When the fog rolls in and the rains come, they can settle over us for weeks at a time. And while it’s not cold in relative terms, it does have a way of penetrating right to the bone not to mention the bleakness of it all (errr, wistfulness). I crave warmth in my hands, on my lap and in my belly. I also fight the urge to retire at 7 pm with a heating pad (you too?). The mid-day darkness has a powerful effect on our internal clocks and the idea of hibernating has never made so much sense to me (except for the small difference that I have full and abundant access to food so the energy conservation thing doesn’t work quite so well). Got to keep things moving, the energy going and the chi flowing.
Along the way, this warm and comforting sip has been a bright spot.
Have you tried a London Fog?
It’s a simple and fragrant drink featuring one of the most well-loved and recognized teas in the world topped with frothed milk (latte simply means milk in Italian).
Earl Grey is a black tea brightened by distinctive citrus notes from the oil of the bergamot peel. I suspect it’s one of those flavors you either love or don’t care for but don’t let that stop you from experimenting with what you do enjoy because by the end of this, you’re going to want to make luscious, frothed milk at home and add it to your favorite beverage — be it a variety of tea, coffee, hot chocolate or some creative concoction of your own (that golden turmeric ginger latte sounds especially dreamy).
I’ve been frothing milk for about 25 years now and I also travel with my frother (yes, I’m one of those) and here’s what I can share to save you time, money and grief:
- invest in a stainless steel frother. Glass frothers work fine but they don’t last. The glass is relatively thin and invariably, upon repeated use (wear and tear), they crack and it’s all over. Metal frothers not only work great they’re also the most durable – basically indestructible. You don’t need an electric gizmo either (unless you want that) – metal frothers work manually with a little elbow grease and no need for batteries. In my view they also create much better volume in a shorter period of time than the electric wand. Your overall cost for the stainless frother is the equivalent of 4 medium lattes at Starbucks (!)
- next best options. if you don’t have a frother and you want to MacGyver it, you can use a mason jar with lid – add refrigerated milk to jar (no more than halfway full), cover and shake, shake, shimmy for about 30 seconds. Remove lid and heat the jar in microwave (watching carefully so that foam rises but doesn’t overflow – temperatures vary – in my microwave it’s about 50 seconds). A French Press will also work if you happen to have one.
- froth before you heat. In the sequence of things you want to froth first (hand pump or shake cold milk) and heat second to maximize volume.
- different milks will produce different results. As a general rule, non-fat (skim) and 2% fat milk produce the best foam. Whole milk is trickier to froth because the weight of the fat weighs down the milk. If you want to work with a skim milk for frothing but desire the taste and luxurious cream quality of a higher fat, simply add a little half and half to the beverage before topping with foam. Dairy free beverages (and brands) will produce varying results so experimentation is required – there’s really no easy answer and it depends what you’re measuring but in terms of taste and foam quality, coconut, cashew, soy and almond seem to perform best.
Whether you try this Early Grey latte or experiment with your own, I hope you have fun and find a method that works best for you. Making lattes at home is so much more affordable and completely customizable.
Depending on your taste preferences and the type of beverage you’re working with, a little spice topping can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Sometimes I prefer the purity of the tea itself to shine through but more often than not, I enjoy something sprinkled over the milk. For the Earl Grey latte, I especially enjoy ground cardamom (my husband prefers cinnamon). Fresh grated nutmeg is also delish but funny thing, the nutmeg seems to quickly eat into the foam – this may have to do with the coarser, heavier weight of the nutmeg particles – so while I love the taste, I don’t use it often in lattes because I want the foam to endure.
Do you make lattes at home – what method works best for you?
- 2 cups (16 oz) of water
- 2 Earl Grey tea bags or 4 tsp loose-leaf Earl Grey tea (or according to instructions)
- 1 cup (8 oz) of milk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- optional add-ins: ½ tsp honey or maple syrup and/or spice of choice for topping.
- Bring water to near-boil and pour into two separate mugs with a tea bag in each or into a small tea pot with two tea bags or infuser.
- Allow the tea to steep 4-7 minutes (or according to instructions/preference) before removing tea bags/infuser. Add a ½ tsp of vanilla to each latte and ¼ tsp of honey or maple syrup if using, stirring to combine.
- Meanwhile prepare the frothed milk: place 1 cup of cold (refrigerated) milk in stainless steel container (or whatever method you are using) - add lid and hand pump enthusiastically about 20 times. Gently remove the lid from the container (tapping to allow any milk to fall back into the container) and immediately transfer the freshly frothed milk into a clean pint sized mason jar or other suitable jar (it should be no more than half full) and microwave until the frothed milk has approx doubled in volume and before it spills over (if you are new to this, watch carefully to determine the right amount of time in your particular microwave - for us, it's 52 seconds on the button ;o
- Carefully remove the glass jar from microwave and divide foam between the lattes using the method you may have observed from baristas - take a generous sized spoon and hold back the foam to allow some of the warm milk beneath to pour into the glass and then release the spoon to allow the foam to cover the top - you can help by scooping some of the foam at this stage, adding as much or as little as desired. Enjoy as is or with your favorite spice sprinkled on top.
- It may take a couple practices to get the frothing method down but you'll get the hang of it in no time (next thing you know you'll be wowing everyone with your latte art and packing your frother in your valise for your next holiday).
A spot of winter bliss ~