Monday, December 18, 2006

A Bit of Warmth for the Holidays.

Hello again, readers. It has been almost two months since my last entry to this blog, and I feel a bit bad about that. I felt that I must at least make some sort of post for the holiday season, as this is a special and important time of year for so many people. The traditions of the holiday season carry treasured memories, and many of those memories lie within the tastes and smells that fill kitchens and cups (and the efforts that went into producing those tastes and smells of course!)

Psychologically, smell, more properly referred to as olfaction, is the strongest form of memory. And since taste is so strongly linked to smell, it is not difficult to see why our holiday memories involving food and drink are some of the last to ever be forgotten, if ever they are at all.

I would like to share a couple of ideas for making your teas a little more reminiscent of the holiday season, so that perhaps you might weave some long-lasting memories and traditions of your own.

One of these suggestions involves brewing your tea in fruit juice. I normally would not suggest this, as the very best way to create tea is from pure filtered water, and brewing it in juice could affect the way that flavors and nutrients are extracted from the tea (and result in less tea flavor), but since this has a nice festive sort of flavor, I'll go ahead and throw it out there.

For this recipe, heat some cranberry juice to near-boiling. If you reach boiling, you're a tad too hot, and will need to let your water cool for 30 seconds or so. While the cranberry juice is heating, assemble your tea. This recipe will work best with a black tea, or a green tea if you brew it a little stronger. To your usual tea (of which you ought to have about 1 heaping teaspoon per 6-8 ounces of water, depending on how strong you like it), add some freshly grated orange zest (about half as much orange zest as you have tea, or a bit less. You'll not want to overpower your beverage with orange). This will add a very nice flavor note which I think you will surely appreciate. Also add a bit of whole clove (not ground, or you'll never be able to filter it all out), and some cinnamon bark (but not ground cinnamon... you'll regret it. *shudders at memories of gritty tea*).

Once your cranberry juice is at the proper temperature, pour it over your assembled tea. Brew for 2-3 minutes (no more) in your preferred brewing device (once again, I prefer the french press), and then remove the solid tea from the teapot (or in the case of a french press, press down the plunge lever) and enjoy your finished tea. Most people tend to enjoy this tea with a bit of sugar, even if your generally not the sugar-and-tea sort.

The second holiday tea recipe introduces chestnuts to your tea making arsenal. Chestnuts have a delicious, mildly sweet flavor that makes a wonderful compliment to any tea.

For this tea, you'll need some freshly grated or coarsely ground ginger (anything but powdered), some chestnuts chopped semi-fine (Use either roasted or raw. I prefer roasted.), some cinnamon bark, some cloves, a small amount of orange zest, and of course, the black tea. With this recipe, a 1:1 substitution with green tea would work great as well.

For each cup (6-8 ounces) of tea, assembly 1 heaping teaspoon of tea, a collective teaspoon of equal proportions of ginger and orange zest, one or two cloves (three if you particularly like them), a small piece of cinnamon bark, and about 1/2 teaspoon of chestnuts. If you are making 32 ounces or more, using an entire cinnamon stick broken into smaller peices would be permissable.

Add some water just before the boiling point, and steep for 3-4 minutes. Remove solid tea from teapot (or in the case of a french press, press down the plunge lever), and enjoy the tea.

For those of you interested, here's a link to a poem called "A Cup of Christmas Tea."

I hope that you enjoy these festive tea recipes, and hope that you have a wonderful holiday season, and a happy and prosperous new year. May all of your celebrations be a damn lot of fun.

Cheers (of the holiday sort),

P.S.: I hope you find some consolation in the fact that writing to this blog more often is one of my New Year's Resolutions.