What spices come to mind when you think of the fall? I tend to think about cinnamon, ginger and cloves – things that you find in pumpkin pie – as well as apples, oranges and cranberries, even though those are fruits and not spices. I love mixing and matching these flavors in my fall baking, and Trader Joe’s managed to put most of them together in their seasonal Harvest Blend Herbal Tea. The caffeine free tea really captures the spice and flavor of fall, which means it might very well be the perfect thing to warm up with on a fall night. I confess that I say that about a lot of seasonally spiced teas and coffees, but you can tell this one fits the season perfectly with just one whiff of a fresh cup. The base of this tea is chamomile, and it also has cinnamon, ginger, hibiscus, chicory, orange peel and apples in the mix. The cinnamon is probably the strongest flavor, but no one single element dominates the tea. They all blend together surprisingly well – and the combination is so addictive that you’ll find you’ve gone through a few cups without even knowing it.
This tea is also a great base for spiced tea lattes, but if you are going to add milk, be sure to brew the tea at double or triple strength so it keeps its potency!
Pumpkin spice drinks are huge in coffee shops this time of year, and coffee is a flavor that goes very well with pumpkin. Tea, however, can be an even better match for those distinctive pumpkin pie spices and it is a shame that you won’t see more pumpkin spice tea drinks on those menu boards. Fortunately, they are easy to make at home as long as you have some tea, milk and pumpkin spice syrup on hand.
You can buy a bottle of Pumpkin Spice Syrup from companies like Torani and keep them at home so that you can easily add a hint of pumpkin spice to any coffee and tea drinks during the holidays. I prefer to make my own syrup so that I know it is all natural and contains just the right blend of spices that I like. I start my drinks with a spicy, flavorful tea. Rooibus teas often work very well, as chai chai teas, though they give you a very strong spice baseline to build upon. I sweeten the tea with my pumpkin spice syrup, top it with steamed milk and serve.
Starbucks recently lost a lawsuit over a dark roast coffee line, known as Charbucks, sold by a small New Hampshire coffee roaster. The Charbucks line of products essentially parody some of Starbucks more popular blends and are described (rather sarcastically) as containing “strong ‘dark’ notes that West Coast coffee drinkers like.” The East coast market has been traditional dominated by very light and medium roast coffees, a fact that is supported by the popularity of “blond” and other light roast brews out there, and the popularity of Starbucks makes it a frequent choice for just about any coffee-related jokes.
The courts said that Charbucks products – and Charbucks is not the name of the roaster, just of some of their coffees – would not be confused with actual Starbucks products. A phone survey that was used as evidence in the case found that “the number one association of the name ‘Charbucks’ in the minds of consumers is with the brand ‘Starbucks’” and that 39.5 percent of participants thought of “Starbucks” or “coffee” when they heard the word “Charbucks.” But the survey also found that less than 5% of people surveyed would expect to find a Charbucks product in a Starbucks location – a fact that the court used to support its ruling that consumers would most likely not confuse Charbucks packaged coffee with any product sold at a Starbucks store.
This Sweet Tea Infuser isn’t made for making classic, Southern sweet tea. It gets its name from the fact that it looks just like those sweet lollipops that you used to enjoy as a kid – and perhaps as an adult, too! Unlike a real lollipop, however, this infuser is meant to be used upside down, with the head of the “candy” acting as the tea infuser. It twists open to reveal a generously sized compartment that you can stuff with your favorite loose leave teas, then twists tightly shut to trap them inside as you dunk the infuser into your mug. The stick end of the “candy” is easy to stir with and also makes removal easy as taking candy from a baby (sorry, couldn’t resist).
The infuser is made with silicone and nontoxic plastic, so it is lightweight and durable. It measures 3.5-inches long, so it can be used with both traditional teacups and deep mugs. You’ll have to add your own sugar after infusing if you want to use it to make your own batch of sweet tea, though.