Tea for Two

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli


Safflower, Rose Hips, Lavender, Bee Pollen, and Green Rooibos await other ingredients to be added. – http://www.tangledpasta.net

Last weekend in Indianapolis, my daughter surprised me with a creative Mother’s Day gift: a Tea Blending Class entitled “The Art & Science of Creating Your Own Tea”! She could not have planned a better gesture, for we are both inveterate tea drinkers.

The class, was conducted at HoiTEA ToiTea, our new favorite tea emporium in Broad Ripple, http://www.hoiteatoitea.com. Alex and her husband own HoiTEA ToiTEA, and it was Alex who conducted the two-hour class. 9 of us gathered in the store’s airy meeting room. The long rectangular table set up with spaces for each of us, had a stainless steel bowl atop an electronic scale. To the right of each scale was a cup with a demitasse cup cradled inside, two empty hemp tea bags, and a teaspoon. On the left sat two large plastic zip lock bags like the ones used to purchase tea in the bulk. These two bags were each labeled Tea Blending Basics. Categories listed underneath the aforementioned label consisted of Flowers; Herbs; Spice; Natural Sweeteners; and Base Teas/Tisanes. Round clear glass containers bore various Flowers such as Rose Petals; Herbs such as Lemongrass; Spices like Cardamom; Peppercorns; Natural Sweeteners such as Bee Pollen; and the Base Tea/Tisanes of Black; Green; and Green Rooibos.


Our equipment ready, and glass jars filled with potential ingredients tantalize the senses. – http://www.tangledpasta.net

The class began with a history of tea. Next, we learned about the Base Teas and their variations. This included samples of teas in our demitasse cups. Alex told us that Lemongrass pairs well with Ginger, that little round yellow Bee Pollen dissolves in the tea, but makes it a bit cloudy. Tisane is a mixture of tree bark and twigs and other woodsy ingredients. One of my favorites of the sample teas we imbibed was he Campfire in a Cup, blended at HoiTea ToiTea. It really did taste like a campfire: marshmallows, smoke, and graham crackers – brilliant! The Orange Chocolate Truffle tasted exactly like its namesake.


Here I am, ready to embark upon my foray into tea blending! – http://www.tangledpasta.net

Now that our palates had been sensitized, we began our own tea blending experience. Our blends, one herbal, the other caffeinated, saw us follow particular blending steps to achieve 2.0 ounces of each tea. To build my tea, I began with the Base of Green Rooibos, a caffeine free tea. I then added Rose Petals, Safflower, Lemongrass, Basil, Anise Star, Cloves, Ginger, multi-colored Peppercorns, and Licorice Root to create a harmonious medley of flavors. Getting the proportions right challenged my tea construction. Like an Aromachologist, I blended the ingredients together, sniffing my concoction each step of the way. Certainly some herbs and spices are more pungent than others, like Peppermint and Spearmint. I added more Green Rooibos as I mixed my ingredients.

After further blending ingredients in our stainless steel bowls, and upon reaching 2.0 ounces of tea, we then measured a teaspoon and a half of our tea into one of the hemp tea bags. Alex came around poured herbal hot temperature water into our large cups. We steeped our teas for 4 minutes.  The timer went off, I removed the tea bag, and took the first sips of my very own herbal tea. With its light and bright taste, I christened it Cirque du Te’.


Earthy ingredients beckon: Cardamon, Carob Chips, Cloves, and Black Tea mingle with Cinnamon. – http://www.tangledpasta.net

For my caffeinated tea, once again I measured like an Alchemist. I chose Green Chun Mei tea as my Base. Hibiscus, Lavender, Lemongrass, Anise Star Cardamom and multicolored Peppercorns mingled with Bee Pollen to create a sensuous tea with a bite like a Goya nude. So pleased was I with this tea that I named it Te’ Toujours. My daughter and I sampled one another’s teas; we were delighted with our results! Had we been unhappy with our tea results, we could discard the tea and try again, which we declined to do. We packaged up our teas, and thanked Alex for a most rewarding experience. Finally, we sat down in the café to enjoy ice tea from the tea bar – Strawberry Orange Peach and Peach Tangerine. Measuring, blending, and experimenting to create unique teas took a lot out of us. We would, however, do it all again in a heartbeat!

Ciao for now.


Dreams of Daiquiris

 An elegant, classic daiquiri wafts around the senses, aching to quench one’s thirst. – http://www.tangledpasta.net

 By Mary Anna Violi | MaryAnnaVioli

I have been aware of the late Ernest Hemingway’s capacious fondness for liqueur. He boasted of his tolerance for it, and even wrote about it in his novels and short stories. What I did not know about was his proclivity for the daiquiri, particularly the special one mixed for him at El Floridita in Havana, Cuba. Acknowledged as the best cocktail mixologist in Havana was Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, the revered bartender at El Floridita. Nicknamed Constante, he conceived of a daiquiri for Hemingway that he christened the Papa Doble. Hemingway liked to be called Papa, which I always thought was a bit disturbing.

Merely reading about the Papa Doble Daiquiri made me thirsty! Constante crafted Hemingway’s cocktail this way: “For the Papa Doble, he added grapefruit juice and a few drops of maraschino liqueur to two jiggers of light rum and the juice of a fresh lime.” Perhaps I am dreaming of a daiquiri because the days now wax warm, tinged with humidity. A cold, crafted daiquiri could quench my thirst, much as it did Hemingway in the blistering Havana heat. Daiquiris appeal to me when the sultry summer air envelops me. I imagine Hemingway in 1940’s Havana riding in a blue convertible down the dusty back roads with his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, who was a world-famous journalist, on their way to his villa, Finca Vigia.

I also imagine Desi Arnaz rhythmically pounding away on his bongo drum in a Tropicana nightclub in Havana. Although Arnaz emigrated from Cuba after Batista overthrew the government in 1933, I still imagine him in colorful Cuba swaying to his seductive Latin music beat. El Floridita, master bartender Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, Ernest Hemingway, the pulsating rhythm of Latin music, and Havana all present in the ubiquitous, icy daiquiri of yesterday and of today.

Ciao for now.