Tea Time with Alexis Siemons

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I first met Alexis back at the Kinfolk dinner a few weeks ago. She prepared four types of iced tea for the dinner that were unlike anything I had had before.  Bottled teas tend to be oversweet, but these were delicate and full of varied flavor. I went on to find out more about what she does, and discovered that Alexis is an expert in all things tea. Highly interested, I sat down to pick her brain and learn all that I could. Of course, I also had to ask her for some recipes so that I could start my own brewing.

Alexis Siemons Holding Teacup

Portrait on left by Courtney Apple

When did you first get into tea & how did it become your life?

It was around the winter of ’08. I walked into a tea shop for the first time in my life. I had never been a tea drinker or even a coffee drinker, but I was blown away. I bought some tea that day, and at the same time I had been wanting to start a blog. I had been working as a copywriter and had a background in marketing, so I loved to write, but didn’t know what to write about. Inspired by the first tea shop, I decided to launch a blog about tea to capture my journey with the steeped leaf and encourage people to learn and share as much as possible. It then grew, from basic reviews of my favorite teas, the content expanded to include tea infused recipes, favorite tea ware, and even tea paired with fashion and home décor. Eventually tea took over the entire kitchen. The blog eventually started to grow into a career as I began consulting for tea companies assisting with blogging, marketing strategy, and event planning. Now I have clients in California and work doing everything from the development side, to teaching classes and writing articles for magazines. I have also started to work with Philadelphia restaurants to build their tea collections and add tea-infused treats to their menus. Simply stated, my life revolves around tea and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How many glasses of tea do you have a day?

I would say at least 2 or 3…but I tend to resteep tea leaves so the caffeine is not as strong as I sip throughout the day. Although there are days when I find myself steeping a few pots as my cravings switch from grassy greens to delicate whites and floral oolongs. And when I’m steeping an oolong I can often get about 9 steeps. It’s a healthy addiction.

You just got back from the world tea expo, tell us about that.

It was actually my first time! It’s the largest tea trade show and conference in the world, and it features tea from all over the world, tea ware, tea-infused chocolate, etc. It was wonderful to meet so many passionate tea people, from tea farmers to established companies spanning generations to new companies recently launched by young tea fans. There will actually be an east coast version of the show in Philadelphia this October. I’ll be blogging about it soon!

What can you tell me about the history of tea?

What I love most about tea is the deep history that spans several countries and cultures. Each sip not only reveals the flavor of tea, but also connects you back to generations of tea estates. I actually really want to plan a visit to the Shofuso Japanse House and Garden in Fairmount park to witness the beauty of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. While I have seen several videos and often make matcha green tea with the traditional bamboo whisk, I have yet to experience it in person. That’s definitely on my list this summer. Thanks for reminding me.

Are there certain herbs that you like to use for healing benefits? If so, which ones and what do they treat?

When my stomach is upset I often brew ginger and add a little honey, especially in the winter since it’s warming. In the summer, I tend to add mint to my tea or brew it on its own to cool me down and soothe my stomach. I also love lavender and chamomile for stress or when I need to chill.

What are some of your favorite blends and why?

If I had to pick a single tea, I would choose a high mountain oolong because of its fresh, aromatic, floral flavor and aroma. And you can steep it up to 7 times to reveal new flavors. It’s incredible! Beyond single estate teas, I also love to blend tea with fresh fruit and herbs. Throughout the summer I’ll brew hibiscus and mint leaves and add fresh squeezed lime juice and honey. And then there’s honeydew, mint and sencha green tea.

Where do you source teas?

I try to source teas from as many places as possible, but some favorites are local shops PremiumSteap, HouseofTea, and Cups & Chairs. For oolong tea, I like to order from naivetea.com.

Where are some of your favorite places to pick up tea-wares?

At first, I would try to find a tea cup or pot while traveling or even while visiting local antique shops. However, my collection quickly grew and let’s just say that I may have had to buy a bookcase just to display them. Needless to say, I can’t wait for the day to display my cups in a large kitchen. Until then, the bookcase will do. Beyond my own finds, my dear friends and family have helped me build my collection with family heirlooms and a few favorite pieces from Anthropologie.

Iced Oolong Tea Infused with Blueberries and Basil & Lavender Honey Water

Iced Oolong Tea Infused with Blueberries and Basil & Lavender Honey Water

The slightly sweet, floral and buttery flavors of the lightly roasted Taiwanese Dong Ding oolong pair perfectly with delicate blueberries, and are balanced by earthy basil and aromatic lavender. Most simple syrups are a bit too sweet for my taste buds, so I prefer to add fresh herbs and rich wildflower honey to water for just a hint of sweetness and fresh flavors.

Keep in mind that this particular oolong can be steeped up to 7 times, revealing varied fragrant flavors and aromas. After the first 50-second steep, steep the second time for 40 seconds, third steep for 50 seconds, fourth steep for 60 seconds, fifth steep for 70 seconds, sixth steep for 90 seconds and seventh steep for 2 minutes.

Tea Ingredients:

Water & Ice

9 tablespoons Dong Ding Taiwanese Oolong

2 cups blueberries, chopped

Directions:

Heat cold water (preferably filtered) to a boil and then cool for one minute. Steep the oolong tea for 50 seconds and reserve the leaves for additional brews.

Side note: I recommend using Takeya’s Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker set. I’ve found it to be the easiest and best way to fresh-brew and flash chill tea. Simply steep 9 tablespoons of the oolong in the 24oz hot tea maker and pour it over ice in the 66oz flash chilling pitcher.

Once chilled, remove 2 cups of the iced oolong to make room for the fresh blueberries (set iced oolong aside to sip while the tea infuses). Add the blueberries to the pitcher of iced oolong and infuse in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours. When ready to serve, add a splash or two of the Basil & Lavender Honey Water before sipping.

Lavender & Basil Honey Water Ingredients:

2 cups water

5 tablespoons wildflower honey

1 cup fresh basil

2 tablespoons fresh (or dried) lavender blossoms

Directions:

Heat water to a boil. Remove from heat, add lavender blossoms and steep for 10 minutes (recommend using teapot and infuser-but basic pot and strainer work well too).

Add lavender water, fresh basil and honey to a medium pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes, let cool completely and strain.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week

Tip: Find yourself with too much lavender & basil honey water? Drizzle it over blueberries for a sweet treat.

Hojicha Green Tea with Ginger & Orange Blossom Honey Water

Hojicha Green Tea with Ginger & Orange Blossom Honey Water

The depth of the earthy, toasty and nutty roasted Hojicha green tea is warmed by the spicy ginger root and brightened by floral orange blossom water. While this recipe calls for a hot infusion, the bold flavors are also great iced. FYI green teas are best when steeped in water that’s far from a boil. If steeped in boiling water most green teas will reveal a bitter and unpleasant flavor. New to the aromatic flavors of orange blossom water? Carefully add one teaspoons at a time and taste as you go to discover the flavor strength that suits your taste buds best.

Hojicha Green Tea Ingredients:

Ingredients:

2 cups water

2 teaspoons Hojicha green tea

Directions:

Heat cold water (preferably filtered) to a boil and then let cool for 3 minutes. Steep the green tea leaves for 3 minutes. When ready to serve, add a splash or two of the Ginger & Orange Blossom Honey Water before sipping.

Ginger & Orange Blossom Honey Water Ingredients:

Ingredients:

2 cups water

5 tablespoons wildflower honey

3-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced

2-3 teaspoons orange blossom water

Directions:

In a medium pan over medium heat, bring water to a boil and stir in honey. Add ginger and let simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely and strain.

Stir in orange blossom water (start with 2 teaspoons and taste before adding more of the fragrant infused water).

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week

Tip: Find yourself with too much ginger & orange blossom honey water? Drizzle it over grilled peaches or ice cream.

Be sure to check Alexis out on her Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Etsy, and Instagram for more. 

 

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Comments

Kristen -June 21, 2012, 12:50PM

this is right up my alley!!! I’d love if this was a regular feature!

Alexis -June 21, 2012, 4:51PM

Kristen, feel free to pop over to my blog (teaspoonsandpetals.com) for more recipes. I’ll be updating it more frequently with tea-infused summer treats. Thanks!

Erika -June 22, 2012, 10:24AM

Delicious recipes, thank you so much for sharing, I’m loving this so much!

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