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:

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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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Mother’s Day history and tea tips.


Mother's Day post card, 1916, Northern Pacific Railway.  Wikimedia Commons

Mother’s Day post card, 1916, Northern Pacific Railway. Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that 2014 is the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day, as we know it, in the U.S.? Julia Ward Howe, an American poet who also wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the beginning of the Civil War, became so appalled by the violence and destruction that she became a pacifist and called, in 1870, for all mothers to band together in peace, to stop their sons and husbands from being sent to war. Her effort temporarily (until about 1880) resulted in June 2nd being set aside for local celebrations of American mothers, and of peace.

When Howe died, although most Mother’s Day celebrations ended, a group of women in West Virginia adapted the holiday as a Mother’s Friendship Day, to re-unite those who had been driven apart by wartime politics. In 1908, Anna Jarvis, the daughter of the Mother’s Friendship Day committee leader, petitioned her mother’s church — St. Andrews Methodist Church — to establish the 2nd Sunday in May as an official, annual celebration, in honor of her mother; the church assented, presenting each mother with white carnations, Jarvis’ mother’s favorite flower, for the special service. A church in Philadelphia, where Jarvis herself was living, also adopted the holiday. The same year, the YMCA started petitioning the U.S. government to make Mother’s Day a national holiday, working with Jarvis to influence senators and other government officials. Jarvis trademarked the phrase “Mother’s Day” in 1912, to indicate that the purpose of the holiday was “for each family to honor its mother, not … all mothers of the world.” In 1912 West Virginia became the first state to recognize Mother’s Day as an official holiday, and President Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday in May of 1914.
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How to make rose-scented treats for tea

Old-fashioned fragrant rose, perfect for making rose water.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Old-fashioned fragrant rose, perfect for making rose water. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.

Now that we’re into the warmer spring weather here in San Jose, local rose bushes are blooming and scenting the air with their fragrance. Roses not only smell wonderful, but are edible, when grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. If you have access to food-grade fresh or dried roses, you can use them for both culinary and medicinal purposes — they are soothing and moisturizing — and some rose recipes are good additions to the tea party pantry! Some of the most useful rose-scented treats include rose water and rose jelly.

Rose water can be added, a spoonful at a time, to a cup of hot tea or a glass of iced tea, for flavor and aroma, and can be used, with granulated sugar, to make a rose-scented sugar or rose syrup for flavoring iced tea or cocktails, or with powdered sugar, to make icing for tea cakes, cookies and sweet scones. Local grocery stores carry rose water in the Middle Eastern food aisle, and this has been distilled so that it is shelf-stable. Continue reading

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Review: Sticky Fingers Red Raspberry Scone mix

Sticky Fingers Red Raspberry Scone mix.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

Sticky Fingers Red Raspberry Scone mix. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

Scone mixes are a good item to keep in your tea party pantry for those times when you don’t have 30 minutes to make a batch of scones from scratch, but you still need something to eat with tea, and you want something a little more special than toast.  Enter the packaged scone mixes!  With the company tag line “homemade taste for modern lives,” Sticky Fingers was the first brand of scone mix that I saw in San Jose-area stores, and it has expanded to include several flavors that are available in local Safeway, Target, Nob Hill, and Cost Plus World Market stores, as well as Lisa’s Tea Treasures in Campbell and at Santana Row.  The scone mix is packaged in a foil-lined paper sack, and includes enough dry ingredients for 12 medium-sized scones; the only ingredient that the user needs to add is water, but you can enrich the scones by adding milk, cream, or a combination of those and water when you mix up the scones.

The company website says that all their mixes contain no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, trans-fats or saturated fats.  Ingredients for the Red Raspberry mix include: unbleached enriched flours (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamin, mononitrate, riboflavins, folic acid), sugar, canola oil (with ascorbic acid and rosemary added to preserve freshness), buttermilk powder, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate), freeze dried raspberries, natural flavor, and salt.

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Tea and _Saving Mr. Banks_

_Saving Mr. Banks_ official movie still.  Copyright Disney Studios

_Saving Mr. Banks_ movie still from the film’s Facebook page. Copyright Disney Studios

San Jose residents have the opportunity to see, among the other usual holiday movie offerings, a biographical sketch of the author, P. L. Travers, creator of the beloved character “Mary Poppins”, immortalized by Walt Disney.  Starring Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, _Saving Mr. Banks_ is the story of the author’s deep personal love for her characters, and her fight to keep them from being too “Disney-fied” in Hollywood.

The plot also features frequent flashbacks to Travers’ childhood in Australia, and gives glimpses of the various people in her life who inspired Mr. and Mrs. Banks, Bert, and Mary Poppins, in particular.  Fittingly, the movie also features tea many times; Travers is only seen drinking tea, and makes many pithy comments about tea, including: “it is an abomination to drink tea from a paper cup”, and “tea is balm for the soul.”  She also weighs in on the “milk in first/milk in last” question: she takes her milk in first.  During one of the childhood flashbacks, Travers’ prim and proper aunt – a major inspiration for Mary Poppins herself — arrives to help the family, and promises to fix everything while opening her capacious carpetbag and taking out a teacup and saucer.  Walt Disney also visits her in London and asks for “a cup of your English tea.”

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Raise your teacup to Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday.

The Coventry Carolers at Cuthbert's Tea Shoppe.

The Coventry Carolers at Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe.

The popular Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Holiday Party, which opened the weekend before Thanksgiving this year, is in extra celebratory mode, remembering the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth.  Born February 7, 1813, Dickens created some of the most iconic stories and characters known to Western literature, which are brought to life at the Dickens Fair in Daly City at the Cow Palace.  Actor Robert Young portrays the author every year and conducts readings of his works throughout the six weekends that the Fair is open. The fair is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through December 22nd.

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Have a Halloween High Tea while greeting trick-or-treaters

A Jolly Halloween.  Image: Halloween Cavern of Clipart.

A Jolly Halloween. Image: Halloween Cavern of Clipart.

Halloween is almost here in San Jose, and the trick-or-treaters will soon be out in force.  Since it also looks like it may be a cool, rainy autumn evening, why not put together some hot tea and treats for yourself – and maybe some friends – as you wait through the night to hand out candy to the local kids?  Unfortunately, homemade goodies can’t be passed out to trick-or-treaters – everything must be individually wrapped and sealed in its original factory wrapping – but there’s no reason why you have to limit yourself to leftovers, microwave popcorn or extra Halloween candy tonight.  A pot of hot tea will hit the spot as the rain falls outside, and you can give yourself a delicious shiver with some spooky treats to go alongside.  Here are some suggestions for your own Halloween High Tea:

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How to use tea to dye fabric

Prince George of Cambridge in the reproduction christening gown.

Prince George of Cambridge in the reproduction christening gown. Photo: The British Monarchy. All Rights Reserved.

Great Britain’s Prince George of Cambridge was recently christened in an ecru lace-trimmed and silk satin christening gown, a replica of the one made in 1841 for Victoria, Princess Royal, the eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, by Janet Sutherland, Embroiderer to the Queen.  The antique gown had been worn by every newborn in the Royal Family at his or her christening until 2004, when it was determined that the garment was too fragile to be worn further.  Queen Elizabeth commissioned her personal dressmaker and designer, Angela Kelly, to make a reproduction of the gown, which was, itself, a nod to Queen Victoria’s wedding gown.  The replica was made, like Queen Victoria’s gown and the original royal christening gown, from ivory Spitalfields silk satin and Honiton lace, and was dyed a lovely sepia shade, to imitate the original, with tea.  The reproduction gown was first worn in 2008 by the Queen’s grandson, James, Viscount Severn, the son of Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex.  The guests later enjoyed a private afternoon tea, with champagne and Christening Cake – part of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding cake, which was a rich fruitcake — after the ceremony, at the Prince of Wales’ and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall’s home, Clarence House.

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