Tea, the three-letter word that conjures up a big refreshing, thirst-quenching taste, becomes even more popular during the summer when iced tea drinks are consumed big time.
During the spring months hot tea is sipped in china cups at tea parties - not high tea but friendly gatherings and at times disguised as wedding or baby showers.
There are four well-known types of tea: Black, green, oolong and white.
PERFECT SETTING — A beautiful tea server and matching cups, plus a sugar bowl with pink and white cubes of sugar and a creamer, make the perfect setting for a tea party. Brightway Center is holding a Mother-Daughter Tea Party Saturday at 1 p.m., and participants are asked to bring a china cup to enjoy their drink. The cost is $10 for mother and an additional $5 for the daughter. There will be skits, music and food along with that cup of tea.
-- Esther McCoy
Black tea is fermented tea leaves, making them the strongest, richest and most mellow type of tea to drink.
Green tea is not fermented and is milder than black or oolong.
Oolong tea is partially fermented and has a richer, mellower flavor than green tea but is not as strong and rich as black tea.
White tea is the least processed of all and produces a pale yellow beverage that is light in color and taste and fragrant.
Tea comes in four forms, according to the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. There is loose tea, tea bags in individual and pitcher size, instant tea powder, flavored teas and herbal teas.
Herbal teas, called tisances, contain no tea. They are herbal beverages made from flowers, herbs, spices, fruit, berries or other plants. Chamomile and lemon verbena are common herbal teas.
The English make quite a production out of making and serving hot tea that needs to be observed to bring out all the taste. The tea pot is warmed by filling it with boiling water and pouring it out when it cools down. If using loose tea, measure 3 to 6 teaspoons into a tea ball or infuser. Empty the tea pot and add the tea ball or three to six tea bags to the pot. Immediately add 4 cups boiling water to the teapot. Cover and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the tea ball or tea bags and discard. Serve at once.
The same hot tea is also used as a starter for iced tea, except the tea needs to be made stronger by using 4 to 8 teaspoons loose tea or the same amount in tea bags. Steep 3 to 5 minutes and cool to room temperature. Pour into a crystal pitcher and add ice cubes until it is quite chilled. It is fine to use herbal, green and black teas for brewing ice tea. Just be sure to keep the tea in the refrigerator because refrigeration inhibits the growth of bacteria.
Here is a beverage that is minty and has a lemon flavor that is refreshing. It is from the Family Cookbook.
Summertime Iced Tea
2 large tea bags
6 fresh mint leaves
4 cups boiling water
6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate
5 cups water
Fresh mint for garnish
Steep teabags and mint leaves for 5 minutes in boiling water. Discard teabags and mint. Add frozen lemonade concentrate, sugar and remaining water, mixing well. Serve over ice and garnish with fresh mint.
Note: Make flavored ice cubes by filling the ice cube tray with lemonade, orange juice or other fruit juices instead of water, then freeze.
Chai tea has become quite popular with its creamy and spicy taste.
1/2 cup water
1 bag black, orange pekoe, English or Darjeeling tea
3-inch piece stick cinnamon
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamon.
In a small saucepan, combine water, tea bag and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Discard tea bag and cinnamon stick. Stir milk, sugar, vanilla, ginger and cinnamon together and then pour into the tea and stir well. Cook and stir over medium heat just until mixture is heated through. Do not boil. Serve in warm mugs. Makes two cups.
Note: For chocolate chai, prepare as above, except stir in 1 tablespoon Dutch process cocoa powder with the milk and spices. Heat through. Serve topped with whipped cream. If desired, sprinkle with ground nutmeg.
Here is a Russian Tea recipe big enough for a party. The cook presenting this recipe said that her grandmother made it during the Christmas season, and the family would be seated around the kitchen table drinking the tea and eating holiday cookies.
16 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 large can pineapple juice
1 frozen can orange juice concentrate
Juice of three lemons
Boil 8 cups water, sugar and cloves for 5 minutes. Boil remaining 8 cups water with tea bags for 3 minutes. Remove cloves and teabags, combining the two liquids. Add juices and refrigerate until well chilled. Add ice cubes when ready to serve in a punch bowl.
This is a powdered mix for an instant Russian tea. It can be put in a cut-glass jar, tied with a ribbon and given as a small Christmas gift.
Instant Russian Tea
1/2 cup instant tea with lemon
2 cups instant orange drink mix
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Sift all ingredients together thoroughly and store in airtight containers.
In addition to being a warm or cooling drink, tea can be used as an ingredient in cookies. Here is a recipe from Woman's Day magazine.
Earl Grey Tea Cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons finely chopped Earl Grey tea leaves, 8 Twinings tea bags
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup, 2 sticks, unsalted butter, at room temperature
3.4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, tea leaves, baking powder and salt. In a food processor, process the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and orange zest and pulse to combine. Add the flour mixture and pulse to combine. Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface and use hand to roll into two logs that are about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic wrap, tightly twisting the ends, and chill for at least 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice the cookies 1/8-inch thick and place on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking time, until the cookies are lightly golden brown around the edges, 14 to 16 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Can be sprinkled with powdered sugar when cool. Or sprinkle with coarse sugar or colored sugars before baking. Makes 4 dozen at 71 calories per cookie.
Here is another cookie that would go well with a tea beverage. It is from the Family Cookbook and makes about 70 small cookies.
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
Juice and rind of two oranges, or equal to 1 cup
1 cup buttermilk
Combine flour and baking soda and set aside. Mix together shortening, sugar and eggs and mix well. Stir in orange rind and juice. Add flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Drop by small teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack and frost with the orange frosting recipe that follows.
1 stick butter
Juice and rind of 1 orange
1 box powdered sugar
Cream ingredients together until smooth. If mixture is too stiff, add a little more orange juice. Frost cookies after they are completely cooled.
Scottish shortbread is a frequently served cookie at English teas. They are rich and fairly melt in your mouth. This recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling together. Stir in the chopped pecans. Drizzle with the vanilla before kneading until smooth and forms into a ball. To make shortbread strips that are uniform in size, mark a long side of the rectangle at 1-inch intervals and short side at 2-inch intervals. Cut across the rectangle using a sharp knife. Or it can be rolled out and cut with small cutters. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet.
(McCoy can be contacted at email@example.com.)