Adding Local Flavor
Friday and Saturday I decided to do things a bit differently and made a variation of the following recipe for the free tea tastings at the Botanical Gardens. I got the idea from one of my favorite frequent guests at the main Seven Cups location when she came in the preceding Wednesday and made me tea. It was wonderful (and a bit ironic having a customer come in and make tea for me in our teahouse), and this is the recipe she used.
When making it at the Gardens, I used far less sugar, and I used Misty New Top for the green tea in order to marry the flavors with the tea’s natural sweetness. It was phenomenal, and a huge hit with the guests there. On Sunday I continued the theme of adding local flavor to tea by using blood-orange blossoms (which did have a totally different flavor) and two types of basil (purple Thai basil and sweet basil), all gathered locally from the Botanical Gardens. People loved it, and it generated a lot of buzz among the people there. I tried it at home with some of my older Tai Ping Hou Kui and An Ji Bai Cha, and it was utterly intoxicating.
The day my lovely customer came in to make this for me (she requested I not mention her name), a chef from a local gourmet restaurant came in, asking me about different teas that might pair with different recipes. I told him about a Keemun chocolate cake that a local restaurant made using our tea, as well as an amazing twice-baked tofu made with a strong-smoke Lapsang Souchong marinade, shared with us by Linda, one of our weekly Mahjong players and devoted member of the Seven Cups family. Kyle, the aforementioned chef (and new tea friend), got as excited as a little boy getting presents when he got to experience what great tea is like, and I could see his brain putting together new ideas as he experienced new flavors and cultures opened up by discovering the world of premium teas that day. Great tea and great food go hand-in-hand, and I’m discovering that our “tea community” here in Tucson has embraced food as an offshoot of blissfully hedonistic tea culture.
Purists may frown upon using premium tea in recipes, but I personally don’t see a difference between using exceptional tea and using an exceptional wine or liqueur for a fabulous culinary creation. I once made a dessert with a very expensive Sauterne, and I think the quality of the wine made a HUGE difference in the quality of the dessert, and I have to say that the Moroccan orange blossom and mint elixir I made was elevated to heavenly heights when made with An Ji Bai Cha and Tai Ping Hou Kui rather than Gunpowder. Also, the way the tea itself looked as we combined all the ingredients made for a visual feast, and then olfactory bliss when it all came together. It felt wonderful on so many levels to share such a great experience with our friends at the teahouse (and have them share it with us!), and then carry that over to a new set of friends at the Botanical Gardens. There’s something truly spectacular about the way people tend to bond over great tea, great stories, great food, and great recipes.
Enjoy, and if you have any great ideas, we’d love to hear from you!
Moroccan Orange Tree Blossoms Tea (the original recipe)
Here is what you will need:
a large tea kettle full of hot water
1 rounded tablespoon of loose green tea (adjusting as necessary for the type of green tea you use)
a small handful of fresh orange blossoms, which have already opened on the tree, and with the yellow stamen removed (removing the stamens greatly reduces the slightly bitter “orange-pith” taste of the orange blossoms)
4-5 stems of fresh mint, washed, left on stems with leaves attached
5 tablespoons sugar (or less, to your taste)
Put the loose tea into a teapot. Pour in a little hot (not boiling) water. Let it steep one to three minutes, depending on the type of green tea you use. Then add the mint and orange blossoms. Let steep for about three more minutes. While you can drink it without sugar, Moroccans recommend adding about five tablespoons of sugar for the authentic version. Serve in tea glasses, if possible. You can re-infuse this many, many times with boiling water, but you may need to add a little more sugar each time. It is also wonderful iced!