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Archive for Coffee & Tea

PRODUCT: New Earl Grey Teas From Twinings

Lavender Tea

Jasmine Tea

Twinings Earl Grey Extra Bold

Bergamot Orange

[1] Lavender-scented tea (photo courtesy Doctors Health Press). [2] Jasmine-scented tea (photo courtesy Par Avion). [3] Earl Grey Extra Bold has more bergamot flavor (photo courtesy Twinings). [4] A bergamot orange: a sour orange popular for marmalade and flavoring (photo courtesy Clove Garden).

 

Earl Grey is one of America’s most popular flavored teas, a Keemun base flavored with a splash of bergamot oil, the latter pressed from the peel of the bergamot sour orange from southern Italy.

The tea is named for Charles Grey (1764-1845), the second Earl Grey. A distinguished aristocrat, he served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1830 to 1834.

WHO INVENTED EARL GREY TEA?

There are different legends to explain how the tea recipe came to bear the Earl’s name.

According to the one told by the Grey family, the tea was specially blended for Lord Grey by a Chinese mandarin*, at Howick Hall, the family seat in Northumberland, England. The Earl never visited China.

The mandarin particularly chose bergamot to offset the preponderance of lime in the estate’s well water.

Lady Grey, a political hostess, used it to entertain in London. She had her tea blended at Twinings, beginning in 1931.

The blend proved so popular that Lady Grey was asked if it could be purchased by others. This is how Twinings came to market “Earl Grey” as a type of flavored tea.

The Greys (ostensibly lacking good business advice) did not to register the trademark. As a result, they have never received a penny from the worldwide sales.

However, they are sporting about it: Today’s boxes are signed by the current Earl Grey.

Traditionally, “Earl Grey” was made from black teas, but tea companies have since begun to offer Earl Grey in other varieties as well, such as green and oolong, along with dual-note flavors, such as the new varieties from Twinings.

TWININGS NEW EARL GREY BLENDS

Twinings North America has added to its line of Earl Grey black teas with the introduction of three new blends:

  • Earl Grey Extra Bold, with a more robust bergamot flavor.
  • Earl Grey Lavender, with the scent and flavor of lavender flowers.
  • Earl Grey Jasmine, with the scent and flavor of jasmine blossoms.
  •  
    Stephen Twining, the tenth-generation manager of Twinings, commented:

    “Lavender and jasmine compliment the bold flavor of bergamot. Extra Bold is perfect for Earl Grey lovers who crave an intensified, more vibrant taste. We know these new blends will resonate with a new generation of tea drinkers.”

    In addition to enjoying the teas at home, you can visit the gardens at Howick Hall, the home of Earl Grey, and have tea in the Easrl Grey Tea House.

    Here’s more information.

    DO YOU KNOW YOUR TEA TERMS?

    Take a look at our fully illustrated Tea Glossary, one of the most popular of our 100 food glossaries.

     
    ________________

    *In imperial China, a mandarin was bureaucrat scholar in service of the government.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Spiked Chai Tea

    Just got in for the cold and the rain. Time for a cup of hot tea.

    Make that hot spiced tea, chai.

    Make that spiked spiced tea: chai with a hit of bourbon or rum. If you want to add more, go ahead: You can make this the tea version of Irish Coffee.

    If you don’t have any chai bags or loose leaves, make your own from Recipe #2 below.

    RECIPE #1: CHAI WITH SPIRIT (BOURBON, RUM, ETC.)

    Ingredients For 3 Tea Cups Or 2 Mugs

  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 teaspoons loose chai tea (or cut open chai tea bags)
  • 2 tablespoons honey or sugar (substitute 1 tablespoon agave)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Optional: 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • Splash of bourbon or rum (silver, dark, spiced)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then add the tea, sweetener, vanilla, cinnamon and optional cayenne. Stir and reduce the heat to low, heating for another 2 minutes (keep your eye on the pot). Remove from the heat and allow to steep for 5 minutes.

    2. STRAIN into a liquid measuring cup or small pitcher with a lip. Add the bourbon. If the mixture has cooled a bit, stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds.

    3. POUR into cups and serve.

     
    RECIPE #2: CHAI TEA BLEND

    If you don’t have some of the ingredients, you can make do with what you have.

     

    Hot Chai

    Chai Tea Blend

    [1] On a chilly day, pour some spirits into the chai (photo courtesy Charles Chocolates). [2] No chai at home? Mix it up from your spice shelf (photo courtesy Foodie Underground).

     
    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 2-3 cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 3 teaspoons loose tea
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Optional: slice fresh ginger root
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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Fine Teas From Steven Smith Teamaker

    Steven Smith Chamomile Tea

    Steven Smith Teas

    Steven Smith Lord Bergamot Tea

    [1] A calming herbal blend. [2] The selection of black, green, herbal and white teas will please everyone. [3] Lord Bergamot, the company’s version of Earl Gre;, powerfully blended (all photos courtesy Steven Smith Teamaker).

     

    Steven Smith of Portland, Oregon was* tea royalty in the U.S., first as co-founder of Stash, then as founder of Tazo, then as co-founder, with wife Kim, of Steven Smith Teamaker.

    Steve not only had the expertise; he had the commitment to seeking out the best, and the palate to know the best. When he started his eponymous label, his curated teas were noticeably superior to other “superior” tea brands.

    The company’s staff travels the globe to to personally select the finest small-batch teas and botanicals. They buy from longtime colleagues in the world’s best tea-growing regions in Africa, India, China and Sri Lanka.

    We drink a lot of tea, and try every brand that comes our way. There are many “artisan teas” that arrive in beautiful packaging, but trust us: Steven Smith’s teas are the best we can remember having. While the shape of the sachets (tea bags) and tins of loose tea looks familiar, the artistry inside is unique. For example:

  • Assam is big and malty black tea, blended by Smith with a bit of smoky Keemun.
  • Lord Bergamot is an “upgrade” of Earl Grey tea that combines Ceylon and Assam teas with the bergamot oil from Reggio Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot.
  • Meadow blends chamomile flowers with hyssop, linden flowers, rooibos and rose petals—a memorable herbal infusion.
  • Rose City† Genmaicha, our favorite green tea, grassy with the light, nutty flavor of roasted rice. Here, the unique touch is a bit of rose petal and manuka honey.
  •  
    Prices vary based on the cost of the ingredients, but an example with Lord Bergamot:

  • 2 ounce package of loose tea (for stocking stuffers), $5.50
  • 4-ounce packs $10.00
  • Loose tea tins $11.99
  • Box of 15 sachets, $11.99
  •  
    Steven Smith Teamaker teas are all natural, gluten free, GMO free. The bags are compostable.

    Each container has a batch number that you can enter to see the provenance of the ingredients, the date it was packed, and personal notes from the tea blender.

    SPECIAL HOLIDAY BLENDS

    Celebrate the season with:

  • Silent Night herbal blend won’t keep you up at night. The caffeine free ingredients include locally-grown peppermint and sweet blackberry leaves accented with cassia (cinnamon), ginger root, sarsaparilla and sweet licorice root.
  • Morning Light black tea blend combines high-grown Ceylons, caramelized North Indian Assam, wild rosemary and a pinch of Northwest Douglas Fir needles. Oh Tannenbaum! (Check out this version, sung in English by Aretha Franklin.)
  •  
    Each tin is $14.99.

    There are dozens of teas, each totally wonderful with or without milk and sugar, along with:

  • Gift Sets: Chocolate Peppermint Latte or Creme Caramel Latte Kit, $25.00, are just two of the gift sets that any tea lover will be happy to receive. Check out the gift sets.
  • Franklin.)
     
    Custom-label tins are available for wedding parties, in blends customized to the couple’s preferences.
     
    HEAD TO SMITHTEA.COM TO BEGIN YOUR TEA ADVENTURE.

    If you’re in the Portland area, stop by the tasting room for a cup or two.

    WANT TO EXPAND YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF TEA?

    Check out our Tea Glossary.

     
    ________________
    *Mr. Smith passed away last year.

    †Portland is called the Rose City for its proliferation of roses. The climate is ideal for growing roses outdoors: warm, dry summers, rainy and mild winters, plus heavy clay soils.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pour-Over Coffee At Home

    Chemex Coffee Maker

    Chemex Coffee Maker

    New Chemex Brewer

    [1] The 1941 Chemex design, represented at the Museum of Modern Art and other museums (this photo is from the Brooklyn Museum Of Art). It’s $49.99 at Bed, Bath & Beyond. [2] A freshly-dripped carafe of coffee (photo courtesy ZeteDesign.Wordpress.com). [3] The latest Chemex design, which adds a handle for easier pouring, was actually one of the original designs before the streamlined design was chosen. It’s $43.50 at Williams-Sonoma.

     

    Waiting at a coffee bar recently, we overheard a customer watching her pour-over dripping into the cup. She said to the barista: “I wish I could do this at home!”

    You can, it’s easy, and a lot less expensive than the pour-over, which took four passes from the barista.

    In fact, in our youth…
    …there were no specialty coffee bars (your take-out choice was Dunkin Donuts or a deli or diner),
    …coffee at home was limited to a percolator or instant coffee, and
    …people chose either Folgers or Maxwell House, but
    …coffee aficionados made their coffee in a Chemex carafe with their favorite ground beans, usually from the supermarket although the real connoisseurs got mail-order beans from specialty shops.

    If they were lucky, they lived in a town with a specialty coffee and tea shop, with loose beans and packaged coffee from around the world.

    We were lucky: We lived in New York City, which had McNulty’s Tea & Coffee, established in 1895 and still located at 109 Christopher Street in the West Village (and still not open on Sundays).

    A visit to McNulty’s was a trip back to another age. Today, the journey is accented with modern coffee makers and gadgets that didn’t exist at the time.

    But the aroma is still the same: an exotic mingling of the many aromas of coffees and teas from around the world, kept in large glass canisters. There were burlap sacks of beans and chests of tea with stenciled markings from far away lands. The brass scale was also from the 19th century.

    Amid the tea and coffee was one ultra-modern brewing apparatus: the Chemex drip coffee maker.

    THE HISTORY OF POUR-OVER (DRIP) COFFEE

    Pour over, also called manual drip brewing or the drip method, is a fashionable new term for an old, low-tech method of coffee brewing.

    Ground coffee is added to a ceramic or plastic cone that sits in a paper filter atop a glass carafe, ceramic pot, coffee cup or other receptacle. The Chemex system eliminates the need for a cone by creating a carafe with a narrow neck that holds the filter.
     
    Melitta, The First Pour-Over

    The pour-over technique was invented by a German housewife, Melitta Benz, in 1908. Displeased with the grittiness and murkiness of coffee as it was then prepared, she devised a paper filter from a sheet of her son’s notebook paper, and set the filter into a brass cup into which she punched holes for the coffee to drip through.

    The commercial version was made in ceramic (today available in ceramic or plastic). As anyone who has used a Melitta drip brewer knows, it became a great success for its superior brew.

    Fast-forward a few decades, to inventor Peter Schlumbohm, a Ph.D chemist who had immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. He developed and sold his patents focused on heating and cooling systems, the thermos bottle and dry ice manufacturing among them.

    In 1941, he released the Chemex drip coffee system with the coffee filter placed in a glass carafe.

    Like the Melitta, the filter was filled with ground coffee and hot water, which drip-drip-dripped into the carafe.

     
    Like the Melitta, it wasn’t the fastest cup of coffee around, but people with palates applauded the superior flavor. If you liked good black coffee, drip coffee was the way to go.

    Its Bauhaus style design, elegant in thermal glass from Corning, received a big endorsement from the design community and was featured on the cover of the Museum of Modern Art’s “Useful Objects in Wartime” bulletin, making it “the official poster-child of [the] new emphasis on undecorated, functional simplicity [source]. It is included in the design collection of the Museum.

     

    The Next Revolution In Home Coffee Brewing

    In 1971, the first electric drip coffee maker to hit the consumer market, Mr. Coffee, revolutionized how many Americans brewed their coffee. Adios, percolator; bienvenidos, Mr. Coffee.

    Mr. Coffee engendered shelves full of electric drip brands, which remained paramount until the Keurig single-serve beverage brewing system and the proliferation of K-Cup options too hold. In 2002, some 10,000 units were sold to offices, replacing the Bunn system and the need to clean the coffee pots and drink coffee that had been sitting on the burner for too long.

    Consumers loved the Keurig system, and by 2006, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters had acquired a stake, signed up leading coffee brands for the K-Cups

    Gosh, has it only been ten years?
     
    THE RETURN OF POUR-OVER

    While the Melitta, Chemex and other pour-over apparatuses remained a niche product, our first experience with the modern pour-over took place in 2006 in San Francisco, where the line of customers stretched around the block to get a cup from Blue Bottle Coffee.

    As our job is to know what’s new and wonderful in the world of food and drink, we waited for some 25 minutes. Sure, it was a good cup of coffer, but we didn’t do it again.

    And we didn’t have to: The trend proliferated, and soon there was enough drip coffee in our own neighborhood to eliminate the line wait.

    Which brings us to the present: pour-overs at home.

    You can still buy a Melitta, and an improvement on it, the Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank Good Grips.

    The water stays hot in the mini-tank instead of in an open filter. All you need is add ground coffee and hot water—no paper filter.

    The set (photo at right) is just $15.99 at Oxo.com
     
    Drip Tips

    Drip coffee requires a particular technique to ensure that your brew is as good as Blue Bottle’s.

    Here are Blue Bottle’s drip coffee-making tips.

     

    Pour Over Coffee Oxo

    Melitta Ceramic Coffee Maker

    [4] It’s easy to make pour-over coffee at home with this $15.99 system from Oxo. [5] The modern Melitta system is $29.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond. You can also buy a $3.99 plastic cone to brew a cup atop your own cup or mug.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Cold Brew Coffee With A French Press

    The average American drinks 2.1 cups of coffee a day. Collectively, Americans drink 4,630 cups of coffee each second. And September 29th is National Coffee Day.

    Cold brew coffee, which has been around quite a while (we’ve had a Toddy cold brew system for 20+ years), has finally hit the mainstream.

    Coffee drinkers find it has superior flavor; and in the summer, iced coffee is as easy as adding cold water to cold-brew concentrate from the fridge. (Here are some well-reviewed brands).

    Companies from Folgers to Blue Bottle sell cold-brew coffee. You can buy large bottles of concentrate; you can buy grab-and-go 16-ounce bottles.

    Yet, if you have a French press, you can make trendy cold brew coffee without purchasing a special cold brew system or a bottle of ready-brewed. The French press recipe is below. But first:
     
    WHAT’S A FRENCH PRESS?

    A French press is a coffee-brewing device consisting of a pot with a removable plunger made of fine mesh.

    Coarse-ground coffee is added to the pot, followed by boiling water. The plunger device is placed on top. The coffee grounds float in the water.

    When the coffee is ready to be poured, the plunger is employed. As it is pushed down, the grounds are pushed to the bottom. It does not use electricity; although you likely need it to heat the water.

    If you have a French press, there’s no need to buy a cold brew system, or pricey bottles of cold brew coffee at retail.

    Today, you can find coffee presses in stainless steel, in a stainless holder with a glass beaker (photo #1), and in plastic.

    French presses are made in sizes from 1-2 cups to 10 cups or more. There are travel mug versions, of course: We use this coffee press “mug” from Bodum.

    French press or coffee press is the name in English; although in In New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, the apparatus is known as a coffee plunger. In France it is called cafetière à piston; in Italy it is a caffettiera a stantuffo.
     
    Brewing Tea In A French Press

    You can use a French press to brew loose tea as well, but don’t use a press that is used to brew coffee. Even after washing, microscopic bits of coffee oil can cling to the glass or metal, imparting an unwelcome undertaste to the tea.

       

    Classic French Press

    Cold Brew Coffee  Concentrate

    [1] The classic design of the modern French press (this one is from Bonjour). [2] One of the artisan cold-brews sold at retail (photo courtesy Jittery John’s).

     
    With both coffee or tea, be sure to pour it soon after brewing. Letting the grounds or tea leaves sit under the brewed beverage creates a bitter brew, not a better brew.
     
    Conceived In 1852

    The first known design for a plunge-type brewer was patented in 1852 by two French designers, Mayer and Delforge. You can see their design at PerfectlyGroundCoffee.com.

    Per Brooklyn Roasting it was ahead of its time; manufacturing was not precise enough to snugly fit the filter within pot of the design.

    Others tried their hand, but the first iteration of brewer that we know today was patented by Italian designers Attilio Calimani and Giulio Moneta in 1929. They employed a rubber seal around the edge of the filter.

    The design evolved, with improved the function of the rubber seal.

    The design we know today was patented by a Swiss designer, Faliero Bondanini, in 1958. It was manufactured in France and called a chambord. With a compact design and no required electrical outlet, it became a very popular brewing method.

     
    HOW TO MAKE COLD BREW COFFEE IN A FRENCH PRESS

    These instructions are proportions for an 8-cup French press. Remember that the “standard” cup size used by manufacturers was set long before coffee mugs and modern insulated travel mug containers were in use. So if you use a large mug, you’ll get 4 mugs worth from an 8-cup press, or three 16-ounce travel mugs.

    Use only coarse-ground coffee. Smaller grains will slip through the mesh filter and produce unacceptable coffee.

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup coffee, coarsely ground
  • 3 cups water, room temperature
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the coffee in an 8-cup French press. Add the water. Stir the grinds to integrate with the water.

    2. PLACE the French press plunger on top (do not plunge into the water) and place in the fridge for 12 hours.

    3. PRESS down on the plunger, which pushes all the grounds to the bottom, underneath the mesh filter. Pour and enjoy cold with ice, or warm in the microwave.
     
    TIP: Depending on how well the coffee is ground, a few grounds may escape into the coffee. Our mom further poured the coffee through a piece cheesecloth. We don’t.

     

    Stainless French Press

    Manual Coffee Grinder

    [3] Fashionable restaurants bring coffee to the table in a French press (photo courtesy Kabuki Japanese restaurants). [4] It’s easy to grind your own beans for a French press, since the coffee is coarsely ground (photo of manual coffee grinder from FrenchPressCoffee.com).

     

    COFFEE TRIVIA

    We start with an important fact for the many people who want more or less caffeine:

    There is no association between caffeine levels and flavor (e.g. strong coffee). The major difference comes from amount of coffee used and, most importantly, the brewing technique.

    Cold brew has the most caffeine, followed by drip coffee and espresso.

    Take this fun coffee trivia quiz.

    Here are more fun facts from THE NIBBLE and BeFrugal.com.

  • Coffee is the second most traded commodity on Earth, after oil.
  • Coffee beans are actually the seeds of berries, which grow on a shrub or small tree.
  • Teddy Roosevelt is said to have consumed one gallon of coffee a day.
  • The first webcam was invented by scientists at the University of Cambridge, so they could monitor when their coffee pot was full.
  • It is not true that light-roasted coffee has more caffeine than dark-roasted coffee. In terms of the ground coffee, light-roasted has more because the roasted beans are denser. However, once brewed, darker roasts have more caffeine.
  •  
    Facts About Decaf

  • The amount of caffeine in coffee varies a lot. It can depend on the beans (robusta has much more than arabica), the portion size, but most importantly the brewing technique.
  • Decaf doesn’t mean caffeine-free. According to FDA regulations, coffee must have 97% of its original caffeine removed in order to be labeled as decaffeinated. Drink 5-10 cups of decaf a day and you’ll likely be consuming the equivalent of a cup or two of regular coffee in terms of caffeine content.
  • While a cup of regular coffee usually contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine, a 2007 Consumer Reports test of 36 popular brands found some decaf cups that still packed in more than 20 milligrams of caffeine. But the difference in a cup of brewed coffee is truly minimal.
  • A minority brew: According to the National Coffee Association, just 10% of coffee drinkers in the U.S. opt for decaf. At a coffee house or cafe, the percent can be almost double.
  •  
    Here are more decaf coffee facts.

      

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