Tea

Rambling about tea! I made this blend, which lives in tea jail because it’s got such an intense smell.

I also wanted to take a minute to plug my own blends, because they’ve become a delicious staple in our lives, and they’re a really fun way to try to explore characterization when they’re made for a fandom. Astrid Farnsworth, for example, I wanted to be light, sweet, and complicated, and I’m pretty sure I hit the mark: we’ve been drinking a lot of it.

Ginger White Pear Tea Jelly

I made jelly for the first time!

Good tea is important.

Good tea is important.

So, it was simpler than expected? Like, my stove needs a good scrubbing because I used too small a pot and it boiled over, but oh my God does it taste good. I did some research before I made it, but the recipe I most closely followed (in that it was the only one that explicitly mentioned tea) had you steeping your tea for half an hour, and . . . no. Very no. So much no. Tea steeped for half an hour at temperature tastes like tannins and scalded misery. The aim here is jelly that tastes delicious, not like tannins and scalded misery.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 cup white pear tea
  • half a thing of ginger, grated
  • 2 packets powdered gelatin
  • lots of sugar. Like, lots. Probably four cups? Just keep adding sugar.

The tea sock was also an important part of this! You want nice clear jelly, not stuff with bits in. So I shredded the ginger and stuck it in the tea sock in about three cups of water and then put it on the stove on medium for like 20 minutes or half an hour. It gets nice and gingery and kind of a weird color.

Then turn the heat up – to 180°F if you’ve got fancy things like any kind of food thermometer, until it’s steaming aggressively but not actually simmering if you don’t. When the water hits temperature, add the tea. Steep it for as long as the instructions say to – this particular white tea says 3-5 minutes, so I steeped it for 5 minutes and then took the tea sock out completely. The key to strong tea is quantity, not time.

I set the tea sock in the sink so it wouldn’t drip, and then added the sugar to the pot. Like, just keep pouring in sugar. I think the ratio you want is twice as much sugar as water? But whatever. At least as much sugar as water. Keep the heat relatively high and stir until it’s smooth, then add the gelatin. If you let it sit on top, it spreads out and dissolves some on its own, so you don’t need to stir it right away. Take like half a minute to empty the tea sock into the garbage and then rinse it – you’re going to want it later.

Stir the jelly! Stir it aggressively until all the lumps are gone. Then turn the heat up – you want it to come to a boil. Keep stirring or it’ll boil over. Mine never did boil properly, but it did get pretty high temperature and then end up all over my stove, so I’m thinking close enough.

Stick the tea sock in the jar you’re using! Stick it pretty far down so the liquid that hits the sides of the tea sock will end up on the inside, not the outside. This part here is why pots with little pouring things on the sides are the absolute best pots, because now you pour your very hot jelly that burns like napalm on your skin into the jar.

The tea sock is to filter it one last time so there are no bits – ideally you won’t really be catching anything in it, but it’s good to have just in case. Yield probably about two jars? I filled one jar recycled from having apple butter in it and two Pyrex containers. If you’re not using jars, still use something heat-proof: melted plastic is not delicious.

It was still pretty liquid a couple hours later, but was deliciously jelly-like in the morning. Tastes amazing on cream cheese – and probably better as a morning treat, considering the caffeine.

I’m incredibly happy I tried this out, and will definitely do it again.

Mango Tea Jello

So a few weeks ago I made Thai Ice Tea jello, and today I wanted to try again, but switch it up a bit. So I made a mango herbal tea, and got some frozen mango chunks that are currently macerating in the fridge, and later we’re gonna have that with French Silk ice cream.

Ingredients for jello:

  • mango tea
  • sugar
  • unflavored gelatin
TEA SOCK

TEA SOCK

Okay, and the most important thing I got for this: a tea sock.

Like, seriously, best idea ever.

I’d been reading some stuff about how to make good Thai iced tea, and it kept coming up. It seemed silly to get even more tea paraphernalia, since we have so much of it already, but I already needed to get some stuff from Amazon, so . . .

Isn’t it great?

Seriously, so great. No tea bits in the jello.

Okay, so, basically, use about twice as much tea as you would if you were going to drink it, bring about four cups of water to a boil, turn the heat down to minimum, stick the tea sock in.

IMG_0247Steep it for the recommended time, then take out the tea sock: it’ll drip a fair bit, and you should squeeze it out as much as possible, but it’ll be really hot and I haven’t figured out how to make that not-painful, so whatever, don’t hurt yourself.

Stick the tea sock in the sink or something, because it’s gonna drip a bit, and add sugar to the tea.

Leave it over low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, then turn off the heat and dump in two packets of gelatin. Let that sit a minute, then stir it until it’s all dissolved. Whisk if necessary.

Let it cool, then stick it in the fridge.

We’re gonna have it with macerated mango.

Ingredients for macerated mango:

  • mango
  • sugar

Put the mango in a bowl, sprinkle it with sugar. As the mango thaws, it’ll have juices for the whole thing to macerate in. It should be delicious in a couple hours.

IMG_0241 IMG_0242

Thai Iced Tea Jello

So one of my friends was talking about making Thai iced coffee jello, but T and I are much bigger tea-drinkers, so I ordered some unflavored gelatin and Thai Chai (if you ever want a $5 coupon for that site, let me know, as it gets me points when other people use the ones I send them) and we acquired sweetened condensed milk because all we had in the house was evaporated milk. They are not substitutes for each other! You could maybe use evaporated milk for this if you used more sugar? I might actually try that next time to get rid of this can. But as it is, here are the ingredients:

  • 4-ish cups water
  • 14 heaping teaspoons Thai Chai
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • can of condensed milk
  • 4 packets unflavored gelatin
IMG_0218

The can of evaporated milk is not relevant to the proceedings except to hold the spatula.

And, since I went all out and actually used multiple tools, a list of what I used and why:

  • not pictured: medium pot for boiling water/tea/tea syrup (not pictured)
  • wooden spoon for stirring
  • borosilicate glass pitcher – I put the sugar in the bottom so that the strained tea would hit it and I wouldn’t have to spend as much time stirring. The borosilicate part is important because it’s designed to withstand sudden temperature changes and won’t explode in your face.
  • tea infuser! not relevant if you’re using teabags or a tea sock.
  • 6-cup?? pyrex casserole dish, for holding your jello.
  • spatula for mixing stuff
  • not pictured: whisk for breaking up the clumps of gelatin that are a result of not adhering to the package directions.
There is tea all over my goddamn counter.

There is tea all over my goddamn counter.

An important note: use a goddamn pot with one of those indentations for pouring things. Wow, did I not think this through properly.

Directions:

Heat four cups of water to boiling, then dump in all the tea and reduce the burner to low heat – you want to keep the water hot but not scald the leaves too much. If you’ve got a tea sock, the whole thing’s gonna be way more contained, but this uses enough tea that you want to give it room to spread out.

It's supposed to look like that.

It’s supposed to look like that.

To spread out, and start looking like a particularly marshy health hazard. Follow your tea directions – I steeped it for four minutes. Then I had the pouring adventures you see above, because I was pouring fairly slowly to let the tea strain through the infuser rather than bubbling over. I ended up with a bunch of tea leaves that didn’t want to come out, but I still needed the pot, so I dumped those in the garbage and rinsed the pot in hot water real quick.

The tea leaves in the infuser were still holding a lot of water, too, so I used the wooden spoon to force some of the moisture out and thought longingly of tea socks. Like, this whole thing is super possible using just the tools and tea you have, but wow specialized tools are sometimes really convenient.

When I’d given up on getting more moisture out, I set the infuser aside, gave the tea a quick stir, and poured it back in the pot: the sugar wasn’t dissolved yet. I turned the heat up to medium and stirred until the sugar was dissolved.

As you can see from the pics, I’d already put the gelatin and sweetened condensed milk in the dish before the water had even boiled, but I recommend waiting until after the tea is ready: they’re apparently really not joking when they say only let the gelatin powder soften for a minute. I salvaged it with some enthusiastic whisking, but don’t do that if you don’t have to. Add the tea and the sweetened condensed milk to the softened gelatin powder, stir well, and refrigerate for – I just left it in there the whole afternoon and evening, but four hours would probably do the trick.

It still ends up looking, well, weird and brown. And might be more appetizing if you used a square container and then just cut it up into cubes. It tastes intense, but also kind of like rainbows of happiness are exploding in your mouth. Whipped topping or vanilla ice cream make for a good texture/intensity contrast, but even without it this is probably going to be one of your new favorite desserts.

It's supposed to look like that. Stop looking at it and put it in your face.

It’s supposed to look like that. Stop looking at it and put it in your face.

Tea (part 1/∞)

I’m not super feeling cooking today – it’s 2pm and so far I’ve had toast with nutella, and lunch/dinner/snacks will probably be leftovers, fast food, or something T makes (let’s be real, here, though: there’s only like a 1% chance T will ever cook anything) – so let’s talk tea.

There’s lots of it! So many different kinds, good hot or cold, winter or summer. My stepmom swears they all taste like weasel piss, but I’m firmly of the opinion that there is a tea for everyone.

First, basic principles:

Steeping time

Black, white, and green tea all contain tannins, which are an antioxidant and also what makes tea slightly astringent. If you steep tea too long, it gets more astringent, and then bitter. It’s kinda gross! So for black tea, steep for three to five minutes. I generally just steep for three, because I like a sweeter cup. Green tea should steep for 2 to 3, because it’s a little more delicate. White tea you generally steep 4 to 5 minutes. Other teas – puer, herbal, mate, rooibos and honeybush – are generally more forgiving, and you can aim for approximately five minutes but not bother setting a timer.

Temperature

Not all teas need to be steeped in boiling water! Herbal, black, puer, rooibos and honeybush can all be steeped in boiling (212°F) water, but green tea wants to be about 180°F, white tea is better at 170°F, and mate is better at 160°F. Green tea and white tea both have their leaves scalded at boiling, and you can taste it. It’s pretty gross.

Quantity

So a lot of the time it seems to make sense to use one teabag per mug of tea. Straightforward, right? Except teabags are generally designed for an 8-ounce cup, and some of us have 16 ounce travel mugs. To get tea that doesn’t taste like water, the thing isn’t to steep it longer – you just get bitterness. Just add more tea. Like, if you’re not making tea in a quantity divisible by 8 ounces, loose-leaf is better, but sometimes one doesn’t have time or space or tools for that. I say always err on the side of more tea. Because tea.

Earl Grey Is Not A Good Life Choice

Okay, so most of us already know that Anastasia Steele makes terrible life choices and feel bad for her signing up for a relationship with an abuser. But she also likes hilariously weak Earl Grey tea (yes, I have read all 50 Shades books. Yes, this is very far down the list of things wrong with them. Still.). Dunking a teabag briefly and then taking it out is . . . why would you do that? No. Don’t do that. Let your tea steep – covered if you can so that it doesn’t cool too much.

But she also goes for Earl Grey. Which is actually kind of divisive, since it contains bergamot. Bergamot is an orange oil that some people say adds flavor and others (me) say tastes like earwax and sadness. Apparently some people like it enough that double bergamot Earl Grey is a thing that exists, but wow, really, don’t feel obligated to like it.