Review of Red Blossom Tea Orange Blossom Phoenix Oolong

Tea tasting equipment at Red Blossom Tea Company in San Francisco.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Tea tasting equipment at Red Blossom Tea Company in San Francisco. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the current Secretary of State, was in the Bay Area last week conducting fundraisers, and stopped off in San Francisco to meet Mayor Ed Lee at Red Blossom Tea Co. in Chinatown. They enjoyed a tea tasting with tea shop owner Alice Luong, and Secretary Clinton purchased a cup of tea to take with her, and some loose tea as well. According to Luong, Clinton “asked quite a lot of questions” about technical aspects of tea brewing, like proper water temperature, and seemed to be a regular tea drinker who prefers “stronger, darker tea.”

Red Blossom Tea Company is one of several tea shops in San Francisco’s Chinatown along Grant Avenue, which offer informal tea tastings for free, as well as more formal tastings, like the one Clinton and Lee enjoyed, for a fee. The shop is a traditional Chinese tea shop, with lots of wood tones, red and black in the decor. The company specializes in fine oolongs and other rare teas; I tasted a few teas when I was there several years ago with friends, and purchased their Orange Blossom Phoenix Oolong.

Red Blossom Tea’s Orange Blossom Phoenix Oolong is a green oolong, which means that it is oxidized for a relatively

Orange Blossom Phoenix Oolong from Red Blossom Tea Company.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Orange Blossom Phoenix Oolong from Red Blossom Tea Company. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

short time, to about 25%, before being fired and dried for sale. Grown on the Phoenix Mountain in Guangdong Province, this tea is known as a Dan Cong, or “Single Grove” tea.  The teas from this region are known for their fragrance, which imitates that of various fruits and flowers. It has a freshness to the aroma and flavor that is reminiscent of freshly cut green grass, but does not have the sharp herbal scent that some “grassy” Japanese green teas, like matcha, have. It also has a lovely note of orange blossom in the scent and taste, which is due to the area where it is grown, the age of the tea plants, and from its short oxidation time, which leaves most of the “green-ness” in the tea leaves.

Oolong teas are delicate, and need to be brewed carefully.  Red Blossom Tea Company recommends using the gaiwan method, with very short — about 1 minute — brewing times, and repeated infusions.  Over time, its flavor mellows and it loses some of its fresh aroma, but gains some deeper, earthier notes, which are delicious.

Going on a tea-tasting jaunt through San Francisco’s Chinatown is a fun, inexpensive way to spend a day, for celebrities like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ed Lee, and for the rest of us!

Red Blossom Tea Company
831 Grant Avenue
San Francisco, California 94108
Phone: (415) 395-0868
Fax: (415) 362-8877

Copyright 2015, Elizabeth Urbach.

Like what you read? Leave a comment below, click on “Subscribe” above, visit the San Jose Tea Examiner page on Facebook, read my other blog, The Cup That Cheers, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea or Pinterest!

For more information:
“Hillary Clinton in Chinatown; Spirituality at Stanford” from the SF Chronicle
“Where to buy Chinese tea in the San Jose area”
“Tea-tasting San Jose area day trips: San Francisco’s Chinatown”
“Review: Vital Tea Leaf Angel green tea and Siberian Rose tisane”
“Japanese tea from San Jose’s Japantown”
“How to prepare matcha tea”
“What you need to make a good pot of hot tea”
“Tea 101: How to brew a pot of hot tea using loose tea”
“An overview of Chinese teas available in San Jose”
“Chinese oolong tea in San Jose”
“Celebrate Chinese New Year with dim sum and tea!”
“Review: Orange Blossom 100% White Tea from The Republic of Tea”
“What are the different kinds of green tea available in San Jose?”
“All about tisanes, or ‘herbal teas’”

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Filed under Events, Product Reviews, Tea Tasting, Tips, Vendors and Shops

3 Mother’s Day teas in the San Jose area.

Satori Tea Bar.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Satori Tea Bar. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday, and afternoon tea is a wonderful way to spend some time with your mom.  After all, isn’t that what many mothers say they want: a nice time with their children?  Of course, you can take her to the Fairmont for afternoon tea, but that’s fairly spendy.  Several local tea rooms are offering special Mother’s Day menus this year; remember, like all special events at restaurants, advanced reservations are required.

1. Mother’s Day Tea Celebration: Saturday, May 9 at 11:30 a.m., 1:45 p.m. and 4 p.m. seatings; Sunday, May 10 at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. seatings.

Menu:
Plentiful pot of tea
Mini quiche
Assorted tea sandwiches and green salad
Tea fancies: tea cookie, tea hat petit four, citrus tart, and dessert bar
Warm Heritage scone with Devonshire cream and preserves
Toasted crumpet with rum butter

$37 per person (advance reservations required)
Add a blood orange mimosa for an additional $11.

Satori Tea Company’s Tea Atelier
37 N. San Pedro St., San Jose.
(408)292-1502

2. Queen of the May Tea (available through the end of the month during regular hours)

Menu:
My Lady’s Respite tea blend
Friendship Scone with Devonshire Cream and Preserves
Just Between Us tea sandwiches (3 different fillings)
Fit for a Queen Crepes a la Reine (chicken filling)
Really Royal Moscato Berry Tiramisu

$29.95 per person.

*Mother’s Day Champagne Tea is already sold out for both Saturday and Sunday.

Lisa’s Tea Treasures
1875 S. Bascom Avenue #165, Campbell, CA 95008
(408) 371-7377

3. A Tea Party Just for Mother — Seating at: 11:00 & 11:15 a.m., 1:30pm, 3:45pm & 4pm.

Menu:
Mimosa
Choice of Teas
Mademoiselle’s Creation Tea Salad (organic baby greens with fresh fruit and lemon yogurt sauce)
Chicken Breast a la Kiev
Tea Sandwiches (cucumber mint)
Scone with Devonshire cream and preserves
Key Lime tart

$35.95 Per Person plus tax and gratuity

Lisa’s Tea Treasures – 377 Santana Row, Suite 1145, San Jose.
(408) 247-3613

If you can’t get a reservation at a tea room this weekend, there’s nothing stopping you from turning your home (or your mom’s place, or one of San Jose’s gardens) into a tea room for the day!  Stock up on tea party pantry staples, pick up some scones and pastries at the bakery, and put the kettle on for tea! Chocolate is also a good addition to the Mother’s Day tea table, as it goes so well with tea.  Since the weather is warm, iced tea is also a good choice, and it makes a great mixer for tea cocktails!  You can even make gifts with tea, which your mom might love.

Copyright 2015, Elizabeth Urbach

Like what you read?  Leave a comment below, click on “Subscribe” above, visit the San Jose Tea Examiner page on Facebook, read my other blog, The Cup That Cheers, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea or Pinterest!

For more information:
Lisa’s Tea Treasures – Santana Row
Lisa’s Tea Treasures – Campbell
“Review: Lisa’s Tea Treasures – Campbell location”
Satori Tea Company
“San Jose’s newest tea shop: Satori Tea Bar”
“Review: afternoon tea at Satori Tea Bar”
“Mother’s Day tea tips and history”
“Treat your mom to a tea brunch at home in San Jose”
“What should I keep in the pantry for tea parties?”
“Chocolate and tea: the perfect match?”
“Now is the time for garden parties and picnics in San Jose”
“Tea 101: what do we mean when we talk about tea?”
“What you need to make a good pot of hot tea”
“Tea 101: How to brew a pot of hot tea using loose tea”
“Making the most of a cup of restaurant tea”
“Tea and food pairings for black teas”
“5 gifts you can make with tea”
“Review: Afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge in San Jose’s Fairmont Hotel”
“Review: Original English Tea Scones from Sconehenge Bakery”
“Review: Sticky Fingers Red Raspberry Scone mix”
“Fruity Rose Tea Punch – a refreshing summer drink”

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Filed under Holiday, Menus, Party Ideas, Tea, Vendors and Shops

Downton-inspired tea for “Downton Day”.

1920s silver teapot and cup and saucer on display at the Ainsley House in Campbell, CA.

1920s silver teapot and cup and saucer on display at the Ainsley House in Campbell, CA. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Today is the last “Downton Day” of the year  – the final episode of Downton Abbey Season 5 airs tonight on KQED/PBS at 9 p.m. Pacific time. This season’s plot has brought the Crawleys and their servants into the mid-1920s, and nobody’s lives are settled and secure, as usual.  What better way to catch up on the doings and happenings in this fictional world than with a cup of tea and some treats at the ready?  Look in the tea party pantry for some English tea-time favorites, like scones (you can use a mix or buy them ready-made), cream, jam, and cakes.  You can make an elaborate spread suitable for the Dowager Countess, or a simple tea table that would make Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes, or Lady Rose’s Russian refugees comfortable.

Club sandwiches from a 1920s recipe -- perfect for a picnic or afternoon tea.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Club sandwiches from a 1920s recipe — perfect for a picnic or afternoon tea. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

By the 1920s, tea was beginning to be enjoyed out in public more and more as tea shops and cafes proliferated in most towns, offering quick meals in clean, respectable surroundings to women on the go, who felt uncomfortable going into pubs for a meal.  To go with your tea and scones, make some sandwiches – they were at their height of popularity for both casual occasions like picnics, and semi-formal occasions such as afternoon teas – in the 1920s; even Club sandwiches had the bread crusts cut off, and could be served when gentlemen, or people with hearty appetites, were around the tea table.  As for tea, The Republic of Tea has an exclusive line of Downton Abbey-inspired tea blends, some of which are only available at Cost Plus World Markets.  Luckily, the Cost Plus in San Jose carries a few of those blends, either in the familiar Republic of Tea canisters, or in a gift set with a mug decorated with a still photo from the Downton Abbey series.  The Downton Estate Blend, an earl grey black tea with vanilla, would be a perfect choice to fill your teapot, for any time you’re watching an episode of “Downton Abbey.”  What will happen in this last episode?  Will Lady Rose’s mother ever stop acting out, and will her father-in-law ever accept her marriage?  What will happen with Lady Edith and Marigold?  Will Tom take Sibby to America?  Will Daisy really go to London?  Only time will tell!  Curl up with some tea tonight and find out!

Copyright 2015, Elizabeth Urbach.

Like what you read?  Leave a comment below, click on “Subscribe” above, visit the San Jose Tea Examiner page on Facebook, read my other blog, The Cup That Cheers, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea or Pinterest!

For more information: 
“Curl up with a cup of tea: Downton Abbey Season 2 comes to San Jose”
“ ‘Downton Abbey’ Season 3 celebrated with tea in the Bay Area”
“Bring a tea picnic to the Bay Area-local Mostly British Film Festival”
“Have an English tea and Royal Wedding-viewing party”
“Stay up with tea and watch the Royal Wedding”
“San Jose’s British population celebrates the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with tea” 
“Review: The Republic of Tea Downton Estate Blend” 

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All the Single Ladies (and Gentlemen) – enjoy Singles’ Awareness Day with tea!

Lonely Victorian love letter.  Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lonely Victorian love letter. Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s afternoon on Valentine’s Day, and many San Jose residents don’t have any plans!  San Jose-area singles aren’t necessarily in for an evening of depression and loneliness; there are plenty of things to do, that don’t require a partner, and getting together at home with some other single friends – or even just staying in by yourself – for High Tea and television or a movie this evening, can be a perfect way to spend the holiday.  Here are some ideas for things to do this afternoon and evening:

  1. Have tea at a local tea shop (advance reservations required).

A Fairy Tale Tea (through Feb. 28th), for $29.95 per person at Lisa’s Tea Treasures – Campbell: 1875 S. Bascom Avenue #165, Campbell, CA 95008. (408) 371-7377

Tea with Love (through Feb. 28th), for $28.95 per person at Lisa’s Tea Treasures – Los Altos: 167 Main St., Los Altos, CA 94022.  (650) 209-5010.

Be my Valentine Tea (Feb. 14th only), for $35 per person at Satori Tea Bar – 37 San Pedro St., San Jose.

A Victorian Valentine Tea Party (Feb. 14th at 3 p.m.), for $30 per adult/$20 per child, at The English Rose Tea Room — 163 West Neal Street, Pleasanton California 94566, (925) 462-6233.
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Review: Downton Estate Blend tea from Republic of Tea

Downton Estate Blend tea from Republic of Tea.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Downton Estate Blend tea from Republic of Tea. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

The BBC’s popular serial drama, _Downton Abbey_, has returned to PBS for a 5th season!  Full of beautiful costumes, sets, and English countryside, this historical drama also includes tea as a regular part of life, as it was in Edwardian, and now “Roaring Twenties” era – English society.  The program has inspired a variety of products, from high fashion designs, to furniture and jewelry, to china and other housewares, to tea blends.  The Republic of Tea is the best-known company to have come out with a whole line of tea blends inspired by Downton Abbey.  The teas are available at Cost Plus World Market, and at some independent tea shops like Thyme for Tea in Niles.  I purchased this tin of tea for about $12 at the Cost Plus on Coleman Ave. in San Jose.

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Last chance this weekend for tea at the Dickens Fair!

Brochure and complimentary teapot from High Tea at Cuthbert's Tea Shoppe.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Brochure and complimentary teapot from High Tea at Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair at the Cow Palace in Daly City closes this weekend, and tea at Dickens is still as popular as ever!  The Dickens Fair runs weekends only, between the Friday after Thanksgiving and the Sunday before Christmas; it’s open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday, December 21).  General Admission is $30 at the gate, but you can get disounted tickets if you know one of the workers or performers. Take a look at these other articles for more information about having tea at the Dickens Fair:

“How to have afternoon tea at the Dickens Fair in San Francisco”
“Review: Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair”
“Take tea with Charles Dickens for two more weekends at the Dickens Fair”

Lavender scone mix and Buckingham Palace Garden Party Tea from 2 English Ladies.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

Lavender scone mix and Buckingham Palace Garden Party Tea from 2 English Ladies. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

New this year, are a few products from the 2 English Ladies‘ tea shop: scone and shortbread mixes!  Along with their small line of teas, including the delicious Buckingham Palace Garden Party Tea – a blend of Ceylon, Assam and Earl Grey, scented with jasmine — they carry a line of lemon, lime, and cinnamon apple curds and clotted cream.  The new products include plain and lavender scone mixes, and plain and lavender shortbread mixes. All these items are great for keeping in your tea party pantry for your next afternoon tea.   They also make great gifts for the tea lover!

As in previous years, if you want to have the full Victorian Afternoon Tea experience, you need to make a reservation at Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe for one of their High Teas.  This is a really fun experience, where your best table manners are very welcome. If you just want to order your tea food a la carte, you can generally walk in and be seated, depending on the shop having empty tables; earlier in the day is better for walk-ins than later, and it’s even easier if you are by yourself or with a small party of 4 or fewer people.  If you can’t get in to Cuthbert’s (and they are very popular), you can stop by Mr. Brown’s Fine Coffee and Teas, where you can get tea, sandwiches, scones and sweets a la carte.  There is no reason to go without a cup of tea or tea-table nibbles while at the Dickens Fair!

Copyright 2014, Elizabeth Urbach.

Like what you read?  Leave a comment below, click on “Subscribe” above, visit the San Jose Tea Examiner page on Facebook, read my other blog, The Cup That Cheers, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea or Pinterest!

For more information:
Dickens Fair food & drink vendors 
Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe
website
2 English Ladies website
“What should I keep in the pantry for tea parties?”
“How to use edible flowers for tisanes”
“Favorite tea-time recipe from Gourmet magazine: Meyer lemon curd”
“Tea history: what type of tea did American founders drink?”
“Tea 101: what do we mean when we talk about tea?” 
“What you need to make a good pot of hot tea”
“Tea 101: How to brew a pot of hot tea using loose tea”
“How to make holiday orange spice tea”
“How to make your own pumpkin spice tea”
“Holiday tea-table recipe: turkey and cranberry tea sandwiches”
“Tea and food pairings for black teas”
“Gift ideas for the San Jose tea-lover”
“5 gifts you can make with tea” 
“Review: Twinings Earl Grey tea”
“5 tea gifts to make for Christmas”
“Christmas gifts for the tea drinker” 
“Practice good manners in San Jose at the tea table”
“6 points of proper tea etiquette for San Jose”
“Cranberry-orange tea for your holiday table”
“Include a pot of tea in your Christmas brunch”

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Filed under Events, Holiday, Product Reviews, Tea, Tips

San Francisco International Tea Festival returns to the Bay Area in November

San Francisco International Tea Festival banner from 2012.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

San Francisco International Tea Festival banner from 2012. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

The 3rd Annual San Francisco International Tea Festival is scheduled for Sunday, November 16 at 10 a.m. Held at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, the festival is a gathering of tea vendors other related business owners, along with tea scholars and tea drinkers from all over California.  The festival website reads: “Discover teas straight from local and global producers, Free swag bag includes your very own teacup to savor tea market offerings, Taste hundreds of different types of tea, Connect with five of the biggest names in tea, Learn how each cup of tea can be a different experience, Enjoy a meal and shopping in the Historic Ferry Building Marketplace, Live music by local artists.”

The event features an exhibit hall where the industry participants offer free samples of some of their tea products, along with tea, tea books, and tea equipment for sale.  There are formal tea tastings and educational lectures from tea experts like the Imperial Tea Court’s Roy Fong, and popular tea and food author and speaker James Norwood Pratt.  Well-known local tea brands are represented among the vendors, including Harney & Sons, Ito En, and The Republic of Tea.  The teas that are featured are high-quality, almost all loose-leaf, with a focus on unflavored teas, and tea as a beverage, rather than “Tea” as a social event.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the 16th; admission is $25 per person, which gets you into the main exhibit hall, and perhaps into the lectures, although the formal tea tastings are first-come-first-served and cost $5 each.  Tickets can be purchased from the festival website, and may also be available at the door on the day of the festival.  Each attendee also receives a gift bag with more tea samples from the vendors, a special tea tasting cup to use at the festival, and contact information for all the vendors at the festival.

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Filed under Events, Health, History, Tea Tasting, Vendors and Shops

Review: Jasmine Tea Ginger Ale

Bruce Cost Jasmine Tea Ginger Ale.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

Bruce Cost Jasmine Tea Ginger Ale. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

Bruce Cost Fresh Ginger Jasmine Tea Ginger Ale is a tasty variation on traditional ginger ale, not only because it has lots of ginger flavor – unlike more familiar ginger ales – but also because it is infused with jasmine green tea!  Bruce Cost is one of the vendors who attend the San Francisco International Tea Festival every year, and I first tasted their Jasmine Tea Ginger Ale there a few years ago.

The ginger ale comes in 12-oz. glass bottles with a sepia-tinged ivory paper label and black lettering, which reads: “Whole leaf tea, floral and earthy with tannins”, “Separation is natural.  Shake gently.” “Bruce Cost Ginger Ale Unfiltered”, “Made with 100% fresh ginger (no extracts) & pure cane sugar”, “Jasmine Tea”, “Proud descendent of the original soft drink, Bruce Cost Ginger Ale is delicious, sparkling and rich with whole ginger, long enjoyed for digestive comfort”. It contains 160 calories per serving (bottle), and the ingredients are: carbonated water, pure cane sugar, 100% fresh ginger, premium brewed jasmine green tea with filtered water, and citric acid.  Some vendors also sell the Original Ginger Ale in cans, as well.  It sells for about $2 per bottle.
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Refreshing Citrus Rose Tea Punch recipe

tea punch ingredients

Citrus pomegranate rose tea punch ingredients. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

Labor Day may be the unofficial “end of summer” but it’s not the end of the hot weather here in San Jose!  Cooling, refreshing drinks are still necessary to survive the warmth, especially for those of us who live in older homes without air conditioning.  Tea – especially iced or cold-brewed – is a great drink to keep in the fridge, and it makes delicious mixed drinks and punches.  Served over ice, it is wonderfully cooling and easy to drink. Here is the recipe:

2 cups pomegranate juice
4 to 5 cups brewed rose-scented black tea, chilled
2 cups lemon or orange-flavored mineral water
one fresh orange, juice and zest
ice cubes

Combine all ingredients except the mineral water and ice cubes in a large pitcher, and chill thoroughly.  To serve, put 2 ice cubes (or as many as you want) in a glass, fill the glass halfway with the punch mixture, and top off with the mineral water.  Enjoy!  Makes 8 to 9 servings.

If you can’t find plain pomegranate juice, you can use pom-cherry or pom-grape juice, or plain cherry juice, or plain cranberry juice; anything that’s full-flavored, a dark red color, and sweet-sour in flavor.  The South Bay Ladies’ Tea Guild uses the English Rose black tea blend from The English Rose tearoom in Pleasanton for this punch, but you can use any rose-scented black tea blend that you like, or choose a Ceylon or Chinese black tea and add some rose water or rose petal jam, if you have it.  Rose petal jam and rose water can generally be found in the Middle Eastern food section of the supermarket.

Copyright 2014, Elizabeth Urbach.

Like what you read?  Leave a comment below, click on “Subscribe” above, visit the San Jose Tea Examiner page on Facebook, read my other blog, The Cup That Cheers, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea or Pinterest!

For more information:

“Barbecue with tea for Labor Day”

“Labor Day menu tip: 5 teas for San Jose’s beer fans”

“What should I keep in the pantry for tea parties?”

“Chinese black tea in San Jose”

“Tea-table recipe: rose-petal jam desserts”

“Review: Amandine Decanter by Teavana”

“Greet the summer in San Jose with iced tea during Iced Tea Month”

“Iced tea and how to make it”

“Ease the first-day-of-school jitters with a tea party”

“Cool off with tea ice cream”

“Tea and food pairings for black teas”

“Enjoy San Jose’s warm weather with a floral tea menu”

“Review of Haagen-Dazs Green Tea ice cream”

“Review of Tazo Organic Spiced Black Tea Latte concentrate”

“Review of Oregon Chai Original Chai Tea Latte concentrate”

“Going back to school in San Jose? Ease into it with a tea picnic on the beach”

“Picnic in Gatsby style with iced tea at San Jose’s History Park”

“Use tea in refreshing fruit spritzers this summer”

“All about tisanes, or ‘herbal teas’”

“How to: make rose jelly for your tea party pantry”

“Iced tea punches and cocktails”

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Beat the heat with iced tea punches and cocktails.

Pomegranate tea punch.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Pomegranate tea punch. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

With the beginning of summer comes the perfect weather for a refreshing glass of iced tea.  Although there is no reason to become bored with good old iced tea – because of the wide range of flavored teas commercially available – tea can be used to make many other cold beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Alcohol-free beverages include punches, virgin cocktails or “mocktails”, spritzers, and of course, the ever-popular Arnold Palmer — iced tea and lemonade mixed together in equal parts.  It is one of my favorite ways to drink iced tea in the summer!  You can also add things like rose water, orange flower water, and simple syrups flavored with mint or other herbs, orange peel or other fruits to your iced tea for more variation.  Then, there are the alcoholic punches and cocktails that contain tea; there are so many options!

Here are two great tea punch recipes.  The first one was served by the South Bay Ladies’ Tea Guild at their Pre-Raphaelite Tea Salon a few years ago.  It has remained popular with them and their guests ever since.
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