Tea of the Week: Bigelow’s Girl Scout Thin Mints Herbal Tea

Knock, knock, knock. And there they are…Girl Scouts, with their adorable smiling faces, asking if you’d like to buy just a few boxes of cookies.

It’s a daunting dilemma having Girl Scouts show up at your front door, especially if you’re trying to watch your calories. You don’t actually want to tell the sweet little girls “no,” do you? For those of you who feel my pain, there’s hope for us and it comes in the form of tea…more specifically, Girl Scout Thin Mints Tea!

In partnership with the Girl Scouts of America, Bigelow Tea Company launched its cookie-flavored teas earlier this year. As the operator of the largest working tea plantation in the US, leave it to Bigelow Tea to come up with a distinctively all-American tea flavor to delight the young at heart. On top of that, Cindi Bigelow, the third-generation President of the companywas once a proud Girl Scout herself!

Next year, I’m hoping that the Girl Scouts come knocking on my door with both cookies and tea. How great would that be? In the meantime (for those of us in the US), be on the lookout at your local grocery stores. Like the cookies, Thin Mints Herbal Tea is a seasonal offering, so it’s a great idea to stock up while you can!Tasting Notes for Bigelow’s Girl Scout Thin Mints Herbal Tea:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew at 212 degrees F for 4 minutes. This tea brews dark and strong quickly so keep an eye out while it’s steeping.
THE BLEND:  A mix of peppermint, chicory, rose hips, licorice root, low-fat alkalized cocoa powder, natural chocolate flavors, and other natural flavors.
THE SCENT:  Of soft, bright peppermint with hints of rich caramel.
THE STEEP:  The color is dark chocolate brown, like coffee! Each sip starts with the smooth taste of chocolate followed by mild mintiness. The chocolate and mint flavors are well-balanced where one doesn’t overwhelm the other. This is great served on its own if you want to taste more of its peppermint base. Enjoy it with a splash of milk to highlight its rich, deep, chocolate flavors. I like the taste of this brew hot, not cold.
GET IT:  The tea is available in grocery stores during the months of March, April, and May this year. It can also be found on Amazon, but not at the Bigelow site. I found my tea at Sprouts, alongside Caramel and Coconut, the tea version of Caramel deLights (a.k.a. Samoas)!
FOOD PAIRING:  Since this is caffeine-free, refreshingly minty, and inspired by cookies, it’s ideal as a substitute for dessert. If you want to indulge, serve this with anything chocolatey like Chocolate Petit Fours, Homemade Chocolate Pocky, or those leftover Thin Mints parked in your freezer (are there any left!?). The touch of mint makes this tea a delicious partner to a few pieces of dark chocolate. This is also great for the calorie conscious who are craving a taste of Thin Mint Cookies minus the guilt.

Salmon Poke on Baked Wonton Crisps

There’s something about fair food that brings out the gluttonous evil twin in people. Foods that we normally wouldn’t touch all of a sudden become strangely enticing (cronut ice cream sandwiches, anyone?), despite how fantastically bad they are for you. Out of all the naughty foods at the OC Night Market last weekend, there was one snack that stood out from the rest as being not only delicious but healthy too…poke!
While my hubby was waiting for his order of Garlic Crab Fries to come out, I peered into the adjacent booth to find some fresh fish poke (pronounced POH-kay) being prepared. Wonton skins, seaweed salad, and fleshy chunks of fresh salmon…I watched these beautiful bites being stacked together and immediately thought that I’d have to make them once I got home.
Poke is basically marinated sushi-grade fish. In Hawaii, the dish is commonly served on its own like a salad, similar to the way ceviche is served. Soy sauce, fresh ginger, and roasted sesame oil pack a ton of Asian flavor and keep the dish tasting light and bright. Here, I’ve made a slimmed down version of the dish by baking the wrappers instead of frying them. The skins turn out just as golden and crunchy as the deep-fried version.

Salmon Poke on Baked Wonton Crisps is so incredibly fast and easy to make. The hardest task is finding a well-stocked Asian market to get sushi-grade fish and ready-made seaweed salad. Sencha or gyokuro do a delicious job of highlighting the fresh sea flavors in these healthy gourmet treats. Serve the tea hot and the savory umami tastes become richer. Serve the tea iced and the contrasting soft and crunchy textures will stand out that much more.  
Salmon Poke on Baked Wonton Crisps

Makes 12 crisps.

Ingredients:

8 oz. sashimi grade salmon or tuna

1 tsp grated ginger

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp sesame oil

squeeze fresh lemon juice

shichimi togarashi, to taste (optional)

12 potsticker wrappers

non-stick vegetable oil spray

1 cup seaweed salad

1/4 cup sliced green onion (green parts only)

1 Tbsp black and regular sesame seeds

1 Tbsp masago or fish roe

Equipment:

sharp knife

large bowl

grater

large baking sheet lined with foil

Directions:

1.)  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the salmon into 3/4″ chunks. To make the poke, place the chunks into a large bowl and mix them together with the soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, lemon juice, and shichimi togarashi (if using). Set aside.

2.)  Spray the foil lined baking sheet with vegetable oil spray. Place the 12 potsticker wrappers on the baking sheet, then spray the tops of the wrappers with an even layer of vegetable oil spray. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the wrappers are golden brown and crisp. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the crisps cool for a few minutes.

3.)  Place a rounded Tbsp of seaweed salad on a crisp and spread it out evenly, leaving a 1/2″ unfilled border. Now place a rounded Tbsp of the poke on top of the seaweed salad. Top the poke with a scattering of sliced green onion and a tiny dollop of masago or fish roe. Finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Repeat this step to make 12 finished poke crisps.

The OC Night Market

The OC Night Market has been on my list of things to do in Orange County for the longest time. This modern food fair is inspired by Asian eats of all kinds, from sushi burritos to pork belly gua bao. Best of all, it’s a place where munching, nibbling, and sipping are entirely acceptable and in fact, celebrated!There are several perks to taking part in an Asian food fair and free Pocky is one of them. Upon entering the market, we were greeted by a cheery red Pocky truck, with a costumed lady handing out boxes of Pejoy, otherwise known as inside out Pocky. After trying them, I’m officially convinced that regular Pocky are superior to this new invention, but nonetheless I am always thankful for handouts.
There are two main drinks to refresh with when at the OC Night Market…the first is Japanese beer and the other is tea. Many of the teas at the market are served Taiwanese style, infused with modern additions like tapioca boba and fruit jellies. These certainly aren’t your $30 per ounce variety of teas, but they are satisfying, perfectly portable, and best of all…tasty!Here’s a view of some black tea leaves post-steeping, used for making Hong Kong Milk Tea. This Chinese twist on a British classic is one of my favorites, a balanced blend that’s bold and creamy. I tried to make small talk with the tea guy at this booth hoping to find out exactly what kind of tea leaves they used, but he was super secretive about it and refused to budge. I’m guessing a mix of Ceylon, Assam, or English Breakfast. Any ideas?Food on a stick is popular at the OC Night Market. But unlike the deep-fried corn dogs and twinkies you find at your local state fair, Asian food on a stick tends to be low-carb. Korean beef, Thai spiced chicken, lobster balls…a skewered snack in one hand and a cup of chilled tea in the other and you’re set.Here was my first tea choice of the day, Watermelon Green Tea, made from fresh watermelon juice and jasmine green tea. Only mildly sweet, this cooling refresher is easy to make at home and ideal for sipping on as the days longer and hotter. And speaking of hotter, how cute is this dim sum inspired tank top? In addition to all the fair food, you can expect many craft and art vendors at the OC Night Market. I can’t say that I would be comfortable sporting this tank around, but I can certainly appreciate the person who could.
In addition to all the regular booth vendors, you’ll also find several food trucks a the OC Night Market. It’s always great to know you can hunt down your favorite food finds long after the fair is over. Buddha Bing and Tokyo Doggie Style are a few of the food trucks that caught my eye. Non-dairy boba milk tea? Leave it to the food trucks to think of everything!
If you plan on making it to one of the future night markets, it’s a good idea to get there early. Just as the sun starts setting, you can expect seriously long lines. One of the longest lines we came across was for takoyaki, pancake-like balls made from a wheat-based batter with pieces of octopus mixed in. Takoyaki are delicious when served with hot green teas, especially savory ones like genmaicha.
Our last stop of the evening was for twice cooked pork belly buns. What set these buns apart from your everyday Chinese buns is that they are deep-fried after being steamed, and hence twice cooked. The filling inside the buns was much like char siu pork filling, except less reddish in color and also less sweet. I suppose the less sweet filling was to accommodate for condensed milk, drizzled atop the hot buns just before serving (yes, you read that right!).
If you’re a foodie coming through SoCal at the right time, you should definitely check out the OC Night Market in Costa Mesa or it’s sister food fair, the 626 Night Market in Arcadia. These food fairs typically run 2-3 times a year, and the venues continue to grow in size as they grow in popularity. Come thirsty, hungry, and with an open mind and I’m sure you’ll find some tea foods that you never even knew existed!

Tea of the Week: Nina’s Thé de Marie Antoinette

If you’ve ever watched Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, there’s a scene where the Queen of France partakes in a delicate cup of blooming Chinese jasmine tea. The scene is meant to reflect the decadence of the times, precisely what lead to the queen’s tragic death during the French Revolution.

Aside from being known for her beauty, fashions, and whimsical hairstyles, what’s less obvious is what a dedicated mother Marie Antoinette apparently was. She had 4 children, 2 who passed away while she was still alive, one who would suffer a terrible death during the Revolution, and only one daughter (her first-born) who would live to adulthood.

Nina’s Marie Antoinette blend is a tea that reflects back on the happier times in Marie Antoinette’s dynamic life. This Ceylon black tea combines the flavors of apples and roses. The tea is flavored with apples that come from King’s Kitchen Garden, otherwise known as Le Potager du Roi, in Versailles.

Upon realizing that her first-born was a girl and not the male heir that everyone wanted, it’s said that the queen stated: you are not what was desired, but you are no less dear to me. Here’s to all the mothers out there who accept their children, wholeheartedly, without conditions. More than anyone else, you deserve to sit back and relax with a good cup of tea!

Tasting Notes for Nina’s Thé de Marie Antoinette:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew at 212 degrees F for 3 minutes.
THE TEA:  Black Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka mixed with rose petals and natural rose and apple flavor.
THE SCENT:  If you love feminine, perfume-like teas, this is the blend for you! This tea combines the scent of fresh roses with juicy, cut apples. The perfume notes will markedly soften upon brewing.
THE STEEP:  Brews to a brilliant coppery gold. The steep is bold but not at all harsh. The apple flavor is that of tart, green apples, and is much more pronounced than the taste of roses.
GET IT:  At the Nina’s Paris website or on Amazon.
FOOD PAIRING:  This tea pairs well with French macarons and petit fours because it’s strong black tea base balances out the sweet factor in these confections. Perfect for enjoying with mom for Mother’s Day breakfast or brunch!

Tea of the Week: Den’s Tea’s Gyokuro Suimei

My hubby and I are planning on moving into a new home this summer. Choosing cabinets, comparing countertops, rethinking paint samples…it’s been an exciting process. Figuring out what to do with our yard is officially next up on our to-do list. With the wretched California drought staring us in the face, we’re actually having to consider the option of synthetic grass now (boo!). I’m not sure what will become of our yard, but with Den’s Tea’s Gyokuro Suimei I know I can always count on an authentically grassy experience–drought or no drought.
The thin, string-like needles of Den’s Tea’s Gyokuro Suimei produce a richly vibrant green liquor that’s bursting with spring vegetable flavor. One of the marked characteristics of this tea is the color of the brew, which looks and tastes as if the tea was juiced not just steeped. If you like your green tea to brew to true green (not yellow, amber, or brown), then this is definitely the cup for you. 
I love to treat this Japanese green tea as one of my very special green teas, not for the everyday. It’s a slightly pricier tea but absolutely worth it if you are an avid green tea lover. As the days get warmer, this is delicious when prepared as an overnight, cold brew. Enjoying it this way will help to accentuate the fresh, bright qualities of this tea…super refreshing and crisp to the last drop!

Tasting Notes for Den’s Tea’s Gyokuro Suimei:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew at 140 degrees F for 2 1/2 minutes for the first steep. Increase the brew temperature to 160 degrees F for 1 minute for the 2nd steep.
THE TEA:  Rich, dark, needle-thin green leaves. The tea looks like perfectly preserved, cut grass.
THE SCENT:  The scent is reminiscent of seaweed and fresh-cut green vegetables like bok choy, asparagus, or baby kale.
THE STEEP:  The brew steeps to a brilliant, dark, emerald green, as if it were a clear version of matcha. It’s taste is a balance between sweet and savory. The tea is rich with pronounced umami flavor, almost like a green vegetable broth. Mildly sweet and very slightly bitter.
GET IT:  At Den’s Tea’s website.
FOOD PAIRING:  The steeped leaves of this tea are so tender and flavorful that you can actually eat them! I love throwing them into steamed rice that’s paired with light Asian dishes. Try using them in my White Cut Chicken with Ginger Scallion Oil and Tea Rice or as a replacement for matcha when making Matcha Sushi Balls. For dessert, try a cup of this vibrant brew with Coconut Milk Pudding.

Dim Sum Recipe # 13: Coconut Milk Pudding

For me, springtime officially marks the season when my love for green tea reawakens to full force. There’s something about the sprouting of fresh vegetation that makes me crave a clean and grassy cup, nature’s purest offering.
I think of gelatin based desserts the same way I think about green tea. They’re light, refreshing, and best of all…simple to put together. Coconut Milk Pudding is a favorite in my family. You’re most likely to spot it as it goes rolling by on windowed dim sum carts where it looks like an unassuming wobbly square of white jello, cut into huge cubes.I love to enjoy Coconut Milk Pudding with Chinese green teas like Tai Ping Hou Kui Tea, an impressive, large leaf green tea (sometimes 4-5″ in length!) that’s mildly sweet and smooth. Tai Ping Hou Kui is low in caffeine and some liken its taste to sugarcane. Another complementary pairing to this pudding is hand-rolled Jasmine Pearl Tea. This tea gets its intoxicating scent from blending with jasmine flowers overnight. Its intensely aromatic quality highlights the tropical flavors in this light, creamy dessert.


Coconut Milk Pudding

Makes 4 small bowls of pudding. 

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp powdered gelatin

1 cup water or coconut water

1 can coconut milk

1 cup half & half

2/3 cup sugar

non-stick spray (if planning to unmold the pudding later)

Equipment:

medium pot

small bowl

cups, molds, or containers

Directions:

1.)  In a small bowl, bloom the gelatin with the water.

2.)  In a medium pot over low heat, stir together the coconut milk, half & half, and sugar until the mixture comes just under a boil and the sugar dissolves completely. Turn off the heat, then add in the bloomed gelatin, mixing to make sure the gelatin dissolves completely.

3.)  Spoon the coconut mixture into cups, molds, or containers. Chill the pudding in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving. If you plan on unmolding the puddings later, grease the cups, molds, or containers with non-stick spray before spooning the hot coconut mixture in. After chilling, immerse the bottom of the cups, molds, or containers under warm water before unmolding.

London Tea Club & A Giveaway!

Each April, my hubby and I celebrate our anniversary twice. We celebrate on April 1st to mark the day we met on a blind date (April Fools’ Day!) and again on April 25 for the day we tied the knot. I enjoyed these red roses as a surprise from my sweet hubby earlier this month, and along with some gorgeous teas from London Tea Club, we toasted to another rich and eventful year together. I’m always looking for elegant and effortless ways to enjoy tea, so I was really thrilled to learn that London Tea Club recently expanded to include memberships in Europe, Canada, and even the US! As I’m sure many tea lovers would agree, our friends over in London know how to do tea the right way. What I love most about London Tea Club is that they take all the fuss out of creating a luxurious tea time experience. Open your mailbox, boil some water, sit back and relax…it’s just as easy as that.
Each month, London Tea Club sends you 3 tubes of tea to cater to your personal tea tastes. Don’t like herbal tea? Just let them know (they’ll ask you before your first delivery)! Over time and as your tastes change, the package will continue to be customized to suit you. The month’s mailer will include detailed brewing instructions, tea filters, and my favorite…suggestions on how to pair each tea with food!
If you’re looking for a beautiful gift for Mother’s Day, birthdays, or anniversaries, a one-time or recurring subscription to London Tea Club is an ideal present for any tea lover. Use coupon code “thirstyfortea” at checkout for £5 off your first delivery!

Their current tea offerings include Coffee Rooibos, Big Red Robe, Taiping Monkey King, Charles Dickens (a black tea blend of Assam, Keemun, & Lapsang Souchong), Sikkim Black Tea, Lemongrass Mint, Pomelo Oolong, and White Darjeeling. I know which 3 I’d love to see in my mailbox…which flavors are you curious to try?

***Congratulations to Ula, winner of this month’s tea sampler from London Tea Club!***

GIVEAWAY ENTRY RULES:

Enter to win a gorgeous box of teas from London Tea Club by following three easy steps!

1. Leave a comment on this post.

2. Follow London Tea Club on Facebook.

3. Follow London Tea Club on Instagram (@londonteaclub).

*** Participants must be at least 18 years old and live anywhere in North America (US, Canada) or Europe (including the UK). The giveaway contest ends May 2nd, 2015 and the winner will be announced on May 9th…good luck!!