Black Tea Pops (swirled with Blackberry Jam)
A couple of months have gone by but I still can't get over the crazy wonderful adventure Joe and I had in India. One of my favorite places there that I didn't even know existed until the planning stages was Bir. If you guys ever visit India, I highly recommend making a trip to Bir while it's still fairly undiscovered. The experience left us refreshed and enlightened and I think of our three days there fondly.
I let my aunt and her travel company, India Adventure Curry, design our travel schedule around what they thought was best, based on the type of things Joe and I like to do and see. We actually revised our itinerary several times to adjust for various circumstances, but my aunt kept stubbornly putting Bir back on the list, and I was a bit baffled as to why, considering I couldn't find much information on it.
Bir is small village in Northern India, with many Buddhist monasteries (thus a large Tibetan community) and stunning views. It's also known for being one of the best places in the world to go paragliding, something that does not appeal to me whatsoever but excited Joe.
We actually had to fly into Dharamsala to get to Bir. It was a smaller airplane than I'm used to, landing on a tiny runway in the middle of the majestic Kangra mountains. The view from the runway itself was so gorgeous, we couldn't help but just stand there on the asphalt and gape in awe at the snow-capped peaks, crowned by clouds as large and striking as the mountains themselves.
We spent a couple of days in Dharamsala with a car and a friendly driver who would hand me the phone whenever he was speaking to his boss, Colonel Singh. We were to stay at the Colonel's Resort in Bir and in the interim, the Colonel himself would call daily to check how we were doing.
We spent two days traversing Dharamsala before we eventually left for Bir. After hours of bumpy, uncomfortable roads (and no seatbelts), stopping in to various temples and forts, we arrived at a pretty, cottage-style resort nestled in a small village with the Colonel and his wife standing at the front of the house ready to greet us.
It was a magical three days in Bir. The Colonel and his wife were so hospitable and warm that we were reluctant to leave. They have a huge estate with horses and cows, goats, and many other animals as well as a greenhouse where they grow their own food. As a result, their food is incredibly fresh and delicious. To top it all off, dinner is preceded every night by a large bonfire in their courtyard where we socialized and drank hot soup as the cool evening air descended from the mountains.
In the morning, we would go for 6am walks with the Colonel to take in the views. At one point, we had a car meet us at the end of a long hike with a full breakfast and table and chairs set up on the edge of a cliff! We took a yoga class outside in drizzling rain with a cool German couple that was also staying there. The Colonel and his wife packed us a delicious picnic at the base of a waterfall. We also had some wonderfully insightful conversations with the colonel's wife about the history of India and the origins of the caste system.
One of my favorite things about the resort (and I have many) is that they grow their own tea. The tea gardens were beautiful, and we got to see how they turn the tea bushes into tea leaves. We would have tea morning and afternoon, and the colonel's wife would occasionally make us an iced lemon tea using their fresh-grown lemons which were uniquely sweet and delicious, unlike any citrus I've had anywhere else.
I knew I wanted to stock up on their tea to give as gifts, so I purchased three bags, but they ended up liking us so much that they gave us an additional three! We left grateful, and much happier having had this amazing experience. It was the perfect stop in the middle of our whirlwind travels, where we got to bond and connect with both fellow travelers and the people who have been living in Bir for many generations..
My friends have already been enjoying the little containers of tea that I gave out, and Joe and I have been savoring it as well. I wanted to try something different with it so I went for tea pops, a recipe inspired by one of my favorite bloggers--Lady and Pups.
The result is delicious and not too sweet. The flavor of tea really comes through, so use your finest black blend! I tossed in some lemon zest as a nod to the lovely iced teas the Colonel's wife made us, and I also swirled some blackberry jam into half of them just for the hell of it. The blackberry swirled ones were my favorite.
Black Tea Pops (swirled with Blackberry Jam)
Adapted from here
Makes about 10
4 tablespoons (23 grams) of black tea leaves
2 1/2 cups (610 grams) of whole milk (or almond milk, which is what I used) + another 1/2 cup
3 tbs cornstarch
1 cup blackberry jam
1/2 cup condensed milk
zest of one lemon
Place the 2 1/2 cups of whole milk or almond milk in a large saucepan over medium heat with the tea leaves.
Once the milk comes to a gently simmer, turn off the heat completely and let steep for one minute, then strain the leaves while pouring the mixture into another bowl.
Whisk the cornstarch together with the 1/2 cup of milk until there are no lumps, then whisk it into the milk-tea until slightly thickened.
Whisk in the blackberry jam, lemon milk, and the condensed milk until even.
Add more condensed milk according to your preference of sweetness*
*Keep in mind that once frozen, it tastes slightly less sweet because of the iciness, so it's okay if it's a bit on the sweet side as a warm mixture!
Divide the mixture into popsicle molds and freeze until hard, and enjoy!
*I only put a 1/2 cup of jam in half the recipe because I wasn't sure I'd like the taste and wanted to know how it'd taste without the jam, but it was so tasty I wish I had added it to all! Feel free to taste a little of the mixture with jam to see if it's your thang.