Notes from the Field
If 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 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.
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: 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.
Oolong: 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.
Green: 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.
If 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.
The World Spice Cookbook Club is grilling, steaming and frying at the August 2015 Meet & Eat. We are all cooking from Andrea Nguyen’s classic Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More and her more recent and crazy-popular The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches. We are going to taste so many different types of banh mi, and this is perhaps the most anticipated maybe because we are all so fond of our Sri Lankan Curry.
From the author: When Viet people eat curry with baguette, they typically dip the bread into the spiced coconut-scented sauce. San Francisco chef Alex Ong sent me his recipe for this bewitching curry (the name comes from the dark-colored spice blend), insisting that it would be perfect stuffed inside a baguette for banh mi. He was right, but to avoid a soggy sandwich, I hand shredded the cooked chicken and recooked it in the sauce, allowing it to fry in the residual oil and become encrusted with the seasonings. It became like an Indonesian rendang or, as my husband put it, a curried chicken carnitas. It’s fantastic.
The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches is one of the August selection for the World Spice Cookbook Club. The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches is currently available for purchase at our retail store.
Reprinted with permission from The Banh Mi Handbook by Andrea Nguyen. Copyright © 2014 Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Photography © 2014 by Paige Green
The World Spice Cookbook Club is grilling, steaming and frying at the August 2015 Meet & Eat. We are all cooking from Andrea Nguyen’s classic Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More and her more recent, crazy-popular The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches. Sherrie from World Spice Retail is cooking up these mini buns, and we can’t wait to try them!
From the author: If you like pot stickers and steamed buns, you’ll love these spongy-crisp pan-fried treats from Shanghai, where typically they are cooked in humongous shallow pans (much like large paella pans) with wooden lids. These buns are made of yeast dough that is filled with an aromatic pork mixture and then fried and steamed in a skillet. Cooking under cover with a bit of water delivers plenty of moisture to puff up the buns. Ground beef chuck or chicken thigh can stand in for the pork in this recipe. A bāozi is a mini bāo (bun) and for that reason, I like to keep these true to their name and shape small ones. However, you can elect to form sixteen medium-size (23/4-inch) buns. Roll the dough circles out to 3-1/4 inches in diameter and use about 4 teaspoons of filing for each bun; increase the water and cooking time a tad.
There are several methods for making Chinese yeast dough, some of which employ starters and leavening, such as lye water and ammonium carbonate. Th is dough uses ingredients available at regular American supermarkets, and the results match the best I’ve experienced in China. Many Asian cooks employ—to great success—a cakey, snowy-white Cantonese-style dough made from low-gluten cake flour or from a quickie flour and baking powder blend. This dough is different; it has more depth, and its loft and resilience comes from combining yeast and baking powder; fast-rising yeast works like a champ. All-purpose flour with a moderate amount of gluten, such as Gold Medal brand widely available at supermarkets, is what I prefer for this dough. Use bleached flour for a slightly lighter and brighter finish.
Used in Chinese, Japanese, and Southeast Asian cooking, chile oil is easy to prepare at home, and it’s infinitely better than store-bought. Its intense heat enlivens many foods, especially dumplings, which benefit when chile oil is part of the dipping sauce or used as a garnish. Some cooks add aromatics, such as ginger, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns, to the oil, but I like to keep the chile flavor pure. While you may use other cooking oils, such as canola oil, my preference is for the kind of peanut oil often sold at Chinese markets, which is cold pressed and filled with the aroma of roasted peanuts. It is texturally light, has a high smoking point, and offers a wonderful nuttiness that pairs well with the intense chile heat. Lion & Globe peanut oil from Hong Kong is terrific. Use just the infused oil or include the chile flakes for an extra brow-wiping experience.
Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More is one of the August selection for the World Spice Cookbook Club. Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More is currently available for purchase at our retail store.
Reprinted with permission from Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen. Copyright © 2009 Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Photography © 2009 by Penny De Los Santos
What’s that? Chicken Liver Toasts with Caramelized Onions, Mango and Watercress! That’s right, the World Spice Coobook Club is going to Puerto Rico — at least our tastebuds are. This is one of the delicious bites being prepared for the July 1st Meet & Eat featuring “Cocina Tropical: The Classic & Contemporary Flavors of Puerto Rico” by Jose Santaella. We’re excited about this recipe because it looks delicious, and it uses annatto seed — a spice with which many people are unfamiliar. Annatto is frequently used in Latin American and Caribbean countries to impart a natural color and mild, earthy flavor to foods. If you think you’ve never had it, it’s also what makes some butters yellow and cheddar cheese orange.
From the authors: Chopped chicken liver is one of those delicious recipes that is a bit of a throwback to the days of elegant cocktail hours and dinner parties with passed hors d’oeuvres. Pate and terrine are back in fashion, and this dish falls right into step with them. The richness of the velvety liver and the sweetness of the caramelized onions get a tangy tropical hit from the mango with a bit of peppery bite from the watercress garnish. Serve as is for a small plate appetizer or spread the liver on smaller crostini for a perfect party bite.
Cocina Tropical: The Classic & Contemporary Flavors of Puerto Rico is the July selection for the World Spice Cookbook Club. Cocina Tropical: The Classic & Contemporary Flavors of Puerto Rico is currently available for purchase at our retail store.
Reprinted with permission from © COCINA TROPICAL: The Classic and Contemporary Flavors of Puerto Rico by Jose Santaella, Rizzoli New York, 2014. Photography © 2014 Ben Fink. All rights reserved
This Banana Upside-Down Cake sounded so delicious that we just have to make it for our “Brazilian Barbecue & Beyond” Cookbook Club Meet & Eat!
From the authors, “In Brazil there are many types of banana cakes: cuca, a German cake with a rich, crumbly topping; banana bread; bolo cakes, which are sometimes made in a ring shape and often spread with cinnamon; and our favorite, the upside-down cake. Like the French tarte tatin, this indulgent cake is cooked with a layer of caramelized bananas at the bottom, then turned upside-down to show its sticky-sweet banana topping. Perfect as a teatime treat.”
Brazilian Barbecue & Beyond is the June selection for the World Spice Cookbook Club. Brazilian Barbecue & Beyond is currently available for purchase at our retail store.
Reprinted with permission from Brazilian Barbecue & Beyond, published in 2014 by Sterling Epicure. Text © 2014 Cabana; Photography © 2014 Martin Poole. All rights reserved.