Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wish you a Merry Cuppa

It’s the holidays, have you noticed? Well sure, you’ve probably seen the trees surfing on the roofs of home bound vehicles. And you couldn’t have gone into any retail store without hearing some beloved (or less so) Christmas carols. You might even been flipping through channels on TV and found yourself watching an animated reindeer with a glowing red nose. Yes, it’s the holidays, and that’s a good time to drink some Christmas tea.
I’ve found two this year and highly recommend both – though for different reasons. First though, how have you incorporated tea into your holidays?

Before the 12th month of the year rolled on in, I had been looking for a tea advent calendar. Can you believe that in November I couldn't find one this side of the world? The only one that existed was from a company in Austria called Sonnentor Tea. So I got a regular chocolate calendar that doesn't have the best quality of chocolate. I've supplemented by purchasing small bags of quality chocolate that is actually meant for stocking stuffers. Anyways, for the purpose of this blog, I went and did a search for tea advent calendars. Would you believe that there are now more tea advent calendars available, including one sold in my neck of the woods? I can't quite express the rage I felt when I saw that, and saw that it was sold out. Way to advertise, you inconsiderate....ahem. I hope that in the future, David's Tea has their advent calendar listed before December. Theoretically, you could make your own tea. If you're like me, you probably have enough if you double up a few teas. But then the surprise wouldn't be there. Perhaps organize a swap between another tea enthusiast? Anyways, tea advent calendars are a excellent way to include tea into the holidays.

But what else? How about Christmas cards? When you write Christmas cards, why not stick a single tea bag inside the card? Unless your card is already tipping the scale, a teabag won't cause you to add more stamps. Of course I didn't think of this until the end of my Christmas card sending, but I think I will do it next year. Now they need to be tea bags, not loose leaf for obvious reasons. I would prefer having a sealed teabag as well. I don't know how items are processed at the post, but it is probably safer to mail sealed food.
But that's sending tea away, and we would all want to enjoy tea, right? So how about we go traditional here, and have a Holiday Tea Party? It isn't too hard, and there aren't too many rules here. Have a Christmas tea to serve, but if you can't find any, serve eggnog instead of milk. If you do wish to have a Christmas tea, buy any you see in stores, regardless of how early in the season it is. I bought some in early November, and have never seen it again. It just isn't worth it to take chances on the tea. If you are a traditional Christmas person, put out your best dishes and nice linens. If you are a character Christmas person, put out the cutesie snowman/reindeer plates and the other whimsical center pieces. Put out some baking, turn on some Christmas carols on low, and enjoy the company over a hot cup of tea.

One thing you shouldn't do, however, is invite people over for tea in your Christmas cards. The invitation isn't taken seriously, and you end up waiting for someone to get back to you. And wait and wait REALLY GUYS, I MEANT THE INVITATIONS. Why aren't you calling me?

When it comes to the actual holiday tea, there are plenty of holiday flavours to choose from. Gingerbread, eggnog, and peppermint teas are often on the grocery shelves. If you are in Trader Joe's, I'd recommend picking up their Cinnamon and Vanilla black tea. But the teas I got this year are a bit different. I like to think of them as the traditional and the character Christmas.

I'm on the shelf when it comes to Stash teas, in general. I'm not a fan of their Earl Grey (too strong of bergamot) and their awake tea isn't anything fantastical. What is delicious is their Vanilla Nut Tea, and more relevantly, their Christmas Morning tea. It has no other ingredients than tea, but as you don't put anything other than your best china for Christmas dinner, Stash has put the best into this tea. You can taste the quality, and the complexity of the tea. Which I always find surprising, because all said and done, it is really the same tea plant. This caffeinated tea is smooth, and steeps really well. It also has a nutty, almost cocoa aftertaste that I love.

My other Christmas tea is from one of my favourite tea suppliers, Murchie's. They've done Lavendar Tea, the tea served at the Empress hotel, and the summer tasting Coconut Cream Banana. I have difficulty not buying tea at Murchie's, and when I saw their Christmas Blend tea in the holiday tin, it was most certainly coming home with me. It isn't simply black tea, but blended with spices that together create the flavour of the holidays. Maybe it is the cloves and cinnamon that reminds me of baking. Or the orange peel that tastes like the season's mandarin oranges. Or the vanilla, that makes any tea super smooth.

If you do manage to invite people over for a Christmas tea, hopefully you can served them something festive. But if not, at least you are having a little tea with your holidays.

Murchie's Christmas Blend tea can be purchased in store or online. Stash's Christmas Morning tea can be purchased at your local grocery- hopefully. If you can't find it there, there is always online!