Spice Tea for a Chilly Day

On a cold day, there are few things more pleasant than a cup of spiced tea. The hot tea, the warming spices, a blanket by the fireplace…a perfect winter scene.

Our spice teas are particularly wonderful after a day out in the cold. My personal favorite, our Orange Spice, focuses on traditional blends of citrus and warming spices. Citrus is traditionally added to wintry spiced drinks, like German Glühwein or English mulled cider. The brightness of the citrus draws out the warming quality of the spices, making a perfect match. The spice mixture we use is a blend of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, all classic tastes that are even good for you. Mixed with black tea, it’s a new way to have a traditional European favorite.

From the other side of the world, similar ideas are used in the creation of chai tea. This daily staple of India and Nepal refers to a blend of black tea and spices, with every family and roadside stand offering something slightly different. Traditionally, it’s served with milk and sweetener, but the old saying goes that “chai is as individual as its maker.”

We offer three ways to get your chai fix here at Choice Organic Teas. Our pre-made Chai mix, available in a box good for about 20 servings or a 2lb bag, is a blend of cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, clove, and black pepper with ground Indian black tea. When a pot is brewed up on the stove, the whole room fills with the scent of spices. It’s great to share with friends and family, and there’s even a decaf version for the winter nights.

If you just want a great, convenient cup of chai on the go, though, our Chai Spice Black Tea from the Gourmet line is perfect. Made of the same blend of spices as our regular Chai, it comes in a box of 20 traditional teabags. It’s great for a warming burst in the morning, or settling into work after a chilly commute.

What teas do you use to warm up?

Valentine’s Day Tea & Chocolate Pairings by Relationship Stage

"Valentine's Day"Want something special for your sweetie this Valentine’s Day? Create a “mood” with some well-paired tea and chocolate! The right tea with the right chocolate might just get your significant other in the mood for love.

According to William Leaman, executive chef and owner of Bakery Nouveau, Seattle, “Carefully chosen chocolates can pair wonderfully with teas. They can share many of the same characteristics, such as floral or fruit aromas and varying levels of astringency from tannins. The key is in finding the right combination that offers either balanced flavor contrasts or reinforces a particular note. Paired correctly, a tea and chocolate combination can offer a greatly enhanced tasting experience.”

We have a few tantalizing combinations to suggest that are sure to impress your sweetie and created some playful suggestions as to what stage of a relationship might call for which kind of tea and chocolate pairing.

Crush – dark chocolate with fruit & nuts and Gourmet Earl Grey with Lavender

Light-headed, giddy, can’t get the object of your affection off your mind? Sounds like the distinct signs of a serious crush. Show them how you feel with dark chocolate with fruit and nuts paired with Gourmet Earl Grey with Lavender tea. The citrus from bergamot oil in Earl Grey compliments the sweet flavors from the fruit. The herbal nuance of lavender balances the acidity of the tea and chocolate while complimenting the earthiness of the nuts. This is a tantalizing combination for any “wooer” or “wooee.”

Sweet Romance – white chocolate paired with Whole Leaf Organics Jasmine Green

True white chocolate (made with real cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla) pairs perfectly with tea scented with jasmine blossoms. Jasmine comes from the Persian “yasmin,” meaning gift from God. The ethereal nature of this floral green tea compliments the rich and creamy, yet delicate flavors of cocoa butter. This romantic combination of a sensuous tea and uncommon confection is a delicacy that is sure to get the attention of your Romeo and make a lasting impression on your Juliet.

Passionate New Love – lemon and white chocolate ganache and Gourmet Chai Spice Black Tea

Whether in love, or when pairing chocolate and tea, it’s important to share similarities while complimenting your differences. Like a new romance, a spiced tea like Chai offers exciting complex notes and flavors, while the lemon provides a refreshing contrasting simplicity that compliments the balance of spices. And the combination of the exotic spices is the perfect compliment to the flush of new love.

Steady Relationship – salted caramels in chocolate with Original Darjeeling

Salt, one of the most essential minerals, is prized for its ability to preserve the most precious provisions. Traditionally cherished above all other black teas, Darjeeling tea is often referred to as the Champagne of teas. Show your sweetie how much you value your enduring love by making an elegant toast with this classy combination. Darjeeling’s naturally bright fruit flavor and subtle floral aroma compliment the creamy caramel, chocolate and hint of salt.

Long-Term Love -75% cacao paired with Whole Leaf Organics Lychee White

True chocolate for a true love. We tend to crave stronger flavors as we get older and our palates become less sensitive. Dark chocolate with 75% or more cacao content offers a robust, satisfying indulgence. Dark chocolate has more tannins and higher acidity and yearns for the subtler flavors of white tea to help balance the stronger flavors. Lychee fruit adds a touch of sweetness and a silky compliment to the robust dark chocolate, making an enduring blend that’s strong and tender.

Turbulent Love – “Rocky Road” with Gunpowder Green

An olio of dark chocolate, nuts and fluffy marshmallow signifies the roller coaster element of some love affairs – sweet but with a salty, sassy, complex undertone. A little messy, if you will. Gunpowder Green Tea has a smoky flavor that pairs well with the salty and sweet combination of Rocky Road and smooths the experience.

For the tantalizing chocolate varieties suggested above contact Bakery Nouveau, or visit your local chocolatier.

What do you think of our pairings? Do you have a favorite tea & chocolate pairing you’d like to suggest? Send us your ideas!

Staff Favorites: Rooibos (With A Few Twists)

One of the best things about working here at Choice Organic Teas is the sheer range of teas we get to explore. There’s a tea here to fit every taste, and we drink them all. The spectrum of teas that we offer means that every employee has a different favorite. And like any tea drinker, we’re passionate about our favorites. So each month, one of us here at Choice Organic Teas shares a little about our favorites and what they mean to us.

This month we’re featuring Linda, our Senior Customer Service Representative. Linda has been with the company for many years and knows an awful lot about tea. Here, she shares about her new favorite, Rooibos with Vanilla, and the custom blends she’s made with it. Try them out yourself and let us know what you think! How do you customize your favorite teas?

The brisk jolt of a strong cup of Irish Breakfast has been my top choice as far back as I can remember, but for later in the day, I’m a confessed Rooibos addict! I’d been sipping Rooibos or Rooibos with Vanilla nightly and found both highly satisfying, till one day when I felt like trying something different. I added almond extract to straight Rooibos and loved the new nutty flavor. Then I tried adding chocolate flavoring along with peppermint extract to make Chocolate Mint Rooibos, which was amazing and dessert-like (especially when adding a teaspoon of organic agave syrup). More recently, during the long months of winter, I took a Ginger Herb tea bag from my cupboard, steeped it in my little 2-cup teapot with the usual Rooibos with Vanilla, and the result amazed me – fragrant, spicy, slightly fruity, red, and hot – a perfect caffeine-free evening cup. So now I’m swilling Ginger Rooibos nightly until the next wave of imagination rises. It’s swell and spicy, keeps me warm and well.

Tisane Time

I get a lot of questions here about caffeine – how much is in a cup of this or that, which tea has the most or the least, and how it compares to a cup of coffee. I answered some of the more detailed questions about caffeine in the past. However, at this time of year with New Year’s resolutions fresh in everyone’s minds, I’m being asked about which teas of ours are completely caffeine-free. The answer? Our tisanes!

What’s a tisane? Simply put, a tisane is an herbal infusion made with anything but tea – an herbal tea. The word comes from the Greek πτισάνη, ptisanē, which was a drink made with pearl barley. These days a tisane can be just about anything as long as it doesn’t contain the Camellia sinensis plant. Most of the time, although not always, a tisane contains no caffeine, since it’s made with herbs and leaves which are naturally free of caffeine. (The big exception to this rule is our Yerba Maté, which is made from a South American leaf that does naturally contain caffeine.)

Tisanes also offer an opportunity for unique tastes and flavors. Our Liquorice Peppermint makes a wonderful after-dinner calorie-free dessert option thanks to the liquorice root, which brews up naturally sweet, while a pitcher of iced Northwest Blackberry is the best thing on a summer’s day. A personal favorite of mine is Lemon Lavender Mint, because I absolutely love anything with lavender in it, and the flavor profile is pretty unique.

And speaking of the New Year and tisanes, we’re always looking for new blends. What new tisanes would you like to see from us?

Happy New Year from Choice Organic Teas!

2009 was a big year for us here at Choice Organic Teas. We made new friends, launched new teas, started our blog, and celebrated 20 years of providing the best in organic, responsibly sourced tea. We couldn’t have done it without all of you. Our loyal customers are what made it possible for a fledgling tea company that started with just four teas (Ban-cha, Twig, Oolong, and Premium Japanese Green) and an ambitious idea, to grow and make a difference in the world – one cup of tea at a time. We believe this winning combination will keep us growing into the next decade and beyond. As we watch our circle of tea drinkers grow, we’re pretty sure this will be the case!

We wish all of you a very happy New Year, and we’ll see you in 2010!

Staff Favorites: Lychee White

One of the best things about working here at Choice Organic Teas is the sheer range of teas we get to try. There’s a tea here to fit every taste, and we drink them all. The spectrum of teas that we offer means that every employee has a different favorite. And like any tea drinker, we’re passionate about our favorites. So each month, we’re going to have one of us here at Choice Organic Teas talk a little about our favorites and what they mean to us.

This month we’re hearing from India Nagy, our Graphics Coordinator. India does fantastic work designing all our literature and new products, including her new favorite, our Lychee White. Here’s what she has to say about this great tea:

White teas aren’t usually what I first reach for on the shelf, but I’m kind of in love with our new Lychee White. The light body of the White seems to carry the delicate notes of the lychee flavor nicely.

The lychee is subtle and fragrant and not overly fruity and sweet like some teas, which seem to mask low quality tea with crazy fruit combinations. I prefer to keep things pretty simple, I drink my coffee black and my tea unadulterated. But sometimes it’s nice to mix things up, and I think this tea is different than anything else I’ve had.

I can also be kind of lazy about dealing with loose leaf, so I like using our biodegradable mesh bags. Much easier to deal with at my desk! Mmmm, think I might go make myself a cup right now…..

Oolong for All!

It seems to be everywhere these days – on TV, in magazines, all over the Internet. Celebrities claim it as a weight-loss wonder. At Choice Organic Teas, it’s even surpassed traditional favorites like Earl Grey and English Breakfast to become our best seller. However, I’m regularly asked, “what is oolong tea?”

The name “oolong” is Chinese and translates to “black dragon.” No one’s quite sure how that name became attached to the tea. Some say that the style originated in Wuyi Mountain, while others say that it’s named after Wu Liang who accidentally discovered oolong tea, when he was distracted from his preparation of the day’s tea crop and let the leaves oxidize.

The oxidation process is one characteristic used to distinguish between types of tea. When tea leaves are cut or bruised, it sets off a complex and delicate chemical reaction between the exposed enzymes contained within the tea leaf and the naturally occurring oxygen in the air. The extent to which the leaves are allowed to oxidize determines the color and flavor of the tea leaves before they are finally heated to halt the oxidation process. (You may have heard this process called fermentation, but that’s not entirely accurate because no microbes are involved.) Oolong teas oxidize for longer than green tea, but not as long as black tea. They’re beautifully balanced for that reason. They don’t have the grassy and occasional bitterness associated with some green teas, nor do they have the malty or incidental harshness of some black teas.

We’ve got two fantastic oolong teas at Choice Organic Teas, which are actually the only organic oolongs available in a tea bag. Our Original Oolong is a mild, earthy variety, perfect for getting the hang of this unique style of tea. If you’re looking for something very unique, we have a fantastic Magnolia Oolong in our Gourmet line of teas. It’s scented with magnolia blossoms, which are laid upon the tea to impart their essence, and then removed, for a lingering hint of flavor and aroma. Scenting teas is a time-honored tradition, and the subtle sweetness of magnolia shouldn’t be missed. It’s a beautifully elegant tea for any occasion.

Drinking oolong tea isn’t going to make you immediately drop twenty pounds, but some studies do show that the high polyphenol content in oolong tea does promote fat burning by raising your metabolic rate and blocking absorption of fats and cholesterol. It’s no magic bullet but drinking tea instead of sugary soft drinks is good idea for your health and waistline.

So brew up a cup today, and find out just what it is that makes this dragon so special.

Save the Date for The Second Annual Northwest Tea Festival!

We’re very excited about the next big event for Choice Organic Teas, because it’s something that’s very close to our hearts (and backyard)! The Northwest Tea Festival here in Seattle is now in its second year and we are very proud to be sponsors once again.

NWTF_webgraphicThe Northwest Tea Festival is the region’s premiere festival celebrating the world’s most popular beverage, and this year’s event is shaping up to be bigger and better than ever. A number of tea experts including Norwood Pratt and John Harney will be making presentations while offering classes and leading tastings (I’m looking forward to the one about Taiwanese oolongs myself), as well as several local vendors selling their wares. It’ll be a great two days for tea lovers of all ages and levels.

The festival is on October 3-4, the first weekend in October, and takes place in the Seattle Center’s Northwest Rooms at the corner of Republican St. and Warren St. There is a $5 donation, which gets you a goody bag with a ceramic tasting cup to take home. It’s perfect for sampling all the great tea the tasting areas and the vendors will be offering.

If you’re just discovering teas or are a devotee (or anywhere in between), the Northwest Tea Festival is for you. Stop by and say hi!

The festival also still needs volunteers, so if you’re interested in joining in on the fun, contact Julee Rosanoff at the Perennial Tea Room by calling (206) 448-4054 or emailing: juleerosan@hotmail.com.

Staff Favorites: Genmaicha

One of the best things about working here at Choice Organic Teas is the sheer range of teas we get to try. There’s a tea here to fit every taste, and we drink them all. The spectrum of teas that we offer means that every employee has a different favorite. And like any tea drinker, we’re passionate about our favorites. So each month, we’re going to have one of us here at Choice Organic Teas talk a little about our favorites and what they mean to us.

This month we’re featuring Ray Lacorte, our Head of Operations. Ray keeps the company running from day to day, making sure that everything here is going smoothly. He had this to say about his favorite tea, Genmaicha- Green Tea with Toasted Brown Rice.

genmaicha“I find Genmaicha to be my comfort drink of choice. Genmaicha is rejuvenating as much as it is soothing. Like a nice yoga session, Genmaicha aligns me mentally and physically.

Whether it is paired with morning toast or the evening’s main course, Genmaicha provides a perfect complement to any meal. With its subtle vegetal flavor, coupled with a familiar roasty flavor from the toasted brown rice, Genmaicha can also be enjoyed by itself.”