Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sweet Potato Tea Bars and High Tea at Montage Hotel, Los Angeles

Almost every culture in the world has a tradition or relationship to TEA. So many people have stories about family gatherings, or moments with special people spent over a cup (or glass) of tea.

I grew up in the southern part of the United States and my relationship to tea was a tall glass of "sweetened ice tea". In fact, where I grew up you would have to ask the server if you wanted tea that was not brewed with a lot of sugar in it already. A cup of hot tea was usually made by the cup with a string attached bag of Lipton. It would be left in the cup too long which meant more Teddy Bear honey was needed.

Sweet Potato Tea Bars

If I went to a friend's house where they poured a cup of tea from a pot, with fresh tea leaves inside I assumed they were rich or from England.
I was in college before I was introduced to the whole "going to tea" or "taking tea" or "having High Tea" delightful pleasure. Since then, I seek out places that serve a great Tea.

For a couple years, I worked with a stylish Tea Salon in Los Angeles where I had the chance to learn about tea and developed many recipes that used tea as an ingredient or infused with the flavors. Our specialty was World Teas. We broke the mold of just the proper English Tea by creating recipes inspired by different countries and their flavors.

If you read my blog often, you know there are several recipes using tea to enhance the flavor base (ie. Cowboy Smokey Tea Tomato Jam, Tea Poached Shrimp Summer Rolls, Stove Top Smoked Fish, Green Tea Croquembouche, Matcha Green Tea Doughnuts. )

If I could pass on just 3 important ideas about tea it would be these:

1) Using real tea, not old flakes in a stringed bag, makes all the difference in the world.
2) Water temperature can make or break the flavor and the true taste of the tea.
3) Don't over brew - it's the same thing as burning food and that's why it taste bad.

When I have visitors to California, or visit a friend's city I almost always suggest going to a tea in the area. There is something very replenishing about sharing a plate of scones,
a couple mini-sandwiches and tiny desserts while chatting over warm and fragrant tea pots.This month, my online Lets Lunch Bunch has the theme of High Tea for us to share across the miles in our virtual lunch date. When my daughter and a friend from Italy were here, we took the opportunity to seek inspiration by having tea at the exquisite Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. The room was quiet (until we started giggling and sharing stories) and the food was delicate, but plentiful. In case you are thinking this is just a "Ladies" tradition, there were more men in the room than ladies the day we were visiting. There were several obvious business meetings going on around the room, a family stopping for a breather during their busy day, and a couple who sounded like they were on a first date (not that I was listening.)When I returned home and pondered how I could combine the proper tea fare I had partaken in during the afternoon, yet give a nod to my much more casual background. I came up with Sweet Potato Tea Bars.Sweet Potatoes, packed with good healthy nutrients, make a good combo to the antioxidants in tea. The creaminess goes so well with a hearty smokey black, yet the earthiness pairs well with a grassy green tea. Also, they're just damn good.Tea is one of earth's most natural healing liquids. I recommend drinking more of it. Do it slowly. Do it often. Do it with people you love.

Also: Check out all of the inspired High Tea ideas with the Lets Lunch pals:

Charissa‘s Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches with Honey Mustard, Tomatoes & Basil at Zest Bakery

Emma‘s Brown Sugar Shortbreads With Hawaiian Jam at Dreaming of Pots and Pans

Grace‘s Taiwanese Sandwiches at HapaMama

Karen‘s Saskatoon Berry Tartlets at GeoFooding

Linda‘s Mesquite Hemp Cocoa at Free Range Cookies

Linda‘s Singapore-Style Ginger Tea & Kaya (Coconut Jam) Toast at Spicebox Travels

Lisa‘s Little Lemon Meringue Tarts at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Mai‘s Cougar Gold & Shallot Shortbread at Cooking in The Fruit Bowl

Patrick‘s Welsh Rarebit at Patrick G. Lee

Rashda‘s Spiced Chickpea & Sweet Potato Tidbits at Hot Curries & Cold Beer

Rebecca‘s Millionaire’s Shortbread at Grongar Blog

Steff‘s Lemon-Lime Shortbread Cookies at The Kitchen Trials

Join us next time, have lunch with us online. Go to twitter and put in the hashtag (#letslunch) and leave us word you'd like to join. We're growing with every lunch. :D

Sweet Potato Tea Bars

1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks butter (6oz.)
2/3 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla

1) Mix the crust ingredients in a large bowl. Press the crumbly crust into a parchment lined 9" pan.
2) Bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then pour in the filling.


1 Large Sweet Potato (baked)
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 lemon juice and zest
1/4 cup milk

1) Beat all ingredients until creamy.
2) Pour into the pre-baked crust. Return to a preheated 350F oven. Bake for about 20 Minutes (until set.)
3) Cool and chill for 20 minutes before cutting into bars.
4) Garnish with chopped nuts or powdered sugar.


LAteaGIRL said...

Love this post and can not wait to try some of these recipes, especially your sweet potato bars!

Your tips for cooking with tea are spot on, but may I point out that traditionally, high tea was a working class meal served on a high table at the end of the workday, shortly after five PM. American's have adapted the term, probably bcz they think is sounds more "grand", but in reality, the lovely, leisurely tea taken around 2pm at a grand hotel should be called "Afternoon Tea"!

showfoodchef said...

LA Tea girl - what an honor to have you here, since so much of what I learned about tea was from YOU, Miss Lovely. I adore the addition and the story of High Tea. Thanks for adding that :D

charissa (zest bakery) said...

OMG. This sounds perfect for this time of year... Anytime of year really. I am already thinking up ways to convert this to gluten-free. Yummmmm!

Rebecca said...

What a great recipe for the season. I would love to try making these. And thanks also for the tea-making tips. I quite agree!

The Sentimental Suitcase said...

Cathy this is crazy! I just posted about how regular tea sandwiches make me cry!

Thanks so much for this! I am a sweet potato fanatic so this is perfect!

HapaMama said...

I love these bars! They remind me of sweet potato pie, something else you don't see often in California. That tea room looks beautiful, too.

Linda @spiceboxtravels said...

What a gorgeous tea! The sweet potato bars look wonderful. Very nice to meet you through LetsLunch!

Cookin' Canuck said...

Every December, about 7 girlfriends and I go to high tea at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. It is a wonderful opportunity to sit around and chat while eating beautiful little sandwiches and THE BEST scones. Your sweet potato tea bars would be perfect with my afternoon cup of tea.

Khali//Bandit and the Scene Stealers said...

Love love love sweet potato. thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

View how potato tea here,