Friends, I am really being forced to practice what I have been preaching. My blissful two weeks of vacation ended Wednesday and I was welcomed back into life with a full inbox, and a very long to-do list. Rather than responding the way which comes most natural to me (giving into anxiety and frantically trying to do everything at once), I want to force myself to slow down. I want to move slowly so that I can enjoy this process of reentry into life. I want to rest in the knowledge that it will all get done - perhaps not smoothly, but eventually. These are the same things I have encouraged you all to do.
So, I am returning to our First Meal series in order to force myself to begin well and begin slowly. Weekends are not for rushing.
We are three weeks into this series and I wanted to take a momentary detour from recipes in order to share one of my favorite parts of breakfast - tea. The sound of a whistling kettle, followed by the gentle noise of boiling water being poured into a well-loved cup is my daybreak symphony. Though coffee makes its way into many of my mornings, as the weather begins to cool, I set aside my french press for a teapot.
Though I gravitate towards fruitier blends in the Spring and Summer months, in the Fall and Winter I am strictly interested in warmer blends and practically anything with vanilla.
If I am drinking tea by itself I generally turn to my favorite, which I know I have shared before, Honeybush Vanilla. It is an excellent afternoon or evening tea, but it is especially nice at breakfast. Light, richly flavored, and a perfect pairing for one of my favorite breakfast treats - scones.
Another wonderful choice on the sweeter side is this Vanilla Comoro. It is redolent of caramel and french vanilla. If you are transitioning from coffee to tea, I think this would be an excellent tea to begin with. It is richer than most teas and has a lot of warmer notes that make it feel more familiar, if you are accustomed to coffee.
Earl Grey will never be out of style and I love a strong bergamot with toast or biscuits. If you are leaning towards the savory side of breakfast this Paris Tea is a lovely choice. It has all the familiar notes of Earl Grey, but it has been updated with some slightly fruity notes. The bergamot is strong and the tea itself has very little sweetness making it the perfect pairing for a rich, savory breakfast.
If you enjoy bergamot but prefer a more mild tea, this Downton Estate Blend is for you. This blend is by far, one of my favorite teas - and no, not just because it is Downton. It is perfectly balanced with notes of vanilla and bergamot, making it an excellent pairing for either sweet or savory breakfast choices.
Though I would probably characterize myself as a bit of a fanatic when it comes to tea, I am by no means an expert. However, through my personal experience I have learned a couple of things about the steeping game.
1. Cute mugs are nonnegotiable. Do not taint the tea-drinking experience by sipping your lovely brew out of some random mug your husband brought home from a conference. No, no, no. Ascetics are an important part of The 1st Meal experience.
2. Do not, seriously, do not, over-steep your tea. I generally steep my herbal teas for 5-6 minutes and stronger, black teas for 3-4 minutes. It depends on the strength of the tea. For example, I brew the Paris Tea for about 4 minutes, but when I brew the Downton Estate Blend I opt for 5-6. It may take a bit of testing to figure out what you like, but the instructions on the tin will generally give you a good estimate of when the tea will be at its best. Steeping can make or break the brew, so be sure to have a timer close at hand when you begin the brewing process.
3. We cannot talk about tea without discussing temperature. If you purchase tea, especially loose tea, you will often see a suggested temperature on the package. Personally, I always bring my water to a boil and pour it over the tea. I don’t take the temperature and I think (hope) that is okay. Though I would consider myself to be a tea snob in some ways, to be perfectly honest, tea drinkers went a very long time without testing the temperature of their water. In the end, I still think I make a pretty fine cup of tea.
4. Sugar, Honey, Lemon, or Cream? Okay, let’s talk about finishings for our tea. I am habitually a cream and sugar kind of lady but there are times where I switch things up a bit. For most teas I go with a 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons of fine sugar and a splash of half and half (I think heavy cream is too thick for tea). However, if I am drinking a very herbal tea, especially a citrusy one, I opt for honey. Honey also pairs well with peppermint teas, in my opinion. I never add lemon to my tea (unless we are talking iced tea and then I’ll totally take lemon). However, I have found that adding a slice of orange to a spicy tea is excellent. A dear friend of mine served me tea like this once and I was hooked. There is just something about orange and cinnamon.
6. Lastly, purchase a tea kettle. I know you have a microwave, but it really isn't the best method. It is challenging to keep the water temperature consistent in the microwave and it is also difficult when you are making several cups of tea at once. Though there are a wide range of kettles on the market, ranging in price from $20 to several hundred dollars. If you have an electric tea kettle that will do the trick, but if you would like a stove top model, just go for something simple. I kind of prefer the more simplistic models because that always means there are fewer things that can break. I like a fairly heavy model, for insulation, and a nice whistle that will sing to you as soon as your water is boiling. Other than that it is all a matter of preference. I am currently eyeing this model strictly for its ascetic appeal. Ah, I love copper.
Begin well this weekend. Happy brewing!