Muddled Mint Lemonade Iced Tea

A combination of freshly squeezed lemons, mint leaves, and of course, tea makes for a very refreshing summer drink. To brighten up the flavors of a basic Arnold Palmer (half lemonade, half iced tea), I muddled fresh mint leaves (basil is another great option) using a muddler.

I usually have a pitcher of cold brewed black tea and lemon juice in the fridge so making this drink is super quick. As for the kind of tea, any basic black tea like Earl Grey, English Breakfast, or Ceylon would work.

MINT LEMONADE ICED TEA
Makes 1 cup

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 medium lemons)
1/2 cup black tea
1 tablespoons sugar
1/4 lemon cut into 2 wedges
6-8 fresh mint leaves
ice

DIRECTIONS
Put lemon wedges, sugar, and mint leaves into a thick walled cup and muddle until leaves are lightly crushed.

Stir in lemon juice and black tea and top with ice.

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Posted on June 28, 2015 .

Giveaway // Teavana "The Art of Iced Tea"

You'll be drinking iced tea 24/7 all summer with this gift set from Teavana. Inside the box is the 32oz PerfecTea Tea Maker, two pretty tea canisters, two bags of herbal teas, and a good-sized bag of rock sugar.

The beauty of the PerfecTea Tea Maker is the tea strainer at the bottom. Once steeped, place it on top of a pitcher filled with ice and watch the tea pour out, leaving behind the loose tea leaves. 

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This giveaway is only open to US residents. Good luck!

NOTE: Winner will be contacted by email and comments/follows will be verified. If winner does not respond within three days of being contacted, another winner be chosen. Good luck!

//Giveaway prize courtesy of Teavana.//

Posted on June 8, 2015 .

Grand Cru Tea Tasting Class at Palais Des Thés

About a year and a half ago, French tea company Palais Des Thés opened up their first New York City shop on the Upper West Side. Since then, a second location in Soho location has been added which offers tea tasting classes. (In Paris, there's Palais Des Thes' The Tea School with an extensive tea program.)

There are three classes to choose from ranging from $50 - $80 per person. I took the Grand Cru Tasting where I would be able to try their rarest and finest teas. My intimate hour-long class (no more than four people are in each class) was guided by Palais Des Thés' tea expert Aurélie. 

When I arrived at the Soho shop, I was greeted by Aurélie and the friendly staff at Palais who directed me to a specially designed tea tasting table where tasting cups sets were laid out. We would be tasting four different Grand Cru teas. 

In a tea tasting, you go from lightest to darkest so we started with Silver Needles, a white tea from China that was brewed for about 10 minutes.

With each tasting, we took whiffs of the dry tea and compared it to the wet tea leaves after it had been steeped and then tasted the tea. Loud slurping is encouraged to get the full essence of the tea. It was interesting how it varied so much from how it smelled to how it tasted.

While waiting for teas to brew, Aurélie answered any questions I had and I learned a ton about tea and the art of a tea tasting. 

The tea I enjoyed the most was the Tawaramine Shincha from Japan which was toasty and had a lovely mouthfeel. (By the way, in this class, feel free to throw out words like "mouthfeel" and "vegetal" as much as you want, like I did.)

The hour flew by and I was high on tea. It was a treat to taste their best teas of the season and learn the proper way to enjoy them.

INFO: Grand Cru Tasting Class at Palais Des Thés | 156 Prince Street | New York, NY 10012 | 646.513.4369

//Tea tasting class courtesy of Palais Des Thés. All content and opinions expressed here are my own. //

Posted on June 4, 2015 .

Afternoon Tea Review // The Lowell

SETTING: ★★★★★
The Pembroke Room is on the second floor of The Lowell hotel and it's my FAVORITE place to have afternoon tea in New York City. Tucked away, this elegant room is the perfect setting for tea service. The best part is that the room is only open for afternoon tea between 3PM - 6PM.

SERVICE: 
Knowledgable, friendly, and attentive, the service is excellent, as always.

TEA & TEA SELECTION: 
Nicely curated tea list ranging from black tea blends to herbal infusions. 

This was my second cousin Judy's very first afternoon tea and she was just as delighted as I was when the three-tiered tray arrived at our table. 

Two of the three courses are on the three-tiered tray. The second course of scones is brought out separately, all toasty and warm, after the savories are eaten.

SAVORIES: 
The bottom tray holds the savories -- five tea sandwiches per person. Each one was quite tasty and fresh. No stale bread anywhere in sight.

SCONES: 
A basket of warm scones are brought out and you can choose from two scone selections. I always pick one of each. Scones are served with Devonshire cream, lemon curd, and two types of fruit preserves.

SWEETS: 
The top two trays hold the sweets course -- five sweets for each person. The selection is good, but a little too plain. I would love to see something a little more exciting/innovative.

OVERALL: 
The very best afternoon tea in New York City. A must.

INFO: The Pembroke Room at The Lowell | 28 East 63rd Street | New York, NY 10065 | 212.838.1400
AFTERNOON TEA HOURS: Daily from 3PM - 6PM
COST: Classic Pembroke Tea, $52 per person

Afternoon Tea Review // Mandarin Oriental New York

I'm back at the Mandarin Oriental New York on the 35th floor at the Lobby Lounge for afternoon tea. I went with Georgia and Sara and we were taking turns to take pictures of the sweeping views of Central Park South and Central Park. The view alone is worth a visit. 

SETTING: ★★★★☆
The Lobby Lounge is spacious with tables spaced far enough apart that it feels intimate. It doesn't feel stuffy and strikes a balance between casual and luxury with its comfortable seating and lack of tablecloths -- although I do prefer tablecloths. (See pics of the interior space and my review from 2012.)

Getting a table by the windows are a bit tough and never guaranteed, but make sure you ask for one when making a reservation -- you may luck out.

SERVICE: 
Service is usually excellent (friendly and efficient), but I'm going to knock off a star since we had a lot of trouble towards the end trying to find a server to get the check. It seemed like everyone disappeared. 

To make a reservation, you have to call the Lobby Lounge directly which can be a pain since they never seem to pick up the phone.

TEA & TEA SELECTION: 
There are two pages of tea to select from. There isn't a huge variety, but the selection is excellent. I had a bit of a hard time trying to choose one since so many looked tempting. Tea comes in a white teapot with a paper filter with loose tea. I had the Mandarin Oolong which had citrus notes.

SCONES: ★★★★★
They used to serve savories and sweets on a three-tiered tray with warm scones served in a basket but they now have each course come out separately. 

This is the first time I've experienced this, but they serve scones first, instead of savories. I thought it was odd and inquired and was told that's how they have always done it. 

The scones are excellent. Warm and in perfect portion size. Devonshire cream and homemade jams are on the table to be shared but I didn't mind the sharing since they had enough on the table for three people.

SAVORIES: 
After the scones plates were taken away, the savories arrived. On each plate were four mini savories. Each one was better than the next. Fresh and delicious.

SWEETS: 
For the last course, sweets, they were presented on a circular shaped three-tiered tray. Gorgeous. Some of the mini sweets were excellent, but a some were just eh in terms of flavor and by being overly sweet. I loved the variety though.

OVERALL: 
The afternoon tea service at Mandarin Oriental is number four spot on my list of afternoon teas in NYC and with its view and tasty savories and scones, it remains at the top of the list.

INFO: Mandarin Oriental New York | 80 Columbus Circle at 60th Street | New York, NY 10023 | 212.805.8800
AFTERNOON TEA HOURS: Daily from 2:30PM - 4:30PM
COST: $48 | Menu