After emerging from the tunnel under the 10 Freeway, hang a left onto Urban Avenue and make your way through one of the many cozy bedroom communities near the border of Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. Before you know it, you will find yourself at the corner of Urban and Pico in front of the UnUrban Café, a welcoming throwback to the late ‘60s that serves up delicious soups and sandwiches. Having come of age in the late ’60s and early ‘70s, I find the UnUrban’s comfortable and familiar – if not somewhat disheveled – vibe to be a nice contrast to the bustling high-tech office I work in.
Although Bird’s Eye Tea’s lovely minimalist website is far from disheveled, it manages to capture that same at-home feeling I felt during my first visit to the UnUrban Café. That feeling continued when a small cube-shaped box with a handwritten address – as though it had come from a friend – arrived on our doorstep last week. Inside I discovered a note from Sarah Farr, the woman behind Bird’s Eye Tea’s hand-blended, organic teas and tisanes, several samples, and some honey.
Now that Southern California has finally embraced Fall and the warm days that continued even into early November this year have subsided, I was drawn especially to a couple of the spicy chai-like blends in the box – Xocolatl and Honeybush Spice. Although I look forward to trying the Honeybush Spice, I knew almost immediately that Xocolatl would be my first sample because, well, I absolutely love chocolate!
Just as I normally do when I try a new recipe, I decided to follow the instructions on the packet to a T. Of course, first I smelled the blend, which offered a heady scent in which the chamomile and cacao played prominent roles. After placing 2 teaspoons of the Xocolatl blend in a small teapot that I had only used once before and was therefore not yet primed for a particular type of tea, I poured in ¾ cup of hot water, which I had brought to the boil and allowed to stand for a few minutes.
After steeping the blend for 8 minutes (the instructions called for steeping the mixture for 5-10 minutes), I added ¾ cup of warm milk. From the beginning, I suspected that ¾ cup of milk might overpower the tisane, but I stuck with the program, adding the milk and topping off the mixture with the suggested 1-2 teaspoons of honey, using the honey that came in the box. My first sip told me that I should have followed my intuition. The amount of milk called for was simply too much. I suspect ¼ cup would work much better.
Despite the misstep regarding the milk, I loved the synergy created by the blend’s ingredients – cacao, rose petal, chamomile, spearmint, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, and chipotle powder. The blend tasted particularly good with the French toast I made using freshly baked Swedish limpa bread, which was also seasoned with star anise. In my next post, I will report on the results of altering the original Xocolatl blend instructions – and perhaps even trying the blend with almond milk – and my introduction to Bird’s Eye Tea’s Honeybush Spice. Happy Thanksgiving!