Tea with Alexis Siemons
Herbal Infusions: A. Lavender; B. Spearmint; C. Lemon Verbena; D. Chamomile; E. Jasmine
With temperatures dropping and snow in the forecast, we often find ourselves reaching for the kettle and a warm cup of tea. These days, we're especially partial to some new favorites-- the custom blends that just arrived from our neighbors at the Random Tea Room. To get the most out of our mugs, we turned to Philadelphia-based tea expert Alexis Siemons of teaspoons & petals. During our chat, she shared how the ritual of steeping creates a calm moment and a chance to restore, reflect, and refresh before a busy day or as a mid-afternoon break. She also offered ideas for flavoring your favorite brew with herbs picked and dried from the garden.
terrain: This time of year, it seems we're all looking for restorative ways to recharge and unwind. Do you have a favorite ritual for doing just that?
Alexis: When the holiday frenzy settles, I seek a calmer state of mind with my morning tea ritual. This meditative yet energizing routine varies only slightly depending on the tea type (water temperature and steeping time change with every tea). The winter world is perfectly still during the early morning hours, and I find it to be the best time to huddle by the stove and steep.
The rushing cold water makes its way into the kettle and then onto the warming flames of the stove. Before the kettle begins to sing, I add my tea leaves to the infuser and observe the beauty, color and aroma of the dry leaf. Immersing myself in everything tea, I linger by the teapot after I carefully cover the leaves with hot water. The leaves often dance about in the infuser and paint the water delicate shades of jade green, amber, or golden yellow (Tip: Resist the temptation to wander away for a morning errand or email check-in as the tea steeps). Settling into a chair by my kitchen table, I slowly sip the tea and ease into my day.
terrain: What varieties of tea do you find the most calming or restorative? The most energizing?
Alexis: I reach for a high mountain oolong grown in the San Lin Shi Mountains of Taiwan that brews to reveal the loveliest jade liquor. Full-bodied and smooth, the floral and honeysuckle notes send me to a restorative spring state of mind that brightens my senses. My other go-to steep, a Japanese green sencha, offers a more grassy and vegetal taste that is sincerely refreshing. I opt for dried blossoms and herbs from nearby spice shops, or my garden, for a truly calming, caffeine-free treat. The art of blending your own herbal elixir is just as delightful as the taste.
terrain: We love the idea of a cup of tea made with dried plants and herbs from our own garden. Do you have any favorite flowers or herbs for steeping?
Alexis: I feel very fortunate to nurture a little patch of green in the City of Brotherly Love. My petite urban garden is bursting with herbs and blossoms that make their way into my teacup, either fresh or dried. I prefer the sweetness of spearmint, bright citrus taste of lemon verbena, honey and slightly fruity chamomile, and the piney, floral notes of lavender. Every now and then I'll make my way to nearby spice shops to pick up rose petals and jasmine blossoms for the ultimate floral sip.
Try each herb or flower separately in a single brew, blend favorites together, or add a few dashes to your favorite tea leaf for a creative touch. A classic breakfast black tea blend is a go-to choice because it is often steeped in boiling water, which is also the recommended water temperature to draw flavors out of most herbs. Bold black tea flavors will stand up to and balance a variety of herbs.
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Delightful. I love the approach Alexis takes to tea -- she makes it into an experience. I feel transported on this gray day! (Dee-lovely photo, too.) Thanks for the moment of leaf-calm.
It was such a treat to chat about my tea rituals, favorite steeps & homemade herbal creations. Thanks again!