Tag Archives: autumn

Review: Tazo Chai Pumpkin Spice Latte

Tazo Chai Pumpkin Spice Latte product photo.

Now that it’s the time of year for “pumpkin spice everything”, how do the seasonal flavored teas hold up under the promise of autumnal tea-time goodness?  Today’s beverage: Pumpkin Spice Latte by Tazo Chai, which can be found at selected Target stores, Safeway, Lucky, and other local grocery stores.  The flavored tea is also available in tea bags for those who would rather make their own beverage.  The front of the carton reads: “A seasonal blend of warming chai with pumpkin pie spices and other natural flavors.” Caffeine level is 4 out of 5, which supposedly translates to 46 to 60 mg. per serving. The back of the carton reads: “Cinnamon and cardamom sit by a crackling fire, knitting black tea scarves and catching up over mugs of steamed milk. Ginger waltzes in with a just-baked pumpkin pie, the aroma filling the room with sweet spice.”

140 calories per ½ cup of concentrate with the addition of ½ cup of 2% milk.

Ingredients: water, black tea, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, natural flavors, cane sugar syrup, honey, ginger juice, citric acid.

I found Tazo Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte to be a mildly flavored, sweet and pleasant variation on their traditional chai. There is no “pumpkin” flavor to speak of, and no “tea” flavor, but the warm spices are there and they mix well with the added milk. I would not say that this tastes like drinking a piece of pumpkin pie; it’s actually very similar to their regular chai, except that the flavor is milder. I also found that the caffeine level was not as high, as compared to their regular chai concentrate, which I drink in the afternoons to get me through the afternoon energy slump without having to take a nap. This Pumpkin Pie Spice Chai blend did not keep me awake at all! It is a tasty drink, however, and very seasonally appropriate, but I will probably not buy it again, instead sticking with Tazo’s regular chai blend.

Copyright 2013, 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!


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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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Filed under Holiday, Menus, Party Ideas

Make homemade jam for the tea party pantry

Orlando's Fruit Stand in San Jose.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

Orlando’s Fruit Stand in San Jose. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

San Jose’s history as “The Valley of Heart’s Delight” is no longer visible in the orchards that once covered the Santa Clara Valley, but plenty of local people still have fruit trees in their front and back yards, trees that are filling with ripe fruit this season.  Wild plums and berries can also be found along the banks of rivers, creeks and streams in the Santa Cruz mountains and local foothills.  For those that don’t have edible landscaping at home, and even for those that do, the local farmers’ markets are a wonderful source of fresh, ripe fruit for tea-table jams and preserves.  What better treat to serve your tea guests, give as gifts, or enjoy by yourself than homemade jam?  You can make jam either with or without adding pectin; it’s a fairly easy recipe either way.
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Filed under Recipes, Tips, Uncategorized

Review: Numi Orange Spice White Tea

Numi Orange Spice Tea. http://www.numitea.com. Used with permission.

San Jose stores offer many spicy tea blends that are perfect for autumn and winter cold weather. Numi Orange Spice White Tea is one of the better ones. The tea is packaged in regular tea bags sealed in a plastic-lined paper pouch. The label reads: , “White Tea/Lower Caffeine”, “Numi Organic Tea”, and “Orange Spice/White tea, real orange peel & spice” on the front. The back reads: “For the perfect cup: Bring fresh water to a boil, allow to cool slightly, then pour over a bag of Orange Spice. While pondering ancient myths, steep 5 – 6 minutes. For iced tea, steep 2 tea bags, cool and pour over ice”. The ingredient list reads: “organic Cinnamon, organic Orange Peel, organic Cloves, Fair Trade Certified™ organic White Tea, organic Hibiscus, organic Allspice, organic Ginger, organic Lemongrass, organic Schizandra Berry, organic Dried Lime.” The back also reads “the tea bag is made of natural biodegradable filter-paper, not GMO corn or plastic ‘silk’. This outer package is made from 72% recycled content. Organic and Fair Trade Certified. Certified B Corporation, meeting standards in sustainability.”

I was surprised to discover that this was a white tea blend, and contained so many ingredients, when I opened the package. The tea inside smelled like a standard orange spice blend, but wasn’t as dark as your regular orange spice black tea, like old favorite Constant Comment. The orange, ginger, cloves and cinnamon were the dominant scents and flavors, with perhaps a little extra acidity from the lemongrass and dried lime, but no apparent flavor addition. I was happy to find (since I don’t like it) that the hibiscus was also hardly there. I’m not familiar with Schizandra berry so I’m not sure what that was supposed to add to this tea, but I couldn’t taste anything besides the orange and spices, including the white tea! White tea has such a delicate flavor and aroma that I wonder why Numi added it to an otherwise strongly flavored spice and herb blend; didn’t they realize it would get completely lost under so many flavorful ingredients?

However, I like orange spice tea blends, so I enjoyed Numi Orange Spice White Tea and can recommend it to other tea lovers who also like tea flavored with citrus and spices. It was a tasty addition to my meal, but it would be equally good with a piece of shortbread in the afternoon, or even just by itself. You could add a tiny bit of sugar, honey or sweetener to this tea, but I don’t recommend that you make it very sweet, even if you usually like sweet tea, because that will overpower the refreshing tang of the citrus. Because of the citrus in this blend, I also don’t recommend the addition of milk, because of the likelihood that the dairy will curdle on contact with the citrus.  Numi Tea is offered at certain restaurants and grocery stores in the Bay Area; Eric’s Delicafe as well as Safeway grocery stores and Whole Foods in the San Jose area sell the brand.

Copyright 2012, 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, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea!

For more information:
Numi Tea website
Numi Orange Spice White Tea product page
“Review: Vital Tea Leaf Angel green tea and Siberian Rose tisane”
“Review: the Royal Wedding tea from Lisa’s Tea Treasures”
“How to make holiday orange spice tea”
“Review: Buccaneer blend from SerendipiTea” 
“Review of Stash Coconut Mango Wuyi Oolong”
“Review: Orange Blossom 100% White Tea from The Republic of Tea” 
“Review: Passion blend from SerendipiTea”
“Review: Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea”
“Review: Twinings Earl Grey tea”
“Review of Tazo Organic Spiced Black Tea Latte concentrate”
“Review of Oregon Chai Original Chai Tea Latte concentrate”

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Filed under Product Reviews, Tea, Tea Tasting

Tea for studying in San Jose.

Ready to study with a cup of tea. FreeDigitalPhotos.com

Now that the first day of class at SJSU and local high schools has come and gone, keeping the energy up for studying regains its important position in life for local students. Many choose to drink coffee and energy drinks to stay awake, but these beverages can upset the digestive system as well as sleep patterns, so a pot of tea makes a really good alternative, being gentler on the body, while still providing a caffeine boost. However, different kinds of tea are better for studying with than others.

One common tea myth states that black tea has the most caffeine, and green and white tea have the least amounts of caffeine. That’s incorrect; each type of tea – black, oolong, green and white – falls within a range of caffeine content, and the range for each type of tea overlaps with at least one other type. For example, it is possible to find a white tea that contains more caffeine than a particular black tea!  However, white teas are so delicate in flavor and aroma that they should really be appreciated when you have nothing more serious to do than relax.

For studying, or any prolonged intellectual work, like reading, or manual work where you need a steady hand, like working on your car, a black, oolong, or green tea will provide enough flavor to keep your taste buds satisfied, but not make you jumpy like coffee can. If you prefer black tea, choose a tea from India, especially Assam, as that variety has been bred over the years to have a higher caffeine content, and it is especially good if you add milk and/or sugar. A dark or amber oolong – which has a more robust and less floral flavor – is nice study companion, and a good-quality Chinese green tea can also be a great choice. You can get flavored and unflavored black, oolong and green teas at local tea shops like Satori Tea Bar in San Pedro Square, and even some coffee shops, like Peet’s Coffee & Tea.

If you aren’t used to the taste of tea, or if you are a coffee-drinker trying to cut down on coffee, then masala chai – Indian tea with milk, sugar and spices – is a good choice for both flavor and caffeine content. You can get chai from Starbucks and Peet’s, and find chai concentrate and powdered chai mix at most Safeway, Lucky, Nob Hill, and Save Mart grocery stores if you don’t want to (or can’t) make it from scratch. Pull some packaged cookies or some chocolate from the tea party pantry to munch, and you’ll be set for a productive study session. However you drink it, tea is a great beverage to study with, keeping you alert, but not jumpy, providing great flavor and hydration, plus keeping San Jose’s students warm during these cool, windy autumn days.

Copyright 2012, Elizabeth Urbach.

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

For more information:
“Tea tasting 101: characteristics of a good-quality black tea”
“What should I keep in the pantry for tea parties?”
“Chocolate and tea: the perfect match?”
“Can you really de-caffeinate your tea in 30 seconds?” 
“The top 10 tea myths: don’t be fooled by any of them!”
“What you need to make a good pot of hot tea”
“Ease the first-day-of-school jitters with a tea party”
“San Jose’s newest tea shop: Satori Tea Bar”
“Enjoy San Jose’s harvest moon with some hot tea”
“What is chai and where can I get it in San Jose?”
“How to make masala chai at home”
“How to make ‘instant’ chai”
“Chinese oolong tea in San Jose”
“Stay up late with tea on New Year’s Eve”
“What are the different kinds of green tea available in San Jose?”
“Going back to school in San Jose? Ease into it with a tea picnic on the beach”
“Study with tea instead of coffee!”
“Tea-tasting San Jose area destinations: Peet’s Coffee & Tea downtown San Jose”

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Filed under Health, Tips, Uncategorized, Vendors and Shops

Black Friday shopping stress? Not when you relax with a tea party!

Autumn teapot and cup. Photo: MorgueFile.com

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season, but do you really want to fight with all the crowds on the freeway, in the parking lot, and at the stores? Life in the Silicon Valley is stressful enough. Instead of going out on Friday, stay in with a relaxing pot of tea and keep your sanity (which is more valuable than any sale), and wait a while to take advantage of the sales. They’ll still be around in a few days.  Use some leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner (you know you have them!) to make up your Black Friday morning or afternoon tea menu.  The flavors went well together on the Thanksgiving dinner table, so they’ll do just as well at tea time:

Orange Spice tea
Pumpkin Spice tea
Homemade chai

Cinnamon scones
Cranberry-orange scones
Cinnamon butter

Savory black olive scones with butter
Turkey salad sandwiches or Turkey and cranberry tea sandwiches
Warm sweet onion spread on crackers

Leftover pumpkin and apple pie
Cinnamon-raisin bread pudding
Aztec chocolate bread pudding
Maple shortbread

You could even use the time to use tea to make some gifts.  Or, you could go into the Santa Cruz Mountains and cut your own Christmas tree. Bring it home, set it in a bucket of water in the back or front yard, or in the garage, and warm up with a tea party! Use up some leftovers, anything else you need can be pulled from your tea party pantry, and you’re set for a relaxing, easy, festive Black Friday. Put on some holiday music, recover from Thanksgiving, and actually enjoy the season instead of losing yourself in the shopping frenzy. It’s just not worth the stress and frustration!

Copyright 2011, 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 blog, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea

For more information:
“What should I keep in the pantry for tea parties?”
“What you need to make a good pot of hot tea” 
“Tea 101: How to brew a pot of hot tea using loose tea” 
“What is chai and where can I get it in San Jose?”
“Thanksgiving in San Jose: count your blessings with a cup of tea” 
“Tea and food pairings for black teas”
“Gift ideas for the San Jose tea-lover”
“5 gifts you can make with tea”
“Where to buy books about tea in San Jose”
“5 books that should be on the tea-lover’s bookshelf”
“New fall 2011 tea flavors at San Jose’s Satori Tea Bar”
“5 Reasons to Skip Black Friday Sales” 

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Filed under History, Holiday, Menus, Party Ideas, Tips

Give thanks over tea for Thanksgiving!

Mini Yorkshire puddings, a great Thanksgiving tea table item. Image: FreeFoto.com

 Thanksgiving in San Jose is a very busy holiday time.  Stress levels can go through the roof, what with the struggling economy, the high unemployment, and the long hours that Silicon Valley workers put in at the job, on top of the general holiday activity.  This means that taking a break with a pot of tea is a very good idea!  Now is a good time to use your tea party pantry to ease some of that stress, as well as to take advantage of sales to re-stock!

In the Santa Clara Valley, people often turn the traditional Thanksgiving dinner into a potluck meal, in order to spread the cost between all the diners, but that’s not the only way of keeping costs down.  How about spreading the celebration through the week, having fewer dishes on the table on Thanksgiving day, but enjoying the other favorite flavors for meals throughout the holiday season?  Multiple, smaller celebrations, like afternoon tea, high tea, brunches and luncheons can take the place of regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus.

Orange, spice and cranberry flavors can be put into tea or scones as well as relish for the dinner table.  Gingerbread can be made into scones for brunch.  Pumpkin and apple are available as spreads for scones, crumpets or toast.  Turkey — leftovers from Thanksgiving day or even sliced deli meat — can be made into tea sandwiches or individually-sized meat pies, which are easy to make with purchased pie dough and fillings of ground meat and/or vegetables.  They can be baked in small baking cups, like Shepherd’s Pie, or in turnover or empanada form.  Pumpkins and butternut squash, potatoes, and corn can be made into soups, savory puddings and fritters.  Even those black olives from the relish tray can be put into savory scones.

Pumpkin and apple pies can be made in cupcake pans or mini muffin pans to make individual finger food-style tarts perfect for a tea party.  Maple and spice cookies can be found in San Jose’s grocery stores, as well as created from scratch.  And last, but certainly not least, tea blends with holiday flavors, both in tea bags and loose leaf form, are available in local supermarkets as well as Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Satori Tea Bar.  Celebrating with tea will go a long way towards making this Thanksgiving a more relaxing, more thankful holiday!

Copyright 2011, 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 blog, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea!

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Filed under Holiday, Menus, Party Ideas, Tea, Tips

Keep warm on Halloween with tea!

Autumn. Image: Nikolay Dimitrov, http://www.e-Cobo.com

Staying in to hand out candy to San Jose’s trick-or-treaters on Monday? Why not put together a collection of seasonal goodies from your kitchen and tea party pantry to warm your soul, and put on a good movie to pass the time between visits. San Jose’s weather has cooled down considerably this month, and Halloween night promises to be chilly, so cups of hot tea and warm treats are practically a requirement! They will be just as welcome to those who go out door-to-door, as those who stay in.

Chai, or some other spicy black tea blend, is a tasty and seasonal choice for autumn. You can make your own from scratch, or use one of the two main brands of chai concentrate available in local grocery stores. Perhaps you’d like something earthy or smoky to accompany the evening? In that case, a smoky Lapsang Souchong or earthy Pu-erh might be a good choice; both can be found at San Jose’s many Asian grocery stores, if not in every supermarket. Flavored teas for the holidays are just now re-appearing in local grocery stores, but you can make your own if you prefer, by using easy-to-find ingredients to make pumpkin spice tea or orange spice tea.

Scones, both savory and sweet, are always good to add to the tea table. If you feel creative, you can even dress them up to look like spiders or other scary-kitchy things, like Slightly Spooky Vampires! If you want to go all out and have savories, too, there are lots of yummy things available in the grocery store, farmer’s market, or in recipes on the Internet. Pumpkins can be made into savory things as well as pies (although mini pumpkin pies sound great!), as well as butternut squash or other squash, mushrooms, roasted vegetables, and all sorts of meats. Try making a filling out of some of these things and baking it inside pie dough turnovers or savory tarts.

Chocolate is another popular treat to enjoy this dark night, and if you stay out of the kids’ candy handouts you’ll have more room for good-quality chocolate with your tea! Baking with chocolate, like making Spicy Chocolate Bread Pudding, is always a good thing to do when you want something comforting and indulgent to accompany your tea. You can even make mini cakes and dress them up like Chocolate Mice or Spider Webs for the occasion!

If you plan to go out with the kids, you’ll need something hot to bring with you, and what better beverage than tea? There are many portable hot beverage containers available on the market, and the product called the Mobile Teapot from Village Tea Company is a good choice for those of us who prefer loose tea to tea bags; Satori Tea Bar in downtown San Jose sells an almost identical design made by a different company. Whatever you do, stay safe and warm on Halloween, and drink more tea than alcohol, because we all have to go back to work the next day!

Copyright 2011, 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 blog, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea

For more information:
“What to do if it rains in San Jose on Halloween: have a tea party!”
“Tea tasting 101: characteristics of a good-quality black tea”
“What should I keep in the pantry for tea parties?”
“What you need to make a good pot of hot tea”
“What is chai and where can I get it in San Jose?”
“How to make masala chai at home”
“Tea 101: what is pu-erh tea?”
“Review of Tazo Organic Spiced Black Tea Latte concentrate”
“Review of Oregon Chai Original Chai Tea Latte concentrate”
“How to make holiday orange spice tea”
“How to make your own pumpkin spice tea”
“Slightly spooky savory black olive scones for Halloween”
“Chocolate and tea: the perfect match?”
“Aztec chocolate bread pudding to eat with tea”
“How to create easy vampire cupcakes for your Twilight tea party”
“Chocolate Mice” recipe from Food & Wine magazine
“Red Velvet Spider Web Cupcakes” recipe from Food & Wine magazine
 “Review: Mobile Teapot from Village Tea Company”
“Tea 101: How to brew a pot of hot tea using loose tea”
“Review: afternoon tea at Satori Tea Bar”

Some other seasonal tea party themes:
 “A Twilight theme tea”
“Twilight themed midnight tea picnic”
“Twilight Saga: Eclipse tickets with a midnight tea”
“Gothic high tea” 
“Autumn harvest moon tea”
“Dia de los Muertos Tea”
“Steampunk Tea”

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