Spice Notes

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 | 2 Comments

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

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

Oh She Glows 10 Spice Blend

Many chefs have a go-to spice blend all their own, and we are pleased to share this one from Angela Liddon, author of The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Over 100 Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out. We fell in love with the book from page 1 and have chosen it as one of the World Spice Cookbook Club selections for 2015.

” This spice blend takes less than five minutes to throw together, and it can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to baked potatoes, kale chips, tofu, beans, avocado toast, and more.”

Oh She Glows 10 Spice Blend



  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium jar. Secure the lid and shake to combine. Shake the jar before each use.

Reprinted by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Angela Liddon, 2014.

Categories: Cookbook Club, Healthy, Recipes, Spice Notes | 4 Comments

Coriander Cures Spring Fever

European and Indian Coriander

At a time of year when the thought of cooking another winter squash is too much to bear, and the shoots of green aren’t quite tall enough for harvest yet (where IS that asparagus, anyway???), coriander is the cure. The light, mellow citrus flavors elevate the palate in anticipation of the season to come. Most commonly found as an essential layer of flavor in spice blends, from the exotic curries and masalas of India to the familiar pickling spices and crab boils found here in the States, it can shine even more brightly used alone or in simple combinations to bring light fresh flavor in any season.

Coriander has been cultivated since ancient times and infused into the cuisines of every continent. It comes in two varieties- commonly called Indian and European- because of where they are typically grown and used. Both have the same light flavor profile and singular ability to add both a savory base and citrus top notes with just one spice. The European variety is more brown in color and round in shape, whereas the Indian is greenish-yellow and oblong. Indian coriander is not as common on the American market. It can be more bold,  presenting stronger citrus top notes, and a creamy element not found in the European variety. They can be used interchangeably, and in combination.

Fresh Coriander Leaves = Cilantro!

The flavors of coriander are best preserved in the whole seeds, which can easily be ground right before use. It can be a little “husky” so you may want to sift the ground coriander before use if you grind it at home. Me? I like it rustic and don’t mind the crunch. Here are some recipes to bring coriander onto the table for breakfast, lunch or dinner and dessert- because that’s how we roll. There just isn’t enough room in the spice pantry for the ones you cant’s use in multiple recipes.

Crunchy Coriander Granola

Coriander Roasted Beets

Millet Coriander Carrot Cake

Last spice note on coriander? The seeds come from the same plant that gives us cilantro, and before you know it, summer will be here and we’ll all be be eating fish tacos on the beach.

Coriander cures spring fever!


Categories: Hot Topics, Notes from the Field, Spice Notes | 1 Comment

How to Host with the Most!

Bartender Harry Craddock makes potable magic at the Savoy Hotel in London in 1926. Craddock popularized the 'Corpse Reviver,' one of the drinks featured in "Let's Bring Back: Cocktail Edition." Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

There exists an old spice merchant proverb dating back to the early 21st century which, roughly translated, advises that “the better the cocktail; the better the party. The better the party; the better the friends.” E’er here to help, we’ve compiled some of our favorite reference materials on the topic. Serve these delicious, humorous, and historical (and of course, spicy!) signature potent potables at your holiday soiree for insurance on a years’ worth of favors from your party-goers.

Let's Bring Back: Cocktail Edition

“Let’s Bring Back; The Cocktail Edition” touts itself as a “compendium of impish, romantic, amusing, and occasionally appalling potations from bygone eras.” The recipes hail from two-hundred year-old sources, right up to the archives of 1950’s iconic restaurant bars. From chuckles to laughs-out-loud, the history and suggestions accompanying each cocktail will have you and your guests tittering for hours, a la, “think only pure thoughts while sipping [The Bishop],” or consume a Scofflaw to give you the courage to “Wear white after Labor Day… Sprinkle Parmesan Cheese on Seafood Pasta… and all sorts of comparable acts of insurrection.

“Savory Cocktails” is a slender little tome; an ode to all things sour, spicy, herbal, umami, bitter, smoky, high, and strong. These drinks are undeniably sexy – what a modern-day Don Draper might imbibe. They’re interesting and nuanced, and legions away from fru-fru – no neon-hued appletinis here! Sophisticated foodies only need apply. Try a subtle Green Tea Gimlet (I’d pick jade green Mao Feng to offset the lime), or a Dog’s Nose, made with, of all things, powdered porcini mushrooms in combination with porter and shaved nutmeg.

Winter Cocktails

Though we love classic Mulled Wine and Eggnog, there’s so much more to winter-y cocktails than these two standbys. Enter, “Winter Cocktails.” Learn how to give hot chocolate a grown-up twist with lavender flowers and Earl Grey tea, or elevate your ski-lodge lounge with a “Rosy Cheek,” sprinkled with the rosy cheeks of cracked pink peppercorns. In addition to inspired beverages, this book also has a fabulous section on infusing alcohols at home – rose infused gin, anyone? Pair any one of these liquors or cocktails with their suggested finger foods. This is a one-stop-shop for great winter entertaining.

No list of cocktail books would be complete without a mention of the “Drunken Botanist,” shop best-seller and staff favorite since spring. As the name implies, this book unites the best of science and insobriety, leading an alphabetical nature walk from Agave to Strawberry and hitting all the best booze-making plants in between. Learning and jubilating skip hand-in-hand in this volume, the pages dotted with recipes for classic cocktails, as well as tips for updating old favorites in single servings and “pitcher” fulls.

Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails

Out of a workshop in Brooklyn comes “Shake,” self-described as “one part instructional recipe book, one part photo journey, and one part inspirational pep talk” for mixing spectacular cocktails at home. The approach is seasonal and straightforward, focused on simplicity, socializing, and, above all, fun! Our copy in the shop comes with the sweetest Mason jar cocktail shaker, pictured on the front of the book, for an automatic out-hipster of just about any one. (Pair with the “Art of Fermentation”– pickle it! for the win.)

Categories: Cookbook Club, Holiday, Hot Topics, Notes from the Field, Spice Notes, Tea, Wet Your Whistle | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment