Monday, December 3, 2012

Cocktails and Mocktails

The silly season has happened upon us and if you're anything like me, the alcohol intake has skyrocketed.  Being a responsible host I like to offer my friends something non-alcoholic and tea based mocktails are just the answer.  This week's featured teas drink well on their own but also make something a little special served cold.
Mojito Green Tea isn't as strong as it's alcoholic namesake but still adheres to the principle flavours of mint and brown sugar (in the form of caramel drops).

mint iced tea.jpg


Mojito Green Tea Cocktail/Mocktail
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons Mojito green tea
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 2 cups sake
  • 4 stalks lemongrass for garnish
Combine Mojito tea and mint with boiling water, let steep for 5 minutes, strain and add brown sugar stirring until dissolved.  Refrigerate until chilled.  Divide among four large iced filled glasses.  Add 1/2 cup sake to each glass and garnish with a stalk of lemongrass.  Mocktail version:  omit the sake.
1001 Nights Flavoured Black Tea evokes warm summer nights amidst desert sands (struggling to get the image of camels out of my mind here).  1001 Nights blends both black and green tea with a pot pourri of petals.  It is a delicate tea, hinting at rose and jasmine flavours.


1001 Nights Mocktail
  • 4 heaped teaspoons 1001 Nights
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater
  • Red food colouring
  • Rose petals for garnish
Combine 1001 Nights tea and mint with boiling water, let steep for 5 minutes, strain and honey, stirring until dissolved.  Refrigerate until chilled. Add rosewater then serve in large iced filled glasses.  Add a tiny dash of red food colouring for pretty pink effect and sprinkle with rose petals to serve.
Coconut and Melon Fruit Tea has been a winner since the day we introduced this stunning new style of fruit tea.  Rather than relying on a base of rosehip and hibiscus this tea features large chunks of coconuts, dried melon and apple pieces.  It bews a pale colour but there's no shortness of flavour.


Coconut and Melon Iced Tea Cocktail/Mocktail
  • 4 tablespoons Coconut and Melon fruit tea
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or to taste
  • 2 cups coconut water or coconut juice
  • Melon cubes to garnish
Combine boiling water with Coconut and Melon fruit tea, allow to stand for at least an half an hour to extract full flavour, strain. Dissolve sugar in a little boiling water, add to tea along with coconut juice.   In tall glasses add shaved or cubed ice, finely chopped melon cubes and the sweetened Coconut and Melon tea.  Cocktail version:  add a splash of Midori

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pyramids of Convenience

Seventeen years ago when I started Tea Total it was all about loose leaf tea and a teapot.  I never imagined I'd be selling tea in a bag, yet here I am announcing that we're now offering some of our most popular teas in a self contained serving.  

No dubious quality tea hidden behind bleached papers for our discerning customers rather diaphanous silky tea pyramids in perfectly measured portions.  Brew a different tea for you and a friend, take a few bags with you on the run, leave them at work, take to the bach or give them to friends who don't own a teapot.  No need to sacrifice the quality you're used to for the sake of convenience.

Each deluxe pyramid tea bag contains enough tea to make a small teapot or large cup or mug, up to 350mls capacity. If you're making a larger pot just add a couple.

We currently have available our premium Ceylon Breakfast Tea 'Special Blend, Earl Grey Special and Japanese Lime Green Tea with more varieties to be introduced soon.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pears, Berries, China Jasmine plus a Jelly Recipe

I rather enjoy time in the kitchen.  No cooking because I have to feed the family but rather cooking as a creative process.  I never tire of making jelly from our teas, the possibilities are endless and so much fun.
See below for a basic recipe or search on Google for more complex options.

Monk Flavoured Black Tea This tea is so unusual.  The flavours are pear and bergamot on a black tea base although to my thinking you'd be hard pushed to identify either of those flavours individually.  The tantalising aroma hits you upon opening the bag and continues to the brew, as cup approaches lips and taste of first sip.  Warning:  Monk tea has created addictions in those susceptible individuals.

China Jasmine Green Tea A taste so recognizable as the tea served in Chinese restaurants around New Zealand.  Green tea is flavoured with jasmine flowers in a repetitive process that infuses a distinctive taste to this tea.  100 grams will make around 70 cups so it's very economical, as are all green teas.

Berry Crumble Fruit InfusionBerries, cherries and currants make this dark, rich fruit tea something special.  Excellent hot, cold or as fruit jelly.  Try the recipe below for something different.



  • 6 heaped teaspoons fruit tea of your choice
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 2 - 4 tablespoons sugar, depending on taste
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 3 teaspoons of gelatin
Method:Infuse fruit tea in one and half cups of boiling water for at least five minutes, strain and discard fruit.  Add sugar and stir to dissolve.  Pour half cup boiling water into another bowl, add the three teaspoons of gelatin and stir until dissolved.  Add infused tea and sugar mix and stir well.  Pour mixture into jelly moulds and set in the fridge.  Decorate and serve with ice cream or yogurt.  Makes approximately one and a half litres of jelly or four cup jellies

Monday, October 22, 2012

Something Strong, Something Spicy, Something Sweet

Trust you had an enjoyable long weekend.  I spent mine watching the Elite Mens World Triathlon Championships in the pouring rain and howling gale.  Yesterday was spent on my feet as a run course marshall for the age group competitors.  Great to see so many entrants from around the world who'd come to NZ to participate, thousands of them.  By the time I'd got home cold and tired it was all I could do to make a LARGE pot of tea to warm me up.  Next time I'll take a thermos.... and a chair.

Assam CTC Soongachi 
I wouldn't be so rude as to call this tea 'gumboot tea' but it certainly passes muster for a good strong brew.  CTC refers to Cut Torn and Curled which is a processes used to make the small balls of tea rather than small pieces of tea so often found in strong teas.  Soongachi means Golden Tree, the name of the tea garden from whence this tea hails.  I visited there in 2005 and stayed as a guest on the tea garden.  The lady of the house taught me to wrap a sari while the men put on a good display of whiskey drinking.

Nepal Masala Chai Tea
Masala is a generic word for spice so Nepal Masala is a spiced Nepalese tea, something we in NZ would call chai.  This black tea can be brewed as a normal tea and drunk with milk or without, alternatively you can brew as a proper boiled chai which is ideal for this extended cold snap.  Click here for chai recipes

Mango Star Fruit Tea
Lastly for something sweet and fruity thanks to pieces of pineapple and mango amongst other things.  One of our most popular fruit teas with the cafe's we supply, I often find myself nibbling the fruit pieces whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.

 make tea not war.jpg

Monday, October 15, 2012

Time to Detox, Earl Grey or Darjeeling?

I love this time of year at Tea Total, our warehouse starts to fill up with tea in preparation for the busy season, which you'd think would be winter wouldn't you?  Our most exciting arrival to date is a new Darjeeling, please read on......

Darjeeling First Flush Organic Junpana
Interesting fact: more Darjeeling tea is sold around the world than is actually grown/exported from India.  So it's likely some of the Darjeeling you've previously drunk was a blend of some sort.  Our latest batch of First Flush Darjeeling, bought directly from our supplier in India, is a stunner.  It reminds me of the freshest most delicious tea we drank while staying in Darjeeling some years ago, a taste I haven't discovered since.  The flavour is light on the tongue, almost like a green tea, but distinctly Darjeeling.  For full information about this tea and the garden from whence it comes, click here.

Earl Grey Blue Star 
There are times that call for a strong Earl Grey and our Blue Star is just the thing.  Based on a good Indian black tea, sprinkled with cornflowers, hence the blue star reference and a decent strength bergamot for flavouring.  Earl Grey Blue Star is our most traditional Earl Grey.

Detox Herbal Tea  
I often read about liver cleansing diets, detox diets, juice diets and it all just seems too hard.  Other than choosing to eat well, the closest I come to detoxification is drinking this tea.  Containing dandelion flowers to assist liver and kidney function, lemon balm, fennel and peppermint as carmatives and to aid digestion,  nettle to assist high blood pressure and joint pain plus an array of flowers and leaves to assist the detoxifying process. 

Todays photos highlight the difference between tea bushes and plucking methods in Darjeeling (left) and Assam (right).  Baskets are used to protect the small, delicate Darjeeling leaves with only 7kg plucked at a time while in Assam bushes exhibit vigorous growth and pluckers carry up to 20kg in their head cloths.

darjeelingpluckerssm.jpg assampluckerssm.jpg

Monday, October 8, 2012

Premium Organic First Flush Darjeeling

Direct from the tea gardens to the Tea Total warehouse, we bring you the lightest, brightest and freshest premium quality first flush Darjeeling tea.  Every year we select from different samples, searching for the tea that most closely matches our taste requirements, a tea we're confident you'll enjoy.  Picked during the prime first flush (when the camelia tea bushes are picked for the first time in a season, around March each year).  This premimium darjeeling is a classic muscatel tea. light in colour with a clear, clean finish.

For the first time we bring to you a premium first flush that has been grown under organic conditions.

This season our first flush is from the Junpana estate in the Kurseong South valley.  According to a legend, the estate is named for Jung Bahadur, faithful servant of an Englishman hunting a man-eating tiger in these hills.  Jung was mortally wounded trying to save his master and since his dying wish was for water which is 'pana' in the local language, the hills came to be called Jung-Pana.  The estate is known to produce some of the most sought after muscatel Darjeelings and borders the classic Goomtee tea estate.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Otago Summer Fruits, Japanese Genmaicha and Governor Grey

I was talking with a lovely Chinese lady yesterday who enthused about our Otago Summer Fruits 'we have nothing like this in China', so I thought I'd include it in this weeks selection.  I'd also like to send our best wishes to everyone in Christchurch.  What with school closures, continued earthquakes and general upheaval life can't be getting any easier.  I admire your courage people of Christchurch.

Otago Summer Fruits  
Stone fruit goodiness with pretty little yellow rose buds and even carrot flakes.  Unlike so many teas with a rich red colouring based on rosehip and hibiscus, this tea brews a more delicate pale pink, taste is light, sweetish and delish.  There's a very good reason this tea is one of our best selling fruit numbers.

Japanese Genmaicha Green Tea  
Savoury.  If I had to use one word to describe this tea it would be savoury.  The toasted rice/green tea combination goes perfectly with savoury food or for those who don't like our sweeter flavoured green teas.  Once a month we have Sushi Tuesday here at tea HQ, always accompanied by Japanese Genmaicha because that's how we roll.

Governor Grey  
When we first introduced this version of Earl Grey it was called Lady Grey but then we received a very threatening letter from Twinnings about trade mark infringement, so we drew on New Zealands heritage and came up with our very own Governor Grey.  The Governor is a good general Earl Grey with the addition of citrus.  In the words of another famous tea vendor 'do try it'.

My selected picture of the week is entitled 'put the kettle on' - too funny

kettle helmet.jpg

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kia Ora Tea Drinkers

I heard a tourism marketing person saying we should greet everyone with Kia Ora because it's uniquely NZ.  Those who know me would say I'm not at all politically correct so it's not about me trying to do the right thing, more because I like the Kiwiness of it.   But I digress......

Spring Mix Fruit Tea
Pretty pretty tea with little blue cornflowers.  I know it's not supposed to be all about looks but how can you not enjoy drinking something beautiful?  Unlike the more recent additions to the Tea Total fruit tea lineup, Spring Mix is a more generic fruit tea without any a dominant flavour such as lime or pear.  You might call it the perfect blend of fruits and flower petals.

Sencha Ginger and Lemon Flavoured Green Tea 
Unlike the blend above, this one is all about green tea overlaid with the singular flavours of ginger and lemon.  They're such a perfect couple.  Love the smell of our warehouse when we've got this tea running through the hoppers.  If you like Japanese Lime then you're bound to enjoy Sencha Ginger & Lemon.

China OP Yunnan Traditional Black Tea 
Literally meaning "south of the clouds" Yunnan is the old Chinese name for this border region which was incorporated into China after 1350.  The area is thought to be the original home of the Camellia Sinensis species which probably spread from there to neighbouring Assam, Burma, Laos, and south China.  Some 260 of the worlds 380 varietals of tea may be found growing in Yunnan where numerous ancient tea trees still grow in the wild.  Historically Yunnan tea was exported to Tibet via horse caravans on the famouse south route and also dispatched to China proper via caravans originating from the market town of Pu Erh.  Yunnan is best known for its black teas which are full bodied and are prized for strength and golden tips. Yunnan teas are grown at misty mountainous elevations of 1,000 to 2,300 metres.
But what about the taste you ask?  Well it's got a mildly earthy/malty flavour which I personally enjoy and when so inclined I blend mine 50:50 with our Special Breakfast Blend just for a change.


Today's picture just had to be Spring Mix, because it's just so pretty.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chai Cookies NOM NOM

it can be hard to find a good cup of chai — the stuff you buy at the coffee shop on the corner just isn’t the real thing.  Not that I’m saying a chai latte can’t be sweet and good and satisfying on a cold day, but sometimes I want strong chai, spicy chai, chai that punches my sinuses with spice and burns the back of my throat a little!

Anyways, these cute cookies are mildly spiced and crumbly, without being overly sweet. No sinus punching or throat burning going on here, I promise.

But a chai cookie addiction? I can’t promise you won’t develop that.

Turns out that there’s actually no one “true” recipe for chai. It’s kind of like how everyone has their own way of making chocolate chip cookies, only this applies to tea. Masala chai has a couple common ingredients: cinnamon, cardamom, clove, milk, water, etc., but the rest is however you’d like it.

This is why when searched online for a recipe for chai cookies or biscuits, I pretty much came up with nothing.
Instead, I just sipped on chai and studied a couple tea recipes that seemed like they’d be palate-pleasing before making my own spice mix.  The result: addictive little cookies that taste like chai!

Chai Cookies


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • pinch of salt


Note: The key to this recipe is having all your spices very finely crushed or ground. It’s easy to buy most of these spices pre-ground, but you’ll probably have to crush your own fennel seed. First I used a mortar and pestle to crush the seed, then used a fine metal strainer to separate the larger chunks of fennel from the smaller ones, and used the smallest ground fennel for these cookies.

If you’re like me and you love chai, then feel free to double the amount of spice in this recipe — that’s what I did and it worked a treat.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together, add vanilla extract
Sift your flour, salt, and spices together. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing until just incorporated.
Roll the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, and wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
After an hour preheat your oven to 175°C
On a generously floured surface, roll out the chilled chai dough to half a centimeter thick.  Use a cookie cutter to press shapes out of the dough. Re-roll the scraps as needed.  Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 10 ~ 12 minutes, or until the bottom edges of the cookies start to go brown.
I made tiny star-shaped chai cookies, packaged them in clear plastic baggies, and gave them out to friends. They made awesome little gifts!  Enjoy the ones that you don’t share with a big pot of chai tea.

One Green, One Fruit & One Traditional Tea that are worth their weight in gold....

Feng Shui Flavoured Green Tea  
Our second most popular flavoured green tea after Japanese Lime.  If you like light, fruity flavoured green teas, Feng Shui is a great option.

Cranberry & Carrot Fruit Tea
Super fruit meets super veg.  Cranberries are certainly the 'fruit de jour' in terms of their health benefits and carrots are as good as ever.  Nothing like the traditional berry and hibiscus based fruit teas, this style is where fruit teas are heading and for good reason.  Delicious.

Breakfast Tea 'Special Blend'
Last but definitely not least.  I personally like to drink traditional black tea over anything else and seeing as I own a tea company I have a good selection from which to choose.  Special Blend is the one I always have at home and the one I go back to after drinking whatever else has been grabbing my attention.  Blended from a mix of Ceylon high grown and leafy grades it's designed to be a good allround tea for any time of the day.  Works for me.

Finally, an image to celebrate tea, because it's worth celebrating. 


On the road less travelled this week......

Papaya Sencha Green Tea 
This flavoured green tea is often overlooked in favour of our more well known blends which just isn't fair.  Combinging flowers petals, carrot pieces, dried papaya and vanilla flavours this tea is first rate and deserving of some love.

Blood Orange Flavoured Black Tea 
From the Pacific to Spain for the flavours of this tea.  Blood Oranges, sometimes known as Seville Oranges, are bright red inside with juice like dripping blood.  The mild tannic acid of tea goes particularly well with the natural acid of oranges.  I'm not saying this tea has a more tannic or bitter taste than any of our others, not at all, simply that the tea and flavours are a perfect match.  This tea has a small but staunch group of followers, you could join that group.

Energizer Herbal Tea  
At the very least you can expect to energize your taste buds with this herbal offering.  Combining an array of flowers petals, berry fruits and herbs such as lemon balm mint, anis and peppermint.  Excellent any time of the day as well as after food.

I offer you the following image because life can be too serious at times.  

If you're going to try this at home please take a photo and send it through, we'd like a laugh.

blow teapot.jpg

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Top Five Winter Warmers

Despite living in Auckland, the pre-dawn hour at which I rise has been nothing short of freezing.  I can't imagine what it's been like further south.  My tea consumption has gone through the roof in an attempt to stay warm with hot liquid going down the inside and something warm to wrap my hands around.  It got me thinking about the sorts of teas that come in to their own over the cooler months, stepping out of the normal winter = cinnamon routine.  Below are my top five picks for winter 2012.  Anna - The Tea Lady

Anticyclone herbal tea is a great amalgam of herbs, flowers and spices.  Key ingredients that make this tea good for winter; aniseed (an expectorant and carmative) , fennel (carmative, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic) and peppermint (for lung and sinus congestion, muscle spasms and inflammation).  The addition of manuka honey can only enhance these benefits.

Green Mint 
 flavoured green tea in a league of it's own.  The flavour is beyond peppermint, decidedly mentholated and packs quite a punch.  Ideal as a decongestant, Green Mint will clear your sinuses before the cup has drained. This really is the liquid version of a Fishermans Friend lozenge.

Fireside Heat  is more of a classic winter herbal tea, think fruit version of mulled wine.  Key ingredients that make it so delicious being almond, spiced orange and cinnamon.  Make this a little stronger than normal, add red wine and a few slices of orange, wham, alco-tea winter treat.

Smokey Earl Grey evokes all that is good about a winter fire.  The bergamot flavours are nice and strong, keeping in balance with the smokey nature of this brew.  If you like Lapsang Souchong I feel confidant you'll enjoy Smokey Earl Grey.

Bengal Chai
 is last but by no means least on my hit list of Winter Warmers.  This is no ordinary chai but a recipe I picked up from a chai vendor on the streets of Calcutta as it was called back then. This chai is all about thermogenic spices - the ones that heat you up, namely ginger, cardamon and pepper.  They're warming, work as a digestive and give the metabolism a good rev.  This tea is made to be brewed as 'proper' chai; boiled with milk, water and sugar or honey.  Each pouch comes with it's own recipe card or you can click here for Bengal and other chai tea recipes.