Today is December 8th and my Virtual Advent Calendar revoles all around one of my very favorite hot beverages, tea. There are a huge variety of teas, generally classified by the size of the leaves and the way in which they’re treated. The flavor will vary according to the conditions in which the tea is grown, the soil and climate, the way the leaves are harvested and the manner in which they’re processed after picking.
The tea most widely drunk around here is so-called „black tea" (schwarzer Tee). The majority of black tea goes into blends. A few varieties of tea, however, are famous in their own right, such as Assam tea or Darjeeling tea. Flavored teas (aromatisierter Tees), that are green, black or fruit-based teas, are often mixed with ingredients such as jasmine, chrysanthemum, or dried fruit and are also hugely popular.
When buying loose-leaf tea, make sure it smells fresh and vibrant. Check the packet to see whether you’re buying a blend or single variety. If buying flavored tea, make sure the flavoring is natural. For example, Earl Grey tea should be flavored with bergamot oil rather than with bergamot flavoring.
Black teas are graded by their leaf size, from whole leaf, to „broken“ down to „dust“. The leaf grade will determine the tea’s brewing time - the smallest leaves are used in teabags because they brew very quickly.
You can also prepare customized, personal teas by mixing together a few of your favorite flavors. It is best to start with a „basis“ for your personal tea mix. Choose black or green tea, or even fruit teas – since I love the combination of black tea with wintry flavors, I usually choose a real-high quality black tea for starters and then add my favorite flavors. I have called my blend „Winter Tea Blend“ but feel free to experiment to your hearts content.
Winter Tea Blend
(for about 125 grams, which will yíeld about 4 liters of tea)
- a few dried apple slices (homemade - peel on is fine OR from your favorite natural food store, spice or tea merchant or online)
- peel from one organic orange (make sure to remove as much of the white pith as possible, otherwise your tea blend might be too bitter)
- a few slices of fresh ginger (optional)
- a few dried organic rosebuds
- 1 Ceylon cinnamon stick
- 100 grams loose leaf black tea (chose your favorite tea here) - again, it's nice to chose an organic black tea here if at possible
- Cut the apple slices into thin strips or break up into coarse pieces.
- Peel the orange, taking care to remove all the white pith before continung with the recipe. Alternatively, you can use dried orange peel from a natural health store or tea merchant. Cut the orange peel into thin strips as well.
- Peel the ginger (if using) and also cut into very thin strips.
- Pre-heat your oven to 100° C (80° C convection) – 212° F ( 176° F for convection ovens).
- Line one baking sheet with baking parchment and place the apple strips, the orange peel and the ginger on the parchment.
- Place in the oven and leave to dry there for a good 90 minutes. Then leave to cool.
- Cut up the cinnamon stick with a sharp kitchen knife (you should end up with fine splinters) and add all the ingredients to your loose tea. Then blend well.
- Your Winter Tea Blend should be stored in an airtight container or canister in a cool, dark place in order to preserve the original flavor for as long as possible.
Tea blends are particularly enjoyable in winter time but also fabulous for a grey afternoon or any time you feel like sipping a cup of tea with lots of flavor. Homemade tea blends can make wonderful gifts to give to your tea loving friends and family members at holiday time or any time.
Your persomnal tea blend can also be used in cooking to soak dried fruit (for my recipe for a Poffert with with tea-soaked raisins go here), make syrups for poaching fruit or to smoke fish and poultry. And this Winter Tea Blend is far superior to anything store-bought.
Please make sure to drop by again tomorrow when we will open our ninth special surprise in my Virtual Advent Calendar!