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from Wing Hop Fung
Weekly tea: Royal Lapsang Souchong
Lapsang Souchong is (usually) a smoked tea, and it occupies the place in tea beverage where a whisky might fall: peaty, smoky, luscious, pairs well with sweets.
I got this one from Wing Hop Fung, which bills itself as bringing Chinatown to you. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but it is a good source for reliable daily drinker teas from China that won’t break the budget. (The site is hard to navigate, but the lapsang is here.)
To be fair, I wouldn’t personally count Lapsang Souchong as a “daily drinker.” For me, this tea is too much in regular doses, but I enjoy it when it makes a rare appearance. The smokiness does tend to eclipse the natural flavor of the tea—but it’s definitely the kind of tea that I advise everyone who likes tea try occasionally. 
In fact, if you’re treating yourself to a British afternoon tea of the lavish variety, I would absolutely suggest getting a pot of lapsang souchong near the end of the affair. (If you absolutely hate whiskey and scotch, this might not work for you.)
Dark tea leaves unfold,
releasing a smoky scent.

Walnut shortbread (with easy substitutions)
flaky shortbread
Lapsang goes well with sweets, and one of my favorite simple recipes is for shortbread which has three basic ingredients, any one of which can be swapped out for something else depending on what you want. They’re good on their own, but they’re also amazingly flexible, absorbing additional ingredients to become an infinite variety.
Before I start, though, a rant. Every single time I see a recipe I don’t read the whole thing, because who does that. No. I just start putting things together instantly. Then I get to the end and they’re like “preheat the oven” and I feel like a clown because we are ready to BAKE and the oven is COLD. Every time! Why do you tell me that AFTER all the other stuff!
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Put the following in a decent size bowl: 
  • ¼ cup sugar (can substitute for monk fruit sugar replacement)
  • ½ cup cold butter (for vegans: Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks will work fine)
  • 1 cup flour (for those who are gluten free: Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 baking flour mix works great, as does King Arthur’s measure for measure flour)
If you’re using unsalted butter, add a pinch or two of salt. Or leave it out, if you need to reduce salt intake.
Cut the butter in pieces using a pastry blender, or a butter knife, or a fork, or whatever works for you. Once the butter is small enough, work until you have a crumbly dough.
At this point, you can add up to 1/8 cup of other stuff. I used walnuts, but you could also use pecans, chocolate chips, currants… The options are limitless. If you want to be super-fancy, you can add the walnuts and half a teaspoon of matcha powder.
If you’re feeling fancy, roll out dough using as little extra flour as you can, then cut into shapes: round or wedges are fine. If you’re not feeling fancy, just kind of shape these into vague circles and pat them flat-ish.
Bake in your DEFINITELY PREHEATED TO 325 F oven for about 30 minutes.
For those who did walnuts and matcha powder: if you want to take this up to mega-fancy, grab some white chocolate chips and melt them in the microwave (10 seconds at a time, because chocolate burns fast, and stir between microwaving sessions). Once it’s runny and all the lumps are gone, drizzle spoonfuls on top.
Other things to try: 
  • amaretto shortbread: a tiny pour of imitation almond flavor paired with dried cherries.
  • vanilla vanilla shortbread: mix vanilla flavor + the scraped out seeds of a vanilla bean in with the butter
  • savory shortbread: reduce the sugar to 2 teaspoons, add a handful of grated cheese and chopped, cooked bacon
etc etc etc

Once upon a marquess
Speaking of tea parties…
…this book starts with a tea party for a reason.
When I came up with the idea for the Worth Saga, I had a very specific idea about what I wanted to do with it, and a very specific idea about how I felt I had to go about it.
Specifically, I wanted to write something set outside of Britain starring people with marginalized identities, but I wasn’t actually sure people would go for it. (In retrospect, I think this was a misread on my part: I underestimated people’s willingness to read outside the range of the British upper class.) My plan was to start a series with a book that was set in the British upper class, where one of the back story plot drivers was specifically a war and injustice in China, and then book by book, take people to the other side of the world where the back story took place.
So I started the series with the preparation for a tea party: a thing that seems like the stuff of British plots, but comes from China.
Buy Once Upon a Marquess on:

It’s the time of year when the aspen leaves turn gold, and the Colorado Rockies are awash in bright colors. Me and Pele (my dog, if you don’t know) and my husband took a drive up to the mountains where we could walk and enjoy the scenery up close. It turns out that I did not get a lot of great pictures of leaves but it was still extremely beautiful.
There are studies that suggest that spending time among trees has many natural health benefits (see for instance, this one comparing a walk in a forest to a similar length walk in a city), so I hope that those of you who are able to can spend some time enjoying the turning of the leaves. It’s good for you!

SEE YOU next week.
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