Week 13.  Easter week!  

And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.  John 8:29

Lois’ teatime

The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;  Acts 3:13,14

Week 13 marks the year at 25% over. I think we could all use a cup of tea, in celebration! Still standing! To God be the Glory!

I have been served tea in different countries and in different parts of the United States. Perhaps the most scandalous thing I can say is that there is no singular way to prepare a cup of tea. Tastes vary. We tend to become accustomed to certain preparations. Different is not wrong. I have included basic tea preparation and methods for tea – for 1 or for a crowd below.

With that stated, what does matter? Tea does become stale. Black teas, if stored properly in an airtight container, can last 2, even 3 years. If I am storing tea that long, I keep it in a cool place. I developed a spiced tea in advance of Winter holidays. I have kept it in the freezer until the following year the flavour did not deteriorate.  Fresh, purified water, free of chlorine or chemical taste matters much. Tea has 2 ingredients: tea and water. Their quality is important.

Green tea can be stored for up to a year. Oolong tea, probably less. It is always a good idea not to buy more tea than you would use in several months. Once a package of tea is opened, do store it in an airtight container.

Tea has caffeine; it is a different type than found in coffee. As a coffee drinker, if I have tea at night it is more likely to keep me away than coffee will. The same is true in reverse, I believe.  If I want to work into the night occasionally, I brew a pitcher of iced tea. Because I rarely drink it, it is a treat and does give a mild boost to my alertness for of a couple of hours. I am not recommending this; I am “sharing.” 

Americans have become more savvy regarding tea. My mother always used the best tea bags available to make iced tea. Tea bags 50 years ago made a weaker concoction. Tea bags contained mostly tea powder, the residual part of the tea leaves, the lowest quality. About 30 years ago, I discovered loose tea, then developed a general method for brewing it for iced tea. I was a little surprised when my mother made the switch to regularly using loose tea. She was an excellent cook, but did not experiment as much as I did. (She created less disasters too!) For her to begin making iced tea from loose tea meant that she thought it was markedly better.

Generally speaking, good tea does cost more; not always though. An excellent black loose tea is Tata Gold. It can be purchased online, but much more reasonably at an Indian grocery store. I have brewed this tea British style. Again, every “Brit” does not have the same method, so I am not getting into this here.  Generally speaking, what is said to be the proper way to make tea, it to allow the flavours to be gently released by steeping the tea leaves in water that has been brought to a boil. Another culture that I am familiar with boils the tea in water and milk. Which is better? Neither, it is preference. The same tea leaves prepared in different ways will produce different tastes. 

If you have not experimented with tea, I’d suggest some online research. You can quickly get an overview of different ways to prepare tea. Another option is the library. Visiting a tea room can be an excellent way to try different teas, but my opinion is they are often more about the experience and not so much exquisite tea.

Some years back, I hosted a tea in my home. I had several tables set up and my daughters served the tea. They were surprised with how much tea the ladies drank. I was not; it was part experience but also the tea was very good. Not because of my prep, but I began with good tea and good water. I find the easiest way to serve a lot of tea is to make a huge pan of it, and transfer it to hot teapots or ladle it directly into teacups, in which case you do want “pretty little servers” helping. 

How often have you heard someone order a “Chai Tea?”  Perhaps you have done so. Ordering chai tea is like ordering tea tea. Chai means tea. I think the common use of chai tea has become associated with a spiced tea, or I would say Masala Tea. Masala tea is black tea infused with a variety of spices which may include ginger root, cinnamon, cloves, mace, black pepper, cardamom and cloves. My Winter Tea is a masala tea.  Masala is a blend of spices, and the blend varies with what you are creating!  The recipe for my “Winter Tea” is below.

Tea lovers can be much like coffee lovers: SNOBS! Tea is to be enjoyed and if someone intimidates you by their knowledge, change your mindset; it is easier than changing theirs! Someone may have vast knowledge about tea, but if you are used to drinking it another way, enjoy! Don’t be intimidated from trying various teas and preparations. Tea bags are a great option these days because often you can get quality teas with the convenience of a bag, especially nice for 1 cup.  A couple of nice teas to try are Constant Comment, Earl Gray, or a sampler pack.  

Often we associate tea drinking with fine manners, but it is always a good time for fine manners. Good manners, to me, simply mean behaving in such a way that allows those around you to feel comfortable. Tea time can become a nice family ritual. After we finished school for the day, my girls met with their daddy at the table for tea, usually Indian-style and some kind of a nibble. I still have precious memories seeing Lois and India on either side of their daddy, them on their knees because they were tiny, but ever-so-much ladies as they enjoyed their tea time. Both my daughters primarily drink tea today. I enjoy watching their tea and companionship time together when their schedules find them at my home at the same time. They take pleasure in both: Tea and company.

So many tea stories, I encourage you to develop your own little rituals that make memories and build foundations for contented lives. It is the little things.  What makes little things matter is the care we add to the process. I know a lot about tea, but I am not an expert. If you have any general questions about tea or teatime, don’t hesitate to ask. 

About adding milk to tea; yes, if you like it. As to whether you add it to the cup before the tea is poured, or after, add it when you want to. Opinions vary. As I mentioned before, in India, often the milk is boiled with the tea. I cannot count the number of requests we have gotten through the years for this kind of tea that its preparation would be cringeworthy to many tea aficionados. I am okay with that, and I smile. 

Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company. Origin Unknown

CRUMPETS:  In keeping with tea, let me share some ideas for nibbles with your tea, emphasising things that you can store in your freezer or pantry.  Obviously, crumpets with a bit of jam or marmalade. They can be made in advance, frozen, then toasted when you need them.

Ginger snaps, shortbread or snickerdoodles – all simple to make and most can be purchased in the store, then stored. 

Savories work well with some teas. Snack mixes, served in small, individual bowls. 

Toast, biscuits or scones. A piece of poundcake. Generally I prefer to serve something very simple with tea so that the tea is centre-stage. And did you know? A cup of tea can stand alone quite nicely without anything on the side, then it truly is center-stage.

In keeping with Easter week, this is the week before the resurrection celebration. This is a time to remember and consider the agony our salvation was purchased with. Although I tend to be squeamish, I need to be reminded of our Lord’s sufferings. In remembrance, I listened to an audiobook that I would recommend. I have read Lee Stroebel’s “The Case for Christ.” He has a similar book called, The Case for Easter. It is a short read. When the medical details were being discussed I considered not finishing the book, but I stuck with it. The last chapter was wonderful and made me so glad I stuck with it. I stuck through an uncomfortable “read,” and am reminded how thankful I am that our Lord bore it Himself, after all, He could have called ten thousand angels! That thought is not from Scripture, but from a song.  (Likely inspired by Matthew 26:52.)

Preparing Tea Effortlessly (or so it will seem)

1. Preheat teapot by rinsing it out with hot water.
2. Use one tea bag or teaspoon of tea for each cup.
3. Bring freshly drawn cold water to a full rolling boil and pour over the tea.
4. Brew for three to five minutes.

To serve a large crowd: 

Make a hot tea concentrate. Bring 1-1/2 quarts of cold fresh water to a full rolling boil. Remove from heat and immediately add 1/4 pound loose tea (or ¼ pound tea bags). Stir to immerse leaves. Cover. Let stand 5 minutes. Strain into teapot until ready to use. (This makes enough concentrate for 40 to 45 cups; double recipe for 85 to 90 cups of tea.) When ready to serve: Bring out a pot full of piping hot water. Pour about 2 Tablespoons of concentrate into a cup and fill cup with water.

To make perfect iced tea: Follow the rules for hot tea but use 50% more tea to compensate for the ice cubes. Example: Use 6 tea bags for 4 glasses of iced tea. 

There is more than one way to make iced tea by the pitcher:  Bring 1 quart of cold water to a full rolling boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and immediately add 1/3 cup loose tea or 15 tea bags. Brew 5 minutes, covered. Stir and strain into a pitcher holding another quart of freshly drawn water. Do not refrigerate. Pour over ice cubes when ready to serve. Makes two quarts of tea.

Recipe for My Winter Tea

2 pounds good quality tea, Assam, English Breakfast or another good black tea. 

¾ cups finely grated, dried orange peel

½ cup finely grated, dried lemon peel

10 medium cinnamon sticks, crushed

¾ cup whole cloves

½ cup chopped crystallized ginger

1 ½ -2 tablespoons grated nutmeg

Combine all ingredients; store in airtight container, or freeze if it will not be used within a couple of months. To make a smaller recipe, here are the measurements.

8 ounces good quality tea

A scant quarter cup of dried orange peel

2 Tablespoons finely grated lemon peel

3 medium cinnamon sticks, crushed

A scant quarter cup of whole cloves

2 Tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

½ Tablespoon grated nutmeg.

For brewing, use a teaspoon per cup and allow to steep about 5 minutes; serve with sweetener of your choice, with milk or not!