Tea and Tea Cakes

Hot Tea Month is celebrated in January, and although the month is close to over, hot tea is a simple pleasure all year round. I often make a cup in mid-afternoon for a boost. Sometimes I make a little ceremony by getting out one of my favorites and make a pot just for me. I keep it warm on a little filigreed warmer that holds a tea light. I have lots of tea pots (too many) and use different ones for different tea. The Blue Willow pot is good for loose tea, as it has its own strainer.

All forms and flavors of tea reside in the cupboard, from loose black tea to my favorite tea bags: Harney & Sons Vanilla Comoro and Bigelow’s Constant Comment. My aunt introduced me to Constant Comment when I was a teenager, and I have loved it ever since. It’s a little more special when I make it in the pot that was hers – the chubby, round one with the tiny blue flowers. 

Black and green teas offer varying amounts of antioxidants and other health benefits, depending on the variety. And herb teas are another option. Maybe we can explore them once the herb garden comes to life again. 
Every time I make a cup or a pot, whether just for me or to share over conversation with a friend or loved one, I know I am repeating an ancient custom and there is something calming and reassuring in that. I always warm the pot while the kettle of water burbles and steams on its way to a boil. I use filtered water for the tea. Simply fill the pot with hot water from the kettle before it boils, and allow to sit for a few minutes. When the kettle begins to boil, empty the teapot, add tea and boiling water and steep for about 5 minutes. That water has to be boiling for the best flavor and clarity.

Tea Cakes

These are recognized by many different names: Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Snowballs, etc. Substitute pecans for the walnuts, if desired. This is an often used recipe around the holidays – so simple, easy, and fast. Makes around 3 dozen.

1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, plus more for rolling
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine confectioner’s sugar and flour. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually stir in flour mixture. Gently stir in chopped nuts. Mixture will appear powdery and dry. 
Roll into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. 
Bake for 10 minutes in a convection oven, 12 minutes in a standard oven. Remove, allow to cool on sheet until cool enough to handle. Place about ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl. Roll each cookie in sugar. Repeat when cookies are completely cool.