Tea Time

Everything about tea is good for the soul. Brewing a cup of tea becomes therapeutic when you watch the fresh-smelling leaves and flowers unfurl their wisps of color into the hot water that envelops them. And all the care you put into brewing is repaid many times over as soon as your cup cools enough for the first sip to moisten your throat and warm you from the inside out. Exhale… now excuse me, I think my tea kettle is calling.

mariage frères' sweet shanghaï

I love buying loose leaf teas because there are typically more unique varieties available than what comes in pre-packaged tea bags, and they’re usually less expensive. My absolute favorite teas are from Mariage Frères, a French company that I can’t get enough of. They have endless types of tea, and their boutiques and salons are heavenly. If you don’t have a trip to Paris planned in the near future (but if you do, I’d like to join you!), you can find these teas in Williams-Sonoma and Dean and Deluca, but the stores don’t carry the full line. And seeing the price in dollars, post import, makes me cringe.

My next favorite source for loose leaf tea is Ching Ching Cha, a tranquil Chinese tea house in Georgetown. I wasn’t sure whether I should mention this urban oasis out of fear that you’d all rush there and make me wait for a table. But it would be plain mean to keep such a good secret.

mariage frères' thé sur le nil

I’ve tried many, many tea-brewing methods over the years. Some have been successful, others have been disastrous! I’ll start with the disastrous methods first.

The ceramic tea cup-brewer combo: I can’t include a picture of it here because I broke it into, realistically, 9 pieces. It was a mug with a perforated ceramic insert and a lid. I would put my leaves in the ceramic insert, submerge it in hot water, and pull it out once the tea was brewed. Unfortunately, the perforations in the insert were much too large, and I ended up drinking a lot of leaves. And if I pulled the insert out too quickly, it would drain water everywhere but in my cup. Not fun, don’t recommend.

the venus fly trap

The metal spoon infuser: My boyfriend, David, refers to this contraption as “the venus fly trap.” The name is very appropriate because when you squeeze the infuser’s handle to open each side of the spoon, it looks like a menacing, gaping mouth. You’re supposed to fill the fly trap’s mouth with tea leaves and dunk it in your hot water. I know many people who are fans of the venus fly trap, but I am not one of them. Because tea leaves expand so much, I find the fly trap to be rather restrictive. It gets filled up quickly, and the hot water has trouble getting inside to mix and mingle with the leaves. Inevitably, my vigorous stirring to speed the brewing process always leaves me drinking leaves. Ha. And it only makes one cup at a time.

fill-at-home tea bags

Fill-at-home tea bags: I can’t tell you much about these tea bags because their packaging is in Chinese. I can tell you, however, that they’re absolutely fantastic and I use them on an almost-daily basis. These bags are more than twice the size of the average supermarket tea bag, so they let your tea leaves expand to their hearts’ content. Just add a tablespoon or so of tea leaves, fold over the top of the bag (they work a lot like plastic sandwich bags), throw it in your mug, and add water. They’re also disposable- extra convenient (maybe green too, but I don’t know what they’re made of). If I know I’ll be making tea on the road, I’ll pre-fill a few bags to keep on me for whenever a tea craving strikes. They’re also really great for making iced tea. Just drop three bags in a pitcher of water, keep it in the fridge overnight, and enjoy your delicious cold-brewed iced tea in the morning.

tea pot with mesh infuser

Tea pot with mesh infuser: These tea pots are perfect for making more than one cup of tea at a time. Just fill the removable mesh infuser with your leaves, pour over hot water, and cover with the lid. When the tea is done brewing, remove the infuser. Other tea pots have a mesh strainer attached to the inside base of the spout so you can pour the tea without getting leaves in your cup. With those pots, however, you can’t remove the tea leaves to stop the brewing process (the leaves are loose in the pot). All you can do to avoid drinking dark bitterness is to empty all of the tea from the pot. This method might work if you’re brewing for a group, but if you’re drinking alone, you’ll end up with cold tea. They’re also harder to clean because tea leaves get stuck inside. A tea pot with a removable mesh infuser is a must-have for any tea lover. The one pictured above is cast iron, so it can be warmed directly over a flame.

I’ll drink to that, cheers!

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Sour Babies

Note: You can watch these videos without the sound if you’re reading in public– they lose none of their comedic effect.

On very rare occasions, when I’m really bored, I’ll blissfully tumble into YouTube’s black hole of video curiosities. I’ve watched hours and hours of kittens swimming, eyeshadow tutorials, talking dogs, and Maru. One of my most successful ventures into the videosphere, however, occurred when I discovered the surprisingly abundant supply of babies making sour pusses.

It is 100% impossible to watch these videos without smiling and puckering! Even though the lemons are sour, the babies can’t stop themselves from going back for more. Recently, I was cutting up a lemon and Stella came over to investigate. I wondered whether she would have a similar reaction to the babies, so I let her lick a slice. Either dogs can’t pucker their faces or they can’t taste sour because she acted like nothing was new and kept on licking.  She can’t control her licker, you know.

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to searching for babies making funny faces. You will inevitably stumble upon the pure evil known as “Baby’s First Wasabi.”

Will someone please call Child Protective Services?!

Instead of ending on a downer, I’ll leave you with Stella’s pre-diabetic, inter-species soulmate: a cat that can’t control its licker.

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Breakfast Pizza

Few things compare to eating a straight-from-the-oven slice of breakfast pizza. I especially like eating breakfast pizza because it brings back happy memories of the first time I made it on a lazy summer weekend with my good friend.  We spent the day lounging at the pool, drinking vino verde, and stuffing ourselves with eggy, cheesy goodness (fortunately for our bikinis, these were not simultaneous activities). Luckily, I can bring back those memories any time I want because breakfast pizza is incredibly fast (no more than 20 minutes) and easy to make.

First, you need to procure pizza dough.  You can either make some from your favorite dough recipe, or you can pick some up from your local market like I did. When you’re ready for breakfast pizza, pre-heat your oven to 500°F.  Then, lightly mist a baking sheet with cooking spray. The spray helps the crust get crispy and keeps it from sticking to your sheet. Next, stretch your pizza dough out as thinly as possible without making holes.  I like doing this by picking the dough up and letting gravity stretch it out.  After spreading your blank dough canvas on the pan, drizzle some olive oil on the crust and spread it around. The oil helps the crust turn brown and crispy, and if you use an olive oil infusion (I used basil), it will also add some extra flavor.

It’s time to add your toppings!  I used shredded mozzarella, shaved parmesan, onions, and mushrooms on this pizza. Caramelized onions and bacon would also be delicious. Then, crack a few eggs on top and season it all with salt and pepper. Bake your pizza on the lowest rack of your oven for 10-12 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown, the crust gets crispy, and the eggs are set.  Using the bottom rack of your oven helps make sure your crust will be crispy. Crispiness is of the utmost importance!

The egg yolks on my pizza were firm and chewy, but not chalky or overcooked.  If you prefer your yolks to be on the runnier side (which makes the pizza more delicious but requires a knife and fork to eat), bake the pizza for 2 or 3 minutes before adding the eggs. When your pizza comes out of the oven, generously sprinkle it with fresh parsley to add color and extra flavor.

I like to serve breakfast pizza with avocado slices that I add to the pizza as I eat. Because there isn’t a sauce component to this pizza, the avocado’s moisture adds another layer of texture. Alternatively, you could dice the avocado and sprinkle it over the pizza. Consider making a breakfast pizza as a unique dish for your next brunch!

I referred to these sources while perfecting my breakfast pizza recipe: Pioneer Woman and Smitten Kitchen.

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