Sweet and Spicy Herbal, Caffeine free…


“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.”   Horace Walpole

I’m not really sure how to take this little quote that I found dangling from the end of my tea bag string.

In fact,  I don’t think I believe  it.  However, I do believe in this particular tea.  All the Good Earth flavor, none of the caffeine.  A ‘Debbie Downer’ with all the richness of a caffeinated beverage.

I am going to overlook the “natural flavors” aspect for this post.  I still love this tea.  It is steaming with deep and lovely spices:  clove, cinnamon, fennel, ginger.  I feel these spices.   (And this is not a tragedy.)

Maybe you will too.

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Now, many are under the impression that all gardeners are potheads.  Especially Norcal gardeners…but it’s not true.  Case in point:   I am way more into Kava, personally.  Or Valerian.

Kava!  The talk-talk herb of the South Pacific, Hawaii and Polynesia.   The herb of negotiation, and conversation.  Ingesting Kava is very different than getting stoned…have you ever stopped to think what a weird metaphor “getting stoned” is ? (At least it is for me, coming from my ex-Catholic persuasion.   Martyrs were stoned to death.  Most herbs are friendlier than that, no?)

Think, dear reader, of how different your social life would be if instead of getting stoned, you got conversational….?????

Regardless, this lovely herb called Kava plays a predominant role in Yogi Kava Stress Relief tea.  And it does its job well.  My mouth is tingling slightly (characteristic of Kava), and my cares are melting away.   (Just like they promised on the package~you can drink as much as you want (as long as you’re not liver compromised or pregnant) and can even use TWO teabags for extra-stressful moments.  Packaging can be so helpful!)

If I had spasming muscles, I think they might have stopped after 2 to 4 cups of this tea (also a lovely effect created by Kava.)

If I had to complain a little, this tea is a tad too licorice-y (too sweet in the back of my throat) for me personally, but otherwise I like it very much.  Carob pod and hazelnut (flavor) only help~mmmmm…

A special thanks to Mieze for prompting my interest in this  tea..

Check it out:      www.yogitea.com

MOS?

That’s short for Mandarin Orange Spice, peeps…

…and this is the tea I most often find in my cupboard after my mother-in-law Karen comes for a visit.  Usually it just sits there patiently waiting for her as I bypass it to create my own herbal blends.  But the other day this orange and black box caught my eye.

The first thing I noticed was the painting on the front of the box–it’s simply lovely.  I feel like we tea drinkers have all seen it a million times, but take a closer look…

It's a little world in here...

I especially love Barry Zaid’s rendition of those peeled and segmented oranges at the bottom of the painting. Visual beauty is such a lure…

So I opened that standard tea box with the cute little packaging and the first thing I noticed was the smell..that tea bag smelled good!  Orangey, but also like chicory and cinnamon and hibiscus flower.  And all together they create that characteristic MOS smell and flavor.  It’s memorable.  It reminds me of my early tea drinking days in college…dorms, 11pm, mulling over new-found politics.

I got excited.  There is such a charge, a thrill involved with remembering sometimes…

I quickly poured myself a cup, but didn’t let it steep too long–maybe about 3 minutes.

The result?  NICE!

So I still really like this tea…it’s a good balance of roots and berries, earthy and sweet.  The hibiscus of course gives it the Celestial Seasonings “zing”, but it’s countered by the blackberry leaves and the chamomile.  It’s not a simple tea, but it’s not trying too hard either.   The other Celestial “Zingers” I could turn away from and not look back, but I’m glad I rediscovered Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange Spice.  I honestly can’t believe I forsook it for so long.

www.celestialseasonings.com/products/detail.html/herbal-teas/mandarin-orange-spice

MOS=Most Optimal Seasonings tea bag so far...

Ambiguous...

Help.  I really want to like this tea.

I have enjoyed other delicious blends by Organic India whose focus is Tulsi or Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) infusions.  Perhaps now is the right time to give a shout out to my favorite one called Sweet Rose Tulsi Tea…it’s REALLY GOOD.

But back to the Jasmine Tulsi…

Let’s talk about the main ingredient of this tea.  Tulsi or Holy Basil is first and foremost a sacred medicinal plant.  I really could yarn on about this plant, but the important take home points are as follows:  Tulsi is a major stress reducing, immune system regulating, antioxidant, neuroprotective plant.  It also has numerous digestive health benefits, it’s antibacterial, and stimulates milk production in lactating women.  And the list goes on…(really.)

A brief history:

Tulsi (a Hindi word) is used daily by many people throughout Southern Asia, especially Southern India. Holy basil is sacred to the Hindi god Vishnu, and purported to balance the chakras. The stems of the plants are made into beads for use in meditation practice to give clarity and protection.  It is acclaimed  as possessing sattva (energy of purity), “capable of bringing on goodness, virtue, and joy in humans” (Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, D. Winston and S. Maimes.)

You all want a cup, huh?

Tulsi’s flavor nature is sweet and spicy.  Standing alone in water it is strongly aromatic.  As you might expect with the presence of the aromatics, it has a slightly allspice-ish clove-ish mouth numbing tingle, but somehow still manages to be delicately earthy and sweet.  It’s a balanced, complex taste, and smelling it  not only reminds me of many things, it always makes me feel better.   For instance, my brain goes to this place:  Nighttime with only the darkness and the stars, dew, bliss, the smell of (friendly) wild things… It’s a cross between walking barefoot through my childhood garden and smoking my third or fourth cigarette…and then realizing I don’t need to smoke cigs to deal with my angst-ish feelings…I’m six, then I’m 18, and the memories keep tumbling but somehow emotionally resolve…

I know it sounds outlandish, but it’s one of those plants that can transport you somewhere else.   It’s  a complex plant for a complex world.  I’ve got great expectations…

I want to cross the word "Jasmine" off this package...

So like I said earlier, I really want to like this tea, but what’s really bugging me is that I can’t smell or taste the jasmine. (And that’s the title of the tea.)

I think the problem is the Anise is too strong…I get the bitter of the chamomile, especially after a longer steeping (5 minutes plus).   I try an overnight cold infusion, which yields a slightly more refreshing cup, but still can’t find the Jasmine.  I try short hot infusions–no James Brown.

I check myself for a moment:  am I looking for that JB hip pop Jasmine taste and smell I get from my favorite green Jasmine tea?  If so, is that realistic?  This tea does smell nice and taste nice too…it’s not that it’s a bad tea…

I suspect the anise was probably added to sweeten this blend a bit, but it’s too heavy.  It completely masks the Jasmine, and I am simply sad.  I honestly think they would have had a better blend if they had left it out altogether.  Either that or just PLEASE RENAME the tea.  It’s not Jasmine Tulsi tea, it’s Anise Tulsi tea.  Or something kindred.

Try the Sweet Rose Tulsi tea instead…

Passion in a bag…hmmm.  If only it could be so easy.

Yes, of course I’m a bit of a skeptic.  Big name to live up to.  But here we are the week before St. Valentine’s Day, and folks have love on the brain.  Or at the very least the aforementioned Passion….

In Tazo’s words, “a magical blend of hibiscus, lemongrass, rose hips, and mango & passion fruit flavours.”

Magical might go a little far…

After steeping just three minutes, the predominant taste is sour.  (Sometimes love goes o so bad. Like a nice heavy cream.)  Sour doesn’t usually conjure magic by itself, but I do taste something else too:  a hint of sweetness offered by the licorice.  Still, all (undifferentiated) things lead to the TANG, and I must admit that is one passionate tang–like lots of citric acid right in the middle of one’s tongue.

I am sorry I didn’t get a photo of the color.  It is one beautiful liquid–the loveliest shade of rose pink.  Or maybe a little darker.  Pretty color achieved through fruit juice extract.  The effect is pleasing, and it smells like it tastes, too.

In short, if passion were truly a taste, I don’t imagine my ideal tasting like this–but I’m sure someone’s would.

Variety is the spice of life, as my mother used to say…

And on that note, may your Valentine’s Day (and every day) be filled with the spicy, tangy, passion that is right for you.  kt

Lei compliments of my dear Karen G.

Introducing:   Steep of the Week.

Here’s my concept…

I am committing to “review” one tea bag or loose leaf “tea” per week that is commercially available–taste, color, aroma, packaging, all being observed and considered.   The word tea is going to be loosely defined–I love love love green teas, but lately I have a tea dream to create delicious herbal infusions, so that is going to heavily influence the progression of teas tasted too.  The goal is to be diverse in my tasting–begin tasting what is at home and at hand, then move out from there….herbal, blacks, anything root or petal infused is fair game.

What qualifies me to do this, you might be asking? Are you a trained culinary professional?  Do you have a family member in the tea business?  Do you or have you ever worked in a tea house?  The answer to these questions is a resounding no.

But I do pay attention.  And I am always clutching my mug of tea, whether I’m playing a game of kickball or digging a hole in someone’s back yard.  Ok, ok not always possible, but it’s nearly always an arms length away.  I’ve also lived with a culinary professional for the last 7 years and that’s got to count for something.  He has taught me a thing or two.  (Thanks Nate.)

I also create custom teas for my herbal clients–I try to make them tasty, well-balanced, and infused with healing vibes.  Tasty is important so that folks will drink their medicine and enjoy the herbs that are helping to heal their health condition.

And so, without further ado, the Steep of the Week is Jasmine Downy Pearls compliments of Peet’s Coffee and Tea.

“What is that you are drinking?” is the inevitable question I get when folks smell this tea.”  I see their enchanted eyes…

The aroma of the jasmine flowers is lightly floral, a scent that drifts easily like the rain clouds I’m watching pass over twin peaks right at this moment.

This tea tastes round in my mouth, mellow, like flowers, not bitter, clean rainfall, green earth, minerals, barely sweet, barely astringent.

It tastes to me like life is just perfect right now, which I suppose is why I keep coming back again and again.  This is my daily tea.  I go out of my way to gather this tea.  I always take it “to go” so I can have my hands on the bag of orbs and steep it again at home, up to three times more…

I wonder how many sets of hands it took to get each individual cup of tea here, sitting in front of me?  This is in fact a hand rolled tea from the famed Fujian Province, China.

I keep thinking the responsible thing to do would be to find a local product for daily consumption, but there is something important to me about drinking and smelling this tea that has touched so many hands on its journey around the globe.  At this point in my life I need to feel the vastness and bigness of the world…this tea does just that–it is comforting and heavenly.  Sky and earth in one cup.

A deeply sincere thank you to all the hands that have made this cup possible. Heartily recommended.  kt

Check it out in more detail at Peets.