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Entries in how-to (17)


How to Correctly Brew a Cup of Tea

Want to know how to correctly brew a cup of tea for tea service? Martha Stewart has a couple of videos on how: Perfect Cup of Tea With Anton Edelmann and How to Brew a Cup of Tea.

Something I don't do, but will going forward, is to first pour hot boiling water into the pot and the teacups to warm them up. Throw out the water and pour hot water to be served into the teapot with loose leaf tea. 

Photo Credit:


Insider Tips on How to Buy Chocolate

Sharing some insider tips on how to buy chocolate from someone who used to work in a chocolate shop.

- To get the freshest chocolate, ask when they were made. An approach is to say something along the lines of "It smells delicious! What have you been making today?" Flatter, instead of just asking what's freshest.
- Not unlike tea, chocolate should be stored in a cool, dark place. The freezer is better than the refrigerator, but an air conditioned room is considered the best.
- Chocolate with nuts exposed, like bark, will stale much quicker than clusters, where the nuts are completely covered in chocolate.
- Don't be shy about asking for recommendations. If you like chocolate and pecans, ask for something in that combination. You may find a new favorite that way.


How to Froth Milk in a French Press

A great tip from the commenter Brian from the rooibos latte post. He froths milk using a French press instead of an electric milk frother. I tried it out and lo and behold, not only does it froth the milk, it does it beautifully. 

Pour the hot milk (filling no more than a third of the container) into the French press and just push and pull the plunger until the milk increases in volume, filling up the French press. 

It didn't take too much effort and frothed the hot milk in less than a minute. Thanks for the tip, Brian!


Rooibos Latte

I recently visited a coffee shop in the West Village that made a delicious chamomile latte and it gave me the idea for this latte. I've been making and drinking this almost every night. Rooibos doesn't have any caffeine so it's a great evening tea. It also has very little tannin, so no matter how long you steep it for, it'll never get bitter. 

Makes 2 cups 

1/2 cup water
4 teaspoons rooibos
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup milk (I use soy.)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
honey (optional) 

Electric milk frother (or use a French press to froth milk
Tall container (I used the glass from a French press.) or froth in the saucepan.

1. Boil water and take off heat. Steep rooibos for about 5 minutes. Add vanilla extract.
2. Heat milk in a saucepan & pour into a tall container. Whisk to create froth.
3. Pour rooibos, then milk into 2 mugs. Add honey as needed. Top with cinnamon. Enjoy!

More Beverages to Try: Matcha Hot Chocolate, Homemade Chai from Scratch, Fresh Fruit Tea


How to Get Results from a Complaint Call or Email

Today's post is written by my friend, Michele Perez, who has worked at three call centers in two countries. She shares her tips on how to get the best results when you call or email a complaint. (Thanks, Michele!)

First, Know What You Want
Before you pick up the phone or start an email, know exactly what you'd like as compensation for your complaint. Also know what you'd settle for, even if its just a "We're very sorry" letter from the company. If it's your first attempt, make a call instead of an email. You usually have better luck getting quick resolution via phone call. For example, if you want $20 credit on your cable bill for a week of a missing channel or service, then say that. If you just complain, the representative usually has a few options to compensate you. He or she may not be able to give you that much credit, and you may be offered a per diem credit specific to the missing service. You don't lose by asking. If, for example, you had a terrible experience on an airline flight and you just want to vent, then leave it up to the rep to offer something (or just an apology). Above all, be willing to negotiate.

Second, Know What You're Complaining About and Keep it Brief
This sounds obvious but you'd be surprised at how many complaints I've heard that start off with a missed book shipment (the actual problem) and involved a sick dog or car repair that's irrelevant to the complaint. Stay focused. Keep notes of dates, times, and names of people you've spoken to previously about this issue, and bring that up during your next call/email. Remember: A customer service rep has a daily target for time-on-call or number of emails to resolve. If you respect the rep's time, and give concise details, he or she is more likely to help you.

Third, Be Kind
In fact, before you call or start writing-- smile. Force yourself if you have to. It will come across in your message and will help you express yourself more positively. If you are irate, say you are feeling that way, and try to remain calm and use respectful language. Remind yourself: the individual you are speaking to is unlikely the one who messed up whatever it is you're complaining about and no one enjoys being yelled at. Co-workers and I have been brought to tears more than once by aggressive and verbally abusive customers.

Finally, When Necessary and Only as a Last Resort, Make a Threat (Politely)
If you've tried unsatisfactorily to resolve a missing credit from car rental, or mix-up at a hotel or restaurant, or some error on a cell phone bill, make it very clear that if this is not resolved satisfactorily, you will leave the company. Be prepared to actually do this if you say it. Mention that you will tell friends and family not to do business with them, and that (if possible) you will leave a bad review online.

Unless your life was threatened, or you are an influential person (e.g., celebrity), never do this during an initial communication. If you do, you may find that your business will not be missed and the rep is more than happy to leave you displeased.

The Bottom Line
What a rep can give you mostly depends on what the problem is AND how important you are as a customer.