Author Archives: World Spice Merchants

The Perfect Cup: An Herbal Alternative

floral_sonnets_herbal_tisaneIf you’re looking for a tea that isn’t tea, go herbal! All true tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, whereas herbal tisanes, also called herbal teas, are made from all manner of herbs and even spices. From peppermint and chamomile to ginger and cardamom- herbal tisanes offer a caffeine free alternative to black, oolong or green teas.

Whether you are health conscious or just looking for a broader range of flavor, herbal tisanes offer up a satisfying brew. Here are a few options from the World Spice selection.

Emerald Mist is a classic mint tea with licorice and ginger providing a sweet spicy body, perfect for warming up on a cold fall day. Floral Sonnets combines chamomile and other floral flavors with just a hint of spice to adding depth to this relaxing brew, and Copper Lemon combines hibiscus and lemongrass for a vibrant, zingy taste which can be enjoyed either hot or iced.

How to brew the perfect cup:

Use Loose Herbal Tea: Loose herbal teas are the best choice, and since they do not come in tea bags must be strained before drinking. Premium herbs are always reserved for loose tea, and the inferior relegated to the chopping block for bagged tea. You always get the best flavor with loose herbal tea because the water is able to circulate freely, bringing more flavor into your cup. Teapots, infusing mugs and simple strainers are all readily available to make brewing nearly as convenient as bags. This simple strainer is our favorite because it fits in a cup or pot and is easy to clean.

How Much Herbal Tea: The amount of herbal tea you use controls the intensity of flavor in your cup. We recommend beginning with one heaping teaspoon for every six ounces of water. If you prefer a cup that is stronger or more mild, you can adjust the quantity to your liking.

Water Temperature: Always use boiling water to steep herbal tisanes. If your water is below boiling, you won’t get the full flavor in your brew.

Steeping Time: Herbal tisanes are very forgiving, making them easy to brew. We recommend a four to seven minute steep. Since they have such vibrant flavors and lack the tannins that can make a bitter brew, herbal tisanes can be brewed longer without worry.

Milk and Sugar: If you have a sweet tooth. add your preferred sweetener to taste. The vibrant flavors of herbal tisanes pair well with sugar or honey, but easily stand alone. We do not recommend adding milk to herbal brews.

Caffeine Content: If you’re looking to cut caffeine from your cup, you’ve come to the right place. All of our herbal tisanes are completely caffeine free. Elsewhere, watch out for yerba mate tea, which contains caffeine, as well as herbal blends with black or green tea added in.

herbal_tea_label_600Herbal tisanes make a great gift and all three of the teas mentioned above are featured in our Herbal Tea Collection. You can discover more about black, green, and oolong tea, or about chai, in our other posts. If you have any questions, please feel free to let us know in the comments.

Categories: DIY, Notes from the Field, Spice Notes, Tea | Leave a comment

The Perfect Cup….

pearl_jasmineChoose and brew the tea that’s right for you!

Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, ceding the top spot only to water, and it’s not hard to see why. There are many delicious varieties of tea, ranging in flavor from the most robust black to the mellowest green. With all that variety it’s easy to find a good reason for a cup of tea, but it’s not always easy to pick the right one.

All tea varieties- black, oolong, green and white- come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, yet vary widely in terms of taste. The differences arise from when the tea is harvested and how the leaves are processed. Here are the primary characteristics, and a few choice examples, of each:

black_tea_assamBlack: Black teas have a strong, full-bodied taste. Malty, fruity, and smoky flavors predominate these robust teas.  Their warmth and body make them perfect for a morning pick-me-up, and they pair well with spices for chai. Black tea has the highest caffeine content of all the tea types.

Kalgar Estate Assam is an exemplary black tea, with a strong malty character and hints of cherry fruitiness. For those seeking a broader range of flavors, Earl Grey is flavored with bergamot oil for a balanced citrus flavor, and Lapsang Souchong is a Chinese black tea which is pine-smoked for a deep smoky aroma and taste.

golden_lily_oolongOolong: Oolong teas possess some of the most complex and varying flavors of the tea world, and are not unlike wine in their diversity and nuance. Falling into a flavor range between green and black teas, they can be sweet and fruity with honey aromas, woodsy and roasted, or green, fresh and floral in aroma.

Golden Lily falls on the lighter end of the spectrum, with a rich buttery taste featuring notes of honeysuckle and hay. Bai Hao is a darker oolong, and has a spicy, toasty character with hints of fruit. Baked Ti Kuan Yin falls somewhere between the two, and combines a robust, toasty flavor balanced with a lighter sweetness.

dragonwell_greenGreen: Lighter than black teas, with a medium to light body and a clean fresh taste, green teas often present vegetal or floral flavors. Green teas are notably refreshing and energizing in nature and are often the first pick for health conscious consumers. Green teas have less caffeine than black and are high in anti-oxidants.

Yin Hao Jasmine is a green tea scented with jasmine flowers for an intense, but not overpowering, floral character. The nutty flavor of Dragonwell is smooth and toasty, with a bit of sweetness, and Mao Feng has a rich, vegetal taste which softens over multiple steepings.

White: Only harvested from fresh buds in the early spring, our white tea presents a clear, delicate vegetal flavor similar to green tea but even lighter in body and taste. Like green teas, white tea offers a revitalizing lift in the cup.

White Peony presents a gentle grassy flavor, with the subtlest hints of toastiness and melon.

How to Brew the Perfect Cup

Use Loose Leaf Tea: Loose leaf teas are the best choice, and since they do not come in tea bags must be strained before drinking. Premium tea leaves are always reserved for loose tea while the inferior leaves are relegated to the chopping block for bagged tea. You always get the best flavor with loose tea because the water is able to circulate freely around the leaves, bringing more flavor into your cup. Teapots, infusing mugs and simple strainers are all readily available to make brewing nearly as convenient as bags. This simple strainer is our favorite because it fits in a cup or pot and is easy to clean.

How Much Tea: The amount of tea you use controls the intensity of flavor in your cup. We recommend beginning with one teaspoon for every six ounces of water, for all types of tea. If you prefer a cup that is stronger or more mild, you can adjust the quantity of tea to your liking. This is better than steeping longer because a longer steep can add unwelcome bitterness. It is worth noting that adding more tea will also increase the amount of caffeine present in the brew.

Water Temperature: Always use full boiling water for black tea and below boiling for the other types. Green, white and oolong teas should use water ranging from 180 to 200 degrees because using water that is too hot will vaporize the more delicate flavors. Specific suggestions can be found for individual teas on our website, but a degree of imprecision is fine, too- the important bit is “boiling” vs. “jut below boiling.” To get the right temperature you don’t really need a thermometer, just pull the kettle off the heat just prior to boiling. If you’ve let it go a little too long, simply pour the water into the cup or pot before adding the leaves, this will allow it to cool slightly.

Steeping Time: Steeping time is also a consideration in brewing the perfect cup. As tea steeps, it releases tannins which give tea its bitter taste. If tea steeps for too long, the tannins can overpower the other flavors present in the tea, and allow it to become bitter. Conversely, not steeping the tea long enough will weaken the brew. For black tea, we recommend using a three to four minute steeping time. Oolongs and green teas should steep anywhere from one to three minutes, while white teas should steep for only one to two.

Green, white, and oolong tea leaves can often be steeped multiple times, with new flavors emerging each time. Everyone’s tastes are different, so have fun experimenting and find which steeping of your favorite tea you like the best.

While all three T’s (time, temperature, tea to water ratio) should be considered when brewing, any or all of them can be adjusted according to your personal tastes in order to brew the perfect cup of tea for you. That’s it. Go forth and brew. Here are a few final tidbits to leave you with before you go.

Caffeine Content: Generally speaking, black tea has roughly one third the caffeine content of coffee, with oolong, green, and white teas containing less than black.

Milk and Sugar: The rich, malty flavors of black tea pair beautifully with milk or cream and a sweetener, but the delicate flavors of the other varieties will be overpowered by these additions. We recommend against adding milk or sweetener to green, white, and oolong teas.

Other Brews: While these represent the most common and classic types of true tea, Camellia sinensis, there is still more to explore. You can find out more about chai tea and herbal tisanes in our other blog posts.

black_tea_gift_setIf you’d like to share your love of tea with someone else, consider gifting our Black Tea Selections gift set featuring Irish Breakfast, Earl Grey, and Northwest Tea Time.

Categories: Notes from the Field, Spice Notes, Tea | Leave a comment

Paprika Potatoes

Paprika Potatoes

Smoked paprika is an indispensable ingredient in any spice pantry, and the authors of Fresh & Fermented agree! Check out their delicious recipe below!

“Smoked paprika, also known as pimentón, has finally reached mainstream status in the spice world, and not a minute too soon. Made from pimento peppers that have been dried or smoked over a fire, this spice imparts a robust smoky flavor. As a hearty side, this dish pairs well with your favorite sausages, pork loin, or any grilled meat. Leftovers are delicious with eggs in a breakfast burrito or scrambled into a breakfast hash.”

Paprika Potatoes

Serving Size: Makes 4 to 6 servings

Paprika Potatoes


  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, butter, or coconut oil
  • 1 large or 2 small yellow onions, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 6 medium unpeeled red potatoes, cut into medium dice (about 3 cups)
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika (pimentón)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups stemmed, thinly sliced kale (about ½ pound)
  • 1 cup caraway Kraut


  1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and sauté, stirring every few minutes, until they’re tender, another 15 to 18 minutes. Add the paprika, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Sauté until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the kale and sauté until it’s just wilted but still vibrantly green, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the potato mixture to a large serving bowl.
  2. Take the kraut out of the jar with a clean fork, letting any extra brine drain back into it. Roughly chop the kraut and add it to the potatoes, tossing thoroughly to incorporate.
  3. Serve immediately, while the potatoes are still warm.
  4. Note: Try soaking cubed potatoes in a bowl of water for an hour to help release the starches, which will help prevent sticking. Drain and lightly dry the potatoes with a towel before cooking.

*(c)2014 By Julie O’Brien and Richard Climenhage. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Fresh & Fermented: 85 Delicious Ways to Make Fermented Carrots, Kraut, and Kimchi Part of Every Meal by permission of Sasquatch Books. Photography by Charity Burggraaf

Categories: Cookbook Club, Eastern Europe, Global Cuisines, Hot Topics, Mediterranean, Recipes, Sides | Leave a comment

Caraway Kraut

Our April Cookbook Club selection is Fresh & Fermented: 85 Delicious Ways to Make Fermented Carrots, Kraut, and Kimchi Part of Every Meal by Julie O’Brien and Richard Climenhage. Join us to taste and learn about the mysteries of kraut! Here’s a sneak peek at one of their recipes…
Caraway Kraut 2

“We didn’t start making Caraway Kraut until our third year in business—we just weren’t sure if our customers would like the distinctive caraway flavor. When we started experimenting, however, it took just one test batch to convince us that Caraway Kraut belonged in Firefly’s lineup of fermented foods.

Caraway Kraut contributes its pleasing earthy taste to some of the recipes in this book and also makes a great side dish for grilled meats or mashed potatoes. It’s the perfect addition to the classic Reuben (of course) and adds intrigue to potato salads and coleslaws too. Whirl it with fresh avocado for a simple sandwich spread or as a dip for chips and veggies. (The acid does double duty—it adds flavor and keeps the avocado from getting brown.)

Caraway Kraut brine, which results from the fermentation process, is a delicious tonic on its own. For hundreds of years people have been drinking sauerkraut brine to heal ulcers or temper hangovers—it’s a well-known Russian remedy—and that inspired us to start bottling and selling the extra brine as our first Tummy Tonic.”

Caraway Kraut

Yield: Makes about 1 quart

Caraway Kraut



  1. Peel off any older, discolored outer leaves from the cabbage, reserving the leaves, and rinse the head. Quarter and core the cabbage, reserving the core. Slice the cabbage into 1/8-1/4 inch-wide strips. You should have about 12 cups of shredded cabbage.
  2. Put the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle it with the salt. Use your hands to thoroughly work the salt into the cabbage. When the cabbage has shrunk to about half its original volume and has generated a briny, watery base, taste it and add more salt or water if necessary. Stir in the caraway seeds, making sure they’re evenly distributed throughout the ferment.
  3. Pack the cabbage tightly into a quart jar until it’s about 2 inches below the rim, weighing it down with the reserved leaves and core. Make sure the brine completely covers the compressed cabbage by about 1 inch, and that it’s about 1 inch below the rim of the jar. Let the jar sit at room temperature, roughly 64 to 70 degrees F, topping the cabbage with more brine if needed. The kraut could be ready to eat after 1 week (or let it ferment longer for a richer taste). Store it in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.


Make It Quick & Simple

Start with 2 cups of your own Classic Kraut, or 1 pound plain unpasteurized sauerkraut from your local market. (You’ll find it in the refrigerator case.)

Stir 1 to 1½ teaspoons of crushed caraway seeds into the kraut and mix well. Crush the caraway seeds using a mortar and pestle, rolling pin, or clean coffee grinder. Break them down, but don’t crush them to a powder. Crushing them helps the caraway flavor more fully permeate the kraut.

Pack the entire mixture into a jar, and top off with as much Brine as needed to cover the kraut.

Let the jar sit at room temperature out of bright light for about a week, and then refrigerate. It’s ready to eat; however, the longer you let it ferment, the more fully the flavors will develop.

*(c)2014 By Julie O’Brien and Richard Climenhage. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Fresh & Fermented: 85 Delicious Ways to Make Fermented Carrots, Kraut, and Kimchi Part of Every Meal by permission of Sasquatch Books. Photography by Charity Burggraaf.

Categories: Cookbook Club, Eastern Europe, Healthy, Hot Topics, Recipes, Sides, Snacky Bits | Leave a comment

Piment d’Espelette

espelettehouseok2It’s here! This season’s crop of Piment d’Espelette arrived at our doorstep this week, ready to transform our dishes with its mild heat and fruity, almost tomatoey flavor. Piment d’Espelette’s mild flavor is the cornerstone of the traditional Basque stews, and in keeping with Basque tradition we consume our Piment d’Espelette seasonally, making way for each new crop when it comes in.

The seasonal rotation isn’t the only thing traditional about the pepper of Espelette. Piment d’Espelette bears the distinction of being the only spice with an official AOC designation. Being recognized by the AOC, or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, guarantees that the product which bears its seal will be produced in traditional manners, and originate only from their traditional region. In such illustrious company as true french Champagne, only the superior pepper grown in the ten, tiny approved Basque villages may be labeled as Piment d’Espelette.

Piment d’Espelette originates in the area that joins the southwestern-most corner of France with northeastern Spain, historically known as Basque country. In the region, late summer and early fall are marked by festoons of peppers drying against white stucco houses, just as they have for centuries. Each October, the end of the harvest is marked by a vibrant festival, complete with parade, where peppers are sold fresh, pickled, or dried and ground, as we carry it.


The Basque have another tradition worth imitating- that of the txoko, or gastronomical society. Generations of Basques have gotten together to cook, sing, and experiment with food in thousands of private clubs. While it might not have centuries of tradition, we’ve got a kind-of txoko of our own, the World Spice Cookbook Club, that meets up to try out recipes from a new cookbook each month. Singing is purely optional.

So come pick up some of the freshest and most flavorful flakes of Piment d’Espelette available in the United States by the ounce or by the jar, and if you’re feeling adventurous drop us a line and come out to the next meeting of our Cookbook Club for a little gastronomical bonding. On egin!


Categories: Cookbook Club, French, Hot Topics, Mediterranean, Notes from the Field, Spice Notes | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Day After: Turkey in Mole Ole! Sauce

The scene is set —the date is November 30th– after the food coma fades, we find ourselves in a fridge-gazing daze at the thought of any more mashed potatoes. Just as the traditional flavors of the season begin to seem dull, we ask ourselves: How can we jazz up the leftovers?

Chiles for Mole Olé!

Enter Mole Olé! This hearty sauce using our Mole Olé! blend satisfies the craving for an exotic departure from standard fall flavors and transforms your leftovers into a delicious new dish too easy to believe. Make it a day or two before the marathon holiday cooking begins so that it’s all ready to combine with leftover shredded turkey on Thanksgiving Friday. Use it to stuff enchiladas, wet burritos smothered in more of the glorious sauce, or as a filling for tacos.

Turkey in Mole Ole! Sauce

Turkey in Mole Ole! Sauce


  • 2 pounds cooked turkey meat, shredded
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can tomatillos, drained
  • 1 plantain, diced small (on the green side)
  • 2, one-inch slices challah or other egg bread
  • ½ cup ground Mole Ole!
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chile flakes
  • 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced


  1. Heat two tablespoons oil until hot but not smoking. Add almonds and toast until golden, about four minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to paper towel–lined plate, reserving the oil.
  2. Add raisins to oil in skillet and sauté until plump, about two minutes. Transfer to paper towel–lined plate, again reserving oil.
  3. Add onion and garlic and plantain to skillet and sauté until softened, about five minutes. Add tomatoes and tomatillos and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced by half, about ten minutes.
  4. Transfer almonds and raisins to the tomato mixture along with the Mole Ole! spice blend and the challah.
  5. Working in batches, add mixture to blender and purée until smooth, adding the stock to thin to the desired consistency.
  6. Return the blended sauce to medium heat, and season to taste with salt, sugar and Chipotle Flakes.
  7. Simmer over low heat for ten minutes to develop flavors. Add the cooked, shredded turkey meat, and toss to coat in the sauce. Use to fill enchiladas, tacos, burritos, or to top nachos.

Categories: Course, Global Cuisines, Holiday, Latin America, Main Meals, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments