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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Great Gifts

TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Irish Breakfast Tea

That comforting cup of Irish breakfast tea is
actually Assam, from India. Photo © Olga
Miltsova | Dreamstime.


Most tea drinkers have heard of Irish breakfast tea. Fewer have heard of Assam (ah-SAHM).

Yet—surprise!—they’re the same tea.

The Irish developed such a fondness for the rich, malty black tea from northeast India that they adopted it as their morning cup. Hence, “Irish breakfast tea.”

Normally we’d advise that, if your palate demands the best, you should avoid products called “Irish breakfast tea.” Unless you already know and like the brands, they’re likely to be more mass market teas, less malty and missing the honey nuances that delight with some Assams. A tea labeled Assam will likely be a better tea. This is a generalization, of course, but it usually works for us.

However, for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and gift-giving, “Irish breakfast tea” makes good sense.

Check out our full review of Irish breakfast/Assam tea. Discover how Irish breakfast tea differs from English breakfast tea.


We’ve even recommended a gift box of Assam/Irish breakfast tea and a silvery steel measuring scoop, tied with a green ribbon. It’s a gift you can give to yourself, too.

  • Enhance your tea chops: Take a look at our delicious Tea Glossary.
  • Find everything you need to know about tea in our Gourmet Tea Section.
    Tea History

    Great tea needs no milk and sugar. It’s always been drunk “straight” in China and Japan, where tea has been brewed for thousands of years.

    According to some sources, the Dutch were the first to add milk to both tea and coffee, in the 17th century. In the 20th century, mass demand in the west and mechanized production techniques (CTC) led to the production of inferior teas, which needed a hit of sugar to provide a pleasing flavor.

    Masala Chai: A Related History

    Due to English influence, today’s chai, or more properly, masala chai (masala means spice, chai means tea), is very different from the original—an ancient Indian ayurvedic beverage, a cleansing spice tonic that did not include any tea.

    When the British began to establish tea plantations in Assam, in 1835, they added milk and sweetener to their tea, as they did at home. The British “recipe” was fused with the original masala chai drink to create what we know today as masala chai. However, tea was too expensive for most Indians and largely grown for export.

    In the early 1900s, the British-owned Indian Tea Association began to promote tea consumption to Indian consumers. Because black tea was still an expensive ingredient, vendors used milk, sugar and spices—the ingredients of today’s masala chai—to create flavorful brews while keeping costs down. The drink’s popularity spread throughout India and became even more popular in the 1960s, when mechanized tea production made black tea affordable for the common man.

    TEA TRIVIA: After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world.



    GIFT OF THE DAY: Habanero Caramels

    Anyone who loves caramels and a little heat will shout yippee! after one bite of Buckin’ HOT Habanero Caramels from Cowgirl Chocolates.

    One of the most memorable caramels we’ve ever had (our first bite was back in 2007), they sizzle without taking out your taste buds.

    A wonderful combination of chewy, buttery caramel and habanero heat, the reusable gift tin is $19.00.
    Send them to someone special!

    What is caramel and the history of caramel candy.


    Luscious habanero caramels from Cowgirl Chocolates. Photo by Michael Steele | THE NIBBLE.




    GIFT OF THE DAY: Gourmet Coffee Syrup For Coffee Lovers

    These artisan coffee syrups are handmade to
    order. Photo courtesy Java & Co.


    People who enjoy a hit of flavored syrup in their coffee will love these handmade syrups from Java & Co.

    Made to order, the syrups begin when Java & Co. freshly roasts the coffee beans, from which they brew fresh coffee. The flavors of the coffee are infused into cane sugar syrup. That’s how different these syrups are from those available in coffee shops and supermarkets, which typically use off-the-shelf extracts to flavor their syrups.

    Add sweetness to your coffee, in five popular flavors:

  • Original: Colombian Coffee, the classic.
  • Original Dark: Epresso infusion, dark and smoky.
  • French Vanilla: French Vanilla coffee infusion, smooth and silky.
  • Java Nut: Hazelnut coffee infusion—rich and buttery.
  • TiRUMisu: Dark Jamaican rum is added to the coffee infusion for a dark, bold flavor.

    The elegant bottles of syrups are affordable:

  • One bottle in a drawstring bag, $16.00
  • One bottle in a gift crate, $19.00
  • Two bottles in a gift crate, $36.00
    More information or to purchase.
    The coffee syrups can be used for more than just coffee. Use them:

  • Atop the “breakfast group”: pancakes, waffles, French Toast, oatmeal and yogurt.
  • As a dessert syrup on bread pudding, other puddings, ice cream and tiramisu.
  • In beverages: cocktails (such as a coffee Martini) and with club soda to make coffee soda.
  • As a glaze for meat, salmon and other seafood, and vegetables; turkey and yams; in barbecue sauce.
  • With salads: In a vinaigrette, instead of honey; mixed with mayonnaise in chicken salad.
    The only limit is your imagination!


  • Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: 12 More Great Gourmet Christmas Gifts

    Individual-portion boxes of original Saratoga
    Chips make great stocking stuffers and party
    favors. Photo by Jaclyn Nussbaum | THE


    Last week’s Top Pick presented 20 great gourmet food gifts from the sweets category.

    Our second group of recommendations focuses on savory gifts: coffee and tea, condiments, cured meats, seafood and snacks—including the original potato chip recipe in a reproduction of the historic box in which it was sold, in 1853.

    Prices start at $10.99, with most items under $40.00.

    There’s still plenty of time to order gifts for Christmas delivery.

    Take a look at the gourmet gifts.

    See last week’s selection of sweet gourmet gifts.




    GIFT OF THE DAY: A Luscious Butter Shortbread Gift

    Who doesn’t like rich butter shortbread?
    Photo courtesy Biscottea.


    Enjoy your tea, coffee, cappuccino or espresso with the perfect shortbread cookie. With free shipping included!

    The makers of Biscottea and Biscoffee have enhanced a classic Scottish shortbread recipe by adding organic tea or coffee to the fragrant butter cookies. (The coffee beans are also Fair Trade certified.)

    The result is pure deliciousness.

    Each lovely gift box contains 24 individually wrapped squares of shortbread, for $29.99 (and free shipping).

    We love the “portion control” aspect. Because otherwise, these cookies are irresistible!


  • The Biscottea box contains four each of six flavors: Earl Grey, Chai, Blueberry (white tea), Mint, Rooibos and Traditional Tea Time (no tea).
  • The Biscoffee box includes eight cookies each in Espresso, Cappuccino and Mocha.
    As the company says, this is “real shortbread created with real tea and coffee for real tea and coffee lovers.” We say: Why can’t we buy Biscottea and Biscoffee shortbread everyplace we stop for a cup of coffee or tea?

    The cookies are certified kosher by OU.

    For more information and to purchase, head here.



    GIFT OF THE DAY: Christmas Cake Pops

    How terrific are these Christmas tree cake
    pops? All photos courtesy Veronica’s.


    Last week we reviewed a book on making your own cake pops. But we could never create spectacular cake pop designs like these.

    Fortunately, we don’t need to, because we can buy them from Veronica’s.

    Anyone will be delighted to receive Veronica’s holiday collection cake pops, which include:

  • Christmas lights
  • Christmas ornaments
  • Christmas trees
  • Frosty The Snowman (photo below)
  • Globes in seasonal colors
  • Holiday mix (Santa’s hat, penguin, cupcakes—yes, a cake pop
    that’s a cupcake)
  • Holiday designs: snowflake, ornament (photo below) and “Happy Holidays”
  • “Winter white” collection


    Delicious cake pops in delectable designs range from $24 to $30 per dozen. What more is there to say, than order them now!


    Invite Frosty over for the holidays.
    Photo courtesy Veronica’s.


    GIFT OF THE DAY: Round Brownies, Individually Boxed

    Not just good-looking: These brownies and
    blondies rock the taste buds, too. Photo
    courtesy Sugardaddy’s.


    We taste loads of brownies each year, and the new contestants have yet to knock Sugardaddy’s off the podium.

    In addition to overall deliciousness, Sugardaddy’s brownies and blondies are different: round and individually boxed in reusable acrylic containers

    They’ve got the delectable factor, the novelty factor and the memorability factor. They make great gifts, whether it’s just one brownie or ten.

    Choose your flavors from luscious “Brunettes” (brownies) and “Blondes” (blondies). Get ready to drool over:

    Chocolate Brownie Flavors

  • AMERICAN BEAUTY: Semi-Sweet Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Toasted Chopped Peanuts
  • AUBURN ORIGINAL: Bittersweet Chocolate Chunks, Roasted Walnuts,Espresso Powder
  • AUBURN ORIGINAL NO NUT: Bittersweet Chocolate Chunks, White Chocolate Chunks, Espresso Powder

  • CARAMEL: Double Chocolate with Toasted Chopped Pecans and a layer of Caramel
  • DARK BERRY: Semisweet Chocolate, Raspberry Puree, Chocolate Chunks
  • DARK CITRUS: Chunks of dark and white chocolate and bits of citrus zest (seasonal)
  • FIERY: Chocolate Brownie with Chipotle Chili and Red Pepper
  • PLAIN JANE: Reduced Sugar, Double Chocolate
  • RICH MINT: Double Chocolate with a layer of Mint Buttercream Icing
    Brown Sugar Blondie Flavors

  • CHAI SPICED: Chai Tea, Roasted Pistachios and Orange Zest
  • CINNAMON: Vanilla, Toasted Pecans, Saigon Cinnamon Streusel Topping (a coffee brownie!)
  • CINNAMON NO NUTS: Vanilla, Saigon Cinnamon Streusel Topping
  • DRUNKEN CHUNKY: Chocolate Chunks, Toasted Pecans, Brown Sugar, Bourbon
  • NUTTY: Almonds, Cashews, Pecans, Sea Salt (love the sweet-and-salty!)
  • STRAWBERRY: Strawberry Jam, Creamy Peanut Butter
  • TAHITI: Coconut, Pineapple, White and Dark Chocolate Chunks, Roasted Cashews (tropical and terrific!)
    How can you resist?



    GIFT OF THE DAY: St. Lucia Fruit Bread In 7 Flavors (Including Banana & Pumpkin)

    Banana bread—and 5 other flavors—in a
    colorful keepsake box (the design is the
    Texas flag). Photo by Katharine Pollak |


    In handsome red, white and blue gift tins with the motif of the state flag, St. Lucia bakery has been shipping a “Little Taste of Texas” to anyone, anywhere, who’s in need of a moist slice of breakfast bread, an afternoon snack or a dessert (try it à la mode).

    The bakery’s namesake, Saint Lucia, is said to have traveled from house to house delivering sweet breads to usher in the Christmas season. She wore a flowing white robe and a wreath of candles to light her path. You’re more likely to see a UPS employee in brown logowear.

    Whoever delivers a tin of this delectable fruit bread, what a delight when they arrive! Choose from:

  • Apple Cinnamon Bread (with or without walnuts)
  • Banana Bread (with or without walnuts)
  • Berry Blueberry Bread (with or without walnuts)
  • Chocolate Chunk Bread
  • Cranberry Bread
  • Pear Bread With Walnuts
  • Pumpkin Bread

    If it isn’t devoured in a day or two, you can freeze the bread and cut slices as needed. In a mere 15 seconds in the microwave, it emerges warm like fresh-baked.

    For $26.99 to $36.99, these gifts will be much appreciated by family, friends and clients. Check out the luscious loaves from St. Lucia.



    GIFT OF THE DAY: Chocolate Peppermint Whoopie Pies

    The ubiquitous whoopie pie has been transformed into something exciting by WannaHavaCookie. Each handmade sandwich of moist cake and buttercream is a pillow of comfort, and every batch is hand-baked to order.

    Beyond the delicious flavor combinations, there’s another benefit: the smaller size. You can enjoy a snack-size whoopie pie without the calories of a whole piece of cake.

    Peppermint Chocolate Whoopie Pies pair luscious chocolate cake with peppermint buttercream filling, garnished with crumbled candy cane pieces. They’re a special treat only available during holiday season, so stock up now and put the extras in the freezer to enjoy for weeks to come!
    Want something other than chocolate and


    We’re in whoopie pie heaven with these!
    Photo courtesy


    Choose from chocolate, red velvet and vanilla cake with chocolate, vanilla, raspberry, mint and peanut butter buttercream fillings.

    You can order an entire bucket’s worth, or individual whoopies for party favors, and nicely boxed packages of two or three whoopies for smaller gifts.

    We promise that you’ll shout “Whoopie!” after your first bite. (As the story goes, that’s how whoopie pies got their name.)

    Find more of our favorite gourmet holiday gifts.



    GIFT: The Best Trail Mix, Gourmet & Healthier

    Festive peekaboo boxes tied with lovely ribbons hold our favorite “healthier” holiday treat, Comfort Crunch.

    You can give one, two or three bags of this truly delectable and better-for-you gourmet trail mix. Even the cellophane bags are chic.

    Just about everyone we’ve gifted with Comfort Crunch continues to bring up how good it was. (Hint, hint?)

    You, too, can be known for giving the tastiest, guilt-free treat.

    Comfort Crunch mixes are delicious combinations of dried fruits and crisp nuts, sometimes with bits of toffee or chocolate that really hit the spot. Part of the profits are donated to cancer research (the founder is a cancer survivor).

    The three-bag gift box, $30.00, includes eight-ounce bags of:


    Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.


  • Original: Guittard dark chocolate, dried blueberries, almonds, dried cherries, salted peanuts, salted cashews, dried cranberries, pecans and walnuts.
  • Toffee Talk: Toffee covered with Guittard chocolate, dried blueberries, dried cherries, dried cranberries, almonds, salted peanuts, salted cashews, pecans and walnuts.
  • Pepita Pick Me Up: Dried blueberries, almonds, dried cherries, salted peanuts, salted cashews, dried cranberries, crystallized ginger pieces, pecans, walnuts and dried pepitas (pumpkin seeds).
    The two-bag box includes Original and Toffee Talk, $22.50.

    Or, you can purchase individual flavors of Original, $14.00. (Single bags aren’t gift-boxed.)

    You might ask, “Why is Comfort Crunch so much better than other trail mixes?”

    The ingredients are so top quality, they sing in your mouth: “Wow, these nuts and fruits are amazing.”

    We promise: The recipients will love these healthy snacks.


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