Entertaining: A Winter Tea Party

Posted on Jan 4 by SEASONS Magazine

 

It's said that "a cup of tea makes everything better," and sipping that cup with a few nibbles, among the trees with friends, makes it even more enjoyable. Photo by Leela Cyd.

It’s said that “a cup of tea makes everything better,” and sipping that cup with a few nibbles, among the trees with friends, makes it even more enjoyable. Photo by Leela Cyd.

Written & photographed by Leela Cyd

When the sun sets earlier, cozy blankets are unearthed from our closets and flip flops are stowed away in favor of fuzzy slippers, it’s time to host an easy, impromptu tea gathering.

One can put together a pretty tray of snacks, both homemade (a favorite family cookie recipe perhaps) and store-bought (stop at C’est Cheese, 825 Santa Barbara St., for nibbles such as olives, Marcona almonds and a decadent wedge). Hosting a light in-between-meal can provide all of the fun and connection with friends without the stress of a full-blown cooking event.

Sipping a cup of tea with a few nibbles, among the trees with friends, makes it even more enjoyable. Photo by Leela Cyd.

Sipping a cup of tea with a few nibbles, among the trees with friends, makes it even more enjoyable. Photo by Leela Cyd.

And that’s what it’s really about, the time spent with our nearest and dearest—a pot of tea is the most exquisite catalyst for these special shared moments.

What tea might you serve? An assortment of beautiful sachets from Santa Barbara-based company Steep Echo keeps it local and delicious. Kimberly Harris and Kyle Branum, husband and wife founders, create all the teas from a variety of olive leaves grown on their property in the mountains overlooking our fair city. Each tea is blended with organic herbs and aromatics to create a different mood and sentiment. Plus the entire line is herbal, so you can keep pot after pot coming to your table, any time of day.

Kimberly Harris, co-founder of Steep Echo tea, along with her husband Kyle Branum, trims dried olive leaves that she'll later blend to create the tea her guests enjoy. Photo by Leela Cyd.

Kimberly Harris, co-founder of Steep Echo tea, along with her husband Kyle Branum, trims dried olive leaves that she’ll later blend to create the tea her guests enjoy. Photo by Leela Cyd.

Flavor options and pairing ideas include:

Repose: The aromas of rose petals, passionflower and chamomile hint at a visit through the heady souks of Istanbul or Athens. The flavors of Turkey and Greece work well with this tea; think dripping sweet baklava, pistachio puddings, poached pumpkin with strained yogurt, cheese pastries and profiteroles covered in whipped cream and chocolate sauce. The subtle sweetness of rose tempers the bold and beautiful use of spice and sugar.

Ascent: A rich, addictive blend of vanilla and cinnamon, Ascent is a favorite to cure mid-afternoon slump, especially when paired with fresh fruits and organic nuts such as a crisp green apple, sweet tangerines, Ojai pixies, naval oranges, toasted almonds, freshly shelled walnuts and raw hazelnuts.

Tend: Bold, fruity and almost tropical in sentiment, Tend is nice to serve with the piquant flavors of Mexican food. How about a big bowl of jalapeno-spiked salsa atop a glorious plate of rajas tacos? The floral-feeling tea becomes the perfect compliment to balance spice and the acidity of lime. Also try this one iced, served Arnold Palmer style mixed with lemonade.

Tea and nibbles are a delightful way to celebrate winter. Photo by Leela Cyd.

Tea and nibbles are a delightful way to celebrate winter. Photo by Leela Cyd.

Bloom: With its touch of savory notes, a bit of rosemary and bright peppermint, Bloom and a rich, decadent chocolate brownie (Elizabeth Colling’s at Merci to Go, 1025 Coast Village Rd., are the best in town!) are the perfect pairing, the bright clear tastes complementing the hedonist dessert. A dollop of whipped cream would not hurt this indulgent duo one bit!

Hush: The most relaxing of the bunch—with a mellow flavor of ginger and lemon myrtle—this blend would be perfect for a late-night snack party after an evening of playing board games and watching the sunset, where little lemony shortbread cookies are presented on a tray to happily dip into the tasty brew.

Find Steep Echo at Il Fustino in Santa Barbara Public Market (38 W. Victoria St.) or online at steepecho.com.

This story was originally published in the winter 2016/17 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

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