Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Wild World in a Teacup

A nice cup of dandelion 'coffee' anyone?

How many times a day do you mindlessly reach for a PG tips style bog standard teabag?  Pretty regularly I reckon.  Don't get me wrong, I do like a 'normal' cuppa every now and then (Fairtrade of course!) but there are so many more different kinds of hot beverages out there to explore and enjoy.  Particular favourites of mine are Redbush (Rooibos) for a non caffeine alternative, Chai for a spicy black tea kick and there is nothing like a Lapsang Souchong (or bonfire tea as Phil sometimes calls it) on a stormy winters day.  I do also enjoy a green tea or a herbal tea here and there as the mood takes me.  I even believe that my particular desire for any given tea at any given time could be led by my body's need for a particular nutritional or emotional support.  A bit hippy you might think but why else would I fancy a valerian tea every now and then?  It smells bloody awful (although the taste is much better) so this powerful herb (also known commonly as 'All Heal') must have something going for it if I fancy it every now and then.  But I digress.....

A vast array of teas and coffees are out there
All I am saying is that I think it is a shame that many people don't explore what fabulous alternatives there are out there to drink.  Many different varieties are available in  supermarkets but to really get experimental there are specialists shops out there.  A particular favourite of ours is Dishotay in Penzance (  Here they have a large array of teas and coffees beautifully and seductively displayed like sweets in a jar.  What is good about buying from places like this is that you can buy as much or as little as you fancy so it is cheaper to experiment with things you've never tried before.  Dishotay is also a sit down tea shop so you can even work your way through the options whilst someone else makes the brews.

Dandelion Root
Thinking even more experimental, here is another alternative which is free; go pick your own tea or coffee ingredients.  When up in the wilds of Scotland we like travelling with a thermos of hot water in which to drop in a small bunch of pine needles.  It's absolutely delicious.  Or whilst up on the moors, how about picking gorse flowers for some herbal tea?  However, you really don't have to go that far to get ingredients. Whilst digging over our onion patch the other day I pulled up a beauty of a dandelion root.  Sometimes you have to look at weeds in a different way and here, instead of thinking of it as an annoying weed I thought 'hey how about some dandelion coffee?'.  We were cooking a roast that night anyway so after stripping off the leaves and cleaning the root up I finely chopped this 9" root and simply dry roasted it on a tray in the oven at the same time.  It took about 20 minutes before it was dark brown and quite hard roasted.  Then I roughly ground it up in a pestle and mortar and put it in a small jar to store.  Simply put about a teaspoon of the grinds per cup in a cafetiere (or use a sieve or teaball) and pour on boiling water and infuse for about 4 minutes (or to taste), add milk and sweeten if desired.  It is kind of like an earthy roasted coffee taste.  We only made about 4 cups out of this root but it was worth the small effort for the different unique taste of a free cup of dandelion 'coffee'.  Enjoy!

Just one final thing - please do make sure if you do get experimental that you only pick ingredients that you know are edible and if you are any doubt about what effect anything that you have foraged for will have on you, just don't do it!  Sorry just had to say that, although it is all pretty much common sense to be honest!

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