Mmmm, with a cup of coffee…[via Make]
A recent tweet on Urbanite Jewelry‘s Twitter feed reads: “Time to catch up on tour de tea…I’m behind like a mo fo! Life is crazy busy right now!” For Krista Leben, jewelry designer/event organizer/business owner/world traveler, “crazy busy” is an understatement. In the time that I have known Krista, she has never had just one thing on the go, and yet always seems to find the time to get everything done with style and grace. Keeping up with so many projects and still managing to make time for herself must be no easy feat, so you know that if anything gets added to Krista’s already-packed schedule, it must be very important.
Lovely repurposed vintage teacup bracelets by Stay Gold Mary Rose.
That is exactly the case with Krista’s “Tour de Tea”. A passionate foodie, Krista is on a personal quest to sample the 70 varieties and flavours of tea in her collection. To that end, she is drinking one per day and blogging about it. As she can’t share the taste experience with us, she provides dreamy Polaroid-style photos of each tea with a brief description of each. It’s almost as good as being there to taste for ourselves.
As I write this, Krista has sampled and logged 58 teas from her collection. Her favourites so far have been a stand-out Swedish tea called Soderblanding (a complex blend of black tea with floral, citrus and vanilla notes), which Krista picked up on a trip to Stockholm, and the Raspberry Ginger Zinger green tea from Edmonton’s Steeps. They haven’t all been winners, though; an intriguing blend from My Tea Mix turned out to be better in theory than in practice. With ingredients like Chinese Wolfberry, ginsing blossoms and rock sugar, it turned out to be more of a treat for the eyes than the tastebuds.
Upcycled vintage teacup pendant light by Mostaza Seed. Such a bright idea!
I asked Krista about her preferred method for brewing tea and she was gracious enough to share these tips with us:
Don’t Use Boiling Water: While this seems totally counter-intuitive, it’s actually bad to steep your tea in boiling water because it can burn the tea. Boil your water, then take it off the stove (or out of the microwave) and let it sit for a minute or two. Then add the tea to it after it’s cooled. You’ll have sweeter, more flavorful tea that’s less likely to get bitter.
Don’t Over-Steep Your Tea: Most tea only needs a few minutes to steep in water. If you’re brewing your tea more than 5 minutes, you’re likely to end up with bitter tea. Different types of tea need less steeping, too. In general, white tea needs the least amount of time to steep, with green tea needing a bit more and black tea needing the most. But even black tea doesn’t typically need more than 5 minutes, so don’t leave your tea in the water too long!
Do Use Loose Leaf!: While the quality of bagged tea has improved greatly in the past couple of years, the flavor and complexity of loose leaf tea can’t be beat. Loose leaf tea is more expensive than tea bags, but is still super affordable and is easy to prepare. Just buy yourself a tea ball or spoon from a kitchen store, put about a teaspoon per cup (250 ml/8 oz) in the ball/spoon and brew just like you would a tea bag!
Keep your tea hot to the bottom of the pot with this modern wool felt tea cozy by Argyle Street.
Krista also mentioned that it’s important to be aware of the shelf-life of your tea. Just like herbs, it’s best to buy your teas in smaller quantities, store them in airtight containers and, for maximum flavour, use them as soon as possible. While drinking “expired” tea won’t be harmful to you, it will taste stale and lack some of its original flavour profile, as Krista found out with some of the older teas in her stash.
One-of-a-kind vintage teacup ring holder by W.Ho Made It.
You can keep up with Krista’s “Tour de Tea” on her blog and via her Twitter feed. To see her stunning line of handmade jewelry online, visit the Urbanite shop. I am personally looking forward to the day when I can venture out to Ottawa to meet my dear friend in the flesh. Over a pot of tea, of course.
“York, England” earrings by Urbanite Jewelry.
It’s been a while since anything that grows in the dirt has been in-season here. It’s been a while, as a matter of fact, since anyone has even seen the dirt here. This past winter has been long and cold for many northerners — and cold for many southerners, too — so it really was with unspeakable joy that I picked up the “pen” to write March’s edition of What’s In Season Now. Truly, unspeakable.
March isn’t spring here yet, but it is the unofficial beginning to the transition between it and winter. It is a month of hope, of melting snow and renewed vigor for life. It’s a month when anything is possible and the whole growing season is before us. The countdown begins; less than two months until rhubarb and asparagus, less than three until strawberries. The pantry stocks may be dwindling and we may be growing quickly weary of the pasta, potatoes and beans that make up so much of the basis of meals these days, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is the prospect of bountiful harvest just there at the tip of our grasp. It’s coming.
In the meantime, cold season veggies should be cropping up as the farmer’s markets near you as they open up for the season. Be on the look-out for:
- Greens – Spinach, Lettuces, Chard, Kale, Collards and more.
- Meats & Dairy – Products ‘on the hoof’ are never out of season.
- Potatoes – Sweet and white, depending on your location.
- Apples – Not necessarily ‘in-season’ but they store well so last fall’s harvest may still be available from some suppliers in your area.
- And more…
Of course, you may also want to check out last year’s March Edition of What’s In Season Now and if you’re not sure where to find a farmer’s market near you, you can always depend on Local Harvest for help. And for newbies and seasoned shoppers alike the farmer’s market shopping guide that was featured right here at Try Handmade may also be a great resource! Happy shopping and happy spring!
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All of the stunning food photography featured in this post is available for purchase on Etsy. Click the photo you’re interested in above and you’ll be taken directly to the seller’s store. Personally, I think there is no better way to decorate a kitchen.
I admit, I love Valentine’s Day. I know, I know. It’s a hallmark holiday; it’s a manufactured day to entice buyers back into stores after they’ve already maxed their limits over the holiday season in November and December; one shouldn’t need a day on which to show love to the people they hold dear. I know all the reasons we’re not supposed to support it. I just can’t help it. I still like it. And, I promise, that’s only partly because chocolate tends to be a heavy part of its celebratory traditions.
I’m the parent who, at the beginning of the school year, secretly hopes she’ll be put on Valentine’s Day party duty. I’ve had fun with the Halloween party, I always show my face at the holiday party, but the Valentine’s Day party is truly my favorite. I dream of fluffy, whipped, pink frosting atop cupcakes, red sugar sprinkles on cookies.
It’s one of the few days each year where I can cut-loose and fully embrace my inner girly-girly. I can admit that sometimes I like food — and even decor — that looks eerily like a bottle of pepto bismol threw up; I can tie packages up with frilly red bows; and, yes, I can show those dear to me I love them a little more thoroughly than I may remember to 364 others days per year. And you know, that just may not be all bad. Especially when the packages I am tying up contain some of the finest handmade and artisan gifts around; gifts that support small producers and their families so perhaps the love can flow through their homes too.
Haven’t picked a gift for your love yet? The clock is ticking, but there’s still time. Many Foodzie and Etsy sellers offer rush shipping options. Click over and get your shopping done now! Hedonistic Chocolate’s Raspberry Truffles, d’Lischka’s German-inspired cookies and Gauteau et Ganache’s Marshmallow hearts are just the tip of the iceberg.
I liked Diana Prichard’s guest post on berries so much that I invited her to be a regular columnist on Try Handmade — she loves food made by real people, and I hope you enjoy her weekly Handmade Food offerings.
“She is a freelance writer and wanna-be homesteader living in rural Michigan with her husband, two daughters, two dogs, three horses, a small flock of chickens and an ever-changing menagerie of other farm animals large and small. She is a self-proclaimed homegrown and artisan food junkie, who in the year 2009 set the goal to grow most of her family’s food in their own garden. She didn’t succeed, but she did make a lot of progress. And there’s always next year.” (more)
I think she’s the right person for this job ;)
A few years ago my husband came home from work with a dark green, unmarked wine bottle in his hand. “Its boysenberry” was the only description I got as he thrust the bottle at me through the front door when I greeted him.
That night after the kids were tucked into bed, the house quiet I settled on the sofa with the bottle, a glass, and a trashy T.V. show. There, I fell in love. The boysenberry wine, it turned out, was a homemade creation by one of the husband’s colleagues from fruit grown in his backyard. Since then we’ve been lucky enough to be the recipients of many bottles of his wine. A few more boysenberry, a handful of bottles of blueberry, a coveted bottle of some of the best strawberry I’ve ever tasted and yes, even a few traditional grape wines. Never will he accept payment, only the promise that we’ll return the empty bottles – and that we do.
Still, I love wine and loving sharing wine even more. His generous gifts are hardly enough to keep me in drinks the year through. Enter: my complete and utter obsession with local wines. An obsession spurred by a lone unmarked bottle of Boysenberry those years ago and encouraged by a bottle of Michigan made wine I received as a gift from my sister-in-law for Christmas in 2007.
I look back now on my quaint naivete with humor. How I had, even if it had only been briefly in the very infancy of my wine sampling journey, eschewed wines not from the wine regions. How I had assumed anything made locally would be subpar. I don’t live in Napa Valley, after all.
Now, I cannot get enough of the stuff. But more importantly cannot believe I spent so much time not knowing how many local wineries there really are. Here and every where. Across the United States, from Pennsylvania’s ninety-nine plus wineries to Arkansas’ well-established Post Familie winery and vineyard, the country is ripe with local drinks made of local produce. Even North Dakota has an established winery. Pointe of View Winery was the state’s first and was federally bonded in 2002. And while I’m no wine connoisseur, their Rhubarb wine sounds delicious.
To find local wineries near you search for wine + your state’s abbreviation in Google. Most states have websites like the one linked above for Pennsylvania that are dedicated to helping consumers locate wineries in the area. Happy sampling!