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.


Eating in Indy

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

Recently, I spent an exploratory weekend in Indianapolis. By exploratory, I mean the weekend evolved into a food fest of restaurants, which we had not intended, but turned out to be gustatory, delicious fun!

We began Saturday by deciding to have a late lunch at Public Greens on the Monon Trail, in the now trendy Broad Ripple area. As it states on the website: Public Greens functions as an “Urban Kitchen, a farm to market urban cafeteria and microfarm.” I laud Public Greens for its inventive healthy food; its profits, vegetables, and herbs feed children through its Patachou Foundation. Check out Public Greens and the owner’s Patachou restaurants at http://publicgreensurbankitchen.com

We love the ice cream at Brics, located steps away from Public Greens. The Brics Broad Ripple Ice Cream Station building used to be the train station in Indianapolis. It converted nicely into an ice creamery on the Monon Trail. I recommend the Yellow Cake Batter and the Pistachio! http://www.bricsindy.com

Walking back to the car, we opted to enter Books and Brews, across the street from Public Greens. The concept was interesting with used bookstore for sale lining the walls. A portion of their sales goes to the Read Indy program. Lunch and dinner are served, as are small plates, https://www.booksnbrews.com.

That night we felt a bit hungry, but we did not want a large meal. We opted for Panera. I had the Green Goddess Cobb Salad with Chicken; my daughter had a bowl of Chicken Soup. We were both rather weary, so we ate our Panera take out at home so we could watch several episodes of Netflix’s The Ranch.

Sunday dawned sunny and relatively warm. After leisurely drinking mugs of matcha sencha tea and conversing, both of which we do frequently, we ventured out in quest of brunch. Wanting to try something distinctive, we threaded our way to Biscuits, a Mexican restaurant. The name fascinated me so much so that my daughter accused me of wanting to eat at Biscuits because of its name! She was right. My niece had recommended the eatery to my daughter; we figured it must be good. Its location was right off the Monon Trail, in a nondescript strip mall at 1036 Broad Ripple Avenue. Happily, Biscuits has not undergone gentrification like the rest of the area further up the road. Biscuits even lacks a website!

As we poured over the extensive menu, I asked our server why a Mexican restaurant is called Biscuits. She replied that the previous restaurant had been a biscuits and gravy diner. The owner decided to keep the Biscuits part of the name for its recognition factor. He had also expanded Biscuits to accommodate more customers. I felt like I was dining at an El Mercado restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, and that warmed my heart. I ordered Huevos Rancheros with a side of grits and butter. My daughter ordered a Biscuits Bowl with a side of fresh fruit. The food servings were plentiful and delicious. We ate slowly, savoring each bite, while taking in the liveliness of the place.

We then drove some blocks up Broad Ripple Avenue, parked the car, got out, and walked. One restaurant I want to try on my next visit is Taste of Havana. Across the avenue an Indian eatery also beckoned. We strolled along, turned on North College Avenue, where we entered HoiTea ToiTea [“Not Your Granny’s Tea Room”]. My daughter had picked up literature about this new tea room in March at the Home and Garden show in Indianapolis:  http://www.hoiteatoitea.com. Erstwhile tea aficionados are we; we felt compelled to explore HoiTea ToiTea! This tea emporium conducts tea-making classes, and sells all sorts of teas that the adventurous can mix. The café invites one to eat breakfast, lunch, and pastries. The Almond Amaretto tea called to me, as the Almond Amaretto Tea Latte did to my daughter. She ordered a Blackberry Lavender Macaroon, while I found the Nutella-filled croissant irresistible. We sat near the large windows overlooking the avenue. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we missed the free Indianapolis Orchestra Concert at the Library! Fortunately, there’s another concert in June!

Ciao for now.