Fall 2008 Tea and Food Classes

This fall we are teaching tea and food classes in NYC as well as closer to home. We will also be speaking and presenting a Tea Trekker slide show at the annual Smith College Chrysanthemum Show.

August 18th Monday / 10:30 – 2pm

Massachusetts Farmers Market Week – State Tomato Judging Contest,
Boston City Hall Plaza Farmers’ Market.

Bob Heiss will once again volunteer his taste-buds for a delicious sampling of tomatoes of all sizes and stripes submitted by the best growers in the Commonwealth. Proclamation by the Governor and Presentation of the Winners is announced at 12:30pm.

September 7th, Sunday  / 2 – 4 pm

The Six Great Classes of Tea
Institute of Culinary Education ( ICE ), NYC

Our class will highlight the unique attributes of each of the major classes of tea – green, white, yellow, oolong, black and puerh. Emphasis will be on explaining the relationship between the class of tea and the impact on flavor from terroir, tea bush varietals, cultivation and harvesting techniques used in a tea garden, and leaf manufacture. This class will be jam-packed with information and will be a terrific opportunity to taste some spectacular teas. Please pass the word, and hopefully we will see you there !

September 22 to October 20th Mondays  / 6:30- 8:30 pm

Exploring the World of Specialty Food
Greenfield Community College

Each Monday we will teach a ‘palate challenging ‘ class at Greenfield Community College. Students will learn to distinguish flavor ‘like a pro’ by tasting and evaluating distinctive, artisan examples of familiar pantry items such as chiles, chocolate, chutney, coffee, olive oil, tea, and vinegar.

This is a great opportunity for all those who have decided to eat out less and get back into the kitchen and cook. No matter if you are an avid cook or just beginning, you will become acquainted with the great taste of artisan ingredients and condiments and see how easy it is to add delicious flavor to your dishes.
October 31st Friday / 7pm

Opening Presentation for the Fall Chrysanthemum Show
at Smith College, Seelye Hall, Room 106

Camellia Sinensis and Chrysanthemum ( Cha and Bai Hua ):
A Delight for the Eyes and Palate

This will be a fun and educational evening. We will deliver the opening presentation for Smith College’s annual Fall Chrysanthemum Show. Join us for a slideshow of our photographs taken on location in tea regions of China, Japan and Taiwan while we discuss the origins of leaf tea, the intricacies of tea manufacture and the cultures of tea drinking around the world.

After the presentation, you will be welcomed to preview the splendor of the chrysanthemum show while sipping some delicious tea.


TeaTrekker.com – our new website

Those who know us know that we have fallen down the rabbit hole into tea nirvana and have yet to return.

What is she saying, you ask ?

Just that we are mad for tea and all of the accoutrements of tea culture that accompany tea to the global tea table.

Accordingly, so as not to overwhelm our present website www.CooksShopHere.com with tea information, we have just launched our tea-only website, www.TeaTrekker.com. The evocative artwork featured at the top of this post is our logo/graphic that you will see when you visit the site. It was created for us by our friend and visionary Chinese artist      Q Holmes.

Tea trekker will allow us to delve into the fascinating world of tea to our hearts content and provide in-depth coverage and conversation about tea and tea culture like no one else. And we hope to reach all of the tea enthusiasts out there and bring them to our global tea table.

In addition to selling hand-selected, traditionally-made artisan tea at very reasonal prices, we have some great plans to develop this website into something unique for tea enthusiasts. We see this website as an opportunity to further continue the conversation we began in our book, The Story of Tea.

We believe that a global perspective on tea is missing from much of the tea information being bandied about the internet. And good, solid educational information, as well. Accordingly, www.TeaTrekker.com  will bring a global voice to tea and tea culture by featuring input and thoughts on tea from many different members of the tea community. We will post articles and stories contributed by tea colleagues all over the world, including other American tea vendors with a story to tell.

So, please tell all of your tea loving friends to bookmark our website and visit us often as new information will be posted regularly. Tea trekker is a baby now, but it will grow and change fast, just like tea bushes do.

And, for our customers who only order tea, we are happily able to offer you lower shipping costs on www.TeaTrekker.com.

Same tea, same reliable, quick service… just cheaper.

Wow…… we are not hearing much of that these days, are we ?

Chinese Long Beans with Sour Cherries

I admit it – I read too many cookbooks and store way too much food information in the dusty compartments of my poor old brain. But, as a result, one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to take part of one recipe and combine it with part of another, creating something that neither author had in mind, but something that we end up finding quite delicious most of the time.

For example, take this recipe for Chinese Long Beans with Sour Cherries. This recipe was created when I began to think about what would make a terrific green bean dish to take to a 4th of July picnic. I wanted to avoid bringing the ‘9th pasta salad’ or ‘6th chicken salad’ or another such redundant type of dish.

But green beans were bursting out of their crates at our local farm stand and I dearly wanted to find something clever to do with them. So I remembered a recipe for Haricots Verts Montmorency ( green beans with cherries ) in the book From A Breton Garden by Josephine Araldo and Robert Reynolds. It was different ( as I remembered ) and had promise and I kept it in mind, but I kept looking.

Then I discovered a recipe for Melt-In-Your Mouth Green Beans with Turkish Pepper in Paula Wolfert’s book, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. This recipe intrigued me – it called for cooking green beans ( cut ) in olive oil and a bit of water for hours in a slow cooker. She said …..’these beans will melt in your mouth, yet oddly they aren’t particularly soft to the touch.’ I liked the idea of beans inbued with a tender richness from the olive oil in this process of long, slow cooking.

That was it – there was my recipe.  Josephine’s inspired dish of green beans with fresh cherries made with beans cooked and spiced Paula’s way. Even so, I made two changes to Paula’s recipe – I omitted the tomato she called for and I added toasted, chopped pecans to the finished dish. And I used Marash pepper ( or substitite Aleppo pepper ) from our store, Cooks Shop Here, to add the mild heat and peppery zip.

I made the dish, brought it to the party and everyone loved it. And we loved the leftovers – in fact, the dish got better the longer it sat.

But wait, I changed the recipe again. Yesterday I discovered bunches of just-delivered Chinese long beans at my local Asian grocers. I have seen these extraordinary beans ( which come by their name honestly ) growing on trellises in China ( and perhaps have eaten them as well in many various green bean dishes.) But I have never had an opportunity to purchase them and cook them. I quickly grabbed a bunch and then on the drive home wondered how I would prepare them.

Then it hit me – earlier in the morning we purchased a box of locally grown sour cherries ( Baladin variety ) at our farmers market from our beloved Clarkdale Fruit Farm. Bingo – I would come up with an Asian inspired version of green beans with fresh sour cherries.

So here is how my final recipe turned out.

Chinese Long Beans with Sour Cherries

serves 6

This recipe is best served at room temperature and after the beans have been refrigerated overnight. Sauce right before serving.

1 & 1/2 pounds Chinese long beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon Marash or Aleppo pepper

1 teaspoon sugar


lemon juice

1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

for the sauce:

2 tablespoons each: soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, orange marmalade

2 teaspoons each: sesame oil, grated fresh ginger

1/2 pound pitted sour cherries

1. Wash the beans and place them in a crock pot with all of the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice. Cover the beans with a piece of crumbled parchment paper and set the lid on.

2. Cook on low for 5-7 hours on high for 3 & 1/2 hours. Check the progress every hour and stir the beans gently to keep all of them moist and in contact with the oil and the water.

3. When the beans are cooked, remove them from the cooker and drain the excess liquid. Place the beans in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Let the beans come back to room temperature before serving.

3. To finish the dish make the sauce. In a small mixing bowl, add the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, marmalade, sesame oil, rice vinegar and fresh ginger. Whisk the ingredients well. Add the sauce to the cherries and toss carefully. Add the sauce to the beans and adjust the salt and lemon juice if necessary.

4. Toast the pecans over medium heat until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the nuts. Remove the nuts from the heat and chop finely. Add the nuts to the beans, put in a pretty bowl and serve.

Fresh Mint Sorbet

As much as I love high-fat, calorie-dense ice cream, summertime makes me crave a refreshing bowl of cool, frosty sorbet. The light, playful, icy texture is perfect on a sweltering summer evening. Sorbet is often relegated to the role of ‘palate refresher’ in a dinner consisting of a parade of taste-bud challenging courses. And in this role it is always welcome, but oh, what a great other future sorbet has !

Sorbet is right at home as the star of the dessert course. On one of my recent visits to our local farmers market, I spied bunches of fresh sprearmint and lemon balm neatly placed among the offerings from one of our favorite vendors. I quickly  snatched one of each, thinking how perfect they would be chopped and added to an impromptu hot and spicy Asian noodle dish.

Once home, I began to work the tantalizing aroma of these herbs through my mental taste buds and I started to envision them not in an Asian noodle dish but in batch of savory sorbet instead. I decided to use Bob’s recipe for White tea sorbet from The Story of Tea. as the base for my experiment.  My thinking was thus: since the flavor of the sorbet would be derived from an infusion of fresh herbs, this would be just a simple switch of one infused leaf for another. And should therefore cause no difference to the ratio of water to sugar called for in his recipe.

Knowing that sugar dulls flavor and freezing does more of the same, I thought it best to use copious amounts of each of my fresh herbs. And underscore the flavor with a squeeze of fresh ( please, not bottled ! ) lemon or lime juice.

I was right – the sorbet came out jazzed and flavorful and intriguingly different. And it was an elegant, frosty white color that added to its allure.

Now I am geared up to see how far I can go with this base recipe and interesting combinations of savory flavors. Next up….English thyme and black peppercorn sorbet accompanied by local fresh berries for weekend dinner guests.

Here is my recipe for anyone who want to savor this tasty treat.

French Mint & Lemon Balm Sorbet                                                         makes about 1 quart

3 & 1/2 cups water

2 cups sugar

2 cups densely packed herbs

freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon ( or 1 lime )

1. Select the best leaves from the herb bundles and rinse them well.

2. In a 2 qt saucepan bring the water to a boil then remove from the heat.

3. Add the fresh herbs and cover the pan. Infuse the herbs for 5 minutes. Drain the mixture through a strainer into another pan and discard the herbs. Bring the infusion back to a boil and add the sugar. Reduce the heat and stir just until the sugar melts and the syrup is clear, about 2 minutes.

4. Move the pan from the burner and let it cool for 35 minutes. Add the lemon juice. Pour the syrup into a pitcher or bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours (or longer if you can). The longer it chills, the better the texture will be.

5. Pour the syrup into an ice-cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and freeze for several hours so that it may ‘harden off.’

6. When ready to serve, remove the sorbet from the freezer and let it sit for 10 minutes or until it softens slightly. The perfect dish of sorbet is soft but not melting in the dish, fine grained and smooooooth. Serve quickly in chilled bowls once it begins to soften.