Monday, April 30, 2012

Part II: The Herbals

Quick sidenote: Before starting this post, I decided to google "The Herbals" to make sure I wasn't stealing the name from some stoner band. Instead, I found the trailer for a goofy, low-budget, crazy looking Scottish movie called "Attack of the Herbals." That's the the link in case you're curious, but if you're not a fan of very fake-looking severed limbs, this flick isn't for you. Can't say you weren't warned.

That huge digression aside, let's move on to herbal teas. Since you can make tea out of almost anything simply by brewing it in hot water (which, incidentally, is a key plot point in "Attack of the Herbals"), this list has the potential to go on forever. For sanity's sake (again, "Attack of the Herbals"), I'll stick to the most popular types of herbal tea.

Rooibos: This rusty red tea comes from a bush in southern Africa. See my post Sniffles and Sneezes? for the health benefits this tea is packing. Delicious when flavored or on its own. Rooibos is the better-known cousin of Honeybush, another yummy tea grown in Africa.

Yerba Maté: This is the staple drink of the people of Argentina and several other South American nations. Also known simply as Maté, this drink contains high levels of caffeine, along with natural chemicals to prevent the jitters you might get with coffee. For this reason, coffee-lovers tend to flock to this tea.

Echinacea: This is a "feel-better-fast" tea that is known to shorten flu and cold duration. I drink Celestial Seasonings Echinacea Wellness Tea whenever my throat isn't in the best shape for a choir concert or other event where I'll have to use my voice a lot - as a future teacher, I can foresee a long and happy friendship with me and Echinacea.
The Echinacea Flower. Source

Chamomile: An herb long known for its medicinal qualities, as a tea chamomile is best known for helping you fall asleep. It counteracts stress hormones, which in turn can combat stress reactions like eye twitching and acid reflux. And it definitely helps you calm down before bed after a crazy day - which is good news for busy, sleep-starved college students!

Mint: A yummy brew of mint leaves, which is soothing when hot or refreshing when iced. On a side note, mint tends to relax the LES muscle, so if you're having a bout of acid reflux, stick to chamomile instead of mint.

Iced mint tea. Source
Chrysanthemum: Not quite so popular in America, chrysanthemum tea is widely used elsewhere in the world. An exchange student from China who lived across the hall from me last year made some for me. I liked it, but I don't recommend it for people who are new to tea. It's an acquired taste.

Sage: The biggest benefit I've heard of for sage tea is it's ability to naturally cut down on excessive sweating. Though it doesn't have the loveliest taste, I've seen it work wonders for pubescent teenagers' self-confidence. Don't steep it for more than the directed amount of time - after too long brewing, sage can become toxic.

There you go! I know there are dozens of other popular herbal teas, but those are the ones I find most relevant. I hope you get a chance to try some!  I'll be taking a two-to-three day break from the blog for finals week, but tune back in later in the week for a new post!

Anna's Semi-comprehensive Tea Glossary: Part I

I said this post would be "tomorrow," and if we're going on the college student's definition of "day", then as long as I'm still awake, it's still Sunday. All this to say, it's time for that tea guide I was talking about!

Today I'll give you an overview of the "true" teas, or teas made from camellia sinensis, the tea plant. And tomorrow (which in college-speak means "when it's light out again or after I've slept for five hours"), I'll get into the "herbal" teas - those made from other plants.

Let's get started!

Black tea: This is what you would typically think of as a basic tea. It goes through more processing than all other teas, including a stage of fermentation (aka oxidation). It's the strongest type of tea made from camellia, and contains the most caffeine. Works well as a breakfast tea, but I really enjoy it at any time of the day. Iced tea is usually made from black tea. My favorite black tea is Darjeeling, which is grown in the foothills of the Himalayas, and has a golden color and a smooth taste.

Tea leaves being fermented. Source

Green tea: This tea has a slightly more delicate flavor than black tea. It does not undergo fermentation, and is steamed or fried after picking and sorting. It also has less caffeine than black tea. It contains the powerful antioxidant HGCG. I adore it flavored with jasmine (Teavana's Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls has been a longtime favorite of mine).

Oolong: This delicate and delicious tea is oxidized (fermented) for a shorter period of time than black tea, giving the leaves a color ranging from green to almost black, depending on the length of oxidation. Oolong has a nice sweet flavor. Fun fact: A long time ago, Chinese monks used to train monkeys to pick tea for them! This is where the title "monkey-picked oolong" comes from, though the tradition is no longer practiced. The oolong teas from Teavana are very pricey. I would recommend Twinings, but you should always shop around for the best tea at the best price!

White Tea: White tea is made from young leaves of the tea plant, when tiny white hairs are still visible on the as-yet unopened buds. It goes through the least amount of processing and also contains the least amount of caffeine of any of the camellia teas. It is rich in antioxidants as well. I like this tea plain, since the flavor is so simple and lovely (my boyfriend claims it doesn't taste much different from water; I say he needs to cultivate his taste buds). It's great in the afternoon or evening when you just want to relax. The Republic of Tea has some great loose white tea available. I've had some good luck with white tea at World Market. Definitely check that store out if there's one near you!

This is a fine white tea known as Silver Needle, only harvested two weeks out of the year. Source
Those are the basic categories for camellia sinensis! Tune in tomorrow for some delicious herbal teas, including rooibos, maté, and chamomile!

Special thanks to, where I did a bit of fact-checking on this post!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Getting Creative!

Hey all!
Here's the post I've been promising for a while. I've scoured Pinterest and rummaged around the internet for some craft and creative uses of tea and tea accessories. I've linked all the original sources, so you can find tutorials and other cute ideas after the jump. The photos I'm using are also from the original sources.


#1: Tea Wreath
This one is precious. It's a great way to display the teas that you have available to guests, so that they don't have to dig through your tea stash - I know mine can be ridiculously disorganized, so this is an adorable way to keep things simple! You can find the tutorial from Kujo Designs here.

I'm going to make one of these over the summer to hang in my apartment next school year! It'll make things so much easier when I have friends over for tea. I've yet to find a cute way of organizing my loose leaf teas though. Speaking of loose tea...

#2: Loose Tea and Honey Wedding Favors

This idea is out of Real Simple magazine, from the article, "10 Creative Wedding Favor Ideas." As someone who's hoping to hear wedding bells sometime in the next few years (and is therefore perusing the internet for ideas), I don't know if I'd use these as the actual wedding favors - not everyone has the know-how or accessories to properly brew loose tea.  Maybe after a bridal shower or some other small, wedding-related purpose - because it really is a sweet idea!  The honey stirring stick is a pretty and delicious touch, and you can hand out any tea you like!

#3: Teacup Art/Décor
This one looks like a professional piece of art, but I see no reason why it can't be replicated fairly simply! 

You'd have to find a place to hang them where you won't bump them, maybe up high in the kitchen or in the corner of a breakfast room. And perhaps not quite so many as in this picture. But it would be a fun, cheap, and easy way to bring some character to a room! Like I mentioned in my teacup candle post, you can find old teacups without their saucers for really cheap - even a dollar! - at antique stores, and probably even cheaper at thrift stores and garage sales. The key here would be to find delicate, colorful teacups, with a color scheme if you'd like. Then you can secure them with some twine and hang them up at different levels. Et voilà! C'est l'art!

#4: Teacup as a Vase
Here's an incredibly simple but extremely pretty idea! It comes from Style Me Pretty.

Just find a teacup and saucer of a suitable size, and you've got yourself a little vase! Be sure to cut the stems so that the flowers are resting snugly in the teacup. This one really is darling, and it's the easiest one on the list.

#5: Tea Bags for Happy Eyes
Did you know that caffeine helps tighten skin? That's why new anti-aging moisturizers have been adding caffeine as an ingredient in recent years. It also helps sooth eyes that are puffy and red or have dark circles by constricting blood vessels and therefore reducing inflammation and discoloration. I'd heard about this one before, but I wanted to give you all a link with directions, so I found an article from TLC called "5 Reuses for Tea Bags," which includes some other great recycling ideas for tea bags! According to this article, green tea works the best because it has an additional anti-inflammatory in it. I'm definitely going to try this once finals week is over! My mom calls the dark under-eye circles that run in my family an "Irish curse," but we'll see what tea can do to combat it! Maybe I'll post some before and after pictures if I'm feeling photogenic. Until then, here's a model: 

I hope you all enjoyed the ideas! They're not all exactly crafts, but I think they're all definitely worth trying. Check in tomorrow for another post, this time on which tea to drink for any situation under the sun - my own attempt at a sort of tea index. Nighty night, tea lovers!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"And She's Always Brewing Up Tea"

I know I said my next post would involve more tea crafts, but I just saw this and had to share it! The other day my mom started singing "tea in the morning, tea in the evening, tea at suppertime," to tease me, and she was surprised when I didn't know the song. 

She couldn't remember the artist or the title, but she told me that I would have to find it, because it's basically the anthem to my life (bit of an exaggeration of what she really said, but what fun is life with out a few hyperbolic statements now and then?). Some quick googling was all it took to find this gem. It's the Kinks, Mom! How could you forget the Kinks??

Anyway, the lyrics to this song crack me up. I will be this grandma someday. I pretty much already am.

Embedding is disabled for this video, so you'll just have to click this link! Be sure to check out Ray Davies' goofy little leg stomp maneuver after every chorus. I'm posting the lyrics below. And a picture for you to enjoy.


"Have a Cuppa Tea"
Granny's always ravin' and rantin',
And she's always puffin' and pantin',
And she's always screaming and shouting,
And she's always brewing up tea.

Grandpappy's never late for his dinner,
Cos he loves his leg of beef
And he washes it down with a brandy,
And a fresh made pot of tea.

Have a cuppa tea, have a cuppa tea,
have a cuppa tea, have a cuppa tea,
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, Rosie Lea
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, Rosie Lea.

If you feel a bit under the weather,
If you feel a little bit peeved,
Take granny's stand-by potion
For any old cough or wheeze.
It's a cure for hepatitis, it's a cure for chronic insomnia,
It's a cure for tonsillitis and for water on the knee.


Tea in the morning, tea in the evening, tea at supper time,
You get tea when it's raining, tea when it's snowing,
Tea when the weather's fine.
You get tea as a mid-day stimulant
You get tea with your afternoon tea
For any old ailment or disease
For Christ sake have a cuppa tea.


Whatever the situation, whatever the race or creed,
Tea knows no segregation, no class nor pedigree
It knows no motivations, no sect or organisation,
It knows no one religion,
Nor political belief.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Hey guys! Guess what....

I did the candle craft! It was really quite fun, and turned out to be incredibly simple (the best kind of craft). Natasha, Laura, and I got together on Friday night in Laura's kitchen and went at it, with some dollar store candles and some adorable teacups the two of them found for a dollar each at a local antique store. The candles were vanilla scented and already a pretty creamy color, so we didn't add an essential oil or any crayon bits. 

We tried our best not to disturb the teacups after pouring the wax, but it was nearly impossible when someone invaded the kitchen to make a pizza in the oven.

Now, I know you're all excited to see the finished product. Please don't judge! We did pretty darn good for our first try, I think.

These are all shots of the same candle. We made four in all, putting one into the silent auction basket and each keeping one. I didn't get pics of the rest!

See the weird spot in the wax? We can't figure out why that happened. All of them turned out with slightly uneven surfaces, but mine actually has a sinkhole in the middle. If you know any theories of thermodynamics that may explain this phenomenon, please feel free to post them in the comments.

Anyway, we were all three rather pleased with our pretty creations - my sinkhole will disappear when I use the candle! Of course, I can't do that until I'm home from school for the summer. Just having an unlit candle in your dorm room is a big no-no!

But I digress. Big shoutout to Domestiquette for the sweet tutorial. I'll definitely be doing this again! In my next post, I'll search out some other crafts or creative tea-related projects. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tea Craft!

Hey everyone!
This week, I get to try a craft I've been wanting to do for AGES! I found it originally on Pinterest (which, by the way, is a fantabulous website!), but the tutorial comes from the blog "Domestiquette".

My choir at school is putting on a silent auction at our upcoming concert to raise money for WestMo for H2OPE, a group on campus that's working towards bringing clean water to a village in Africa. For the auction, my friends and I are putting together a - you guessed it - tea basket! We'll have tea, cookies, a teapot, honey, and these adorable teacup candles!

Isn't that adorable?? I'll upload pics of our attempts when we've finished, so you can see how we did!