Tea and Sweets
By Christine Rillo
Though I've gotten used to having my tea sans sugar, honey, or cream, I cannot help but look for a little something sweet to nibble on when it comes to my midday cup. It's the little pick-me-up I need to get through the rest of my day. I am also guilty of seeking sweets with my evening cup of herbal tea; a crumbly cookie makes such a perfect companion to my Rooibos Vanilla tea.
While at the World Tea Expo and Fancy Foods Show this past summer, I took the opportunity to hunt down goodies that we most associate with a cup of tea; scones, crumpets, biscuits, cookies, etc. However, I found a nice little trio of items that really stood out among the bevy of samples I took home or tasted, because of their convenience as well as the main ingredient being tea.
Shortbread has always been, well at least in my memory, paired with tea, poured into dainty cups with that you drank out of with your pinky raised. A recent present given to me by a close friend was a box of Walkers' Shortbread, brought from England. It had delicious pieces of candied ginger, which made it a little bit more special than picking up a box from the supermarket.
I hope to find the following on supermarket shelves soon; BISCOTTEA brand shortbread. They are like Walker's Shortbread, hip, young American cousin, as they go great with a cup of Earl Grey sipped from bone china, as well a steaming mug of Chai or an funky herbal infusion from a paper cup. BISCOTTEA is made from all-natural ingredients and organic ingredients, and come in five different flavors: Blueberry Tea, Chai Tea, Earl Grey, Honey bush, and Mint Tea. The tea flavor is very subtle in taste, but you can definitely smell it as you open the package. The tea really lends to the cookie's rich and buttery flavor and its crumbly, crunchy texture. The package of two (also available 10 count packages) makes it an easy snack on the go for that spontaneous cup of tea.
I first became acquainted with the next item at the New York Coffee and Tea Festival that was held back in April, and was pretty thrilled to see that they had gotten a booth at the World Tea Expo. Amai Tea and Bake House is a company based in New York that focuses on using tea (Tea Sweets) and other exotic ingredients (they also make these delicious Botanical Brownies, which lists lychee and cherry blossom among its ingredients) in their handmade sweets. A relatively young sweets company, started by Kelli Bernard (of the dessert blog lovescool.com) I have a feeling that their Tea Sweets will make a great impact on the NY culinary scene, especially when their retail location/tea house opens later this year.
Amai's award-winning Tea Sweets include flavors such as Earl Grey and Currant, Green Tea, White Tea and Strawberry, Lemongrass and Ginger, and Chai Almond. The Green Tea cookies are my definite favorite. The texture differs from other shortbread, as the Tea Sweets are more moist and delicate, to a point that I have to sit down, chew, and really enjoy the pleasing sweetness of each cookie- definitely not a cookie to scarf down while in rush-hour traffic- the Tea Sweets are quite the experience! You can see the hard work put into each cookie- hand-cut into dainty leaf and flower-like shapes, they are perfect for a tea party or entertaining. They are also going on my list of ‘Fabulous Food Gifts to Give to Friends (and Myself)'. Who wouldn't love to receive a pretty box that pulls out to reveal these delicate cookies wrapped in tea proverbs? I know I wouldn't protest.
The last item on my list of sweets is the Keiko-Tea Green Chocolate Bars. Now many chocolatiers have infused tea with Dark, Milk, and White chocolates and a variety of other flavors. This bar is different in that it mixes actual Green tea powder and leaves with cocoa butter to produce a lovely confection that is creamy with the bite of green tea. There is an interesting texture that I haven't experienced with other chocolates that include green tea- the inclusion of the leaves adds a nice subtle crunch to the creaminess.
It's almost like biting into a matcha milkshake of sorts- it's definitely a rich treat, but the small bars are suitable portions, though I find myself eating several of the mignonettes and have to break into the larger one oz bar to satisfy my taste buds- I doubt that this will be a Green tea product that will help me shed the pounds! This chocolate bar makes a lovely pairing with a cup of green tea, but also smokier black teas, as the creamy texture cuts the intensity of the tea. They are also a fun way to introduce the little kiddies to the wonderful taste of Green tea.
Incorporating tea with cooking and baking isn't anything new, but with more and more interest on tea's complex flavors as well as its many health benefits, perhaps incorporating tea into ready-to-eat snacks will become a new trend in the gourmet food and supermarket industry. In the mean time, visit out TeaChef page (follow the link on top of the screen) , as we are starting up the popular contest again, with a new flavor of tea!
Other Sites with Tasty Tea Treats: