Tea and Chocolate Chip Cookies

There is no better time of year for baking than winter, and a warm out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookie is likely our nation’s favorite treat. While the weather often drives you inside and your body craves more calories this time of year, why not spend some time perfecting that beloved classic?

We let someone else do all of the experimenting for us so we could focus more on selecting the right type of tea to pair with your plate of cookies. Brew up a cup of your favorite variety, and take a minute to find the chocolate chip cookie that sounds the tastiest to you.

Your Basic Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate chip cookiesIf you don’t already have stained page in a recipe book with your favorite cookie recipe, here is one you can try from well.com. Keep in mind, you may want to tweak it a little before you bake your first batch.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated [white] sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups (12-ounce package) Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE in preheated 375-degree [Fahrenheit] oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Your Perfect Cookie

Chocolate chip cookies are, believe it or not, very versatile and flexible. Apart from forgetting them in the oven too long (which was my very first attempt gone wrong), each one of these ingredients can be tweaked. Adding up to a half cup more flour can make the cookies more cake-like. Cutting out the brown sugar for all white sugar will make your cookie spread out more on the pan, while using all brown sugar will give them a darker, crispier edge and give them a butterscotch flavor.

You can also leave out the baking powder or the baking soda to see the difference that gives your cookies. Just don’t leave both out. When it comes to butter, melting it versus creaming it with the sugar will make the fluffiness and texture of the final product vary. Finally, you can try chilling the dough before you bake it, although the difference here may really boil down to convenience of having a cookie closer to the time you are craving it.

Moroccan Mint TeaNow for the fun part: pairing the perfect tea with your fresh-baked, uniquely personalized cookie! This is also a challenging decision because so many types of teas pair compliment this well-loved treat. To get the full flavor profile of your cookie, try a tea that has not been blended with other fruits or flowers. a rich Keemun or Assam Sessa would go nicely, especially with a splash of milk. If you want something that contrasts flavors nicely, try Moroccan Mint. Chocolate and mint is great at any time.

The smell of fresh-baked cookies has always had a way of bringing people together and making your abode feel more cozy and comforting. And fresh baked goodies and tea make the very best companions on a chilly day. Which recipe will you try?

1 comment January 29th, 2015

Hosting a Tea Party 101

There are dozens of reasons to host a tea party. Many of the ideas you will find on the Internet revolve around themes celebrating big life changes – having a baby, getting married, turning another year older. All are great reasons to celebrate, but tea parties need not await such grand events. For those of us who just love a good cup of tea, a little conversation, sweet and savory treats and a little bit of fun, read on! As we are in the midst of National Hot Tea Month, we thought it the perfect time to share a few tips on how to make a gathering of friends both simple and elegant.

Themes and Things

Choosing a theme for your gathering is not necessary, but it is certainly fun. Pinterest is loaded with themed settings and ideas from decorations and tea party games to dessert ideas. To start with, print out invitations from your computer or use stationary. Ask guests to come in “fancy dresses” or hats to make this a more special occasion.

Choose your special set of dishes to serve your guests, or mix and match from dishes you have. You can even ask your guests to bring their favorite teacup. To make your tea party even more memorable, consider having your guests decorate a cup as part of the event. Plain colored or neutral-toned cups, in addition to paints and brushes, can be found at craft stores.

Sweet and Savory Treats

Serving a variety of treats will make sure all of your guests, no matter their preferences or dietary restrictions, find something they like. Choose a few of your favorite dessert recipes and capitalize on what you know you can make well. However, if you just don’t have time to bake, you can buy treats and serve them on your own plates.

You can spruce up your plating with cuts of flowers or herbs. Add fresh fruits like berries, cucumbers, slices of lemon or oranges to add to tea (or enjoy separately, if your prefer). Check out a few more party planning ideas here.

Now for the tea! We recommend you choose 2-4 different varieties. Choose something familiar and well-loved such as a Lady Grey or English Breakfast, and also choose a variety of green, black or herbal teas. Dragon Well or Sweet Pomegranate are excellent choices for green teas.

Finally, choose something a little more exotic to allow your guests an opportunity to try something new. Look for an Oolong, or even a Darjeeling, that they may have never tried before. Come prepared to give them a little explanation of what each tea is and where it comes from so you can that you can impress them with your smarts. We can certainly help you with that part.

Pinkies up! Enjoy your party planning. And feel free to share your best ideas for tea parties below.

Add comment January 22nd, 2015

31 Uses for Tea

It’s National Hot Tea Month! While we enjoy tea all year ‘round, we thought it might be fun to showcase a different use for every day in January.

Many of these are folk uses, but we’ll try to back them up with scientific studies when possible. Remember to consult your doctor before trying any new health regimen.

1. Give new garments a taste of history.

Use a strong black tea to naturally dye white garments antique beige, ecru, or ivory. Steep 3 tea bags for every 2 cups of water for 20 minutes. Let the tea cool completely before submerging the garment for 10 minutes or more. The longer you leave it, the darker it gets. Use cotton for the best results.

2. Stop and feed the roses.

Roses love the tannic acids naturally found in tea. Simply place new or used tea leaves (loose or in the bag) around the base of your bushes. As you water your roses, they’ll receive the nutrients they love.

3. Quicken your compost.

You can accelerate decomposition and draw desirable, acid-producing bacteria by pouring a few cups of strongly brewed tea into your pile.

4. Help your mirrors look their fairest.

To give your mirrors extra shine, dampen a soft cloth in cool tea and wipe it all over the surface of the mirror. Then use another soft cloth to buff it for a streak-free surface.

5. Twinkle your toes.

Eradicate foot odor by soaking your feet in strong, warm tea for 20 minutes per day.

6. Make your meat melt.

Lapsang SouchongNot only does tea tenderize tough meat, it can also add some wonderful flavors. Here’s a recipe adapted from Reader’s Digest: Place 4 tablespoons black tea leaves (we recommend our smoky Lapsang Souchong) in a pot of warm (not boiling) water and steep for 5 minutes. Strain to remove the leaves and stir in 1/2 cup brown sugar until it dissolves. Set aside. Season up to 3 pounds (1.5 kilograms) meat with salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder, and place it in a Dutch oven. Pour the liquid over the seasoned meat and cook in a preheated 325°F (165°C) oven until the meat is fork tender, about 90 minutes.

7. Get rid of grays.

Tea makes a natural hair dye.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon of tea or 3 tea bags
  • 1 tablespoon of rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon of sage

Steep the tea, rosemary, and sage in 1 cup of boiling water. Let the mixture stand overnight.

After shampooing, pour or spray the mixture over your hair, thoroughly saturating it from roots to ends. Take care not to get the mixture on your clothes. Blot with a towel and do not rinse. You may need several applications to reach your desired color.

8. Soothe a sunburn.

To treat a minor burn, place wet teabags over the affected area. If you have a sunburn on a larger area of your body, put some teabags in your bath water and soak away the pain.

9. Illuminate your locks.

Condition your hair and add shine by rinsing with a quart (liter) of warm, unsweetened tea after you shampoo.

10. Mollify your mouth.

If you’re suffering from a toothache, an herbal infusion can help ease the pain. Peppermint contains menthol, which has local anesthetic and counterirritant qualities.

  1. Boil 1 tablespoon of peppermint leaves in a cup of water for several minutes.
  2. Add a pinch of salt.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm, then rinse your mouth with it.

11. Nix a nick.

The tannins in tea can stop a minor nick from bleeding. Saturate a tea bag with hot water and hold it on the cut for 30 seconds. Then remove the tea bag and cover the cut with a bandage.

12. Send mites to their maker.

To kill dust mites, spray diluted black tea on the carpet. Be sure to spot-check the mix in an inconspicuous place first to avoid staining the rug!

13. Prevent rust on your trusty iron cookware.

Take advantage of the tannins in tea; they prevent oxidation, which causes rust. After each cooking session, wipe down your pan with a damp, used black tea bag to create an invisible layer of protection.

14. Eyeball your tea.

Relieve tired, puffy eyes by placing a chilled, used tea bag on them for 15 minutes. It will reduce puffiness and even under eye circles.

15. Flavor your food.

Tea can be steeped in nearly any liquid to add a unique flavor to your dishes. Steep tea in broth for soup, poach meats and fish in tea, and add tea to milk, coconut milk, and/or juice to provide a tasty base for desserts. You can even hang a couple tea bags over the side of the pot as you boil pasta or prepare water for cooking rice and other grains. Our Masala Chai makes a great addition to oatmeal and will pep you up in the morning.

16. Freshen up your fridge.

Forget ruining a box of baking soda. Just throw used tea bags in the fridge and they’ll absorb any odious odors. Use dry pre-brewed tea bags at the bottom of your trash can for the same effect.

17. Brew up something for the Easter Bunny.

We don’t know if our favorite candy-bearing creature likes to drink tea, but you can sure use it to dye eggs. For an all-natural egg colorant, brew some extra-strong tea. Add a splash of vinegar and then completely submerge the eggs for an hour. Try different teas to switch up the colors. Don’t be afraid to mix and match teas to create new color combinations.

18. Move some mice.

These little rodents aren’t huge fans of the smell of tea. Stash dried, used tea bags in corners critters frequent as a natural deterrent. Add a couple drops of peppermint oil to act as a natural air freshener and keep out their buddies spiders and ants.

19. Rid your hands of rotten smells.

Scrub your hands with used tea bags to remove the scents of onions, garlic, fish, and other undesirable odors.

20. Worry your warts.

Get rid of plantar warts on your feet by pressing a warm, wet tea bag on the affected area for 20 minutes per day.

21. Fight Poison Ivy – the rash that is.

Tea may give you energy to fight super villains, but it won’t keep you from crying after a defeat. It will, however, keep poison ivy rashes from weeping. Soak a cotton ball in tea and dab it on the affected area. Let it air dry, and it should dry the rash, as well. Repeat as needed.

22. Disinfect and perfume your skin.

Tea has antibacterial qualities, which makes it great for your skin. Soak in a fragrant bath of Jasmine Green Tea or relax with an herbal infusion of Mint Chamomile. We recommend these extra large T-Sacs to pre-make satchels.

23. Keep kitty litter fresh.

Add dried, green tea leaves to your litter to keep it fresher longer.

24. Replace your therapist with tea.

Okay, tea won’t help you work through your issues, but the scents of herbal infusions like chamomile, lavender, and rose are rumored to reduce stress. Place the dried plants in a satchel or T-Sac and rest them over your eyes, or brew them up and gently inhale the steam.

25. Don’t eat your dust.

Sprinkle wet tea leaves in your fireplace before cleaning to reduce dust.

26. Power through pinkeye.

Use warm, wet tea bags as a compress on your eyes to reduce the pain and inflammation from pinkeye.

27. Antique your invites.

There is something romantic about unfolding aging paper. Give your correspondence an old-fashioned look by soaking the paper in tea and drying it completely before you write your next note.

28. Banish blisters (and canker sores).

We’ve heard you can press a hot tea bag on a fever blister or canker sore to draw out an infection.

29. Free Fido of fleas.

Sprinkle used dry tea leaves on animal bedding to reduce the chance of pests.

30. Clean up your act with tea.

Making soap? Grind up dried tea leaves and add them to your mixture for a natural colorant, exfoliant, and scent.

31. Brew your decor.

Nothing is quite as beautiful as hand-tied tea blossoms, which unfurl to reveal dried flowers. Best of all, you can drink the tea! Place the blossom in a clear, tempered glass cup and add hot water to watch it turn into art. Drain the tea and add cold water. The blossom should hold its shape for a few hours up to a few days. Flowering teas are a great idea for wedding centerpieces.

Add comment January 15th, 2015

New Year’s Resolutions that Stick

You’ve had a week to work out promises you made on New Year’s Day. Maybe it’s taken a week to see if’ve stuck, or maybe they’ve fallen short. If they’ve stuck so far, kudos to you! If they haven’t, don’t kick yourself too hard. There is still time to evaluate and reset your goals. Here are some tips to help you set goals that are more realistic, just as healthy and more attainable.

Make Time for TeaGreen Dragonfly Tetsubin Set

We all love tea, right? And it’s so easy to get your cuppa steeping and take it on the go, but your mind and body would benefit a lot by sitting down for a genuine tea time. Our days are sometimes a blur, filled from morning until evening with events, work, social gatherings and even family time.

Sitting down to a cup of tea, from boiling the water to steeping the leaves and finally enjoying a pot, allows time for your mind to stop moving. You can get to finally concentrate and reflect. Not only is this an excellent practice to continue throughout 2015, it’s also a great way to take inventory on resolutions that will work. So make it a Sencha Shin-Ryoku or a traditional cup of Dragon Well, and let’s get started.

Take Inventory

First off, be realistic. What kind of time and resources do you have available to you? If you have trouble getting a twenty minute workout in then most likely embarking on a marathon training program could be out of reach for you right now.

Next, keep it simple and specific. Focus on changing one thing at a time. More than that will just overwhelm you and likely make you want to give up. At the same, a goal as broad as one to “stay in shape” makes it hard to know what you need to accomplish in the span of a day or week. Try setting a goal with specific and manageable targets, such as working out for twenty minutes a day or going to an exercise class twice a week.

Make sure you are setting goals for you and not ones that aim to impress or prove someone else wrong. These are the kind of goals that will make you feel better about yourself in the long run. If you’re focused on others’ needs, you’ll burn out quickly.

Finally, take note of what works and what doesn’t. Instead of giving up completely, your resolutions can be tweaked to fit you and your life better. Read more about setting realistic resolutions, and then go put these goals into action. We are cheering for you all the way. Good luck! 

Add comment January 8th, 2015

Only the Best of 2014

Whether you like to ring in the new year with resolutions and a grandiose affair or with a quiet cuppa and a cozy place to sit and reflect, here are a few of the year’s bests. Maybe you missed some of these “bests” or already have a list of your own. This is your invitation to brew up your favorite tea blend of 2014 as we help you recall what the year was like.

Books, Movies and Other Media

We hope you have had time to enjoy a good book or two this past year. A few of our favorite teas to pair with good reads have been Thurbo, 1st Flush, Darjeeling, Ceylon  Star or Doke White, Silver Needles tea. If you’re on the search for other suggestions, check out these selections of the year’s best books. From food writing to novels and children’s books, you can select stories that interest you from this list chosen by authors around the world. You may need to put the kettle on again before you get through all of these.

When it comes to TV shows, it’s hard to make lists. Most of us already have our favorites that are in their successive seasons, and who has time to watch this much television anyway? Take a look at this brief overview of the best television shows from 2014. You may find you want to pick up a new series during the next season.

As for the best movies from 2014, opinions vary greatly, especially with a few highly anticipated films coming out at year’s end, including Unbroken and The Hobbit. See how this list matches up with your own list of favorites.

A List of Your Own

Now, as the tea kettle simmers and you brew up the next pot, take some time to get personal. There may be no better way to ring in the New Year than taking inventory for yourself. Resolutions aside, what were you most thankful for in 2014? What were the best foods you tasted? How about the best conversations, quotes or memories? What was your favorite Tea Smith blend?

No matter how you ring in the New Year, we hope you will have fond memories of the past year and keep a kettle on throughout 2015. Happy New Year from The Tea Smith!

Add comment January 1st, 2015

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