apple zinger tea-tails & tea tour

Apple Zinger Tea-tails / @loveandlemons

Last week I had the opportunity to go on a super fun trip to Boulder Colorado to visit the headquarters of Celestial Seasonings. I’ve been drinking their tea for years so it was fun to learn more about the process of making tea and meet the wonderful people behind the brand. The trip started with the warmest welcome (the employees greeted us outside, cheering and holding signs with each of our blog names on them!).

Celestial Tea Tour Celestial Tea Tour

I drank about a million cups of tea (Sweet Harvest Pumpkin is totally my new favorite). After that, my highlights of the visit were: listening to Kay Wright (the Director of Botanicals Purchasing) talk about her travels sourcing all of the various herbs, touring the facility (in stylish Tyvek suits & blue hairnets), and tasting (more tea) with Charlie Baden, the Senior Blendmaster.

I found Charlie’s job so fascinating. Even though Celestial is a fairly large company, blending the tea isn’t an exact science. Depending on seasons, regions, and other growing variables, individual ingredients taste different every time (cherries can be more tart, hibiscus can be more or less bitter, etc…)” so he personally tastes and adjusts each blend in order to make sure every box of tea tastes consistent. “The zingers have to zing,” he says.

Celestial Tea Tour

These are some of my favorite tea facts:

- Black tea, green tea, and white tea are all made from the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. It’s a white-flowered evergreen bush native to China and India.

- The difference? Black tea leaves are allowed to oxidize which causes the leaves to darken and bring out a full-bodied flavor. Green tea leaves are steamed immediately after they’re picked so the leaves don’t oxidize (which is why green tea is more mild in flavor). White tea comes from only the first few tender leaves and new buds and it has the most delicate (slightly sweet) flavor. Herbal teas (unless they’re blended with tea leaves), are not actual tea.

- Celestial Seasonings was the first to bring green tea to the mainstream US market in 1995. They began mixing it with white tea in order to make a smoother tasting green tea.

- Independent artists & illustrators are commissioned to create all of the artwork for the tea boxes. (I actually used to save mine and store my art supplies in them)

- The ingredients in Celestial Seasonings Teas come from all over the world, but the teas are blended in Boulder. Many ingredient suppliers have been part of the Celestial family for more than 30 years.

- Celestial Tea bags don’t have strings, tags or individual wrappers which saves 3.5 million pounds of waste from entering landfills each year.

- The Celestial Tea Tour is open to the public and is Boulder’s #1 tourist attraction!

Tea Tips:

- Use filtered or distilled water. (the water you use affects your tea’s taste).

- Don’t over-boil your water for green tea. Bring it just barely to a boil, and remove the tea bag after 3-5 minutes or your green tea will become bitter.

- Watch the clock, not the color. 3-5 minutes for green & black teas, 4-6 minutes for herb teas, 6 minutes for wellness teas.

- It’s ok to squeeze the bag to get the most flavor from your tea.

Celestial Tea Tour, Boulder Colorado

After the tour, I had just a few minutes to stroll around Boulder before we headed to The Kitchen, for a tea-inspired meal. Some of my favorite dishes were: a beet & hazelnut salad with orange tangerine tea dressing, chai roasted squash with wheat berries, and for dessert: rooibos tea sorbet.

I can’t wait to recreate some of the dishes myself. But for now – a tea-tail recipe! Before we left Celestial, they served these cocktails (and some others) for happy hour. This recipe is by Conor McDermott, from Salt who recently won Boulder’s Best Mixologist. At the event, this was served as a non-alcohol drink… of course when I made it later at home I added some bourbon.

Apple Zinger Tea-tails / @loveandlemons

watermelon st. germain cocktails

Watermelon St. Germain Cocktails / @loveandlemons

In case I haven’t mentioned it before – it’s pretty hot here. I’ve been eating watermelon like crazy because, well, I think it just might be the most refreshing fruit on the planet.

Watermelon St. Germain Cocktails / @loveandlemons

I had been thinking of making watermelon margaritas until I had the most refreshing elderflower & vodka watermelon cocktail made by the Tipsy Texan a few weeks ago at the opening of Métier Cook’s Supply (a really cute kitchen supply store, btw – if you’re in Austin, go check it out).

This is definitely a simplified version but I get impatient to make cocktails that have more than just a few easy ingredients. The hardest part here is de-seeding your watermelon and blending it into juice. (The second time I made these, I got lazy and just bought some cold-pressed watermelon juice).

This recipe doesn’t have exact measurements because I find some watermelons to be sweeter than others. Play around and make these as sweet or as tart as you like.

Cheers!

Watermelon St. Germain Cocktails / @loveandlemons

ginger peach sangria

Ginger Peach Sangria / @loveandlemons

Happy Friday! I have the easiest, summeriest cocktail to share with you. This weekend, it’s going to be 102 degrees(!) here in Austin. So needless to say, cold, refreshing drinks will be in order. I figure everyone loves sangria, so I thought – what would be more seasonal than peach sangria? This is sweet, but not too sweet, and packed full of fruit and herbs.

Ginger Peach Sangria / @loveandlemonsGinger Peach Sangria / @loveandlemons

The base is simple: white wine, Grand Marnier and peaches. For an herby kick, I added a splash of ginger juice, mint and basil. Let it chill for at least a few hours (or overnight). It gets more peachy and herby the longer it sits. Cheers!

ginger kombucha cocktails

ginger kombucha cocktails / loveandlemons.com

I just realized that I have a pattern of only posting cocktails on Fridays. I don’t know if it feels more socially appropriate that a cocktail should be a pre-weekend treat or if I’m trying to cover up the fact that I’m known to have a glass of wine (or two), on any given day(s) throughout the week. I like to celebrate the little wins in life, even if a “win” is just getting through an ordinary Monday.

This week, however, is not about ordinary Mondays. I just about fell off my chair two days ago when I found out that we’ve been nominated for Best Cooking Blog in Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog Awards!

I really have no words… (literally, I’ve been sitting here staring at a blank cursor for longer than I’d like to admit). Thank you to all of you who nominated us… and for reading and cooking along with us day in and day out. If you want you can click over and vote for us (voting ends April 9th). Win or no win, I’m over the moon to be included on the list among such amazing talent.

Ok now let’s celebrate! Kombucha cocktails… sounds contradictory but it works. (As I like to say: “detox while you re-tox”). These are perfect for weekdays because they require just 2 main ingredients. If you’ve been afraid of kombucha, here’s where you have to start. It’s sweet, gingery and sparkly… the perfect mixer. Plus, the healing powers of kombucha make them half-healthy. Which means, go ahead and have 2. Cheers!

minty pomegranate spritzer

minty pomegranate spritzer / @loveandlemonsminty pomegranate spritzer / @loveandlemons

My favorite part about the holidays: Getting together with friends and having an excuse to indulge just a little too much. We can all resolve to be better in January… until then, let’s have that extra cookie or three, and by all means pop that prosecco!

This is one of my favorite cocktails to make at home. I make a quick simple syrup and let it steep with handfuls of fresh mint….combine it with vodka, pomegranate juice, prosecco, and then finish it off with a squeeze of lemon. It’s not too sweet, and it’s just a little tart – exactly the way I like my cocktails. Of course, you can mess with the ratios and make it as sweet as you like… and if you aren’t into puckery drinks like I am, sub out the lemon for a squeeze of orange.

Cheers!