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Spice & Tea Merchants: Spices, Blends, Teas, and Gifts

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We welcome all comments, questions, and suggestions you may have on our products. Please feel free to contact us via any of the avenues below:

If there’s a specific store you’re trying to contact, click here to view our store locations.

Web order questions:

For general inquiries, warehouse or product questions, please call our Corporate Office at: (616) 848-7760.

For franchise opportunities call (616) 848-7760, or e-mail:

Spice & Tea Merchants Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 130
Saugatuck, MI 49453

Himalayan Pink Salt Slabs

Posted 08/31/2016

Ready to add some drama and beauty to your tableside food presentation and enhance the flavor of your dishes? Try using Himalayan Pink Salt Slabs which are harvested from the ancient sea salt deposits in the Salt Range of Pakistan. Crystallized for more than 500 million years and covered by volcanic lava which protected the salt from pollution and fully explaining why Himalayan Pink Salt is the purest. Both flavorful and beautiful, these Himalayan Salt Slabs are an exciting new way to cook and serve with salt!

These slabs are both dense and efficiently conduct heat which is why the slab retains the heat so well and seasons food evenly. Heat your slab, plate or brick to high temperatures and sear thinly sliced meats, vegetables, fish, seafood, eggs and other quick-cooking foods. You can also chill it for use in serving sushi, appetizers, cheese, fresh fruit, cold meats and desserts. Think of the endless possibilities!

Here are 20 benefits of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt (

1.       Contains 80+ minerals and elements
2.       Helps control water levels in the body
3.       Helps balance electrolytes
4.       Promotes stable PH levels
5.       Boosts brain health
6.       Helps regulate blood sugar
7.       Anti-aging
8.       Boosts energy
9.       Promotes increased absorption of nutrients
10.   Aids vascular health
11.   Supports respiratory function
12.   Reduces risk of sinus problems
13.   Reduces cramping
14.   Promotes healthy bones
15.   Promotes healthy sleep
16.   Supports libido
17.   Boosts circulation
18.   Promotes kidney and gall bladder health
19.   Increase hydration
20.   Aids metabolism

SaltWorks, one of the largest distributors of salt blocks, suggests way for heating, cleaning and care as well as chilling.





Did you know that salt slabs can be used in the oven, on the grill or on a range making them convenient for nearly anyone

  • It’s recommended to heat the slab in three, 10-15 minute stages: room temperature to low (0-200), low to medium (200-350) and medium to high (350-550). TDrizzle cooking oil on slab or over food
  • Sear steak, scallops, shrimp, fish, etc until it reaches preferred internal temperature
  • The salt slab will remain hot for a minimum of 30 minutes once it’s been removed from its heat source, so be careful not to burn yourself!



When you’re adding marinades to whatever you’re cooking on the salt, it can create quite the mess to clean up, which is why it’s so important to scrape excess food off the slab immediately following use. Allowing it to cool will make it easier to scrub clean. Once cleaned, wipe it off with a damp cloth. Allow the slab to dry for a minimum of 24 hours before using it again. Keep in mind that salt is a natural anti-microbial so cleaning them with cleaning products or soaps may cause damage. You can store your salt slab in a dry place.


For those who intend to use the Himalayan Salt Slab for making or preparing dishes at room temperature, cooling or frozen make sure to place the slab in a refrigerator for at least an hour to lower the internal temperature slowly. If you’re preparing foods that require colder temperatures, you can place the slab into the freezer for two additional hours.

Try chilling or freezing for:

  1. cheese
  2. sorbet/ice cream
  3. sushi
  4. steak/tuna tartar
  5. chilled appetizers
  6. desserts

Note:Since Himalayan Pink Salt Slabs are natural and are a product from the salt range in Pakistan, it’s important to remember that not every slab has the same unique color and inclusions which leads to different temperature and pressure thresholds.

 For recipes using your salt slab, visit:

Picture Source:



Spice Merchants Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte

Posted 08/27/2016

This creamy iced Matcha Green Tea Latte lightly sweetened with vanilla almond milk and a hint of vanilla extract makes this a healthier version of deliciousness. 

There are so many reasons to incorporate this mega superfood into your daily health routine.

Here are TEN amazing benefits of MATCHA:

1.    high in antioxidants

2.    increases energy level

3.    enhances mood

4.    improves skin

5.    boosts immune system

6.    lowers cholesterol

7.    stimulates metabolism

8.    detoxifies

9.    boosts memory and concentration

10.  helps prevent cancer

This Matcha recipe is made with vanilla almond milk, raspberry match (we also carry regular Matcha and peach Matcha), a drizzle of honey and just a splash of vanilla extract. Choose from Tahitian, Madagascar and Mexican vanilla extract available for purchase in our store or online.

One thing we recommend is to make sure that you completely blend the Matcha to prevent clumps in your latte. You won't need a blender to mix the ingredients, but we do recommend picking up a Matcha whisk and bowl to make blending and mixing easier. We also sell these products for your convenience.

Matcha green tea is both refreshing and energizing. It acts as an anti-inflammatory, it's incredibly high in antioxidants, boosts metabolism and boosts memory concentration. 

Start sipping on this mega superfood, super tasty iced Matcha green tea latte.

 5 minutes

 1 serving


  • 12 ounces sweetened or unsweetend vanilla almond milk (also feel free to use other desired milks as substitutes)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of Spice Merchants Matcha Green Tea powder
  • 2 teaspoons honey (add additional for desired taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (choose from Madagascar, Mexican or Tahitan)


  • place all ingredients in a blender (we recommend using the Matcha bowl and wisk)
  • blend on medium speed until all ingredients are mixed and the Matcha powder is dissolved
  • taste and add more honey is desired
  • pour over ice



Note: Feel free to double or triple this recipe to store additional Matcha Green Tea in fridge for later enjoyment.

Making a Better Burger

Posted 08/21/2016


The burger is an iconic American food, and we Americans eat about 50 billion annually. That’s a lot of burgers! Though, is there a way to improve this classic, so we’re eating quality ones at home? Absolutely! Here are some tips for making a better burger.

The Patty
The most critical element of any good burger is the beef patty. As such, the freshness and quality of the beef is paramount. If you have access to a quality butcher, ask if they’ll freshly grind the meat for you. Ground chuck is preferred, as it usually has a ratio of 80% meat to 20% fat – making for a juicy burger without being excessively fatty.

When forming the patty, the less you handle the meat, the tenderer it’ll be – overworking the meat just makes it tough. Another recommendation is to put an indentation in the center – roughly the size of your thumb. This causes the burger to stay flat while cooking, rather than forming a dome in the middle.

During cooking, don’t squish the patties, as this only drives out the juices. Use your spatula for flipping, not compressing. Speaking of flipping, feel free to flip as often as you’d like, the idea that you can “over-flip” a burger is just a myth.

Here’s a quick temperature guide for your burgers:
120F: Rare | 130F: Medium-Rare | 140F: Medium | 150F: Medium-Well | 160F: Well Done

The Seasoning
If you’re using quality beef, then you should be using quality seasonings to bring your burger to its full potential! Be sure to season after making the patties, and only minutes before being placed on the grill. If you season too early the salt will break down proteins, which draws out moisture and creates an undesirable texture. Below are five seasonings Spice & Tea Merchants offers for your perfect burger!

Butcher’s Rub – A traditional blend with herbal and peppery flavors
Coffee BBQ – Coffee tenderizes meat but cooks out, leaving a sweet but complex BBQ flavor
Korean BBQ – A spicy teriyaki profile, with sesame notes
Raspberry Chipotle – Slightly smoky, a bit spicy, and has a sweet raspberry twist
Saugatuck Steak – Paprika based with a peppery profile and hint of Worcheshire

The above should get you started, but is by no means an exhaustive list. You can click here to view all of our blends – check them out and experiment with something outside the box!

Filed under Grilling | Burgers |

Tea Cocktails

Posted 07/22/2016


Summer in Michigan is a beautiful sight! Though, our Michigan evenings can be rather muggy. A favored remedy for this is a tall glass of iced tea, and Spice & Tea Merchants carries a vast selection for making just that! Teas like Black Currant, Blood Orange Smoothie, and Pink Rose Lemonade are just a few favorites.

However, if you want to take it to the next level, try turning your ordinary iced tea into a memorable cocktail! Check out the recipes below for fun ways to transform your tea into an adult refreshment.

Chamomile Honey Whiskey Cocktail
1 TSP Chamomile Citrus or Wild Blossoms & Berries Tea
2/3 Cup Boiling Water
1 Ounce Whiskey or Bourbon
1/2 TBSP Honey Granules (regular honey may be substituted)
1 & 1/2 TBSP Fresh Lemon Juice
Fresh Chamomile, Mint Sprig, and/or Lemon Wedge for garnish

1. Place the tea in an infuser, and let steep in the hot water for roughly 5 minutes. Remove the infuser once brewed (steeping tea too long will make it bitter).

2. Stir in the honey granules until fully dissolved.

3. In a shaker, combine the brewed tea, whiskey, lemon juice, and some ice. Shake.

4. Strain into a lowball/rocks glass with ice cubes. Garnish with chamomile flowers, a mint sprig, or lemon wedge.

Lavender Peach Martini
1 & 1/2 Ounces Vanilla Vodka
1/2 Ounce Fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 Ounce Peach Lavender Syrup (see below)
Flavored Sugar for rimming, we suggest lemon or vanilla
Lavender Sprig or Lemon Slice for garnish

1. In a cocktail shaker, add crushed ice, vanilla vodka, lemon juice, and peach lavender syrup. Shake.

2. Strain into a chilled martini glass (preferably rimmed with a flavored sugar). Garnish with a fresh lavender sprig or lemon slice.

Lavender Peach Syrup
1 Ounce Lavender Peach Tea
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Honey Granules

1. In a saucepan bring the water and honey granules to a near boil. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the honey granules. Remove from heat.

2. Add the lavender peach tea and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

3. Strain out the tea. Store the syrup in the refrigerator (keeps for several weeks).

Marrakesh Mint Mojito
1 TSP Marrakesh Mint Tea
1/2 Cup Water (near boiling)
1 & 1/2 Ounces White Rum
6 Mint Leaves
1 TBSP Fresh Lime Juice
2 TSP Honey Granules
Lime Slice and Mint Sprig for garnish

Prep: Place the tea in an infuser, and let steep in the hot water for roughly 3 minutes. Remove the infuser. Don't over steep the tea. If you prefer strong tea, use more tea when brewing – long steep times only make it bitter. Chill the tea until ready to use.

1. In a Collins glass, combine the lime juice, mint, and honey granules. Lightly muddle the mixture to release the oils in the mint.

2. Fill the glass with ice until it’s roughly 3/4 full. Add the rum, and top with the chilled tea. Stir well, and garnish with a slice of lime and mint sprig.

Filed under Tea | Cocktails |

Grilling Fruit

Posted 07/01/2016


Believe it or not, you can grill almost any fruit! The trick is to grill them just before they’re fully ripe and to leave them in their peel (if applicable). Some popular fruits for grilling include apples, apricots, bananas, figs, peaches, pears, pineapple, plantains, plums, strawberries, and watermelon.

1. Start off by cutting the fruit and removing all seeds/cores (see below for recommend cuts).
   -Apples, apricots, bananas, figs, peaches, pears, plantains, and plums: Simply cut them in half from top to bottom.
   -Pineapple: Cut horizontally into rings or vertically into long wedges.
   -Strawberries: Grilling these works best when placed on a pair of skewers.
   -Watermelon: Cut into wedges – the rind may be left on or removed.

2. Season your fruit by adding any desired spices. Some spices that pair well with fruit are allspice, cinnamon (Korintje / Indonesian or Vietnamese), clove, ginger, lavender flowers, nutmeg, star anise, and vanilla beans. Also, check out our Baker’s Blend, a cinnamon centric mix containing many of the afore mentioned spices. Adding a bit of balsamic vinegar, brandy, honey, or rum will really enhanced the flavor as well.

3. Lightly spread olive oil or melted butter over the fruit to prevent it from sticking to the grill.

4. Make sure your grill grates are clean – you don’t want to alter the flavor with leftover BBQ sauce.

5. Fruit grills best when using indirect heat, so place it on the grill after the coals being to die out or off to the side.

6. Grill for approximately 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Sugars burn quickly, so be sure to keep a watchful eye on your fruit.

Serve as a side dish with a dab of yogurt, as a dessert with ice cream, or just lightly sprinkled with our flavored sugars. Have fun trying new favor combinations!


Filed under Grilling | Fruits | Sides |

Floral Flavors

Posted 06/03/2016

With spring finally in full bloom, keep yourself cool and experience the unique properties of floral refreshment! There’re a variety of flowers capable of infusing intoxicating aromas, colors, and flavors into your favorite drink. Three of the more popular ones Spice & Tea Merchants carries are hibiscus, lavender, and rose. Below are recipes for agua de jamaica (hibiscus tea), lavender lemonade, and rose syrup. Give them a whirl, and then experiment to see what exciting combinations you can come up with!

As a side note, the recipes below mainly pair flowers with a citrus, but other fruits like blueberries, cherries, peaches, plums, and strawberries may be thrown into the mix.

[We like to use our honey granules in recipes, but regular honey or sugar may be substituted…especially our flavored sugars.]

Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)
Popular in the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico, this drink features hibiscus. The end result is a brew that’s deep red, cranberry-like, and has a sweet-tart flavor.

2 Quarts Water
1 Ounce Dried Hibiscus Flowers
1 Cup Honey Granules
4 TSP Lime Juice (about 1 large lime)
Garnish: A fresh lime wedge
Optional: For a spiced version, add the following spices while dissolving the sugar.
   2 Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks
   4 Allspice Berries, Whole

1. Put one quart water and the honey granules in a saucepan (add spices, if using).

2. Bring to a near boil and stir to dissolve honey granules. Remove from heat.

3. Add the dried hibiscus flowers and let steep about an hour.

4. Strain the mixture and discard the hibiscus (and spices).

5. Add the remaining quart of water and the lime juice. Let chill, serve over ice, and garnish with lime wedge.

Lavender Lemonade
Lavender, native to the Mediterranean region, has a vibrant deep purple-blue color and is intensely aromatic. When infused into lemonade, the result is a wonderfully fragrant and soothing bouquet of flavors.

2 Cups Boiling Water
3 TBSP Dried Lavender Flowers (culinary grade)
3/4 Cup Honey Granules
1 Cup Lemon Juice (about 4 large lemons)
4 Cups Cold Water
Garnish: A fresh sprig of lavender or lemon slice
Optional: 1 TBSP Earl Grey tea or Moonlight Earl Grey tea.

1. Place lavender flowers in a heat safe bowl or pitcher (something easy to strain from).

2. Pour boiling water over lavender (and Earl Grey tea, if using), let steep for 5 minutes.

3. Strain out the lavender (and tea), reserve the liquid. Mix in honey granules until dissolved.

4. Stir in cold water and lemon juice. Let chill, serve over ice, and garnish with a lavender sprig or lemon slice.

Rose Syrup
This recipe uses the heady quality of rose to yield a tantalizing simple syrup. We like to add a couple tablespoons to a glass and fill with club soda, or mix into our favorite cocktail. It’s also great in iced white tea, such as our Exotic Wedding, Meditative Mind, or White Peony.

1 Ounce Dried Rose Buds/Petals
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Honey Granules
1 TBSP Lemon Juice

1. In a saucepan bring the water and honey granules to a near boil. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the honey granules.

2. Add the rose buds/petals and let simmer for about five minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Add the lemon juice, and let the mix steep for about 30 minutes.

4. Strain out the rose buds/petals. Store the syrup in the refrigerator.

Filed under Beverages | Flowers |

Marinades vs. Rubs

Posted 05/20/2016


Grilling season is almost here! And at Spice & Tea Merchants we’re frequently asked about using marinades and rubs when grilling. Often there’s uncertainty as to when to use one over the other, so here’s a quick overview on the basics.

When considering using a marinade, the key is to determine if what you’re grilling requires tenderizing. In general, marinades work best on tougher cuts like chuck, flank, and round steaks. The plan with a marinade is to use an acidic liquid as the base, such as beer, citrus, pineapple juice, vinegar, wine, or even yogurt. This breaks down the tougher tissues which tenderizes the meat.

In preparing the marinade, be sure to make enough – usually 1/4 cup marinade to 1 pound of meat. As a tip, put the meat and marinade in a zip-lock bag. Then place the bag into a bowl (in case of leaks), and store in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours or overnight. Obviously, the larger the cut of meat, the longer it needs to marinate.

Marinades don’t have to be used just for tenderizing, they can be used simply for flavor as well. When marinating something requiring little tenderizing, such as fish or veggies, a marinating time of 2-3 hours is sufficient to allow the flavors to infuse.

Blends great to season marinades:
Citrus Pork & Poultry
Greek Seasoning with Feta
Jamaican Jerk
Mushroom Pepper Steak


A rub’s primary function is flavor, rather than tenderizing like marinades. To use a rub, be sure to pat the meat dry beforehand (helps the spices stick), then liberally coat each side. At this point the meat may be cooked immediately, or chilled in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight for a full robust flavor to develop. In either case, allow the meat to come up to room temperature before grilling (helps the meat cook evenly).

When grilling, start by searing the meat over high-heat, this will lend a savory crispy crust. Once seared, move it to a cooler spot on the grill to finish cooking.

An interesting side note, many rubs have a fair amount of salt in them. This is intentional, as salt helps fat melt during the cooking process – keeping the meat moist.

Blends great for rubs:
Butcher’s Rub
Coffee BBQ
Korean BBQ
Raspberry Chipotle
Saugatuck Steak

In many cases, the rubs above may be used as the seasoning component in marinades.

Whatever your preference, Spice & Tea Merchants has herbs and spices for your perfect marinade or rub. Fire up those grills and see what works best for you!

Click on any of the following to view our Spice Blends, Herbs & Spices, or Sea Salts.

Filed under General | Grilling |

Mother's Day at Spice Merchants

Posted 05/03/2016

Want to Spice things up this Mother's Day? Let Spice & Tea Merchants help with that!

Did you know that there are 84.5 million Mother’s in the United States? I’m sure you are shopping for more than one of those!

Another fun fact shows what mothers really want for Mother's Day is something homemade or dinner! Well, lucky for you, we have thrown together some homemade Mother's Day gifts and we have the spices and tools to help YOU make her an amazing dinner this Mother's Day! Forget about the flowers and jewelry! This year, instead of buying that special lady in your life something she doesn't want, give her something she is sure to love!

If you stop into one of our stores this week, you're bound to find some special Mother's Day gifts and ideas. On top of our already amazing selection of spices, teas, gift baskets and more, we have prepared something special for that special someone in your life.

In our Saugatuck store, we are bundling 3 Caranda teas for $10! That's a steal, plus we are including a recipe card for cocktails. This special Mother's Day gift will also include a special heart infuser and will be packaged in our store for your convenience!

In our Grand Rapids store, we have built the perfect Mother's Day gift box. We have bundled a ducky tea infuser, a bar of our amazing oatmeal soap, 1 oz of peppermint patty tea, 1 chocolate rose and 2 chocolate truffles. This bundle will come packaged in a cigar box for only $39.95!!

In our Traverse City store, we will have a day packed full of fun. Included in the fun is music trivia all day with Pandora, iced tea samples and dips! Chocolate specials for Mother's Day include buy 4 get one FREE!

In our Ann Arbor location start Mother's Day off right with a free cup of tea for Mom! We'll also showcase our Blooming Tea Buds in an Adagio clear glass teapot - you can watch them unfurl and blossom right in the pot, and enjoy a great cup of tea once they've brewed. If you buy three buds, you get 10% off the Adagio Teapot!

If you're not seeing a Mother's Day package that is exactly what you're looking for, have no fear! Our amazing team at Spice & Tea Merchants is here to help! Let them know what your Mom enjoys, whether spice or tea, and they can customize a beautiful Mother's Day gift basket that is perfect for any mother!

If you want more information on the teas, spices and products we have, feel free to browse our website!

Everyday Herbs & Spices

Posted 03/29/2016

At Spice & Tea Merchants, customers frequently ask what herbs, spices, and blends to keep on hand for everyday use. While this is subjective depending on your cooking style, below are some basics we suggest.

~Single Herbs & Spices~

Check out our entire Herbs & Spices selection here.

~Spice Blends~
When it comes to spice blends, our wide array has you covered for nearly any meal. Click on a blend below for a full description and suggestions on how to use it.

View our Spice Blend selection here.

For everyday cooking, salts such as Pink Himalayan or Fleur de Sel will enhance any dish. However, if you want to finish with that extra pizzazz, check out the Black Truffle, Vintage Merlot, or Chardonnay Oak Smoked sea salts. You can view our entire salt collection here.

If these are items you already have on hand, do you know how old they are? Typically whole spices keep their potency for about a year, or six to eight months if they’re ground. The key is to be sure they’re properly stored, as all spices can be damaged by heat, light, moisture, and air. If you’re unsure, smell the spice before you use it. If the spice still smells strong, it’s usable. If not, toss it and come see us.

Filed under General |

Pork Tenderloins

Posted 03/18/2016


With Easter being early this year, some folks have been caught off-guard in terms of what to prepare for their main dish. One of the more popular (and simple) options is a well-seasoned pork tenderloin. Especially these days, as advances in agriculture have lead to leaner pork products – particularly the loin cuts (loin cuts lack excess fat).

Due to pork tenderloin’s mild flavor, it’s best prepared with a marinade or spice rub, and Spice & Tea Merchants has just the thing! Below you’ll find a recipe for Citrus Pork Tenderloin, which features our Citrus Pork & Poultry blend as a marinade. It’s great for dinner parties, family gatherings, Holidays, or even something simple on weeknights.

While our Citrus Pork & Poultry blend is fantastic way to enhance your tenderloin, it’s by no means the only option. Once you’ve tried the recipe below, try experimenting with our Coffee BBQ, Cranberry Maple, or Raspberry Chipotle rubs. As a general guideline, simply rub the tenderloin, then sear and roast it in the same fashion as steps 5-8 in the recipe below. (Though, you’ll want to season generously in step 5. And let sit for roughly 20 minutes before searing to allow the rub to permeate the meat.)

Citrus Pork Tenderloin

1 Pork Tenderloin (1-2 lb)
1 Cup Orange Juice
1/2 Cup Low-Sodium Broth (Chicken or Vegetable)
1/2 TBSP Butter
Citrus Pork & Poultry blend
Orange slices and parsley for garnish

1. Create marinade by mixing together orange juice, broth, and 2 TSP of the Citrus Pork & Poultry blend.

2. From the marinade, reserve 3/4 cup for the serving sauce.

3. Place the tenderloin and marinade in a zip lock bag. Let marinate for at least 2-3 hours or overnight in refrigerator. (Place the zip lock bag in a bowl to contain any leaks.)

4. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

5. Remove the tenderloin from the marinade, and lightly season each side with a bit of the Citrus Pork & Poultry blend (as if using salt & pepper). Discard the used marinade.

6. Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tenderloin and sear on all sides, about 5 minutes. (Don’t discard the pan or drippings, they’re reused later.)

7. Place the tenderloin in the oven, and roast until the tenderloin’s internal temperature reads 150-155 degrees F, about 25-35 minutes. (When getting a temperature reading, run the thermometer horizontally through the end of the meat. This accurately represents the temperature at the center.)

8. Once at the desired temperature, transfer tenderloin to a clean cutting board and cover with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

9. To create the serving sauce, in the pan used for searing, add the reserved 3/4 cup of marinade and bring to a boil. Deglaze the browned bits from the pan.

10. Reduce heat to medium, add the butter to the sauce, and cook until slightly reduced.

11. To serve, spoon some of the sauce over the sliced tenderloin, and garnish with orange slices and a bit of parsley.

Filed under Pork | Holiday |

Irish Beef Stew

Posted 03/07/2016

With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, here’s a delicious (and simple) way to spread that Irish spirit with your friends and family!

“Irish stew is a celebrated Irish dish, yet its composition is a matter of dispute. Purists maintain that the only acceptable and traditional ingredients are neck mutton chops or kid, potatoes, onions, and water. Others would add such items as carrots, turnips, and pearl barley; but the purists maintain that they spoil the true flavour of the dish. The ingredients are boiled and simmered slowly for up to two hours. Mutton was the dominant ingredient because the economic importance of sheep lay in their wool and milk produce and this ensured that only old or economically non-viable animals ended up in the cooking pot, where they needed hours of slow cooking. Irish stew is the product of a culinary tradition that relied almost exclusively on cooking over an open fire. It seems that Irish stew was recognized as early as about 1800…”
     -Davidson, Alan. (2006). Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (p. 409).

1 & 1/2 lbs. Stew Beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 lbs. Russet Potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 lbs. Onions, cut into wedges
1 lb. Carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
6 Cups Beef Broth
1 Cup Stout or Guinness Beer
1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce

2 Bay Leaves
2 TSP Thyme
Butcher’s Rub or Saugatuck Steak Rub

2 TBSP Fresh Parsley, finely chopped (for serving)

[Even though lamb is traditionally used, this recipe uses beef for broader appeal.]

1. Heat roughly 2 TBSP of oil in a pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the beef well with Butcher’s Rub or Saugatuck Steak Rub. Brown the meat on all sides, working in batches.

2. Remove beef and set aside. In the same pot, sauté the onions until tender. Add the garlic, and cook 1 minute more.

3. Add broth, and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Return beef to the pan.

4. Add bay leaves, beer, thyme, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer 1 hour or until meat is tender.

5. Add potatoes and carrots, cover and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

6. Add salt and pepper to taste. Discard the bay leaves, and skim off fat from the surface of the stew.

7. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Filed under Soups and Stews | Beef |

Cocoa Powders, How Are They Different?

Posted 02/23/2016


Spice & Tea Merchants carries two varieties of baking cocoa powder, a regular Dutched cocoa (organic), and a Chocovic brand of cocoa powder with a rich flavor and deep dark red color (also a Dutch-processed cocoa).

Though, what is the significance of being Dutched (alkalized), and how are the aforementioned cocoa powders different from each other?

Before we answer these questions, let’s get a better understanding of what cocoa powder is and how it’s made. In a nutshell, the process works like this:

  • Cacao/cocoa beans are fermented, dried, and roasted.
  • The beans are then ground into a paste, which is known as chocolate liquor (unsweetened baking chocolate). The main components of the liquor we’re interested in are cocoa butter (fat) and cocoa solids.
  • The chocolate liquor is pumped into hydraulic presses, which remove the majority of the cocoa butter. (The cocoa butter is used in other applications, such as white chocolate.)
  • With the majority of the cocoa butter removed, we’re left with mostly cocoa solids, which are dried and ground into cocoa powder.

Cocoa powder produced from the process above is a natural (non-alkalized) cocoa powder. Natural cocoa is somewhat acidic, and in recipes is often paired with an alkaline leavening agent, such as baking soda. The reaction between the two yields carbon dioxide, which causes batter to rise.

Now, back to the first part of our original question, what is Dutch-processed cocoa? The process of Dutching, created by the Dutch chocolate maker Coenraad Johannes van Houten in 1828, is when cocoa beans are treated with an alkalizing agent, such as potassium carbonate. This alkalization neutralizes acids, darkens color, and mellows the flavor.

In many instances, Dutch-processed cocoa is preferred for its smoother, more chocolaty taste. However, it’s not acidic, and won’t react with an alkaline leavener. Due to this, Dutched cocoa is paired in recipes with baking powder, as baking powder creates its own rising reaction. As a side note, if a recipe doesn’t use a leavening agent or uses baking powder, you may use any cocoa powder.

As for the difference between our regular Dutched and Chocovic cocoa powders, the Chocovic has undergone a more intensive Dutching process, which results in an even darker color and enhanced chocolaty taste. It also has a higher cocoa butter content, 20-22% (natural is around 10%), granting a richer flavor and brownie-like aroma. This is definitely our go-to cocoa powder!

Click here for our favorite brownie recipe featuring the Chocovic cocoa powder.

Filed under Baking | Desserts |
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