November 3 2016
The Hot Toddy – that most famous of winter cure-alls for coughs, colds, sore throats and cold, blustery evenings. Originally prescribed by a Dublin physician in the 1800s, the recipe spread, and was soon found gracing the glasses of dinner party guests as evenings drew to a close.
Benjamin Silliman, an American professor of Chemistry – and founder of the American Journal of Science – observed, “it may well be presumed, that the fumes of such a hot inebriating mixture, must occasionally turn the brains of parties not restrained by considerations of decorum or of religion … And indeed, among the most sober people, it is easy to perceive some exhilaration produced by the hot toddy, as they sit and sip from hour to hour.”
One of the most delightful elements of the toddy is that you can play a little fast and loose with the general ingredients and ratios – our recipe goes a little easy here on the alcohol, but you could easily bring it to a 1-to-4 or even 1-to-3 should the mood take you. All a toddy asks for is the classic combination of hot water (tea in this instance!) sugar/honey, lemon and alcohol.
Toddies make for a wonderful infusion to come home to, or share amongst friends on a cold evening – so have fun and tinker with your own concoction to warm your cockles.
For each toddy:
- 2 tsp tea – we used our Winter Spice Tea blend, but you can try using any spiced back tea – Chai would be very suitable too
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 lemon
- Stick of cinnamon
- 1 shot of whisky – we used a deep, smoky scotch, but bourbon or any other dark spirit like Brandy or Rum would taste great
1. Put the kettle on
2. Using a tea infuser or paper tea filter, get your tea leaves ready in the mug. If making more than one toddy you can use a teapot
3. Steep the leaves as you would for a normal cup. For instance, infuse Winter Spice for 3 1/2 minutes
4. Fill your mug with tea to just over 2/3 full
5. Add the lemon juice, honey, and stir well
6. Add the shot of alcohol and cinnamon stick
7. Give everything a good muddle and finish with the slice of lemon
CATEGORIES: Recipes. Uncategorised
January 9 2016
What is Matcha?
Bright, grassy, bursting with umami, a little astringent, and all with the hit of a double espresso… Matcha is the traditional Japanese stone-ground green tea powder, and forms the central part of the Japanese tea ceremony – Chanoyu.
The history of Matcha stretches back to the year 1191, when the Zen Buddhist Monk, Eisai, brought powdered tea to Japan from China. From here, the practice of Matcha drinking was embraced by the Shogunate, and spread through Japan’s Buddhist Monasteries, becoming closely aligned with Zen Buddhism, where the ceremony was honed over generations to take the form that we recognise today.
How is it made?
Ceremonial grade Matcha goes through a quite incredible process to take it from leaf to powder, which begins before the leaves have even been picked.
In the last few weeks before the tea bushes are ready for harvesting – between 2 and 6 – the tea growers will cover the bushes, shading the plants from around 60% of the sunlight. In response, the tea plants work double-time to reach up to the light, producing higher amounts of chlorophyll and amino acid L-theanine than your usual tea. The finest, most tender leaves and buds of these are plucked when the time is right, and the leaves continue on to be processed. Normally these leaves would be rolled at the beginning of their process, but leaves destined for Matcha are let to dry flat (Tencha) where the purest part of the leaf from between the vein and the stalk is removed, and ground in specialised granite mills to produce the iconic green Matcha powder.
In essence, there are two different kinds of Matcha: ceremonial and culinary.
Matcha has become a bit of a celebrity lately in the field of health, and it is certainly with very good reason. When you enjoy Matcha, you are drinking the whole leaf, rather than an infusion from it as with normal tea leaves – this makes it naturally high in minerals and vitamins, especially A, C and E, and up to 100 times more antioxidants than your usual cuppa. Add into that its amino acids and beta carotene, and you soon have a bowl of tea that will pack quite a punch.
How can I make it at home?
In a word, easily! Matcha can be quite daunting and seem a little confusing at first glance, but once you get the hang of it, it really is nice and simple. Being a powder, Matcha is incredibly versatile, but first we’ll look at the traditional way to infuse and serve it:
Things you will need:
- Matcha Bowl (Chawan)
- Matcha Whisk (Chasen)
- Matcha Scoop (Chashaku)
- Matcha Tea – it helps to sieve the tea first
- Water between 65-75 degrees C. If you’re in a hard water area, use spring water instead, as Matcha struggles to foam in your usual tap water.
Take one scoop of the sieved Matcha powder (approx 1/2 a teaspoon) using the Chashaku, and place it in the bottom of the bowl. Pour on the water to fill the bowl to a little over a third. Then, take your Matcha whisk in hand and gently stir the powder in the bowl. Make your action faster and faster in a ‘W’ shape, slowly lifting the whisk until a satisfying foam appears on the surface. Your Matcha is ready.
While a daily ceremony of your own can be absolutely wonderful, there are other ways that you can enjoy your Matcha, too. Being a powder it can have many uses, so go ahead and get a little creative… Why not use it in a Matcha Latte, stir it into your morning juice, or make some Matcha ice cream? While Japan is the home of the tea ceremony, you’ll see it everywhere there in Pocky sticks, sweets, patisserie, Kit Kats… even Oreos!
So go ahead and dive in
scroll down for our Matcha FAQs
Help! My Matcha is clumpy!
Aaah, relax! This is perfectly normal – Matcha powder will naturally clump together when it comes into contact with the air. Simply sieve your Matcha before using for a good, even infusion.
Should I store my Matcha in the fridge?
Yes and no. Yes, if you can guarantee that it is stored in a completely air tight package away from fridge condensation and strong smells (like cheese, for instance). Otherwise, the back of a cool, dark cupboard will be ideal.
How can I make my Matcha foam?
If your Matcha feels a little lifeless, don’t worry. First, be sure that you’re using a high grade – then, check your water. If you’re using hard tap water or mineral water, you probably won’t have much luck developing a good foam. Use bottled spring water heated between 65 – 75 degrees C. And when you’re whisking, really go for it.
Why can’t I use boiling water on Matcha?
Matcha’s Goldilocks zone is between 65 and 75 degrees C. Adding very hot water will bring out bitter compounds in the tea – while we are looking for some bitterness in Matcha, we also want to appreciate the full depth of flavour that it has to offer, so anything too hot will simply obliterate this complexity.
So I can make iced Matcha?
Absolutely! It’s delicious.
CATEGORIES: Guides. Japan. Uncategorised
July 26 2012
Well, we’ve leapt headlong into July, and so has the sun. We’ve all heard the ‘having a hot cup of tea cools you down’ advice from knarled relatives, but is it really true? How can a hot drink possibly cool you down?
Answer: in all science fact, it can’t. But somehow, it does.
The old wives’ science behind tea cooling down roughly follows this logic: raising your overall body temperature makes you sweat, and as the sweat evaporates it cools your skin, leaving you cooler overall. Now, this would be fine if it wasn’t pretty much impossible. On a hot, sticky, muggy day opening the pores in your skin with sweattyness won’t really cool you off at all – in fact, it may leave you feeling hotter than you did before if you don’t have a refreshing breeze to sit in.
If, however, you drink something warm rather than ice cold after, say, leaping around, it can help with dehydration and cool you quicker – when you drink something ice cold, your body needs to burn calories to bring it down to body temperature. But when you drink something warmer, it doesn’t need to work as hard, resulting in a reduced metabolic rate and a shorter time to get you feeling better again at your regular temperature.
There is something beautifully relaxing about drinking tea, as opposed to the frantic reaching into the fridge for a can of something fizzy. I can’t help but feel that the act of making tea itself casts a restorative and calming spell over the ones brewing it, so this in itself may help explain why we simply feel better when we hold the cup in our hands. Also, tea contains a magic weapon which coffee does not: theanine. Theanine controls the caffeine release once you’ve drunk it so, rather than the crash and burn of coffee, tea will give you clarity of mind and an ultimately relaxed feeling. Aaaahhh.
So that’s how tea doesn’t cool you down, but still does.
Although, an ice cube and a touch of elderflower cordial to a first flush Darjeeling might help…
And our Strawberry Pepper tea makes for an excellent cold-brew iced tea. Simply infuse the tea leaves in cold water overnight in the fridge, and by the morning it’ll be done. Hey presto! Simply serve straight up, over crushed ice with slices of fresh strawberries (and a dash of Chambord or Vodka for an afternoon tipple).
Keep cool, everybody!
May 29 2012
Gosh, there’s a fair bit of bunting around these days, isn’t there? Bunting can only mean one thing – it’s time for a proper afternoon tea. Jubilations or not, we’re just beginning the perfect time of year to dust off the tea tray and reach for the clotted cream. As Henry James so sagely wrote, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”.
We all know and love the afternoon tea heroes and heroines – scones, jam, clotted cream, cucumber sandwiches, and wedges of Victoria sponge, but what tea to have with them? We believe this is just as important as selecting the perfect array of nibbles. But what to choose? We’d like to share our recommendations with you. We love afternoon tea.
For a light afternoon infusion – Casterbridge Afternoon
Our hand blended brew of fine Assam and Darjeeling. Excellent with a slice of lemon, a dash of milk and finger sandwiches.
The very best of Darjeelings – Makaibari Darjeeling Second Flush Grand Reserve
The savior of High Tea from the almighty Makaibari tea garden. Full yet light, and the perfect companion to cucumber sandwiches from an outstanding biodynamic estate.
Something a little stronger – Dorset Farmer’s Brew
A rich, malty and full flavoured blend ideal with lashings of scones, clotted cream and jam.
Something sweet – LaKyrsiew
A hidden treasure from one of the world’s finest unsung tea gardens in northern India. Sweet, toffee notes with a smooth caramel finish make it the ideal companion for cakes and pastries.
Something refreshing – English Peppermint
Indulged in rather a lot of cakes and sandwiches? This calming, zesty infusion from the south of England is just what you need.
And if you’re feeling particularly indulgent (as well you should!) some Earl Grey Supreme with proper butter shortbread really is a match made in heaven.