

120g dark chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Pour over the chocolate.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir.  Let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.


chocolate ganache

the final product

Matcha White Chocolate Pistachio Cups – The Sweetest Kitchen

Makes about 10-12 mini cups

Ingredients
For the outer shell:
140 grams good quality white chocolate (at least 30% cocoa solids)
About 1/2 teaspoon Matcha – or enough to get a nice pastel green color

For the filling:
1 cup pistachios, shells removed
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon flavorless oil, but you may need less or slightly more (I used canola)
pinch or two of Matcha
25g icing sugar

For the filling, place pistachios and salt in a food processor and blend until it starts coming together in a ball. This could take up to 15 minutes and you’ll have to scrape down the sides of the bowl often. If you’ve ever made your own nut butter, it’s basically the same process. With the motor running, add some oil slowly until the nut butter begins to thin out. Do not use too much though as you don’t want it to be runny. About the consistency of commercially prepared peanut butter is good. Add a pinch (or two if you like) of Matcha to the nut butter and blend again until well combined.  Set aside.

paste

Place 12 mini cupcake wrappers into a mini cupcake baking tray. Note, I only got 11 1/2 cups using this recipe!

For the outer shell, melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring constantly. Do not let the bowl touch the water, and do not get water into the chocolate. When chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat, immediately sift over matcha and stir until well combined and matcha is dissolved. Do this in small amounts so you can ensure you get the green color you want. If you put in too much matcha, you might get an unappealing dark green color that no one wants to eat!

When you reach your desired color, place about 1 even teaspoon of melted chocolate into each mini cupcake liner. Using the back of a small spoon, bring the chocolate up the sides of the paper liners and smooth down the bottom to make it flat. Repeat for each liner. Place the tray in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes to set.

Measure 96 grams of pistachio butter and transfer this amount to a clean bowl. Sift over the icing sugar and stir (or use your hands) to thoroughly combine. Form 12 balls from the pistachio butter/icing sugar mixture using about 1 teaspoon, just slightly rounded, each. Place on a clean surface. Take out the baking tray from the refrigerator, ensure the chocolate is hardened, then slightly flatten the pistachio balls with the palm of your hand and place 1 ball into each chocolate cup.

candy cups

Pour 1 teaspoon of chocolate (you may need to re-melt it) on top of each pistachio ball, ensuring the filling is completely covered. To get a smooth top, do not use a spoon or knife to flatten or spread it; just pick up the tray and tilt it around (you may need to tap it gently on the countertop) to get the chocolate to cover the filling and you should end up with a completely smooth top. Repeat for each cup. Refrigerate until set, around an hour.

To serve, let the cups come to room temperature and for a more intense matcha flavor, dust some matcha over the top of the cups.

 

tea cup

 

Patty’s Points:

1. Loose green tea that is steeped, cannot be blended into Matcha tea. I tried doing that before reading the Wikipedia article. How silly! A coffee and tea shop owner thought it was a good day also. I was also surprised she had never heard of matcha green tea. Only a few shops carry Matcha green tea. I have found better prices on the internet but haven’t delved into purchasing it as yet. I have purchased “shots” of Match green tea that was added to a smoothie which was yummy.

2. Macarons are fun to make, now that I have mastered them. I whipped out the batches in about 2-3 hours. I sprinkled the Matcha tea atop each cookie for a nice accent.

3. The candies were actually pretty easy to make. Unsalted pistachios can take a while to find, look somewhere where they have bulk items. These candies are so rich, they don’t need any additional salt so try to get the unsalted type.  I had to make adjustments to the amount of powdered (icing) sugar so make sure to taste it as you mix it.

4. These treats are quite rich, so eating one or even half of one was plenty for me to sample.  They made nice treat bags.

What a fun way to use tea! Another culinary adventure!

 

Culinary Tea Party


Culinary Tea cookbook

The Fearless Cooking Club and friends gathered to celebrate all things tea. We had food steeped from tea in eggs, candy, fruits, vegetables, and salmon. We also drank tea as well. Culinary Tea written by Cynthia Gold, the tea sommelier at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers, was the basis of most of the recipes. Char visited Boston last fall and enjoyed an afternoon tea a the hotel. She delighted us with her cooking skills and beautiful setting to enjoy a culinary tea.

Char and Debbie greeted us at the door with a flute of champagne infused with raspberry truffle tea syrup. Wow!

hostess and greeter

the culinary tea table

Each guest was presented with a card to keep track of types of teas tasted.

place setting

culinary tea card

We started with a flowering tea pod or bud.

pouring the water

After pouring hot water atop, the bud opens into a beautiful flower

flowering tea

Our first course was marbled eggs. They were hard boiled eggs, the shells cracked but left intact then steeped in green tea with brown sugar. After two days of steeping in the refrigerator, the shells were removed and voila marbled eggs.

marbled eggs

The marbled egg was served with rose petal and wine salts and mixed green salad.

marbled egg, flavored salts

Each guest brought a tea pot. We all went around the room telling the story of our teapot and the type of tea we were sampling. This was an opportunity to share our teas with others.

tell us about your tea pot

The main course was salmon en papillote steeped with darjeeling tea and acorn squash with chai cherry walnut tea.

Salmon en papillate with acorn squash

To cleanse our palate before dessert we had a Blackberry tea sorbet. I was surprised it wasn’t made with a blackberry tea. Instead fresh blackberries, sugar and Darjeeling or Assam tea.

blackberry tea sorbet

And for dessert (I was so full by this point), Riesling Poached Pears with Cardamon cream and

White Chocolate chai and Earl Grey Chocolate  truffles

poached pears and truffles

Patty’s Points:

1) Everything was sumptuous and beautiful. Char hit a high mark with her beautiful presentation and culinary tea skills. Her dining room was a beautiful tea room.

2) Char said that if she could change one thing she would’ve put more cracks in the egg shells before steeping them in the tea for 48 hours to add more marbling. I thought they were wonderful. The salts made of rose petals and wine were Mary Beth’s contribution from her trip to Europe this past fall. Thanks Mary Beth, they were a spectacular addition.

2) Everyone had a touching story to tell about their tea pots, given to them by loved ones or special memories of purchasing it. I didn’t have a remarkable story to tell about my tea pot, I had just purchased a new one the day before as I had broken mine. Pictured below is a combination tea pot and cup that belonged to my mother. She purchased it in Ireland (I believe), made in Galway. My father is caring for it at present. I carefully dusted the glass shelving it sits on along with twelve Irish coffee cups. I hope to collect it someday.

Irish teapot and cup

Thank you Char for a wonderful afternoon of all things tea!

ExperimenTea-ing

I have revved up my tea and herbal infusion intake over the past year. Here is a sampling of types I tried.

tea 1

Celestial Seasonings Herbal Infusions

tea 3

Organic

IMG_2462

Potpourri

For Christmas I received this super Cordless Programmable Kettle by Cuisinart. This appliance has kicked my tea consumption into high gear.

Cuisinart tea pot

  • Six pre-set temperatures
  • 30-minute keep warm option
  • Memory-holds settings when removed from a swivel base

teapot 2

The readings are in Fahrenheit, heating your water for tea to the perfect temperature:

160 = Delicate tea

175 = Green tea

185 = White tea

190 = Oolong tea

200 = French Press

Boil = Black tea

This tea bag squeezer helps get every last bit of your steeped tea or herbs from the tea bag.

tea bag squeezer

I purchased this “squeezer” at the Celestial Seasonings Tea Shop. Great, inexpensive buy.

tea bag squeezer 2

Bagged teas are readily available almost everywhere with many brands and flavors to pick from. Because of the popularity, the tea aisle at my grocery store is completely separate from the coffee aisle. I used to pick the same teas and herbal infusions every time I went. It was easy and didn’t take much thought. Now I spend a lot of time there perusing the brands.

I have discovered that I like certain brands. I’m preferential to Celestial Seasonings. I think their Master Tea taster has excellent taste buds. I also like Stash, Bigelow and Twinings brands. I continue to check out different brands.  I am now drinking Organic Zhena’s Gypsy Tea Coconut Chai black tea. It has a lovely flavor with steamed milk.

Every morning I have one cup of black tea steeped in hot water and almond milk and one cup of green tea with lemon. I split one Stevia sweetener packet between the cups. I never used to drink green tea because it tasted bitter, adding the lemon juice helped.

Midday, I have a cup of decaffeinated Earl Grey with almond milk. After dinner I have an herbal infusion that is calming or will help me sleep. I’m drinking about 4-5 cups per day!

Patty’s Points:

1. I have so much to learn. I have barely scratched the surface of tea. There are a growing number of tea blogs out there in WordPress-Land.  People are cuddling with tea cups and tea pots, writing poetry about tea, steeping leaves of all kinds in hot water, and hanging out in tea houses.

2. So far I haven’t much cared for the taste of roobios, it tastes like licorice. I’ll have to give it another try someday. I’ve tried oolong tea once and thought it was good.

3. I love my hot water kettle and the temperature settings. It was a pricey little kettle, but I got it discounted at a department store. There are lesser priced kettles out there for around $20.00 or more; but they have only one temperature = boil.

4. Tension Tamer by Celestial Seasonings has catnip in it. Yes, catnip tea.  It helps with headaches and is detoxifying. My husband drank it and felt sleepy immediately.

5. I follow a blog called Scrubs Nurse.  She has a recent posting on the health benefits of tea that is worth reading.

6. Tea is becoming more popular in the U.S.  You know tea is becoming mainstream when you see more varieties than Lipton at a truck stop next to the coffee. Tea has been around for thousands of years and is universal. I guess us Yankees are just catching on.

Right now I have 17 boxes of tea in my cupboards. My husband wonders why I need that many and continue to bring new varieties home. I like choices.

Loose tea and tea pots are my next adventure. In the meantime, happy sipping and tasting!

tea at Brown Palace

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Tea is Hot

teacup

The January issue of Bon Appetite cited tea as one of the top 25 food trends for 2013. How cool is that?  If you watch Downton Abbey, you know that sitting down to tea is part of life for the residents upstairs and downstairs. A refined drink for all social classes.

Several Fearless Cooking Club (FCC) members have been on some tea adventures the past few months.We started out with a day trip to Boulder at Celestial Seasonings.

Sleepytime tea bears

We donned our hair nets and went through the production rooms for the free tour.  We learned about black, green and white teas and many herbs and spices that are hand-picked from all over the world. They have a chief taster who has been in the job since the start of the company.

The Mint Room is quite the experience. Our tour guide directed us in and closed the door. Sinuses opened immediately, eyes watered, slight throat burn. You can mark your survival with a postcard or cup in the gift shop.

I survived the mint room

Following our tea tasting and scooping up great deals from the gift shop, we headed to downtown Boulder for lunch at the Dushanbe Tea House. The house is a gift to Boulder from the country of Tajikistan. Dushanbe is the capital and Sister City to Boulder. We had a lovely lunch along with three different pots of loose tea.

Dushanbe Tea House

Tree of Life panel by ceramic artist Victor Zabolotnikov.
outer panel

Then I hosted a pajama tea party on the Season 3 Finale of Downton Abbey. It was a tea potluck as we munched on scones, breads and desserts to enjoy with our tea. Don’t you just love the tiara?

Slumber Tea Party

The last adventure was high tea at the Brown Palace Hotel. My daughter and her three girlfriends came home for Spring Break. They got gussied up in hats, pashminas and furs to fully enjoy a proper English tea.

Spring Break Quartet

The scones, sandwiches and desserts were sumptuous.

plates of sandwiches

Tea makes one feel civilized and refined. Oh, to take a break and enjoy the moment.

Patty’s Points of learning on the Tea Tasting Trail:

1. The origin of tea dates back to 2737 BC by Shen Nung Emperor of China. A leaf fell into a cup and it brought a pleasing and therapeutic flavor to water.

2. Sleepy Time tea is Celestial Seasonings most popular tea and it really isn’t tea. It’s an herbal infusion. That is also why it is caffeine-free.

3. Many pieces of the Dushanbe Tea House were assembled in Tajikistan and shipped to the US; the Teahouse was built by hand.

4.  According to Afternoon Tea the drinking of tea not only became a social event for the upper classes, it altered the time and manner in which they took tea. Afternoon Tea became the bridge between meals because many wouldn’t eat their evening meal until maybe 8pm. As such, Afternoon Tea became a ‘mini meal’ in itself. High tea is taken at a table; afternoon tea is taken at a low comfortable chair or sofa. The upper classes developed their own variation of high tea as a meal that could be eaten when their servants were away or not available, as it was so easy to prepare.

I will be posting again on tea….I am still sipping and sampling.

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