I don’t know about you, but this time of year I find there are so many opportunity to celebrate and entertain! One thing I like to do to make any event special is offer a delicious beverage instead of just lemon water or cans of soda or seltzer. An easy way to do that is with Tea Concentrates from HVA Ceylon. A representative of the company reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in sampling their product. I was definitely intrigued!
As a tea drinker, I am used to making iced teas the traditional way — boiling water, steeping the tea, then cooling it. However, HVA Ceylon’s tea concentrates makes it faster and easier to create delicious beverages — perfect for parties! I was a bottle of Peach Tea Concentrate and Chai Tea Concentrate to sample. The bottles retail for $8.50 (at the time of writing this blog post) and each bottle makes 2 gallons of tea. Personally, I think you could even stretch that amount if prefer a tea that is less sweet.
Both teas were delicious, but the Peach Tea Concentrate was hands-down my favorite! It had a very natural peach taste to it, and it was so refreshing! I tried it with both cold water and sparkling water. I’m not sure which I liked better! For a delicious cocktail, you might consider adding an ounce of sweet tea liquor. !
Chai tea is a yummy treat during the cold weather. Whether you like it hot or iced, that unique blend of spices makes you feel so cozy, doesn’t it? I love the chai teas I’ve had at Indian restaurants and the tea bags I have purchased have been good, but I’ve never been able to get that authentic flavor. HVA Ceylon’s Chai Tea concentrate makes the perfect iced chai! I tried it mixed with water, per the instructions, and also mixed directly into a glass of creamy milk. Both made great beverages! I also tried it blended with milk and ice to make a delicious frozen drink.
HVA Ceylon sources the tea for these concentrates from Sri Lanka — they are 100% Pure Ceylon tea. In addition to concentrates, the company offers a wide variety of organic and conventional Pure Ceylon tea and coconut products. I can only imagine how full-flavored their black teas, green teas, and herbal teas are! HVA Ceylon even offers a monthly tea club — talk about a great gift.
I can definitely speak to the quality of the tea concentrates. In addition to the peach and chai flavors, you can purchase strawberry and lemon. I would definitely consider giving the other flavors a try!
If you are looking for an easy, last-minute gift or something interesting to bring to a holiday party, have I got the recipe for you! A while back I tried a fig tea vodka my friend brewed. It was delicious and I put the idea on my long to-try list. Last month I gave it a shot, and the results were fantastic.
Pour the vodka in a mason jar and add the sachet. Cover and allow to steep for 8-10 hours. Remove sachet and dispose. Add simple syrup to your desired sweetness. Store in a cool, dry place (I prefer the freezer).
First, a note on the vodka…
While you don’t have to use your Stoli or Grey Goose for this recipe, I would not recommend anything too harsh. Sobieski is my go-to vodka. First, because it’s Polish, and second because I think it’s good quality for a reasonable price.
Second, notes on the tea…
I think it’s really important to use a high-quality tea when making this flavored vodka. You will definitely notice a difference between a cordial made with good ingredients vs. one made with cheap ingredients. That being said, Harney is one of my favorites and I don’t think their prices are crazy. Are they a little pricer than some of the grocery store brands? Yes, but trust me — it’s so worth it. And you don’t have to mail-order them anymore. I’ve seen the sachets at Target and Stop & Shop. That brings us to why I prefer using the tea sachet. I find that the sachet allows you to brew more than just a single cup, so it’s perfect for a “pint-ish” of vodka. I’ve also used the sachet with 8 oz. of vodka and it worked fine, too. I’ve never tried this with loose tea, though I’m sure you could do it. You’ll just have to strain everything out.
Feel free to experiment with other flavors of tea, too. I’ve also made tea infused vodka using Hot Cinnamon Spice and that was really yummy.
One of my favorite ways to warm up on a cold afternoon is with a cup of tea. So when the founder of Plum Deluxe (an artisan tea company based in the Pacific Northwest) kindly asked if he could send me some samples, I didn’t have to hesitate to give an answer.
Plum Deluxe is based in Portland, Oregon and offers a unique variety of tea blends, including flavors like Coconut Macaron, Mindful Morning Tea Blend, and Everything is OK Herbal Tea. Just the names of these teas are great, aren’t they? All of their tea blends are organic, non-gmo, vegan, and free of chemicals and sulfites. Whenever possible, ingredients are sourced from the Pacific Northwest.
Andy Hayes, the founder of Plum Deluxe, explained to me that the company is a tribute to his mother who passed away from breast cancer. As he writes on the company’s website, “My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 59. The subsequent 5 years of her life while she battled the disease were some of the best years of her life. She took the opportunity for self-care days and spa treatments, to keep her spirits up. She went out to dinner parties with friends to celebrate each day, and went to the gym regularly and became very fit. She laughed more. She traveled more – visiting her favorite city, Paris, and finally visiting the town her family was from in Germany. My mom taught me that no matter your circumstances, you can choose to create moments that matter, every day. And some of the most enjoyable moments are the small things – time to sleep in, relaxing in a reading nook, going on a neighborhood walk, or catching up with an old friend over a cup of tea.”
When I received my package of tea samples, one of the first things I noticed was that everything was packed with care. Andy’s mission of helping people appreciate life’s little moments came through immediately! As I read the list of ingredients on the tea labels, I smiled. Something that you will find in every batch of tea is love and gratitude. This attention to detail did not go unnoticed.
The fragrances were amazing, too. In fact, my 6-year-old daughter took off with one of the bags just so she could keep smelling it! I was now really looking forward to brewing a cuppa. My expectations were pretty high, and let me tell you, the teas did not disappoint! I was immediately drawn to the Deluxe Pumpkin Spice tea. I added a bit of unsweetened vanilla almond milk and thoroughly enjoyed my first cup of Plum Deluxe tea. It had a great balance of spice and black tea flavor.
The next tea I tried was the Autumn Orchard black tea. I was finishing up some editing work and wanted a little lift. I was really impressed with the amount of dried apple in this blend — there were so many nice chunks that plumped up as the tea steeped. A bit of honey brought out the wonderful, comforting flavors.
My final test tea was the Oregon Breakfast Black tea. I drank it with a splash of milk while having my cranberry oatmeal. It had a wonderful, full flavor that I have to say brightened a rainy, dreary morning.
Finally, I want to tell you about something that I think really makes Plum Deluxe stand out: their monthly tea club! Unless you live under a rock, you know that monthly subscription boxes are all the rage. For as low as $10/month, you get one ounce of one of Plum Deluxe’s unique blends each month, plus a special second sample. Members also enjoy a discount on purchases, membership in a private Facebook community just for tea lovers, a monthly tea reading, and a few other benefits. There is nothing like getting a happy surprise in your mailbox! (Plus, wouldn’t it make a great birthday or Christmas gift?)
I want to extend a special thank you to Andy and Plum Deluxe for introducing me to these wonderful teas. If you enjoy blends that aren’t run-of-the-mill, and are packaged by people who put thought into every step of process, you have to check them out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
As you know, I love tea. I mean, I really love tea. A few weeks ago, a friend mentioned something in passing about some sort of festival at Harney & Sons Fine Teas. Lucky for me, Harney is a local company, located only about 30 minutes away. I immediately clicked on the link to the Facebook Event to learn more information. Oh. My. Word. It was a free (FREE!) tea festival! There was no question — I had to go.
Immediately, I messaged my friend and fellow tea-lover, Kelly. Since we met during our days at UMass, we have enjoyed many cups of tea together, shared info about new tea shops, and generally geeked out over a good cuppa. We made our plans to meet up and counted down the days until August 15th. Because the kids had two different parties on Saturday afternoon, we decided to meet up bright and early. HarneyFest started at 9, so we were one of the first people there. It got really busy by the time we were wrapping things up, so I would definitely go early next year.
There was a variety of things to do including tea tastings, a tea ceremony, and blending your own tea. Although the entire event was free, you did have to sign up for everything you wanted to do. This was not immediately clear to us, so we missed out on a couple things. Nevertheless, we started out with the factory tour, which was probably the main thing I wanted to see.
Harney moved their headquarters from Connecticut to here in the Hudson Valley a few years ago. The facility is huge and the pictures I took really don’t show the enormity of it. When we stepped inside the factory, I was just overwhelmed by the stacks and stacks and stacks warehousing bags of tea, just waiting to be blended, bagged, and packaged. They do it all right there, which is pretty cool!
We had the chance to see the production lines in action. We saw silk sachets formed, filled, and tagged. We watched single-serve bags produced. We even got to see how they seal up the tea tins. I am fascinated with manufacturing (in part, I’m sure, because I grew up in a manufacturing town), so watching all of this was really cool.
The other super fun thing Kelly and I got to do was create our own tea blend. Yes, it’s exactly what you think! We donned our very fashionable hair nets and made a couple “I Love Lucy” jokes about feeling like Lucy and Ethel.
There was a table set up with a few tea bases, and several flavoring additions. Honestly, I didn’t know where to start! I finally decided on a rooibis base and I added apple, cinnamon, orange peel, and some coconut. The coconut was an impulse addition, and I’m not sure how it all will taste, but I’m hoping it will work. After we added our goodies to our tin, we brought it over to a Harney employee who blended it all together and then labeled and sealed our tins. I hasitily decided to call mine Carol’s Tropical Harvest Blend. I’m looking forward to brewing a pot of it once this weather cools down!
Of course, there was a little shopping to be done. Honestly, I didn’t really need much tea, and the flavors I was really looking for were not available at the tent sale, but of course I found a few things: their chai teabags, a tin of Chocolate Mint sachets, and a tin of Paris sachets. I am such a fan of tea lattes made with Paris, steamed milk, and a little sugar-free vanilla syrup. I also couldn’t resist this beautiful enamel Nina Jarema tea/coffee pot. The woodland pattern just called to me, and it was the only one I saw.
There were a couple food vendors there, so we decided to grab lunch before we departed. There was a little booth serving up Mexican food that we decided to try. A couple people were getting tamales, and I never had one before so I figured this was the perfect opportunity! It was so delicious I just had to get a second (along with a chicken taco — yes, I went a little overboard, but the yumminess was hard to resist). I wish I knew the name of the vendor so I could give them a little shout out! All I know is that she told me she’s often at the Millerton and Amenia farmers’ markets. The food was cheap, filling, and tasty. She also had a nice variety of homemade salsas. If anyone knows the name, please comment and let me know!
The absolute best part of the day, however, was getting to spend it with my good friend. Kelly and I don’t get together anywhere near as often as we’d like. In fact, before Saturday it had been well over a year since we had the chance to hang out. The awesome thing about your best friends though, is that no matter how much time passes, you pick up just like it was yesterday. There is no one else who would have jumped for joy over tea with me (yes, I literally jumped when I learned I could make my own custom blend), and I’m so thankful we were able to make this happen!
HarneyFest was such a fun event. The company was generous with samples, the employees were super friendly, and I really hope they do it all again next year because I will definitely be there!