Tag Archives: Water

The Tea Shelf [Part 1]: Earl Grey and Oolong

Lady Grey on a grey day.

Image by cinderellasg via Flickr

Lately I’ve been having to piss much more than usual. This could be a sign of a urinary infection or it could just be the inordinate amount of tea I’ve been drinking as of late.

For the past few years I’ve always been a big fan of dried leaves in boiled water but these past few months my daily, or sometimes twice daily, cuppa has turned into a six mugs in a row. A few weeks ago my therapist suggested that my inability to sleep was not a byproduct of some obsessive worrying compulsion but rather the gallons (alright, cups) of caffeinated Earl Grey I was drinking right before climbing into bed and so I began to branch out into herbals and decaf tea. (And for the record, Mr. Big-Fancy-LICSW, I still spend too much time lying in bed being unable to fall asleep.) Within the past two weeks my average tea intake has gone from Tea. Earl Grey. Hot. to a wild and mystifying tour of the teas that can be found in my family’s tea shelf.

Here are the teas that I’ve been partaking in, as of late:

  • Earl Grey: The old war-horse of teas. It can be brewed weak for those who are sickly with consumption or strong and with a shot of brandy for those who are sickly with consumption. With a flavor that really depends on how long you let it steep for this is one of my tea classics. (You know that quote from The Series of Unfortunate Events where one of the characters goes: “Tea should be as sharp as sword and as bitter as wormwood”? That’s how I like my Earl Grey. If it hasn’t steeped for at least six minutes it still counts as plain hot water.) I only buy Twinning’s Earl Grey and have lately started sometimes using their loose leaf tea (but mostly because of how frickin’ sweet the tin is.)
  • Lady Grey: One of the few teas that I branched out to early last year this is the herbal companion to Earl Grey. The flavor is milder I find and to be honest I grew bored with this tea after a few months. It’s a good thing one of my parent’s drink it because when I had a sore throat two weeks ago I reached past my caffeinated black tea for this herbal blend. At first I thought: This isn’t a bad substitute when you’re sick. Soon I realized that this wasn’t just a good substitute when you’re ill, this is a good tea no matter when. (It’s particularly good with a sore throat, ginger snaps, “Bones” on Netflix and a chilly fall afternoon.) Now when I need tea and it’s past 8.30 p.m. this is the tea that I (almost always) turn to as it carries the idea of Earl Grey but in a taste that is distinctly its own.
  • Oolong: I don’t know much about Oolong tea, other than it can be astoundingly dark and that it was recommended to Captain Kathryn Janeway in a ST:VOY short story (which is the reason why I bought it two weeks ago at the coop.) I would describe it as being darker than Earl Grey with a thicker taste, if that makes any sense. Bitter comes to mind but it’s still not the right word, with the possibility of sounding like someone who knows what they’re talking about when it comes to tasting teas I am going to describe it as having a depth to its taste. Like the two above I drink this with no sweeteners or milk or cream.
  • Lemon Zinger: Many, many years ago I put Lemon Zinger at the back of the tea shelf after deciding that it was icky. Well, not last Friday but last Friday’s last Friday one of dear friend’s came over for a tea date. She’s not known for her obsession with tea and so choosing a box of tea was a bit overwhelming for her and so she grabbed the first box that looked fun and exciting. Lemon Zinger. I cautioned her that it might be a bit sharp for her but handed the tea box over all the same. Well, the aroma coming from that mug was heavenly. It’s fruity and just makes me think: Lightness and Childhood. Every so often now I’ll brew up a mug of this tea, generally I do this during the day when it’s all light and sunny out. The flavor, I’ve found, is quite citrus-y with an almost acidic taste to it. This is one tea that I don’t let steep for two hours before drinking, I drink this almost immediately after the hot water floods over the tea bag.
  • Tangerine Orange Zinger: I tried this one the other day in a fit of whimsy. If I like Lemon Zinger I’ll like its Tangerine Orange cousin, right? Nope. Now it may not be my fault that I didn’t like it. The first teabag that I took out of the box spilled tea leaves all over the place. After sitting for so long on our shelves the bags must have just given up and this leads me to worry about the quality of the tea leaves I drank. Remember what I said about Lemon Zinger? Citrus-y with a hint of acidity? Well this tasted like acid with a hint of citrus. Not delicious.
  • Peppermint: For a few years now, since I spent part of the winter at a Belize research station actually, so for seven years now this has been my sick tea. It started off as tummy illness tea, a common use for it actually, but quickly I’ve started taking this anytime I’ve had an upset stomach or a brain tumor or a cold. What is it about this tea that just makes it so good? Maybe its the memories of Belize or the feeling of comfort I get from the smell of peppermint, of course it could just be that this tea is damn good. The taste can be sharp or mild and though it doesn’t have sweetness to it per se  it isn’t bitter or acidic. Definitely a tea if what you want is relaxing and with a hint of sleepiness to it.
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That Ol’ Purple Box

Butter and a butter knife

Image via Wikipedia

Annie’s Mac and Cheese. Annie’s Shells & White Cheese. It has Bernie’s “Rabbit of Approval” so it has to be good, no?

No.

Unfortunately this simple but wholesome fare is so easy to ruin that I’ve had plenty of bad bowls of Annie’s. Runny sauce, clumpy sauce, limp noodles- egh. My own parents can’t seem to produce a decent batch. And no, I’m not picky, I just know what I like and am not afraid to say so.

Don’t despair, there is a way to produce it in a way that makes you just moan with joy. You just need to know how to produce it just right. Let’s look at what the box says:

  • Boil: 8 cups of water in a medium saucepan.
  • Stir In: pasta, bring to boil again.
  • Cook: 8-10 minutes, until done. While pasta is cooking…
  • Measure: 1/3 cup lowfat milk in a measuring cup. Add cheese and stir until smooth.
  • Drain: pasta in colander. Return to saucepan.
  • Pour: cheese sauce over pasta and stir well.”

In my opinion they left out a few things. Let me show you:

  • Boil: 8 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Fine.
  • Stir In: pasta, bring to boil again. Stir these noodles in! Try to keep the noodles from sticking to the bottom of your metal saucepan. (You paid good money for this and want every noodle.)
  • Cook: 8-10 minutes, until done. While pasta is cooking… 8-9 minutes depending on your stove. 10 minutes pushes it for my taste buds.
  • Measure: 1/3 cup lowfat milk in a measuring cup. Add cheese and stir until smooth. Stir? Beat. Beat that cheese into the milk (I say whole milk but that can depend on your dietary needs). It’s smooth? Beat it more. Your wrist hurts? Beat it more. Your fingers bleed? Beat it more. Your measuring cup has broken from your viciousness beating? Done.
  • Drain: pasta in colander. Return to saucepan. Rinse it before returning to the saucepan and then add a dollop of butter to the pasta. And I’m using the Julia Child measurement of a dollop of butter (conversion: two sticks of butter.)
  • Pour: cheese sauce over pasta and stir well. Remember the instructions for the beating of the cheese? Do the same (but a bit more gently, pasta breaks and broken pasta is impossible to stick on your tongue like a yarmulke.)

Keep in mind that these instructions are based off of my own personal taste buds. You can go ahead and ignore these instructions if you want, it’s a free country (despite what Mr. Beck likes to claim.)

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