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Guest Blogger | Emily Gold

May 19, 2009
Photograph by Greg Nesbit |

Photograph by Greg Nesbit |

I’m off to Seattle and Vancouver this week.  My friend, Emily Gold, has graciously agreed to man the danapop post in my absence. I cannot think of anyone more qualified to write this week’s food & drink. You can continue to follow Emily on her blogspot. While you’re there, check out a piece I posted on her site about Atlanta life.

Business resumes as usual next week. And I assure you, I’ll return loaded with stories and posts…bi-annual family vacation…enough said. You can also follow my travels on twitter @ danapops.



So Many Teas, So Little Time

Tea has been on my mind lately. Not only because I have a cup nearly every morning and every afternoon, but because it’s one of those food products that has been around for ages yet quietly flies under the radar. Tea is a single-origin product, expressing the terroir of a region. Just as with wine grapes, there is a certain romance at envisioning tea grown on Lover’s Leap Estate, at an altitude of so many feet, lovingly picked by hand, and spread on huge screens to dry beneath the Indian sun. A vision, I know, but surely one you’d want to drink every morning.

You might find it perplexing that I am so pro-tea as we enter the hottest months of the year, but there are three good reasons for my obsession:

1. Iced tea
I used to think that sun tea was only something Southern grandmothers made, but over the last few years, I have converted to this method. In the heat of a summer afternoon, to make iced tea the regular way means boiling a vat of water, pouring it over the bags (or leaves), and then waiting for it to cool enough for ice cubes to do some good. However, the sun tea method doesn’t even interrupt your hammock time. Simply fill a pitcher with cool water and tea bags (I actually prefer using about 6 plain ol’ Lipton black tea bags), and add fresh herbs and lemon slices, and cover with something so it doesn’t turn into a bug hot tub. Sometimes I add mint, sometimes, lemon thyme, sometimes lavender…or even all three if I’m feeling adventurous. Then you just wait. Let the sun warm it up for a few hours until it’s to your liking, then refrigerate…and it’s ready to drink! It doesn’t get bitter since you really can’t overstep, and the tea flavor is delicate. I particularly like this method for herbed teas since the herbs and lemon don’t taste cooked, yet the flavors gently permeate the tea.

2. Cool tea cocktails
There are no crocheted tea cozies to be found anywhere near today’s tea-tails. Tea-inspired cocktails are taking the beverage world quietly, one believer at a time. The obvious way to use tea in a cocktail would be to use an extra-strong concentrate, but crafty mixologists are going one step beyond and infusing the spirits themselves with tea leaves. Try it—add some Earl Grey (either loose or bagged tea) to vodka. Wait about two hours and strain—presto chango, tea-infused vodka! You can also find infused tea spirits, such as the incredibly popular Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka (which I myself have not tasted) and the delightful Qi spirits from St. George Spirits. Qi White is a white tea spirit with notes of orange, and a delicate, floral character, and Qi Black with deep, smoky flavors of Lapsong Souchong. I highly recommend both of them for use in sophisticated summer libations.

3. Grow herbs and make your own blends
Growing herbs to make tea blends is an easy do-it-yourself idea. Plant herbs that you like (peppermint, spearmint, thyme, rosemary, lavender, and lemon verbena, for starters), and pick small batches throughout the growing season. You can always use them fresh, but I like the concentrated flavors that come from drying. Use a fine mesh screen or flat sweater drying rack and dry the leaves until they are dry to the touch. Store and steep. One of my favorite combos is Gunpowder Green Tea with a few pinches of dried spearmint to drink hot or cold. Save tins and pretty boxes and repackage your blends as great holiday gifts. Or, you could buy refillable tea bags, stitch them shut, and attach your own custom-designed tags. (If you don’t know me, this is the sort of Martha Stewart-induced insanity that I would be likely to undertake!)

Tea can become a secret ingredient of sorts in cocktails and cakes. Or as a flavoring in a cookie…Or as a rub for a pork loin. That’s the beauty of tea–it’s such a simple ingredient with so many uses. I’ve read your future in the leaves at the bottom of the cup, and they say, try tea. It’s the enlightened choice.

Some recommended companies:
In Pursuit of Tea:
High quality teas from all over the world. The quantities are on the large side, but their prices for samplers are very reasonable.

Pearl Fine teas:
A beautifully designed site with great descriptions of the teas. She has some interesting modern blends, including some with chocolate.

Tea Forté:
Delicious teas, impeccable design. Who else designs a whole tea service around their tea bag?

A wide selection of teas, including blends. You can cheaply order small quantities to try.

Damn Fine Teas:
I just came across these guys the other day. They are between “series” at the moment, but they bring a young, fresh face to tea.

Emily Gold lives at the top of a hill in Pownal, Vermont with her husband and cat. From acquainting herself with the lentil at the age of three, she has developed into a consummate foodie. She has recently discovered the wide world of wine and spirits and is studiously drinking her way from Albariño to Whiskey.