Hail Colombia!

Hail Colombia!


Just when you thought you’d tasted a creditable selection of the world’s teas comes along a refreshing surprise—Bitaco tea grown in the Andes from Colombia where it is now spring, heading toward summer. As I sit contemplating the end of summer and confirming that fall is indeed here despite the summery weather, my thoughts turn to the fruits of the season—pears, apples, Asian pears, pomegranates, persimmons, even quince.

Here are fruits not just for eating on their own, and here’s a tea that brings uncomplicated pleasure in the cup but also is a perfect steeping liquid for the fruits of fall. Coppery colored, bright in flavor, this tea is as comforting in the cup as it is welcome in the dessert maker’s kitchen. It spells fall to me. Shorter days, cooler nights, and orchard fruit seem to be a perfect match. Seeing the bounty piled high in my local farmer’s markets, beckoning me with their burnished skins, a visual feast of red, golden, yellow, speckled green, brilliantly flame-colored–I can’t resist taking home armloads. Looking for ways to enjoy them beyond eating them out of hand (other than quince which are best cooked to become tender, aromatic and rosy colored), I brew some tea, spiced with a whole cinnamon stick and then sweetened with a tinge of honey and add an assortment of peeled, cored and quartered fruit. Turn the heat down low and let the fruits soften, absorbing the mellow flavors of the tea. Usually a half hour of patient cooking over medium to low heat transforms the fruit (the tea should barely cover the fruit in the saucepan; add more tea if you note that the liquid has evaporated too quickly and the fruits are still raw). To check doneness, insert the point of a knife into the fruit. When done, the knife should easily pierce the fruit. Continue cooking until you get to that point.  Remove from the heat, and then let the liquid and fruit come to room temperature. Remove fruit and poaching liquid to a non-reactive shallow dish. Chill covered until cold. Get the best local honey you can find along with a tart but not overly thick plain yogurt. Crush some buttery gingery cookies (homemade or storebought) and set aside.

To serve, arrange the fruit and some liquid in small bowls, dollop on rivulets of yogurt, drizzle the honey over all and then finally add some crunch with the cookie shards. If you’d like to gild the lily even further, splash a bit of good Cognac just before serving. And if it’s cool enough in your area, enjoy this dessert around the hearth, logs blazing and crackling, the colors of the flame matching the palette of fall fruits.  

Serves 3-4
The details:

  • 1 lb of fruits, peeled and cored and then quartered or halved, depending on size
  • 1 quart brewed Colombian tea
  • ¼ c. good honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Yogurt
  • More honey, as desired
  • Shards of gingery buttery cookies
  • Cognac, optional

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