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(post, Sarah Price)
“You know, you can add a touch of tequila to this and… Mmmmmmmm.” says Roxanne Garcia of our Pomegranate Mojito green tea. Roxanne, who has been with Maya Tea Company for over five years, has recently added six signature tea blends to her repertoire, including the Pomegranate Mojito. A tea featuring the zesty flavors of mint, lime and pomegranate, it closely resembles the flavor profile of the traditional Cuban cocktail with one exclusion - alcohol. Yet this can be remedied from the comfort of home, Roxanne advises eager customers. A new trend has been seeping into fancy food establishments and deluxe tea bars across the nation. Menus have been adorned with cocktail items like “Silk Road” and “Darjeeling Kiss”, cocktails featuring the delicate flavors of, you guessed it, tea. And why not? We have all heard of the famed Long Island Iced Tea, which sits in the top five percent of popular cocktails. Those of us with experience on either side of the bar can tell you its bizarre secret - there is no tea involved. Its base, aside from the many assorted liquors, is a mixture of sweet & sour and just a splash of coca cola, resulting in a flavor remarkably similar to iced black tea. Though the flavor has been mimicked with scores of success, it has been only in recent years that people have considered including tea in cocktails, and we’re not looking back. At Maya Tea, we are promoters of “tea time” and also deeply value the “cocktail hour”, and we couldn’t be more pleased to merge the two. Several years ago we created our own tea-tail, the Chaitini. It is a creamy and decadent martini featuring our richly spiced Chai Concentrate. Here’s the recipe: 2 oz Chai Concentrate. (You may also use loose chai, just brew at triple strength and use 2 oz of tea) 1 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream 1/2 oz Kahlua 1/2 oz Vanilla Vodka 1/2 oz Frangelico Hazelnut Liquor 1 oz Half & Half or Heavy Whipping Cream Shake ingredients with ice to chill, strain and serve with a garnish of cinnamon. Chai tea serves remarkably well in cocktails with its robust spice profile, but you don’t need dramatic flavors to enhance a beverage. Even delicate white teas can add complexity and interest to a drink. Take, for example, the “Kumquat Tea Mojito”, which combines equal parts white tea, rum, and simple syrup with kumquat halves, mint leaves, lime juice and club soda. Or the “African Sunset”, which mixes subtle steeped rooibos herbal tea with vodka, amaretto, lemon, lime and sugar. Then, there’s the more traditional iced tea flavor that has made the Long Island such a winner. Strong black tea can be infused into vodka by simply stirring dry tea leaves into a few ounces of liquor and letting it sit at room temperature for 2-5 minutes. The flavor of the tea is absorbed into vodka just as it would be with boiled water, and the strength of the flavors will amaze you. Simply add juice of lemon, ice and your choice of tonic, club soda, lemonade or water and voila, your spiked iced tea is complete. Tea liqueurs have also been a recent introduction to the market, and serve as an easy alternative for infusing your own spirits. Firefly Vodka offers a unique line of tea-based vodkas, distilled four times and infused with fresh tea leaves from the America’s own Charleston Tea Plantation. Their line includes a Sweet Tea Vodka, Raspberry Tea Vodka, Mint, Lemon and Peach Tea Vodkas. As a Christmas gift last year I enjoyed a bottle of their traditional blend, the Sweet Tea Vodka, and was pleasantly surprised by its resemblance to my grandmother’s sweet tea that I enjoyed as a child. All that was required was a cup of ice and a squeeze of lemon, and I was hooked. Other companies have formulated green tea liquors, such as Zen Green Tea Liquor and Charbay Green Tea Vodka, which can be shaken with juice, tonic, lime, or any other mixer for a new twist on any traditional cocktail. It is important to remember that there are no boundaries to which we must abide when drinking tea. Historically it has carried ceremonial implications, and most of us imagine drinking tea in a quiet, meditative state. In Japan, tea is sipped in peaceful gardens as a means to reflect upon the beauty and serenity in life. In England, tea was taken in the afternoons as a cultural staple and a depiction of class. In America however, tea has carried quite different values. It has been the cause of riots and strikes, and tea parlors served as “singles bars” during the era of the flappers and the time of prohibition. In fact, it was during prohibition that whiskey first was introduced to the teacup. Let us not forget that tea, while delicate and serene, has a wild side, particularly in our own history. With that in mind, take a step outside of the box and, well, get a buzz! Cheers!