Japan. Tea in Kyoto

Kyoto is one of those places where I get what I can only describe as a fizzy feeling of excitement, sheer happiness bubbling up for no apparent reason. It’s the texture of the linen door curtains I gently move to the side with my hand, the brightest pop of yellow of the beautifully fan-shaped gingko leaves, all the shades of fire coloring the Japanese maples, the sound of water trickling into a stone basin, the soft rustling of a paper-paneled sliding door, the perfume-y smell of the cedar wood soaking tub, tatami mats under my feet. Four years had gone by since last time. This time, tea was at the top of my list. Here’s what happened.

November tea and mindfulness

This time of year, we might get caught up in a great deal of stress and anxiety instead of enjoying ourselves and our loved ones and we might need a grounding inspirational moment to find balance again. I hope this collection of quotes and some of my most recent tea photography can help you ground yourself in your most stressful moments and inspire you to make a cup of tea for yourself or to share with someone else, because after all a mindful tea moment can be one of the most effective self-care strategies.

A Japanese dessert and snack tasting with tea pairing in San Francisco

Have you ever heard the quote “where there’s tea, there’s hope”? I took the liberty of rewriting that into “where there’s excellent tea, there’s the tea squirrel” because wherever you can find top notch tea, you can be sure that place is on my radar and you might find me there to enjoy it. So naturally I had to visit Oyatsuya, a pop-up Japanese dessert and snack tasting with tea pairings in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco.

Pairing Swedish cinnamon knots with tea

I don’t know very much about Sweden, the only thing I know is that their pastries are my new obsession. One kind in particular, Swedish cinnamon knots, also known as kanelbullar. In Sweden sweet treats are a very important part of fika, the Swedish coffee break, which is more of a lifestyle, actually and alternatively can include tea too! Join me on the blog as I pair these delicious pastries with 4 different teas!

Ochazuke: a delicious Japanese tea soup

You can’t see me but I’m doing a little happy dance over here, because my trip to Japan is fast approaching!! I’ve never been to Japan in the wintertime and I’m super excited to visit again one of my favorite countries in the world. Cold weather means hot tea and comforting dishes and I will definitely be on the lookout for the best ochazuke, a Japanese tea and rice soup, basically the epitome of comfort food (but healthy). Usually, genmaicha and hojicha are the teas of choice but sencha and matcha can also be used. Today I’m testing out a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine.

Tartine with oolong poached quince and pecorino

I love the fall for two reasons. The light, which is a photographer’s dream, and the produce. Dates, passion fruit, chestnuts and quince … I mean, have you ever tried fresh Californian dates? I’m obsessed. My recent trip to Madrid, Spain inspired this combination of quince and cheese on sourdough (which is all the rage there thanks to great artisan bakeries, I felt very at home). In Spain membrillo (quince paste) is a popular accompaniment for Manchego sheep milk cheese. I didn’t have Manchego on hand but Pecorino, Italian sheep milk cheese. The sharpness of the cheese goes really well with the sweetness and tartness of quince. I added a strip-style oolong from Korea to the mix (because... I’m the Tea Squirrel, remember?). Its pronounced roasted, slightly smoky but still buttery notes are a great addition to this savory tartine. Fall cravings? Satisfied! Oh, I almost forgot! Scroll down to catch a glimpse of my new tea pet.

How sustainable is your tea time?

Picture me sitting with a cup of tea in my hand, inhaling the fragrant steam rising from my small tasting cup. It feels so good to pause and enjoy. Sometimes I let my mind wander and imagine the journey of those tea leaves and all the energy and resources that went into making it. It’s impossible not to feel grateful for it, don’t you think? One thought leads to another, some questions surface. Are we using those energy and resources wisely or are we wasting them? Are we being kind to our planet? Find out how you can make your tea time more sustainable!

Poached eggs with matcha salt

The original recipe for matcha poached eggs is attributed to the author of the cookbook The Breakaway Cook and founder of Breakaway Matcha, Eric Gower. I came across it after falling down an internet rabbit hole and being the curious squirrel that I am, I had to try it out and see what all the hype is about.

Korean steamed eggs with puerh tea and miso

I love infusing tea in savory dishes and the flavor combination of ripe puerh and mushrooms is a no-brainer. Earthy, woodsy and deep, bold, savory notes work perfectly together. Does this remind you of fall? While the rest of the northern hemisphere is enjoying the last weeks of summer, here in San Francisco we can’t wait for Fogust (fog+August) and its gray skies and chilly temperatures to be over. The good news is, from September on, we will have our fair share of summer too! Yay! So let me snuggle up with these delicious Korean steamed eggs while I bid adieu to Fogust and get ready for San Francisco summer!

Iced Cocoa Nib Chai Tea Latte

Have you ever noticed that it’s almost impossible to get an unsweetened (or even lightly sweetened) chai latte in coffee shops, tea shops, cafes or bakeries? Chai lattes are almost always made from a chai concentrate, a fancy name for chai flavored syrup, which means you can’t have an unsweetened chai latte. I don’t enjoy sweetened drinks and this is one of those things that I find extremely frustrating, second only to fine dining restaurants serving awful tea. I understand that most establishments have constraints in the preparation of drinks, but there must be a solution. I was craving a good unsweetened iced chai tea latte and my only option was to make it myself from scratch.

Iced matcha rose tea latte

Let’s face it, most of us are more or less openly obsessed with matcha. Personally, I’ve learned to embrace my matcha obsession and even though my go-to is traditionally whisked, I’m always on the lookout for good flavor combinations with matcha and especially for matcha-based beverages that are naturally sweet.

My New York City tea adventures

This year I celebrated my birthday in New York City. I had not been in NYC in 4 years and back then “tea tourism” was not as high on my list of priorities as it is now. After a long weekend of celebrations and sightseeing, I carved out some time for tea-related things. NYC has a high concentration of tea spots, so it was not easy to prioritize. Luckily, I had sent out a message to my NYC tea friends and fellow tea bloggers beforehand and I was looking forward to meeting them in person and to their tea recommendations.