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Archive for Coffee & Tea

TIP OF THE DAY: How To Dissolve Sugar In Cold Drinks

Sugar dissolves slowly in cold liquids. Photo by K.G. Toh | CSP


As most people have discovered, table sugar is slow to dissolve in cold drinks. Whether you’re sweetening iced coffee and iced tea or making a sweet cocktail, there are better products to use than conventional granulated sugar.

Superfine Sugar

Pick up some superfine sugar, or make your own.

Superfine sugar is simply table sugar that is ground into smaller grains, which dissolve quickly. You can make it in the food processor by pulsing table sugar until it’s very fine. Keep superfine sugar in a separate sugar bowl to bring out when you’re serving iced coffee and tea.

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is typically used by bartenders to sweeten drinks. It’s a mixture of half sugar and half water, stirred over medium-low heat until it dissolves. Cooled to room temperature, it’s a quick sweetener.

You can buy it or make a batch, keep it in the fridge in a tightly-capped jar and use as needed. Here’s the simple syrup recipe.

There’s also a sugar-free simple syrup made with stevia.


Agave Nectar

The healthiest alternative is to use no sugar. Refined white sugar makes no positive contribution to our nutrition and has a downside everyone is familiar with.

A better choice than sugar is agave nectar, a low-glycemic natural sweetener from the agave plant. Agave nectar has a glycemic index (GI) of 32; half that of table sugar (GI 60-65). Honey has a GI of 58, pure maple syrup has a GI of 54. (Here’s more information on agave.)


It’s simple chemistry: Substances dissolve faster in hot water. Hot water molecules have more entropy (move faster) than cold water molecules, enabling hot water to more quickly break down the sugar molecules in the solution.

How many types of sugar are there? Check out our Sugar Glossary.



Don’t Dilute The Iced Coffee/Iced Tea

We’ve been to delis where iced coffee (or tea) is made by pouring the hot stuff over ice. They probably figure that with the added sugar and milk, people won’t notice how dilute the coffee is.

At home, you can:

  • Brew it ahead of time. If you’re a big consumer of iced coffee or iced tea, it’s also very inexpensive.
  • Save leftovers. When we have leftover brewed coffee or tea, we add it to a bottle in the fridge.
  • Turn leftovers into ice cubes. You can use them to chill down room-temperature coffee or tea, or to make already-chilled beverages extra-cold. Check out all the ways you can make and use “specialty” ice cubes.
  • Use coffee concentrate. We always have a supply of Java Juice packets on hand (certified kosher). You can also carry them and add them to your water bottle throughout the day.

    Iced tea pitcher and photo from


    Try Flavoring Ice Coffee & Iced Tea

  • Make Summer Flavors. Use flavored extracts—coconut, orange and vanilla, for example, Add ¼ teaspoon per cup/glass of coffee or tea.
  • Fancy Flavors.Check out Gevalia Coffee’s recipes for Caramel Iced Coffee, Chocolate-Hazelnut Iced Coffee, Lemon-Ginger Iced Coffee and Mint-Mocha Iced Coffee. There’s also the Whipaccino: cold coffee and vanilla ice cream whipped in the blender.


    Here are more iced coffee tips and recipes.

    Try this recipe for ultra-rich vanilla iced coffee with shaved chocolate.



    PRODUCT: First Flush Darjeeling Tea

    Tea is an herb, the leaf of the tea plant. The leaves are dried; in the case of oolong and black teas, they’re heated to engender oxidation.

    Just like the other herbs on your shelf, tea doesn’t maintain its flavor for years; it fades over time. Black, green or white, the fresher tea is, the better it is.

    For your own enjoyment or for Mother’s Day gifting, you can now enjoy the freshest Darjeeling tea of the season, known as the first flush (the first plucking).

    Darjeeling, high in the Himalayas, is a district and city in the Indian state of West Bengal, on the western border of Bangladesh. The tea plant’s winter dormancy period is over, and young leaves have sprouted over the Darjeeling hillsides.

    Darjeeling tea is revered by many tea connoisseurs for its delicate muscatel flavor (which connoisseurs enjoy plain, without milk and sugar).

    The Republic Of Tea has air-freighted a very limited quantity of this first flush tea to the U.S., so that tea lovers can enjoy the first tea of spring.


    First flush 2012 Darjeeling tea. Photo courtesy Republic Of Tea.


    The tea comes from the Thurbo Estate, at an elevation of over 5,000 feet (Darjeeling ranges to 6,730 feet—light woolens are worn in summer). Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, the Thurbo tea plants grow alongside orange orchards and orchid vines.

    Spring 2012 in Darjeeling was unusually dry. Quality was high, but yields were low, making this tea more rare than in other years.

    Rich in essential oils, the leaves have an exquisite, sweet flavor and aroma. Pronounced muscatel notes are followed with a soft astringency and a lingering finish.

    A Limited Edition

    There’s just a limited amount of this special reserve tea available. A 3.5-ounce reusable tin, which makes 50-60 cups of tea, is $25.00.

    The tea is certified kosher by OU and certified gluten free.

    Get yours here.

    Find everything you want to know about tea in our Tea Section.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Dessert Tea

    Have some dessert tea: with dessert or
    instead of it. Photo courtesy


    Many people enjoy a cup of tea with dessert. But what exactly is dessert tea?

    Dessert tea is a relatively new addition to the tea repertoire. It sprouted up with the green tea and white tea push a decade ago. Many non-tea drinkers wanted the antioxidant benefits of tea but didn’t like the taste of plain green and white tea (which don’t taste great with milk and sugar).

    So tea blenders started blending green tea, and then white tea, with any number of ingredients that provided flavor and a hint of sweetness: fruits and nuts; butterscotch, caramel and chocolate extracts; flowers (hibiscus, jasmine, rose, saffron); plus cinnamon, mint, vanilla and other flavorings.

    At a certain point, one producer saw these nearly-calorie-free flavored teas as appropriate for dessert or as a guilt-free sweet beverage; and “dessert teas” were born.


    Dessert teas are made with black, green, oolong, puer and white teas, and rooibos (herbal “red” tea). You can drink them with dessert, instead of dessert, or at any time of day, plain or with milk and/or sugar.

    Flavored Teas Are As Old As “Tea”

    Dessert teas are seen as expanding the tea-buying market by appealing to the non-tea-drinker with mass-appeal flavors common in soft drinks and flavored lattes. The concept is not new—only the name and the marketing of the tea for “dessert.”

    Since the dawn of man-made fire and vessels, teas were steeped from many barks, berries, leaves and roots. Before tea arrived in Europe in the 17th century (coffee also arrived then, in 1615, along with hot chocolate), this is what was drunk.

    Today, “tea” refers specifically to brewed leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, or tea bush. “Herbal tea” is called a tisane in the industry (the word originated with the Greek word ptisane, a drink made from pearl barley).

    More about tea.



    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Store Coffee

    Advice circulates that coffee beans should be kept in the freezer to maintain freshness.


    Freezing the coffee coagulates the natural oils contained in the beans. These oils need to emulsify to produce the body and mouthfeel of the coffee.

    Coffee is best right after it is freshly-roasted. Beans can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks, but an airtight container is crucial. It protects the internal moisture of the coffee bean and keeps out odors.

    Of course, the best storage advice is to buy what you need as you need it. Fresh-roasted coffee should be purchased with other perishables. Large, bargain-size bags of beans or ground coffee are no bargain if they hang around for weeks (or months!), losing flavor.

    If you find yourself with too much coffee on hand, consider brewing iced coffee to keep in the fridge. Coffee is a source of healthful antioxidants. If you don’t have a caffeine sensitivity or high cholesterol, iced coffee is a refreshing cold drink.


    The best coffee is made with freshly-roasted beans. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.


    What About Ground Coffee?

    Ground coffee that is not in a sealed vaccum pack will begin to go stale within 24 hours after the coffee has been exposed to air.

    Connoisseurs with sensitive palates can notice a decline in flavor two hours after the coffee is ground!

    Light & Heat Are Enemies

    Keep all coffee away from direct light and heat. They begin to cook the coffee oils, and will affect the flavor and aroma properties.

    Coffee Trivia: Why The Lemon Peel?

    In Europe, you may see coffee—especially espresso—served with a piece of lemon peel. The peel is rubbed around the rim of the cup.

    This was originally used to counteract the taste of over-roasted, bitter espresso. The lemon oil in the peel blocks the bitterness.

    Italians traditionally serve top-quality espresso without lemon peel; to serve peel means the coffee isn’t as good as it could be. However, some people grew to enjoy a hint of lemon with their espresso. If you do it (we do), there’s no shame in serving lemon peel.


    Find information galore, recipes and things you never knew about coffee in our Gourmet Coffee Section.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Frothing Milk At Home

    Today’s tip comes from chef Johnny Gnall, who has discovered the joys of frothing milk at home. There’s no need to head to your favorite coffee bar when you can make frothy cappuccinos and lattes in your own kitchen.

    “I made a recent purchase that has changed the way I start the day,” says Chef Johnny. “It has turned my regular morning coffee into a genuine treat, making each cup feel and taste like it was served to me in a chic cafe, perhaps in Rome or Florence. It’s the Capresso frothPro Milk Foamer.

    “It couldn’t be easier to use. Simply fill the metal receptacle with milk, press a button (in addition to steamed milk or foam, you can choose cold, warm or hot, including cold foam for iced cappuccino) and watch as ordinary milk is whipped to steaming, frothy pulchritude—in less than a minute! Lowfat or nonfat milk foams the best: The fat in the milk weighs down the potential fluffiness.


    Little appliance, big foam. Photo courtesy


    “If you’re not a fan of foam, you can simply heat your milk to the temperature of your choosing. Warm or hot milk keeps the coffee warmer for longer. You can add foam to hot chocolate, too, or simply enjoy a glass of ‘latte milk.’

    But there’s more than frothy, steamed milk to a gourmet espresso drink (see the different types of espresso drinks).

    “To make authentic frothed coffee drinks, you need espresso, not regular coffee. If there’s no coffee bean specialty shop near you, you can buy good-quality espresso, whole or ground, at most grocery stores.

    “To make the espresso, I suggest using a moka pot, a classic stovetop espresso maker like this one from Bialetti. Yes, it’s another appliance, but it’s small, inexpensive (under $25.00), easy to use and should last you a lifetime. If you are lucky enough to have the expensive countertop barista-style espresso machines, more power to you.

    “Now that you have a few shots of espresso and a cup of foamed milk, you’re ready to construct your drink. But what to make? And how?

    “Many coffee drinkers know their go-to drink and just how they like it; but if you have the tools at your disposal, why not branch out? Here’s a list of the most popular espresso drinks and how to make them. If you try each one, you may have a few new drinks in your morning repertoire that will make it that much easier to rise and shine.”


    Make lovely lattes at home. Photo by Christian Kitazume | SXC.



    Espresso: This is the starting point for pretty much any gourmet coffee drink (and never spelled “expresso,” an unfortunate American error). It is stripped down, basic, strong and really quite wonderful on its own if you have fine espresso beans. It also gives you a chance to really appreciate the texture and flavor of espresso. Enjoy a quick shot down the hatch to get those eyes open, or sit and sip it leisurely on a weekend morning.

    Caffé Americano: This is basically an espresso dumbed down. I am convinced that the name was coined to make fun of Americans who cannot handle the bitter, often intense flavor of espresso. To make it, simply start with a shot or two of espresso and dilute with boiling hot water. You can go with a 1:1 ratio of espresso to water, or start with a shot and fill your cup the rest of the way with water. However you like it, you probably don’t want to be caught ordering one of these in Italy.


    Caffé Latte: This may be the easiest to start with if you are just breaking into espresso drinks. Start with a shot of espresso, fill the remaining space in the cup with delicious, soothing, steamed milk, and top it off with a touch of foam. The espresso flavor is there, but in a latte it exists in the background, somewhat muted by the abundance of milk. It’s a great beverage for someone who’s not into super-strong coffee.

    Cafe au Lait: This is, essentially, a French-style latte and another very accessible drink for those who don’t want intense espresso flavor. In fact, it isn’t an espresso drink at all; it’s made with regular, albeit strong French-style, coffee. Simply pour half a cup of extra-strong coffee and finish filling the cup with steamed milk. Foam isn’t traditionally found on a Cafe au Lait, but no one will report you if you add some.

    Caffé Mocha: This is the espresso drink for chocolate lovers. Start by covering the bottom of the cup with some quality chocolate syrup (being a resident of San Francisco, I like Ghirardelli). Then add a shot or two of espresso, stir a few times, and fill the rest of the way with steamed milk. If you’re not worried about calories, you can finish with the traditional whipped cream. If you make it correctly, however, the whipped cream isn’t necessary.

    Cappuccino: This is the drink for which you really need the foam. The traditional cup size is 6 ounces only; but hey, it’s your coffee, so use as large a cup as you’d like. What you’re going for is a 1:1:1 ratio of espresso, steamed milk and foam, poured in that order. This beverage showcases a balance of its ingredients and definitely has the greatest range of textures and flavors, from earthy to ephemeral.

    Macchiatto: From the Italian word for “marked,” this drink is mostly about the espresso, with just a tiny “marking” of foam and/or milk. To make it correctly, you should use a demitasse cup: Pour a shot of espresso, then add just enough foam to cover it. You can definitely use some of the milk itself (as opposed to just foam), and how much depends on your preference. However, this drink should really be all about the espresso with a complement of milk/foam. It’s the go-to espresso drink for coffee geeks and espresso enthusiasts.

    For less than $60.00, the Capresso frothPro is a worthy addition to the kitchen and a great gift. Get yours.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Host A Monthly Tea Party

    You don’t need a fancy tea set to host a tea
    party; everyday cups will do. Photo by Sara
    Sang | IST.


    Afternoon tea—not high tea*—is a traditional British meal taken in mid-afternoon. It’s an elegant snack and social hour between lunch and dinner.

    A pot of tea plus nibbles—a choice of finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, cakes and pastries—allow friends to enjoy a leisurely chat.

    It’s our favorite way to keep in touch with friends, and develop relationships with new acquaintances.

    Tea parties are so enjoyable that guests invariably wonder why Americans don’t have more of them.

    We’ve made it easy for you to host tea parties, with a whole year of afternoon tea party ideas. You don’t need to host one every month: Rotate the location with friends. Those who like to bake can try out new recipes.

    Tea parties don’t have to be fancy: No porcelain tea set is required. Use what you have.

    Tea parties don’t have to be fattening. We have a selection of healthy choices among our tea party food recommendations.


    Since most of us work during the week, consider holding tea parties on Sunday afternoons. While it’s not traditional, you can serve sherry, Port or wine for those who need some spirited enticement.

  • Check out the year of tea party ideas and pick a date for your January event.
  • Learn all about tea in our Tea Section.
    *High tea is a hearty working class supper traditionally served in the late afternoon or early evening (in modern times, generally around 6 p.m.).


  • Comments

    GIFT OF THE DAY: A Caddy Of Tea From Le Palais Des Thés

    Today’s gift recommendation is a line of fine loose teas in decorative caddies*, from a renowned French firm, Le Palais des Thés (luh pah-LAY day tay, “The Tea Palace”).

    The company was founded in 1986 by a group of French tea enthusiasts, who went into the tea business so they could have the freshest, highest-quality teas. In handsome packaging, the teas are sold worldwide.

    But before we dig in to the tea gifts, here’s a bit of tea history. (Don’t want history? Scroll down.)

    A Brief History Of Tea-Drinking In Europe

    England is known for tea-drinking; but it actually came late to the game. Tea was first introduced to Europe via Portugal.

    *A tea caddy is a small box, can, or chest for holding tea leaves.


    The des Songes, an oolong tea, in a
    festive red caddy. Photos courtesy Le Palais Des Thés.


    Portuguese traders visiting Asia brought tea back from China and Japan in the late 1500s. Tea was instantly popular among the Portuguese nobility, who had the means to buy the new luxury. Tea was served daily at 5:00 p.m., still a Portuguese tradition.

    The Portuguese infanta, Catherine of Braganza, married to England’s King Charles II in 1662, introduced† the custom of drinking tea to England.

    Tea was extremely costly for more than 100 years, due to rarity and taxes. It was kept in a locked chest to prevent pinching by servants and others. But after the 1750s, smuggled tea was widely available, reasonably-priced and purchased by respectable people.

    †Catherine also introduced the fork to the England. Amazingly, although it was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and the Roman legions occupied England, the fork took many centuries to make the leap.


    Thé des Moines, or Monks’ tea, is a blend of green and black teas created in a Tibetan monastery.


    In the 17th century, tea caddies were made from enameled metal, glass, porcelain and silver. From about 1725, in England, they began to be made of mahogany. Shaped like small chests, caddies held three metal canisters for tea. They became a home accessory: A genteel household had to have one.

    According to A Brief History Of Tea And Tea Caddies, the word caddy derives from the Malay kati, a measure of weight equal to about 3/5 of a kilo.

    And now, for your consideration, some delicious teas in lovely caddies:

    Le Palais De The: Gift Canisters Of Fine Tea

  • Fleur De Geisha. Inspired by the Japanese tradition of viewing the flowering cherry trees, Fleur de Geisha is an elegant Japanese green tea, delicately flavored with cherry blossoms. More information.

  • Thé Des Alizés. Alizés means “trade winds.” Here the trade winds bring a lovely green tea, flavored with white peach, kiwi and watermelon and enhanced with flower petals. More information.
  • Thé Du Hammam. A flowery green tea infused with berries, green date, orange flower water and rose petals, in a pale blue caddie. A hammam is a luxurious Turkish bath house. The blend evokes the fragrances used to perfume the hamman. More information.
  • Thé Des Lordes. The French term for Earl Grey Tea. The tea has a bergamot scent and flavor, with a visual addition of bright orange safflower petals. Charles Grey, 2nd Earl of Falloden and Foreign Secretary, received the gift of this specially scented and flavored tea for saving the life of the Chinese Mandarin. The earl became Prime Minister in 1830. More information.
  • Thé Des Moines. “Monk’s tea” is a blend of black and green teas, based on a recipe made by Tibetan monks. More information.
  • Thé Des Songes. This “tea of dreams” is a delicious oolong tea scented with flowers and exotic fruits. More information.
  • Thé Des Vahines Rooibos. Caffeine-free rooibos (roy-boss) tea is flavored with with vanilla and almond. A delicious dessert tea. Vahine is the Tahitian word for woman. More information.
    A canister (caddy), 4.4 ounces, is $25.00.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Coffee, Christmas Coffee

    As if there isn’t enough to prepare for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, there’s also the after-dinner coffee to consider.

    Here are some tips from the experts at Eight O’Clock Coffee and THE NIBBLE:

  • Test new equipment in advance. Don’t wait until the dinner to try your new French press or Nespresso machine. Play it safe and test new coffee makers and brewing gadgets long before company arrives.
  • Don’t wait until after dinner to offer coffee. Coffee can be enjoyed from the moment guests arrive, and some guests may prefer it to a cold drink.
  • Provide a fine coffee shop experience. Set out shakers of cinnamon, cocoa, ginger, nutmeg and flavored creamers.
  • Provide a choice of milk. Some people like cream, some people prefer fat-free and some even require lactose-free milk. If you only want to deal with two choices, we recommend half-and-half for the cream crowd and lactose-free, fat-free milk for the rest. There’s no difference in the flavor between lactose-free and regular milk. People who want something in between the two choices can combine half and half with fat-free milk.

    Have you thought about coffee service?
    Photo by Ermek | IST.


  • Add some “holiday cheer.” A spoonful of brandy, whiskey or liqueur turns a cup of coffee into a holiday treat. It’s a great occasion to pull out the liqueurs you don’t use often. Chocolate liqueurs, coffee liqueurs, cream/creme liqueurs, honey liqueurs, some herbal liqueurs (anisette, benedictine) and nut liqueurs all work well. You can also provide shot glasses for those who want to sip separately.
  • Don’t forget the decaf. Be prepared for caffeine-conscious guests. Some people will want caffeine for the ride home. Others need to avoid it for medical reasons, or so they can get to sleep.
  • Coffee for large parties. If you’re brewing coffee in a high-capacity urn, consider storing and serving the coffee in thermal carafes after brewing. Carafes keep coffee hot and fresh for up to two hours, while urns may “burn” your brew as it sits. (We recently traded up from our glass carafe brewer to a Cuisinart thermal carafe brewer for just this reason.)
  • Coffee to go. Stock up on holiday-themed to go cups with lids, and send guests home with a cup of coffee for the road. Guests with a long ride ahead will appreciate it.
    Consider A House Gift Of Coffee

    While many guests bring a bottle of wine, consider bringing a bag or two of coffee. You can make the gift special by choosing a seasonal blend for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

    Especially if you’re one of the caffeine-conscious, feel free to BYOB (bring your own bag) of decaf.

    COFFEE LOVERS: Check out our Coffee Section for recipes, reviews and lots of great information on brewing and serving coffee.



    NEWS: Recycling Nespresso Capsules

    We love our Nespresso espresso machine and the many different varieties and flavors of espresso it enables us to enjoy. (Espresso isn’t a type of bean, but a type of roast that can be applied to any bean. Drill down in our Espresso Glossary.)

    But some environmentally conscious espresso lovers have told us that they limit themselves to drinking one cup a day, because they can’t recycle the aluminum capsules.

    Now they can go “from brew to renew.”

    In response to consumer wishes, Nespresso has launched recycling programs in Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas. You can bring spent capsules to participating Sur La Table stores. Sur La Table, a big seller of Nespresso machines, will send them to a recycling center. The aluminum will be recycled and the coffee grounds will be composted.

    Learn more about the Nespresso recycling program.


    Nespresso’s extensive choices enable
    espresso lovers to try different origins and different flavors. Photo courtesy Nespresso.


    Learn more about coffee in our Gourmet Coffee Section.


    Comments (1)

    TIP OF THE DAY: How Not To Burn The Coffee

    You may notice that as it sits on the warming plate, the flavor of brewed coffee deteriorates. Some call it burned coffee.

    Owners’ manuals state that coffee can sit on the warmer for up to two hours. But we say don’t let it sit for more than 30 minutes—the standard observed by good restaurants and coffee shops.

    If your coffee ends up with a scorched or burned flavor, the obvious answer is to make fewer cups. The industry measures “cups” in six ounce portions, so four cups fills two large mugs.

    But if you like to hedge your bets and make a larger amount of coffee, here are other options:

  • Thermal Carafe. Get a coffee maker that has a thermal carafe instead of a glass carafe (shown in the photo). There’s no warming plate. The double wall, vacuum-insulated carafe (essentially, a thermos) keeps coffee hot for at least an hour, and warm enough to drink for up to two hours.

    We like a coffee maker with a thermal carafe, like this Bunn Velocity Brew.


  • Unplug. If your coffee brews into a conventional glass carafe, unplug the appliance after 20 minutes. If you want a hot cup later, you can reheat it in the microwave for 15 seconds. If you use milk, first heat it for 30 seconds. Then combine the hot milk and the coffee. If this sounds like a lot of work, it isn’t: It takes just 45 seconds. Coffee purists recoil at the idea of reheating. But people who add milk and/or sweetener won’t notice a difference. We drink our coffee black, and it works for us.
    Alternative Coffee Makers

  • Single Cup. If you only need one or two cups and repeatedly toss leftover coffee, consider a single-cup coffee maker. (Of course, there’s no need to toss leftover coffee. Pour it into a bottle and stick it in the fridge for iced coffee.)
  • French Press. Consider a French press. It’s a manual device that coffee experts believe makes the tastiest coffee. You can buy a three-cup press from Bodum that makes enough coffee for 1-1/2 large mugs. A French press enables you to use any coffee bean you like: You’re not limited by what’s available in K-cups and sachets.
    Find everything you want to know about coffee in our Gourmet Coffee Section.



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