A cup of tea with George Orwell; or how tea has, and hasn’t changed in 70 years.

My sister sent me a link on Facebook today. A reminder, from 6312 miles away, of our reluctantly British mother’s many cups of tea. The link, which I will attach for your perusal, is part of an essay by George Orwell, published in the mid-1940’s on “The 11  golden rules to make a perfect cup of tea”.

I’ll preface this by saying I’m a big admirer. George Orwell was a remarkable man, a gentleman and a scholar, and I have not, since my early 20’s, lived in a home without a pot of aspidistra, prominently displayed. And it’s not that Orwell’s 11 rules, wouldn’t produce a perfectly adequate cuppa. They would, in fact produce a fine, British style, brisk, energizing cup that I’d be happy to consume on a cold, dreary day, or, since I now live in Florida, on a day when I feel homesick. On many a day, I’ve reached for our Khongea CTC Assam, or, our Irish Breakfast, to make just such a cup. Both of these teas produce a rich, brisk, biscuity cup. And yes, I put the milk in my mug (not teacup) after I pour the tea and I don’t use sugar because Orwell’s rules #8, #10 and #11 sum up my feelings exactly.


So, you may very well ask at this point, what is my problem with the 11 rules? Well, the problem is (forgive me mother, forgive me George) the British know very little about tea. There! I said it! Because not all tea is black and not all tea is meant to be drunk with milk. Both George and mother aspired to producing an admirable cup but, it was the same admirable cup each time. You and I have been blessed with access to hundreds of truly extraordinary teas! Teas my mother and George couldn’t have even imagined. (OK, in all fairness maybe that only applies to mother).

Each day I walk into Tea and Chi there is a decision to make, before I get started with my morning chores; “What will it be today?”. A thick, earthy, Golden Puer, is brewed with boiling hot water but should not be adulterated with milk. The vegetal, light, bright green Fukamushi Sencha can only be brewed for a minute or less, and the water temperature should not exceed 165 F or the result is practically poisonous! The delicate, floral, Monsoon Darjeeling steeps at 195 F for 3-4 minutes. The elusive, lingeringly sweet, organic Bai Mu Dan should steep for 2-4 minutes at 175 F and the exquisite, hand harvested, chocolaty Yunnan Gold Tips at 212 F for 3-5 minutes. My regular evening brew, the honey-scented, caffeine free Honeybush is practically indestructible and is forgiving of all brewing carelessness. I could go on but I’m sure you get the point. Each tea is as unique as the garden and the master that produced it. You owe it to yourself, and to the tea, to brew each one to its fullest potential. It’s unlikely that you’ll develop a fondness for every type of tea in existence, even if those teas are the finest of their kind. But you’ll have tried, and you’ll have made your own rules when you finally find your favourites.

George Orwell’s 11 rules for making the perfect cup of (British style) tea

New research on why tea should be a part of your New Year’s Resolutions

smokng teapotThis is the time of year for resolutions. And although I don’t think I could possibly increase my tea drinking commitment, without seriously losing sleep, I feel responsible for spreading the word. So let’s just say one of my New Year’s resolutions, is to more effectively share the info on the health benefits of tea. To that end, here is a quick review of some of the more interesting, scientific research on the health benefits of tea from 2014. Take a look. Then you can decide how big a role tea will play in your life during 2015. Personally, I’m staying committed!

1. From the Leukemia Research Journal: Regular green tea consumption (more than 2 cups per day) was found to significantly reduce the risk of myelodysplastic cancers, cancers such as leukemia and refractory anemias, caused by abnormalities in bone marrow cells.

2. From the Journal Food Chemistry and Toxicology: Consumption of high dose green tea supplements and concentrates can cause liver toxicity which does not occur with drinking green tea. So just enjoy a cup or several a day!

3. From Archives of Oral Biology: EGCG, the most abundant polyphenol in green tea, effectively eradicated Enterococcus faecalis, the bacterium most commonly associated with root canal infections.

4. From the Journal of Ethnopharmacology: Black tea can modulate hyperglycemia after meals by inhibiting the breakdown of complex sugars in the small intestine. Black tea can therefore be useful in the treatment of borderline type 2 diabetes melitus.

5. From Taipei Biomedicine: Green tea polyphenols show promise as a natural product to protect from myocardial disease damage.

6. From Arthritis Research and Therapy Journal: EGCG can both slow down the progress of osteoarthritis and reduce the pain associated with it.

7. From the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology: Black tea found effective in protecting against damage from cadmium poisoning.

8. From the Journal of Food Function: Pu-ehr, black tea and Oolong teas were found to suppress weight gain in mice.

9. From the Journal of International Biomedical Research: Pu-ehr tea was found to break down FET proteins, the proteins associated with ALS.

10. We’ve always recomended puer (pu-ehr) teas as digestion aids. Now, from Molecular Medicine Reports: Puer tea can be used as a functional food to prevent constipation.

11. From the Journal of Molecular and Nutritional Food Research: Rooibos can significantly reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

12. From Cytotechnology: Rooibos found to contain effective anti-diabetic phytochemicals.



1. Leuk Res. 2014 Dec 2. pii: S0145-2126(14)00372-5. doi: 10.1016/j.leukres.2014.11.020.
2. Food Chem Toxicol. 2014 Dec 17. pii: S0278-6915(14)00517-1. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2014.12.009.
3. Arch Oral Biol. 2014 Nov 29;60(3):393-399. doi: 10.1016/j.archoralbio.2014.11.014
4. J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Dec 16. pii: S0378-8741(14)00880-0. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.12.009.
5. Biomedicine (Taipei). 2014;4:23. Epub 2014 Nov 20.
6. Arthritis Res Ther. 2014 Dec 17;16(6):508
7. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2014 Apr-Jun;58(2):128-32.
8. Food Funct. 2014 Oct;5(10):2420-9
9. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:254680
10. Mol Med Rep. 2014 May;9(5):2003-9
11. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2014 Dec 8
12. Cytotechnology. 2014 Nov 20

Tahitian Vanilla Beans, DIY Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Sugar



What prompted this post was a fresh batch of Tahitian vanilla beans that arrived to Tea and Chi this morning. It’s making my office/storage smell good enough to eat. In fact I’ve not stopped being hungry today and I’m blaming the creamy/delicious fragrance of the vanilla for it.

We buy several pounds of vanilla bean at a time. Some of it will go to our wholesale accounts, they purchase pound packs, some of it is chopped and used in our tea blends and some gets split up into 10 bean, or “by the bean” lots to be sold through the store to retail customers. That’s what I was doing today when Sandy, an almost daily regular, came in for her Irish Breakfast and asked how the beans could be used. There are, of course, any number of ways to capture the delicious aroma and flavour of vanilla beans but, since it’s coming up to the time of the year when you might be thinking of gift giving, I decided to share two very simple recipes suited to that purpose; DIY vanilla extract and Vanilla Sugar.

Vanilla Extract

Small, pretty glass bottles

A quantity of decent, but not great vodka

2-6 vanilla beans per pint of vodka you’ll be using.

Split the vanilla beans the long way, using the tip of a knife. Make sure you retrieve any errand vanilla seed since that is where the flavour lives. . Cover with vodka. Put in a dark, cool place for 2 to 4 months. The longer you steep, the more flavour you extract and the fewer beans you’ll need. Strain into your pretty bottles, label and let the gift giving begin!


Vanilla Sugar

One cup sugar

One vanilla bean

1 cup mason jar

Cut vanilla bean lengthwise with the tip of a knife and scrape all the seeds into the sugar and then add the sbean as well. Close tightly, shake and leave for two weeks. Multiply quantities above to make as many gifts as you want. Label after two weeks and you are ready to use or share!


Roast root vegetables in ginger puer (pu-ehr) broth. Vegan and Gluten free.

I make two soups on Tuesday and then have to run errands. When I get back in the afternoon Randy and Jaci look frazzled. School is back in session, lunch business was brisk and I need to make another soup.

My friend Sherry has been traveling and she came back with gifts from Tennessee. The rich, dark honey has been claimed by Randy (probably never to be seen again). The sorghum syrup I have earmarked for pecan pies. But there is a beautiful bunch of home grown beets, the perfect start to a roast root vegetable soup!

There’s a bit of time invested in the vegetable peeling and chopping but this is a straightforward, easy recipe. Probably more appropriate for a Fall menu but this time of year we are so sick of the heat in Florida we pretend Fall is just around the corner, not another two and a half months away!


A bit of peeling and chopping


Organic ginger puer tea, brewed strong in a brewer adds zing, earthiness and complexity to the soup.


Twenty minutes of simmering and the soup is ready for tasting.


My official taster approves!

Roast root vegetables in ginger puer broth

2 lbs beets

2 lbs carrots

2 lbs parsnips

2 lbs small, red potatoes

1 lb cremini mushrooms

16 garlic cloves, peeled

one large yellow onion, cut in slivers

1/4 cup good olive oil

1 tbs balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp Greek oregano

1/2 tsp ground white pepper

1/2 oz organic Ginger Puer

Home made vegetable broth or the best commercial broth you can buy. I like using Custom Culinary Savoury Vegetable Base. Peel and chop the beets, carrots and parsnips into bite size pieces. Wash and chop potatoes in same size pieces. Quarter the mushrooms. Put ginger puer in a brewer with two cups of hot water and let steep until veggies are cooked. Toss all the veggies with olive oil, vinegar, oregano and pepper and roast in 395 F oven for 45-60 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Put veggies in broth (scrapping all browned bits) into pot. Strain tea onto veggies and top with broth. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Enjoy!

Working twice as hard in the off-season

It’s the end of July, the height of summer, the slow season in Vero Beach. Those of us that own small businesses have been looking forward to this since late November. That’s when many of us in this town stop going to the movies, cut an hour, or three, out of our sleeping schedule, stop seeing friends and relatives and almost never eat a warm meal sitting down. But we can do it. We can do it because season comes to an end, this is the time to work and pay our bills, and summer isn’t that far.  We can then go to the movies, sit on the beach, have cocktails, (or share a pot of Monsoon Darjeeling) with a friend. Yeah right!
It’s the end of July, I’ve been to the movie theatre exactly twice and to the beach four times. Today I have the morning “off”. This means that after I go in to Tea and Chi to make sure the food for the day is prepped I’m heading out to make the rounds of some of our whole sale accounts to see if they need anything, or, if they might be interested in our new, wholesale spice venture. Because this is what small business owners do in the summer. We look for different sources of revenue so we don’t burn through our seasons hard earned money, we plan for season, we do upgrades to our stores and, time permitting, our long neglected homes. We do this because we love what we do and our customers appreciate what we offer. So armed with my list of fine restaurants I head out of Tea and Chi to ply my wares. But first a quick look at Face Book world and dang it, there is a post from Patisserie two blocks down the road. There’s freshly baked, fresh cherry tarts, with almonds no less. I grab my thick, rich mug of organic mini tuocha puer and head that way. My friends, Christian and Chef Michael Glatz are there. Christian is helping the early morning customers and Chef Michael is drinking his coffee and eating his pastry standing up. “How are things going?” I ask. Chef Michael shakes his head and points at his breakfast. Christian says “I’m so tired”. They don’t need to explain. I get it. We all work twice as hard in the off -season. 20140730-100135-36095726.jpg

Hibiscus Syrup

Hibiscus Festival, the last of the hibiscus bubble teas, and my personal hibiscus craze have finally come to an end. Or, so I thought until I got a text from my good friend Chef Michael Glatz at the Patisserie this morning. He wanted to know if I had a favourite recipe for a hibiscus syrup, not too sweet, for maximum hibiscus flavour. They are making local peach/hibiscus spritzers over there! I used our batch in our seasonal (most of the month of April) Hibiscus Bubble teas but I bet it could be used in anything you want a splash of colour, a touch of tang and a bunch of anti-oxidants. It would be a perfect replacement for grenadine in cocktails. How about a batch of Tequila Hibiscus Sunrises? 


Hibiscus Syrup Recipe

6 cups water

3/4 cup organic hibiscus flower tea 

4 cups organic sugar


Steep tea in 6 cups of near boil water for 15 minutes. Strain in a pan and mix with sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. cool and refrigerate. Lasts for several weeks. 

If you want to check it out before you commit to making a batch stop by the Patisserie this week and order the local peach and hibiscus spritzer to go with one of the gorgeous pastries over there. I promise you won’t be disappointed. 

Hibiscus Salt

Today is the day! it’s Hibiscus Festival in Vero Beach and the sun is shining, the breeze is cooling and it all looks just about perfect. If you are within a hundred miles of here I know you must be on your way for what promises to be a great event. Congratulations to Miss Katilin Ruby, Miss Hibiscus 2014!

We are ready to open Tea and Chi’s doors with freshly baked hibiscus glazed ginger scones, iced hibiscus celebration tea, hibiscus bubble teas and hibiscus cheesecakes. Osceola Bistro, our neighbours to the East, are offering Hibiscus Long Island Iced Teas and Chocolate Hibiscus Martinis. The Patisserie, our neighbours to the South, have an extraordinary Hibiscus Bombe, Hibiscus/Rose Marshmallows and Hibiscus/Strawberry macaron (I had one for breakfast yesterday). 

Believe it or not I’m not hibiscus-ed-out yet (yes I did just make that word up) and have more recipes planned and info to share. Today I’m going to give you my recipe for Hibiscus Salt. Chef Michael Glatz has come up with the best use for it yet in his Gefilte fish salad but I suspect you are only limited by your imagination with this one. 

Happy Hibiscus Festival everyone!

Hibiscus Salt

1/3 cup organic hibiscus flower tea

1 cup boiling hot water

3 cups Mediterranean sea salt

Steep flowers for 15 minutes

Strain flowers keeping the liquid and discarding leaves

Mix half the tea with the salt and spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.

Heat in 275 oF oven for 15 minutes until almost completely dry.

Add remaining tea and mix again. Dry for another 15-20 minutes.

Stir to break up salt and cool completely before sifting and storing.



Hibiscus Ginger Chutney

I was in my early 20’s before I realized that most people did not have chicken curry for Christmas. Mum made a chicken vindaloo that was famous far and wide and, over the years I’ve developed a chicken Korma recipe that I am especially proud of. This week, in honour of the upcoming Hibiscus Festival (two more days to go!) I served the curry with my newlly made Hibiscus Ginger Chutney instead of the usual mango chutney. It was a grand success!

By the way, if you’re here for the big event this Saturday stop by Deb Avery’s booth. She made a few batches of the Hibiscus/Rose/Lemongrass jelly and it came out beautifully. You can buy a jar for a gift or for next week’s breakfasts!


Hibiscus Mango Chutney

This recipe was modified from a Saveur recipe for major grey’s chutney.


1 pound fresh or frozen mango chunks

2 tbsp organic hibiscus flower tea (I use my spice/coffee mill)

½ cup golden raisins

1 cup organic sugar

1 large yellow onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced,

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup fresh, finely chopped ginger root

3 tbsp lemon juice

pinch of cayenne

2 tsp chili powder

½ a nutmeg, grated

2 sticks of cinnamon

½ tsp ground black pepper

½ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp salt 

Put all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about two hours or until thick. Refrigerate for up to two weeks. 


Hibiscus Bitters

According to wikipedia (and who can argue); “A bitters is traditionally an alcoholic preparation flavored with botanical matter such that the end result is characterized by a bitter or bittersweet flavor”. It goes on to say that many brands were originally developed to be used medicinally but are now typically used as cocktail flavouring or digestifs.

According to cocktail expert Adam Lantheaume “Making drinks without adding a dash or two of bitters is like cooking without seasoning”. And in the case of these hibiscus bitters you won’t just be adding “seasoning” to your cocktails but you’ll also be adding a lovely blush color. A few drops in soda water makes an elegantly refreshing drink. I’m thinking I’m going to try it with gin next!


Hibiscus Bitters

Peel of one lemon

Peel of one orange

4 tbsp organic hibiscus tea

1 tbsp cinnamon chips

1 tbsp juniper berries

1 tbsp ginger chips

1 tsp cloves

1 tsp cardamom pods

2 star anise pods

8 oz high proof vodka

8 oz dark rum

Store in a glass jar. Shake every day and strain after 3 to 4 weeks first through a colander and then through a paper filter (I used a t-sac but you can also use a coffee filter).

Hibiscus cosmetics (all things Hibiscus Festival)

Hibiscus festival is on Saturday and Vero Beach is buzzing with hibiscus excitement (at least among everybody that counts). We are starting our week (closed Sundays and Mondays so yeah, our week starts on Tuesday) with the long awaited return of the Hibiscus bubble tea!


If you don’t know bubble tea you owe it to yourself to try one. Not necessarily made with tea (although our chai is made with black tea and spices and the green one is made with matcha) bubble teas are blended, frozen concoctions (again, ours are, some are just iced) with a giant straw so you can “drink” the tapioca (think gummy bears) bubbles lounging in your tea. They are absolutely addictive. We typically carry them in Chai, Green tea, Mango, Tarro (kind of vanilla-ish?) Strawberry, Blueberry, Lychee, Passionfruit and Almond flavours but, once a year, we go crazy and make Hibiscus. It’s that time of year. We’ll keep them going to the end of the month.

Also featuring this week are our Hibiscus glazed ginger scones served with hibiscus spice jelly and clotted cream, the hibiscus mango chutney I’ll be serving next to this week’s Chicken Curry Korma (as long as it lasts, recipe coming soon), hot or iced Hibiscus Celebration tea and who knows what else. And just to prove that you can do just about anything with hibiscus I’m leaving you today with two recipes I came across for “all natural Hibiscus lip balm and hibiscus blush”.

These are not my recipes. What’s worse, I haven’t even tried them out but, I came across them on www.thankyourbody.com and felt you’d want to know you can use hibiscus not just in food and drinks, but also in your cosmetics.

All natural, tinted lip balm

2 tbs coconut oil

2 tbs jojoba oil or avocado oil

2 tsp grated cocoa butter

1 tbsp grated beeswax

1 tsp vitamin E

½ tsp of your favourite essential oil

1-2 tsp powdered Hibiscus

4 to 6 half ounce containers

Melt coconut oil, jojoba oil, cocoa butter and beeswax in a small pot over low heat (do not boil). Remove from heat and add  vitamin E, essential oil and hibiscus. Mix well and quickly poor in prepared containers. Let cool until hard.


All Natural Hibiscus Blush

Arrowroot powder

Hibiscus powder


Start with 1 tbsp of arrowroot and mix in hibiscus 1 tsp at a time until you get the desired  shade. Add cinnamon for depth and glow.

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