Tea Tasting, Part 1

We had a really fabulous tea tasting last weekend.

I’ve mentioned on here several times that I love tea. It all started when I moved to London a few years ago, and, well, it became much harder to get a really good cup of coffee. I was used to drinking a wonderful latte from NYC shops like Joe. While in London, I occasionally grabbed a bus to Borough Market for a really amazing latte, but other than that, I simply started to drink what was everywhere: tea.

At first, I just drank basic black tea, generally English Breakfast or whatever black tea blend was “on tap.” When I came back to the states, Charlie and I gradually began to explore the world of looseleaf teas, and now, a few years later, we have somehow amassed a collection of over 40 looseleaf teas. Most of them we’ve bought, some of them we’ve gotten as samples, and others, I’ve gotten through tea swaps with other people like me who are slightly ridiculous. It has gotten to the point where when friends join us at our house and we offer them a cup, we feel that we should be able to offer them their favorite kind, but instead, they’re so intimidated by the overflowing cabinet, that they instead say, “I’ll just have whatever you’re having.”

Tea, like wine, can be intimidating, so I decided to host a tea tasting at our house last weekend. I picked a variety of my favorite teas, as well as a few that I’d never tried, and arranged them in an order that made sense to me. As we moved through them, Charlie said, “You made a playlist! This is awesome!”

The two places that I usually order tea from are Tea Gschwender and The Tea Table. Tea Gschwender has some really fine teas that are quite delicious, but a little pricey, and unfortunately, they recently changed their minimum order per variety to be a 100g bag, so you really have to commit to it. For some teas that I know I love, that’s fine, but for others, that’s just too much. Tea Gscwender does have some relatively new retail locations in the USA, though, including two stores in New York, one in Chicago, and one in Ann Arbor, so one of these days I’m going to head over to the store to check it out in person and see what the retail experience is like.

The Tea Table has a great selection, and they let you choose exactly how many ounces of tea you want, which I love. They let you choose up to three free samples per order as well, so there’s really an opportunity to try a lot of new things with this company. While some of the flavors are a little less traditional than I would prefer (you will never ever get me to drink a Caramel Cherry Cheesecake Tea), they have plenty of more traditional teas, a wonderful Masala Chai, and some nice (less out-there) flavored teas.


That’s Bo getting ready for the tasting. He’s got one of the worksheets that I prepared with all the different tea names on it so that people could write down their reactions. I know, I’m such a nerd!

Anyway, our tea tasting went as follows.

We started with white tea, the mildest of teas. We had Drum Mountain White Cloud. After that, we moved to green teas, where we tried a flowery Formosa Jasmine. Next was Lavender Butterfly, a tea that is wonderful with a bit of creamed honey stirred into it. We finished the green teas with Japan Genmaicha, which some remarked had an almost malty taste to it.

The black teas were nothing new to me, as I just wanted to share my favorites here, black tea still being what I drink the most frequently. We started with Blood Orange Black Tea, something I’d gotten a sample of, loved, and ordered more of.

We moved to Earl Grey No. 69, a tea heady with bergamot and a great choice when using Earl Grey for cooking (like in these tea cakes or this oatmeal). We went to an Irish Breakfast black tea blend called O’Sullivan’s Favorite , which, in my opinion, is best served with a bit of fresh cream. Black Currant is another English flavor I grew to love when I was there, and I prefer the Tea Gschwender version to The Tea Table kind. We used that to branch from the black teas to the fruitier herbals I’d selected.

We started the herbals with a Lemongrass Blend that I picked up in the bulk section of Wegman’s. I’ve been told that Weg’s carries Rishi in their bulk bins, but I haven’t seen this one on their website, so not sure completely of the origin. Finally, we tried Casablanca, which smelled very strong but mostly tasted like strawberries, and Lady Hannah’s Whole Fruit was a bit more floral.

(I hope all those links work!) I’ll post pictures of the party soon, as well as some delicious food recipes. Our menu was pretty awesome.

We made the Carrot Coconut Scones from Baked Explorations, as well as Honey Whisky Cakes from Scottish Teatime Recipes (both with a few adaptations, such as adding a bit more whisky in the second recipe).

For tea sandwiches, we had an awesome (and strangely realistic) mock tuna, a chutney and cheddar, and of course, cucumber sandwiches. I also made a quiche of spinach, portabello, and broccoli that was very similar to this vegetable tart. In other words, we drank tea and we feasted. It was great. Special thanks to Kira, Traczie with a Z, and Bo for being Kitchen Assistants.

Recipes and photos to follow soon.

Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated with any of the tea companies mentioned, and I haven’t gotten any perks for writing about them. I’m just an actual consumer of the products.

Tea Experimentation

When I drink tea, I almost always reach for a black blend, either some kind of English or Irish Breakfast or the like. Lately, my mornings have been very standard with a cup of O’Sullivan’s Favourite, a Cut, Tear, Curl, Irish Breakfast Blend from Tea Gschwender.

In the afternoons and evenings, though, I try to stay away from the higher caffeine content that black tea has. Green tea has about half as much caffeine as black tea, so I might have green tea or an herbal tea in the afternoon or the evening. Last night, I was thinking about teas and tea blends, and I decided it might be fun to try to blend some of my own. In one of my giant mugs, I mixed about three grams of Formosa Jasmine Tea and three grams of Lavender Butterfly Tea. They’re both from The Tea Table and are two different green tea blends. I brewed it for just two minutes, and stirred in a the slightest bit of creamed honey at the end.

It was divine.

Anyone else mix their own tea blends at home?

Earl(y) Grey Oatmeal (Slow Cooker)


Look, it’s oatmeal, it’s the first thing I ate today, and I didn’t do a glamour shot. Sorrrrrry! (I’m even in my pajamas, see!)

Since I wrote just over 3,000 words today for NaNoWriMo (you’re supposed to average 1,667 per day), I think it’s ok for me to take a short break to share something delicious that I’m making.

I love oatmeal.

Not the packaged, instant crap with too much sugar and not enough texture.

The real, homemade kind, with cinnamon, and maybe some cut up chunks of fruit or nuts, like this.

I’ve recently gotten into steel cut oats, and I have one of those lovely little metal cans of McCann’s Irish Oatmeal sitting proudly on our kitchen counter. It’s kind of a hassle to cook it for such a long time, but it’s worth the wait when you can spare the time.

Or… from what I’ve heard… you can cook it in your slow cooker.

So that, my friends, is what I’m attempting to do. Tonight I’m preparing my oatmeal, and tomorrow morning I’ll be gleefully eating it without having done any work in the morning.

I bet you’re like, “Meh, big deal, everyone has a slow cooker oatmeal recipe on the internet.”

This may be true.

But I wanted to share with you the brilliance of one particular Bonzai Aphrodite’s oatmeal brilliance.

She puts tea in her oatmeal.


Let’s go back and review that again.

She prepares her oatmeal with Earl Grey.

I love tea and drink it fanatically. I love the tea drinking experience, but I also love the flavors, and Earl Grey happens to be one of Charlie’s favorites. We have an awesome Earl Grey No. 69 from TeaGschwender that’s heady with bergamot that I love to use for cooking, and I prepared a strong cup to experiment with in this oatmeal. I went easy with the tea flavor this time, but I’ll probably increase it the next time I try it out.

As for the slow cooker recipe, well, I did what I usually do. I looked at a half dozen recipes, closed all the tabs, closed my eyes, and started mixing stuff up. I hope what I get tomorrow turns out delicious. I’ll update this post before I go live with it! [Go to the bottom of the recipe for the results!]

*Someone on a tea community pointed out to me that they don’t really like Earl Grey, and wondered if this would work with another type of tea. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m thinking YES! I fully intend to try this with my favorite Black Currant Tea, a fragrant Jasmine I enjoy, a calming Lavender Green Tea, and I have a tea I got in a bulk bin that’s bursting with lemongrass that I bet would be brilliant in the morning, too. So yeah! Try it out with any kind of tea you like. Let me know how it is.


equipment: slow cooker (I used a 4-Qt Oval from Hamilton Beach, so if you have the same one, your settings will probably match!)

1 cup steel cut oats, uncooked
1 cup whole milk
3 cups boiling water, let cool until the bubbles stop bubbling like crazy
~6 grams loose leaf Earl Grey tea (or about two tea bags) – use more for a more intense flavor
cooking spray
delicious toppings like raisins or walnuts or pears for the morning


Spray the inside of the slow cooker with the cooking spray. If you’re not into cooking spray, give it a thin coat of butter or oil.

Steep the tea in your preferred tea filter for about 6-7 minutes.

Add the tea, milk, and oats to the slow cooker. Stir.

(Since we weren’t quite ready for bed yet, I let this soak this way for an hour or two before I turned the slow cooker on.)

Cook on low for ~8 hours, depending on your slow cooker. Since Charlie gets up earlier than I do, he’ll switch it to warm for me when he gets up, and I’ll it out a bit later. He’s got a busy morning, so he probably won’t take a picture first unearths it, but the taste is what really matters, right?

Update: The oatmeal formed a bit of a crust on top when I took it off, but I got up more like three hours after Charlie instead of one, since I stayed up late writing last night. I just scooped under the crust, and what I found underneath was delicious. The Earl Grey flavor was definitely present, and the oatmeal was creamy without getting that starchy texture that happens when you cook it too long on the stove. I’ll definitely be making this again! (Our real time cooking: 7hrs on low, 3 hours on warm – since I like my oats to be a little more defined, I may experiment with this a bit… i.e., not stay up writing all night and see if that makes a difference to the texture, put them in right before bed so they don’t soak at all and see if that makes a difference, but all in all, they were awesome.)

Earl Grey Tea Cakes


(Shh, they’re vegan!)

I have just realized the tragedy that has occurred. These cakes never got posted. I made them ages ago!

I’d made Casey’s Chai Cake when we had company because I thought it would be more popular than the slightly odder sounding Earl Grey cakes, but we have a fabulously fragrant Earl Grey that I’ve been dying to bake with. After I made the Chai cake, I knew I had to do it, pronto!

I made these in a new (to me) silicone baking pan my mom gave me since she never uses it. I’ve never used silicone pans before, and it was a muffin tin that was very deep. I’ve been very skeptical about silicone before, but they popped right out and looked adorable! I’m very happy to add this to my collection and I’m sure I’ll use it often.

I had some soymilk to use up, so I took the opportunity to make these vegan, and Charlie had no idea until I told him. Be sure that if you’re going to glaze these, you use the Earl Grey infused soymilk as the liquid for the frosting, otherwise, the somewhat subtle taste of the tea will be lost underneath the sweetness of the plain glaze! Be careful about your tea selection – you want an Earl Grey that has a lot of bergamot in it.


Love how the blueberries got the glaze all pink!


1/2 cup Earth Balance
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2-3 tablespoons natural sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup Earl Grey Soymilk* (I used vanilla soymilk as a base – you may want to add 1 tsp vanilla if you’re using plain milk or plain soymilk)
1 tablespoon commercial egg replacer (or milled flax + 2 tablespoons warm water)
1 teaspoon Earl Grey loose leaf tea leaves, finely ground with mortar & pestle
dash of lemon juice

*To make Earl Grey Soymilk, heat 1 3/4 cups milk in a saucepan on low-medium heat. When bubbles form around the edge of the pot, add about 9 grams of loose leaf tea (about 3 teaspoons) in a filter or 3-4 tea bags. Let steep for 5 minutes. Cool.

1/4 cup Earl Grey Soymilk
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (or to taste)
1 cup confectioners sugar (or to desired consistency)
1/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (optional, for decoration)


Cream the Earth Balance and natural sugar together in a medium or large bowl. Since the ratio wasn’t totally even, it won’t come out perfectly creamed, so just give it a good mix. In a separate small bowl, mix the milled flax and warm water together until it gets gooey, then add that to the sugar mixture. Add the dash of lemon juice.

In a separate bowl, mix the whole wheat pastry flour, the baking powder, and the salt together. Slowly add a bit of this dry mixture to the creamed mixture, stirring constantly or mixing with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer. Alternate from time to time with some of the 1 1/4 cups of Earl Grey soymilk. Add a little of each until they are all mixed in. Stir in the Earl Grey tea leaves.

Pour into the silicone baking pans. You can use prepared cupcake pans with liners or that have been greased if you don’t have silicone pans.

Bake at 375*F for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool for several minutes before removing them from the silicone molds.

Meanwhile, make the glaze. Add the remaining Earl Grey soymilk, lemon juice, and confectioner’s sugar until you reach the desired consistency. Making the glaze too thick with confectioner’s sugar may take away from the Earl Grey flavor. If you desire a super thick glaze, you may want to consider using bergamot extract.

Dip the tops of the cakes into the bowl of glaze and garnish with blueberries if desired.

And the winner is…

When I posted the teapot for the giveaway last week, I was a bit jealous that one of you was going to get it. And the more I looked at it, the more jealous I got. In fact, if I hadn’t just bought a really sweet teapot a few weeks ago, I probably would have to snatch one of these up for myself.

But what you all probably want to know is who gets to serve tea from that lovely little thing.

With help from random.org, the winner is Julia! Julia, I’ll be emailing you to get your information so we can get you your new teapot.

Thanks again to the folks at CSN Stores for providing us with this lovely gift. If you’re totally bummed that you weren’t the winner, you can buy one for yourself here. They even come in a whole bunch of other fancy colors, so check them all out. It’s just too cute to pass up.

And finally, thanks to all of you who came by to check out this giveaway. I hope you’ll stick around to try some of my recipes. :)

Measuring Spoons 100th Post & Giveaway!

The giveaway is now closed. Thanks for entering!

As I mentioned yesterday, we’re having our first giveaway here on Measuring Spoons! Super exciting. And, I realized yesterday as I was writing the post giving you a hint, that this giveaway post is my 100th post on Measuring Spoons! What a great way to celebrate. The giveaway was unrelated to the landmark, but it’s still a nice thing to cheer for. The kind folks at CSN Stores are providing us with the gift, and it was nearly impossible to choose what to giveaway, since they have everything from nesting tables to gardening equipment to all kinds of baking tins. They also have… beautiful teapots!

We’re giving away this gorgeous Sengware Teapot in “Pomello,” a warm yellow that seems to be named after a citrus fruit.

The teapot holds 36oz, which is a great size – that’s a bit more than four 8oz cups, or six 6oz cups, so it’s a wonderful teapot to use when you have company. It has a built in infuser, too, so you can get started with some loose leaf teas like I mentioned that we use yesterday, even if you’ve always stuck to teabags before. And if you love love love your teapot, you can buy a really cool utensil holder, a set of matching dishes, a beautiful pitcher (for iced tea, perhaps?), or you could just get some mugs to match your new teapot. It’s really a fun collection.

All you have to do to enter the giveaway of the teapot is comment on this entry with your email address so I can contact you if you win!

And, if you sign up to follow my blog, you can get an extra entry. Leave a separate comment with your email address saying that you signed up. You can also get an extra entry if you tweet about this giveaway. Just provide the link to the tweet in a separate comment. Don’t forget to provide your email address so I can contact you!

Thanks everyone. Good luck!

The fine print: No purchase necessary. This contest will run from today, Tuesday, September 28th, until next Monday night, October 4th, at 11:59pm. I’ll pick a winner on Tuesday and announce it then. The contest, unfortunately, is only open to people in the USA. A winner will be chosen at random using random.org. And, as a friendly disclaimer, I’m not getting paid to do this giveaway… this is for you guys, my readers!

Tea (and a hint about our first giveaway…)

Today is a really rainy day. I’d been hoping to go out to the garden, but it’s a heavy, steady rain that doesn’t seem like it will be letting up anytime soon. Instead, I’ll put on the kettle and enjoy a cup (or three) of tea. I realized recently that although this is a food blog, I don’t talk about tea very much, and tea is something I really, truly love and enjoy.

When I lived in NYC before I moved to London for a semester, I was a coffee drinker. I knew various people who worked at various coffee shops, and I rarely had to pay for my nonfat lattes, and I’d sometimes have two a day. I used to hate iced coffee but I learned to enjoy it in the summer. And, I began to appreciate the nuances of various coffees and their preparation methods.

When I was in London, all that changed. A good cup of coffee, and I mean a decent cup, was much harder to find. I’d gradually been spoiled over the years as my friends got more and more involved in the coffee industry, and I didn’t want to drink crap coffee all the time. When I was right in Londontown, there were plenty of chains similar to Starbucks, and a 15 minute bus ride from my flat took me to Borough Market, where I could get the best latte in London. But other than that, I gradually started to go with the crowd and drink tea.

English blends of tea are actually some of my favorite and were before I went to the UK. I love them milky, and they are a perfect compliment to most of the things I bake. A strong milky tea with a nice biscuit, a piece of sweet bread, or a sliver of cake makes a lovely afternoon snack.

In the past few years, Charlie and I have switched to buying loose leaf teas because they often are an even nicer quality, and there are many, many more choices in terms of the origin of the tea and what it might be flavored with. Charlie loves an Earl Grey Jasmine, and while I always have some English, Irish, and even Scottish blends of black teas in stock, I also love a Jasmine Green Tea, and at the end of the day, to help me wind down, a tea with lavender in it. I also try to keep stocked with another fairly British tea – Blackcurrant. Our tea cabinet literally overflows from time to time, and I’ve done tea swaps with friends and strangers to try new varieties. I may even have a tea party this year, and I’m not talking about anything political.

But really, the point is, tea is a wonderful pairing with food, especially for baking. Just as different wine qualities make them good matches for certain foods, you’ll find that certain teas bring out different flavors when you drink them with your treats. Hell, you can even put the tea in your recipes, as I do with Casey’s Chai Cake with Honey Ginger Glaze.

So this post is your hint about the giveaway, which I’ll reveal all the details about tomorrow!

Chai Ice Cream with Shortbread Cookies


This recipe has been a long time coming, and I know a lot of people have been waiting for it. Sorry it took so long! I have a huge backlog of recipes to post.

So, I am in absolutely no financial situation to be buying frivolous stuff right now, but luckily, I’m in this focus group where when I participate, I earn Amazon gift certificates. And, I have so many banked right now that I decided it was time to treat myself to something I’ve been wanting since I got my KitchenAid mixer last summer: the ice cream attachment.

I ordered it online, and I excitedly unboxed it one night with Charlie. We were in our bedroom, and I was sitting on our bed, and he was in our comfy chair. I took the components out of the box, and….

….was horribly disappointed. The bowl is SO heavy! I suppose I should have read how heavy the actual box that was shipping before I ordered it, but I’m terrible about things such as spatial relations and estimating weights and that type of thing. I’m lucky that now after tons of practice I can estimate a teaspoon and a tablespoon! Even with the bowl unfrozen, it was very unwieldy for me and my arthritic hands. I knew it would be even worse when the bowl was frozen, since I have Raynaud’s Syndrome, which commonly goes along with RA and/or fibromyalgia. Raynaud’s makes it difficult for the blood vessels in your hands to circulate enough blood to your limbs, and instead, all of your blood goes to your core. It means that my hands and feet are cold all the time, and sometimes numb and hard to move, but especially when I touch cold things, like, say, my frozen extremely heavy ice cream bowl. I just didn’t anticipate that it would be this difficult.

Anyway, Charlie and I talked it over, and I considered sending it back. Since it was so heavy, though, it probably would have cost almost as much to pay the return shipping as it had cost for the discounted item! So, I decided to keep it, and we decided that it would be a “together” project… one that I would only do when Charlie or another buddy was around to help me with the bowl. (I can just imagine dropping that frozen thing and breaking some frozen toes – yikes!)

When I finally got over my initial disappointment, I decided I’d make ice cream for when our friend Jack came over that weekend. Jack doesn’t like chocolate, and that’s somewhat limiting in terms of ice cream flavors! All of us are very into tea, however, and I had recently received a shipment of tea from The Tea Table. I knew I had some Masala Chai that would be super yummy in ice cream.

I get my groceries delivered from Peapod, and I didn’t have time to look up recipes, so I guessed at what might be in ice cream. Turns out, it wasn’t what a lot of recipes recommended, but it definitely worked.

Finally, I came up with the genius idea of adding shortbread cookies to the ice cream… that way, it would be like having milky tea and cookies all in one, which I am a huge fan of after living in London. So here it is… Chai Ice Cream with Shortbread Cookies!


2 cups 2% milk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
6 “teabags” (I used loose leaf tea, so this is the equivalent of about 12-18 grams of masala chai)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a dozen shortbread cookies, cut into chunks (I used Keebler “Sandies”)


Freeze your ice cream bowl according to manufacturer’s instructions – mine has to go in about 15 hours in advance.

Heat milk, cream, and sugar together in a saucepan on the stove on low-medium heat until they reach about 170 degrees, stirring occasionally. If you don’t have a candy/tea thermometer (I sure don’t, but probably should with all the tea I drink!) Alton Brown tells me that I can just carefully watch the edges of the pan for bubbles. When it starts to bubble, turn off the heat. Dunk your teabags in for a good 5-6 minutes, depending on the brewing instructions on the tea. In other words, steep them for the longest time that your tea recommends.

Remove tea bags (try to squeeze them a bit so that the really concentrated tea brew will stay in the pot, not in the tea bags. Add the vanilla and stir.

Cool the mixture in the refrigerator completely. This may take quite a long time – plan on at least 4 hours.

Pass the mixture through a sieve to take off any skin that may have formed. Prepare the mixture according to your ice cream maker’s instructions, adding the cookies in the last few minutes.

Transfer to a shallow plastic airtight container. Freeze for at least 2 hours to achieve hard ice cream consistency.

Casey’s Chai Cake with Honey Ginger Glaze


I made Chai Cake the same weekend I made Beer Pie, which was a weekend that some of our close friends were coming to visit. Luka and Clara were coming down from Massachusetts, just for funzies, and Micah and Casey were coming out from Brooklyn, since Casey and I had some work to do to prepare a proposal for a workshop we’re submitting for an upcoming conference.

We had some hanging out in the kitchen time as I threw this together and we all made a big kitchen mess, and Luka drank chai. Casey ended up loving this cake so hard, though, so I’m calling it Casey’s Chai Cake, and the next time I make it, I’ll invite her over. <3

I've been meaning to experiment with tea in cake for a while, and I've had several reminders lately. There will probably be more, too, since we just ran out of tea, so I put in a new order of loose leaf from The Tea Table, including for some Lavender Butterfly Tea, which I can’t wait to play with. A really good cup of tea is one of my favorite things in the world. A recipe for Earl Grey Tea Cakes is soon to come…



1 and 1/3 cups of milk
6 chai tea bags, without added sweetner (I used a mix Twinings Chai and Twinings Pumpkin Chai, though I have some loose chai coming, too, for next time)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 and 3/4 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tablespoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 sticks butter


3 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
milk to desired consistency (I probably used 1/4 cup)
pinch of salt (to cut the sweetness a bit)


Preheat the oven to 325 Degrees F. Grease and lightly flour a 10 cup bundt pan.

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over low-medium heat. Remove from heat. Add the tea bags and allow to steep for 5-6 minutes. Remove the tea bags and cool the milk completely.

Meanwhile, cream the butter, white sugar, brown sugar, and honey until light and fluffy, in a stand mixer or a large bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry cake ingredients. Stir together the all purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom.

Add the milk and the dry mixture to the creamed mixture, mixing them together, alternating between milk and dry mixture until they are completely combined.

Pour into the prepared bundt pan. Bake on the bottom rack at 325 for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make the glaze. Mix the ginger, salt, and the confectioner’s sugar together. Add the honey and a tiny bit of milk, stirring until all the sugar is absorbed, adding more milk as needed.

Apply glaze while the cake is warm. The glaze will soak into the cake a bit and leave a shiny sweetness on the crunchy peaks.