Love, Tea is in the Air
By Christine Rillo
Perhaps the thought of an entire day devoted to love, passion, and pink stuffed teddy bears makes you want to boot. But maybe, you're one of those disciples of love, excited because February 14th has finally arrived and all those plans you've been orchestrating for your significant other since last year can come to fruition. Or, you're somewhere in the middle, playing a mix tape that your college girlfriend sent you when she went to study abroad (she picked out the play list with her hot European host family's son), only to cry about how she broke up with you after said hot son moved to the States.
What does this have to do with tea? Well, first off you are reading this, so chances are you enjoy the complexities of fine tea. Secondly, you can easily incorporate tea into your V-Day festivities, no matter where you fall on the romance range.
When thinking of possible Valentine's Day gifts, the first thing to come to mind is chocolate. Whether it is a cheap box purchased from the drugstore or a beautifully wrapped box from a premier chocolatier, it is among this holiday's favorite gifts. Instead of going with the conventional box of chocolates, treat your sweetie to a tea and chocolate pairing.
Gather several types of teas as well as four kinds of chocolate. For teas, I would recommend a variety of Assams, Darjeelings, Oolong Formosas, and Ceylon. Some Adagio varieties that are great are Assam Harmony, Oolong #18, Golden Monkey, and Scharffen Berger makes affordable bars that range from 51% cacao content, (which is closer to a familiar chocolate bar)to 82% cacao content (an extra-dark, rich treat). Divide the bars by percentage and try each piece of chocolate with a different tea. Let the chocolate sit on your tongue, and swill the tea around it, allowing it to melt. Compare notes and figure out what pairs well and not so well. To make it more exciting, institute a blindfold and the element of surprise. Feed each other and make it into an intimate experience. You may, of course proceed with a blind taste-test sans mate, but perhaps it would be wise to have someone assist you with your tea. A lap full of hot tea is definitely a quick way to end a night and perhaps dig yourself into a deeper hole of sorrow.
If you fly solo but tend to roam with a pack of loyal friends arrange a co-ed tea party. This might sound a bit frou-frou, but keep it frills and lace free, using contemporary designed china and dish ware ala Crate and Barrel. Or if you're cheap, paper plates and disposable hot cups will suffice. Ask your tea-savvy friends to bring enough of their favorite tea to share with everyone else at the party, borrow a couple of teapots and kettles, and cook up some tea related recipes. This can easily be done by visiting our cooking website, TeaChef which lists customer-submitted recipes.
Make the Golden Monkey Chocolate Cake an pour the batter into individual cupcake tins. The spiciness of the cayenne pepper and cinnamon, as well as the nice texture of the tea leaves makes this an exotic and aromatic dessert. Make some of the other small-plate-esque recipes (Genmai Cha Tabbouleh, Lapsang Souchong Deviled Eggs, Hojicha Fried Tofu are just some suggestions) so people can eat and mingle. Ask each friend to bring an acquaintance not familiar to the group and perchance that Cupid will strike someone lucky with love. Regress to a game of 'Spin the Yixing Pot' if the party goes stale.
Gifts are the perfect way on Valentine's Day to get someone you like who may not like you back to like you. OK, maybe not and perhaps it is borderline stalker activity but, nonetheless, people like gifts! Tea connoisseurs especially love gifts; it's a known fact. Whether you handpick the leaves and roll them in cheesecloth for several days on end, or purchase an pre-selected gift set, a gift of tea is a token of appreciation and can make a big statement. A lovely vintage cake of Pu-Erh for a tea fanatic says, "I Love You (and You're Paying for Dinner Since This Cost Me a Fortune)!". A personally blended mix of herbs and tea leaves packed lovingly in a pretty tin says, "I Get You and Your Tea Habit. Please Share!". On the other hand, a value box of Lipton 'Cold Brew' teabags with a carelessly placed bow from last Christmas says, "I Obviously Think You are a Waste of Life/We're Breaking Up". Choose wisely!
A great gift for the tea and chocolate lover in your life is a selection from MarieBelle Chocolates and Tea. Based out of NYC, they are a purveyor of beautifully designed chocolates and exquisitely blended teas. A box of their chocolates-wrapped in their signature blue and brown box makes a bold statement against the usual pink and red of the season. Each box of chocolates contain handcrafted and painted chocolates in a variety of flavors, including an Earl Grey Truffle. These chocolates pair exceptionally well with a cup of their teas. A particular favorite of mine is their Blooming Heavens Chinese Flower green tea, a blend of green tea leaves with citrus and floral notes- almost as good as receiving a bouquet of flowers! A tin of tea (The tin alone is worthy enough for gift-giving) and a box of chocolates will melt your lover's heart.
However, if find yourself sans amour feel free to indulge yourself with this affordable piece of luxury: take some time out to give the most important person in your life some TLC this Valentine's Day=You!. Make up a pot of tea, sit back, relax and take solace in knowing that half the couples out this Lover's Day are stewing in misery because their favorite restaurant is overbooked.
Happy Valentine's Day!