Food

Weird and Wonderful Stuff You Don’t Know About Tea

Dear Kid,

Admit it. You’ve been waiting for it. You knew that sooner or later I’d get around to weird and wonderful facts about tea.

Ta-da!

The ubiquitous tea bag was invented by Thomas Sullivan. He put tea in little silk bags to give samples to customers. He called it marketing. Customers called it convenient and thought they were supposed to put the whole thing in their tea pot. We call it innovation. Not everyone thinks tea bags are a good thing, but most of the western world appreciates not having loose tea floating around in their drink.

You’ve been waiting for it. You knew that sooner or later I’d get around to weird and wonderful facts about tea. DearKidLoveMom.comThe art of reading tea leaves is called tasseography. Remind me to check the tea leaves to see if I should write about reading them.

If the Queen visits, you need to know that to serve tea formally one requires a formal tea service. That means teapot (duh), sugar bowl, milk pitcher, coffee pot (for the heathens), slop bowl, teacups and saucers, and the tray (because how else would you carry everything out?). The slop bowl is not for the pigs, nor is it for the used tea leaves (one leaves the leaves in the tea pot, m’dear). The slop bowl is to hold the hot water you used to warm the tea pot prior to pouring in the hot water for tea. Don’t worry. The Queen doesn’t usually drop in unannounced, so you have time to figure it all out.

Once upon a time, there was breakfast and there was dinner but there was no lunch. In the 1800s, Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, got hungry in the afternoon. So she invited guests for tea and sweets (and conversation). This is where afternoon tea began.

In ancient China, tea was a form of currency. Tea leaves were pressed into bricks and scored on one side so it could be broken to make change.

It takes about 2,000 little tiny tea leaves to make a pound of tea. A pound of tea makes about 200 cups of brewed tea.

The best tea is grown at high elevation and is hand picked.

Tea plants can grow into tall trees (up to 52 feet tall according to one source I read). It is difficult to reach 52 feet high to harvest the leaves, so most plants are pruned to waist height.

Tea plants require 50 inches of rain annually.

All of which means we will continue to purchase tea and not attempt to grow any in the backyard.

Love, Mom

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There’s WHAT In My Tea?

Dear Kid,

We’re back to our discussion about tea (you thought I forgot, didn’t you? No such luck.).

Tea (all of the actual tea varieties we discussed the other day—pop quiz: do you remember them? White tea, green tea, Oolong, Black tea, and pu-erh) comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. If the beverage you’re drinking comes from the leaf or flower of any other plant, it may look like tea, smell like tea, taste like tea, and be marketed as tea, but it is not tea.

You’re joking. The box says tea.

If the beverage you’re drinking comes from the leaf or flower of any other plant, it may look like tea, smell like tea, taste like tea, and be marketed as tea, but it is not tea. DearKidLoveMom.comIt does. It’s wrong. What you’ve got in your cup is a tisane or infusion or some other brewed loveliness of herbs. It is not tea if it doesn’t come from Camellia sinesis. Most of the time, these non-tea beverages are called herbal tea which doesn’t seem to make sense to me, but who am I to argue?

Herbal teas are made from the roots, leaves, flowers, bark, seeds, and/or fruits of various plants, which may be more than you wanted to know.

More importantly, just because the beverage is Not Really Tea doesn’t mean that it isn’t delicious and wonderfully good for you.

There are umpteen bazillion different kinds of herbal tea and they all offer different tastes and benefits. For the most part, the stuff you buy in a box in the grocery store isn’t going to provide too many benefits (it’s been sitting around for a while and generally is only average quality to begin with) but if it makes you happy (and soothes your throat) enjoy!

There are tea snobs in the world. Fortunately, I’m not one of them.

Love, Mom

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Tea for Two and Things You Never Knew About Tea

Dear Kid,

It’s Tea for Two Tuesday. Seriously, it is.

There are lots of different kinds of tea to enjoy—I learned about more than coffee at Coffee Fest!

It’s Tea for Two Tuesday. Seriously, it is. DearKidLoveMom.comPu-erh tea is fermented tea, which is to say the leaves are fully oxidized and fermented, and, um, often moldy (in a good way). Think wine or cheese. I’ve never had it, but I’ve been assured it is an acquired taste. Until 1995, it was illegal to import pu-erh teas into the US.

The most common type of tea in the US is black tea. Black tea leaves are fully oxidized which basically means the tea leaves absorb oxygen after they’re picked (think rust on a car). The oxidation turns the leaves dark brown and black and impacts the taste of the brewed tea. They have the highest caffeine level of the teas (but not as much as coffee).

Oolong teas are semi-oxidized. Which make them the middle child of teas.

Green teas are not oxidized which is to say they’re dried without being allowed to absorb much oxygen which in turn is why they stay green. Green teas are subtle both in terms of flavor and caffeination.

White tea is pretty rare. It’s a delicate tea made from little tiny baby tea leaves picked at an exact time. It’s considered the healthiest of teas—but you’ll pay for all that healthiness.

None of this matters if you don’t like tea. Or if you only drink herbal tea which it turns out isn’t tea at all. Tune in tomorrow (or some other day) for more on the whole herbal tea thing.

Love, Mom

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What’s New In Coffee

Dear Kid,

Were you busy thinking there are no interesting innovations in the world of coffee? Silly you.

We met Taylor from Coffee Blenders yesterday. And brought home one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while. Coffee Blenders is (and I quote) “the pioneer in functional coffee”. I don’t think they have covered wagons, but I haven’t done enough research to be sure.

What I do know is they’ve got some seriously cool stuff and a great cup of coffee.

It will not surprise you to learn that what caught my eye was a pouch labeled Lean Cup. Taylor and I had a lovely discussion in which she fed my already saturated brain all sorts of information about their different coffees.

This morning, I put the pouch to the test.

Step 0: Wake up after having stayed up late chatting with the GirlChild and friends. This is not an easy step. The Puppy made it easier by suggesting that it was time for him to be walked, thank you very much.

Step 1: After walking and feeding the Puppy, get a cup for coffee. Not a problem as I am well-practiced in the Art of Getting Coffee Cups.

Step 1: Get a coffee cup. DearKidLoveMom.com

Step 2: Open the packet. Easier said than done. Once I found the little tear place it wasn’t hard. Finding the place where they started the tear without coffee in my system…

Step 3 Open the pouch. DearKidLoveMom.com

Step 3: Place the little filter pouch in the coffee cup. Adorable yes? Yes. Realize you have to tear open the adorable little filter pouch. Panic for a moment envisioning difficulties and coffee going everywhere. Relax immensely when it turns out to be the easiest part of the entire process.

Step 3 Forget to open the filter. DearKidLoveMom.com

I spent a minute trying to decide whether to congratulate the inventors for making such a wonderful process or myself for flawless execution. Decided we could share the glory.

Step 3 Revised: Open the filter DearKidLoveMom.com

Step 4: Pour hot water in the little filter pouch (yep, I did that flawlessly too). Let the coffee bloom for 20 seconds (yeah, right, like I was going to time it) then add more water.

Step 4: Pour in hot water. DearKidLoveMom.com

Step 5: Enjoy.

Now here is the really, incredibly amazing part. (I hope you’re sitting down.)

It was dang good coffee. I mean, really, really good.

We all know that there are lots of coffees I don’t like and that pretty much no one is going to claim I have the most sophisticated palate in the world. I can live with this. I’m not a Master Coffee Expert Taster with certifications and whatnot. I’m just me. And I love this coffee. No, they haven’t paid me to say that (although they’re certainly welcome to).

The only problem is that I don’t have another pouch to have a second cup.

Life is hard sometimes.

Love, Mom

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Heading to Nashville | Crazy Day Trip

Heading to Nashville | Crazy Day Trip

Dear Kid,

We’re off to see the wizard!

Not really. We’re heading down to Nashville for the day. Which is ridiculous because who drives 5 hours in order to turn around and drive 5 hours back? Daddy and I do.

We’re headed down for Coffee Fest Nashville. Which makes sense because heading to Nashville for Coffee Fest Chicago would be ridiculous.

Join meet for a great cup of coffee. DearKidLoveMom.com

It’s just a day trip so we won’t actually get to see much of anything. One of these days I hope we’ll get to Nashville for a long weekend.

It’s been a long week. I’m not entirely sure why—nothing particularly stressful or difficult happened. But I’m dragging.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll sleep in….

Love, Mom

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Weekend Coffee is Different Than Weekday Coffee

Weekend Coffee is Different Than Weekday Coffee

Dear Kid,

Happy weekend!

Have you ever noticed that there is something different about a weekend cup of coffee?

Probably not because you’re not a coffee drinker.

But I think that weekday coffee is entirely different than weekend coffee.

Weekend Coffee is Different Than Weekday CoffeeWeekday coffee (the first cup) comes on the heels of a vicious alarm clock. It has a time limit (got to get out the door!). For me, it is part of a multi-tasking Olympic event of cramming 4 hours’ worth of activity into 45 minutes of clock time. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is medicinal (yeah, ok, I would).

Weekend coffee (the first cup) is—in some ways—more critical because it generally arrives later in the morning. On the other hand, it is more leisurely. Each sip gulp can be enjoyed, savored, without the pressure of putting on eyeliner. I can make a second cup at any time—now or a little later, it doesn’t really matter because I’m not in (much) of a rush.

The best thing about weekend coffee is not the weekend-ness or the coffee; it’s taking time to relax and enjoy something. Taking the time to appreciate something we so often rush through. Taking time to breath in the aroma and sip the flavors.

Whatever your “weekend coffee” is—enjoy.

Love, Mom

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