English Tea fans rejoice! I was privileged to be the first customer at a new bakery in Old Town Ramona.
The London Bakery 632 Main Street, Ramona CA.
I stopped in this morning for one of the best scones I’ve ever eaten…or savored really. Out of the large selection, I chose blueberry. It was light and fresh with the perfect amount of real blueberries. Not overpowering like some, and not dry like most scones in America. Everything is made from scratch by an authentic English baker – and it shows. I’m looking forward to trying more. The tea was Ty Phoo and delicious. It took a hint of milk and sugar perfectly. I’m not sure if it was the tea or the British maker but I will be searching out this one for home use. Love, love, love this place.
The London Bakery
The London Bakery
Well, I can cross one more off the “need to go to in my lifetime.” There it was, Macy’s in flagstaff. It is exactly what you expect. This place puts the hip in hippie. The iconic long haired barista, on-site roasted beans and fresh tea blends lined up in a row of jars makes it warm and friendly.
The amazing super large photographs on the walls make it cool and eclectic. That’s hard to pull off both. A flagstaff institution since 1980, they have fresh baked everything from bagels to sandwiches to pizza. My cappuccino was the perfect blend of not too bitter espresso exquisitely blended with frothy milk to almost overflowing. Perfectly balanced, but they make it look easy. My companion’s hot chocolate was lovely. Smooth and sweet. They have everything you want in a place like this and maintain the authentic vibe. They have clearly been doing this a long time but still love what they do. Time to just sit and enjoy. Free wifi too.
You might think I would be more of a tea snob, but some packaged teas are really good. This one has three important features:
1. Consistent quality
2. Convenient tea bag
3. It makes me happy.
The flavor is exactly what it says: Sweet and Spicy, but it’s not too much of either. This tea pairs well with a girl scout trefoil cookie or a fresh sugar cookie. I love that it is caffeine free and needs no added sugar but is not overly sweet. As an herbal tea, it has a rooibos base with a hint of citrus and a nice bite. If you find it too strong, add hot water. If you find it too weak, use two bags and steep longer.
Sometimes it’s the little things. The tags always have a cute or interesting quote. Mine says “Every now and then, bite off more than you can chew.” That’s a nice message to start your day.
Where I live, this tea is easily found in the local grocery store. I’m including the Amazon link here because there is an organic version that has some bad reviews. Normally I would choose organic first, but the reviews say that the organic one has no flavor. Click on the picture below for the right version. *
*yes, I get affiliate credit
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!
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.
There is a little shop, tucked into a high rise building on the edge of the Gaslamp District in San Diego. It does not have much of a footprint, but the disproportionate height of the ceiling makes it feel a bit bigger. The walls are covered in paintings and works by ever changing artists varying in both style and quality. Art is art, right? On my most recent trip I strayed from my usual chai latte and had the peach iced tea. This is NOT something that comes out of a package or box. It was amazing. The real peach juice added a smooth flavor to the tang of the black tea, making it the perfect blend it was meant to be. Very refreshing on an unusually hot summer day. In a town that is becoming more commercial by the minute, I hope you make it to this European style coffee house. (The drink in the picture is iced coffee from a previous visit. The book is one I was reviewing for the shop. I didn’t like it.)
Coffee and Art 777 6th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101 (corner of 6th & F)