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2019 Stocking Stuffer Wishlist ūüźĚ

We've curated our 2019 stocking stuffer picks for the tea and honey lover alike! You'll find something unique to each brewing style and find bee related products for an extra special gift.

Stocking Stuffer 2019

1.  The Little Tea Book  is a sweet, concise, and creatively informative book about tea production, culture and travels. $20

2. The Bee Stir Stick for stirring cocktails, honey or iced tea with style. $5

3. The Wooden Honey Dipper is the dipper your Grandma owned, and is still a minimalist classic for serving honey. $5

4. Hoarfrost Tea Tin is a re-steepable floral and fruity oolong that will transport you to the far east in every cup. $7

5. Bee's Wrap natural cotton and beeswax food grade reusable wrap for citrus, avocado, breads, sandwiches, leftovers, cheese and more.  A necessary item for an eco-conscience world. $6.50-$18

6. Chinese porcelain teacups for a meditative tea service.  A wide selection is available in-store only!

7. 2013 Three Cranes Liu Bao Heicha is for the lover of aged and fermented teas.  It's smooth, earthy and utterly delicious. $18.50

8. Japanese paper wrapped tea tins for tea storage. Elegant, eco-friendly, and available in an assortment of prints in-store only!

9. Matcha Wakatake White Chocolate Bar in collaboration with Saratoga Chocolate Co.. Get your matcha fix with the creamiest white chocolate, like a latté with a 'snap'. $8

10. Honey Bee Rich Body Soaps are made with all natural ingredients, honey and tea!

11. Folding Handle Tea Strainer with Carrying Case is the most useful tool in your tea cabinet.  A must for loose tea beginners or the more practiced brewer alike. $15

12. Black Tea Cured in a King Orange is a novelty for the curious tea lover. $4.25

13. Pure Beeswax Candles are made by our apiaries and burn cleanly and slowly. $5 & up

14. Vietnamese Mung Bean Cakes are a vegan/gluten free treat like no-other and reminiscent of the best part of a peanut butter cup, the interior. $7.50

15. Earth Sunflower Bamboo & Stainless Steel Straws come with a cleaner and carrying pouch and are a thoughtful gift for your friend who loves to-go beverages! $11-$13

16. Matcha Chasen for the matcha lover who likes to do things the right way. The foam the natural bamboo whisk makes is like no electrical gadget could. $20

17. Cigarillo Tea Needle for carefully opening up pressed tea cakes such as our heicha or pu er bingcha.  $12

18. The Ultimate Honey Variety Pack of our customer's favorites, Mango, Cinnamon and Local Wildflower Honey! $24

Pu Er, Say What?

At the tea shop, we have budding interest curious in our traditional tea selection, including our special aged teas or hei-cha.  In this brief article we are going to begin to touch upon what is pu er tea, a subcategory to hei-cha teas that are produced exclusively in Yunnan Province, China. At the shop, we are experiencing more and more interest in pu er from several different directions:

- Loose leaf tea is becoming more popular in the US, as doctors are advising people to cut back on their coffee intake and people are looking for a more healthful, sustained energy beverage.

- The interest in traditional tea parallels the movement of craft beer, natural wine, single origin coffee & bean to bar chocolate and people are more interested in discovering the vast world of the tea plant.

-The recent popularity of the book, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See, has created specific interest in the aged teas of Yunnan Province, pu er.

Pu Er and Yixing Teapot

So, what is Pu Er?

Pu Er, Pu'er, Puerh (different Pinyin, but the same tea) is a town in Yunnan Province, China where historically tea farmers would bring their tea to be traded in the far regions of Tibet and Mongolia.  Now pu er is the name of a category of post-fermented teas specific to Yunnan Province, whose oxidation is not enzymatic and whose special bacteria fermentation & processing allows for improvement in flavor overtime. Pu er can be separated into two styles of production:

Sheng: "raw" or "green" tea leaves from centuries old trees (camellia sinensis assamica) heated slowly and most often pressed into cakes, which slows oxidation and develops flavor. Ambient yeasts and bacteria in a storage environment of varying temperatures and humidity, take the tea on an interesting journey of development.  Sheng pu er is fermented from 10 to 50 years and not considered mature or vintage until 30 years have passed. Flavor profiles can be very vibrant fruit, mint & spice.

2008 Daxue Tsnuami

Our 2008 Daxue Tsunami Sheng Pu Er

Shou: "cooked" or "ripe" tea leaves from gardens are processed in a similar way as sheng pu er, but exposed to rapid 45-60 day fermentation in pile heaps for an accelerated aging process. Humidity and moisture is under careful watch and is adjusted as needed to encourage fermentation.  Shou pu er may be pressed into cakes or sold loose.  This style of Pu Er was developed in the 1970s in response to the increased interest in sheng pu er. Their flavor profile may improve with some aging, but they are ready to drink after processing and often times have very earthy qualities of leather, forest floor and vanilla.

2012 Menghai Shou Pu Er

This month, our tea of the month is 2012 Menghai, a pile fermented shou pu er that has been pressed into mini cakes or nests, called tuocha.

This is just the beginning of our discussion on aged tea and specifically, pu er.  There is so much more to speak about in terms of culture, styles and pu er as medicine.  More to come in further articles.

 

 

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, ‚ÄčMarcus my fianc√©, 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.
 

‚ÄčThis 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 Ways To Use Spent Tea Leaves

Just when you've steeped your last cup and you think your tea leaves have no goodness left to give, hold on, they actually do!  Our below short list of ideas for spent tea leaves was developed for pure, traditional tea leaves.

Tea Leaf Stock

1. Add your tea leaves to a stock or broth.  More than a millennia ago tea leaves were added to dishes and soups as a flavorful ingredient and we want to bring the idea of culinary tea back!  Dry out your spent tea leaves overnight and pack them with your stock scraps (celery, carrots, onion, mushrooms, herbs) for the next time you throw a pot on the stove. Particularly for our vegan friends, spent tea leaves are a wonderful ingredient to add depth of flavor and color to your stock.

2. Add the spent tea leaves to your garden beds or compost.  Tea leaves aerate the soil and provide nutrients and nitrogen as a great natural fertilizer. 

3. Pickle your spent tea leaves and make a salad. One of our favorite recipes of the traditional Burmese tea preparation, laphet, is from The San Francisco Chronicle.  Find the fermented tea recipe here  along with a Burmese salad recipe.

4. Make Boiled Iced Tea. Boil your spent tea leaves in a small saucepan on the stove for 15-45 minutes.  Cool and refrigerate for iced tea. If using dark teas, we recommend pouring over blackberries, muddling gently, and sweeting with a little Cranberry Blossom Honey.

5. Put your dried spent tea leaves in a little open tin or bowl to absorb unpleasant aromas in your refrigerator, car or small bathroom.  Tea is a natural deodorizer and can even act as a foot soak to reduce odor.  

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 

The Women of Tan Huong Cooperative, Vietnam

Just north of Hanoi lies the little city of Thai Nguyen and just a few kilometers away, the Tan Huong Tea Cooperative.  The Co-op is made up of 41 members with gardens, 80% women and is directed by a board of all women. (Isn't it wonderful?)

The Board of Tan Huong

In 2000, the cooperative formed with the help of The Canadian Tea Alliance, a group that helped to empower areas of economic hardship through tea production, and by 2010 these women were producing a superior green tea, a green tea that met the rigid guidelines in place for Canadian import.  While they are one of four cooperatives supported by Canada, they are the only ones to meet strict regulations for export to North America. Logistically, in the early 2000s it was hard to reach this tea garden because of the poor infrastructure, but today these women have put money back into their homes, their town and their roads.  These once struggling cattle farmers and noodle makers, have found their success in high quality tea, and for over a year and a half now we have been proudly carrying their tea.

The Tea Ceremony

The Whole Tea Group

When we drove up to their tea factory and saw a large group of people waving outside, emotions took over.  We were welcomed with such enthusiasm and ceremony.  Their gratitude to sell tea in the west was overflowing.  They greeted our little group with a formal tea reception, followed by a visit to a tea garden and factory, and a beautiful generous lunch with flowing rice wine and many toasts and handshakes. We drank tea and ate sweets and the women proudly displayed their new harvested buds.  The Director held my hand as we explored the garden and the Finance Director showed me her little tea production shack, that must have been 9'x10' large.  When we stepped outside, she told us this that the little room was her family's house, before they made tea. 

Hayley and Director of Finance in Her Garden

Visiting the Tea Garden

 

Lunch at Tan Huong

This visit was so emotional, that when we said goodbye and I thanked them for producing such beautiful tea and for welcoming us so graciously, we all began to cry.  I felt in this moment, the impact of our choices. More directly than I ever imagined, I realized that by buying Tan Huong green tea, I am making an immediate impact on these families and this village. That is a choice we make with all things, when could buy commercial and support an industry or we could buy artisanal and support a family.

Saying Goodbye at Tan Huong

Gift Guide for the Tea & Honey Lover

Gift Guide Tea & Honey Lover

We've curated a list of gifts for the Tea & Honey gourmand that will help you quickly navigate our gift options.  Enjoy!

1. Antique Tea Cups & Tea Sets: In-Store only

2. Honey & Tea Variety Pack - Sold out! May we suggest our Honey Variety Packs instead?

3. Clay Concepts

4. Pu Er 2015 Bada Shan Mini Bingcha 

5. Mr. Shao Yixing Teapot

6. Small Gift Basket

7. Mango Infused Honey

8. Dew Individual Tea Sets

9. Tranquilité

10. Kelli Cain Tea & Honey Pottery

2018 Gift Guide Under $30

Gift Guide Under $30

Whether you’re shopping for stocking stuffers or need that perfect little present for a co-worker or friend, these affordable gift ideas are brilliant for someone who loves tea & honey!

1. A Little Tea Book:  If you are looking for a sweet, concise, and creatively informative book about tea production, culture, and travels, here it is written by our good friend Sebastian Beckwith of In Pursuit of Tea.
 
2. Perfect Tea Spoon: This stainless steel teaspoon will measure enough tea for one perfect 8oz cup of tea.
 
3. Honey Bee Rich Body Care - Give the gift of luxurious skin care made with beeswax and extra virgin olive oil from our good friends at Saratoga Olive Oil.
 
4. Lavender Infused Honey: A floral infusion at its best. A light mid-western prairie honey produced in an area surrounded by certified organic farming, is used in this infusion and is steeped with the aromatics of the purple lavender flower to make this gorgeous concoction. 
 
5. Beeswax Candles: 100% pure beeswax produced locally and in our neighboring state, Massachusetts.
 
6. Kinmokusei: Our Featured Tea Tins offer 0.5 ounces of a very special Japanese black tea that we are very excited, and have very little of, but we want to share it with you!  
 
7. Moonspoon Honey Dipper: These beautiful and unique honey dippers are laser cut from cherry wood in Pennsylvania. Available in nine different patterns, you are sure to find one that fits your style.
 
8. Chestnut Honey:  This smoky, leathery honey is a perfect addition to your cheese board, especially with pecorino and fresh pears or drizzle it over rustic bread with good butter for a breakfast like no other!
 
9.  Moonspoon Tea Strainer: These beautiful and unique cup-top tea infusers are laser cut from cherry wood in Pennsylvania. With a selection of 4 different patterns, you are sure to find one that fits your style. Available with or without stand and cover.
 
10. Honey Candy: These delectable, organically made, all-natural candies are a favorite of both employees and customers here at Saratoga Tea & Honey Co. 

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:

¬Ĺ c almond milk

¬Ĺ 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)

¬Ĺ t salt

1 t baking soda

1 c agave

3 eggs

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

3 T Cranberry Blossom Honey

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350‚ĀįF. 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.

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