As we close out the last issue of the Coffee And Tea Newsletter for the year, we like to go back and review past issues to discover which stories generated the most interest, were clicked on most often, and generated the most feedback. Below you will find reprints of our most popular stories of 2015. We want to take this time to thank all of our readers, advertisers, and supporters for helping to make this year another great one. If you have a product you would like us to consider for review or have some exciting news to share, please contact us.
We wish you all a wonderful new year filled with all great things.
Tea Association of the USA Offers Home Brewing Guidelines
For Soothing Hot Tea:
The Four Golden Rules for a delicious cup of hot tea: (1) use a teapot, (2) bring fresh, cold tap water to a full boil (Note: If your water is heavily chlorinated or contains other objectionable odors, filter before boiling for best tasting tea); (3) use one teaspoon or one tea bag per cup; (4) pour boiling water over tea and brew by the clock 3 to 5 minutes and serve!
For the best flavor, preheat the teapot with a little hot water prior to use and cover your teapot with a cozy to retain heat during the brewing process.
Refreshing Iced Tea:
For small quantities, proceed as for hot tea and pour over ice. For large quantities, prepare concentrate as follows:
Bring one quart of cold water to a roiling boil. Remove from heat and add 8-10 teabags per quart of brewed tea as desired. Steep 3-5 minutes and pour over remaining cold water or ice cubes. To serve, pour into tall glasses filled with ice, garnish or sweeten as desired.
Special Guidelines for Green Tea:
When water comes to a boil, remove from the source of heat and allow to sit for ten minutes. Pour this hot water over the Green Tea and allow to brew for approximately one minute and serve. (Note: The brewing times may be shortened or lengthened according to your taste)
Special Guidelines for ‘Big” Oolongs & White Teas:
The best thing to say when dealing with any tea is – the larger and more delicate looking the leaf, the lower the water temperature. Usually, you will want to use between 180-190 degree water for big oolongs and white teas. Black teas need much hotter water for proper extraction. Boiling water will scorch a bold leaf like white tea.
Time is a little different since oolongs will need to steep a bit longer than white tea – oolongs 5-7 minutes, white tea 3-4 minutes. Of course, all of this may be modified according to your own personal taste. These instructions are only to be used as a starting point.
Everyone should adjust time, temperature and amount of tea up and down until they find their perfect pot. www.teausa.com
Tips for Collecting Teapots
Collecting teapots can be a very satisfying hobby that will take you across many eras of history, through many different designs and shapes. While no single article could ever hope to cover the breadth of what is involved in collecting an item, this article provides you with a brief overview of the things to consider when you want to get started in collecting teapots, so that you can begin your collection in an informed and directed way.
Get inspiration. Before you start collecting, it is important to know what you like about teapots. Check out collections and styles of teapots held or owned by other people that you know and try to see some exhibitions if possible. Here are some good resources to get your research started:
• Museums - especially museums concerned with design, with household items, with the way people used to live. Look out for teapot exhibitions, which are held regularly in different parts of the world. Even if you can't make one in another country, you might be able to browse some of the collection online through the museum or exhibitor's site.
• Books and magazines - look in antique and collectibles resources in the library, ditto for magazines.
• Antique and collectibles stores - browse around; you will be amazed at what you will find; and don't forget opportunity shops (charity stores) either - they will often have teapots.
• Friends and family - look at the items kept by people you know. Ask them questions about where they bought the teapot, why they bought it, how they feel about it, etc. It all goes towards informing you about how you will approach collecting teapots.
Decide on how you will collect teapots. There are many different ways to collect, based on interest, budget, availability, etc. You will need to consider how to define and limit your collection so that it is doable, affordable and fits in with your lifestyle (space!). Here are some considerations to take into account:
Historical teapots - Do you like teapots belong to a particular era in history? Do you only like modern teapots? Or old teapots? There are many, many possibilities here. For example, you might be fond of Victorian era silver teapots or Art Deco ceramic teapots. This will be something that your prior research will help you to decide.
Style - Do you prefer a particular style of teapot? Are you looking for teapots that will match existing decor or themes in your home?
Make - Do you prefer a particular brand or make of teapot?
Material - Perhaps you are keen to a certain material only; for example, you can collect silver, terracotta, ceramic, glass, bone china, cast iron, etc., teapots.
Country of origin - Do you only want to collect Japanese or Chinese teapots? Or Early Colonial teapots from the southern hemisphere?
Design - Perhaps you only want teapots with animal motifs, or spots, or stripes? This type of collecting is known as "novelty" teapot collecting. Collecting in this manner can narrow down the options but it can be a huge source of fun and enjoyment at the same time!
Tea company designs - Sometimes tea companies sell their own brand teapots and this can be a collectible theme of its very own.
Eclectic - There is nothing preventing you from collecting teapots in an "anything goes" fashion either, collect it just because you like it! This is probably the easiest and most budget-adjustable approach to collecting teapots because you can be very flexible in your additions. An eclectic collection can be just as valuable and interesting as a themed one, provided that you take good care of the teapots and choose quality to begin with (see below about spotting problems).
Consider affordability and availability. These are two key elements of a successful collection. If it will be difficult to source a teapot, or expensive, you might want to consider alternative ways of branching out in your teapot collection. It might be a case of having one expensive centerpiece and a cheaper supporting cast of pretty but budget-conscious teapots.
Learn as much as you can about marks and designs so that you can avoid buying fakes. When you get really serious about collecting, it's likely that you'll start looking for more expensive and rarer items to add to your collection and that you will focus on particular makes.
A good way of doing this is to attend local auctions or to search online auctions for sales. However, it is important that you are familiar with the marks and signs of the manufacturer so that you avoid making costly mistakes and bringing home a fake. Take the time to borrow books on the topic and learn the marks and design signatures that confirm the authenticity of your teapots.
Avoid buying teapots in poor condition unless you have a really good reason for doing so. It is important to add only quality to your collection, or it won't carry value (beyond sentimental) into the future. Things to be extra careful of when examining teapots include:
Cracks, including fine hairline cracks that are difficult to see, and glued-back sections. Look closely at the lid and spout for the most likely break lines.
Missing parts (such as the lid, a handle, etc.).
Broaden your collection. If you have the space and the interest, you might consider teacups, tea trays, tea kettles, sugar bowls, milk jugs, tea towels featuring teapots, fabric with teapot prints, etc., as part of an overall collection. While this will increase the cost and the usage of space, it can be a very rewarding dimension to your collecting hobby that can also be put to good use during tea parties.
Home Brewing: Cold Brewed Coffee
In the warmer months, many people look for an alternative to their usual hot coffee, but there are a few other benefits to cold-brewing coffee at home according to Jacqui at Small World Coffee.
First of all, it’s easy: a little measuring, a little waiting, and you’ll have a pitcher of coffee that will last for up to a week. Secondly, and more significantly, cold-brewed coffee is much lower in acidity than traditionally brewed coffee. This makes it an excellent alternative for coffee drinkers who are sensitive to acidity – either as a matter of personal preference, or upon the doctor’s recommendation!
With the right tools and some preparation, you can stock your fridge with cold-brewed coffee to enjoy as the summer approaches!
Tools You’ll Need:
.25 lbs. (113g) specialty coffee
40 oz. purified water
A large pitcher or vessel for storage
Grind your coffee coarsely, for a percolator *
Mix the coffee into the water, and steep 18-24 hours in the refrigerator
Strain the steeped mixture through coffee filters, removing the grinds
This cold-brew recipe yields roughly 40 oz. of double-strength coffee extract. Depending on your taste, you can mix it with milk, water, or serve it over ice. If you prefer hot coffee but are seeking a cup that’s lower in acidity, you can add water and heat it for a smoother, classic cup of joe.
* Do not grind your coffee until you are ready to brew. Grinding in advance drastically alters the freshness of the coffee, and therefore, the quality of your final cup. If you can avoid pre-grinding, you should!
The headlines about the health benefits of coffee seem to change as quickly as the time it takes to drink a cup. Is coffee good for you? Here's what the folks at Consumer Reports want you to know:
1. It may help you live longer.
True, coffee drinkers are more likely than nondrinkers to smoke, eat red meat, skimp on exercise, and have other life-shortening habits, according to a 2012 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. But when researchers took those factors into account, they found that people ages 50 to 71 who drank at least one cup of coffee per day lowered their risk of dying from diabetes, heart disease, or other health problems when followed for more than a decade. That may be due to beneficial compounds such as antioxidants—which might ward off disease—and not caffeine. Decaf drinkers had the same results.
2. It may perk you up.
Coffee is not just a pick-me-up; it also has been linked to a lower risk of depression. In a study led by the Harvard School of Public Health that tracked 50,000 women for 10 years, those who drank four or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day were 20 percent less likely to develop depression than nondrinkers.
Another study found that adults who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee were about half as likely to attempt suicide as decaf drinkers or abstainers. The researchers speculated that long-term coffee drinking may boost the production of “feel good” hormones such as dopamine.
3. It contains many good-for-you chemicals.
For most Americans who drink coffee, it provides more antioxidants than any other food, according to Joe Vinson, Ph.D., a chemistry professor at the University of Scranton. But it’s also a top source of acrylamide, a chemical whose link to cancer is being investigated.
4. It may cut your risk for type 2 diabetes.
A recent Harvard-led study of more than 120,000 men and women found that those who increased the amount of caffeinated coffee they drank per day by more than one 8-ounce cup, on average, were 11 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those whose coffee habits stayed the same. And those who decreased their daily intake by at least a cup per day, on average, were 17 percent more likely to develop the disease.
But nix the doughnut with your morning cup; excess sugar might cancel out any benefit you might get from a balanced blood sugar level. And watch how much sugar and cream you add to your java—overdo it and you have a calorie- and fat-packed beverage.
5. Most people don't have to worry about the caffeine.
Data suggest that most healthy adults can safely consume, daily, up to 400 milligrams of caffeine—the amount in around two to four cups of brewed coffee. (Exact amounts vary a lot, though.) Pregnant women should keep it to less than 200 milligrams; kids, no more than 45 to 85 milligrams. More than that can cause side effects including insomnia, irritability, and restlessness. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, heart, and muscles.
Consumer Reports also recommends that if you have an anxiety disorder, irritable bowel syndrome, or heart disease, or if you take certain medications, watch your consumption or opt for decaf. And if you have acid reflux, you might want to skip coffee altogether because the acidity could exacerbate it. www.ConsumerReports.org
Using Coffee Grounds in Your Garden
Coffee grounds are an excellent garden helper when directly applied or used in compost. They have a 20 to 1 ratio of nitrogen to carbon, which makes them ideal for helping grow plants such as tomatoes. Here are a few ways to use them in your garden.
Add to the compost. Coffee grounds are able to speed up the decomposing process in compost. Add two teaspoons of lime for every 5 kilograms of coffee grounds. Don't use more than a quarter of the heap as coffee grounds and keep the size of the heap small.
Add grounds to plants that need a pH between 3.0 and 5.0. The addition of coffee grounds to hydrangeas is good for blue blooms. Blueberries, cranberries, and citrus fruits also like coffee added to their soil. Other coffee-loving plants include camellias, gardenias, rhododendrons, and vireyas.
When adding coffee grounds directly to your garden as a mulch and soil conditioner, add a pinch of lime. This ensures that the pH is adequately balanced.
Coffee grounds can also be used to deter pests. Slugs and snails are not fond of coffee grounds sprinkled around plants.
8 Amazing Beauty Benefits of Tea
Sipping on the hot drink instantly brings a sense of calm to a hectic day. But did you know that you could brew a cup of tea for homemade beauty recipes? Thanks to Dana Oliver, beauty writer at the Huffington Post, soon you will…
Teas, including green, black and red, have been used to improve the overall health and appearance of skin and hair for centuries. Rich in antioxidants and anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties, tea is one of the most powerful grocery store staples that can be used topically. Here are eight amazing beauty benefits of tea.
1. Adds shine to dull, lackluster hair. A hair rinse using green or black tea will boost brassy and blah strands. Simply steep tea bags in boiling water for 15 minutes and allow to cool for a few hours or overnight. Pour it onto freshly-washed hair and leave on for ten minutes. Be sure to shampoo and condition afterwards to seal in the shine.
2. Soothes sunburns. Missed a spot with the sunscreen and ended up with a sunburn? Cold compresses made out of tea bags can relieve pain and reduce redness.
3. Minimizes bug bites. Love laying out in the grass, but hate mosquito bites? To take down the sting and bumps, apply a used cold chamomile tea bag directly to the area and relax.
4. Reduces puffy eyes and dark under-eye circles. Another reason not to toss out your used bags of Earl Grey. The caffeine helps to shrink blood vessels underneath the skin and eliminate darkness around the eye area.
5. Rids smelly feet odor. Strip off your shoes and socks and soak your feet in a cool solution made out of boiled tea. The tannic acid in tea is both antibacterial and antifungal, so it stops feet from sweating and smelling funky.
6. Tones and moisturizes dry skin. Spritz cool green tea onto your face (you can also apply it with a cotton ball) twice a day to draw out impurities, shrink large pores and get a healthy glow.
7. Calms skin after shaving. If your legs are itchy and red after shaving, try pressing a cool black tea bag onto your limbs. The tannins work to provide immediate relief from razor burns.
8. Enhances hair color. If you're looking for a chemical-free alternative to dyeing your hair, try using tea. Its staining properties add color to naturally blonde or brunette locks.
Consumer Reports: 5 Steps to Brewing Exceptional Coffee
The best coffee, for many of us, is what you pick up at your local coffee haunt on the way to work. But that can get expensive, with a medium-size coffee every workday adding up to $500 or more a year, according to Consumer Reports. Here’s how to improve your chances of making top-notch coffee at home:
Start with clean water
If your tap water has an off taste, that’s reason enough to filter it for your coffee and tea. Some drip coffeemakers tested by Consumer Reports, such as the $100 KitchenAid KCM1202OB, come with water filters. Any other means of filtering water would do as well, provided you replace the filters as often as the manufacturer recommends.
Use a high-performing machine
Among drip machines we’ve tested, those with excellent scores for brew performance reach 195° to 205° F and maintain it for five or six minutes, the industry standard for optimal brewing. Single-serve (pod) coffeemakers operate differently, but our expert tasters haven’t found one that makes coffee that's better than mediocre for taste. Whatever you use, experiment to get the best ratio of grounds to water.
Grind top-quality beans
Most of us aren’t about to start roasting coffee beans as does one of our coffee-taste experts. But quality beans stored away from moisture, heat, light, and strong odors will produce better taste than something ground at the store—or before making it to the shelves. Grind your beans just before brewing; the $100 Black + Decker Mill & Brew CM5000 grind-and-brew model is one possibility, though its brew performance was only so-so. A separate grinder lets you set grind size suitable to what you’re brewing.
Keep it from sitting
While you have to let coffee cool before sipping, there’s no getting around that brewed coffee is best the moment it’s done brewing. A thermal carafe is meant to keep coffee hot, as is a brew-and-dispense coffeemaker such as the $100 Viante Brew-N-View CAF-05T. But neither can keep the rich flavor of fresh-brewed, fresh-ground beans from dissipating. Like to program your coffee to brew as you’re getting up? Fussy coffee drinkers, keep your hand off that snooze button.
Clean your coffeemaker
Various deposits in your coffeemaker, including minerals from your water and oily residue from coffee, can build up over time and affect taste. Coffeemaker owner’s manuals typically advise running a cycle of white vinegar through the machine every month or so; the process differs by model. Pod coffeemakers have a similar process, though the it might vary further. Keurig, for example, sells a special descaling solution ($13 for 14 ounces), which it calls “the only Keurig-approved cleaning solution for Keurig brewers.” The one-year warranty excludes damage from using non-Keurig pods and accessories; that could include using another cleaning solution. But after the warranty is up, there’s no reason not to try white vinegar instead. As always, run at least one cycle of just water afterward.
Looking for a new coffeemaker?
Check out the Consumer Reports coffeemaker buying guide for a rundown on the available types, before checking their coffeemaker Ratings of more than 110 coffee and espresso makers.
Flavor of the Year: HONEY
Consumers, restaurateurs, manufacturers and home cooks alike have come to an agreement in 2015 on one golden ingredient—honey. This beloved sweetener, which was named Flavor of the Year by Firmenich1, is being recognized for its unique flavor and its versatility as an ingredient, elevating its status beyond an everyday sweetener. In honor of National Honey Month, the National Honey Board (NHB) continues to bear the good news and raise awareness about honey and its many culinary uses.
Firmenich chose honey for this award because they believe it has the potential of becoming a "classic" flavor. Honey may be well on its way to joining the likes of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry in this prestigious category and consumers seem to agree. According to a recent Consumer Sweetener Usage & Attitudes Study Report2 fielded by the NHB, 6 out of 10 consumers agreed that foods sweetened with honey taste better than foods made with other sweeteners. In addition, 46 percent of total consumers say they have used honey in the past month3 adding to the continued growth and demand of honey on menus and in households.
"We are thrilled to be named Flavor of the Year for 2015. We have seen honey grow exponentially in its use with chefs, manufacturers and consumers over the last few years, especially with yogurt, craft beers and baked goods," explained Catherine Barry, NHB director of marketing. "With consumers preferences leaning towards artisanal, natural and clean-label ingredients; we believe consumers are realizing the potential of honey as a premier ingredient in foods and beverages."
Product developers and chefs have discovered how versatile honey is and have included it in combinations with many different flavor profiles. From craft beers and cocktails, functional beverages to baked goods and snack bars, among others, Firmenich took notice that honey is becoming a sought-after flavor option.
"Product developers are realizing what a fantastic and versatile flavor honey is in regards to combining it with other tonalities, making honey an easy choice for Flavor of the Year," says Patrick Salord, senior flavorist at Firmenich.
"Crafted from the nectar of flowering plants, honey's unique flavor profile is unlike any other," shared the experts at Firmenich when making the announcement. With more than 300 varietals in the United States, ranging in flavor and appearance, this iconic sweetener pleases all taste preferences and is appealing to consumers of all ages. The flavors of honey can range from lighter colored honeys, which are milder in flavor, to darker honeys that tend to be more robust, making it easy to choose the right kind of honey for the recipe ahead.
"This versatile ingredient is used on my restaurant menus, including in our popular coffee drinks, but it is also a staple ingredient in the recipes developed for my cookbooks, and in my pantry at home. I have more than 100 different honey varietals I use when cooking for my family," shared TV Personality and Cookbook Author Chef David Guas. "When I'm looking for an ingredient to add depth to my menus, I know that honey will balance and complement a variety of foods and marry flavors from sweet, sour, bitter, salty and even savory."
Beyond taste, honey has a multitude of functional benefits for both cooking and baking. Honey attracts and holds moisture, enhancing freshness and shelf life, and it acts as a binder and thickener for sauces, dressings and marinades. Honey adds a rich golden or amber touch to finished recipes, can be used as a substitution for granulated sweeteners, or can serve as a simple syrup in cocktails or beverages.
Barry thinks honey winning the 2015 Flavor of the Year award is just the beginning for this artisanal ingredient. She added that we have known for years that honey's versatility and multi-functional use expands beyond an everyday sweetener in your tea or on toast. Barry is thrilled to watch the momentum build as consumers become more educated about their food choices.
People Who Order Coffee Black Are More Likely
To Be Psychopaths
Dating someone new? Interviewing for a job? No matter your circumstances, it may be time to start paying attention to how the people around you order their coffee—at least that’s what Kate Bratskeir, Food and Health Editor at The Huffington Post warns.
A just-in-time-for-Halloween study published in the journal Appetite revealed that people who like their coffee black are more likely to possess anti-social and psychopathic personality traits.
The research, which comes from the University of Innsbruck in Austria, examined the taste preferences of about 1,000 people, finding those who preferred more bitter notes in foods like black coffee scored higher on a series personality questionnaires that assessed Machiavellianism, a term used in psychology to describe personalities that are dark, psychopathic, narcissistic and sadistic.
The study also notes that participants who reported a fondness for other bitter foods like radishes, celery and tonic water were also more likely to exhibit psychopathic traits.
From the standpoint of physical health, ordering your morning cup free of milk and sugar earns two thumbs up. Coffee provides some major proven benefits as varied as increased feelings of happiness, decreased risk for some cancers, and improved brain function. Straight black coffee-drinkers are reaping the benefits without consuming added calories and fat.
So, then, what does this all mean? Not much -- at least not yet. The study size was small and the data self-reported, a notoriously unreliable metric. Other research has found that food preference changes over time, so while a person may detest radishes (or bitter coffee) at one point in their lives, they may crave them during another. Still, the researchers hope this novel look at the connection between personality and eating behavior will lead to further study.
Thanks for the warning, Kate! www.huffingtonpost.com
Merlot Infused Coffee
John, Rhonda and Harrison Jenkins have a passion for all things coffee and a love of fine wines. The purchase of a micro coffee roastery in the heart of Virginia’s wine country has allowed them to explore their life-long love of coffee among one of the fastest growing wine producing regions in the country.
Visiting Virginia’s wineries spawned the idea of infusing finely roasted coffee beans in the very barrels that the wine had been aged in. The result is the newest addition to a line of fine coffees from around the world. Extensive travel has allowed them to enjoy and hone their love of the tastes and traditions of coffee here and abroad. These unique flavors are carefully created in their unique coffee offerings.
For the finale of a great meal, you may be torn between the accompaniment of another glass of wine, or a comforting cup of coffee. But why not have both? These merlot-infused beans make the perfect after-dinner brew. The 100% Arabica beans are aged in oak wine barrels for a unique profile of fresh, red berry flavors and subtle hints of currants and blackberries. For the best flavor, add a small amount of sugar to this medium roast coffee. Caffeinated, but contains no alcohol. $19.95 for a 12 oz. at http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/merlot-infused-coffee
Tickets on sale now!