Tea for Two … or Thirty-two

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For my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party I decided to go with a garden party luncheon theme. It turned out to be one of the hottest days we had this summer so I made sure to have plenty of refreshments. Rather than employ hot tea on a hot day (even though the tea cups would have been super cute), I went with iced tea in the hopes that my guests wouldn’t collapse from the heat. I decided on a nice cold decaffeinated mint version (using Stash Organics Cascade Mint), a black tea with a twist (Teavana’s Mango Blank Tea with Lemon), and then the popular Earl Grey Gin cocktail (made with Tetley Vanilla Earl Grey).

And it is suprisingly difficult to make large quantities of iced tea. For one, I only had one pot large enough to hold the required amount of boiling water for each batch. So that meant I could only make one batch of tea at a time. I also only had one bowl large enough to hold that much hot liquid while it cooled. And then I didn’t have enough room in my refrigerator to cool it all down. But I did manage. It took a bit of math to figure out how many tea bags I needed for each of my batches (seeing as I usually just chuck two bags in a teapot and I’m done).

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And I had to calculate how much fluid would fit in each of my glass jars. I got these 7.5L ones from Home Sense for a reasonable price. Remember when you figure out how much water you need, you also need to consider any other displacement volume, such as whether you’re adding fruit (lemon slices) and/or ice.

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And speaking of ice, because I didn’t want to water down my tea as the day wore on, I chose to make my own giant tea ice cubes by freezing some tea in these little ziploc containers.

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All in all it was a very successful shindig, and everyone was refreshed!

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Lemon Balm Tea

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Lemon balm (Melissa oficinalis) is one of those magic herbs with many medicinal properties. Among other things, lemon balm tea can settle upset stomachs, calm colic, and help you sleep better. So I’ve been drying the lemon balm that comes out of my garden, and I stole my mother’s as well when she cut her garden down for the winter.

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For several days my house was full of minty-smelling bundles. It doesn’t take very long to dry, which is awesome.

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Then I pulled the leaves and flowers off all the stems. A handful of the loose leaves makes a delightful pot of tea.

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You can sweeten it with honey if you like, or even chill it for a refreshing beverage in the summer.

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Loose leaves aren’t all that practical for me, though, because I wanted to give some of this marvelous tea to people as gifts.  I ordered 200 tea bags off Amazon. They took forever to get here from Hong Kong but were so cheap I didn’t have to pay tax or shipping to get them.

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I got the large size as with dried larger leaves like this you tend to need to use quite a few to make a whole pot of tea.

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Then I stuffed all the bags and tied them off.

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I ended up with 96 bags of tea. That’s a lot of tea.

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I made little tea tags for my tea. I used a circle punch and a hole punch to create the tag itself from cardstock.

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Then I carved a giant T out of a rubber stamp blank.

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Stampy stampy stampy.

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I tied the tags to the bags and stuffed them into wooden boxes I picked up from Dollarama for three bucks, together with a little blurb about the tea itself.

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Fun gift, eh?

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Sick People Tea

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Atlas taught me a version of this simple tea and I make it every time I come down with a cold. I find that it really helps. The name is not very appealing, but it’s descriptive: tea for sick people. And this past week the Pie and I were very sick people indeed.

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Take a lemon and slice it thinly, discarding the ends. You’ll probably only want to use half the slices, so put the others away until you need them for the next pot of tea. Slice up a small knob of ginger. Grab a couple teaspoons of fresh or dried oregano as well.

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Dump all those in your teapot. If you’re me, you’ll spill oregano all over the teapot and be lucky that most of it ends up inside. Use the end of a spoon or a muddler to squish up the lemon and ginger a bit.

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Boil some water and pour it over top.

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Let it steep for a few minutes. While it’s doing that, you should probably clean up the oregano you spilled everywhere.

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Pour and sip (yes, I still have my touque-tastic tea cozy). You can add honey if it’s too much for you to handle, but that’s up to you. Feel better!

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Have You Tried Sea Monster Tea?

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Okay it’s not for real called “sea monster tea”.  I think it’s called “blooming tea” or something boring like that.

BUT IT LOOKS LIKE THERE’S A SEA MONSTER IN YOUR TEAPOT.

Mrs. Nice gave me this glass teapot and a few “bullets” of this tea the last time I saw her so we thought we would try it out.

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The tea itself is in this wee bullet form, all tightly wrapped around itself.

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So you plop it in the pot.

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Pour your boiling water over it.

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And watch the thing unfurl.

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This one had tentacles.  I seriously thought it was the Kraken.

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This one was a bit more well-behaved, but could be mistaken for a sea anemone.

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SEA MONSTERS.  IN YOUR TEA. WHAT WILL THEY THINK OF NEXT?

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Walking on the Wild Side: Labrador Tea

One of the benefits of camping with a former Junior Forest Ranger supervisor is you tend to find things out.  Ranger P tells us that there is evidence in Columbus’ writings that the aboriginals fed Columbus and his crew Labrador tea, which is extremely high in vitamin C, and saved them all from scurvy.  The internet tells me that Labrador tea also provided a revolutionary alternative to regular tea after the Boston Tea Party. 

A member of the rhododendron family, “Lab tea” also contains ledol, a toxic substance which, in high quantities can cause paralysis and cramps.  Those who drink the tea on a regular basis (which is pretty much all of rural Canada, because this stuff grows freaking EVERYWHERE) say that’s a bunch of hooey.  The leaves and branches are also used to keep bugs out of clothing and rodents out of grain.

You can find Labrador tea pretty much all over the place.  Despite its name, it grows across the width of the country, and can be found in the deep woods, by rivers and waterfalls, and in peat bogs.

While the white umbrella-like flower heads are pretty, it’s the leaves that are important

Thick, waxy, and slightly resinous, the leaves are also furred on the underside with white or yellow or even reddish fuzz.

This is Ranger P desecrating a national wildlife reserve in order to make us tea.

It’s simple, really.  You put your kettle on to boil.

You put your leaves in the kettle.

You brew that for a few minutes.

You have your tea.  It’s very astringent and tastes a bit like a Christmas tree, but it’s palatable.  We might have brewed ours a bit overlong.

And it’s either really good for you, or it will kill you.  Either way, I think we’ve all learned something today.