Sunday, December 7, 2014

If I Can't Have a White Christmas, I Can At Least Have White Chocolate (Tea Box Express)

I received my Tea Box Express box for December this week! Andrea sent it a little early so that I would be able to show all of you in time for you to order your own. Remember, the cutoff for the December box was put at December 15th this month, so you still have a few days to make sure you get this box!

Which you totally want to do.

Trust me.

If you won't just take my word for it, take these words for it:

Cookie. Brittle.

We'll get to that in a moment, though. 

When I opened December's box, the first thing I saw? A fluffy white bow. In my experience, fluffy bows always bode well when it comes to Christmas. Just across the board. You can never go wrong with fluffy bows.

See, look at how fluffy it is.

The theme for this month is "Tea and Cookies for Santa", which to be frank kind of gave me an idea for Audra's eventual Santa-related adventures. I'm not much of a glass-of-milk drinker, so I kinda think leaving out a warm mug of tea sounds like a great plan. Although I suppose we'd have to come up with some kind of explanation for why Santa would drink a mug of tea that will have gone cold long before he shows up with presents.

Maybe it's magical tea that stays warm forever?

She'll buy that. If she's half as gullible as I am, she will.

This month's tea especially you could definitely ascribe magical properties to.

Candy cane tea!

My original plan was to have it as a dessert tea, but seeing as it's black tea I decided instead to drink it for my morning caffeine fix the next day with Jason. I actually regret that choice; while it is black tea, it's incredibly mild and definitely would have worked better as an afternoon pick-me-up or a dessert tea. I wouldn't call this a morning tea at all. It definitely didn't feel like it had a strong enough caffeine kick for morning; I ended up drinking coffee later at work.

Those of you who maybe aren't quite an inured to the effects of caffeine as I am may like this in the morning, actually. I am a shameless Starbucks addict, so the caffeine level may be just right for someone who isn't looking up self-help books on how to quit sweet, sweet lattes like I am. I think it's probably a good Sunday-morning tea, when you don't have to hurry and you can really enjoy it.

That said, the very mild black tea leaves were nice because they gave the peppermint flavors more time to shine. Even the mint is not particularly overwhelming; 'Candy Cane' is a really apt name for it, because it's less like peppermint candies and more like candy canes themselves. I put honey and milk in, as usual, but in the future would skip the honey; this tea only needs a little milk for me to be delicious. It came in pyramid-shaped tea bags, which were very pretty in and of themselves; I think this would be great if you were having a small party and you could lay the tea bags out for guests to pick up.

Speaking of...

One of this month's "tea accessories"; tongs made for picking your tea bag out of your mug when you're done steeping, keeping your fingers dry and all the work out of getting the bag back out. It goes right along with my sort of mental idea of all the tea bags laid out on a dish for guests to put in their mugs - this would be perfect for that.

Jason really liked that they even say 'tea' along the edges. He liked that so much he brought it up at least three times in two days. I liked it so much I brought it up a couple times more.

I tried them out on the candy cane tea and then immediately put them in our silverware drawer to use later. They're super cute; another thing that I think works really well as a gift. This whole month's tea box would be great as somebody's White Elephant gift. I'm actually even more sad that I'm not able to go back to Illinois for Christmas this year - my mom's family does a White Elephant now and this would be perfect. Now, granted, I would have had to purchase a second box for the White Elephant since there'd be no way I'd be willing to give up that cookie brittle I haven't explained to you yet.

I imagine my aunt Lisa would make sure she got the second box, or she would go down in blazes trying. That's why I'd have to get a second box - there's no way I'm winning that fight. I have weak little arms. Honestly, it's a shock I can open pickle jars.

The other 'tea accessory' for this month - an ornament! It's a little teapot with a poinsettia and an attached tiny teacup. I'm sorry, all I can think of is Mrs. Potts and Chip from Beauty and the Beast.

This. Is. Adorable.

It's a smaller ornament, and I love it, and we haven't ever done our own Christmas tree so I have nowhere to put it. This is a crisis, people.

A crisis.

I am currently debating hanging it from my front door, just to ensure the like three people other than Jason and I who will enter our house in December get to see it.

That seems reasonable, right?

Perfectly reasonable.


Okay, so I pulled this cookie out and went, "Ooooh, White Chocolate Cranberry! Oh, and gluten-free... oh. Well. I'll try it anyway." I said this out loud. To my dog, since he and I were the only ones there at the moment. He cocked his head in a way that made it clear that he would happily eat it for me if I really needed him to.

He's a giver that way.

I'm not anti-gluten-free, but I've had gluten-free cookies before? And I've been burned, people. My heart was broken by those cookies; dry and crumbling and kind of flavorless and just simply not right. So while I was of course going to try this, I wasn't particularly hopeful about it.

Until later that night, when I split that cookie in half and Jason and I each took our first bites.

At which point I seriously considered taking his half of the cookie away and telling him to go find something else, all of this cookie was mine, all cookies like this were mine forever and I'm pretty sure that's in our wedding vows so he can't argue with me, he knew what he was doing when he signed that marriage license.

Crumbly? No.

Dry? Not at all.

Not right? Oh no, my friends.

This cookie was perfectly right.

 The white chocolate wasn't in chips like I expected, but a flavor that went through the whole cookie. The cranberries added just the right amount of tart, and the cookie itself was nice and chewy, not too dense. I couldn't even taste the lack of wheat and gluten, which normally changes the taste and texture enough to be really obvious in baking. The Wow Baking Company knows their stuff.

(I should know, by the way; I used to work in a Christopher & Banks in a mall back in Carbondale, Illinois. There was a Gloria Jean's in that mall, instead of a Starbucks, and they carried a line of gluten-free and/or vegan cookies. I think I had tried each and every iteration of those cookies by the time I stopped working in that mall. They were... wildly varied.)

If you're the type who likes to lay out baked goods for partygoers to munch on, but you've got someone gluten-free and you're not sure what to do? Look up Wow Baking Company.

(Or, y'know, skip all that rigamarole and just get 'em a Tea Box Express gift for Christmas. Then you eat the other dessert, and they can have this cookie. And you will be jealous of their cookie.)

Well, or maybe you won't, since the other option is this.

I mentioned cookie brittle, before. I mentioned it to get you all hyped up and interested and then I wandered all over everything else in the box without ever coming back to it.

Well. We're back to it now.

I'm not sure where the 'brittle' in the name comes from - these were more like exceptionally sweet and slightly crumbly biscotti to me. There's a layer of delicious cookie, with a top layer of dark chocolate, chocolate drizzle, and toffee bits on top.

It reminded me of a really classed-up Twix bar, in some ways, with the cookie and chocolate mix. But this was not 'chocolate flavor'. This was real crispy-crumbly cookie, real, smooth dark chocolate, and it was a serious problem to keep myself from eating the whole box at once. (I did not, by the way. I do have some self-control. Sometimes. When Jason is home and would see my shame.)

The toffee bits give it a neat salted-caramel aftertaste. I would buy a box of these to lay out on a platter for the party that this entire box so far seems obviously geared for. Just about everything in it works perfectly for this fictional Christmas-themed tea party I'm throwing with my friend Sarah, who won't know she's the other hostess until she reads this post.

So... thanks, Sarah!

Hope you're having fun hosting that party.

In short, overall I really liked this box! The Candy Cane tea is a weaker black tea than I normally go for, but actually works really well as a dessert tea or something to sip in the late afternoon when you've got a few minutes to just chill and enjoy some peace and quiet (during your baby's nap, for example, once the fighting and the fussing and the oh god just lay down already why why won't you lay down has ceased).

The cookie and cookie brittle were both delicious; I was very impressed by the gluten-free cookie and, as I have a couple of gluten-free family members now, I'll be making some serious recommendations. The cookie brittle? Well, the crumbs littered around me should tell you how I felt about that.

The tea accessories are little more for someone else than they are for me - we mostly drink looseleaf teas (although I'm glad to have the little tongs now that I have the Candy Cane tea and have bagged teas again!) and we don't have a Christmas tree. It's an ornament I'll be holding onto, though, since we plan to do a tree next year when Audra's old enough to start enjoying seeing it and we only have like... four ornaments of our own so far. A tea-based ornament seems like it would be a good accompaniment to my Starbucks-themed ornament. Look, it's the two kinds of drink that make up half my blood volume!

Remember that you've got just a few more days to pick up December's box - December 15th will be the final day! Snag it before the deadline's over and you're left sad and bereft. I will pity you, from my chair, with my mug of Candy Cane tea and my cookie brittle in hand. I will pity you your tea-less existence.

Don't make me pity you.

* This post was done in partnership with Tea Box Express - they give me a nifty discount and monthly box a bit early, I show you what's in it and tell you what I think about it. Everyone wins, especially me! I get tea and cookies. And especially you! Because you get a look at what you could should be ordering. But especially me. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or contact me and ask away! If you do decide to sign up, either for your own subscription or to give one as a gift to someone else, please let them know you totally got the idea from me, that you like me - you really, really like me!

... and I'm done with the pop culture references.

For now.

November's Review here.


  1. This is great! I too was blown away by the WOW gluten-free cookies (I am not even close to being gluten-free). I'm also a HUGE Starbucks fan and would happily spend all day there if only they had an indoor play gym for my toddler. #dreambig

    1. I would love to see, like, one Starbucks in every city designated the "family Starbucks". Play center, small park adjacent, baristas just handing out lattes like candy. That would be the Starbucks I would live at forever once Audra started walking.

      The gluten-free cookies were really way above my expectations. I have just never had a gluten-free cookie that good before. Incredibly impressed!


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