A Russian art print by  Helen Vladykina

A Russian art print by Helen Vladykina

Let’s face it: as a blogger for this tea company, sometimes I’m just a girl with a strong Internet connection and a penchant for Googling things about tea. In a quest to provide you with interesting, relevant tea info, I decided to find out what I could about Russian tea culture and report back to all of you, since the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, begins on Friday, February 7.

So imagine my surprise when, thanks to the wonder of Wikipedia, I discover that the prime tea growing part of Russia is, in fact, Sochi! Turns out that while the Russian settlement in the area was named Sochi in 1886, the first tea plantations were established there around 1903. But it took a few tries before tea was successfully grown there. In fact, it was a Ukrainian peasant named Judas Antonovich Koshman who worked for a tea factory on the Black Sea coast and who brought tea plant seeds to Sochi, (or more specifically, the sub-tropical climate of Dagomys, 30 km south of Sochi.) He developed a brand of tea which was both resistant to cold temps, and resulted in a rich taste.

Check out this traditional Russian samovar.

Check out this traditional Russian samovar.

This tea resulted in Krasnodarsky Tea, a brand that is still the most prominent Russian-grown tea and is one of the northernmost tea plantations in the world.

Very cool!

So the next obvious question is, how do Russians like to prepare and drink their tea? This answer is also very cool: with a samovar. We’re posting a picture so you can admire how ornate these tea dispensers can be. Basically, it’s like an electric kettle (they used to be heated with coal or even dry pinecones) that heats water to a perfect boil.

Sitting around the samovar (family portrait in 1844 by T. Myagkov).

Sitting around the samovar (family portrait in 1844 by T. Myagkov).

Up above the heating compartment, a strong tea concentrate is kept warm. It seems that the way to drink tea traditionally in Russia is to mix that tea concentrate with hot water, at roughly a ratio of one part concentrate to 10 parts hot water.

The Russian phrase “to have a sit by the samovar” means to have a leisurely talk while sipping tea. Sounds lovely. These days a samovar is seen as a symbol of hospitality and comfort. There are more gorgeous tea accouterments in Russian tea culture, like pretty tea glass holders.

As for how the Russians take their tea, well, lots of different ways, but typical stir-ins include lemon, sugar or jam. We’ve got to try that! I also liked learning that in the 19th century it was popular to drink tea with a cube of sugar held between your teeth.

If there's a photo of tea drinking in Russia, there's usually a samovar in it.

If there’s a photo of tea drinking in Russia, there’s usually a samovar in it.

Since I think you’ll have a hard time getting your hands on some Russian tea in time for the Winter Olympics broadcast, I’ll leave you with something you can make for your Olympics-viewing tea time: Russian Tea Cakes. Fair warning that no one really knows the association between these cookies and Russia since they go by lots of names, including Mexican Wedding Cookies. Some people think the recipe may have migrated to Mexico with European nuns.

Russian Tea Cakes: Probably not *that* Russian, but delicious all the same.

Russian Tea Cakes: Probably not *that* Russian, but delicious all the same.

My own mother used to make them at Christmas time, and we called them Crescent Cookies, because they can be shaped as pretty little crescents. (And yet, in my family, Crescent Cookies were always just made to be round — a mystery that endures in my mind to this day.)

I’ll leave you with the recipe. And let’s all agree that during the Winter Olympics, we’ll whip up a batch, nibble them while sipping tea on the couch, and reflect on the things we miss about Apolo Ohno. That soul patch just doesn’t have the same swagger to it now that he’s just a commentator, does it?

Enjoy the Olympics, everyone. Cheers! Oh- in Russian, that’s На здоровье (Nahz dah-ROH-vee-ah.)  Now you’ve really earned a cookie.

 

Russian Tea Cakes

-Makes 4 dozen cookies, so invite your friends over-

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped nuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together.
  3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly on wire rack.
  5. Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar; cool on wire rack. Roll in powdered sugar again.

 

Posted in Recipes with Tea, Tea Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Responses
All that chocolate ... all that tea. It's not a bad thing.

All that chocolate … all that tea. It’s not a bad thing.

We have an unofficial culture of chocolate here in our office — what started as a treat turned into quite the habit. Several times a week Richard comes back from lunch with a bar of chocolate he breaks up and leaves on the unfolded wrapper in the middle of our office, where we’re all inevitably drawn to it, all afternoon long.

It has turned us into chocolate connoisseurs and label readers — there are now team members in our office who turn up their noses at anything less than 60 percent cacao. And forget almonds as a novel addition to your chocolate bar — we’ve indulged in dark chocolate that has included chunks of ginger, sea salt, orange peel, chiles and “popping candy,” AKA Pop Rocks. (Richard thinks milk chocolate is a “sacrilege”, so it’s ironic that we’re immune to being judged while eating a bar of chocolate that includes Pop Rocks.)  Is it tough to share chocolate with eight people? Not with chocolate as high quality as the kinds we indulge in — when you just need one little piece. Most of the time.

So it’s not much of a leap to realize that if we’re surrounded by great tea all day long (and drinking it, all day long), we need to figure out what chocolate we’d like to have with which tea. And just for good measure, we threw in a couple of less-than-artisinal types of chocolate, since it is early November, otherwise known as the season of leftover Halloween candy. Our chocolate line-up is pictured here.

A look at all of the chocolates we tasted with teas. (Apologies for the glare on those shiny wrappers.)

A look at all of the chocolates we tastes with teas. (Apologies for the glare on those shiny wrappers.)

And then we decided that the two leaves™ tea we’d be pairing with chocolate would be Organic Assam Breakfast, Organic Mountain High Chai, Organic Tamayokucha, Jasmine Petal Green, Organic Darjeeling and Alpine Berry.

And just in case you think we’re just a bunch of tea and chocolate junkies who wanted an excuse to indulge, I’ll have you know we took this assignment quite seriously! We rotated through the chocolate and tea pairings taking notes and making comments, eating pretzel sticks to cleanse our palates, and each got a really weird sugar-caffeine buzz as a result. It didn’t feel very good, honestly, but we’ll do anything for you, dear tea blog readers.

Here we are swooping in for chocolate so quickly that this photo is blurry.

Here we are swooping in for chocolate so quickly that this photo is blurry.

A few ringers and duds from the results:

Organic Tamayokucha and 70 percent Dark Chocolate: A dud. The strong (yet delicious) chocolate totally overpowered this delicate green tea.

Organic Assam Breakfast and Hershey Cookies ‘n’ Cream: A surprising ringer! While this “chocolate” (white chocolate is not really chocolate – it’s made from cocoa butter, milk and sugar) was too sweet for many of us, when you take a nibble (a very small nibble) immediately followed with black tea, it’s like adding milk and honey to your tea. Again — it’s pretty sweet, but also pretty good.

Jasmine Petal Green and Nestlé Crunch: See above. While this chocolate was deemed way too sweet by most of us, if you take the tiniest of bites of the chocolate and follow with a Jasmine Petal Green chaser, you’ll get a unique flavor experience that’s not unlike ordering dessert at a dim sum restaurant.

Organic Mountain High Chai and Dark Chocolate with Ginger: A mixed bag. Some of us liked the different spices mixed together (chai’s cinnamon and clove with the chocolate’s chunks of ginger) and some just found it overwhelmingly spicy.

Alpine Berry and Raspberry Dark Chocolate: Ding, ding, ding! A clear office favorite. The berry combination blew our socks off — Christy astutely pointed out that the sweet and fruity chocolate was the perfect accompaniment to the tart flavor of the hibiscus in our Alpine Berry.

A few extra notes:

Deep in chocolate contemplation. We should do this every day!

Deep in chocolate contemplation. We should do this every day!

* Richard loves desserts (including chocolate) paired with the subtle astringency of Organic Darjeeling. That said, pairing chocolate with a tea as nuanced as darjeeling is a tricky business. When we put this tea with moderately dark chocolate that included mint, most of us couldn’t taste the tea. The same went for 70 percent dark chocolate — Gigi loved it because she loves both dark chocolate and Darjeeling, but the rest of us felt the combo was overpowering. Could it be that when tasting these together, you really have to watch out for taking too big of a bite of chocolate?

* I won’t tell you which combo elicited this reaction, but when Lindsay wrote “reminds me of a stinky cat house” on her tasting form, I almost laughed tea out of my nose.

* To each his or her own, clearly. We had a lot of fun combining chocolate and tea, and sometimes that’s all that matters. Christy loved Organic Assam Breakfast with the Spicy Maya chocolate, but from what I heard, she was one of the few. If nothing else, she now knows that when the Spicy Maya bar of chocolate is calling her name from the expensive chocolate aisle of the supermarket, she’ll think to put the kettle on before unwrapping it when she gets home.

Richard makes an emphatic point about the Spicy Maya chocolate. Wish we could remember what it was ...

Richard makes an emphatic point about the Spicy Maya chocolate. Wish we could remember what it was …

Finally, a complete list of the chocolates we tasted, along with pertinent links if you want more info:

 

So now you’ve gotta tell us: Do you ever sip tea and eat your favorite chocolate at the same time? Give us the details, so we can try it ourselves!

 

 

Posted in Green Tea, Herbal Tea, Tea Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 13 Responses

Quick! Think of your favorite mug.

My favorite mug at work -- steepin' some Tropical Green.

My favorite mug at work — steepin’ some Organic Tropical Green.

My favorite mug, seen blurry at 7 a.m., pre-caffeination.

My favorite mug, seen blurry at 7 a.m., pre-caffeination.

My friend Regna's favorite mug lost its handle long ago.

My friend Regna’s favorite mug lost its handle long ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was easy, wasn’t it? Your favorite mug might be sitting right next to you, or your fingers might be wrapped around it this very moment. It probably sits in a visible spot on a kitchen shelf, and occasionally takes up space in your car’s cup holder. If you’re a true black tea fan, the inside might be stained a faint brown color. There’s probably a good story about why you love this mug.

My husbands favorite mug, bought in Peru

My husband’s favorite mug, bought in Peru

One thing is certainly true: It’s yours and you love it. Tea just might taste better when you’re sipping out of it.

A funny thing happened when I started thinking about favorite mugs, and taking pictures of them: I noticed that everyone around me was clutching a favorite mug. Because that’s what we do with favorite mugs: we clutch them, since they’re near and dear.

I’m including a small smattering of photos I took just this morning of favorite mugs in my life — personally and among coworkers. Why am I doing this, you ask?

Because we’re starting a new craze here at two leaves. Remember Tebowing? C’mon, even if you’re not a sports fan, you remember Tebowing.

We’re introducing: TeaMugging.

My friend Bryant's favorite mug was won in a white elephant gift exchange.

My friend Bryant’s favorite mug was won in a white elephant gift exchange.

It’s basically what it sounds like: Taking a mug shot of your favorite mug. We’d love it if your photo include your hand holding the mug, because we know tea fans are shy and don’t necessarily want their faces in the photos (don’t believe us about this? Read #StuffTeaPeopleLike). And hey, a bonus if there’s some two leaves™ tea brewing in that mug, of course!

To truly kick off the art form of TeaMugging, we’ve got a contest! For the next two weeks or so (until Wednesday, Oct. 23), post your best TeaMugging photos (as many as you want!) on our Facebook page. We’ll pick the one we love the most and award you lucky TeaMugger $25 to spend on our tea, plus a two leaves™ “tea-shirt”!

So to all of you with favorite mugs, take a second, hoist it high, snap a picture, and post it with the hashtag: #TeaMugging.

Really — dazzle us! Grab that favorite mug, and get creative with this photo. And hey, even if you don’t win, you’ll end up with a nice portrait of your favorite tea mug, which you can frame and hang somewhere. That’s not creepy at all …

It has to be said: Chloe's mug collection would make anyone jealous.

It has to be said: Chloe’s mug collection would make anyone jealous.

Chloe gets artistic with her #Teamugging in the office.

Chloe gets artistic with her #TeaMugging in the office.

The first-ever instance of #Teamugging with Paisley Brand Tea!

The first-ever instance of #TeaMugging with Paisley Brand Tea™!

 

Posted in Contest, News from two leaves tea company | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Responses
We're taking iced tea quite literally!

We’re taking iced tea quite literally!

I’m not exaggerating when I say that summer in our neck of the woods is glorious. GLORIOUS.

We live in the mountains of Colorado, and after a long, cold and snowy winter, the summer up here is like the vacation you’ve been planning for the past six months. Don’t get me wrong — people like us live up here because we love all of the seasons, even the muddier ones. But summer is like our big chance to stop layering our clothing quite as severely, saunter about in flip flops for weeks on end and spend as much time outside — morning, noon and night — as possible.

So let’s talk about new ways to drink tea in the summer, shall we? Last summer we had an adventurous romp creating several fruity, tea-inspired drinks, and it was really fun. This summer we found ourselves with a bit less time, but a desire to be creative. Things got busy, we didn’t want to haul out the blender, and we definitely weren’t going to just grab a sugar-laden “sweet tea” or whatever is in the supermarket that is supposed to quench our summer thirst.

Gorgeous summertime refreshment (and the labbits that we love)

Gorgeous summertime refreshment (and the labbits that we love)

But what really caught our attention was a simple project that our CEO and founder’s lovely wife, Pam, whipped up the other day and took inspiring photos of: tea ice cubes! Just look at these photos and nod with us in agreement.

So, which tea will you steep and turn into ice cubes? It depends on what color and flavor you’re looking to impart into whatever drink you’re preparing. For a bit of astringency in a pretty light green, try Organic Tamayokucha. Green with a tropical vibe? Tropical Green. Pam warns us that while she loves ice cubes made out of Alpine Berry, that tea is a deep red and will turn whatever liquid you add to those cubes the same color — but she’s also got a penchant for bourbon poured over Alpine Berry ice cubes.

And — ooh, we just thought of this — what if you serve your guests lemonade, but pour it over Organic Assam ice cubes, so they more the cubes melt, the more they have a little Arnold Palmer flavor?

(You can easily Google and find little round ice cube trays like Pam used, but we found some really awesome shapes, including anchors and tropical fish right here.)

Experiment and have fun! This is summer, after all, and we can all be a bit more casual about tea drinking in the warmer months, can’t we? Tell us how it goes if you try one …

 

Posted in Green Tea, Iced Tea, Recipes with Tea | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment
You did read our first #StuffTeaPeopleLike blog, right?!

You did read our first #StuffTeaPeopleLike blog, right?!

Greetings, Tea People!

We have so enjoyed our time discussing on our blog and other social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter), our initial list of Stuff Tea People Like. It’s not in our interest to pigeon hole all of you, but it is very much in our interest to make you laugh at yourselves, and some perfectly cliched things relating to tea. Don’t forget, of course, that we recognize that any effort to truly generalize you is wasted on your smart, attractive uniqueness. We were most fond of a respondent who said, “I feel like I don’t like about half of these. I’m a special snowflake!” Well put, Lisa. On the other hand, if we’ve truly nailed any of you with every single item on this list, well, we’re impressed with ourselves and (mostly) you for being a tea drinking cliché through and through. (And maybe we owe you free tea for that? If it’s true, let us know! We might need photographic proof, though. Somehow.)

Some of you wrote incredibly detailed responses to our first list, and we’re delighted to have engaged you in such fun conversation. Can we keep it up, we wondered?

And so, we now present a continuation of our list that many of you have helped us with! Reading your comments made us laugh, and so we’re trying to give people credit for what they’ve contributed. Why would we bother to continue the list? Well just look at the first item on this continued list …

(Even more) Stuff Tea People Like

59. Making lists

On a perfect day, our first list goes like this: 1. Get a piece of paper. 2. Start to compose a list. 3. Cross first two items off list. 4. Cross off third item. 5. Feel satisfied and brew a cup, because now that we’ve accomplished something, it’s tea time.

60. The beach in winter

60. So peaceful. So deserted. All that's missing is a mug of tea in your mittened hands. #StuffTeaPeopleLike

60. So peaceful. So deserted. All that’s missing is a mug of tea in your mittened hands. #StuffTeaPeopleLike

Thanks to Melanie for this one. Yeah, yeah, we know the beach has serious allure in the summertime. But in the winter? Well, it’s still beautiful, sometimes tempestuous, and there’s nary a guy in sight who shouldn’t be wearing a Speedo (but for some reason is anyway.) In fact, there are hardly any people around at all, leaving all that beauty just for you, a quiet walk and a thermos of tea. Oh man. We’ll start planning our next winter vacation now.

61. Antiques Roadshow (thanks, Kathleen S.)

62. International markets (good one, Terri Cole.)

63. Serving as a docent at art galleries, heritage gardens and small palaces (Cheers to that, Catherine.)

Who cycles? WE-Cycle! A friend checks out the new bike sharing program in Aspen. #StuffTeaPeopleLike

64. Who cycles? WE-Cycle! A friend checks out the new bike sharing program in Aspen. #StuffTeaPeopleLike

64. Bike sharing programs

Two leaves tea company™ is just down the road from the glamorous mountain town of Aspen, Colo., which just last week became the 27th place in the United States to have its own bike sharing program, called WE-Cycle. In fact, we love biking so much (don’t forget — that’s how our CEO gets to the office every day) that we’re one of many community sponsors for the program. That means now Aspen visitors can rent a bike for a short trip, like heading to a concert at the Aspen Music Festival and School, for a lecture at the Aspen Physics Institute, or just for a short across-town errand. Ditching a short trip in a car for a short, scenic and *fun* trip on a shared bike? #StuffTeaPeopleLike to a T. (Or would that be to a “tea”? See the next item on our list.)

65. Being punny, but not to an annoying extent

66. Naps (That one’s for you, Darrah.)

67. Trying new types of tea that you haven’t had before (Nancy Janda is so right about this.)

A book, some tea, and happiness implied. Obviously. #StuffTeaPeopleLike

68. A book, some tea, and happiness implied. Obviously. #StuffTeaPeopleLike

68. Reading

We think this one is important enough that as much as our last list referred to books and reading culture, we weren’t clear enough, as Katelynn Robinson pointed out. So let’s be emphatic about this: Tea People love love LOVE to read. All the plush chairs (No. 39), avant garde light fixtures (No. 28), and rainy, miserable afternoons (No. 2) in the world wouldn’t be quite as nice if they didn’t pair as nicely with our love of reading.

69. Tea from non-mainstream brands (you’re after our very hearts and souls, Diane.)

70. Lemon curd (Erin Tuzuner knows what’s up with this.)

71. Aprons (Made us laugh because it’s so true, Sarah K.)

TV show host most likely to be spotted sipping tea. Right? #StuffTeaPeopleLike

72. TV show host most likely to be spotted sipping tea. Right? #StuffTeaPeopleLike

72. Christopher Kimball on America’s Test Kitchen

As Laurie B. noted, he wears a bow tie. And we all know how Tea People feel about bow ties, don’t we? (See #StuffTeaPeopleLike No. 14) But fashion choices aside we of course wondered if Christopher Kimball could be our bow-tie wearing, wizard-in-the-kitchen tea-drinking superhero. And then a little research (ahem, Googling), revealed that his wife drinks tea every day. We knew there was something we liked about him.

73. Tea-flavored ice cream

Ah yes, this addition to the list by Langiean reminds us of our own adventures in creating tea-flavored ice cream , which you can check out here and here. Now that was a good time, because when you’re truly experimenting with tea and ice cream, you get to have a lot of both cream, sugar and tea around your house, and that makes your house kind of like heaven. (ps: If you’re going to try this at your house, don’t miss out on Mountain High Chai or Alpine Berry ice cream. Ohhhhh yeah.)

We've hit the Union Jackpot, if you will. #StuffTeaPeopleLike

74. We’ve hit the Union Jackpot, if you will. #StuffTeaPeopleLike

74. Anything decorated with the British flag

75. Dining at a Chinese restaurant, where tea will be served

(An excellent point, Corinne T. That’s how many casual tea drinkers first discovered the wonders of Jasmine tea.)

76. Shortbread

This is where we’re going to do some shameless self-promotion; but for a good reason. We can’t stop eating this stuff, and we want you to discover it too. Afternoon tea time will never be the same until you’re dipping a piece of Biscottea into our tea.

Posted in English style tea, Green Tea, News from two leaves tea company, Products from two leaves and a bud, Recipes with Tea | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment