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Monday, January 10, 2011

An Unexpected Treat

Years ago, when Kate was still little and I was accompanying her on play dates, I got to know Deborah.  Deborah and I met through a mutual friend named Heidi and we all had kids the same age.  In those days, play dates were more for the mommies and less for the babies.  Most of us mommies had recently given up careers to be at home full time with the babies so we were looking for some routine in a life marked by lack of routine.  Hence the play date.

Deborah and I hit it off immediately.  We found that we had far more in common than just our kids and we built a friendship that endures today, despite being 3,000 miles apart.  Jacob and Kate may have been the original catalyst for our friendship but like minds have kept Deborah and me in close touch all these years (and miles) later.

Deborah is a really good cook, and we spent hours poring over recipes and talking about food.   More often than not, our visits together included crackers and grapes (cut in half, of course) for the babies, and caramel tea and pound cake for us.

Before Deborah, I had never even heard of caramel tea.  She used to buy it from Fauchon in Paris and bring it home to Beverly Hills. It was really was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted.  Once Deborah turned me on to it, every time I went to Paris I brought it back for both of us.  It was so good that it was worth schlepping across an ocean.  We drank it sparingly, with a touch of milk.  It was so difficult to get that it was more valuable than gold, at least to us.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, Ted and I were in Paris and found ourselves in the Mariage Freres tea shop.  And lo and behold, what did they have but caramel tea.  It had been years since I had had it (I don't get to Paris often enough) so I bought some and brought it back to Pittsburgh with me. It was just as delicious as I had remembered.  Again, I drank it a little at a time so as not to run out too quickly.

Well, this morning I had a very pleasant surprise.  I was cleaning out the cabinet where I keep all of my teas and I spied the special caramel tea tin in the back.  When I opened it up I fully expected it to be empty but it wasn't!  The tin was about half full.  My day went from being just fine to being truly spectacular.  I got down my tea pot and set some water on to boil.  I put the tea in the little strainer and poured the water through.  I could barely wait to drink it.  Finally, the tea had steeped long enough and I poured myself a cup.  I added just a drop of milk.  It was divine and just as delicious as I remembered.

The reemergence of the caramel tea set me on a mission.  Could I find it online?  Of course I could because with a little patience you can find anything online.  And sure enough I found not only the Fauchon and the Mariage Freres caramel teas, but also a variety of other kinds of caramel tea.   Now that I've had it again, after such a long time, I find myself thinking about another pot full.  I think this calls for an online order.  If only Deborah were here in Pittsburgh to drink it with me.

You can order Fauchon caramel tea from:
Fauchon (www.fauchon.com/en/en#/buy-online

Mariage Freres caramel tea, called Wedding Imperial, is available online from:
Dean & DeLuca (www.deandeluca.com)

Recipe:  How to Brew a Perfect Cup of Tea


Loose tea of your choice
Boiling water

Starting with cold water, fill your tea kettle and put it on to boil.

While the water is heating up, prepare your teapot.  Fill it with hot tap water, let it warm, then drain it completely.

Measure into the teapot 1 teaspoon of loose tea for every cup you plan to pour.  If you take milk with your tea, add an extra teaspoon for the pot.  If you are using a mesh tea ball, don't fill it more than halfway, to allow for complete expansion of the tea leaves.

Bring the water in the kettle to a full boil.  Before steeping, pour a small amount of the boiling water over the tea leaves to allow them to open up.  Drain immediately.

Fill the teapot with boiling water.  Keep the spout of the kettle close to the teapot so the water does not cool as you pour it in. Cover the teapot and leave the tea to brew (black teas 4-5 minutes, green teas 3 minutes).

When the tea is ready pour and serve the tea.  To keep the tea warm through several cups, cover the teapot with a tea cozy.

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