It’s 1960 at the Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, Colorado. A man steps up to the bar and orders an iced tea with lemonade. Nearby, a woman recognizes him as he walks away and says to the bartender, “I’ll have that Palmer drink,” inadvertently launching the iced tea phenomenon known as The Arnold Palmer.
At our Tea Bar in the Mission, we’re introducing our take on this classic iced tea, named in homage to the golf great, that we’re calling The Rosie Palmer.
Oolong tea can be dangerous. Lilies explode in full bloom… Autumn leaves fall in the woods… Tree-ripened peach juice drips down your chin… The aromas and flavors weave together in beguiling combination. An experience with oolong lingers in your memory like a lover’s kiss.
In the hands of artisans-of-the-leaf, oolong will spoil you thoroughly. Thousand year-old tea cultivars grown in the cliffs of Southern China and Taiwan develop character that can only come from facing challenges and overcoming.
As you explore the world of tea, you’ll come to a point where you want something more. Something more exotic. Something that surprises. Something so delicious that your worries melt away leaving you squarely in the present moment, a cup in your hand and a smile playing on your lips.
That’s when it’s time to brew some Samovar Gyokuro—the fine wine of Japanese green tea.
Unlike most teas, Gyokuro is grown in the shade under straw mats for about 20 days prior to harvest. This stresses the plant and as it struggles to draw energy from the sun the chemistry of the leaves change. The result is higher levels of L-Theanine, responsible for increased mental clarity and focus, and a clear resonating note of the most unique of all flavors: umami.
If you are familiar with our standard brewing instructions (steeping one to two tbs. of tea in boiling water for 15-60 seconds) you’ll have to set them aside. They won’t help you here. Gyokuro has special leaves that you need to treat with extra gentle, loving care.
Searching for uniquely delicious tea-cocktails, I’ve tasted a lot of brews. Each tea adds distinct flavor and character. I love infusing our Jasmine Green for a floral burst, Tolstoy’s Sip for deep smokiness, and Earl Grey for citrus brightness. But my hands-down holiday favorite is a cold-brew infusion of vodka and our California Persian Black Tea. This magical combination of baby wild roses, citrusy bergamot and orange, and savory cardamom pods produces an amazing vodka tonic drink.
We call this drink “The Rosy Persian” and we brew it by the gallon for private events and parties.
Chai simply means “tea” in Hindi, and masala chai means “spiced tea”. Popular in India, where street vendors are kept busy serving up cups of masala chai all day long, this 5,000+ year old drink originated as an Ayurvedic tonic. Ginger to remove toxins, cinnamon to aid digestion, cardamom to improve circulation, and much more.
At Samovar Tea Lounge, we slow-cook our chai on the stove in the traditional manner, combining it with whole milk and substituting coconut palm nectar (lower-glycemic) for cane sugar. Making chai takes a few more minutes than steeping a regular cup of tea, but your efforts will be rewarded. Continue reading How to Make Masala Chai
In most cases, brewing the perfect cup of tea is as simple as adding boiling water to a couple tablespoons of tea and steeping for 15-45 seconds. While Russian tea needs a little more finesse, we’ve distilled the process to the essentials and the result is a superb black tea recipe that will dramatically improve your tea brewing vocabulary. Continue reading 5 Steps to the Ultimate Russian Tea
Here’s an easy tutorial on how to make tea ice popsicles and granitas (an Italian sweet that lies somewhere between sorbet and Italian ice).
First, brew your chosen tea at double strength (using twice the leaves you’d normally use). Strain your tea leaves. Then, add your preferred sweetener – and plenty of it! (As the tea freezes, it will lose a lot of the sweetness in the flavor.) We recommend coconut palm sugar, or if you’d like, you can also add flavor by blending in ingredients like lemon juice, mango nectar, finely chopped mint leaves, puréed strawberries or almond paste. No matter what you add, stir it in very well. Continue reading How To Make Frozen Tea Treats
Iced tea lattes are a delicious summer treat. Here’s how to make your own awesome iced tea lattes at home:
1. Select a tea. Black teas are always a great choice though any strong-flavored tea works well. A lighter flavored tea such as green or white will be too mild to stand up to the addition of milk. However, an exception to the rule is the Sweet Matcha, which blends the rich buttery flavors of matcha green tea with milk.
Tea tastes great hot or cold. During the warm summer months, our chilled teas are some of the most popular drinks on the menu. Here’s a quick intro to making your own refreshing chilled teas.
“The slow way”: brew your tea as you normally would, add sweetener such as coconut palm sugar if desired and then chill it until it’s cold. Add ice if desired and serve.
“The quick way”: brew the tea as you normally would, but make it twice as strong by either, a) halving the amount of water you use, or b) doubling the amount of tea leaves you use. Add sweetener if you like, then pour the hot tea over a cup/pitcher full of ice and serve cold.
Black tea is the most common tea to drink cold, but the chilled tea options are endless. Here are a few of our favorites:
The Soy Matcha Shake has been a longtime favorite at the Lounges. Now we’re excited to make the Samovar Sweet Matcha Shake Mix available through our online store.
To make a matcha shake:
Combine five ice cubes, one heaping tablespoon of Samovar Sweet Matcha Shake Mix, and eight ounces whole milk, soy milk, or almond milk. Blend or shake in a cocktail shaker. Pour into a chilled glass, straining out ice cubes. For a hot drink, steam or heat milk on stovetop, and stir in matcha mix.
One of the great things about tea is that it taps into something very basic, human, and elemental. Good tea stimulates all of the senses. All of them.
Perhaps tea is so profound because, let’s face it, everything boils down to sex.
Sight, sound, smell, touch, taste. Tea is in fact very sensual. It touches our senses and allows us to experience them more fully. Tea as a training ground for sensory stimulation, we can take the experience to every little thing in life. Learn to let the senses flourish with tea, and they’ll be blooming in other areas too. Perhaps tea is so profound because, let’s face it, everything boils down to sex.
Here is how we like to use this gaiwan (start with these guidelines, and then experiment on your own):
* Pre-warm the cup by adding some hot water to it, and then discarding that water
* Brew the tea directly in the cup by adding 2-3 tbsp of dry leaves
* Awaken the leaves. For oolongs and puerhs, cover the leaves with some hot water, and then immediately discard that first “rinsed” infusion. Leave the lid on the rinsed leaves
* Lift the gaiwan to your nose and tilt the lid open about 1/2” to release the aroma of the awakened leaves. Take it in. Inhale again and again, savoring this intoxicating scent
* Now add some hot water to these leaves, paddle them once or twice with the lid, and then replace the lid to let them steep about 30 seconds
* Tilt the lid back slightly and either start sipping directly from the gaiwan, or, decant the brew into another cup. At the lounges we use the Lotus Teacups for decanting. The teacups are great because the white color highlights the color of the tea, and allow the brew to cool just quick enough.
Experiment with both the quantity of tea and brewing time to find what works best for each tea. As a general guideline we suggest using 2-3 tablespoons of tea, and steeping the tea for just 20-30 seconds on the first infusion, extending the steeping time for each subsequent infusion. This method of brewing allows you to infuse the same tea leaves many times over, each infusion yielding a new and different experience.
All the teaware shown here is available in our online shop:
As whole leaf begins to replace the standard tea bag, one major question arises: How do I brew this tea? There are hundreds of methods out there, some ancient, some new-age. Here at Samovar, we don’t believe there is ONE correct style. In fact, we encourage creativity and innovation of brewing methods. It’s all good as long as good tea is being served.
The Three Pillars of The Perfect Brew: Tea, Temperature & Time.
If you’ve read How Tea is Made, then the next question is perhaps, “Ok, how do I make a cup?”. This art involves the balancing of three variables: amount of tea, water temperature, and steeping time. Since flavor is subjective, only you can determine what the right recipe is for your palate.
To begin your experimentation, start with the following guidelines:
Tea. Use 1-2 tablespoons of tea per 8oz cup. Get the most flavor from your tea by using more tea for short steeping periods.
Temperature. Always start with the best tasting water you can find: filtered, spring, or even “mountain stream fresh.” Most of teas in our collection, are robust enough to handle boiling water, but do read the brewing notes for each tea. For example, we recommend brew Green Ecstasy with a mix of hot and cold water.
Time. Steep the first infusion for 15-30 seconds. The first infusion releases a wave of flavors which can be overpowering. Get to know
Repeat. Re-steep for 5-20 additional infusions, increasing the brew time to taste.
For Pu-erh & Oolong teas: Awaken the leaves. Rinse leaves with boiling water prior to first infusion.
Experiment with water temperature. Start with a rolling boiling and then try different temperatures to get the flavor you like best.
Our Organic Masala Chai has people from all over the Bay Area coming to the Lounges for that cozy, creamy, and dreamy experience. Our secret Masala Chai blend was created from a combination of several collected family recipes from across India.We use only organic whole spices and organic, whole-leaf black tea. The resulting drink is a perfect and flavorful balance of spice and tea… and totally addictive.
Here’s how to make the perfect, creamy, steamy cup of Chai:
Bring 2 cups water to a rolling boil.
Add 2 tablespoons sweetener (we like our Balinese Samovar Sweet Crystals because they’re healthy and good for the environment).
When sweetener is dissolved in boiling water, add 2 tablespoons Masala Chai + 1–2 tablespoons of your favorite black tea (add more black tea for more caffeine kick).
Boil together for 5 minutes.
Add 1 cup whole milk (or milk substitute). Bring to a boil again.
Remove from heat immediately (before it boils over).
Mystery hovers over this magical tea. Although not the most popular of green teas, it is likely the most exotic. Matcha’s unique processing begins with a shade grown tea leaf, yielding an intensely green, chlorophyll infused leaf. Once dried, the leaves are pulverized to dust between two large granite plates.
The magic of this tea is left to the user, making as big or as little ceremony as is necessary. To learn more about the history and ceremony, watch this video with Christy Bartlett of the San Francisco Uransenke Society. The joy of this tea happens not only in each sip but in the preparation. Hand-whisked with a bamboo chasen until soft green peaks form on its surface, this tea is blended, and not infused like other leaves.
If you’re reading this, you probably love tea. Unless you hate sweets or cold things, you probably love ice cream. So… how about tea ice cream?
We’re not talking about some cheaply made, overly sweet stuff you paid too much for just because it’s a frozen, imported product. I’m talking about making the good stuff at home. It’s about as easy as making ice cream ever is, but the effort is oh-so-very worth it.
How to Make Tea Ice Cream
1. Select your tea. Anything that’s good as a tea latte is good as an ice cream. Some others will work, too.
2. Select an ice cream recipe as a base. * Vanilla ice cream recipes are the simplest to alter. If you want to get more creative with it, you can select a more complex flavor that pairs with your tea, like strawberry for Nishi Sencha Green Tea or chocolate for English Breakfast Black Tea.
3. Warm your cream or non-dairy alternative to your tea’s brewing temperature.
4. Infuse 3-4 teaspoons of tea in your cream or non-dairy cream for about 5 minutes.
5. Strain and chill.
6. Make the ice cream according to your recipe, replacing the cream/non-dairy alternative with your creamy tea infusion. Consider making it with slightly less sweetener and flavor (vanilla extract, cocoa powder, etc.) than the recipe calls for – it will get extra flavor from the tea.
Ice Cream Mix-Ins
If you want to get more creative with tea ice cream, you can add ingredients to the infusion or you can add mix-ins to your ice cream once it’s semi-solid. Try infusing organic rose petals with Samovar Moorish Mint or orange zest with Samovar Breakfast Blend.
If all of this sounds like a dream to you, but you have the feeling you’ll never have time to actually do it–not a problem! Use an electric spice grinder or coffee grinder to grind your tea into a powder and blend it into slightly softened ice cream. Or try a dash of matcha (powdered Japanese green tea).
Tea Simple Syrup
If you have time to cook, but don’t have an ice cream maker, you can make tea simple syrup (recipe below) and drizzle it over your ice cream. Here’s how:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp loose leaf tea
1. Infuse 1-2 teaspoons of tea leaves in 8 oz. of boiling water for 3 minutes (use water below the boil, around 170 degrees, for green teas).
2. Strain the tealeaves.
3. Bring the tea to a boil.
4. Add the sugar.
5. Keep at a low boil, stirring often, until the mixture has become one cup of smooth syrup.
7. Keep refrigerated in a sealed container and use within one month.
You can also use tea simple syrups for instant tea “sodas” and cocktails/mocktails, or as toppings for fruit salads, cakes and other sweet foods. Depending on the tea, it could even work as a sort of chutney/sweet marinade alternative for meats or tofu!
As summer wanes, I’m still trying to capture the flavors that make it so delicious. I recently created this watermelon-tea cocktail. My husband says it tastes just like a watermelon Jolly Rancher. I think it tastes like the end of summer. Try it and let me know what you think!
*1/2 small, seedless watermelon, pureed and run through a fine mesh sieve for about 1.5 cups juice
*1.5 cups dry-yet-fruity white wine (like 2008 Pigmentum Ugni Blanc Colombard)
*1 cup Lobocha Fukamushi Sencha Japanese Green Tea, brewed and chilled
*Squeeze fresh lime juice
*Stir, chill and serve.
~Lindsey for Samovarlife
Lindsey “Vee” Goodwin is a professional tea writer and consultant. She founded Vee Tea, is a contributing editor to World Tea News, writes for non-industry publications about tea and writes web copy/press releases for tea companies. She is also a consultant to several tea companies and teaches about tea through staff training and individual/small group classes and tastings. Click here to reach her by email.
Tea and punch have a long history together. Some say punch originated in India, where it was made from five key ingredients. (In
Hindi, the word for five is “panch.” Many think this is where the word “punch” originated.)
These five key ingredients were: lemon or lime juice, sugar, water, liquor and vaguely defined “spice,” which could mean something we currently think of as “spice” (like nutmeg), something we would probably shun today (like a whale secretion that’s only used is perfume these days), or (yes, yes) tea.
Water temperature also influences the final cup, and tea masters are vigilant about heating their water optimally to match the tea they are brewing. However, they determine the “readiness” of the water in different ways-visually, auditorially, and electronically.
Some look for visual signs of the water temperature to determine when the water is heated properly for the particular tea they intend to brew.
You may have heard tea masters talk about looking for “fish eyes” in the water. This is when medium bubbles form just before the water moves towards a roiling boil. This is when the water is ready for oolongs, generally. The way the steam leaves the spout of the kettle—in wisps or in gusts–also signals the water’s readiness for some tea masters.
David Lee Hoffman’s appreciation for quality tea water reminds me of those of Lu Yu, the eighth century Tang Dynasty tea sage who instructed his readers in The Classic of Tea about how and where to collect water for tea:
“On the question of water to use, I would suggest that tea made from mountain streams is best, river water is all right, but well-water is quite inferior.”1
Other tea masters rave about the water used for brewing tea in the rural mountain villages of China where they go to find teas. They believe that where good tea grows, good water is often close at hand. As well, the experience of drinking a tea in its natural habitat with local stream water meant for that tea is an inimitable lifetime experience to be treasured.
Jennifer Leigh Sauer brings our attention to the elemental ingredient in great tea: water. “Before tea there is water. While you invest time and money to procure great tea, you might also want to consider your investment in “gathering” and brewing water for tea.
Before tea there is water. While you invest time and money to procure great tea, you might also want to consider your investment in “gathering” and brewing water for tea.
Any cup of tea will be at its best when you use the finest water available, heated to the optimal temperature for the particular tea.
While I don’t profess to be a tea master, I’ve made it my life’s work for the past three years or so to research tea for my book and blog by interviewing great tea masters. They all have different preferences and standards when it comes to water, and I’ll share with you some of what I have learned from them.
For some, tea is an incredible alternative to alcohol. For others, it’s simply an enjoyable drink. The latter of those two types of tea-drinkers often find they also enjoy tea cocktails, a flavorful mix of tea and alcohol.
There are many ways tea and alcohol can be combined to form sophisticated, complex tea cocktails. The most common method is to simply blend tea, alcohol and a mixer. Somewhat more complex methods include making a tea-infused liqueur or a tea-infused simple syrup before building the beverage itself.
A fun, simple and colorful method of making tea cocktails is to whisk matcha into an alcoholic drink. For a Saint Patrick’s Day cocktail, a bright green color is desirable, so I decided to go with this last method in coming up with a tea cocktail recipe to share with you here. It’s easy, tasty, energizing and a lot healthier than a Red Bull and vodka or an artificially colored beer. Check it out: Continue reading St. Patrick’s Day Green Tea Cocktail
Choosing teas from the seemingly never-ending selection can sometimes be daunting. Let Samovar Tea Lounge guide you through the maze of different teas and help you learn about what makes a good tea.
Before buying tea, it’s always optimal to taste it, just like wine. In general, you should buy small quantities – unless it’s a particular favorite – because this will allow you to consume the tea while it’s still fresh.
Julian, one of our most esteemed tea gurus talks tea, and dating and how to best blend the two!
You can learn so much about a person by what kind of tea they order. Don’t get me wrong – I was definitely a peppermint Stash kind of guy when I walked into Samovar for the first time on a man-date with one of my best friends. It was his secret date place, and, as it is for many people unaccustomed to camellia sinensis, the tea and herbal selection was quite intimidating to me at first. I knew I wanted to be adventurous, however, I had no idea how to even begin saying the word pu-erh, let alone know how to order or drink it (pooh-air, as it turns out).
My first hot sip at Samovar Tea Lounge was of the 8 Treasures, a sweet and refreshing mix of dates, berries, rock sugar and schizandra. It was served gong-fu style, which was handy to learn given I would begin my love affair with oolongs not long thereafter. Following that first experience I was hooked, and it was only a matter of time before I became interested in learning more about tea and joining the Samovar team.