All posts by doorkeeperpoet

Love ‘n Faith Community Café

The title of this post is just the name of a cafe that I went to. Normally, I would say that’s boring and change it, but this particular cafe has such a cute name that I wanted to borrow it. Normally, I wouldn’t review this place for a tea blog, because, hey, it’s an ice cream cafe, not a tea shop. They’ve got me breaking all my own rules in this post.

And what would bring me to this? Well, their tea, of course. I had the pleasure of going to Love ‘n Faith Community Café for the first time this past weekend, and I had no idea what to expect. I wandered in on a whim to get coffee with a friend, and found myself in an atmosphere that was simultaneously bright, cozy, modern, and friendly.

Love 'n Faith Community Cafe
Look! There it is again! I must really love this name.

When we stepped up to the counter, the first thing I noticed was the lone tea beverage at the bottom of their menu, almost hidden under the usual list of espresso bar favorites. It read, “Persian Tea.”

I had never heard of this before, so I asked what it was, and was informed that it was black tea. Good enough! I ordered one, and my friend and I took a seat at the end of the bar closest to the window, right next to the espresso machines.

Our drinks arrived quickly, and the tea was delicious. It tasted like Earl Grey, and although the flavor was strong, it wasn’t bitter. It also came in a tall glass with a spoon, so it won extra points for aesthetics.

Finally, as we sat chatting and enjoying our tea, fog began to crawl over our table. I mean, it was almost Halloween, so that’s totally appropriate, right? Wrong! They were cleaning their machines with a combination of ice and fire that made theirs the most entertaining and visually appealing maintenance routine that I have ever seen.

I’m going to have to go back and try their ice cream.

If you’re interested, you can find more information alllll over the internet!

Website (under construction as of 10/31/2014):
http://lovenfaithcafe.com/

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/lovenfaithcafe

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/lovenfaithcafe

Foursquare:
https://foursquare.com/v/love-n-faith-community-cafe/5393ad83498ed68cdc6971ca

Yelp:
http://www.yelp.com/biz/love-n-faith-community-cafe-washington-2

Google Plus:
https://plus.google.com/114285348440183520605/

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Keep Calm and Drink Lavender Tea

I have no idea whether The Little Book of Calm contains as much lavender as rumor would suggest, however, I will say that lavender tea is one of my favorite things. Regardless of any calming properties that lavender might possess, I was nothing short of ecstatic when I discovered the lavender sencha in the tea section at Wegman’s.

Wegman's lavender sencha tea
It smells just as delicious as it looks.

Lavender tea is delicious. Lavender combined with sencha’s grassy green tea flavor and a mild caffeine kick is pure heaven. If you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it!

Alternatively, you can try picking up some sencha and mixing your own lavender tea. I don’t think I’m qualified to prescribe the best ratio of lavender to green tea, but I can say that I’ve seen dried lavender (and other flowers) on sale at Ten Ren’s Tea Time and other tea shops for those of you who want to try making your own floral blends.

Make Amazing Chai

I love spiced tea. I would have to say my favorite store-bought chai is the Stash brand, and I like both their black and green chai teas. However, it’s way more fun and rewarding to make your own chai.

The first step is to decide what you want to use for the base. You can use just about anything. The most convenient option for most people is probably water, which can be really delicious all by itself. If you want to try something a little more thick and creamy, you can use any combination of other beverages as the base. I’m a fan of whole milk, but for anyone who prefers something a little lighter or non-dairy, you can always use any combination of regular, soy, almond, or coconut milk, or anything else that you think might be delicious.

I tried making chai with a milk base for the first time very recently. I was a little bit worried that I would burn the milk before I could steep it as long as I would have liked, but I found that putting a pot of milk and spices on the stove over low heat and leaving it for an extended period of time (I think it was about half an hour) resulted in really delicious tea that was not burned at all. This definitely took a while, and I did have to stir it occasionally to keep a skin from forming on top of the milk, so this is a project best left for slow days when you have time to check in on it while it steeps. If you’re in a hurry, plain hot water is much more convenient.

Once you’ve chosen your base liquid, you need to choose your tea and spices. My favorite spices for chai are cardamom and cinnamon, and many chai recipes call for cloves, allspice, peppercorns, and star anise. One thing to keep in mind is that you want to use the whole versions of these spices, not powdered forms. In my experience, most powdered spices don’t dissolve completely, which creates a slightly gritty texture that I dislike.

Finally, you have to choose your tea. The flavor of the tea that you choose can make a huge difference in the overall flavor of the end product. It’s a lot of fun to experiment with different types of tea as and see how the flavors interact with the spices you’ve chosen. Any kind of basic black tea will work. Assam teas and most breakfast blend teas have worked very well for me, and these teas will produce a flavor similar to the “traditional” flavor of most chai teas that I’ve tried.

So, to sum up, choose your liquid, choose your spices and tea, heat them up together, and drink! The process is pretty simple, which makes it easier to experiment with different ingredients.

For some recipes and other ideas on how to make your chai, check out the links below:

“How to Make the Best Chai Ever” from The Hathi Cooks: http://thehathicooks.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-to-make-best-chai-ever.html

“Authentic Indian Chai” from A Spicy Perspective: http://www.aspicyperspective.com/2012/03/how-to-make-chai-tea.html

“Chai Tea Recipe” from Simply Recipes: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/chai/

And for those of you with more strict diets:

“Vegan Chai to Make You Fall in Love with Mornings” from Mind Body Green: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-12562/vegan-chai-to-make-you-fall-in-love-with-mornings.html

“Paleo Chai Latte” from Elana’s Pantry: http://www.elanaspantry.com/paleo-chai-latte/

Good luck finding your favorite combinations!

Disclaimer: The author of this blog is not responsible for the results of experimental chai.

Winter Olympics Special: Sochi Tea

I found out today that Russians like their tea. It makes perfect sense to me that anyone living in a cold environment would grow fond of hot tea, but I didn’t realize that Russia is actually the largest importer of tea in the world, outranking even Britain, a country with a long-standing and widely known tea culture.

In fact, Sochi itself is a major domestic supplier of tea, with production starting after a Russian peasant discovered a winter-resistant tea hybrid in 1901.

Dagomys-chai
This luscious tea field is located in Dagomys, a microdistrict of Sochi. Image courtesy of Dmitry Vorona via Wikimedia Commons.

Right now, athletes in Sochi’s Olympic Park can drink traditional Russian tea served from a samovar, a pot used to boil water and keep tea hot.

Russian Samovar
Russian samovar: image courtesy of Benito Bonito via Wikimedia Commons.

If I haven’t quenched your curiosity, you can find more details in my sources:

Read more about tea in Sochi at WorldTeaNews.com.
Learn about Dagomys on Wikipedia.
Find out what’s being served in Sochi from EastIdahoNews.

Tea Shop Review: Matcha Time Cafe, Ellicott City, MD

It’s matcha time! Not really. I drank all my matcha and haven’t had a chance to get more. (So sad!) But if you’re craving a blissful hour of matcha time, you can make your way down to Matcha Time Cafe, a Japanese tea room and gift shop, in the heart of historic Ellicott City, MD.

Cafe Location
The cafe is an easy walk from the parking lot. If you’re coming from Main Street, you can find the parking lot by walking behind the visitor center or La Palapa Bar & Grill.

The shop is tucked away in the back of the large visitor parking lot (with free parking!) about halfway down Main Street. After finding the cafe on a map, I tried to walk up to the building on Merryman Street, which is where the street address directs you, but the shop is actually on the back side of the building, away from the street. Luckily, there was a path between the buildings (and when I say “path,” I mean gravel-lined alley full of large air conditioning units) that leads you right through to the brick walkway on the front porch of the Matcha Time Cafe. Take it from me: It’s easier to just walk up the stairs from the parking lot.

Once we had wandered up Merryman Street and through the alley, we discovered the large signs over the door only a few hundred feet from where we parked, and we made our way inside. When I first heard of Matcha Time Cafe, I was expecting something like a small restaurant with Japanese-themed decor. I was not expecting the adorable Japanese sushi bar/pastry shop/gift shop/tea room that we found. It was bigger than I expected, with three seating areas: a couple of tables on the porch outside, a few tables by the windows in front of the register, and a couple more tables by the windows in front of the main “shop” area. The shop is a room unto itself, full of colorful and cute Japanese decor, tea accessories, and other items. The variety of merchandise available was a nice surprise, and it was fun exploring the selection of novelty goods on display after placing our order.

Gift Shop
The gift shop was full of interesting things.

We went in the middle of the afternoon, and there weren’t many people around, so we had time to wander without interrupting anyone’s tea or sushi. The shop was manned by an older woman and a young man, both of whom were very friendly and helpful, and the items on the menu seemed very reasonably priced compared to many cafes and tea shops that I’ve been to in the past.

Hallway
A short hallway divides the gift shop and secondary seating from the main seating area, register, and kitchen.

Unfortunately, we were just stopping in for drinks, so I have no idea what the pastries or sushi are like, although I was excited about the options on the menu, and I will definitely be going back to try them. We decided to stay and enjoy our drinks in the cafe instead of ordering to go, and we shared a pot of Houjicha, a delicious green tea with a pleasant earthy-smoky flavor. The tea was served in colorful ceramic teapots with china cups, and when we ran out, the server refilled our pot with fresh hot water so that we could enjoy a second brew.

Our Tea!
Delicious tea!

One of us also ordered a mango smoothie, which tasted, to me, like a cold mango injected with cream. We were given the option of soy or regular milk, and we chose regular, although I would be interested in finding out what type of soy they use.

Although I didn’t have a chance to sample many of the items from their menu, I had a great experience, and I would definitely go back. If you’re looking for a cute, friendly place to sit down and have some tea or snacks, I highly recommend checking out Matcha Time Cafe.

Comestibles: 10/10
Service: 10/10
Ambience: 10/10

You can check out their Facebook page for pictures and more information:
https://www.facebook.com/MatchaTimeCafe

And, finally, let me apologize for my mobile photography. Apparently I was having an off-kilter kind of day, and my fingers wanted to grab their chance at internet fame. The photos on Matcha Time’s Facebook page are better quality than what I’ve provided here, and also show different perspectives of the cafe and goods.

Holiday Tea Review: Cinnamon Plum Tea

I hope you’re all having a great holiday season and getting geared up for new adventures in 2014! I’ve always loved hot drinks in winter, and lately I’ve found myself drinking an awful lot of Rishi Tea’s Cinnamon Plum Caffeine-Free Herbal Blend.

CinnamonPlum_L02

Before I had tried it, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the combination of cinnamon and plum, especially since I don’t usually go for fruit teas, but the flavors blend surprisingly well. The cinnamon provides a strong base flavor, preventing the type of “watered-down” taste that makes me dislike many fruit teas. The cinnamon and plum both provide sweetness, while the fruity plum overtones prevent the cinnamon from being overwhelming.

I love how strong and sweet this tea is. Since I don’t usually like adding sweetener to my teas, it’s nice to have a tea that provides a bold, sweet flavor without overwhelming my taste buds. My one complaint about this tea would be that it’s not great for multiple brews. The first brew is usually significantly darker in color and stronger in flavor than following brews, although if you prefer the mellower flavor of the second brew, or if you like to save your herbal teas for the late evening to avoid having caffeine right before bed, then this might be a perfect choice for you.

In either case, this delicious blend of warm flavors is a perfect remedy for winter cold.

I hope you all have a fantastic New Year!

I chose to do this review after my mom commented on how much cinnamon plum tea I have been drinking, and suggested that I should review it for this blog. I received no compensation for this review, nor have I been in contact with any representative(s) of Rishi Tea.

Twinings: The Gateway Tea

Twinings English Breakfast blend was the first tea I loved. I think I was about ten, and it was winter. I came inside from playing in the snow, and I wanted something hot to drink. We had run out of hot chocolate, so my parents gave me a cup of tea with cream and sugar. The tea was hot, slightly sweet, and creamy. I was hooked.

twinings_gateway
First tea, then coffee. It’s a (delicious) slippery slope.

I drank that tea every day for a week. After a little while, I started drinking other black teas and came to the startling realization that tea has a flavor independent of milk and sugar. Lapsang souchong was the first tea that I preferred to drink black, and it wasn’t long before I was drinking every kind of tea I could get my hands on.

Soon, I started collecting teas. Buying tea became an exciting highlight of trips to the grocery store. At the point when I was realized drinking more than a gallon of tea every day, I decided I might have a problem, and made myself cut back to a more reasonable amount.

Not only do I really really love tea, but I also love talking about it. Most of my friends don’t love tea the way I do, and are not interested in hearing my stories about different kinds of tea, about how awesome tea is, or about how I tried that one tea that one time that I really loved. So! For the sake of everyone’s sanity I’m going to share those stories here instead, where you can choose to read them, or not, as you wish.

I hope you enjoy my writing, and if you want to know about a particular tea-related topic, or a particular type of tea, leave a comment or send me a message!