Re-Post

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Drinking...it's not just for happy hour anymore!



DRINKING....
it's not just for happy hour anymore
Ok, so I got you reeled in with the drinking title..... but this is actually not about drinking alcohol (well not mainly anyways).  My first blog post about 'drinking' is actually about tea - note I said first, clearly this won't be my last post about drinking either.  (My first 'drink' topic being about tea instead of wine may come as quite a surprise to my friends actually).  We all gotta grow up sometime....
I have never been a big fan of tea until about a year ago when I tried an Arnold Palmer in a restaurant and I was enchanted.  Half lemonade and half iced tea - this delightful concoction purportedly created by the famous golfer (no doubt after a hard day on the greens) is now readily found on menus.  They are normally made virgin, but don't let me stop you from adding a bit of rum or vodka to make it a 'happy arnold' or a 'dirty palmer' or something feisty like that. 

I began my hunt for a great bottled version and finally ended up with Arizona's Half and Half ZERO. This one claimed to have zero caffeine, zero calories, zero sugar, zero blah, blah blah and wait, what - -- Aspartame!!!  Oh no!!!  Took me a year of becoming addicted to this stuff to realize that just because I never drank soda or coffee anymore nor used that pretty little yellow or pink sugar substitutes that I was dooming myself anyways.
This ultimately led me to make a homemade version and back again to the Arizona tea to finally just finding some amazing regular tea and skipping the sugary lemonade part altogether.  Now, if tea doesn't interest you dear reader, then you probably already stopped reading this.... but if not, consider there are many types and kinds of tea and certainly one or two out there you may just fall in love with.  I found some unique and delicious options that I will share with you today- which barely scratches the surface of the Oolongs and Rooibos and gourmet distinct leaves that so many are far more expert on than myself.  I found some pretty neat stuff for you Drinkers (a-hem with a capital D) out there too (you know who you are).   One of my fellow bloggers has some great homemade recipes here. to start things off with:


Ironically during my personal search for an Arizona replacement tea some of my wonderful foodie friends gave me a delightful birthday present last month- which threw me into the depths of tea heaven which abruptly then came to a halt when I realized this new fixation had quite the price tag attached.  But let me tell you the positives first and why my search had not yet ended....

I have walked by the Teavana's in the malls for years thinking- wow a store JUST about tea?  Is it really that big of a seller?  Apparently so..... Starbucks, Barnie's, Gloria Jean's and all those wonderful smelling coffee shops don't excite me anymore.... I stopped drinking coffee years ago -in part because of the jitters and in part because it is so hard to find any decaf in Miami where I used to live- a city known for Cortaditos and sweet Cuban Coffees.  So, my friends Melissa and Gerardo got me a personal tea diffuser set and samples of some of the amazing teas from Teavana.  I absolutely fell in love with it- especially the Blueberry & Pineapple herbal tea combo.  Here is the tea diffuser....



Use any tea leaves and place them into the filter, screw on lid, add hot water, screw on top, wait and pour.




This diffuser has a lid that locks into place with or without the diffuser inside and is great for keeping your tea hot (holds 3 cups worth) or you can choose to turn your tea into a nice pitcher of sweet tea for the fridge too.  I was so in love with the Blueberry & Pineapple tea that I rushed over to the mall to buy some more.  

"A pound of the stuff," I dreamily said..... and the girl behind the counter said, "Have you ever been here before and ordered tea from us?"  I blinked....confused.... huh?  I looked down at the container she had pulled out  and my head started to spin..... $10 for 2 oz.  WHAT?  Wait.... ummm...
"Okay.... how about 4 ounces?" I said softly -quite embarrassed.  But of course that is only 4 oz of the Blueberry Tea plus 4 ounces of the Pineapple Tea to make the blend.... and now that I have spent $40 and I am only 4 oz away from a lb and once you buy a lb you get 10% off, and once you buy an air tight tin you get......... JEESH!  I was pretty sheepish walking out of that store towards my husband with $60 worth of tea in my hands.  My husband was very kind about it all things considered... plus I think he knew it would be the last time I went in there again.   (Considering I am not one to buy designer handbags nor get my nails done every other week.) I am, however, a bargain shopper and this would not do at all.  The search really 'heated' up now......
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I found several great replacements at fantastic prices with and without caffeine and sugar or truvia that I could control way better with the nutrition info posted clearly on the boxes (unlike teavana's website which was quite difficult to understand caffeine content, etc). 


Bigelow makes a lovely "Arnold Palmer" type of tea that starts off hot and then blends into cold and sells at Whole Foods & Fresh Market among other places.  I am sipping on some as I type this in fact.  A box comes with 6 bags each which make 4 cups... so a couple of good sized pitchers per box for just $3-4.  Take that corporate Teavana!  ;) This tea is naturally sweetened with a truvia substitute which really isn't very sweet at all but you can control that by adding your own sweetener while it is still hot.  What I also love about this is for every 1 C of hot water you steep it in you later add 3 C of cold water so basically you are making your own concentrate and don't need any fancy diffusers... just a microwaveable measuring cup and a pitcher. 

Bigelow also makes a Pomegranate Pizzazz which has no sugar nor sugar substitutes nor caffeine.  This makes a great cup of hot tea and of course you can make your own iced tea out of it too.  I had this for the first time at the August Seven Inn in Daytona Beach, Fl (which is an awesome place by the way) and instantly knew I had to go buy some more! 




I am really into savory things instead of sweet and tea is little exception so I explored even more options with this.  Below you will see Tazo's Cucumber White which was disappointing but I will try it as an iced tea next time instead of hot - perhaps it will be more refreshing.  Numi makes a new line of savory teas including Tomato Mint..... I could not wait to try it after learning about it from another new favorite thing I joined called "Love with Food" 



So to digress a moment, a love with food box comes to your mailbox once per month for $10 per month plus $2 shipping.  It includes sample sizes of unique foods usually from small family run businesses across the country for you to try.  Your first month of love with food  is usually free and you can cancel anytime, check on their facebook page to see what the current free first month code is.  I will see if I can get the most current one or even a free giveaway and repost it here.  
The Tomato Tea from Numi is a bit wimpy for lack of a better word.  I have tried two cups and I think I need to use way less water than the 12 oz. it calls for.  The mint leaves a bit of an odd aftertaste.  I doubt I will buy this again... in fact it is extremely difficult to find.  Although Numi is sold most everywhere these savory lines are not and I actually ordered mine from drugstore.com.  You can buy it from the Numi site  for the same price but pay for shipping on those.  The other savory ones they have are a bit unique to say the least: Garden, Spinach Chive, Beet Cabbage, and Broccoli Cilantro. I am pretty sure these won't make it to your local publix anytime soon- just sayin'.

To digress one more time.... what I was hoping for was something similar to Tomato Water which is the most light and delightful cup of sweet natural goodness that is a new favorite of mine and with way less sodium than tomato juice- it is a thing of beauty.  You can read more about it and the recipe for it an earlier blog post of mine about outdoor dinner parties and a farm to fork experience here.   The recipe is from A.J. Laterri who is a local caterer and event planner - check out her place Loft 5 here.  And hey, if you want to jazz your tomato water up with a shot of vodka or gin and a bit of pepper, I promise I won't tell anyone.

For those into losing weight with tea there is always this one floating around pinterest that admittedly I bought the ingredients for but have not yet tried..... losing water weight isn't quite the end-game plan for me.   Here is the receipe for Jillian Michael's detox tea.


And since I already threw in a few alcohol references into my tea related blog post, I came upon  a really neat treat and great gift idea (which one of my friends will soon receive no doubt!). 

Tea forte makes a tea bag for cocktail infusions.  When I spied this in a cute little gift shop I simply HAD to buy some for myself to try and the gift set for a friend.  Innovative, tea infused cocktails simple to make and always chilled.  Think: lavender citrus with vodka, or lemongrass mint with gin and you get the idea.  They have cute little pyramid shapes that work nicely in a rocks glass or even a shot glass and you can add other ingredients to smooth out your ride. 

 Here is the gift set I bought and a couple boxes of their teas to try for myself. 

All you have to do is place an infuser into a glass (or with the gift set you get 2 Infusion Chambers), pour alcohol over the infuser and watch the color swirl as the delicious flavors are released. Add the rest of the cocktail ingredients (or not) and enjoy. No hot water is needed!  I enjoyed the one I tried so far, I just keep forgetting that I have it- time for a girl's night in party I think! 
Photo from teaforte.com

So, if this wasn't your "cup of tea" then check out my perspective on the world of 'mad' tea parties and 'happy' hour tea parties......

Tea gardens (not to be confused with beer gardens) and tea houses are great little place to check out.  Most cities have some and they offer delightful teas to try along with scones, mini-tea sandwiches and petite-fours.  I have one around the corner which is lovely and I have enjoyed it several times with my sweet nieces.  You can find their website here for the Empress Tea Room located in Carroll wood on the north side of Tampa, Fl

Finally, here are a couple of recipes I have for some lovely tea sandwiches to serve next time you want to celebrate with some special friends or little ones - just a little creativity can turn a kids imaginary tea party into a really sweet afternoon.   Another option is to use these recipes for your next tea infusion cocktail party and stir things up a bit.

Watermelon cubes, feta cheese and a mint sprig- super easy, super yummy!


Open-Faced Egg Salad with Dill and Chives Finger Sandwiches

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries with Citrus Sugar

Strawberry Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches with a Heart Cut out



So, all that said, how do you like your tea taken?