Feature story on tea. With recipes.
JoAnn and Becky Schotthofer are so energized by what they learned at the World Tea Expo in June that you'd think they would need to start drinking decaf.
But the mother and daughter who run the Hayloft Gift Shops at Illinois Route 29 and Old Galena Road don't have the caffeine jitters. Instead, they have a new appreciation for the increasing popularity of tea and enthusiasm for what's available for both serious and casual tea connoisseurs.
Tea is becoming big in the United States "like coffee did 10 years ago," Becky Schotthofer said.
Not that the Schotthofers didn't appreciate tea already. On their travels around the world, they have visited tea farms and a variety of tea houses.
They hope to share their newfound appreciation for tea industry developments with customers. The Schotthofers have enlarged their gift shop's variety of tea blends, including loose tea, and also have expanded their stock of tea accessories such as teapots, brewing tools and china.
Other sources of loose tea in Peoria include Panache in Sheridan Village and Leaves-N-Beans in Peoria Heights.
Panache owner John Valentine said tea has become more popular in his cafe. While the popular spot still offers three different kinds of coffee daily, it has also taken to making two types of hot tea, Valentine said.
One woman recently had a formal tea for a bridal shower at Panache as well, he said, using handblown pots, three varieties of tea and pastries. "We're going to be promoting it with brides, etc.," Valentine said, adding that a couple more such teas have already been scheduled.
That would resonate with the Schotthofers, who want to promote the use of afternoon teas or tea-tasting demonstrations as fundraisers by local not-for-profit organizations.
"We have to get our people educated that you don't sit down and put a tea bag in the water," JoAnn Schotthofer said.
Educated about things like how hot to get the water and how long to let the tea steep or brew.
"Most people don't like tea because they don't know how to prepare it," JoAnn Schotthofer said.
She said those just starting out with quality tea should buy loose tea from a "place that has a large variety." You can buy loose tea in small quantities, so it's cheaper to sample a variety or to experiment, she said.
The next key step is to heat water to almost boiling - but not quite. Becky Schotthofer heats hers to 212 degrees for dark tea, but said you can also heat water to boiling, then let it cool half a minute or so before pouring it. Water for lighter teas, like green tea, only needs to be about 180 degrees.
Different teas also need different steeping, or brewing, times. Darker teas should steep four to five minutes, while lighter teas can brew two to three minutes without becoming too strong.
The Hayloft now sells timers for that use.
"That's important," JoAnn Schotthofer said. "(Some people) think, 'That's been long enough,' but it's not fair to judge a tea if you don't do it right."
Even drinking should be done with a certain attitude, JoAnn Schotthofer said.
"When you first go to drink it, you have to be very relaxed. Take a breath, take a sip," she said.
The variety of traditional and novelty teas available in America is growing, the Schotthofers said. For instance, the Hayloft Shops now stock flowering teas, which are green tea leaves stitched to a flower and shaped into balls or other forms. The 1-inch-wide balls expand in hot water, with the petals blossoming into a flower surrounded by the green leaves. Though expensive - $2 to $3 each - a flowering tea ball can be used several times and doesn't require straining.
Becoming popular as well are tea pearls, small rolled-up tea leaves that also expand in hot water. While black and green teas have long been staples, red, or rooibus, and white teas are gaining in popularity.
Lori McCombs, owner of Leaves-N-Beans in Peoria Heights, agreed that tea sales are up, "but I don't see it happening quite as quickly or as abruptly as coffee has."
She is directing tea-prone customers to The Simple Leaf brand, started by a Chicago-based native of India whose father is a tea taster back home. Simple Leaf, McCombs said, is a high-quality, low-volume company that works with farms that can't afford a seat on the Indian tea market.
"The secret is that this is the great tea that normally doesn't come to the U.S.," McCombs said. "It's the best tea I've ever had."
Modern food-processing technology is having an effect on teas as well. Freeze-dried tea is now available, for instance.
"We think the Americans will love that," JoAnn Schotthofer said. "It's quick."
Also being offered at the Hayloft is Tea in a Jar, naturally fermented fruit that is mixed into hot water by the spoonful.
While convenience tea is available at the shop, the Schotthofers still stress tradition, offering Chinese clay teapots and fine china settings, as well as tea bricks. The last are made by pressing tea leaves into a form. Some people preserve them, while others grate them into pots for brewing.
This recipe is from Becky Schotthofer, owner of The Hayloft.
Becky's Chai Tea Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. water
2 Tbs. instant Chai Amore East India Spice tea mix
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
In a small bowl, with a mixer at medium speed, beat butter and sugar until creamy.
Stir water into instant chai mix, add to butter mixture with egg, salt, lemon rind and walnuts, beating until light and fluffy.
Blend in flour and then drop by teaspoon onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 14 minutes, until light brown. Serve with your favorite cup of tea.
Makes 2 1/2 dozen small cookies. Per cookie: 81 calories; 1.3 grams protein; 4.6 grams fat (52 percent of total calories); 8.4 grams carbohydrate; 0.3 grams fiber; 15 milligrams cholesterol; and 41 milligrams sodium.
Chinese Almond Tea Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. almond extract
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped almonds
Cream butter. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and almond extract; blend well. Add sifted flour and chopped almonds; mix thoroughly.
Form dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls on an ungreased baking sheet. Press to form cookies 1/4-inch thick. Bake in 325-degree oven for 15 minutes. Cool then spread with frosting and top with an almond sliver.
3 tsps. T.East green tea (freeze-dried instant tea)
1 1/2 tsps. milk
1/2 cup butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Dissolve green tea into milk. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar to the butter and the tea mixture, beating until smooth and creamy. You may substitute green tea and milk for 4 tablespoons black instant tea and 2 tablespoons milk.
Makes about 4 dozen small cookies. Per cookie: 89 calories; 1.1 grams protein; 5.6 grams fat (55.1 percent of total calories); 8.9 grams carbohydrate; 0.5 grams fiber; 18 milligrams cholesterol; and 61 milligrams sodium.
The following recipes are reprinted by permission of The Simple Leaf.
The Classic Chai
4 tsps. of a malty Assam black tea
4 cups of fresh water
1 stick of dry ginger
3 cardamom pods, crushed
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
Milk and sugar to taste
Boil 4 cups of water, then add tea and spices. Boil for another half minute, then remove from heat. Let steep for 1 minute. Strain out the spices and serve with milk and/or sugar.
4 tsps. of bold black tea
4 cups of fresh water
1 cup of milk
Bring water to a boil in a pot. When the water boils, remove from the heat and then add the tea. Steep until the whole pot is flavored, about 10 minutes. While the tea is steeping, steam your milk. You can use the steam attachment on an espresso maker, a foamer or a press. Pour individual cups of tea, making sure to strain out the leaves, add the steamed milk on top and serve.
Hot Afternoon Spiced Tea
6 tsps. of bold black tea
8 cups of fresh water
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
1/2 stick of cinnamon
4 oz. of sugar
1/2 cup of orange juice
Juice from 2 lemons
Cinnamon sticks to serve
Add the spices to the water and bring to a boil. Pour onto the tea and allow to brew for 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Add the orange juice. To reheat before serving, if necessary, place over a low heat. Serve with cinnamon sticks.
Cold Infused Iced Tea
8 tsps. of any tea
4 glasses of fresh, ice cold water
For sweetened tea, add sugar to taste
In a pitcher, put 8 tsps. of loose leaf tea. Add 4 glasses of ice cold water. Put the pitcher in the refrigerator and leave for about 6 hours. Strain the leaves and serve over ice.
Apple Honey Iced Tea
4 tsps. of mild tea
1/3 cup of honey
4 cups of fresh water
3 cups of apple juice
Bring water almost to a boil. Steep tea leaves in hot water for 5 minutes. Strain out tea leaves and stir in honey and apple juice. Mix until all the honey is completely dissolved. Chill and serve over ice.
Michael Miller can be reached at email@example.com.