Posts Tagged ‘tea’

Matcha Tea Cupcakes – Green, Healthy and Tasty Recipe

Monday, March 21st, 2011

The terrible events in Japan lay bare to us all how much we are still at the mercy of the elements, rather than completely in control of our earth.

Steenbergs Matcha Tea And Cocoa Powder

Steenbergs Matcha Tea And Cocoa Powder

So I decided to revisit my recent post on matcha tea and create these Matcha Tea Cupcakes ideal for charity events to raise money for the tsunami victims.  They are really delicious combination of matcha and cocoa, with with the cupcake tasting just of chocolate cake and the very mild seaweedy taste of the matcha in the icing complements the classic sweetness of the chocolate.  As an aside, this is great way to get some of the benefits of matcha without needing to drink a cup of slightly bitter matcha tea

Matcha Cupcakes

Matcha Cupcakes

Recipe for Matcha Tea Cupcakes

1 tsp (rounded) organic matcha tea
120ml / ½ cup milk
100g / ¾ cup plus 1 tbsp organic plain flour
1¼ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp Fairtrade cocoa powder
Pinch of sea salt
150g / 1 scant cup Fairtrade caster sugar
1 large free range egg
1 tsp Steenbergs organic Fairtrade vanilla extract
50g / 3½ tsp unsalted butter 

For the topping:

80g / 5 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp (level) organic matcha tea, sieved
2 tbsp fromage frais
250g / 2 cups Faitrade icing sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.

2.  Pour the milk into a milk pan, then sieve the matcha tea into the milk.  Whisk the mixture with a matcha whisk or a fork.  Then carefully heat the milk until hot to touch but not starting to simmer.  Take off the heat and set aside.

Infuse Milk With Green Matcha Tea

Infuse Milk With Green Matcha Tea

3.  Sieve the plain flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl.  Add the sea salt and then tip in the caster sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients together.

Put All The Dry Ingredients Into Mixing Bowl

Put All The Dry Ingredients Into Mixing Bowl

4.  Put the egg and vanilla extract into the dry ingredients and mix up a bit with a fork.  Chop the unsalted butter into small cubes and add to the mixture.  Mix thoroughly with an electric whisk or in a blender.  When creamed together, add the matcha milk mix and throughly mix.

Mix In The Matcha Milk

Mix In The Matcha Milk

5.  Spoon the mixture into paper cupcakes until about three-quarters up.

Pour In Mixture Three Quarters Up Cupcake

Pour In Mixture Three Quarters Up Cupcake

6.  Place in oven and cook for about 25 minutes, or until spongy to the touch.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

7.  To make the matcha icing, simply mix all the ingredients together and put a dessertspoon of the matcha frosting onto each cupcake.

Mix Together The Ingredients For Matcha Frosting

Mix Together The Ingredients For Matcha Frosting

8.  Enjoy the taste straight away.

Blending Christmas Tea

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

It is that time of year when customers are after our Christmas tea which is made to my own special recipe. 

Steenbergs Organic Fairtrade Christmas Tea

Steenbergs Organic Fairtrade Christmas Tea

We use a high grown organic Fairtrade from the POABS biodynamic tea estates in Kerala in Southern India as the base.  This is a lovely clean drinking black tea, while at the same time being mild in flavour without any maltiness or meadowy flavours coming through; therefore it is a wonderful base tea.

Whole Fairtrade Spices Ready For Grinding

Whole Fairtrade Spices Ready For Grinding

I take organic Fairtrade cardamom, organic Fairtrade cinnamon quills and organic Fairtrade cloves from the Small Organic Farmers’ Association in the Kandy region of Sri Lanka.  I then get some organic Fairtrade vanilla pods from the warehouse and chop these to about 1 cm in size.  All of these are mixed together and then ground down to a 1 – 2mm chop.  By grinding the whole spices in small batches, I can ensure that the quality of flavours is fresh and strong and that I am happy with their quality.

These are added to the tea together with some organic orange peel granules.

Cracked Spices And Black Tea

Cracked Spices And Black Tea

I mix it all together by hand, transfer it into sacks and leave to infuse with these gorgeous spicy flavours for a couple of weeks before testing and releasing for packing.

Christmas Tea All Mixed Up

Christmas Tea All Mixed Up

No additional flavours are added, no chemicals; it’s just tea and spices, blended by hand in North Yorkshire by me.  The final tea is a gently spiced, homely and warming for these darker evenings.

Recipe For Pears In Rooibos With Vanilla And Saffron

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

One of the classics of British cuisine is to poach pears in red wine or syrup.  As a variation on this, I sometimes create a sweet spicy syrup to poach the pears in, then reduce these to a thick, sweet sauce.  Recently, however, I have been thinking about how to use teas and infusions in my cooking, as well as the impact of different liquids such as beer versus wine and even different beers, to add extra depth to the flavour of your food without bringing in too much extra complexity.

That’s a rather geeky way of saying the liquids you use in cooking can alter subtly the flavour of the meal and they are something we all tend to ignore when cooking, focusing on the big ingredients like the meat or the vegetables or the mix of spices, then just pouring in tap water or “red wine” when we should be screaming hard or soft water, bottled water, fizzy and which red wine, wine from where, as it makes a huge difference.

So as an experiment, I brewed up a large pot of Red Chai Tea, which I make with an organic rooibos tea from South Africa and my own flavour combination of spices.  I left this to steep for a bit then filtered out the sweet, orangey-red tea that is coloured like an amazing African sunset.  Next, you add a mix of ginger powder, saffron and Madagascan vanilla and a light muscovado sugar to the tea; in my usual recipe, I add lemon zest but not here as there is lemongrass in the chai spice mix.  This is the base flavour for the pears and the sweet sauce, which you then use to poach some pears.

At this time of the year, pears are deliciously ripe but you can use this recipe even on the most flavourless brick of a pear in mid winter and get some flavour into them and soften them up, so it is good for your five-a-day.  The result are perfectly soft and succulent sweet pears in a sweet sauce that has a richly luxuriant saffron-vanilla flavour.  Sometimes, I finish my normal versions of this recipe with a vanilla whipped cream, but that really is almost too decadent and I did not have any cream the other night.  Eating with a knife and fork, the knife just glides through the soft flesh of the pear and the taste is heavenly with the characteristic sweetness of the pears perfectly offset by the chocolately, creaminess of the vanilla.

It does take a bit of time to make, but not much effort.  And simple is often the best thing in life.

How To Make Pears In Rooibos With Vanilla And Saffron

4 pears (choose the nicest you can find, but they should still be hard)
500ml normally brewed rooibos tea or Red Chai tea
125g Fairtrade light muscovado sugar
1 organic Fairtrade vanilla pod
½ pinch organic saffron
¼ tsp organic Fairtrade ginger
125ml double or whipping cream (optional)
1 organic Fairtrade vanilla pod (optional)

Peel the pears leaving the stalk, then cut a small slice off the base of the pear to enable them to stand upright in the pan and on the plate.  Find a heavy bottomed pan that is tall enough to accomodate the full height of the pears with the pan lid over the top.  Leave the pears on a plate to the side for the moment.

In a family sized tea pot, brew the rooibos tea.  It is best to use loose leaf tea as the tea bag imparts a dusty, foisty flavour to the tea, but a teabag will do for convenience.  Brew as normal based on equivalent of 1 teaspoon per person so that is 4 heaped teaspoons into the pot, using freshly drawn water that has been brought to the boil, then steeped for 5 minutes; strain and pour into the pan.

Brew Your Rooibos Tea

Brew Your Rooibos Tea

Add the light muscovado sugar, saffron and ginger.  For the vanilla, slice this lengthways and scrape out the vanilla seeds into the rooibos tea, then place the whole bean into the liquid for good measure.

Place the pears upright into the pan, put the lid carefully over the pears slightly off the rim.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and poach for 45 minutes until the pears are perfectly soft; you may need to adjust the cooking time depending on the ripeness of the pears.  Take the pears out of the sauce, put on a plate and leave to cool fully.

Strain the sugar syrup to remove the saffron and any bits.  Return the pan to the hob and heat to a vigorous boil and reduce the syrup to about 150ml.  Leave the syrup to cool.

To make the vanilla cream: pour 125ml of cream into a bowl; slice a vanilla bean lengthways and scrape the seeds into the cream; using an electric or hand whisk, whisk to a thick, whipped cream.  Place in fridge while the pears and sauce are cooling to allow the vanilla flavours to infuse the cream.

Poached Pears In Rooibos Tea, Vanilla And Saffron

Poached Pears In Rooibos Tea, Vanilla And Saffron

Place the pears onto individual plates and pour over some of the sauce.  Add a tablespoon of vanilla whipped cream on the side of each plate.

Recipe For Yorkshire Fruit Tea Bread

Friday, September 17th, 2010

We have always loved teabreads here at home like those made by Elizabeth Bothams of Whitby, but I reckoned that some of those homely, comforting cakes could not be too difficult to make.  So this weekend I set out to make a traditional Fruit Teabread, plus I wanted to have an experiment with cooking with tea.  Quite a lot of the English traditional cakes call for fruit to be laced with alcohol and soaked for a time, but couldn’t this be replaced with soaking in tea?

What I ended out with is a cross between a teabread and a Yorkshire brack, a lighter brack than maybe traditional but richer than a teabread.

Yorkshire Brack

Yorkshire Teabread

Firstly, the practical error, I used a loaf tin that was too small for the mixture, and will need to add an extra 30% to the quantities for the loaf tin, or use a smaller loaf tin; I think I have two little loaf tins hidden somewhere in the cellar.  Secondly, you could perhaps increase the amount of pepper used, but not by much as little of that flavour seemed to come through.  Thirdly, the tea used in this case was a Christmas Chai that we hand blend at our Ripon factory and was hanging over in our cupboard from last year, as I felt that its extra spiciness would add a mysterious hint of the exotic to the background flavour, but I am not sure that it was tastable (if that’s a genuine word).  Finally, I boiled the fruit in the tea, whereas most recipes suggest that you soak the fruit overnight, which is fine, however I never real know what I want to bake until the day has arrived, so I needed to speed up the process.

Otherwise the taste and texture were great, and it lasted for about 30 minutes without a complaint from anyone who tried it.  In fact, most came back for more, so it cannot have been half bad.

How to make Fruit Tea Bread

115g / 4oz / 2/3 cup sultanas
75g / 3oz / ½ cup raisins
40g / 1½ oz / 3tbsp currants
200ml / 7 fl oz / 7/8 cup strong black tea (2tbsp in 6 cup pot; try a chai for subtle differences)
1 pinch of ground black pepper, or lemon pepper
115g / 4oz / ½ cup soft brown sugar
180g / 7oz / 1½ cups plain flour (I used Gilchesters strong white flour)
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp Fairtrade cinnamon powder
½ tsp Fairtrade nutmeg powder
1 large egg, at room temperature and lightly beaten
30g / 1oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled to touch warm

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F.  Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Place the dried fruit into a small saucepan, then add the strong tea, heat and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes until the fruit has plumped up.  Leave to cool in the pan.  When cool strain away any excess liquid, add the pinch of ground pepper, stir the fruit around and try and coat most of the fruit.  Stir in the sugar and leave to the side.

Fruit Boiled In Chai Tea

Fruit Boiled In Chai Tea

Sieve together the plain flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg powders.  Make a well in the centre of the flour, then add in the egg and stir thoroughly with a spatula.  Add the melted butter and stir until you have a soft dough.  Add the sugar coated fruits and throughly beat together with the silicone spatula.

Stirring Up The Fruit Bread Mix

Stirring Up The Fruit Bread Mix

Tea Bread Mixture In Loaf Tin

Tea Bread Mixture In Loaf Tin

Tip the fruit cake mixture into the prepared loaf tin.  Bake for 1 hour, remove from the oven then leave to stand in the tin for about 10 minutes, before turning out and leaving to cool on wire rack.  You do not need to leave this to cool down completely as it is lovely eaten warm.

Axel's Tea Bread Just Out Of The Oven

Axel's Tea Bread Just Out Of The Oven

Serve on its own or spread with butter.

Biodegradable Tea Bags

Friday, July 30th, 2010

It was brought to our attention recently that some tea bags are not really biodegradable as they use polypropylene glues to seal the edges of the tea bags.  This is only the case for tea bags that are heat sealed in the tea bagging process.  The tea bags used in Steenbergs bagged teas do not use polypropylene as they are crimped shut rather than heat sealed.  However, there is the metal staple in the tag which is not biodegradable on a short time frame.  The long and short of it is that you can chuck your tea bags onto your compost heap ithout any problem but you need to put your staples either into your recycling or in the bin.  In the future, we will remove the staple part of the tea bag.  Finally, you can use Steenbergs Loose Leaf Teas which comprise the majority of our range, which have no tea bags, but you have a nice tin that can be refilled with our refill tea packs that come in sizes up to 1kg, or can be recycled. 

On the downside, Steenbergs organic Fairtrade Mulling Wine sachets are heat sealed and so are not biodegradable easily as they used polypropylene in their manufacture.  We will now start looking into whether we can remove this without causing other issues, especially things that may use genetically modified corn starches.

Teapigs – Clever Marketing By Tetley Tea

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

I had always wondered how Teapigs came from nowhere and were able to create a fabulous range of tea using really expensive Fuso tea bagging kit etc etc.

Well, I was looking at their accounts as I am always nosey and like to see how well people are doing and low and behold, Teapigs Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tetley Tea and so Tata Tea (India’s biggest tea company) and not the little wholesome start-up that I thought they were.  So that’s how they can rack up losses of £200,000 a year.  So that’s what they mean when they say they met at a “a really big tea company“, which apparently was in their marketing department, so I have discovered later.  Very clever marketing gimmick then and hats off to Tetleys, you had me fooled!  But Steenbergs won’t ever be able to compete with their marketing budget even if our gunpowder tea tastes way nicer.

It reminds me of Seeds of Change that cleverly hardly tells you that they are part of Mars, Inc, but imply in their marketing that they grew out of being a small hippy seeds business in Santa Fe, whereas they are really part of one of the world’s largest food groups.  They do currently have on their web site that the trademarks are owned by Mars, but they used to hide better.

Steenbergs Listed in Rose Prince’s Latest Book

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Rose Prince has been really lovely and kind and listed us twice in her new book – The Good Food Producers Guide 2010 – under Drinks and under Delis and Specialists.  We always feel flattered – and a bit embarassed – when someone so influential likes Steenbergs products and so I thought it best to just quote straight from her book:

” Axel and Sophie Steenberg’s spices and teas are of the highest standard and are available by mail order.  The company was established in 2003 and due to demand for its products has had to move three times.  Now in an eco-friendly factory, they sell Fairtrade spices by mail order and to other retail outlets, as well as from factory gate.  Beautiful packaging; lovely business.”

“I have always liked Axel and Sophie Steenberg’s principled company, which specialises in high quality organic and / or Fairtrade spices, but it would not be fair to leave out their beautiful teas from this chapter of the guide.  They sell a huge range, most accredited by the Fairtrade Foundation, and many in funky-looking tins (great presents) that keep the tea inside nice and fresh.  Choose from some impressive grassy green teas, delicate unfermented, dried white teas and full-on matured black tea.  Herbs are also available. Order online.”

Thank you Rose.

Chinese Green Art Teas – Yin Yuan

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

I have received a few Chinese Green Teas that have been hand crafted into intricate shapes – they are called Art Teas or Flower Teas and they really do look exquisite.  And for those tea drinkers like me, who love the ceremony and artistry of the whole pallaver of making tea, Art Green Teas are a wonderful luxury.

China Green Tea - Yin Yuan

China Green Tea - Yin Yuan

Yin Yuan is made from green tea that has been tied together and pressed into the shape of a coin; the word yuan is a type of round coin in China while yin is dark as in yin and yang.  Hidden inside are a few chrysanthemum blossoms tied to a piece of string.  Ideally you should brew this tea in a big glass bowl as the green tea opens out into a huge spectacle of tentacles or fronds like a chrysthemum flower or a sea anemone.  I think it looks really quite amazing and I liked watching the tea fold out and the blossoms suddenly float upwards; it’s mesmerizing and slightly mindless – a bit like watching a fish tank for hours on end – but strangely peaceful.

China Yin Yuan Green Tea Opened Out

China Yin Yuan Green Tea Opened Out

The tea itself has a lovely light green colour and tastes green and fresh, with hints of flowery blossom coming through.  There is no hint of bitterness and the flowers give a delicate peachy sweetness.  Yin Yuan Green Tea is one to indulge with yourself selfishly when there’s no-one else around to disturb your thoughts or noise to intrude your few moments of peace.

Brewed Bowl Of China Green Tea - Yin Yuan

Brewed Bowl Of China Green Tea - Yin Yuan

Enjoying Tasting Oolong Tea

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Today it’s a sunny day with a warming, clear fresh light and a blue sky.  This is great weather to look at tasting oolong teas from China and Taiwan (sometimes called Formosa by tea drinkers).  The clear light allows you to see the subtle colour differences between types of teas being cupped, while the fresh light air marries really well with the taste of oolongs.  Oolong tea is sometimes called wu long which is perhaps a better transliteration.

Oolong tea is called a semi-fermented tea, where green tea is basically unfermented (or lightly processed) while black tea is fermented (i.e. fully processed).  Oolong tea sits somewhere between a green tea and a black tea with exactly where they are in that green-to-black tea range having a lot of effect on the end tea.

Oolong tea has the smooth, light and refreshing characteristics of green tea with some of the additional depth of character provided by the firing process to give it hints of black tea – so you will hear people talk of oolong tea being “sweet” or “refreshing” or “flowery” or that it has hints of “spiciness”, “warmth” and a “light flavour of heat coming through”.

The tea leaves are picked from a special type of tea plant with large leaves, which are then withered and allowed to oxidize in carefully controlled air conditioned rooms.  When ready (and this is part of the art of the tea maker), the leaves are steamed at a high heat to stop the oxidation process.

I just love them.  For me, they have more character than green tea and white tea and are like a premier cru wine from a really small, specialist wine estate that’s been given extra love, care and attention.  Or perhaps they are like the mystery of a Rembrandt or Titian painting over the perfectly clean lines of a Raphael.  They are darker than green teas in colour but still often have silvery white tips coming through.

Some Oolong Teas

Some Oolong Teas

I have gone for the following types – an everyday Chinese Oolong Tea and a Taiwan Baihao Oolong (or Bai Hao Oolong) and two flavoured Oolong Teas . So I have chosen a classic style China Osmanthus Oolong Tea that’s been flavoured with delicate Osmanthus blossoms, and a China Milky Oolong Tea that has a silky, milky, sweet taste that’s weird – but beguiling – and has a round mouthfeel.

The Baihao Oolong tea comes from Xinhui in Northern Taiwan, which is humid and wet compared to the rest of the country.  This creates an oolong that’s really smooth and sweet, with almost no astringency, with a lovely flowery aroma of ripe peaches and sweet magnolia-flavoured honey.  Bai Hao Oolong is sometimes known as
Dong Fang Mei Ren or Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea because Queen Elizabeth II loves the special aroma and taste of Bai Hao and so she named it “Oriental Beauty”.

As you can see from the picture below it has a redder, darker and fuller colour than the green teas that I tasted a couple of days ago.  However, this does not translate into a bitter drink and it should be drunk fresh and without milk, sugar or lemon.  And while it costs a bit more than normal teas, it is really a treat for when you’re in a quiet, contemplative mood plus it brews well a second time on the same leaves – in fact I often prefer the second brew to the first as more character comes through.

Delicious Cup of Bai Hao Oolong Tea

Delicious Cup of Bai Hao Oolong Tea

Tasting Japanese Green Tea

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

At Steenbergs, we are undergoing some changes to our loose leaf specialist teas.  Last year, we redesigned the labels to be bespoke for each tea type and with better descriptions on making tea, as well as being bright and fun looking.  Next week, we should also see the arrival of our own new bespoke tea tins – they are in a matt black with a roundel on the top with our name “Steenbergs Tea Merchants” printed in it, which is pretty exciting.

Allied to this, we are going over the specialist teas that we sell to give the Steenbergs range of teas more breadth and more interest.  So I am tasting, for my sins, green teas and oolongs over the next few weeks.

Today, it is the turn of Japan and their green teas.  I like the clean pallet of Japanese green teas without any hint of bitterness that quite often mars commercially purchased green teas from the high street – that’s not healthy and good for you, just plain disgusting tea.

I have chosen some lovely Sencha Fukujyu and Bancha teas, plus a Genmaicha, which is a weird, but traditional Japanese green tea, made by mixing Sencha with Rice Kernels (genmai) giving it a nutty flavour like drinking green tea with unflavoured popcorn mixed in – wacky but quite cool.  The popcorn-looking stuff in the Genmaicha are actually rice kernels that pop during the roasting process.  At this stage, I have not gone for a Matcha as I am not sure with the samples that I have tasted so far.

But I really love the Gyokuro green teas.  I have particularly enjoyed two of these  – an organic Gyokuro and a truly exquisite Gyokuro from the Tanabe District near Kyoto.  The Tanabe Gyokuro is grown under special bamboo shades for a tea with a unique flavour and is processed only from a small first flush; this should give a delicate, round flavour with a delicate, pale yellow-green colour.

Gyokuro Tanabe Green Tea

Enjoying Cups Of Japanese Green Tea

These teas have a delicate, sweet flavour with hints of sweet damp hay coming through that’s typical of good green teas.  The tea cups a light yellow green colour.

What are your favourite Japanese green teas?