World Tea Expo 2014

Each year, the World Tea Expo features the newest and best in the ever evolving and colorful world of tea.  This year’s expo was held at the Long Beach Convention Center.  If you weren’t able to make it out to the expo this year, here’s a quick glimpse into some of the festivities!

The two main attractions at the conference are the educational sessions and the exhibitors. You can see from the set of classes listed above that the expo covers many different aspects of tea drinking, from manufacturing and sourcing to health effects, pairings, and recipes.
Here are a few of the new teas and tea related products that I discovered at the conference.  Spicely Organic’s Sweet Tumeric Kick Tea Blend was a unique and unexpected find.  This blend is thick, spicy, and sweet, and brews to the most brilliant shade of orange.  It blends equally well with water as it does with milk.  As it’s taste reminds me of the flavors you get in Indian cuisine, I think some fresh, chewy Naan Bread would go perfectly with this brew.  If your are tired of Lipton tea bags, and are looking for a tea that’s caffeine-free and one-of-a-kind, this may be the tea you’ve been looking for!

Another unique product from Spicely Organics are their organic tea-infused chocolates. Flavors like chai, hibiscus, and jasmine and are equally great for snacking on or baking with.

As you can probably tell from my Easter and Christmas Stroopwafel posts, I’m quite the enthusiast when it comes to these classically thin caramel cookies.  Rip van Wafels makes stroops in two different flavors, traditional caramel and a less common cocoa version.  I like that their cookies are individually wrapped for portion control and for freshness.  It’s also nice that the cookies are made from all natural ingredients.

Since I just came back from Hawaii a few weeks ago, I was super thrilled to come across Mama-Kii Brand Tea.  Mamaki is a type of Hawaiian herbal tea that I had the pleasure of tasting for the very first time during my recent visit to the islands.  In Hawaii, I tried some the tea in syrup form, over a tropical coconut panna cotta, but wasn’t able to find any to take home…not a problem anymore!  Apparently, Native Hawaiians have drunk mamaki for generations, particularly for its calming effects.

I met Toffler Niemuth, the owner and creator of Belight Tea (the tea in the lower right corner in the picture above) while attending one of the educational sessions at the expo.  Toffler’s unique Pu-Erh based blend is designed to support weight control and energy balance throughout the day–perfect for those days when you want to make your tea-time calorie free! Her blend won the Buyer’s Choice Award for Best Blended Tea, and also won 3rd place in the North American Tea Championship’s Blended Pu-Erh Category.  It’s traditional to see Pu-Erh sold in bricks, but Toffler’s special blend is packed into easy-to-use tea bags.

Even if you’ve visited my blog just this once, with a few more clicks you’ll soon notice that I am obsessed with matcha (yay for Matcha Mondays!).  Imagine my delight when I saw Ito-En’s new line matcha LOVE products that are already available in stores.  Ito-En is usually known for their easy-to-drink, on-the-go bottled teas.  I actually purchased these 2 cans of matcha above at Gelson’s in Orange County the day after the conference ended (no hand-outs for these at the expo).  I found the taste of the matcha LOVE shot to be quite delicious, but wasn’t as impressed with the color of the tea.  Nevertheless, since it’s generally drunk strait out of the can, matcha LOVE makes a great pick-me-up if you are out and about and need a convenient matcha fix.
Along with their canned matcha drinks, Ito-En has also introduced a few powdered matcha options this year, including classic, koicha (thick and strong), organic, and usucha (weak and thin) grades.  These matcha powders are more for drinking than they are for eating or cooking with.  I ‘m looking forward to buying a tin of the koicha to try the next time I spot some.
I featured Aiya’s Cooking Grade Matcha in my recipe for Matcha Chocolate Chips on this week’s Matcha Monday piece.  Take it from a person who cooks with matcha on a daily basis…it’s great stuff!  The cooking matcha is perfect for making ice cream, shakes, and other creamy treats like my Overnight Vanilla Matcha Oatmeal.  I’m glad to have found a cooking matcha that isn’t only tasty and beautiful but also set at a decent price point.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the mistress of the Korean Tea Cermony, Yoon Hee Kim of Hancha Tea, a Certified Tea Master and Founding Director of the Korean Tea Culture Foundation, looking so artful and lovely in her Korean tea gown.  Every year, the expo celebrates tea cultures from all around the world, which is what I love most about attending.

The World Tea Expo will be taking place in the Northeast US next year, so stay tuned!  Rumor has it that the conference is now going to be held just once a year, instead of having separate West Coast and East Coast conferences.  Converging West and East Coasts into one expo seems like a very good idea, as it will inevitably mean that there will be that many more unique teas to taste and discover.  If you are an avid tea-lover, perhaps I’ll see you at the conference next year!

Easter Bunny Stroopwafels

Who says chocolate bunnies are only for kids?

Let’s be honest, Easter isn’t Easter without a large chocolate bunny being involved.  These Easter Bunny Stroopwafels are the more enchanted version of those grand hollow Easter bunnies that children enjoy, with a measure of portion control thrown in.  What’s also great about these is that they make good use out of the unique and incredibly delicious Dutch stroopwafel!

Several months back I posted a recipe on tea bark, where fragrant green teas were scattered over thin layers of glossy dark chocolate.  For these Easter Bunny Stroopwafels, I used matcha infused white chocolate to set the stage for some grass-like imagery.  The matcha tea also helps to give the cookies an extra boost in green tea flavor.

When choosing which tea blend to use here, you want a green tea laced with lots of flowers and dried fruits.  Even just plain herbals like lavender and ripped rose buds work well.  Above all, you want to use a tea that is pleasantly fragrant and edible.

Teavana’s Sakura Allure is an ideal tea to use for these Easter Bunny Stroopwafels.  Aesthetically, this is a very beautiful, feminine looking tea, which is exactly why I chose it to use!  This blend is inspired by the cherry blossoms that bloom in Japan every spring.

Tasting Notes:

BREWING TIPS:  2 minutes at 175 degrees F.

THE LEAF:  Long, narrow, dark green tea leaves with chunks of dried cherries, dried mango, candied pineapple, orange peels, hibiscus, rose leaves, and rose buds thrown in.

THE SCENT:  A very strong cherry and floral scent.  I left some in my hot car after my run to Teavana, and the car smelled incredibly fruity by the time I returned!

THE STEEP:  This blend looks and tastes very much like fruit punch.  Since there are many fruits and herbal flowers added in, the caffeine content is lower, so this blend is good for kids or those who are caffeine-sensitive.

*** The thing you need to remember if you use Sakura Allure for this little project is that the dried cherries in the tea are not pitted.  Pit and cut the large dried cherries into little tiny bits before using them to make the tea bark.  The cherries are easy to spot in the blend–they are large, sticky, speckled black clumps.

bunny stroopwafel from aboveEaster Bunny Stroopwafels make an easy and elegant after-brunch dessert.  Enjoy them with a hot, fruity cup of brewed Sakura Allure so that your guests can try the tea in two ways–dried and brewed!  These Easter-themed stroopwafels help to capture a lovely image of the season, reminding us that spring is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings.

And with that, I would like to wish all my blog readers out there a very Happy Easter!!

Easter Bunny Stroopwafels

Makes 6 decorated stroopwafels.

Ingredients:

6 stroopwafels

6 small chocolate bunnies (I used Lindt)

6 small pastel-colored chocolate Easter eggs (I used Cadbury Minis)

1/4 cup white chocolate or candy melts

1 tsp matcha green tea powder

2 Tbsp of a floral, fruity, and fragrant loose-leaf green tea (I used Teavana’s Sakura Allure), plus more for brewing

Equipment:

teacups, with diameter same or less than stroopwafels

baker’s twine or thin decorative ribbon, cut into 8″ pieces

scissors

Instructions:

1.)  Melt the white chocolate or candy melts in the microwave or over a double boiler.  Add in the matcha and mix until the chocolate is an even green color.

2.)  Place 2-3 tsp of the green tea melted chocolate in the top middle of each stroopwafel.  Smooth over the chocolate evenly so that you leave a 1/4″ border all around the top circumference of the stroopwafel.

3.)  Lightly scatter the green tea blend atop the setting green tea chocolate.

4.)  Place an unwrapped chocolate bunny in the center of the stroopwafel, and an egg beside the bunny.  Allow a few minutes for the chocolate to set.

5.) Using baker’s twine or thin string, tie a bow around the neck of each chocolate bunny.  Snip off excess ribbon.  When it’s time to serve, place the stroopwafels atop a teacup filled with the same Sakura Allure you used to make the bark.  Enjoy!

Christmas Tree Stroopwafels

What kind of Christmas tree did you get this year?  Spruce?  Pine?  Douglas Fir?

For the last few years since getting married, my hubby and I have used our not-more-than-2 foot-tall fake Christmas tree to celebrate with.  I usually add some Asian inspiration to the tree by decorating it with paper origami ornaments.  This year, I was busy (blogging), so my husband went ahead and did all the tree decorating by himself–ornaments, lights, and all.  He isn’t a picky person by any means, but when it comes to Christmas trees he insists on lots of lights–a ton of lights, really–to the point where the tree starts to sag.  I suppose some tacky Christmas decor is better than no decor at all, right!?

Since I didn’t do a speck of tree decorating this year, this is my contribution…Christmas Tree Stroopwafels!  I’ve put all my creative efforts in a tree not more than 2 inches in height, but hopefully you’ll find it charming nonetheless.

Stroopwafels are my favorite cookie of all time, more than Oreos.  This simple and humble cookie of the Netherlands has such a satisfying flavor and texture.  With soft, pliable caramel hiding between two very thin waffles, this cookie gives just the right toothy bite.

The only thing better than a stroopwafel is a stroopwafel over a cup of hot tea.  The heat from the tea slightly melts the inner caramel, making the waffle cookie soft and oozy.  I’m quite convinced that I would never be able to make a stroopwafel better than the ones you buy from the store that are imported from the Netherlands, so I won’t even bother trying. What I will do, though, is embellish and enhance them!

To make some rustic looking trees to set atop my stroopwafels, I used marzipan with a few teaspoons of–you guessed it– matcha green tea mixed in.  I’m hoping that after Christmas time ends my matcha-madness will be cured as I’ve exhibited a serious obsession with the green powder over the last few weeks.  At the very least, I promise this will be my last matcha post of the year.  To get a more complex and earthy looking shade of green to the trees, I’ve also mixed a small amount of cocoa powder into the marzipan.

There really isn’t much to this food craft project, just make sure that you have sharp snippers.  The more free-form and relaxed you are about making cuts into the marzipan, the more natural and beautiful the trees will look.

It’s also important to use the right size of teacup when serving these embellished cookies.  You’ll want the mouth of the teacup to be either the same size as the stroopwafel or smaller.  The only way to get around this is to place the waffle cookie off to the side of the teacup (see photo below), but if it isn’t balanced properly the tree stroopwafel could end up taking a plunge into the hot tea, so please be careful!

There are a few extra decorations here–the star sprinkles, the red tree skirt, and the gingerbread man–that make this tea cookie that much more polished, but if you don’t have time for those just focus on the trees.  When sprinkled with some powdered sugar right before serving, the plain trees will be just rustic and magical.

Decorated trees, caramel stroopwafels, and warm tea are a trio especially perfect for a chilly Christmas Day.  Perched atop your favorite wintertime tea, these trees are just the confection to munch on while your tea is coming down to the right sipping temperature.  With less than 5 minutes of tree decorating you’ll be ready to share this festive holiday treat with your friends and family, and entitled to all the bragging rights that come along with serving them!

Happy Holidays and save room for after dinner tea!

Christmas Tree Stroopwafels

Makes 6 decorated stroopwafels.

Ingredients:

6 stroopwafels

7 oz. tube of marzipan

1 tsp matcha green tea powder

1/2 tsp cocoa powder

vegetable oil (if needed)

yellow star sprinkles

1/2 cup chocolate chips (regular or white)

1 cherry or strawberry fruit roll up (optional)

Wilton’s gingerbread man cookie decorations (optional, I got these at Michaels)

powdered sugar (optional)

Equipment:

teacups, with diameter same or less than stroopwafels

kitchen scissors with sharp tip

round, fluted 2″ diameter cookie cutter

toothpick

powdered sugar sifter (optional)

Directions:

1.)  Soften marzipan by kneading, placing in microwave for a few seconds if it is too hard to work with.  Sprinkle the matcha on the marzipan and knead until you get an even green color, then sprinkle on the cocoa powder and knead again until the color is even.  If the marzipan dries out and becomes too crumbly, add a dab or two of vegetable oil and knead in to incorporate.

2.)  Roll marzipan into a log and cut into 6 equal pieces.  Shape each piece into a tree with a pointed tip and flat, wide bottom about 1 1/2″ in diameter.  Use scissors to cut into the side of marzipan tree at a 45 degree angle from the surface, about 1/4″ deep, with the scissor tips facing towards the top of the tree.

3.)  When you are done “snipping” the trees, set them aside on a large plate.  Melt chocolate in microwave in 10 second increments until it has completely melted.  Dollop 2 tsp of chocolate in the center of each stroopwafel and smooth out in a circular motion using the back of a rounded teaspoon, leaving a 1/4″ border of the stroopwafel uncovered, all-around.  Use a toothpick to dab a bit of melted chocolate on the back of each star, and attach them to the top of the trees.

4.)  Using round fluted cutter, cut out rounds of fruit roll up, making tree skirts in the process.  If you want the skirts to show up more obviously, use white chocolate in step #3 instead of regular chocolate.  Place the cut outs in the center of each chocolate circle (shiny side up) and allow them to lightly set.

5.)  After the chocolate has lightly set, place a dab of remaining chocolate in the middle of the fruit roll tree skirt, then place the tree on top to set.  If using, place a little gingerbread man to the side of the tree, allowing his leg to meld to the chocolate base so that he stays upright.

6.)  When it’s time to serve, place the stroopwafels atop a teacup filled with hot tea.  If you prefer, you can use some powdered sugar to sift on top as snowfall…enjoy!

Love matcha like I do?  Please check out my other matcha recipes here.