Valerie Tea House & Bakery in Echo Park

In the heart of Los Angeles lies Echo Park, an area that I usually zip through while driving on the 5, 110, or 101 freeways. This historic urban neighborhood was recently renovated over the last few years, and the result is an arty mix of shops and light eateries–the perfect way to take a break if you are stuck in LA traffic.A few large blocks north of Echo Park Lake, you’ll find Valerie Tea Shop & Bakery, a cafe known for their luxurious petit fours and baked goodies. This bake shop may look small and simple, but inside you’ll find a host of tea time treats, from Tartine to Crème Fraîche Scones to Matcha Petit Fours.

The teas served at Valerie are blended by American Tea Room, a tea shop based out of Beverly Hills. You’ll find a few of their tea varieties in the store, but if you want a full list of their offerings you’ll need to visit the Valerie Confections website. Another wonderful perk of shopping online is being able to order petit fours for your friends and family. These little cakes are a welcome change from your everyday box of chocolates, with a marked touch of elegance and good taste. For the true petit four lover, Valerie even carries a yearly subscription for these confections. What’s great is how their petit four flavors have evolved over the years. They now carry two of my favorite tea flavors, both Matcha (with lemon verbena) and Earl Grey!
You can also pick up some tea accessories at Valerie. The one teapot that they stock is one that I brew with everyday called Hario Chacha Kyushu Maru. This Japanese glass teapot is ideal for brewing tea for 1 or 2 people, easy to use and clean. If you have some time to relax, definitely make your way out to the patio area of the tea shop. On the day I visited with my friend Danielle from This Picture Book Life, we ended up sitting out there for hours, chatting away while enjoying the LA sunshine.

In LA, it’s rare to find an artfully crafted tea shop. As such, Valerie Tea Shop & Bakery does a great job of setting a standard–the atmosphere here is casual yet finished, everything you’d expect modern tea time to be. Valerie also has two other locations in the LA area, one on First Street and the other at Grand Central Market, but if you love tea as much as I do then the Echo Park location is the one you’ll want to seek out first.

Valerie Echo Park

1665 Echo Park Avenue

Los Angeles, CA  90026

213.250.9365

valerieconfections.com

London Fog Latte

Did anyone catch the season premiere of Downton Abbey on Sunday? I must admit, I’m a fan of the series, not just for its clever allusions to tea culture (milk in first or milk in last?) but also for its gorgeous countryside scenery and period costumes. And of course, there’s that adorable tail-wagging golden lab who starts off every episode on a cheery note of anticipation.
This London Fog Latte is my go-to treat whenever I settle in to watch an episode of Downton Abbey. It’s elegant, easy to whip up, and tremendously satisfying even after seeing all those scrumptious servings of tea and cake shown on the series. This luxurious latte has a thick layer of frothy vanilla soy milk laying atop best quality, strongly brewed Earl Grey tea. Vanilla and a touch of raw sugar make it decadent without being too rich. Trust me, Starbucks has nothing on this one.

If you can find some vanilla bean paste, this is the perfect time to use it. This dark syrup is flecked with tons of vanilla seeds, which add a caramel-like richness to the brew, pure and fragrant. Many tea experts believe that the proper way to drink tea is with the milk in last, so that you can assess the tea’s color, aroma, and strength before making any changes. If you end up enjoying these London Fog Lattes as often as I do, then you can put that refined custom into practice. London Fog Lattes..brew them strong, brew them classy!

London Fog Latte

Makes 1 latte.

Ingredients:

1 cup boiling water

2 rounded tsp best quality Earl Grey tea (I used Fortnum & Mason’s Earl Grey Classic)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

raw cane sugar cubes or Demerara sugar, to taste (I used 4 cubes of La Perruche for 1 latte)

1/2 cup vanilla soy milk, or slightly more to taste

1 tsp vanilla bean paste, for drizzling on top (optional)

Equipment:

kettle or water boiler

teapot and strainer

large glass mason jar with lid

spoon

mug

Directions:

1.)  Pour a 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract into the mug.

2.)  Brew the tea for 5 minutes. While the tea is brewing, pour milk into the mason jar, then cover with lid and shake vigorously until the milk is frothy and bubbly, almost doubled in volume. Remove the lid and set it aside. Place the uncovered jar of milk to heat in the microwave on high for 30 seconds.

3.)  Pour and strain the tea into the mug until it is half full. Mix sugar into the hot tea to taste, remembering that the milk is following. Top the cup off with the frothy milk, then drizzle the top of the latte with vanilla bean paste and serve immediately.

Chocolate Earl Grey Faux Soufflés

Chocolate Earl Grey Faux Soufflés are the dessert you need when you’ve spent way too much time focusing on dinner, and not enough time thinking about Part Deux. These cakes are easy-to-make, perfectly portioned, and most importantly…they’re delicious!

A few months ago, I shared a recipe for Matcha Mug Cake that showcased the earthy taste and beautiful green color of matcha. Today’s recipe uses another one of my favorite teas, Earl Grey, in a recipe that will transform your everyday chocolate mug cake into a dessert that’s sophisticated, homey, and deliciously unique.

The main flavoring that makes a good Earl Grey tea distinctive is bergamot. The bergamot citrus fruit is bright and fragrant like a sour orange is, although it’s not as sour as a lemon and not as sweet as an orange. Typically, the essential oils found in the rind of this fruit are extracted and then added to black tea leaves to give the steep it’s characteristic floral taste.

According to the Twinings site, the tea was given to the 2nd Earl Grey, the British Prime Minister, in the early 1800’s by “a Chinese mandarin.” Earl Grey loved the blend so much that he asked the tea maker, Twinings, to recreate what came to be known as “Earl Grey’s mixture,” a bergamot-infused black tea. As the blend’s popularity grew, it later became available to others and has since become one of Twinings’ best selling teas.

In this easy recipe, rich dark cocoa powder provides a base for the Earl Grey tea to shine. I create an infused tea milk in the first step so that the tea leaves soften and release more of their bergamot flavor. To enhance the same citrus taste, I also add fresh orange and lemon zest to these tender, chocolatey cakes. A few stirs and a quick spin in the microwave, and the cakes cook up light, fluffy, and incredibly moist.earl grey souffle_

Serve these Chocolate Earl Grey Faux Soufflés at the end of a meal as an after-dinner tea and dessert all wrapped up in one cute little package. If you love the fragrant combination of orange and chocolate, then you’ll love these cakes. What you’ll love even more is how fast this recipe comes together…seriously, 5 minutes and you’re in chocolate heaven!

For cakes this beautiful and tasty, it almost feels strange how simple this recipe is. So, if you prefer a fancier finish and have time to plan ahead, place a few of the same Earl Grey tea bags in with some heavy cream to cold-steep in the fridge overnight. Simply whip the cream to soft peaks right before serving, add a small mound over each cake, and you’ll have a yummy Earl Grey whipped cream to bring all the fragrant flavors together. Unadorned, these decadent cakes are amazingly delicious, but served warm with a dollop of Earl Grey whipped cream? Just incredible!

Chocolate Earl Grey Faux Soufflés

Makes 2 medium size ramekin cakes.

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp milk

1 Earl Grey tea bag (I used Twinings)

3 Tbsp butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp orange zest

1/4 tsp lemon zest

1 egg

4 Tbsp flour

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

4 Tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

3 Tbsp chocolate chips

1/4 tsp confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Equipment:

large microwave safe liquid measuring cup

2 medium-sized ramekins

fork

zester

Directions:

1.)  Pour the milk into the measuring cup and microwave for 30 seconds. Tear open tea bag and pour the tea leaves into the milk. Steep for 2 minutes, then add butter and mix in until it melts.

2.)  Add the vanilla, zests, and egg, then stir vigorously with a fork. Add all the dry ingredients, then mix them in until the batter is homogenous.

3.)  Evenly distribute the batter into the 2 ramekins. Cook 1 cake at a time in the microwave, for 1 minute each. For a decorative touch, dust with confectioners’ sugar right before serving or top with tea-infused whipped cream (see below).

***Optional: Make a tea-infused whip cream to go over cakes by soaking 1/4 cup heavy cream with 2 Earl Grey tea bags overnight. When ready to serve the cakes, discard the tea bags and place the cream in a large cold bowl. Add 1 tsp granulated sugar, then whip the cream with a whisk until you get soft peaks. Spoon a large dollop of whipped cream on each cake. Sprinkle the cream with small Earl Grey tea leaves, orange zest, or lemon zest to finish.