Tea Party Fun!

This weekend was a fun experience I got to share with many great friends and family members. Okay this may sound silly, but I had a tea party! Now there were tea cups and a white tablecloth but no hats or pinkies up in the air during this party. It was an afternoon affair with lots of ladies who had accepted an invitation from me to come to a tea party and also help me out with some recipes I was going to try out in an attempt to pair food and tea in a new way to me. Always trying to keep the creative juices flowing I happily had a crowd overflowing at my dining room table, but everyone seemed comfortable and ready to enjoy. 
Now I do know some things about tea but I called upon Jessica Wismer, tea consultant from Steeped Tea to come and talk about tea and also share her interest and love of tea. Jessica, sent me a list of teas that I could choose 2 of and then she would select a third to serve for the afternoon. I had done this a few weeks ahead of the party which helped me to figure out what I was going to serve. 
My goal was to match food to the flavours and ingredients of the different teas. The three teas that we had were Peaches and Cream, Cosmopolitan and Creme Caramello. The profiles for each were as follows:
Cosmopolitan (Fruit Tea) - Strawberry and raspberry mingle together to release your inner Carrie Bradshaw.  Ingredients: Strawberry pieces, raspberry pieces, apple pieces, hibiscus blossoms, rosehip, elderberries, orange peel, marigold flowers, cornflower blossoms, and natural flavours.
Creme Carmello (Rooibos Tea) - Like eating a caramel bar, one helping is not enough! One of our most popular teas.  Ingredients: luxury rooibos, caramel pieces, calendula petals, natural flavours.
Peaches & Cream (White Tea) - Hints of peach, mango and pineapple. The aroma will fill the air.  Ingredients: White Pai Mu Tan tea, lily blossom, sunflower petals, mango pieces, pineapples pieces, papaya pieces and natural flavouring.
With these details I was ready to explore my kitchen and recipe repertoire to create exciting and different recipes that would change the tea experience. Now don’t get me wrong I adore finger sandwiches and scones with tea but i wanted to shake things up a bit. I will let you in on a little secret, my friend Andrea, offered to bring her delicious strawberry and chocolate scones so I of course accepted and they were a huge hit and went with a couple of the teas as well.
Because the teas we were going to enjoy had fruit ingredients in them as well as other big flavours it was natural for me to bring out those flavours in the food as well. Just like pairing food and wine with the flavour notes in the wine, tea can be paired with food in a similar way (or at least I was hoping!) 
Jessica brought a long a variety of loose leaf teas that had a wonderfully intoxicating aroma and you could almost taste them just with a simple whiff in each bag. And looking through each bag you saw an array of real ingredients in with the tea leaves themselves. One in particular that sticks out in my mind was the Chocolate Walnut Tea that has big pieces of walnuts and chocolate so of course that would enhance the flavour and make it more pronounced. It was such a lovely afternoon learning about how to steep tea, the different kinds of tea and even some health benefits to enjoying a cup of tea. The bonus of having Jessica there with the teas was that as part of Steeped Tea she brings along a catalogue of teas and accessories that you can order. It was not mandatory for anyone to purchase anything and I really needed their input on how the food matched and for everyone to enjoy the afternoon. Happily because of the variety and the delicious teas and Jessica’s great information many of us purchased some teas to enjoy later with other friends and family at their own homes. 
I was happy that I seemed to have received positive reviews from the food and tea pairings as they seemed to have worked not just in my mind but in real life! I love having friends that are willing to be my guinea pigs for tasting the unexpected. So I have included probably the two top recipes from the afternoon here but if you want to enjoy all the recipes you can check out my blog emilyrichardsoncooking.blogspot.ca for the full menu! For more information about Steeped Tea visit www.steepedtea.com
Caramel Peach Pavesini Mini Tiramisu
I enjoyed a similar version of this tiramisu on a trip to Parma to learn more about the Italian company Barilla. Famous for their delicious pasta, they also make incredible delicious biscuits such as these Pavesini snack cookies in the recipe. I used fresh Ontario peaches and toffee bits to match the flavours in the Creme Caramello and Peaches and Cream teas.
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup (150 mL) granulated sugar 
1 tub (475 g) mascarpone cheese
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
4 egg whites
1 box pavesini biscuits (about 6 of the 8 packages in the box)
1/2 cup (125 mL) espresso or strong coffee
1 tbsp (15 mL) coffee liqueur or rum
1 fresh ripe but firm peach, pitted and finely chopped
1/4 cup (60 mL) toffee bits
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Using a handheld electric mixer, beat egg yolks with half of the sugar until thickened and light in colour. Beat in mascarpone cheese and vanilla until smooth; set aside.
In another bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form; beat in remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold into mascarpone mixture and cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
In a shallow bowl or dish, combine espresso and liqueur. Dip the pavesini, quickly into espresso and liqueur mixture and place 4 along the sides of 16 small glasses. Spoon some of the mascarpone mixture into glasses about half way. Sprinkle with chopped peach and toffee bits. Spoon remaining mascarpone mixture over top until filled. Dust top with cocoa powder and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.
Makes 16 servings.
Tip: I used small 1/2 cup (125 mL) clear glasses to see the cookies along the side. I also  tried them in short champagne flutes and it also worked well. 
You can find Pavesini cookies at Italian grocers and some specialty food stores.
Chocolate Strawberry Scones
Here is Andrea’s recipe for those tasty scones that people adored. She told me that its a recipe she’s been making for a long time that she copied out of a book years ago and everyone agreed she has perfected it! They also went really well with the Creme Caramello and Cosmopolitan teas.
3 cups (750 mL) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp (2 mL) baking soda
2 1/2 tbsp (37 mL) baking powder
3/4 tsp (4 mL) kosher salt
3/4 cup (175 mL) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) hulled and quartered strawberries
3/4 cup (175 mL) chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) buttermilk
1 tsp (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60 mL) 35% whipping cream 
3 tbsp (45 mL) coarse or granulated sugar 
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Using your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture until it is thoroughly incorporated and has the consistency of fine bread crumbs. 
Stir in the strawberries and chocolate until they are evenly distributed throughout.
Make a well in the centre of the dry mixture and pour the buttermilk and vanilla into the well. Stir together until flour mixture is wet (but do not knead).
Turn the mixture onto a floured surface and gather the dough together. Gently pat the dough to make a rectangle about 1 1/2 inches (3.5 cm) thick. 
Using a dough or cookie cutter, cut  the scones into wedges about 4 inches (10 cm) in size, and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. 
Gather the remaining dough together lightly to cut out more scones being careful not to knead the dough.
Topping: Brush the top of each scone liberally with cream and then sprinkle with sugar.
Bake in centre of 425 F (220 C) oven for about 12 minutes or until lightly browned.       
Makes 10 to 12 scones.


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