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.


The New Year Hath Begun

Snow Photo

Light breaks through the winter landscape for January 2018.-www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

Knock on wood: five days into the New Year and so far, I have avoided tripping, increased illness, and damage to myself in general. Not only does the temperature remain well below freezing, several mishaps befell me as the previous year drew to a close. Yet I remain confident the weather will warm up to at least above freezing in another week or so, and that I will rebound.

After having spent a wonderful day in Fort Wayne with my aunt, uncle, and cousin visiting from L.A., I drove home in a snow sleet storm. The conversation lively, the food excellent, and the tea and coffee at their home warmed my heart. Their company offered a sweet post-Christmas get together. Later, driving at 40 miles an hour, I didn’t make great time, but I managed to drive us home safely while enduring white out conditions.

As the morning broke, I found myself as sick as could be with a vile virus. Between the terrible cold weather and my overall malaise, I dosed myself with over-the-counter medications in the cabinet. In the wee hours of the morning, I stepped into the bathroom, and promptly tripped over something. I catapulted into the side of the porcelain bathtub on my right shoulder, and then crashed onto the tile floor on my right hip. Failure to turn on the bathroom light, my negligence in not stepping into sturdy slippers, my lack of vision wear, plus items left on the bathroom floor, combined to form a perfect storm of catastrophe. I had taken sinus and congestion medication before retiring for the night, which resulted in fuzzy thought processes, or lack thereof. Or I simply chose not to put away items.

At the risk of sounding like Lazarus, I was in tremendous pain, unable to get off the bathroom floor. EMS guys managed to hoist me up and into a straight back chair. After checking me over and evaluating my walk, they determined nothing had been broken. They suggested taking me for further evaluation at the hospital, but the winter wind whipping around outside held little appeal in my mind to venture out. The EMS personnel and the three firemen offered kind words and compliments about our Christmas decorations and outdoor lights. After they left, I spend the remainder of the night attempting to sleep in a recliner.

Thus, I remained inside during the blustery New Year’s weekend, making use of a heating pad and drinking copious amounts of green tea. It turned out that Coco Chanel, our little black and white cat, had developed a proclivity for the heating pad. Whenever she now sees me plug it in, she races to pounce upon it. We now share it. Last night I had a glass of wine with a slice of Whole Foods pizza. I have imbibed enough tea and water. I am still smarting over not having been able to toast the New Year with a glass of bubbly. Perhaps it is not too late to toast the New Year. Tonight I will fill my glass with the gentle fizz of Prosecco and ring in the New Year. It’s never too late!

Ciao for now.