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Lapsang Souchong & Orange Baked Calypso Beans

Tea can be a really wonderful ingredient in your kitchen. It can provide great flavor to soups, baked goods, cures, and cocktails.  We love using Lapsang Souchong, a smoked black Chinese tea, to add a depth of flavor to stews and we were really happy with this recipe using tea and orange peel in the bean cooking liquid.  The smoky flavor can be an economical and vegan replacement to bacon and the citrus compliments the tea and lightens the flavor.  We decided to pair it with duck and sautéed garlic swiss chard, but it would be a great side dish to any dinner, or satisfying as a stand alone with yogurt and hot sauce!  Enjoy!

Lapsang Souchong Mise En Place

Equipment needed: Pot for Beans, sauté pan, cheesecloth, twine, peeler.

Ingredients:

2 c dried beans, rinsed and soaked over night in water, rinsed again
1/4 c Lapsang Souchong tea
1 tsp black peppercorns, cracked
1 bay leaf
1 handful thyme
1 orange, peeled
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 large carrot, medium dice
1 yellow onion, medium dice
5 c vegetable or chicken stock
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt, to taste

Procedure:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  

2.  Place the tea, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme, orange, and garlic in the cheesecloth sachet and tie it with twine. Double up if necessary.

3. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan and sweat the carrots and onion with a pinch of salt.  Remove once translucent and slightly golden and add to the bean pot.

4. Add the beans and mix with a wooden spoon. Add in the sachet and pour over the stock. Season with salt.  Cover and back for 1.5 - 2hr or until the beans have softened but still have a 'tooth'.

5. Remove from the oven and adjust seasoning.  Serve as a side dish to dinner or  with yogurt and hot sauce.

Duck with Lapsang Souchong 

Discovering White Tea

Of all the tea categories white tea seems to be one of the most misunderstood, and yet quite neatly, the simplest of all. From bud to cup, it is the most minimally crafted of all the camellia sinensis tea categories. Very plainly, high quality white tea is the first glorious bud of spring, plucked carefully after emerging from a short winter dormancy.

Awakening in the spring, the tea plant shoots out the bud of new life which carries the energy, nutrients and glucose needed to develop into leaves and if plucked and dried, has the potential to make a most delicious cup of tea.  The bud itself or 'tip' is covered with a soft downy fur, called 'trinomes', that defend against water loss and bugs.  Caffeine and polyphenols also act as natural deflecting agents against insects and UV rays. 

Bai Mu Dan Wang

White tea buds are carefully plucked and brought to a factory to be withered and dried. It is a short recipe that requires, for good result, the original product to be treated well after it's departure from a very carefully tended tea garden. It is also a tea of prestige, the spring buds are the most precious, and the yield of harvesting only the bud, is so minimal. The varietals used in white tea production in China are the results of years of propagation to reach the desired profile and the polyphenol and caffeine levels are higher than what is often marketed.

Classically, the finest white teas come from Fujian Province, China, but we are also experiencing white teas being produced well in other parts of Asia, Hawaii and South America.  

We carry two white teas, Bai Mu Dan Wang (pictured here), also called White Peony, which consists of buds and leaves, from Fuding, Fujian Province.  Also from Fuding, Bai Hao Yin Zhen (also known as Silver Needles) is the result of more punctilious harvesting, and consists of pure bud.  Nan Mei Wild Tea Trees, from Lincang, Yunnan Province, is the result of the harvesting of wild old tea tree buds and takes quite a bit longer steep than the others.

When steeping white tea, we suggest measuring the quantity of tea by weight, not by volume as with teaspoons.  This is important because white tea is very voluminous, and measuring by weight will give you a much richer cup of tea.

Our recommended steeping times for 2.5 grams of tea per 8oz:

Bai Hao Yin Zhen  185° / 3 minutes

Bai Mu Dan Wang  185° / 3 minutes

Nan Mei Wild Tea Trees  185° / 5 - 7 minutes

Scented White Teas:

The Canfield in Red  185° / 3 minutes

Yaddo Rose Garden  185° / 3 minutes

For continued enjoyment, re-steep the leaves!

Exploring Mae Salong, Thailand

In the remote woodland hill regions of northern Thailand, in the province of Chiang Rai, tea trees flourish in the tropical climate.  This area is part of the historical tea regions that anthropologists have found as the birth place of tea. This tea belt traverses through Yunnan Province, China to northern Assam, India, Laos and present day Myanmar, into Northern Thailand and Vietnam.

A little town, with a big history lies just south of the Thai border with Myanmar and in the province of Chiang Rai, and it is called Mae Salong. A little group of us, Joe, owner and operator of Saratoga Food and Ghost Tours, his wonderful partner Kim, ​Marcus my fiancé, photographer and videographer and I, set out on a four hour journey north of Chiang Mai in search of Mae Salong.  Though situated in Thailand, this particular village is home to people of Yunnanese (Chinese) descent.  Everything was written and spoken in Chinese and all of our communications were about to be with google translate and gestures.
 
A little on the interesting history of this area:  The ancestors of these people arrived at the conclusion of the 1949 Chinese Civil War as the 'lost soldiers' who refused to surrender.  For protection, they escaped China, settled briefly in Burma, and found their way to northern Thailand for asylum. In exchange for safety, the Thai government sought assistance to push back communist insurgencies at the frontier.
 

​This geographical region bordering Laos and Myanmar was known as 'The Golden Triangle' as it was a hot spot for the production of opium. Today, this area has been turned over by the Thai government to a more sustainable crop, tea.  Tea shares the landscape with cherries, coffee, lychee and wonderful citrus.

We discovered Mae Salong to be a quiet village, with many vendors of tea.  As we explored and stopped for tea tastings, we came across the production of Assam black tea at one of the villages producers.  It is always amazing to experience the fragrance of freshly harvested wilting tea leaves.  It is too beautiful for words.

Many of the tea varieties in this area were brought over from Taiwan decades ago and their style of tea is similar to that of the mountain producers in central Taiwan.  We tasted Jin Xuan No. 12, Oriental Beauty, Qing Xin No. 17 amongst others.  I decided to bring home a Hoarfrost, or winter frost harvest, oolong that has a unique sweetness and is unlike any tea I have tasted.  I also choose a Rose Scented Oolong, as its fragrance and delicacy was enchanting and unique.

  

Fresh Tea Leaves Withering

Women sorting through the fresh black tea, removing stems.

That evening, we were welcomed by the indigenous Ahka tribe just a few miles away.  Their children toured us around their little village, we dined on their local food cooked over a fire and slept in mud huts.  It was really a remarkable experience.

Ahka Children with Hayley and Marcus

I am excited to share some of their tea with you!

5 Super Easy After School Snacks with Honey

We have no better honey room clientele than our local kiddos and we are delighted to offer some easy recipes for their after school snacking!

Apples with Cinnamon Infused Honey and Oats

Warm Apples with Oats and Cinnamon Infused Honey

2 small apples cored and cut into segments
2 T oats
1 T butter

Cinnamon Infused Honey to taste

Procedure:  In a small microwave-safe bowl add the apples, butter and oats.  Microwave for 1.5 minutes or until the butter has melted and the apples have slightly softened.  Drizzle with Cinnamon Infused Honey and serve!

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Spice Smoothie

1 frozen banana
1/2 c canned pumpkin
3/4 c unsweetened almond milk
2 T almond butter
2 t Buckwheat Honey
1 t Pumpkin Pie Spice

Procedure:  Blend all ingredients and enjoy!

Seed Granola with Wildlfower Honey

Nut-Free Granola with Saratoga Wildflower Honey

1 c pumpkin seeds
1 c gluten free oats
1 c coconut flakes
1/2 c quinoa
1/2 c sunflower seeds
1/2 c flax seeds
1/4 c chia seeds
1/4 t sea salt
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c Saratoga Wildflower Honey

 Procedure:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the honey until it becomes less viscose.  Pour the honey and the olive oil over the dry ingredients and mix well.  Line a sheet tray with parchment and spread evenly.  Bake for 15 minutes, turn with a spoon and bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes more.  Serve with yogurt, ice cream or milk!

Apples with Cheddar, Walnuts and Cranberry Blossom Honey

Apples with Cheddar, Walnuts, and Cranberry Blossom Honey

2 small apples
local cheddar, sliced
walnuts
Cranberry Blossom Honey to taste

Procedure:  Plate all ingredients to your fancy!  Enjoy!

 Almond Butter with Alfalfa Honey

Almond Butter Rice Cakes with Alfalfa Honey

3 c roasted almonds
3 dried dates
2 T Alfalfa Honey + more to drizzle
1/4 t sea salt

Procedure:  Blend all ingredients in a food processor until creamy, about 10- 15 minutes.  Serve almond butter on your favorite cracker, rice cake or bread and drizzle more Alfalfa Honey to taste!

 

Little Bugs & Tea: The Story Of Guei Fei

We would like to share with you the unique story of our oolong Guei Fei.  

In September of 1999 Taiwan suffered a 7.6 magnitude earthquake with the epicenter falling in Nantou County.  In the area of Dong Ding, tea farmers were busy rebuilding and repairing their homes and villages and were distracted from their winter harvest of tea.  As a result, little tiny herbivores (Empoasca onukii) or leafhoppers came to nibble on their tea plants.

Disaster?!  Not at all.

Lugu Township

Leafhopper bitten oolong not only can be acceptable, but desirable. In fact, in the north of Taiwan Bai Hao or Formosa Oolong is famously loved for its honeyed notes of sweet succulent fruit. This altered flavor is thanks to the provocation of these little bugs.  

The tea plant, as with other plants, knows when it is being attacked and sometimes is aware even before the attack occurs.  The defense mechanisms can be a sudden change in chemistry that might release toxins, decrease nutrition in the leaf, or release airborne chemicals. In the case of tea plants, airborne volatile chemicals are released when attacked by this 3 mm insect. Curiously, by our perception, a wonderful fragrance is released in the field and then, in the cup.

Brewing Guei Fei

You are able to witness these little bites by looking closely at the unfurled steeped leaves, but most wonderfully, you will witness this little attack by the sweetness of the tea on your palate.

Experience our bug bitten oolongs:  Guei Fei, Bai Hao Jing Mai, and Gabacha.

Our producer of Guei Fei, Mr. Chang sharing some tea with us.

Mr. Chang 

Masala Chai Muffins with Cranberry Blossom Honey Butter (GF & DF)

Hello, Honey Butter Chai Muffins!

Monette of @thesecretgf created the perfect breakfast muffin for any morning where there might be a little chill in the air.  This recipe proves that baking with tea is as simple as infusing it into a liquid and/or a fat component to transfer its complex flavors. We love to consider tea as not only a beverage, but as an ingredient to enhance cookies, muffins or cakes!  And, as the pièce de resistance, our Cranberry Blossom Honey from the cranberry bogs of Wisconsin is simply whipped with butter for an extra treat. Enjoy!

 

Masala Chai Spiced Muffins

 

Ingredients:

½ c almond milk

½ c coconut oil

1 T Masala Chai Tea

1 c all-purpose GF flour blend

1 c oat flour

2 t xanthan gum (reduce to 1 tsp if your flour blend lists this as an ingredient)

½ t salt

1 t baking soda

1 c agave

3 eggs

¼ c butter (Use Earth Balance to make it dairy free)

3 T Cranberry Blossom Honey

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Line a muffin tin with muffin wrappers.
  2. In a small saucepan, add the almond milk, coconut oil and tea. Keep at a low heat, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes to infuse the tea into the milk and oil.
  3. While the tea is infusing, combine the dry ingredients (flours, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda) in a medium mixing bowl.
  4. Once the tea has infused for 20 minutes, pour the almond milk and oil mixture into your mixing bowl through a fine mesh strainer to catch the tea leaves. Discard the leaves.
  5. Add the agave and eggs to the mixing bowl and whisk until everything is combined and you have a smooth batter.
  6. Divide the batter in the muffin tin and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  7. When done, take out of the oven and wait until the muffins are cool enough to handle, then remove them from the muffin tin to finish cooling on a wire rack.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare the honey butter by using an electric beater to whip together the honey and butter.

The Perfect Pumpkin Spice Latté

Our Pumpkin Spice Latté serves 2-3 people.  We love this easy stove-top preparation of chai because it fills the air with the fragrant scent of fall!

Pumpkin Spice Chai Latté

Ingredients:

5 t Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea

3 c water 

c milk of your choice

2 T Cinnamon Infused Honey, or more to taste!

Procedure:

1.  Heat water in a small saucepan until in reaches a boil.  Add in the tea and simmer at low heat for 5-10 minutes.

2. Add in the milk on low heat until it has warmed with the tea, about 5 minutes. Stir in honey and then gently strain into mugs or strain and store in the fridge for later reheating!

Earl Grey Lavender Scones

Specially developed to celebrate Mother's Day, we created this elegant scone recipe using our lavender honey and Fairtrade Earl Grey tea.  Pair this scone with our classic Fairtrade Earl Grey or a beautiful black tea such as Jin Die or English Breakfast Assam.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8

Ingredients

Scones: 

1 T Fair Trade Earl Grey 
1 c whole milk + 1 tablespoon 
2 T finely ground Fair Trade Earl Grey
1 T fresh lemon juice
3 T Lavender Honey
3 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t sea salt 
4 T unsalted butter, cold and cubed

    Glaze:

    2 to 3 T Fair Trade Earl Grey (1/3 cup boiling water) 
    1 T Lavender Honey
    1 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted 

      Directions

      To Make the Scones: 

      1. The night before, mix Fair Trade Earl Grey and milk in a glass jar.
      2. Let the mixture steep overnight in the refrigerator.
      3. The next day strain the tea from the milk.
      4. Preheat your oven to 375°F.
      5. Make buttermilk by adding the 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to milk, let it set while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
      6. In a medium bowl, whisk together tea, flour, baking soda and salt. Toss the butter with the flour until it’s evenly coated. Work gently the butter throughout the flour, pressing the butter into the flour using your fingers until you get the texture of course wet sand. 
      7. In a measuring cup, whisk the lavender honey into 1 cup of the buttermilk.
      8. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add in the buttermilk mixture. Fold with a spatula or turn the dry ingredients using a pastry scraper until the dough just forms. Be careful to not over work.  Sprinkle with flour and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for 15 minutes. 
      9. Roll the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and form it into a circle that is 1" thick by folding.
      10. Cut down the middle and then across, creating 4 big scones. Then cut those 4 big scones in half, leaving you with 8 scones. Transfer to a prepared sheet pan.
      11. Brush the scones with the remaining 1 tablespoon of buttermilk and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the scones have risen and the tops are medium golden brown.
      12. Allow to cool on a rack.

       To Make the Glaze:

      1. In a measuring cup, measure out 1/3 cup boiling water. Add the tea and allow to steep for about 3 to 4 minutes. Strain and save the leaves for a re-steep to enjoy with your scones! 
      2. Whisk together 1 tablespoon lavender honey and 2 tablespoons of earl grey tea, then add and whisk powdered sugar a few tablespoons at a time until smooth and barely pourable. Drizzle the glaze over the scones and enjoy!

      Honey Glazed Roasted Turkey

      A sweet and savory glaze enhances the flavor of roast turkey and helps the skin to brown and crisp beautifully.  Pre-prepare the turkey to your desired liking.  We recommend brining overnight for added tenderness and juiciness in the end result.

      Ingredients:

      1 turkey, 12 to 16 lb. (6 to 8 kg), neck and giblets removed, reserved if desired & pre-brined 

      1 c Wildflower Honey

      6 T unsalted butter + 4 T unsalted butter
      2 garlic cloves, chopped + 1 whole clove
      3 t rosemary, chopped + sprigs
      3 tsp. sage, chopped + sprigs
      2 lemons 
      Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

      Procedure:

      1. Preheat the oven to 350°. 
      2. Combine the chopped rosemary, sage, garlic cloves, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Place 1 halved lemon and whole sprigs inside the turkey.
      3. Truss the turkey with kitchen twine. Spread the butter over the turkey breast and under the skin, then rub the garlic & herb mixture under the skin. Transfer to the oven.
      4. Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the honey and remaining butter and heat, stirring occasionally, until melted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 sprigs of herbs, juice of one lemon and whole garlic and season with salt and pepper.
      5. After 1 hour of roasting, begin brushing the turkey with the glaze. Continue roasting, brushing with glaze every 20 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast, away from the bone, registers 165°F.

      Roasted Acorn Squash with Currants, Walnuts & Cinnamon Honey

       

      This acorn squash dish is easy to prepare, quick to serve and a delicious accompaniment to a festive occasion or cozy night. We dressed the squash with cinnamon honey, as a healthier and more decadent alternative to brown sugar. This dish is just the right amount of holiday decadence.

      Acorn Squash Recipe

      Ingredients:

      2 medium sized acorn squash, cut into quarters
      2 t extra virgin olive oil
      2 t Cinnamon Honey, to drizzle
      pinch of salt

      For the warm sauce:
      6 T butter
      8 sage leaves
      1/2 c currants
      3/4 c chopped walnuts
      6 T Cinnamon Honey
      pinch of salt

      Procedure: 

      1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
      2. Place the quartered squash on a sheet tray, drizzle with oil, honey and sprinkle with salt.  Bake until knife tender, about 1 hour.
      3. Prepare the warm sauce in advance, and reheat, or just before serving: In a small saucepan heat the butter at medium heat until foaming.  Add in the sage and cook until crispy about 1 minute.  Add in the currants, walnuts, honey and salt and cook 3 minutes more. 
      4. Remove the squash from oven, plate, and pour over the sauce just before serving.  
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