For me, the holidays are a time when I put aside my green and herbal teas and turn to more hearty drinks such as chai, hot apple cider and homemade hot chocolate. Recently, as I was making applesauce with apples right from my family’s apple orchard, I got the idea to throw in a few bags of chai tea…which I was drinking simultaneously. What a delicious fall treat it turned out to be!
4 lbs of apples (MacIntosh work well, or any other cooking apple), cored, cut into small cubes, and peeled if preferred
1-1 1/2 cups of apple juice/cider/nectar (more if necessary)
honey to one’s likeness (1/4-1/2 cup)
3-5 chai tea bags
squirt of 1 lemon and its zest
2-3 cinnamon sticks
Cook apples, apple juice, honey, lemon zest and juice, and cinnamon sticks in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the chai tea bags into the apple mixture, immersing in the liquid, being careful not to break them open. Cook until fruit is very tender and broken down, about 45 minutes, adding liquid periodically so that the apples do not get dry, and the tea bags still have some liquid in which to infuse. Once the mixture is quite tender, discard the tea bags and cinnamon stick. Mash apples with a potato masher, or if you prefer a smoother applesauce, pass through a medium-mesh sieve or a food mill fitted with fine disk into a bowl. Enjoy warm or chill before serving!
Let’s face it, Costa Rica is known for its coffee. And as I have discovered amidst my weekly trips to the grocery store, not known for its teas…at least the kind of teas that I love and appreciate…you know, a fine Green from China, a Rooibos from Vietnam, a Darjeeling from India…good, old fashioned, loose-leaf tea that warms the body and soul.
But today I found a gem, in the land of coffee. A TEA SHOP. Being the tea lover I am, I was ecstatic.
Tea Land was the gem I found amongst the outskirts of the city of San José. The brightly colored walls were welcoming, the staff friendly, and the tea? A golden morsel of deliciousness on my choosy taste buds.
Rooibos Tropical, Blueberry Yogurt, Masala Chai – those are the flavors that warmed my friends and my soul that day. We will for sure be going back to this hidden gem in the land of coffee. And if you, a tea drinker, ever find yourself lost in the land of coffee, be sure and look for this hidden gem as well.
“Look at the view from my office!” Abelle exclaimed as he pointed out towards the lush rolling mountains high in central Costa Rica.
Abelle lives on a farm at the end of a high road in central Costa Rica with his wife, Ellie, three grown children, two dogs, one cat, a handful of trout, and plenty of cows.
The farm is his office.
There, in this magical wonderland, where the sun casts warmth and nourisment upon it’s land, alchemy is created.
Ellie and Abelle have been making a living off their farm since before time. Their land is chock full of blackberry bushes, apple tress, passion fruit vines, lettuce, herbs, kale, chard, tomatoes, and the list goes on. Also smack in the center of their hill facing the sun, a solar dehydrator, to ensure none of their prolific fresh produce goes to waste.
But what roams the land, is the most important part – cows, “plenty of cows,” says Abelle. The cows are milked twice a day and Ellie and Abelle make four rounds of fresh cheese daily, to age for months in their cheese cellar, and eventually to be sold to gourmet restaurants in the capital city of San José. Small slices of artisan cheese and whole grain crackers was our appetizer for lunch that day.
Aside from how they make their living, I was so lucky enough to be invited to their farm for a lovely, home-cooked, homegrown meal. We started out the day by catching the trout – rainbow trout, which is prolific in these parts of Costa Rica. Then we ventured over to the garden to grab some lettuce, kale, cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs, stopping to crack open a passion fruit and grab a blackberry or two.
Upon arriving inside their modest home, hands chock full of garden edibles, we prepared a simple, nutritious meal with olive oil, fresh lemons, sea salt, fresh herbs, salad fixings, trout, and couscous. We sat down to enjoy it, valuing the hands that grew it, prepared it, and now those that were eating it.
It was a slow afternoon, we didn’t do much. It was one so rich in community, simplicity, food and friends. But in my mind, there’s nothing quite like it.