Thursday, March 31, 2016


Matcha is said to be one of the best and healthiest teas rich in antioxidants and flavorful. Matcha is a fine ground green tea powder. It has a sweet, strong, earthy and "green" flavor. It is traditionally served with a "frothy" top not unlike the crema atop a freshly pulled shot of espresso. It is prepared by whisking in with water to blend the finely ground powder as well as to form this frothy top. Unlike other teas, the infusion is not strained off the tea is the actual tea leaves ground and blended with the water.

My first experience with Matcha was at a very popular coffee shop. I can't say that it was a very favorable experience. And it left me really not liking Matcha at all. I opted for a Matcha Latte. Now, I should have known by the way their other beverages are prepared that it would be way too sweet for my liking. Well, it was. They prepare their Matcha Latte by adding a couple pumps of Vanilla syrup as well as a sweetener (according to the barista) and then steam the milk right along with the tea. I'm unclear as to how the tea was prepared prior to the addition of the milk. But it was sickening sweet and I could not even drink the entire drink. The earthiness and "green" flavor was way too strong for my liking as well. I was pretty much turned off from ever wanting to try Matcha again.

Now with the upcoming opening of the Tea & Coffee bar in the store I knew I would have to eventually try Matcha again. And I'd have to make it for customers. So one of the companies that we have been sampling (The Tea Spot) sent a sample of their Matcha. I finally decided to give it a try for myself. What a HUGE difference. This time I prepared it as I had seen on many youtube videos (yes, I youtubed it LOL) and as it had been described to me by other Matcha drinkers. The difference is that I did not have an actual Matcha bowl and whisk so I had to improvise. I prepared it as follows: I added 3/4 tsp of the Matcha to the cup and wet it just enough to make a paste. Then added 8 ounces of hot water and whisked it to blend and create the frothy top. I tasted this mixture without any added sweetener so I'd have an idea of what it truly tastes like. To my surprise, I liked it. So I decided to take it a little further and make a Latte out of it. So I steamed up about 4 ounces of milk with the steaming wand on the espresso machine. Poured that frothed and steamed milk into the cup of Matcha. Tasted once again without sweetener. Very smooth. Very nice flavor. I then added a touch of local honey for a little added sweetness. Liked it even more. So the last step was I added a spot of whipped cream and drizzled with caramel. REALLY loved it then. Yes, I know, I just took this wonderfully healthy beverage and added sugar to it. LOL But it didn't ruin it. It is a delightfully, gently sweetened Matcha Latte.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tea With a Friend

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting and enjoying a nice cup of tea with a friend. We discussed all the excitement we have with adding the Tea & Coffee bar to the store. And oh so many of the options of teas and coffees that we have. She had the chance to smell all the wonderful teas I received from one of the companies whose teas we will be carrying in the store. And we enjoyed a delightfully smooth brew of Boulder Blues. This is definitely one we'll have available in the store.

The description of Boulder Blues: This blend of fine Japanese Sencha and high-grade Chinese Dragonwell combine to create a rich yet refreshing base, while wild strawberries and rhubarb flavors add a subtle twist. This tea yields a bright liquor with a luxurious aroma and brisk, vivid flavor. The ideal accompaniment to dark chocolate. Makes the perfect gourmet iced tea!

It has Green Tea, Mallow Flowers, Cornflowers, Strawberry & Rhubarb Flavoring. And it is delightfully smooth. My friend enjoyed hers without sweetener.....I have to add sweetener to my teas....but not too much.

Friday, March 25, 2016

First Mocha.....New Machine

It has been nearly 8 years since I had the coffee & chocolate shop open. So that's a pretty long time since I've made a real mocha. Needless to say, I am out of practice. This is the first Mocha made with the new espresso machine at the store. I'll be indulging in many of these over the next few weeks while we prepare to open the coffee/tea bar. I need the practice. LOL I must say though, it was delicious. 12 oz Mocha, double shot, Ghirardelli chocolate sauce, topped with whipped cream and drizzled with Ghirardelli caramel sauce. Mmmmmmmm yep, I enjoyed it very much.

And this would be the new espresso machine. No, it's not one of the really huge plumbed machines you see at Starbuck's. We're a small shop with a small coffee/tea bar. And to be honest, this pulls a great tasting shot that is no less in quality than the big huge fancy machines. It took me a few tries to get the grind, amount and tamp just right. But I do believe I got it. :-) At least it did taste delicious. It doesn't steam the milk quite as fast as the large fancy machines do. So just be patient because you won't be disappointed in the shots it pulls. And, it's all in the bean too. We will have Larry's Coffee in the store (a local roaster) so it will be even better and so very tasty.

For those of you that love to stamp and scrapbook.....did you notice the mug my Mocha was made in??? Yes, I enjoy stamping as well. And we will be offering some stamp gathering events in the store once everything is set up so be watching for more information on that.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

More "New to Me" Flavors

Ok, so I have to admit that while I was in Teavana I had to pick up a few other teas and tea gadget and all while I was there. I couldn't stop with just the one tea. LOL Yes, I've become a "tea junkie". Can you beleive there's a mug for that? LOL

On to the other teas I tried from Teavana.

Jasmine Pearls & Peach Tranquility ~ This is another one that they had on their sampling bar. I think this is one that they had out that was NOT sweetened. It was delicious before any sweetener was added. And smells heavenly. So I had to get some to take home to brew. And yes, I did add a little bit of sweetener. While at Teavana I also picked up a bag of the Rock Sugar (beat sugar crystals). Only a little bit is all that is needed. I followed the instructions they put on the tin and it was just as tasty as it was in the store (a little better with the sweetener).

Jade Citrus Mint ~ This one smells sooooooo good. But, I guess I'm more of a fruity kind of gal because I didn't LOVE this one. It was good. But not my favorite. I didn't try it over ice though. So that's next on my list. I can tell you this though, I could sit and sniff on this tea all day long. It's very uplifting. I think it needs a little more of the citrus and a little less mint.

Maharaja Chai Oolong & Samurai Chai Mate Oolong Tea ~ wow. what a mouthful. I kid you not though, that is exactly as it appears on the label. First of all, I've never really been much of a Chai fan. I do have to say that I did enjoy this one. It wouldn't be my first choice. But I can see drinking this on a cold night to warm up. It was also on their tasting bar. They had added just a tiny bit of sweetener to this one. I picked it up because it smelled so good. I haven't tried it since bringing it home. And when we first unpacked my bag from the store and looked at the names, well, look at the first word, at first glance and without glasses on one could mistakenly read it as Marijuana. LOL But no, I'm not drinking Marijuana tea. It's just Chai.

My other take away from my first visit to this store was a nifty little tea brewer that you brew your tea in and then sit on top of your cup and it drains the brew minus the tea leaves and minus a bag. So you have the wonderful fullness of flavor from the full loose leaf teas with ease. Love this little thing. A little on the pricey side but I do like it.

And so now, I am looking forward to trying so many new teas from a couple of suppliers that I've narrowed down as providers for our little tea bar that will be opening soon. And in the meantime, I am continuing to devour all and every book and bit of information regarding teas, where they come from, how they are harvested and processed, how they are flavored, and everything else you can think of that a "tea junkie" might want to learn about tes. :-)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My First REAL Tea

So let's begin this journey, shall we?!? I'll be posting about my tea journey from start to present. And yes, I'll be giving my opinions (good, bad & ugly on each tea tasting and tea shop visit).

Once I decided to add teas to the new coffee bar going in my store, The Soap Hut, I figured I needed to learn a little something about teas. Taste them for myself. Learn what I like and don't like. Learn how to serve the many different types and flavors. My first trip out and about landed me in a Teavana store in the mall. Now, I know, some of you more seasoned tea lovers may be saying "that's not tea" (as I've heard several already tell me in person LOL). BUT, it's where it started for me. And everyone has to start somewhere, right?

The first tea I tried was heavenly. It was their Youthberry® Wild Orange Blossom Blend. It wasn't overly sweet. And oh my is it delicious. It is a white tea blend. And here is the description they give: "Refreshing sweet pineapple & fruity acai berry infusion with orange and light floral undertones". This tea made me want to try others in their store. I did end up coming home with that blend, a Chai, Jade Citrus Mine (a flavored green tea), Jasmine Pearls & Peach Tranquility (a green tea blend) and a bag of their beet root rock sugar (love this stuff too).

Being that I had nothing to even steep the tea in I also purchased an infuser while I was there. And now, I'm hooked. Trying many other teas since and looking forward to trying many more.

Before I Knew Better.....

Sweet southern iced tea......grew up on the stuff. Although, I was never very fond of it. I remember my Great Grandma's tea and my Grandma's tea. Both were so sweet you could hardly taste the tea. LOL. My mom's tea was sweet but not quite as much. But the thing I remember even more than all that sugar is the bitter taste left behind with every swig and gulp. I think between the sugar and the bitter taste I was nearly ruined forever from liking tea. Fortunately, I know better now. 😏

I had no clue that the tea I gee up on was over steeped. All I knew was that to make tea you had to use lots of tea bags and steep it in boiled water at least 20 minutes or so. The longer the better. And the more sugar the better. That's the southern way you know. ;-) I think all the sugar was added to try and mask the bitterness from over steeping.

Then there was the "Hand" tea. Yes, we had our own little way of brewing our tea in the Hand household. Everyone thought we were nuts but they sure loved it. You see, I'd always forget about the water boiling so had to come up with a way to brew it and not burn down the house. Unlike me, my husband loved sweet iced tea. So I decided to put my tea bags in the brew basket of the coffee pot and brew it just like a pit of coffee. Worked line a charm. Best part, I didn't have to add so much sugar because it wasn't as bitter. But it still was t my favorite beverage. Little did I know, the tea bag teas weren't the best quality.

I still preferred my coffee and espresso drinks.

And now, well let's just say I know how to make a cup of tea the right way using the right kind of tea. And I must say, I'm a tea convert slightly on the obsessed side. LOL.

Just a side note. The image shown at the top of this page can be found at It is wall art available for purchase. I am not affiliated with the site or seller in any way. I just found it and loved the image but also give credit where credit is due. :-)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Journey Begins.....

And so the journey actually began several months ago but I've got to start somewhere......and I've got to get you caught up from the beginning. LOL

I have always loved coffees. Everyone in the family drinks it. And I was no different. I owned a dessert and coffee shop many years ago and was a self-proclaimed "coffee snob". I loved my espresso beverages....especially when I knew they were made with a particular local roaster's beans. Don't get me wrong, I still love a good mocha. But my love for tea has begun....or should I say obsession.

If you had told me even a few months ago that I'd be so hooked on teas and so interested in learning about them I'd tell you that you were nuts. I've never even been a southern sweet tea drinker (being from the south that's a tragedy LOL). But now I can't seem to stop reading about teas, learning about the different varieties, and I can't wait to taste another flavor that I've missed out on all these years. I've started to love teas both hot and cold.

So this blog will pretty much be a chronicle of my tea journey. I'll be sharing what I love, and maybe some that I don't particularly care for, along the way.

And for the most fabulous news of my journey......I will be opening a Coffee & Tea Bar inside of my soap shop May 2016.