new products

The Republic of Tea: plantain coconut raw green bush tea

Raw Green Bush Tea Plantain Coconut Tea drinkers know that this ancient beverage is not only fragrant, delicious and warming, but it's also healthy and beneficial to the diet.

I'm a coffee drinker most mornings.  But because of the antioxidant-rich properties of tea, I'm interested in the health benefits of tea-drinking.

Recently, The Republic of Tea sent me a sample of their new raw green bush teas - red teas made with the South African wonder herb Rooibos, pronounced roy-boss

Rooibos was originally prepared and enjoyed by local African Bushmen, who fermented and sundried the leaves of this wild mountain plant.

The Republic of Tea uses modern production
 processes - lightly steaming just harvested plants below 115 degrees F - to halt oxidation and the green version of this red tea is the base for their new line of Raw Green Bush Teas.

The line has five flavors - Organic Raw Green, Plantain Coconut, Black Currant Cardamom, Mango Chili, and Orange Red Carrot.

We sampled Plantain Coconut - two of our Island favorite flavors.  One of the ways I love tea is milky, perhaps spiced with chai, and sweetened with honey. But I know studies show milk reduces the benefits of tea's antioxidants, which can reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease and stroke as well as protect against Alzheimer's disease. 

So, I was delighted to find this low tannin green tea tastes great without milk or sugar. 

Even though I steeped it for a strong brew, there was no bitterness and the tea had a slight natural sweetness. The tea's bouquet was perfumed and aromatic. 

A complementary benefit of tea-drinking is taking the moment to slow down, to sip and savor, engaging all the senses.  Plantain coconut raw green bush tea is a great brew to indulge yourself with a little exotic flavor.

Raw green bush teas are also rich in iron, magnesium, potassium, fluoride, zinc, manganese, calcium and Vitamin C. For the diet conscious, they are caffeine and calorie free.

The teas come in a canister with 36 unbleached tea bags and retail for $10 U.S.

Hamilton Beach Custom Grinder hands free helper

Hamilton Beach Custom Grinder I never need more than a few cups of coffee ground, but if I do, the new Hamilton Beach Custom Grinder will do the trick.

Fifteen cups with hands free! I've hit the mother lode.

My father has an old-fashioned crank grinder, one that was used in the 20s and 30s. I'm not sure of the provenance, but maybe it was my grandfather's or more likely my stepmom's.

I like the look of the old-time grinder, the simplicity of it too. I may have to hunt one down for my use. It seems like the perfect tool for my single cup household.

But in the meantime, I like the efficiency of this little electric workhorse. I have two other grinders and I love them, but I have to stay put when they're in use. You have to hold the cap to activate the grinder action.

In this age of unceasing motion and multitasking, the coffee grinder requiring constant attention is a drawback. We need those extra minutes to increase productivity - or so we're lead to believe.

I like the fact that I can adjust the grind to my coffee maker - drip, espresso, perk. And the retractable cord keeps counters clutter-free. Too bad there isn't a nifty electronic mechanism to order everything else on the kitchen counter.

The Hamilton Beach Custom Grinder retails for $19.99.


The Republic of Tea serves dessert in a teacup

Coconut Cocoa Dessert Tea I've heard there are people who don't like dessert.  I am not one of them.

The thought of ending a meal without something sweet makes me sad.  But then I remind myself that dark chocolate is chock full of anti-oxidants and no more blues.

When I heard The Republic of Tea was introducing a new dessert tea - specifically chocolate - I was ready to give it a taste test.

The Republic's Minister of Enlightenment was kind enough to send me the new Coconut Cocoa Dessert Tea and a recipe for Chocolate Coconut Iced Latte.

The low caffeine dessert tea is an herbal blend of roasted carob, caramel malted barley, roasted chicory, dates, coconut flavor, cocoa powder and chocolate flavor. 

Since my only experience with barley is in soup and my acquaintance with chicory is limited to its use as a coffee substitute, I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened the canister. 

A little research demonstrated that both barley and chicory are good, good, good for you as a brew. Barley is reported to aid digestion and ease congestion and bronchitis symptoms while chicory is said to cleanse the blood and improve the health of the liver.

Chocolate and coconut added to the mix could only be a bonus.

Opening the canister, I got a whiff of the wonderful pleasures to come.  The aromas of coconut and coconut were rich and dark, like a delicious cordial.

I put the kettle on and got the teapot ready.  My mother and I watched the kettle impatiently.  After rinsing the pot, we poured the hot water over two tea bags and waited for the tea to steep sufficiently.

The tea's color was a deep, nut brown and the aroma was lovely and tropical. I was happy just smelling my cup. 

Normally, I take milk and sugar in my tea, but since The Republic promised this tea was naturally sweet (and therefore a low calorie treat), I took my first indulgence without the usual suspects.  It is naturally sweet and could certainly be consumed without any addition.

But I am a creature of habit and nothing says tea cozy like a milky-sweet cup. I added my sweet addictions and finished the last drop.

My mother is a tea purist. She takes her tea with a teaspoon of sugar, no more, and no lemon, no milk. Nothing fancy for her. Black tea or green tea keeps it simple.  She found the coconut overwhelming. It was not her cup of tea.

Of course, I loved it. Coconut Cocoa Dessert Tea lends itself to lingering after dinner and I'm pretty sure it would pair quite nicely with a mango mousse or pumpkin cheesecake.

Coconut Cocoa Dessert Tea is packaged in a recyclable tin containing 36 unbleached, round tea bags free of unnecessary strings, tags and staples. Available now, the dessert tea has a suggested retail price of $9.50.

Also available from The Republic of Tea is Double Dark Chocolate Mate, an organic roasted yerba mate from Brazil generously dusted with all-natural dark organic cocoa powder. Available now, the dessert tea has a suggested retail price of $15 for a tin containing 36 unbleached round tea bags.

Chocolate Coconut Iced Latte

Yields one serving.


2 tea bags, Coconut Cocoa Dessert Tea

6 ounces filtered water, heated to boiling

3 ounces milk or milk substitute

Sweetener, if preferred

Brew two tea bags in 6 ounces of filtered water for five minutes. Remove tea bags and allow tea to cool.

Add 3 ounces of milk or milk substitute. Blend milk and tea. Serve in a tall glass over crushed ice. Sweeten as desired.

Chic and seamless L'Atelier du Vin accessories

Chic Lady Pink opens your favorite bottle

Featuring a vibrant pink color and unique curvaceous design, this innovative series of wine openers from L'Atelier du Vin features a patent Swing System handle to make uncorking bottles chic and seamless.

Also available in black,dark blue and pale pink for $53 each.

L'Atelier du Vin, European innovator of wine accessories, now offers its unique collection of wine tools and educational resources in the United States.

Specially created by an in-house design team, each product showcases a unique artistry and an elevated craftsmanship, enhancing enjoyment and experience through ambience. L'Atelier du Vin celebrates the ceremony of wine tasting  from vine to cellar to glass,

Based in Paris, L’Atelier du Vin is currently distributed in 23 countries and 57 retailers throughout Europe and Asia.  Products are now available in the U.S. in select stores in New York, San Francisco and Miami; including the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), the Conran Shop (NYC), Neimann Marcus (NYC), Gump’s (San Francisco), Red Envelope (San Francisco), and Luminaire (Miami) to name a few.

The ultimate gourmet marshmallow: Plush Puffs

Caramel swirl Plush Puffs dunked in so-good chocolate fondue

If your notion of marshmallows is old school bags of semi-soft sort of bland Campfires, then we have some serious good news for you.

Plush Puffs are plump all natural marshmallow pillows packed with flavor from Vanilla Bean to Caramel Swirl (my personal favorite) to Peppi Mint and Chocolate Chipetta. 

The plush bags of gourmet marshmallows retail for $6 for 16-18 i -inch cubes of gooey deliciousness.

Eat them straight out of the bag plain, toasted, dunked in chocolate fondue, or afloat in your hot chocolate.

Need more inspiration? Plush Puffs' website has recipes.

Moja Mix: make your own muesli giveaway

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.

Winnie the Pooh has the right idea. Breakfast should be exciting - not blah.

The creators of Moja Mix have set up a website where you can chase away the breakfast blues by customizing your own special breakfast mix guaranteed to put a smile on your mug.

The site is easy to navigate and offers thousands of possibilities. Choose from endless varieties of grains, nuts, and dried fruits or pick a pre-mixed cereal. 

Average cost is $9-10 for a 12-ounce custom mix.

Spiegelau decanters dress up any event

Decanter Make  any outdoor fete stylish with Spiegelau’s beautiful Siena and Riva decanters.

These visually stunning decanters from Spiegelau, whose strong tradition of craftsmanship and quality dates back to their start in a Bavarian forest factory in 1521, will lend a touch of class to any celebration.

And in this economy, it’s important to spend money wisely not only on products that will stand the test of time, but also will prove versatile.

At just under $100 each, these decanters might be designed with wine in mind, but their shapes also lend them to serving carafes of your favorite cocktail.

Perfect for summer sangria too!

Summer Sangria

4 oranges: 2 juiced, 2 halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brandy
1 bottle dry red wine, chilled
2 lemons, thinly sliced
2 cups seltzer or club soda
Chilled ice cubes, for serving

In a large pitcher, combine orange juice, sugar, and brandy; stir well to dissolve sugar. Add wine, orange slices, lemon slices, and seltzer; stir to combine. Fill glasses with ice before serving. Serves 8. (Martha Stewart)

Black Soul, Jeweled Heart : Soul of The Sea Kilauea Black Solar Sea Salt from Hawaii Kai


Fellow foodie Maura Badji. Read more of her musings on other subjects.

Black Soul, Jeweled Heart         


I admit I had never tried black sea salt before encountering the pearl-like grains of Soul of The Sea’s Kilauea Black glistening in its 12-ounce jar.    One of the few black sea salts available, Soul of the The Sea's hand-crafted version of this exotic seasoning is made with mineral rich hand-harvested Molokai sea salt and activated charcoal—a proven anti-toxin/digestive aid.   


Soul of The Sea has also received the prestigious Star Diamond Award for Outstanding Quality from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, the only gourmet salt ever to do so.


Intrigued by the ebony salt’s dramatic luster and rich aroma, I noted that Kilauea Black has been prized by international chefs as a finishing salt to enhance vegetables, meats, fish, and poultry, and as a complement to the most sophisticated recipes.   


It seemed fitting that such a jewel-like seasoning was routinely used as a finishing touch— a flourish to complete a culinary picture. 


Yet, the rich aroma of the solar salt hinted that it could readily be combined with other seasonings and spices in the body of recipes, both simple and complex.   I found that in both cases a little bit of Kilauea Black goes a long way to enhance flavors.   On grilled salmon and vegetables, a finishing sprinkle added just the needed salty top note to the slight sweetness of fish, Vidalia onions, and match-sticked zucchini.  


While perusing Hawaii Kai’s website,  I found an Asian-inspired eggplant and ground pork dish, which proved that these black crystals can meld beautifully with other elements, yet still impart a distinctive, complex flavor.   I played with the recipe, included below; it can easily be further tweaked to suit different palates, for instance tofu can be substituted for the pork, and other Asian vegetables may be added. 

Spicy Eggplant and Ground Pork with Black Sea Salt


1 tbsp. canola/olive oil blend
.5 lb. (one-half) ground pork
1 lb. diced eggplant (Chinese eggplant works best)
1 tbsp. tamari sauce
1 tsp. Black Sea Salt plus .5 tsp for finishing garnish
2 tsp. black bean paste with chili
1 tsp finely chopped garlic

1 tsp finely chopped ginger

1 tsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp raw sugar
.5 cup (one-half) vegetable broth
2 tbsp. sesame oil
.25 cup (one-quarter) chopped green onion for garnish


Heat large wok and add 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
Add eggplant and all remaining ingredients except sesame seed oil & garnishes
Cover wok, bring to a boil and simmer until eggplant is tender
Add sesame seed oil and toss to combine
Garnish with green onions and  finish with sprinkle .5 tsp of black sea salt

Serve over rice or soba noodles.

Yields two servings


Hawaii Kai’s Soul of The Sea salts and other products are available online at and at many gourmet food stores.   These distinctive salts are available in a rainbow of other flavors, including Haleakala Red (with purified and refined Red Alaea clay), Papohaku White (the basis for other Soul of the Sea varietals),

and Hanalei Green (with certified bamboo-leaf extract). 



Maura Alia Badji is a writer, poet, teacher and mother who lives and works in the Seven Cities of South-Eastern Virginia.


Let them eat Fancy Foods

Bella cucina The global economy may be uncertain, but people undeniably need to eat. 

If the turnout at the Fancy Food Show that ended June 30th is any indication, retailers are responding to consumers' desire to eat well - even if it means they're doing more cooking and entertaining at home. 

Last year, according to the show organizers, specialty food accounted for 15.9 percent of all retail food sales, up to $48 billion, an 8.4 percent increase in annual sales. 

While new product production declined last year, there was a significant increase in products made to satisfy cravings.  Chocolate and confectionary products, desserts, ice cream and alcoholic beverage rollouts all grew significantly, show organizers reported.

With 250,000 products representing 81 countries, there was far too much to sample and see in three short days.

The emphasis seemed to be on artisanal products - small batch, hand crafted products running the gamut  from pastas, olive oils, cheeses, and dry cured meats to honey, chocolates and  confections to dry rubs and spices.

From small domestic producers came products as diverse as O Olive Oils citrus based organic oils - blood orange and Meyer lemon - and Edwards Virginia Hams Surryano dry cured ham, a domestic alternative to Serrano and Prosciutto to award-winning John Kelly Chocolates Truffle Fudge Bites - Dark Chocolate with French Grey Sea Salt, which was a sublime melt in your mouthmix of sweet and salty.  

The Italian and Spanish purveyors offered a dizzying selection of cheeses, cured meats. olive oils and vinegars. 

Leonardi, noted for its fine Modena Balsamic vinegars since 1871, introduced a novelty sour-sweet condiment Balsamo Oro, unique for its flakes of gold alimentary leaves. 

Fancy Food Show a feast for food industry

My feet felt like ground beef yesterday after a day roaming the crowded aisles of the Fancy Food Show. 

Did I wear practical shoes? Of course not! 

Would one walk the food equivalent of Piazza San Marco in Keds?  Not with all those gloriously well-dressed Italian men on hand to demonstrate their  country's fantastic cheeses, pastas, cured meats, olive oils, balasmic vinegars, mushrooms, rice, etc.

Did I mention there seems to be an inordinately large population of attractive people associated with the preparation and purveying of fancy food? 

Food is a great aphrodisaics, so maybe it was something I ate.

At any rate, the Fancy Food Show really should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. From savory to sweet, there were tastes, textures and flavors for all palates. I was delighted to speak with representatives from locations as diverse as the Southern United States to South Africa.  I sampled spice blends, premier chocolates, dry cured hams, gelati, wines, olives, finishing butters, olive oils - the list is endless. 

The Fancy Food Show is for the trade, a place for vendors to exhibit their best products, to educate about their offerings and to sell.  For attendees, it's a huge opportunity to learn about what's hot and what's new, but also to become reacquainted with familiar food products. 

I'm always amazed at the range and quality of something as seemingly simple as say pasta.  Crafting quality food products is never quite as uncomplicated as we novices imagine.

I had one lovely love affair after another (with food, with food - wink, wink).

Watch for upcoming posts about new tastes, flavors and textures from around the culinary world.

Read more here...