Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tea: A Love Affair

I love tea. Love, love, love it. I love the idea that tea can be infused with any flavor under the sun. I love the way the leaves are dried out like shrinky dinks and then totally come back to life with a little hot water. And I love how tea compliments baked goods, an obvious other fave of mine. 

Just about a year ago, I met a Certified Tea Master (who knew?). It was at one of those dinners where everyone is a friend of someone else, so I was several degrees of separation from the Tea Master and I never saw her again. But she was very cool and I thought it was so neat that such a title exists and that she took such ownership of it. She even had a card to convey her mastery. In another life, maybe the title can be mine. Jeni Dodd, I salute you:

While tea mastery is not in my immediate future, I do enjoy trying as many new teas as I can get my hands on. And this week, I discovered a gem that I must share with fellow tea lovers - The Spice and Tea Exchange of Georgetown. Can you say, Green Chili Sugar? Applewood Smoked Sea Salt? Almond Cookie Tea?! I know I sound like an advertisement, but I am just so smitten with this joint. It's very small and each wall is lined with infused salts, sugars, teas, spices and blended rubs. Plus an array of kitschy tea accoutrements and free tea samples. The clerk encouraged everyone who came in to open the jars and smell the ingredients (and above each jar of loose spice or tea were pre-bagged portions ready for purchase).

Apparently, the Spice and Tea Exchange is popular in Florida and exists in a few other states, but it just arrived in Georgetown about a month ago. I bought three flavors: Coconut Oolong, Almond Cookie Tea (black tea), and Mango Green Tea, all of which smell like heaven. Plus I couldn't resist some Tangerine Sugar to sweeten it up. The Almond Cookie Tea is pictured immediately below.

Today's menu: Mango Green Tea with Tangerine Sugar. Green tea and black tea leaves come from the same plant, but green tea is not fermented the way black tea is (white and oolong tea leaves come from different plants). When steeped, green tea is lighter in color, but is not actually "weaker" than black tea (although it does have less caffeine naturally). Green tea just has a milder, earthier flavor. 

When steeping your tea, avoid using boiling water and instead shoot for very hot, but not bubbling. If your water comes to a boil, just let it rest for a minute or two before pouring over the tea leaves. For green tea, 1 heaping tsp. of tea leaves should be enough for a large mug of tea (12 oz.). I like to steep green tea for 3-4 minutes, but some people prefer only 1-2 minutes. You'll have to experiment with your own palate.

Tea-related sidebar: for the past few years, my law firm has sponsored an absolutely delightful women's tea at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in DC. It is held during the summer so that female summer associates (who are like interns) have a chance to chat with other female attorneys in a relaxed (and tasty) setting. It is my only opportunity to date to attend a fancy tea party and I think it's the bees knees (did I mention that everyone gets their very own tower of finger sandwiches and pastries?!). 

Apparently, some people that I work with have recently voiced opposition to the women's tea. I'm not sure if it's because of the stereotypical female flavor of the event or simply the fact that a segregated women's event is happening at all. Either way, I cannot wrap my mind around the tea hang-up, and I'm already mourning the loss of this event. If you can articulate a valid reason to discontinue the tea, I would be interested to hear it. Signed, bitter on K Street. 

1 comment:

  1. Katie, I'm loving your blog! I read this just as I was sipping my daily jasmine green tea (with honey) that has recently replaced my coffee addiction. No Spice and Tea exchange in CA, but just looked it up and there is one in my home town Alexandria! I'm so checking it out this xmas. Thanks for the tip!


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