Tea of the Week: Bigelow’s Girl Scout Thin Mints Herbal Tea

Knock, knock, knock. And there they are…Girl Scouts, with their adorable smiling faces, asking if you’d like to buy just a few boxes of cookies.

It’s a daunting dilemma having Girl Scouts show up at your front door, especially if you’re trying to watch your calories. You don’t actually want to tell the sweet little girls “no,” do you? For those of you who feel my pain, there’s hope for us and it comes in the form of tea…more specifically, Girl Scout Thin Mints Tea!

In partnership with the Girl Scouts of America, Bigelow Tea Company launched its cookie-flavored teas earlier this year. As the operator of the largest working tea plantation in the US, leave it to Bigelow Tea to come up with a distinctively all-American tea flavor to delight the young at heart. On top of that, Cindi Bigelow, the third-generation President of the companywas once a proud Girl Scout herself!

Next year, I’m hoping that the Girl Scouts come knocking on my door with both cookies and tea. How great would that be? In the meantime (for those of us in the US), be on the lookout at your local grocery stores. Like the cookies, Thin Mints Herbal Tea is a seasonal offering, so it’s a great idea to stock up while you can!Tasting Notes for Bigelow’s Girl Scout Thin Mints Herbal Tea:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew at 212 degrees F for 4 minutes. This tea brews dark and strong quickly so keep an eye out while it’s steeping.
THE BLEND:  A mix of peppermint, chicory, rose hips, licorice root, low-fat alkalized cocoa powder, natural chocolate flavors, and other natural flavors.
THE SCENT:  Of soft, bright peppermint with hints of rich caramel.
THE STEEP:  The color is dark chocolate brown, like coffee! Each sip starts with the smooth taste of chocolate followed by mild mintiness. The chocolate and mint flavors are well-balanced where one doesn’t overwhelm the other. This is great served on its own if you want to taste more of its peppermint base. Enjoy it with a splash of milk to highlight its rich, deep, chocolate flavors. I like the taste of this brew hot, not cold.
GET IT:  The tea is available in grocery stores during the months of March, April, and May this year. It can also be found on Amazon, but not at the Bigelow site. I found my tea at Sprouts, alongside Caramel and Coconut, the tea version of Caramel deLights (a.k.a. Samoas)!
FOOD PAIRING:  Since this is caffeine-free, refreshingly minty, and inspired by cookies, it’s ideal as a substitute for dessert. If you want to indulge, serve this with anything chocolatey like Chocolate Petit Fours, Homemade Chocolate Pocky, or those leftover Thin Mints parked in your freezer (are there any left!?). The touch of mint makes this tea a delicious partner to a few pieces of dark chocolate. This is also great for the calorie conscious who are craving a taste of Thin Mint Cookies minus the guilt.

Bird’s Nest Tea Bombs

A few days ago, outside my living room window, I noticed a bird tucking in and out of the crevice between the misaligned wooden fence panels surrounding our house. The bird seemed busy at work–occupied. Amidst its constant activity, it managed to shoot me an occasional glare, so as to say back off lady, or you’ll regret it! It wasn’t until I saw the same bird again two days later that I realized what it was up to. Just in time to mark the beginning of spring, my feathery friend was building a nest.

I get it, birdie. There’s a lot of work that goes into nest-making. As I learned a few days ago making these Bird’s Nest Tea Bombs, making a sturdy nest is a labor of love…an art form, really. My tea nests are made from maple syrup marshmallows covered in tea leaves. Although they look like you’ve just spotted them in a thick woodland forest, they serve an entirely different purpose. They’re designed to be an all-in-one tea brew, sweetener, and treat.
This project for Bird’s Nest Tea Bombs was inspired by 2 things: my sister and some very beautiful tea. On last week’s Tea of the Week post, I featured Bellocq Tea Atelier’s No. 22 National Parks Dept. This nature-inspired blend of Darjeeling and Assam has bright green cedar tips and twiggy kukicha (twig tea) thrown in. It’s so perfectly organic and rustic that I still can’t get over how delicious it is.

As an Easter gift (and because she’s a cool gal with great taste), my sister Melissa sent me some dark chocolate blue robin candy eggs from a fantastically elegant candy shop in Beverly Hills called Sugarfina. These delightful candies and a tin of gorgeous tea married to make this whimsical confectionary DIY. Here, a small blob of marshmallow holds about 2 teaspoons of loose tea together, just the right amount for small teapot brew. Although you can use any marshmallow recipe to make these, I like to use a maple syrup base because it enhances the natural, mild sweetness of my steep. You can even make the marshmallows separately to snack on.

More than anything, these tea marshmallows are ornamental, so don’t expect a lot of sweetness when they dissolve in your brew. Use any twig or flower based tea to make these Bird’s Nest Tea Bombs–a mix with colorful visual interest is ideal. Above all, just remember to enjoy the candy eggs before dropping the nests into the hot water. Happy springtime brewing my friends!Bird’s Nest Tea Bombs

Makes 12 small tea nests. Each nest makes 2 cups of tea.

Ingredients:

2 tsp gelatin

2 Tbsp water

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

12 small egg candies

1/2 cup twiggy loose leaf tea (I used Bellocq’s National Parks Dept.)

Equipment:

large mixing bowl

medium pot

wooden spoon

candy thermometer

hand-held mixer with whisk attachment

lightly oiled rubber spatula

large piping bag with 1/2″ round piping tip (or just cut tip)

mini muffin tin

Directions:

1.)  In a large heat proof mixing bowl, bloom the gelatin in the water. Set aside.

2.)  Place the maple syrup and cream of tartar in a medium pot, mix with the wooden spoon, then place on low-medium heat until the mixture hits 250 degrees F. Use the candy thermometer and be careful to watch the mixture so that the syrup doesn’t boil over.

3.)  Meanwhile, place 1 rounded tsp of loose leaf tea in each of 12 mini muffin pan cavities.

4.)  When the maple syrup comes up to temperature, take it off the heat then gradually pour it into the bloomed gelatin. Use a hand-held mixer to whip the mixture until you get stiff peaks. Use an oiled spatula to transfer the marshmallow fluff to a large piping bag with a 1/2″ open tip for piping.

5.)  Pipe small dollops of marshmallow fluff into each tea-filled mini muffin pan cavity. Attach a candy egg in the middle of each dollop, then top the marshmallows with extra loose leaf tea to create finished nests. Each nest is enough to brew 1 small teapot of tea (2 cup capacity). Simply eat the egg candy, then throw the nest into hot water to brew.

Tea of the Week: Mark T. Wendell’s Irish Breakfast

Where do you go in America to order best-quality Irish Breakfast tea without having to pay overseas postage fees? Well, Boston of course! There’s nothing like a robust, malty cup of Irish Breakfast in the mornings. A good cup of Irish Breakfast tea is like a magical elixir of sorts, a full-bodied brew to get you charging through your day.

Mark T. Wendell Tea Company has been around for over a century now…111 years to be exact! The company opened in 1904 supplying a variety of luxury goods to the New England elite. Today, the company sells tea exclusively, and has an impressive selection of Chinese and Indian teas. I love their gift sets, especially their English-Irish-Scottish Breakfast Tea trio and Julia Child’s Favorites Tea Sampler. I find it fascinating that the beloved French Chef herself bought teas regularly from Mark T. Wendell’s.
Mark T. Wendell’s Irish Breakfast is an Assam blend, made up of small and large black leaves. What I appreciate most about the steep is that it’s strong without being overpowering. Just a few sips will leave you with a pep in your step and ready to make your own luck!

Tasting Notes for Mark T. Wendell’s Irish Breakfast:

BREWING TIPS:  Steep with water that has reached a full boil for 4-5 minutes. Strain out the leaves on time for a perfectly strong brew.
THE TEA:  A blend of small and large leaf Assam. Black leaves, about 1/2″ in length, with smaller brown specks throughout.
THE SCENT:  A strong, sweet scent of fermented malt.
THE STEEP:  Brews to a dark, reddish mahogany. This Assam blend is bold and malty, yet light and brisk on the palette. I like to drink it straight up, but I’m sure many would prefer this with a splash of milk and sugar or a slice of lemon. An excellent substitute for coffee drinkers, and excellent as an iced tea. This is my go-to when I need an afternoon pick-me-up.
GET IT:  At the Mark T. Wendell site.
FOOD PAIRING:  Ideal for breakfast or brunch, wherever you would usually serve coffee. I like to enjoy this brew with a hearty bowl of steel-cut Irish oats in the morning or with a rich Irish Oat Flapjack in the afternoon. This would be a beautiful complement a traditional full Irish breakfast. It’s also fantastic with a thick slice of Irish soda bread or a meat and potato stuffed pasty.

Tea of the Week: Mandala Tea’s Milk Oolong

What’s your favorite tea? Among all the packets, tins, and boxes of tea floating around in my stash, Mandala Tea’s Milk Oolong stands out as one of my favorites. The tea gets its name from its sweet, milky finish and is almost desert-like in taste. Just so you know, there isn’t a smidge of milk or cream in this tea, nor is there ever a reason to add any!It’s this brew’s balance between light and rich, pure and complex that makes it such an amazing sip. The tea is grown in altitudes between 1,600 and 3,200 feet above sea level where sunny days and cool nights help the leaves to develop such exceptional flavor. This milk oolong is a favorite of many tea enthusiasts and bloggers, yet another delicious selection from Mandala Teas. Tasting Notes for Mandala Tea’s Milk Oolong:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew at 190 degrees F for 20 seconds for the first few infusions, then for 10-20 additional seconds for later infusions. You should be able to get many steeps out of this tea. I like to take these leftover steeped leaves and place them in my ice water to extract every last trace of flavor from the them…yes, the tea is that great!
THE TEA:  Tightly rolled, dark green balls that unravel into large leaves as they steep.
THE SCENT:  Floral and fragrant, like tropical orchids, lilacs, or gardenias. This brew reminds me of my favorite place in the world, Hawaii. A whiff of this tea brewing is like getting a hit of sweet island air.
THE STEEP:  Brews to a pale, golden-yellow. Lightly sweet yet rich and buttery. Hints of coconut, cream, honey, and caramel that are distinct but subtle. To be clear, this milk oolong has nothing to do with milk tea or bubble (boba) milk tea. There are absolutely no sweeteners or dairy additives here.
GET IT:  At Mandala Tea’s site.
FOOD PAIRING:  This would be perfect with a tropical fruit salad with pineapple or mangos. Also lovely with light coconut milk-based desserts, like dairy-free panna cotta or Chinese coconut jello. For a savory change, serve this with spring rolls or sushi. Also great with white-fleshed fish like rock cod, tilapia, or mahi-mahi served Asian-style, with plenty of scallions and ginger.

Tea of the Week: Wedgwood’s 1870 Golden Rose

Are you ready for Valentine’s Day? Whether you are buying a bouquet for your sweetie or even for yourself this February 14th, roses are always a good idea. For a change on tradition, you might think about gifting your bouquet in tea form. That’s where Wedgwood’s 1870 Golden Rose comes into play. This blend is a lovely potpourri of fruit and flowers, a blended Chinese green tea that I am officially over the moon about.

If the Wedgwood name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same British company known for its elegant porcelain and bone china. I was so happy to discover that Wedgwood recently started selling their teas here in the US, and this tea was one of the main reasons for that excitement.

Wedgwood’s 1870 Golden Rose is a distinctively feminine blend, a treasure among perfume-like teas. This steep is elegant and charmed, like a pure taste of romance. If you or your sweetie loves the idea of stepping through a bountiful English garden of sweet berries and fragrant blooms, then I’m sure that you’ll simply adore this tea.

Tasting Notes for Wedgwood’s 1870 Golden Rose:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew at 175 degrees F for 3-5 minutes. As this is a delicate green tea, be careful not to overbrew.

THE BLEND:  Made up of twisted green tea leaves, large rose petals, strawberry pieces, and cornflowers.

THE SCENT:  If I were rich, I would place piles of this tea around my house. The tea is scented like a thriving English garden between spring and summer. Or, if you can’t imagine that, it’s like going to a farmer’s market and walking into a stall that only sells ripe strawberries and big, fat, just-bloomed roses. If the winter has you missing the scent (and taste!) of red, ripe strawberries, then this is the tea for you…true aromatherapy!

THE STEEP:  A golden, soft orange. This is a lightly sunny sip with mild bok choy notes from the Chinese green tea base. You could add a touch of honey to this tea to accentuate its floral notes.

GET IT:  Online, at the US Wedgwood site, the Canadian Wedgwood site, or the UK Wedgwood site for tea lovers living in Europe.

FOOD PAIRING:  This is a great tea to have with a classic afternoon tea spread of English Scones or Mini Cream Sconestea sandwiches, and petit fours. Also lovely when enjoyed with a simple slice of toast and jam

Tea of the Week: Ito En’s Dattan Soba Tea

Teas are particularly great when you can drink them anytime of day without having to worry about their buzz effect. Dattan Soba Tea is one of these versatile teas, a sip so full-flavored that you could easily mistake it as a regularly caffeinated tea. The brew is made from a tartary buckwheat, also known as bitter buckwheat. Don’t worry though, the brew doesn’t taste the least bit bitter. This tea is toasty and nutty, with a flavor profile similar to soba noodles since they are both made from the same ingredient.
I don’t even bother setting a timer when I brew this Soba Cha. Simply pour the hot water on and it’s a done deal. The tea is already packaged into tea filters, but I highly recommend you rip one open and try eating a few of the the toasted buckwheat bits both before and after brewing them. If you eat them before, they’ll taste something like mini Grapenuts (the cereal). Eat them post-brewing and they’ll taste something like boiled brown rice.

Tasting Notes for Ito En’s Dattan Soba Tea:

BREWING TIPS:  Bring water to a full boil and let the tea steep for 5-8 minutes. The package says to brew the tea to just under the boil, but I don’t think it makes a big difference.

THE TEA:  Golden, toasted buckwheat bits. To appreciate their full flavor, eat them straight up!

THE SCENT:  Smells nutty and rich, like roasted peanuts or sesame seeds.

THE STEEP:  Brews to a light greenish-yellow. Tastes of wheat cereal and freshly toasted nuts. Wholesome taste, similar to that of Barley Tea. Equally satisfying brewed hot or chilled.

GET IT:  Online, at Amazon or in well-stocked Japanese or Korean markets.

FOOD PAIRING:  This tea is very satisfying with sushi or maki rolls, especially with your evening meal. Also delicious with savory treats like Furikake Tofu Fries, Miso Chive Dumplings, or Shiitake Napa Dumplings. You can even enjoy the soba bits scattered over a salad like you would enjoy croutons.

Tea of the Week: Elmwood Inn’s Bourbon Black Tea

Lapsang Souchong is one of my favorite teas to cook with, but also one of my least favorite teas to drink. Although I love the idea of a tea fired over pine wood, I often find Lapsang Souchong almost too assertive, better for culinary creations than for everyday drinking. Elmwood Inn’s Bourbon Black Tea is a lighter version of fiery Lapsang Souchong, pleasantly smokey with vanilla and caramel notes for a well-rounded sip.

The tea gets it’s charred bourbon barrel infused taste from blending black tea with just a bit of Lapsang Souchong. The longer you steep this tea, the darker and maltier it will taste. For a cup that’s bold without being brash, I go for a quick 3 minute steep which produces a toasty, cozy cup to warm you up on the chilliest of winter nights.

This robust tea would be delicious with holiday favorites like fruit cakes, panettone, gingerbread, or savory hors d’oeuvres. Rich, decadent bites pair the best with Bourbon Black Tea that’s served straight up, without additions. That being said, if you drink this tea without any tasty bites, milk and sugar will bring out all those luxuriously smooth vanilla and caramel flavors. Single, double, or on the rocks, this refined blend is a treat for both tea and spirit connoisseurs alike!

Tasting Notes for Elmwood Inn’s Bourbon Black Tea:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew with boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Tea brewed for 5 minutes will be distinctively robust and liquor-like.

THE BLEND:  Sunflower and calendula petals mixed with a blend of black teas from India, China, and Sri Lanka.

THE SCENT:  Dark, like charred wood.

THE STEEP:  A brilliant, fiery amber shade of red. This tea is pronounced and bold, like a real bourbon would be. Smooth, smokey, and lightly sweet, with molasses-like flavor.

GET IT:  Online, at Elmwood Inn Fine Teas.

FOOD PAIRING:  S’mores, salted caramels, or any sweets with a bit of char on them (like a creme brulée) would be fantastic with this blend, as they will help to bring out the tea’s smokey notes. Christmas favorites like brandy or rum soaked fruit cake will make the rich bourbon flavors shine. For a savory pairing, try the tea with Chinese Roasted Duck Tarts with Plum Sauce or barbecued meats…a unique food pairing, but my favorite way to enjoy this unique blend!