Chai-Spiced Shortbread Cookies

Chai ShortbreadAlthough the flavors here are rich and complex, the recipe is very easy to make. This recipe makes about 45 cookies.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds*
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
Leaves from 1 English Breakfast tea bag
1 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla together in a large bowl with a mixer until smooth. In another bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, ginger, fennel, cardamom, and tea. Add the flour mixture to butter mixture and beat on low speed until blended. Stir in chocolate chips by hand.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or if you don’t have parchment paper, lightly grease the pans. Scoop about 1 tablespoon of dough into a ball and space them about 1 inch apart on sheets, and then flatten slightly with a floured bottom of a glass. Bake until cookies are light golden on the undersides, about 15 to 18 minutes, switching pan positions halfway through baking. Once you have removed the cookies from the oven, transfer them to racks to cool.

*Grind in a clean coffee grinder or in a mortar. For tips on cleaning your coffee grinder, click here.

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Tea’s Impact

Boston Tea PartyI’ve recently been reading a series of books (for those curious, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon) and without giving away any plot lines the subject of the Boston Tea Party comes up. Now as a child, I had these lovely images of fine china cups and mini cucumber sandwiches being passed. I had a bit of rude awakening when I realized it involved dumping crates of tea into the Boston Harbour as a revolt in the years preceding the American Revolution. Still, even with this new knowledge, I like to think that those calling themselves the Sons of Liberty may have had a sandwich or two while rioting about.

This particular riot in fact was brought about over the tea tax and duty rate over English tea, transported by the East India Trading Company. Many felt that tea was a staple, a necessity of daily life, and the hardship over taxation, not to mention MANY other key factors (a little thing called taxation without representation, anyone?) brought about the boiling point that led to the eventual revolution. This isn’t the first time though that tea has changed and shaped a nation. Just look at the English Empire in general, and the aforementioned East India Trading Company. Countries and wars were fought over trade routes and the right to lay claim to acres upon acres of tea.

But how about a little fun with tea? Y’know, instead of war and bloodshed? Did you know that at the St. Louis World Trade Fair of 1904, a group of tea producers organized a special tea pavilion and offered cups of hot tea to all attendees. However, the hot summer weather prompted the man supervising the deserted booth to pour tea into glasses packed with ice cubes. Customers lined up to try the new invention – iced tea. Today, the U.S. guzzles almost 50-billion glasses of iced tea in a single year, which accounts for more than 80% of all tea consumed stateside.

So, whether you like your tea hot or cold, with a side of cucumber sandwiches or history, I think we can all agree that it tends to hit the spot. Hey, there wouldn’t be the cliché “you’re my cup of tea” if it wasn’t true!