I recently received a generous gift from someone who went to China. It actually came in a beautiful box that was hand carried back to the U.S. This wood case, with custom indents that fit the glass jars perfectly, survived an incredible journey of 6 countries and several modes of transportation only to be dropped by a bell boy in the last hotel. Ugh. Luckily, the tea arrived intact.
Technically it’s not really tea. It’s really a miracle golden flower that blooms in some hard to reach region of China for only a few weeks in the spring. According to the Oracle of Truth (Google) it has healing properties like curing cancer, hair loss, acne, depression, and anything else you might have. How do I know this? Because I spent several hours with Google translate, trying to draw chinese characters in that little box, with my mouse, to get one the right one recognized. You see, the information and instructions came in Chinese!
I managed to get this far: The title line says “Nations (or Chinese National) Golden (or Michael) Flower Tea.” Every time you add a character to the sentence, it can change the meaning of the previous character. Now for the directions. “Add boiling water to three or four flowers.” It took an hour to translate only a handful of words. Never mind, I know how to make tea…..
For an herbal tea, it is similar to a chamomile but not as sweet with an earthy finish that lingers a bit. It is really easy to make. I tried more but found if I put three flowers in a cup, add boiling water and steep for two minutes, it’s perfect. No caffeine means this is a really nice tea at the end of the day. So far, I don’t have cancer, or hair loss so it might be working. Then again, I didn’t have those problems before. The flowers stay in tact so I don’t even strain it. When the tea gets cold or sits too long, it gets a bit stronger, bringing out more dirt flavors. I’ll still drink it but it’s best not to wait long past that sweet spot of perfect tea (not to hot, but not too cold).
I am eternally grateful for this gift. Now if I only took advice from my favorite tea cup. Enjoy!
If anyone knows Chinese, feel free to translate any warning labels in the comments!
Packards Coffee is a tiny shop in Ramona, California. The building is an old 1930’s gas station turned coffee shop with outdoor seating. If you are ever in the neighborhood, you shouldn’t miss it. There are some some photos on the walls from famous people who’ve stopped there, as well as postcards from around the world. If you love a small town atmosphere, roadside kitch and coffee house coffee, then this is the place.
(Full disclosure: It’s right near my shop so I’m a regular.) I normally get an Organic Blue Sky coffee with a little almond milk. A smooth dark roast with a bit of an edge, it’s a perfect pick-me-up for those mornings I’m not feeling it. On a hot summer day, when I need something sweet, I order the Alaskan. It’s a special frozen mocha that will cure any sweet tooth.
Today, I was talking to the owner and she mentioned something new, so of course I had to have it. Simple, yet genius! Frozen Mocha meets Banana Smoothie in a dark alley and BAM! This drink has the best of both. Ask for the Frozen Banana Mocha. Real espresso, frozen blended banana smoothie and rich chocolate. Nothing here comes in powder form. All the ingredients are the real deal and the prices are way better than the chain stores.
They are also known for their flavored red bulls, the Ramonan (mocha, cinamon, nutmeg) as well as Italian Sodas and free wi-fi.
If you are lucky enough to be here on the weekends, they serve crepes, both savory and sweet. All fresh ingredients, made to order makes for a long line, but it’s worth the wait.
They don’t have a website but you can follow them on Facebook or Yelp.
Packards Coffee – 680 Main Street, Ramona, CA 92065
I’m not a tea snob, but I know what I like. Recently, I found Mountain Witch Tea company. They are based in Big Bear, California, which is one of the coolest places on earth! It’s a lake and ski resort area in the mountains of California about two hours from L.A. But this is about their tea.
This morning I brewed a cup of Black Cat Potions Money and Luck tea. All their teas are loose leaf and come in a simple bag. Most blends start with a base of black tea with a wide array of herbs, spices, fruit and flowers to give each tea an intoxicating bouquet. With names like Fairy Nectar and Hangover Helper, you can see why these make great gifts. They also have a nice selection of herbal teas without the black tea or caffeine like Sleeping Beauty and Skinny Minny. When you open the bag, the aroma envelops you. You can see and smell the complex combination of ingredients. In the pot, the leaves and flowers unfurl. That’s the sign of good tea. At first glance, I thought there may be too many ingredients but they really are blended well. Helpful hint: if you steep too long or use too much, you will really taste the earthiness of the back tea. It’s very strong. It’s well worth paying attention as the reward for watching the steep time is a very yummy tea. The owner suggested you can make it as sun tea or cold steeped to mellow the earthy flavor. I’ve tried some in both hot and cold forms. Most will make a good iced tea with a touch of stevia or honey. I also think the Belgian Dark Chocolate tea may be the cure for PMS. I have started to carry some of these in the shop.
(Just as I was finishing my cup, I made a really big sale at the shop. I think this works!)
I’ll say it right off the top. I don’t love my Keurig. There are a couple of other machines that work the same way. Basically, they all force water through a plastic cup of coffee grounds quickly. Unfortunately, everyone seems to have bought into this method. I get it. You need coffee fast and it’s easy to push a button as you drag your bleary eyed, just woke up self to the kitchen. So you will get coffee, quickly, but not really good coffee. Yet, I still use it for a quick cup in the morning (and for guests) but then I need to add flavored creamers (pseudonym for addictive chemical swill) or milk and sugar. At this point, it’s really just a caffeine delivery system.
Tea flavors are also enhanced by allowing them to steep in a cup for a few minutes. The water temperature is not hot enough to make proper loose leaf tea. You can buy K cups for several brands of tea but basically all you are doing with any other beverage is adding hot water to powdered processed chemicals. Besides the obvious impending natural disaster of spent K cup pile up in our landfills, I wonder how many people realize they are paying more than $50 per pound for not-that-great coffee? Check out this post from The Kitchn to see what I mean.
But we still use them so here are some hints to get better results from your Keurig:
Good coffee comes from allowing the water to absorb all the flavors. The best coffee ever will be freshly ground beans in a pour over or French press. If you must use a Keurig, you will get slightly better results from using a smoother more mellow coffee with a lighter roast. The strong dark roasts come out acidic and tart because the water is forced through too fast not allowing the more subtle flavors of coffee to be absorbed. Also, make sure, as with all coffee and tea preparation, that you use purified water. I’ve tried using better coffee in the filter that fits in the k cup but I think it was worse. If you use this method, use an extremely fine ground and make half a cup, then add hot water by taking out the pod and running it again. (Americano style)
You can get away with the Lipton bag stuff if you that’s what you drink. It’s also okay for making instant oatmeal or soup packages. Just don’t add a pod, but I don’t recommend it for much else. It’s basically a low temperature hot water heater. Set your expectations accordingly.