Tea

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

New Teas, Take Two!

Seattle original, Jimi Hendrix

Great Seattle original Jimi Hendrix described seeing emotion as color, and played his music to match the colors he felt. While I’d never compare my palate to Jimi’s guitar prowess, I like to take the way he felt his art, and apply it to food, drink, and flavor. I choose from these teas – the lighter of our new offerings – when we get those clear, crisp, cloudless days… The kind when, if the breeze falls still over the Puget Sound for just a moment, the sun is toasty warm on an upturned face, the energy ebbing in Pike Place Market is gentle and communal, and the light that filters down through the trees is the same color as a perfectly brewed cup of green tea.

Ti Kuan Yin

Ti Kuan Yin - Tieguanyin

We’ve carried a Ti Kuan Yin (or Tieguanyin,  or any number of other spellings) for some time in the shop. Although technically an oolong, that example is quite lightly oxidized, and has a bright, verdant flavor. Our newest Ti Kuan Yin is produced in the traditional method of coal firing, which results in a very robust toasty and sweet character, which I strongly prefer when the weather snaps cold. The toastiness is matched with a deep, lingering floral nose, and a subtle astringency. This Baked Ti Kuan Yin is nicknamed the “Iron Goddess of Mercy;” the “iron” is meant to indicate the strength and lasting power of this tea, though I secretly think of it as the elixir that turns me in to a superheroine of the same name…

Sencha, Japanese Steamed Green Tea

Sencha

The Japanese talent for focusing on the beauty of single ingredients is as visible in their teas as it is elsewhere in their cuisine. Sencha is – with good reason – the most popular tea in Japan. This tea differs from the more common Chinese greens for the fact that it is steamed after picking (as opposed to the Chinese tradition of pan-roasting) to stop the oxidization process. This steaming imparts a fresh, pleasing, almost seaweed-like flavor to the grassy, vegetal, gold-green liquor, which so complements the characteristic “umami” profile of the leaves themselves. Brewed gently, it’s an exquisitely balanced cup.

Yin Hao Jasmine Green Tea

Yin Hao Jasmine

Shop owner Amanda Bevill sips a fragrant cup of jasmine tea all day long. In fact, if you don’t know her by sight, you could sleuth out who she is by the glass mug of clear green brew never far from her hands! Jasmine-scented green tea is traditionally made by stacking sheets of green tea leaves and jasmine flowers, one on top of the other, for anywhere from hours on in to days or weeks. Our Yin Hao Jasmine tea has been scented five times in this fashion, which imparts a heady jasmine fragrance in the nose, well balanced by the nutty undertone of lightly oxidized green tea. Often, jasmine tea is rolled in to pearls to make it hearty and protect the fragrance, but with these delicate leaves, take more notice of your brew time and water temperature or the tea may become too strong or astringent.

So, I solemnly swear, right hand raised, that I’m done complaining about the departure of summer. The promise of watching the rain come down in sheets (and maybe even snow? Yes, I said it!) on Western Avenue from the safety of our big windows here in the shop, while sipping these seven, new, delectable teas (for our first post on our new black teas click here), has me cozy and content, and ready for whatever the season brings. Swing by for a taste of any one of these teas, or to tell me how you’re preparing to weather the Pacific Northwest monsoon season!

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Tea Season is Upon Us!

Beautiful Sherrie with beautiful Assam

It’s always long about this part of October that I find myself finally letting go of the end-o’-summer doldrums, and suddenly excited to break out my wool sweaters and boots, hear that satisfying crunch of frosted grass as I cross my lawn in the morning, and most especially, to curl my fingers around a hot mug of steamy tea that fogs my glasses and fills my nose with its intoxicating aroma. In preparation for that first freeze, we’ve added a bounty of new varieties to the tea section that I’m certain you’ll enjoy– they’ve even enticed me out of my all-day-every-day chai habit! This post, the first of a two-part installment about our updated menu, will cover the darker teas- three black teas, and one phenomenal pu-ehr. Oolong and green tea drinkers, stay tuned for part two!

Dian Hong (Golden Needle):

Tian Hong - Golden Needle

Though we in the west refer to fully oxidized tea as “black,” referring to how it appears dry, the Chinese call it “red,” for the color of the brew. Dian Hong is a classic Chinese black tea from Yunnan Provence; “Dian” for Yunnan, and “Hong,” meaning “red.” Our variety comes from the large leaf pu-erh tea trees, and is full of enormous golden buds- which to the connoisseur means a sweeter cup with less astringency. After the first steeping, the soup has a bold, rich texture, and flavor like hot chocolate with a bit of a malty tone. Brew each serving of leaves three to four times, and taste as the body gets lighter, but the aroma gets sweeter. I drink this one first thing in the morning, and let it carry me up until noon!

Loose-Leaf Pu-Ehr:

Loose leaf Pu-erh

Pu-erh is also produced in the Yunnan province of China, from the same trees that give us the gorgeous Dian Hong. To process these leaves in to pu-ehr, the tea leaves are picked, piled, dampened, and turned periodically for six months to a year to ensure even fermentation. Once the tea is considered ripened, it is dried. The highest quality leaves are left loose, while the rest are graded, then steamed in to a variety of shapes- pressed in to citrus fruits, bricks, or little cakes. This gorgeous loose pu-erh does not need the usual rinse cycle of our tuocha pu-erh. The the earthy, barnyard quality of pu-erh may be an acquired taste, but for me, it’s reminiscent of a clean forest floor after a rain. If you like beets, mushrooms, and figs, chances are, you’ll appreciate this unique flavor. Each steeping of the leaves produces progressively sweeter tea- as many as ten times! This is the tea for rainy Saturday mornings with the crossword.

First Flush Darjeeling:

Darjeeling First Flush

When talking tea, “flush” refers to the time of harvest. Darjeeling, from West Bengal, India, is harvested five times throughout the year. At “First Flush,” in mid-March, only the new spring growth- one bud and two tiny leaves- are harvested, and minimally processed. The result is heavenly- complex, nuanced, like orange blossoms and sweet grapes. Though it’s sold as a black tea, our rare and prized First Flush Darjeeling has more in common with Chinese oolongs than it does most black teas, with a gentle, light brew that absolutely lives up to its reputation as the “champagne of teas.” This is my two-o’clock tea- my reward for a day two-thirds done! (For a more classic black with the Darjeeling profile, try the Second Flush-harvested in June- a more robust, spicier, darker amber cup- it’s my go-to pairing for that chai I said I was giving up!)

Assam:

The state of Assam in India is home to rolling, verdant hills, and a venerable tea tradition. Political unrest and poor weather have plagued the area for some time, so procuring an Assam tea that lives up to our exacting standards has been no easy task! Though we’ve always managed to get our hands on a tea that satisfies us, this crop is easily the best we’ve seen in years. The heavy rains of the monsoon season in this region are what give Assam tea its classic “malty” characteristic, and this tea has no shortage of that, but is matched with a unique sweetness, reminiscent of wildflower honey. Its brisk flavor and medium body make it ideal as breakfast tea, though the World Spice team takes it all day long, buoyed by milk and sugar in the British tradition. It’s again, a classic pair with any of our chai masalas.

These teas are a lovely start to embracing the autumn chill, and expanding your horizons beyond your hot beverage rut du jour, whatever it may be. Order a few ounces of a soon-to-be-favorite online, or pay us a visit on a foggy morning for an in-person taste!

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Spice, Tea, and… Romance??

Pooja and Sanjay

The spice shop is a special place for many of us, staff and customers alike. For two decades we’ve swapped stories of favorite recipes and moments shared, but recently we heard a story that touched us like no other.

Meet Pooja, and her groom-to-be, Sanjay. They first found each other on an online dating site, but when discussing a place to meet in person, Sanjay suggested World Spice. On the 15th of January, 2012 the couple met for the first time right here in our shop, and spent the afternoon sharing  stories about spices and favored dishes. For the couples’ second date, Pooja prepared a pumpkin coconut curry and Harissa shrimp, and they realized a mutual love of ethnic foods, and big flavors. “We feel lucky to have found each other,” Pooja told us. Fast forward to February of 2013, and the happy couple is preparing to marry, still eating together, and when their busy schedules allow, they’re cooking meals like grilled Tandoori chicken with roasted onions and peppers, and spicy burgers with sweet potato fries.

Sanjay and Pooja's Adorable Wedding Favor!

Herbs and spices are deeply rooted in romantic tradition. Giving gifts of spices for weddings is still very much alive. In modern times, spices can symbolize a fresh start. Pooja and Sanjay are giving away small tins of Indian Garam Masala to the friends and family who are sharing their special day. Congratulations, Pooja and Sanjay, we wish you a long and happy life together, full of love, spice, passion, and good food!

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

Summertime is Tea Time…

It’s true. We love a good cocktail. There happens to be several hours between Bloody Mary o’clock and Happy Hour, though, and to pass that time in the dog days of summer, I’ve come up with a list of unique and refreshing beverages that should keep you (and I both!) hydrated all summer long. Any one of these could handle a jigger of locally made spirits, too, if you haven’t gotten your fill by five o’clock.

Black Tea

For those mornings when it’s hot by 9:00, or those afternoons when your refresher needs a pick-me-up, my hands down favorite is our High Mountain Keemun. When it’s chilled, it gives the barest hint at the smokiness evident in a hot cup, and progresses quickly to a fruity smoothness that the spice team can’t get enough of. We like it best barely sweetened with agave syrup, and perhaps with a few fresh raspberries or a wedge of perfect Northwest peach thrown in for garnish. Try blending it with lemonade in equal parts for a decadent Arnold Palmer.

Herbal Blends

Our Moroccan Mint combines earthy Gunpowder green tea with refreshing mint, and it’s a natural to serve chilled. Sweeten with raw or brown sugar for best results- the subtle molasses flavors in these sweeteners bring out the most nuance in the tea. I’ll occasionally muddle a sprig of fresh mint in  my glass for a fresh little bite.

Cold Hibiscus tea is a common offering in Mexican and South American homes and from street vendors, but it has yet to attain its’ well-deserved popularity stateside! Tart, floral, and perhaps a little earthy, hibiscus tastes like lemon meets pomegranate meets red berries in the best way. Sweetened to taste and doctored with a few drops of Scrappy’s Lime Bitters, this one’s over the top. Freeze it into popsicles, simmer it with sugar to make a syrup to pour over shaved ice, or just sip it from a frosty mason jar.

The ice cubes are crystal clear, the lemons are poised for action on the kitchen counter, the pitchers are standing at the ready… we’re prepared! Let’s bring on that heat!

Categories: Hot Topics, Notes from the Field, Recipes, Sweet Somethings, Tea, Wet Your Whistle | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment