My earliest memories of tea are from when I was a small child. My mom would fill a large glass pitcher with room temperature water, throw in a few bags of Lipton tea and then carry it out to the backyard to sit in the sun. I would stand before the pitcher mesmerized as liquid tendrils of tea magically began to unfurl and whirl about the water. Those early moments with my mother making tea instilled in me a love for creation and transformation. Inspired by this realization, I reached out to chef Shania Thomas-Floyd and teamaker Ravi Kroesen to learn how these two innovative industry experts use tea to celebrate and honor the women in their lives.
Chef Shania Thomas-Floyd is the creative force behind the sublime blends and mouthwatering cookies at Conjure Tea. Shania’s craft devotion garnered two award nominations at this year’s World Tea Conference + Expo. The veteran pastry chef of 14 years was named Best Tea-Inspired Chef and was a finalist in the emerging business Innovation category for Conjure Tea. Using natural ingredients and knowledge passed down through generations, she hand blends premium teas and unique herbs to create enchanting concoctions. World Tea Expo judges in the Best of Awards competition praised her as “an individual who celebrates tea as more than just a drink and incorporates tea into her culinary creations.”
Ravi Kroesen is the head teamaker at Smith Teamaker. This preeminent Portland tea company is at the forefront of the culinary tea scene with its popular tasting rooms that serve inspiring plant-based tea-infused plates, snacks, and desserts. Focusing on local Northwest produce and meticulous attention to flavor, they create blended teas and tea-infused dishes that delight all senses.
Diana Jendoubi: Do you have any connections with your mom and tea?
Shania Thomas-Floyd: Whenever I was sick as a kid, my mom always made me a cup of tea with lemon and honey. It was so comforting and made me feel so much better. Such a simple thing made a huge impact.
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Ravi Kroesen: My mother used to make a version of Indian Masala Chai that was the perfect balance of sweetness, spice, and richness. That joy for chai has carried through to this day. One of my favorite parts about visiting India is having access to drinking masala chai every day. It makes me think of my mom every time.
Diana: What flavors do you associate with Mother’s Day?
Shania: To me, Mother’s Day and flowers have always gone hand in hand. So anything with a light, floral profile lends beautifully. I especially love the combination of berries and lavender or something fresh like grapefruit and mint. Basically, anything you can turn into a mimosa! Ha!
Ravi: Teas with floral notes like our Jasmine Silver Tips, Black Lavender, or Rose City Genmaicha come to mind. We launched a new spring release to feature around Mother’s Day: Jasmine Nectar. This beautiful, floral green tea is a blend of Mao Feng green tea, Jasmine Silver Tip green tea, cardamom, ginger, rose, and osmanthus flower and is infused with natural nectarine flavor. Packaged in a lavender-colored carton, it’s lovely for Mother’s Day gifting.
Diana: Do you have a Mother’s Day tradition or a particular way that you like to honor your mom?
Shania: My cousins and I always get the moms of the family together and have brunch! Either we make reservations, or one of us plays Chef for the day. But it’s always a great time getting together to celebrate all the wonderful mom’s in our family.
Diana: What would be on your Mother’s Day brunch menu?
Shania: First, I would start with a spritzer made of Jasmine green tea and topped with sparkling wine. Then, I would serve French Toast with a lavender-infused blackberry sauce alongside crispy bacon and soft parmesan scrambled eggs. Ending with a fresh lemon and Earl Grey-infused tart.
Ravi: Flowers and the deepest gratitude for my mother are my preferred ways to celebrate her on this day.
Diana: Do you do anything special for Mother’s Day at Smith Teamaker?
Ravi: We usually do something special at our two Portland tasting rooms to celebrate Mother’s Day. During the pandemic, we held virtual tea tastings and classes. Last year, we hosted a “tea and flowers” class, which was a popular and fun way for people to celebrate at home. Plans are in the works for this year at our tasting rooms, but we don’t have the details yet. Every day in our tasting rooms, we offer our “tea and treats menu,” which includes a tea and macaron pairing flight – this is a delightful offering to share, and we think it’s a great idea for a Mother’s Day date!
Diana: If you could plan an afternoon tea for your mom, what would be on the tea and food menu?
Ravi: I would brew up pots of Fez, Black Lavender, and Golden Light and pair them with cucumber sandwiches, a dense chocolate cake, or brownie and lemon streusel.
Diana: What is the key to infusing tea flavor into food?
Shania: The key is always balance. Finding the sweet spot between enhancing and overpowering. You want to make sure the tea is adding to what you’re making without being overpowering. And if you’re using a particularly floral-forward tea blend, you want to make sure you’re not adding too much. No one wants cookies that taste like perfume! So balance is definitely the secret.
Ravi: Fat is a key component. The aromatic oils from tea infuse with butter or oil, imbuing it with the tea’s aroma. Depending on the recipe, we’ve achieved this by adding the leaf to the recipe or through enfleurage*. Steeping, such as cooking a grain in, say, Sencha. Or infusing berry jam with Lord Bergamot tea also works well, depending on the ingredients and tea you’re working with.
*Tea Journey note- Enfleurage is the process of capturing a plant’s fragrance and essential oils by placing it in heated oil or fat. Once the items are strained out, the base oil or fat will retain the plant’s aroma and flavor.
Diana: Do you have a favorite afternoon tea dessert?
Shania: I love mini tarts. I think they’re adorable! But they’re also the perfect vessel for layering flavors and textures. You can create something so unique and delicious in such a small package.
Ravi: A single-origin dark chocolate. The best way to consume chocolate with tea is to let it melt slightly in your mouth before taking a gentle sip of your tea. If paired right, fireworks ensue.
Diana: What tea-infused recipes are perfect for Mother’s Day?
Shania: No Mother’s Day would be complete without a delicious blueberry scone infused with lemon and Earl Grey tea. And a crisp, tender shortbread cookie infused with our Arise & Chai blend is the perfect sweet finish to a magical Mother’s Day!
Ravi: When Chef Karl Holl created Smith Teamaker’s tea-infused food menu for the cafe, one of the dishes that most excited him was also the simplest: a fresh baguette slathered with Meadow Butter and Lord Bergamot berry jam. Both exude the essence of these tea blends in a deliciously balanced bite. Preparing the butter and the jam to serve with tea and pastries on Mother’s Day, or to add to a brunch, would be a sweet and savory way to enjoy the morning.
Mother’s Day Tea-Infused Recipes
Use the magic of tea to delight and honor your mom this Mother’s Day. Whether you’re planning an afternoon tea party or delicious brunch, these tea-infused recipes are the perfect way to celebrate and shower her with gratitude. Pure joy will spread across her face as she sees all the amazing treats you’ve lovingly prepared just for her.
Jasmine Nectar Spritzer
Become your mother’s favorite child with this delectable spritzer. The best part is it’s super easy to make.
- Steep three bags or 3 tsp of loose leaf Jasmine Nectar tea in 1cup of hot water for 3 minutes
- Remove tea bags or strain out the tea leaves.
- Stir in 1 cup of sugar until the sugar dissolves, and then set aside to cool.
- Open your mom’s favorite bottle of sparkling or white wine
- Once the Jasmine simple syrup has cooled, add 1/2 oz of it to a white wine glass filled with ice
- Pour in 2 oz of sparkling or white wine and top with soda water
- Stir once, then garnish with an edible flower and orange twist
Lemon and Lavender Tarts
Inspired by chef Shania’s favorite afternoon tea dessert, these mini lemon and lavender tarts strike the perfect balance between floral and fruity with a buttery pastry shell. The recipe calls for dried lavender, but I like to add a bit more depth and aroma by substituting a lavender black tea blend.
Matcha and White Chocolate Macarons
If you can’t make it to Portland for the Smith Teamaker macaron and tea flight, treat your mother to these delightfully chewy and flavorful matcha macarons instead. Australian pastry chef Catherine Zhang uses white chocolate ganache to balance the somewhat bitter grassy notes of the matcha for the filling.
Chef Shania’s Earl Grey Scones with Fresh Blueberries
Aromatic, flakey, and pillowy soft Chef Shania Thomas-Floyd has created the ultimate scone. Bursting with fresh blueberries, these delicious scones perfectly balance the floral flavor of Earl Gery tea with bright citrus notes from lemon zest. Make your next afternoon tea party unforgettable with Chef Floyd’s scrumptious scones.
*Link to Tea Journey Recipe * Download/Print PDF
Arise & Chai Shortbread Cookies
Discover the innovative flavors of Conjure Tea with Chef Shania’s Arise & Chai shortbread cookies. Packed with warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and clove, Arise and Chai gets a special kick by adding pink peppercorns and yerba mate. When added to the perfect shortbread cookie’s buttery goodness, you get layers upon layers of amazing flavor. Warning, these cookies are so good your mom might not want to share them.
*Link to Tea Journey Recipe * Download/Print PDF
Chef Carl Holl’s Lord Bergamot Jam and Meadow whipped butter.
Lord Bergamot Jam and Meadow Butter
Karl Holl, the Culinary Director of Smith Teamaker, has created a match made in heaven. The simple yet exquisite combination of whipped Meadow butter and Lord Bergamot tea-infused marionberry jam pairs well with pastries, freshly baked bread, scones, and just about anything else to spread it on. Serve these two at your Mother’s Day brunch or afternoon tea, and your mom will feel like a queen.
*Link to Tea Journey Recipe * Download/Print PDF
Tea can convey the most profound sentiments in the tiniest of sips. Even if you’re a novice baker, you can still have fun experimenting with your mom’s favorite teas and desserts. She’ll be overjoyed as long as you infuse all you do on this special day with love and gratitude.