Saturday, December 27, 2014

On Tea: Dejoo Estate Assam

You may remember Assam from the Ty-phoo review (that rhymes…) so I won’t rehash that too much.  Assam is generally the second most esteemed tea after Darjeeling, and is also named for the region it’s grown in.  Assam has its own distinctive taste and quality, a somewhat more “malty” aspect. 

I picked up a bit of loose Assam from the Dejoo Estate (note that the tea schedule didn’t list it as a 1st or 2nd flush or give a grading, but did note the growing estate – if you Google up “Dejoo estate” you will see some STGFOP1 grade available). 

As I mentioned with Ty-phoo, I particularly like Assam for breakfast, but it’s a good anytime tea.  I brewed up a pot of this Assam for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning to have with a bit of bacon and cinnamon toast.  I only brewed it for several minutes to be on the safe side, but halfway through the first cup I decided to pop the leaves back in for a bit.  Assam generally stands up to a much longer brew (or maybe it’s just me who likes it like that) and I usually brew my Ty-phoo for as much as 10 minutes. 

Loose-leaf Assam in cloth bag at Cafe Moulin.
Some weeks ago I was out and about, and after a good, long wander on a chilly, damp day, I decided to pop into a little creperie in my favorite neighborhood.  I went for a smoked salmon crepe an
d noticed that their menu had an Assam on offer.  You very rarely see specific teas like Assam listed in restaurants around here (even the British pub and chippy just does a basic bagged selection of Lipton, Twinings, and such).  So I took them up on it and it was awesome!  They brew loose leaf in muslin bags (which you can get from tea suppliers if you’re so inclined). 

Because you can brew it longer for a bolder (yet still smooth and not bitter) taste, Assam is a good high quality tea to start out with (you can’t botch it).  It also goes fine with pretty much everything, from toast and bacon to smoked salmon crepes and your afternoon tea sandwiches and sweeties as well. 

Very nice versatile tea.  10/10 here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On Tea: Celestial Seasonings' Candy Cane Lane

Those merry, industrious polar bears aren't even remotely
considering eating you....  Honest!
Just so you all know, this is probably the only time you’re going to see Celestial Seasonings in this tea series.  Outside of Sleepy Time tea and Throat Tamer tea, their flavors are generally overwhelming to my palate and don’t usually count as tea in my book.  Just sayin’.

But there are exceptions to everything.  This is also an exception on the side of “color” of tea.  Most of the teas I’ve talked about so far have been black teas with a few of the more outstanding flavored/herbals mentioned.  Candy Cane Lane is a decaffeinated green tea, so there’s a switch.

This is my “Christmassy” tea, hands down.  And it shouldn’t be confused with any other “peppermint” tea.  Candy Cane Lane is particular in that it balances the peppermint with a touch of vanilla for a smoothly-sweet treat.  In order to keep that balance, remember that with a green tea you’ll want to take the water off the heat just before it gets to a boil.  You want to be mindful of the brew-time here, too.  About 3 minutes, tops, I’d say.

Because it’s decaf, you can enjoy this anytime of day, but I find especially nice on those cold, grey, late afternoons we get this time of year, curled up by the fire (if you’re lucky enough to have one of those!) or a Christmas tree, maybe even with some mellow seasonal music, or just a good read. 

Candy Cane Lane is a good tea to pair with whatever little holiday nibbles you’ve got around – cookies, sweets, perhaps dried fruits/nuts.  Light little things here, probably not your leftover turkey or ham on a sandwich.  Of course, standards like digestives or rich tea (or Jaffa Cakes!) are always applicable, as well.  I had mine with half a Tiffin bar the other night for dessert.  It would take the tiniest bit of milk nicely, but only the tiniest – less than a teaspoon!

For a nice, cosy, quiet moment in the middle of all the December “holiday” madness, this earns itself a 9/10.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

On Tea: Russian Caravan

 So, you say “tea is tea” and it’s all “a bit weak” for your tastes, huh?  Well, this one is guaranteed to knock your socks off.

Celebrating a friend’s birthday/early Christmas with afternoon tea recently, another friend ordered the “Russian Country” tea (a Harney and Sons blend) after hearing its description as a rich, profoundly smoky tea - I opted for the house blend, myself, and the guest of honour took English Breakfast.  When our teas were brought out and poured, the smokiness was exceptional!  It was like sitting in front of a toasty fireplace on a winter afternoon… with a few drops of 18-year Laphroaig in your tea!  I was most definitely intrigued, to say the least.

After tea, I had a look at a few tea lists I keep handy at home and noticed a Russian Caravan loose-leaf listed at both local shops I’m most likely to pick up tea from.  I made a stop at one of the shops and picked up a couple ounces for myself.  Because I’ve been feeling pretty worn out all week (it’s that time of year – cold, dark, busy, and germy!) I decided that just having an afternoon to sit still and drink tons of tea would be the best thing for it.  I went right for this smoky Russian that is the single heartiest tea I’ve ever had. 

Russian Caravan (or Country, from Harney) is a Chinese origin tea, blended from keemun, oolong, and lapsang souchong (which I somehow always manage to call Lhasa Apso), whereas most of the ones I’ve talked about here so far are Indian, like Assam, Darjeeling, etc.  It’s the lapsang that gives Russian Caravan its smoky flavour as that is how that particular tea is dried.  There are stories about how long it took to transport this blend from China into (populated) Russia by caravan and how that influenced the taste, etc.  But really, that’s all rather apocryphal and doesn’t matter anyway. 
If the interwebs could transmit smells, this is what the leaves
would call to mind.  

This is the tea which favors the bold.  Perfectly good by itself, you might wish to tone it down with a splash of milk.  Or send it over the top with a splash of Scotch.  Have it with something flavourful or whatever you have may be overpowered.  Personally, I think this is best suited to afternoon and evenings.  It would be way too much for me in the morning. 

This rates an easy 9/10 with me, with a bonus point for sheer assertiveness.  Full marks!

Friday, December 19, 2014

On Tea: Paned Cymreig

Lovely color.  Bonus nail art and background cat.
Beth am gael paned o de, cariadon?
(Roughly pronounced, depending on region: Bith am guy-l pan-ed o day, carry-at-on).

Oh, sorry.  Shall we have a cup of tea, dears?

The other day when I stopped in my local tea shop to pick up some holiday pressies (and a few ounces of Russian Caravan – review coming soon!) I decided to pick up something a bit different in the basic/bagged/black tea area as well, since my usual morning Ty-phoo reserve is getting a little low.  They had on offer a few boxes of Paned Cymreig (pronounced Pan-ed Coom-rig - literally Welsh Cup but translated as Welsh Brew). 

Paned is a good, basic black tea blend (of African and Indian teas it says on the box).  It’s stouter than a typical English Breakfast (Ha!  No surprise there!) but is still a nice, mild blend.  As with most black blends, this will give you a nice start to the morning and can go for afternoon or dinner just as well.  Not at all a fussy tea, Paned Cymreig is essentially Welsh – robust, cheering, and welcoming. 

I had mine with a bit of Walker’s shortbread and later with a cup of thick beef-vegetable stew for lunch.  Anything with cheese and/or leeks would do, too.  Maybe even a taffy or two?

I’n graddio ei 8.95/10.

Oh, and Nadolig Llawen :)

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Disaster!

It started out like any other morning.  I got up, bleary, wandered down the stairs in need of tea.  I boiled the water.  I pulled down the box of Typhoo and plucked out a bag, deposited it in the pot, with the string and tag depending out.  Then… I went to pour the water in.  And, for some reason, I did so over the sink.  I suppose I was trying to avoid drippage of water onto the counter (I usually put a towel under my tea pot to catch drips). 

Well, it was a bad idea.  Holding the tea pot in one hand and pouring with the other.  Don’t do it.  A bit of boiling water splashed on my hand.  Not enough to do any damage.  Well… not to my hand.  Unfortunately, it was enough to shock me and make me drop the teapot. 

It didn’t survive.

I was reduced to “by the cup” for several days.

Several dark days.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

PSA: The Truth About Turkeys

I posted this on Facebook yesterday, but this information should be made more permanently available, so I'm adding it here as well.  Knowledge is the key to winning the fight against turkeys!

Some of you know i've been going on about how vicious and evil turkeys are ever since i was carjacked by a gang of them a couple years ago. And now something else has come to my attention that further supports my claim about these marauders.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sex is Not a Four-Letter Word

And... we're back!  Now that mid-terms are done and finals are underway, that means resuming transmissions.  We'll be back to tea notes and guests and all sorts of lovelies soon, but today we're getting personal.  Up close and personal.  And we're talking about... SEX.

So much thanks to Grace Duncan for coming up with and organizing this blog-hop that is explicitly (hehe) sex-positive.  Please have a look at some of the other "hop" contributors as well (the list is at the end)  It's cold out there and this will warm you up :)

So then, without further ado....

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Guest Spot: Brynn Stein on Tour with "Through the Years"

I have Brynn Stein stopping today to talk about her latest, Through the Years.  As a fellow "Bittersweet Dreams" writer, I can say these are often the most rewarding writes and reads out there.  Don't forget to check out the raffle she has going on through the tour as well!  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

On tea: A Tale of Two Teas

Having reached the general mid-point of this series, if you’ve followed along, you’ll have some idea about some fairly decent, mainly work-a-day teas.  It’s now time to step it up and have a look at the other side of tea (not the breakfast necessity/non-alcoholic nightcap side). 

This week I had the pleasure of going to tea with two of my besties, on separate occasions.  Hey, this is livin’!  For those who have never been to afternoon tea, the first thing you need to know is this is not a little nibble.  Afternoon tea (the whole do with tea sandwiches, scones, fruit, and chocolates) is a meal.  A big meal.  I skipped breakfast before both and was still stuffed for most of the day after tea.  You can easily spend two hours drinking and noshing so be prepared to make a day of it (I haven’t the foggiest how the vaunted Victorians ate half as much as they did in a day, the upper class ones who didn’t work at any rate). 

For definitions of “afternoon tea,” “high tea,” and “low tea,” consult the first piece of this series here

So, then, let’s get on with it. 

Click here to read more:

Saturday, September 6, 2014

On Tea: Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice

Now we’re starting to talk about a “higher class” of bagged teas.  My first experience of Harney & Sons was when they sold them in Barnes and Noble cafes (though I don’t recall if those were still Starbucks at the time).  They had an excellent lavender and chamomile herbal that I really enjoyed (especially when I needed to chill out!) 

Harney is known for their tins as much as for what’s in them.  They look very pretty on a store shelf in those bright tins.  Like Republic of Tea, they have a very wide variety and are also now available in many grocery chains.  Harney do loose as well as bagged teas, but you’re more likely to have to go looking for loose.  Their bagged teas usually come in silk “pyramid” bags.  Now that’s very nice! 

Click here to read more:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch 8 - Anne Barwell

Hot on the heels of yesterday's Relaunch installment, we've got Anne Barwell here today.  She's talking history and what it's like writing within worlds and contexts that are, basically, predetermined.  Anne's got a couple releases forthcoming (two in the next four months!), a series continuation and a sequel, so be sure to look for those!  Anne, you've got the floor: 

Click here to read more:

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch 7 - Kat Mancos

Today we've got Kat Mancos talking about relaunching - or, perhaps more accurately, evolving - in terms of one's own writing.  We'll also get a teaser from Kat's recent release, Taste of Air.  Where else can you find a line like, "That man has always had his cock in one alchemist or another."

It's all yours, Kat!

An Unexpected Direction

Saturday, August 30, 2014

On Tea: Republic of Tea's Downton Abbey English Rose Tea

Republic of Tea is a very recognizable brand of “better” teas that are still widely available, even in a lot of grocery chains.  They do both “bag” and “leaf,” traditional teas, green, white, uniquely flavored, herbals, “health” teas… in short, the lot.  Variety, generally, is the spice of life, but I’m always a little wary of a brand with too much variety.  That can lead to spreading too thin, in my opinion. 

Republic of Tea, however, manages it fairly well.  They have such a lot of different teas, it would be almost impossible for me to give a broad overview of their entire line, but the teas I’ve had from them so far have always been excellent.  Enough so that when I see something I’d normally roll my eyes and pass on from other brands, I’m willing to give Republic a go. 

Click here to read more:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch 6 - Louise Lyons

Today I'm welcoming Louise Lyons who's here with an excerpt from her recent release, Conflicted.  Warning for mental images of well-built guys in tight denim! (And at the end, be sure to find the link where you can enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card from Louise!)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

On Tea: Ty-phoo

Ty-phoo is another solid, everyday tea, something you can have every morning without feeling too much like you’re putting on airs and graces. 

Most of the teas I’ve talked about so far have been black tea blends like PG Tips and Yorkshire.  Ty-phoo is an Assam tea – also a black tea, but Assam indicates the tea-growing region and characteristics of the tea.  Assam is a more malty tea with a lot of body.  It’s a smooth, mild tea with distinctive flavor.  Ty-phoo is a good, brisk blend, on par with Yorkshire.

The name, apparently (according to Wikipedia), comes from the Chinese for "Doctor" and has nothing to do with a rainy season.  

While I don’t generally have a splash of milk in my tea, I definitely find Ty-phoo to be a tea that can stand up to a drop of milk.  Ty-phoo is an all-purpose tea, good for your breakfast, with lunch, or just an afternoon boost.  Works as well with toast and beans as it does a Digestive.

I give it a solid 9/10.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch 5 - Sarah Madison

Sarah is with us today to talk about her forthcoming release Walk a Mile, sequel to Unspeakable Words, and what it's like writing a sequel.  And, yes, writers love their characters as much as readers!

“What took you so long?”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch 4 - Lee Rowan

Look who's here!  It's Lee Rowan to talk about relaunching domestically (and the associated hair-pulling to which anyone who's remodeled can attest!)  Lee, you have the floor... what's left of it! ;-) 

Where is Mike Holmes When You Really Need Him?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

On Tea: Stash Licorice Spice

And now for something completely different.  And I do mean completely.

Now, I hear you over there:  “Ew, licorice, in tea?!”  You’re thinking, “I don’t like black jelly beans or allsorts or Sambuca.  Why would I want to go near licorice tea?”

Well, this isn’t just licorice tea.  It’s licorice spice.  Licorice, believe it or not, is an excellent sweetener.  Now, just personally, I do enjoy absinthe/Pernod, which has a very strong licorice-ish taste.  And I like allsorts.  I don’t like Good n Plenty, though.  Those are just yucky.  Mainly because they don’t know what they are doing with the licorice.  Stash, however, does (and they do some pretty good “flavored” teas, too).

A graphic representation for those who do and those who do not like licorice.

But anyway, this is licorice spice tea.  In addition to the licorice, it’s also got lots of other lovely things that I’m betting you do know you like, such as: cinnamon, clove, orange, cardamom.  This is a lot more like those anise pizzelles everybody’s grandma used to make (the ones that don’t numb your mouth from the anise, I promise!)  What’s a pizzelle?  Oh, come on!  Those crisp little fancy “waffle” cookies?  Yeah. 

Those go great with tea, by the way.  And since it’s an herbal tea, it’s perfect to have with dessert – or for dessert, for that matter (it’s as sweet as that slice of cheesecake, but NO CALORIES!)  If you do want some little nibble with your licorice spice tea, I recommend keeping it in the sweets category.  Cookies, cakes, chocolate digestives, brownies, the aforementioned pizzelles, or their hard-to-come-by Dutch cousin, the stroopwafle. 

I hear you, again, over there.  “First licorice tea, and now stroopwafle?  What the hell is that?!”  Ok, usually called “Dutch cookies” when marketed in English-speaking places, these are two pizzelle like “waffles” with caramelly syrup between them.  The right way to savor a stroopwafle is to set it on top of your cup of hot tea (or coffee or chocolate) and let the steam soften the waffle and syrup so that it gets gooey in the middle.  If you find yourself with the mini, silver-dollar sized ones, put them on a plate and pop ‘em in the microwave for a few seconds, enough for them to get nice a “stroopey.”  Milk in this?  No idea why you would feel the need, but if you’re a consistent milk user, I don’t think it would put this off.  Might be really nice, actually.

Nice light color (not under-brewed!) and a half a really delicious chocolate chunk brownie - and I still lost 5 pounds last month!

One seriously itty-bitty caveat with this tea (really, this is miniscule)… I find, for some reason, it cools down fast in the cup.  Because it’s an herbal, I do brew it at just barely a boil (not quite as fast as a boil as for a black tea), so that may be a part of it, but I still think it gets lukewarm much quicker than anything else.  Barely even worth knocking off a fraction of a point, because otherwise this is a really stellar tea for an herbal, mass-market, bagged tea. 

I give it a 9.5 of 10 as herbals go.

As you can see here, I like it well enough to keep a couple boxes in.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch 3 - Jana Denardo

Now here's an extra treat - today we've got Jana Denardo, author of recently-released Kept Tears.  I happened to pick this up while gearing up for the relaunch (there's a special place in my heart for 'Burgh stories!), and I really enjoyed it.  I don't often go for urban fantasy (or much fantasy other than the original classics of the genre) but this one was so relatable I never really felt like an "outsider" to the story.  It was really very sensible, real fantasy - which makes sense for a Pittsburgh setting, we do sensible pretty well... with a nice undercurrent of mystery - and left me wanting more, in quite a good way.

Ok, enough of my gushing.  Let's hear from Jana.

When I started Kept Tears I knew from the earliest moments where it would be set, even before I knew Rhys would be fae (I always knew Aaron would be a disabled veteran). For me, setting is pretty important. I travel a lot and I’ve lived all over. I like to put my travels into my stories. My short story Haunted in the Two Tickets to Paradise anthology was based on my travels in Victoria on Vancouver Island and Crisis in Faith, my Vampires in Vegas story is set in a city I find fascinating and over the top. For Kept Tears, I decided on Pittsburgh, PA, and it’s a natural for me. Not only is it an iconic city in its own right, but, like Aaron, I grew up within twenty-five miles from down town.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

On Tea - Yorkshire Tea (by Taylor's of Harrogate)

Here's another everyday "proper brew" to get us off to a solid start.

Taylor’s of Harrogate are a very good tea purveyor.  They ought to be, they’ve got a royal warrant from HRH The Prince of Wales as a supplier of beverages.  Among their teas are quite a number of traditional teas such as Darjeeling, Assam, Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Ceylon, and a number of other less common black tea blends.  And then there’s their Yorkshire Tea brand.

Yorkshire is a very nice blend with very smooth taste.  While a good, solid, standard tea, suitable for all occasions, much like PG Tips, it’s quite a lot less… forthright, shall we say.  Yorkshire is a sort of tea that I find more relaxing than exactly “perky.” 

The smooth taste of Yorkshire goes especially well with a basic “rich tea biscuit,” but, like Tips, there’s not much that wouldn’t do well with this tea.  To my taste, Yorkshire would take milk a bit better than the Tips, but again, it doesn’t necessarily need it either.

Basic enough for an everyday tea but nice enough to feel like a “treat” – I give it a 9 of 10. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

On Tea: PG Tips

Ah, a July Saturday afternoon!  Perfect for a nice cup of tea and sandwiches in a shady spot the patio....  Or bundled up on the couch with a hot mug, more like.  65F and rainy in the middle of July?  Well, better than 95 and so humid you're ready to pass out, one supposes.

Despite the fact that it's a cup of Yorkshire Tea I'm currently snuggled up with, I'm going to start with PG Tips.  We'll get to Yorkshire in a bit.

We’ll start at the beginning, shall we?  PG Tips, a bagged tea in fairly decent little pyramid-shaped bags, is a solid, bog-standard, work-a-day brew.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Personally, I prefer tea as my morning beverage.  Coffee is an afternoon libation/treat/medication for me.  And I don’t often feel like doing anything fancy with breakfast.  Just give me some tea and cereal.  Beyond that, let’s just call it brunch and go out for someone else to serve it.

Anyway, this is where Tips comes in.  I find it to be a better tea than basic Lipton black.  You’ll at least get some tea taste out of Tips.  Don’t have to be too fussy with the water temp but you will want to mind the brew time – too long and it can be a little too bullying to the palate for me.

As for “pairings” – yeah, whatever you want here.  Like I said, I prefer tea with breakfast and any breakfasty stuff works fine: cereal, toast with jelly or cinnamon-sugar, oatmeal, anything.  It’s also fine with any other meal, with a sweet snack (not sure I’d do chips and tea, but that’s me), any sort of biscuit (Jaffa cakes are always nice, but this tea won’t overpower a regular digestive either).  Fine for a splash if milk, if you prefer it, but doesn’t “need” it either.

As teas go, not exactly a stunner, but PG Tips is reliable and versatile.  That counts for quite a lot.  7.5 points out of 10.  Good show.

That's the Tips in easy reach on my tea shelf.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Warm Hearts Relaunch #1 - Brynn Stein

And now for an act of genuine contrition:  the beatifically patient Brynn (who was here before with some gorgeous drawings and whom I visited when Half the World Away was out) was scheduled for this guest spot on on my relaunch and her blog tour waaaaay back on July 7.  And since approximately July 7, my phone, email, ohyaknow life has been, in a word, notgood.  Emails being eaten, no text ability, no bars or Gs.  Not good.  But!  After several chats with obsequious service reps who were much better at speaking English than most native speakers, my carrier is sending me a new phone which (hopefully) won't eat emails, texts, or human flesh.  We'll see.  

Anyway, that's all my windy explanation and a huge "I'm so sorry!" to our lovely Brynn.  And now I'm going to hand this over to her so I don't break it any further.  (On the plus side, we've still made it ahead of the actual release date for her Living Again - so go preorder it now - after you read the blog!)

Blog Tour for Living Again
Stop 1: Jessica Davies

Monday, July 7, 2014

Aliments Tea Series: On Tea

Welcome to the first in my series on tea.  I'm going to start out with background and information about tea in general and then the series will go into reviews of teas and recommendations.  Enjoy!

Read on for History of Tea, Tea Grades, Storage, Brewing, Heat Transfer, and Serving:

Monday, June 30, 2014


Radio silence has been broken!  The relaunching of Blog, now officially known as the "Warm Hearts, Lasting Love" blog is here.  Well, the "soft" launch, anyway.  Don't worry, though, it'll get harder ;-)

To help with the new-and-improved, we've got a bevvy of fantastic visitors lined up for July and August (I don't actually know quite what a bevvy consists of, but i'm sure i've never turned one down).  

And speaking of bevvies - there's going to be a new mini-series addition to the "Aliments" food and drink line-up: now featuring tea reviews.  Tea, books, and romance... now, isn't that nice! :)

"Keep up" and make this your summer hang-out.  We'll do our best to keep you refreshed!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guest Spot: Brynn Stein

It's been a LONG, busy winter around here, but now the crocuses are up, the birdies are singing, and we're going to get back in the blog spirit with a returning guest - the wonderful Brynn Stein, here to talk about what writers do when not writing (it does happen!) and to share some of her extra-literary talents.  All yours, Brynn!

(Click to read more!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014