Steaming hot, fragrant and soothing cup of tea is my idea of comfort. During my childhood, my mother made us fresh mint tea whenever we were sick - with tender and delicate fresh mint she grew in her garden. If we were lucky (or well behaved...), she'd add one of her yeasty rosettes or a slice of chocolate babka. Yes, I know... I was a very lucky kid!
So, obviously, tea is my go to drink when the weather turns, especially in my adopted home of the Minnesota winters. My pantry is stocked with any tea you might have a hankering for: fruity or herbal, fully caffeinated black, or green and light, even some that I picked up on my travels through Israel, France and Amsterdam. To my surprise, I found a local purveyor right here in my own backyard - Mrs. Kelly's Teas! Add that to my list of my local culinary addiction!
Located in the re-surging northeast Minneapolis neighborhood, this shop offers a rich variety of black, green and blended teas, regular and decaffeinated. In preparation for the holidays, this past weekend they opened their doors for a festival of tastings and samples. My friend, Diane and I spend two hours sniffing, sipping, sighing and making tough decisions. The staff was helpful and friendly, even if not always knowledgeable (though they could direct you to someone with answers). We sat down to taste our samples with friendly strangers, who shared their choices, which were completely different than ours! Fun!
Armed with paper sample cups, fillable tea bags, a comprehensive list and a pencil we set out to explore. We placed a spoonful of the loose tea that appealed to us in the provided tea bag, placed it in our cup and wrote its name on the cup. Once we assembled enough samples, we headed to the hot water pots, filled our cups and set them to steep.
Some of the teas we liked were fruity and sweet (Red currant, Apricot) others were herbal and soothing (Sweet Lemint, Bliss Tisane and Yerba Mate) and some even woodsy and piney (The Pause). The Russian Smokey tea got our culinary creativity going - It is dark and smokey, with earthy tones that would really complement a hearty brisket, an Asian noodle soup, a miso cod and more... So we decided to share a bag and the experimentations that are sure to follow!
I can envision creating little DIY holiday gifts: some loose tea leaves, a pretty mug, a few of my cookies... My kind of comforting "Thinking of you" gift. As far as that smokey tea - I'll let you know how that comes along... Maybe it will inspire me to use some of the other teas in yet untried recipes? Perhaps the mad scientist will make another appearance...