Story and dessert photos by Manos Angelakis
Product photos courtesy of Stach Tea Company
Teas & Tisanes
Tea or τσάι (chai) -- as called in the Eastern Mediterranean -- has always been a part of my life.
When I was growing up, herbal-teas i.e. tisanes -- as is the proper nomenclature for hot beverages made by steeping plants and herbs in hot water -- like chamomile or mountain tea (τσάι του βουνού) or dittany, were a large part of my mother’s defense strategy against childhood ailments; from helping an upset stomach where chamomile tea was the soother, to “curing” a cold where dittany was used and to help a sore eye when mountain-tea eye-wash was the remedy. And, of course, brisk black tea and home-made cookies and pastries were the ubiquitous accompaniments to an afternoon of card-playing for the women in my family.
When visiting my uncle’s family in Istanbul, chai with a cube of sugar on the side, became our afternoon hot beverage, while riding the ferry from under the Galata bridge to the Princes Island on the Bosporus, and in his home as well. I still have on display the small brass samovar where water for hot tea was brewed in my uncle’s summer house.
When I moved to Paris, mint tea became the accompaniment for afternoons with a girl-friend from North Africa at my garret on Rue Blanche, accompanying baklava and sweet demilune pastries.
When I lived in London, I found that a “nice cup of tea” was the answer to any and all problems.
You burned the roast? Answer: Nice cup of tea! You wanted to impress potential clients? Formal afternoon tea at Claridge’s or the Hyde Park Hotel where, at the time, servers in Edwardian outfits served you tea and crust-less sandwiches, pastries and scones. Even recording sessions at the Bas Clef Studio or the Abbey Road Studios required copious cups of aromatic tea, while I was recording and mixing voice, music and sound-effect tracks for some of my film and video productions.
In more recent years, I graduated to highly aromatic black teas from the Far East.
Lapsang Souchong from the Wuyi Mountains region of Fujian, China; Darjeeling tea from West Bengal at the Lesser Himalayas or Earl Gray, flavored with oil of bergamot. They all became de rigueur in my everyday life as I spend time creating and photographing articles.
Recently, the Stash Tea Company of Portland, Oregon, was kind enough to provide tasting samples of their Limited Edition Holiday Flavors. These are tisanes or full bodied blends of black teas and numerous spices.
Their Holiday Chai is a true brisk black tea blend accented with spices from the Orient such as cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cloves. Add some accents of spearmint, chocolate and vanilla to the spices and you have Christmas in Paris. The third sample was Licorice Spice, a caffeine-free tisane of licorice root, cinnamon, orange peel, star anise, sarsaparilla, clove oil, cardamom oil and vanilla extract. There seem to be numerous sample trios in their catalogue; the Limited Edition Holiday Flavors is just one of many.
We tried all three and were enchanted.
To get your very own Christmas teas or any of the 150 different blends they offer, see https://www.stashtea.com. I can assure you you’ll not be disappointed!
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