Thursday, January 8, 2009

More New-ness...This Time, Tea

We're coffee people. Have been for awhile. Not a morning goes by without a big pot being brewed, sometimes 2 or 3 pots on the weekend. Pretty much every road trip either begins or includes a stop for a cup-to-go. Tea? Well, iced tea, sure. And a box of some herbal teas hiding out in the back of the kitchen cupboard in case someone got sick and needed something soothing.

But things are changing, and wow. Teas are a whole new way to enjoy life! It started with my in-laws, visiting in the fall. I asked if they needed any particular foods on hand that they liked...well, they said, FIL likes to drink a cup of tea... So off I puttered to the grocery and picked out a box of Celestial assorted box of mixed fruit teas. Although FIL only drank a few cups of it during his visit, Mark and I made quick work of the leftovers. During the late fall and weeks leading up to Christmas, I would come in after a late night music practice, actually looking forward to a nice hot cup of tea to warm me up. Mark would join me, and we started to wonder aloud what the world of tea had to offer besides Celestial Seasonings. Not that it was bad, but we knew there had to be something else out there.

So I hit the gourmet section of the grocery, and Mark hit downtown Cumberland. What a liquid feast awaited us! Starting with the grocer, I discovered a ton of possibilities. Mostly tea in bags, all sorts of brands and flavors, caffeinated, decaffeinated, fruity ones, spicy ones, zingy ones, earthy ones. The organic aisles brought even more possibilities. I was literally overwhelmed. Why had I not noticed this before? After all, the tea aisle is also the coffee aisle....was I that blinded? Oh wait...we hadn't been buying our coffee at the grocery much anymore....we had moved onto the mail-order, organic, fair trade stuff....but I digress....

Back to tea. Mark visited the tea shop in Cumberland...didn't even really know we had one, but alas, we do! This was a new animal...loose teas. Having no idea the difference between a rooibus and a chai, he left empty-handed, but not empty-minded. We settled for a tin of Gypsy Fireside Chai from the organic grocery aisle and decided to do a little asking around, a little research.

Then came Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, we found ourselves in Columbia Mall in Howard County where we stumbled upon a store called Teavana. Oh my. First, we hovered around the free samples at the front of the store, tasting and oohing and ahhing. Then we ventured to the back, where loose tea in tins awaited us....tons of them. We knew not where to begin, but decided to start small and familiar, so we selected 2 oz. of Caribbean Breeze, one of their herbal infusions. It is described in their catalog as "A torrid melange of strawberry and raspberry pieces, elderberries, apple bits, kiwi and passion fruit pieces, citrus peels, rosehips and hibiscus, rose petals and blue mallow flowers." Hmmmmm. Somewhere along the way, we picked up some tea strainers, and we were in business.

Caribbean Breeze turned out to be pretty good. Very, very fruity, and once we got the proportions of water to tea to steep time correct, it's very good. Like Celestial Seasonings on steroids...very, very flavorful and deep. The Gypsy Fireside Chai was also very good - although in bags so easier to deal with, and readily available at our local grocery, along with about 12 other flavors, just ready to be sipped.

Since then, we've moved on. My cabinet now includes the last of the Caribbean Breeze, and it has been joined by Caramel Rooibus from the Cumberland store (part of my Christmas present from Mark!), a Matevana Rooibus Chai from Teavana when we were again visiting after Christmas, and a Rooibus White Chocolate Toffee...some leftovers a girlfriend gave me when she discovered that we had discovered tea...a sample she got from somewhere and she didn't much care for. Haven't tried that one yet! It sounds a little on the adventuresome side for me!

And it feels like we've only just begun, between white tea, black tea, green tea, rooibus (red) tea, oolong, mate's, herbals and infusions, 'twould seem our tea-drinking days have only just started!

And the best part? No calories in most of it!! Mark likes his with a little honey, I usually have mine with some herbal sweetener, so we can indulge all we like without messing with the old waistlines. Plus, tea has a lot of antioxidents and other ingredients that are health-beneficial. Bottoms up!!

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