Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tea Time at the Archives

Not too long ago I volunteered at the local archives. I moved items from moldy boxes, to nice, fresh boxes. It was quite fun though that I think is a matter of personal preference.
Right next door was the local museum, and our Archivist also acted as the museum curator. For five blissful months I felt submerged in both the museum and archives daily life, and I loved the Archivist/Museum Curator to pieces!

He was the nicest gentleman I ever did meet, and he also loved tea as much as I (possibly more, since he did come straight from Britain.) Because he was in charge, and because he was British and loved tea, the Archives was a bit unique: there was tea time at 3:00 pm sharp every day.

The first day I volunteered and found out about this tea schedule, I was ecstatic. Mandatory tea? My goodness, that is the perfect workplace. It didn't cut into the day, as their union stated there needed to be two 15 minute breaks in afternoon and morning, or at the manager's discretion. So two 15 minutes put together at 3:00 meant everyone sat down for a half hour tea break. Everyone mostly showed up for tea, so there was a large relaxed gathering that typically wouldn't have happened. The camaraderie and the closeness between staff is still the best example I have seen or been privileged to partake in. It leads me to believe that all workplaces should have designated tea breaks, and in future careers I might just insist on it (as long as it doesn't get me fired.) I learned some things about tea there, mostly from the Archivist. Heat your teapot with hot tap water, before you put the boiled kettle water in.
That way the cold clay/porcelain doesn't suck the heat out of the boiled water, and your tea will remain hot longer. The first time I tried to help and put boiled water into the pot without warming it up first, I got an earful! I also learned that some people like to steep their tea so dark, it could be taken for coffee at a quick glance. I loved this place, and I was sad to end my volunteering to go back to library school.

Now I was recently in the area at the local tea house “The China Cup Tea Company” (which I personally quite recommend) and I was surprised and delighted to see a unique blend on the shelves: The Surrey Museum Heritage blend.
Now each time someone buys a bag of this tea, three dollars are donated to the Museum. Of course I knew I had to buy a bag, I would have bought the tea even if it tasted like dishwater. But it doesn't, it certainly doesn't!

The area the Archives is in is Cloverdale, and each year Cloverdale does a big festival with blueberries. Blueberry pie, pancakes, milkshakes, and more. So it makes sense for the China Cup to have blueberries in this tea. Now I have tried it and can't taste them. In fact, I can't taste any single ingredient other than the black tea base. It all mixes so well together, it makes up another flavour entirely: delicious.
This is a perfect afternoon tea, not too fruity, or dessert-like. Add milk or cream, sugar or honey. Or let is steep until it looks like coffee. It is a strong, wake up and get back to work tea. You can have this at breakfast, at tea time and with dessert. It is versatile, and did I mention delicious? This tea, I would guess, would also be the perfect tea to serve at the afternoon mandatory tea in the Archives.

Located at: The China Cup tea company, as far as I can tell. But give them a ring and they might be willing to ship some tea to a tea lover out there!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Peaches vs Dairy

On the Vancouver wet west coast, there is a lot of rain. One might saw you could also go to a beach, and say there is a lot of sand. The first probably being truer.
Oh....I wish I could go to that beach. A sunny beach. A sunny warm beach with none of this whishy washy rain that might turn to snow but just remains cold and slushy.

So, what do you do when it is cold and miserable and you are craving the warm days of summer? Well, try drinking a summery tea for one thing! My boyfriend and I were at a small grocery store, and saw this lovely peach of a tea: Stash's Peach Black Tea!
Upon finding this tea, I was intrigued. It is a black tea, and you can add dairy and sugar to black tea. Could it be added to this tea?

Any tea drinker out there has added milk/cream to a nice cup of tea, and found it curdled up at the top at least once in their life. I personally had this experience with a blueberry herbal tea, and my mother made me drink it anyways. Even as a young girl I knew you could never put dairy in a citrus tea/tisane as that was just asking for it to chunk up, but blueberries?
(just a refresher, herbal teas aren't actually teas because they don't include the plant camellia sinensis—or tea. They should be called tisanes.)
Now I am no science teacher, and neither will I give you a science lesson, but I will say milk curdles because of the acidity in the blueberries, and that changes the pH in the milk/cream and causes it to coagulate.
In fact, all these fruits are acidic, and will most likely cause you milk/cream to curdle: apples, blueberries, cherries, grapes, grapefruit, nectarines, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, and raspberries.

Another thing will cause dairy to curdle is pouring it right into boiling water. The heat will do the trick, even if you have a regular old black tea. If you find this a problem, add your milk/cream first, and add the boiling water slowly to gradually warm it up.
If you aren't putting milk into boiling water, you are drinking a regular old black tea, and it is still lumpy, then your milk/cream is bad. For goodness sake, throw that dairy out!

Now if you do make the citrus tea mistake, and you see your tea curdled, you can do one of three things:
1) Throw it out and start again. And this time, don't add any milk! Or use whole milk/cream, as it has a higher threshold for clumping.
2) Scoop out all the curds you can see. The milk/cream hasn't gone bad, just changed consistency. Water still tastes the same frozen, doesn't it? You might have to keep scooping throughout your drinking experience.
3) Just drink it all. The texture will be off, you might have to chew your tea, and you might not want to drink blueberry tisane ever again, but it won't kill you.

Well you might have noticed peaches in the list of acidic fruits. If you had a herbal tisane full of peaches and added milk/cream, it would curdle. But a black tea is a different sort of beast. To a point, you can add dairy to black teas and not have to worry about the consequences. On the other hand, some very bitter teas, or a strong Earl Grey(with the bergamot oils) will curdle milk.
Indeed, I was very curious about this tea.

Upon opening the box, I grew concerned. Ever open a bag of peach candies? That overwhelming PEACH smell? That's what greeted my nose. The smell was strong, but would it curdle the cream?
I made two cups, added sugar, and poured the cream in. It swirled, and twirled and mixed perfectly. No curdling! Got to love the black teas!

As for the actual tea? Well, it wasn't nearly as strong tasting as it smelled (they never are). By the time I put cream and sugar in it, it smelled like a peach perfume. Depending on the person, I suppose that could or could not be appetizing, The peach taste was there, but on the whole I think it would have made a better tisane.
What I am absolutely sure about, is that this tea would make an amazing iced tea come summer time. Oy.
Maybe I just need to go to a warm sunny beach now, and bring some Stash's Peach Black Tea with me.

Tea available at most grocery stores!