Tea IQ: Favourite Teas

Tea IQ is a series that explores how to be a smarter tea drinker. Today, Lizzie from Bedford Cottage Tea House (who is a tea and baking aficionado and also studied abroad in Oxford with me) is back to share some tea wisdom.

Hello again, think fruitful readers! I’m back to tell you all about some of my favourite teas. I chose six to feature, and for each one I’ll tell you a little bit about the tea and how I most like to enjoy them. I went with the basics plus a few curveballs, so old hats and greenhorns alike will find something to interest them. I’ve stayed away from mentioning any brands or suppliers, but please feel free to reach out to me directly for recommendations (contact info at the end of the post)!

And as always, personal taste is everything, as long as it’s a taste for tea!

English Breakfast

I love a good English Breakfast because sometimes you just can’t beat a classic. This tea is lush, faintly sweet, and has a good dose of astringency. I usually like to add a bit of sugar and milk to my English Breakfast to help round out that tannic bitterness. It creates a cup that is full-bodied and comforting. Meant as a stalwart breakfast beverage, but fantastic for an afternoon pick-me-up, especially when accompanied by a biscuit (cookie) or two.

Earl Grey

Earl Grey is one of the most popular teas on the planet and for good reason. Made with a blend of black teas and bergamot oil, this tea is bold, bright, and bracing. However, unlike a lot of citrus flavours, bergamot is slightly sweeter and less acidic, resulting in a balanced tea perfect for any time of day. And while some citrus additions like pieces of orange or lemon peel can curdle milk when added, Earl Grey resists and remains homogenous and smooth. I take mine with milk only, no sugar. For an occasional treat I will add a small amount of dried lavender to the brew. Like English Breakfast, Earl Grey is a great tea for beginners or people looking to supplement other beverages.

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Bragg’s Vinegar Water & Mint

bragg's vinegar and water
Are you one of those people that hops on every health food trend?

I’m usually not. I’ve never done a real diet, and I’ve got a bad sweet tooth.

But, I can get down with healthy drinks and eats that are accessible and cheap.

I’m also a big fan of vinegar-based things. From vinaigrettes to kombucha to shrubs, I love tastes with a little twang.

If you’re like me, then you might be interested in this (new to me) practice of drinking Bragg apple cider vinegar. This post is not sponsored by Bragg’s, but I recently bought some and then heard from my mother-in-law about how she drinks a teaspoon or so in a glass of water in the morning.

So, I’ve been giving it a shot this week, and I’m really enjoying a tsp. of Bragg’s in my morning water with some fresh mint.

bragg's vinegar and water

Here’s what I’ve found:

  • The taste isn’t too bad, kind of just like intense lemon water.
  • It seems to help me stay full longer between breakfast and lunch. I don’t have as many 10:30 or 11 a.m. cravings.
  • It seems to help me stay alert and awake. I think I feel more refreshed because of it.
  • It’s effects are similar to kombucha, but it’s much cheaper.

It hasn’t been a scientific experiment, but I do think I will keep exploring the benefits of this daily practice. I’ll keep you updated!

Tea IQ: Basics of Brewing

tea iq: brewing

Tea IQ is a series that explores how to be a smarter tea drinker. Today, Lizzie from Bedford Cottage Tea House (who is a tea and baking aficionado and also studied abroad in Oxford with me) shares some tea brewing wisdom.

Hello, think fruitful readers! This is Lizzie from Bedford Cottage Tea House, a blog dedicated to tea and tea parties. Today I am going to talk about some of the basics of brewing tea. Although there are a myriad of teas and tea ingredients out there, there are only a few ways to brew it. Essentially all tea breaks down into two primary categories: bagged or loose leaf.

Tea Bags

First let’s talk about bags. Tea bags have been around since the early 20th century, when they were hand sewn from silks and other fabrics. Most of the tea bags you will find on the market today are made from paper, plant starches, or recyclable plastic. While I personally prefer to stay away from the plastic ones, there are pros and cons to each type.

tea bags

Paper bags are the most common and the cheapest to make. The quality of these bags, however, wildly differs. The tea inside is usually cut very small and can be rather dusty in appearance and taste. The benefit is that you can usually do a quick steep and always end up with a consistent cup. I have heard that some of these bags use glue that contains gluten in the sealing process, so be sure to look for heat-sealed bags. Another thing to consider is the shape of the bag. The flat round or square bags are convenient, but they do not allow much space for the tea to expand. The traditional flat-bottomed tea bag is the best of the paper styles, as it will unfold and expand in the water, allowing for maximum flavor extraction.

The plant starch bags are my favourite style of tea bag for a few reasons. They tend to be made in a more forgiving shape, generally a loose pyramid. This allows for bigger pieces of tea and better water circulation. These bags can fit a larger variety of ingredients in a more whole state, which improves the flavor and allows for a greater subtlety in taste. They do benefit from a longer steep, and each bag will be ever so slightly different in flavor, although few people would notice. Knowing these bags are biodegradable is a plus for me, as I hate the idea of the plastic bags sitting in the landfill but personally dislike most paper bags.

If you do choose tea bags as your primary brewing method, I recommend using a large mug. The bag will benefit from being bobbed a bit, as this will help shift the contents for an even brew. I also like performing what I call the “green tea rinse,” for bagged teas of primarily green and white. Pour a smidge of water onto your tea bag, just enough to soak it through, bob it a few times, then discard. This will remove a lot of the harsher flavours that can develop when more delicate teas are cut fine.

Loose Leaf Tea

loose leaf tea

Now let’s delve into the world of loose leaf. I switched to using primarily loose leaf tea around 7 years ago and haven’t looked back since. Loose leaf tea can be green, white, black, herbal, or a mix. Essentially it just means any tea that is not pre-measured and ready to steep. Think whole dried chamomile flowers; long, skinny, white tea leaves; green tea scented with jasmine rolled into pearls; black tea with whole pink peppercorns and dried strawberry pieces; the list is endless. Most flavoured teas that you find in bags have to use oils and flavorings to achieve their desired combination, but that is not the case with loose leaf.

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Strawberry Bourbon Smash

Happy Friyay!

I know it’s not a proper word, but it sure is fun to write/say. It’s the perfect day for a simple summery cocktail, don’t you think?

Pick up your favorite bourbon and some sweet and juicy strawberries and get to muddling.

strawberry bourbon smash

I really like to top this one off with tonic water as opposed to club soda because it adds just the right amount of sweetness without having to use simple syrup. Also, if you have a few mint leaves, feel free to throw some in while muddling or on top to make it look pretty.

Sure, you could strain the strawberries for the juice, but I kind of like the pulpy texture. But, it’s up to you.

Happy weekend, ya’ll!


*Click or tap on recipe card to enlarge and save.

Tea IQ: Herbal Tea

tea iq

As I’ve may have mentioned before, I’m a proud tea drinker.

My mom is a big tea drinker, and although I thought it tasted like weird water up until I was a teenager, a trip to Ireland and then a semester in England opened my eyes to the beauty that is a cup of tea.

Why I drink tea:

  • It’s healthy
  • It’s relaxing
  • It can be caffeine-free
  • It comes in so many types and flavors
  • It’s great to drink by yourself or with others
  • It goes great with cookies, cake and other treats

I think Americans sometimes give hot tea (I’m not talking sweet iced tea here) a bad rap. But, I have hope that we’re all coming around.

Although, I do think that Americans, on the whole, need a bit of a re-education about tea.

Since I’m a huge herbal tea fan (I don’t often drink caffeine), I thought I would start this Tea IQ series of posts with one on tisane or herbal tea.

What is tisane/herbal tea?

Although herbal tea (also called tisane) isn’t technically tea, it’s a quite tasty and refreshing drink (that most people still consider to be tea). It’s a beverage made from an infusion of dried herbs, spices, fruits or other plant material.

All herbal teas are caffeine free.

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Mint Julep for Derby Week

mint julep

For someone who doesn’t ride horses or follow horse races, Derby Day is more significant to me than you might think.

Why, you ask?

  • My mom grew up in a small town in Kentucky, where horse riding was a popular hobby.
  • I grew up in Hot Springs, AR, the home of the Oaklawn Racing track.
  • I got married on Derby Day in Arkansas in 2012.

I’ve also done some volunteering activities with kids and horses, and I’m fascinated by these beautiful creatures!

mint julep

Additionally, there is such a great food, drink and hat culture around the Derby.

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Chill Out

key lime spritzer

Sometimes you need to just chill out…especially when it’s about 100 degrees outside.

This year, I’ve really been trying to be more chill and not panic about little things.

I’m coming along, but I’m not perfect yet.

For example: Last weekend, I was stoked about making a big pot of purple hull peas for my family. I had frozen the peas from my local farm stand from last year, and I was going to throw some bacon in there and even collard greens. Southern feast, right?

Everything was going great until I went to crack in some sea salt and discovered that my brand new Trader Joe’s sea salt grinder had not been screwed in all the way.

Cue to me dumping half of the sea salt crystals (the big, rock-like things) straight into my peas and broth. Also, did I mention that the peas were supposed to kind of be the star of the show at dinner?

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3-Ingredient Cocktails

3-ingredient margaritas

Memorial Day and July 4th are now officially behind us…and it’s Friday!

What does that mean?

The summer is in full swing, which indicates there’s still time to enjoy refreshing spritzers and cocktails.

Just saying or typing the word spritzer makes me feel fancy.

I think that July and August are the perfect months for some simple cocktails that you can throw together right after you get home from work or for any impromptu friend visits or bbqs.

That way, you can always be prepared to be the best bartender/host or hostess.

Whether you’re into more trendy, exotic flavors or classic citrus ones, then there’s likely a 3-ingredient cocktail for you!


3-ingredient margaritas

There’s a reason why margs are so popular: They are zesty, fresh and pair really well with a taco (or nachos or just chips and guac). But, there’s no reason to use that mix stuff. Grab a bag of limes at Trader Joe’s or your local Mexican grocery store, some tequila and triple sec and you’re ready to go! Salted rim or not, it’s summer!

My Recipe: 1 1/2 cup lime juice + 1 cup tequila + 3/4 cup triple sec (plus some simple syrup to sweeten it up and ice cubes to cool it down) = a pitcher for a party

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Simple Saturday: Pitcher Perfect

pitcher sangria

If Memorial Day weekend isn’t the time to grill out, invite some friends over and enjoy some delicious beverages, then I don’t know when is.

It’s also a great time to relax and enjoy all of those things, even if you’re the host.

Recently, my husband and I have been learning more cocktail tips and tricks at the Crude Bitters & Sodas Cocktail Classes. One thing that we’ve learned is the beauty of a batch of cocktails.

When you make a batch or pitcher of your drinks, you can whip up several cocktails in minutes, without breaking a sweat.

Also, having one of these big Ball mason jars will help you feel like a master mixer!

pitcher sangria

Here are some pitcher drinks that I recommend (click the links for the recipes):

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Simple Saturday: Moscow Mule

moscow mule

It is really is crazy that in almost four years of blogging I haven’t posted a Moscow Mule recipe.

Well, thanks to my brother-in-law getting those fancy copper cups and making us one (and me taking a second to photograph it), the recipe is finally here!

You have probably already noticed by now that we love ginger beer and all things ginger. We try to always have a few bottles of ginger beer around the house, so a delicious cocktail is only a few ingredients away.

moscow mule


For this one, all you need is:

  • Ginger beer
  • Lime
  • Vodka
  • Mint (if you’re feeling like a fancy bartender)

That’s it for a simple, refreshing and satisfying drink.

If you haven’t tried one, it must go on your weekend to-do list (and invite friends over)!

Here’s how you make it:

1. Fill your copper mug (or glass) halfway with ice.

2. Add in the juice of 1/2 lime and 1 1/2-2 oz. of vodka.

3. Top it off with a cold bottle of ginger beer and stir.

4. Garnish with a wedge of lime and a sprig of mint.