The perfect cuppa

I always thought brewing tea was an art, but it turns out it's more of a science.

That's according to European scientists who've identified the chemical properties of varying teas and who say knowing those properties is essential to perfecting your cup.

This fascinating article from NPR's The Salt runs through their findings and includes an explanation of the difference between black and green teas, the effect of cup thickness, how long to brew for the most caffeine, ideal water temperature and the role of milk. I'll let you read that all in detail at the source. 

Photo by Kathryn McGrane/Flickr

Photo by Kathryn McGrane/Flickr

Here are my favorite ways to brew tea for one or two. What are yours?



I boil water then pour it over a teabag in a mug or teacup

I let that steep for about three minutes, remove the teabag, squeeze it lightly over the mug, then discard

Then I add a quick pour of milk and a teaspoon of sugar. This is my daily morning drink


I boil water then let it cool a bit

I pour some honey into the bottom of a mug or teacup

Then I pour the slightly cooled water over the honey then stir

I drop in a teabag and steep it for a minute or so. I like my green tea light


I put a little loose leaf tea into a mesh strainer

Pour slightly cooled boiled water slowly over the leaves until the mug or teacup is full

Usually I don't steep the tea to prevent release of bitter tannins

Sometimes I add a touch of honey, then stir and sip


PS: I love our lemon-mint iced tea. No boiling water needed! Also, have you tried our masala chai recipe?

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"Annihilation" by Jeff Vandermeer & carnitas

Annihilation is a psychological thriller with a biological twist. Like pork carnitas, it simmers slowly with fantastic results.

"Annihilation" by Jeff Vandermeer & carnitas |

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer came to me highly recommended and it did not disappoint. Annihilation follows the twelfth expedition to cross into Area X, a wilderness walled off from the rest of the world after an unknown ‘event.’ The expedition is a team of four women: a biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist, who have been sent in to try and break the secrets beyond the wall.

Throughout the novel, Vandermeer masterfully lays out eerie oddities like breadcrumbs, slowly but surely luring the reader down a path that takes her deeper into the unknowns of Area X. Like the best psychological thrillers, the unease mounts as each new reveal brings more questions than answers, introduces more opportunities for the mission to fail than to succeed.

The biologist is our narrator, and it quickly becomes apparent that she knows little more about Area X and its mysteries than the reader. Yet, the biologist relates each abnormal encounter within Area X in a methodical, almost sterile, way. This incongruity between tone and content creates a simmering disquiet that weaves through every page, and creates an unnerving novel that is a delight to read.

Although Annihilation can stand on its own as a novella, Annihilation is book one of three in the Southern Reach trilogy.  For those who have a phobia of reading unfinished trilogies — never fear! All three books, AnnihilationAuthority, and Acceptance are already out.

"Annihilation" by Jeff Vandermeer & carnitas |

For Annihilation, I chose to make carnitas — slow simmered seasoned pork that is finished off with a quick pan fry to give it a crisp. Like Annihilation, carnitas slowly simmesr to create a most satisfying end product.



  • 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder (or 2 1/2 pounds bone-in)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and ribs removed, chopped
  • 1 orange, cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil


Rinse and dry the pork shoulder. Salt and pepper liberally. Mix the oregano and the cumin with olive oil and rub all over pork. Place the pork in a slow cooker and top with the onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Squeeze over the juice of the orange and add the two halves. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for four hours.

Once the meat is tender, remove from slow cooker and let cool slightly before pulling apart with a fork. In a large sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil over high heat. Press the carnitas into the oil and fry until crusty on one side. Serve.

To make tacos, fork carnitas into a corn tortillas and top with salsa verde, diced onions, and cilantro. 

Recipe via Food Network

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