Biscottea Gluten-free Earl Grey Tea, Chai, and Blueberry Tea Shortbread Review

April 17th, 2009 yum Posted in Biscottea, Cookies, Gluten Free Product Review, tea No Comments »

This week when I checked my mail I found a package of gluten-free cookie products from Biscottea, a company that was inspired by the absence of a good snack that went well with tea. Frankly I had forgotten all about them asking if I’d like to try one, and so it was a pleasant surprise.

They perfectly match my passion for tea and innovative gluten-free products. I love the fact that you get two in a neat package so that they don’t go stale after opening, unlike a whole bag of cookies. This is a fine example of a quality gluten-free gourmet baked good that doesn’t taste inferior to its gluten equivalent in any way. What I want to know is why they aren’t in every tea shop in the country- and why they haven’t been picked up by retailers like Starbucks or Peet’s coffee. The flavor of the shortbread is wonderful, and buttery without being cloying, unlike Pamela’s gluten-free shortbread cookies (yuck).

The Nibble picked them as a top pick, saying:
We have eaten many gluten-free cookies, feeling sorry for those with gluten allergies. They will be very happy to discover that Biscottea’s gluten-free cookies are almost as tasty as the regular wheat flour. They are a bit less sweet (we wish the sweetness were on par with the regular cookies), but the excellent tea flavors are virtually identical. Made with gluten-free all purpose flour and sorghum flour, they are a real find for anyone in need of a gluten-free treat. The gluten-free flavors include Blueberry, Chai, and Earl Grey.

For the record- I hate the Nibble’s review. The whole pitying thing- totally unnecessary. There might be some crummy prepared GF cookies out there, but there are also some delicious ones produced by Whole Foods Gf bakehouse and GF bakeries and the ones I make at home are awesome, so I don’t need anyone mourning MY loss, thank you very much. ;) That aside- I don’t know how sweet the gluten version is, but personally I prefer a cookie that isn’t super-sweet, and saying that they are ALMOST as tasty as gluten-free? Let’s not even go there, people. Nevertheless, I guess any publicity is good publicity, and I’m for anything that increases the gluten-free yummy options in my life!

That aside, whenever a company tries to produce gluten-free products alongside a gluten-line, I get a little worried. The allergen line on the cookie says “Made with Gluten-Free Ingredients: Produced on Shared Equipment, In a Facility using Nuts and Tree Nut Products.” I wondered what that meant- and what the equipment was shared WITH, since they didn’t say.

I emailed the company, and this is what they had to say:
All of the ingredients purchased to produce the shortbread are gluten-free and stored separately from products containing gluten. All equipment used in the baking process is thoroughly washed down and cleaned at the end of the work week. All gluten-free products are produced first at the beginning of the work week before the equipment has been exposed to any products containing gluten. Finished gluten-free product is fully packaged, specially marked, and stored separately before production of any products containing gluten can begin.To ensure the safety of our consumers who purchase BISCOTTEA gluten-free shortbread cookies, we send random samples from every batch. Test results are linked to the batch by lot number and batch code. Our products are released for sale with results of less than 5 parts per million. ” – correspondence from Derek Still of Biscottea.

Of course I prefer a dedicated facility, but if you’re going to have a shared facility, their precautions sounded good enough for me- at least until proved otherwise. So, I got up my courage and bit into my first gluten-free Biscottea…

earlgreytea2earlgreyteaBiscottea Earl Grey Tea Shortbread: I started with their intriguing Earl Grey Tea Shortbread cookie. This delightful shortbread cookie has great texture and crunch, with a mild buttery flavor that is beautifully complimented with the Earl Grey flavoring. You must like Earl Grey (and its bermagot flavoring) to enjoy this cookie, as it is thoroughly infused. I would almost call the flavoring “soapy” but again, it is the bermagot and not any fault of the product. I had one in the interest of taste-testing… and then I gobbled up the second one because I just couldn’t resist it. It is rare that I find a gluten-free packaged cookie that tempts me, or one that I feel that I would actually buy on my own, but these shortbread cookies are wonderful, and yes, I would actually buy them myself. In fact, I really want to know where I can buy more…
Texture: 9/10
Flavor: 9/10 (providing you like bermagot)
Overall Impression: 9/10 I will go out of my way to acquire more.

Purchase Gluten-Free Earl Grey Tea Shortbread Cookies with ShopOrganic
Amazon’s Page for Biscottea Gluten-Free Earl Grey Tea-Infused Shortbread Cookies

chaishortbread chaicookieBiscottea Gluten-Free Chai Shortbread:
The very next morning after I had the first Earl Grey GF shortbread, I opened a package of their Chai flavor. I had heard on Twitter that the chai tasted a bit like bean flour, so I was a little nervous. But, when I actually tasted it, I thought the shortbread was quite lovely and did indeed taste like Chai. I noticed that the chai spices did not include tea itself, so I was a little disappointed by that as I felt the black tea might have added an additional punch of flavor. However, I couldn’t personally detect bean flour- just cardamon. I gave the DH a bite and he said very happily that it was like eating Chai and didn’t taste gluten-free at all. This Chai shortbread was a real winner and thoroughly enjoyable, although it didn’t have the strong tea-infused flavor I fell in love with in the Earl Grey Shortbread. I loved that it didn’t overdo the cinnamon like some lower quality Chai blends. I could really taste the ginger and cardamon.It would be perfect for any lover of chai tea- and I found it an extremely pleasant snacking cookie that I might buy again- especially if I could get it in an assorted pack of gluten-free shortbreads. (Hint, hint…)
Texture: 9/10, everything a shortbread cookie should be
Flavor: 7/10- lovely but would be even lovelier with black tea as an ingredient!
Overall Impression: 8/10 Good and enjoyed by the non GF DH- I would possibly buy this again. If there was more of a tea flavor likelihood would go up even more..

Biscottea Gluten-free Chai Shortbread Cookies at Shop Organic
Biscottea Gluten-Free Chai Tea-Infused Shortbread Cookies on Amazon

blueberrycookie2 blueberrycookieBiscottea Gluten-Free Blueberry Tea Shortbread Cookie: This blueberry tea cookie was out of stock everywhere I checked, so it may be a popular variety. I never tend to drink fruity caffeinated teas (although I love Celestial Seasoning fruity herbal tea). I was intrigued by the fact that it was made with white tea, and greatly looking forward to trying this cookie, although sad that it would be my last sample of Biscottea. *sniff* When I bit into the shortbread, I could definitely taste the authentic blueberry flavoring. I’m very leery of artificial flavors and this cookie had a real, natural, concentrated blueberry flavor that I enjoyed. The cookie did somehow seem a little more dry than the other flavors, and try as I might I couldn’t detect any trace of the white tea used in the cookie. I ate the first one and enjoyed it, but the nicest part was when I bit into the second cookie and got a burst of blueberry essence. I could see enjoying this shortbread with white tea or some other nice tea, but I don’t know that I would buy it again just because to me it didn’t reach the same special gourmet flavor level that the other gluten-free, tea infused cookies achieved. But, maybe this is just the snob in me that doesn’t care for fruity caffeinated beverages… This shortbread may be perfect for those who love fruit flavors and aren’t looking for a strong tea flavor in the cookie.
Texture: 7/10, this pack may have been less fresh as the cookie was a bit dry.
Flavor: 6/10, good for those that enjoy fruit flavors in their cookies or tea, less interesting if you want a strong tea flavor.
Overall Impression: 6/10 A fine cookie, but I wouldn’t personally buy it again unless it was in a multi-flavor package…

Biscottea Gluten-free Blueberry Tea Shortbread Cookies at Shop Organic
(currently out of stock)
Biscottea Gluten-Free Blueberry Tea-Infused Shortbread Cookies on Amazon

If you haven’t had a gluten-free Biscottea with your tea yet- it’s high time to try it! Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go pine over my tea cabinet and try to wish myself another gluten-free Earl Grey shortbread cookie. *sigh*

Another Review of Biscottea at Gluten-free is Life

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A Gluten-free Afternoon Tea Party- A Baby Shower Tea Menu and Recipes

April 2nd, 2008 yum Posted in Baby Shower, Easter, Party Menu, Sandwich, tea 9 Comments »

teashowerlady.jpgteacup.jpgUsually I don’t think of tea parties as particularily gluten-free friendly dining experiences. Oh, I know there are exceptions. Apparently at some very posh hotels in London, if you fork over an exorbitant sum, you can get a lovely gluten-free tea. But ordinarily, in the States, you just can’t find a place serving a gluten-free tea very easily. (I do hear that American Girl sometimes will offer gluten-free treats, though.) I hadn’t thought about it very much until I heard that an upcoming baby shower for a dear friend was going to be held at a local cafe restaurant that did a tea service. Luckily the party organizer (the expectant mother’s sister-in-law) didn’t mind contacting the owner about possibly providing gluten-free teas to two of the guests. In a cool coincidence, another guest was also on a gluten-free diet. Luckily, the owner was happy to oblige, and just asked that we bring some gluten-free bread for her to use for the sandwiches. Two nights before, I baked a batch of Whole Foods Gluten-Free Bread Mix at my friend’s house (the expectant mother) and the day before, I brought over the pre-sliced bread to the restaurant, along with a copy of the American Triumph Dining Card instructions for restaurants that explained such things as the problems of cross-contamination. I was excited about the party, but a little nervous about the food. The party was beautiful and went off without a hitch. The expectant mother enjoyed every minute of her party. We all wore lovely party hats, provided by the cafe owner, and played silly baby games. The mother-to-be posed for pictures, unwrapped lots of thoughtful and mini-person sized clothing and toys, and of course, enjoyed the tea and tea sandwiches. Me and the other gluten-free attendee enjoyed our own food as well. teaunscone.jpgThe first course was scones and jam for the glutenoids, with lots of thick clotted and whipped cream. We had fresh strawberries and a mountain of whipped cream- no scones, but it was still pretty decadent.
teasammies.jpgThe main course was tea sandwiches. To my relief, the gluten-free bread had a decent texture, even untoasted, and its mild flavor went well with the delicate fillings. Despite some initial trepidation that the vegetarian offerings might be limited, the owner had really outdone herself and come up with three fillings for us- one, a traditional dill cucumber sandwich, two, a roasted zucchini,eggplant, and squash sandwich with mayonnaise and mustard, and three, a sandwich with avocado and sprouts. Mmm. To be honest, cucumber sandwiches tend to leave me a little bored, but the roasted veggie sandwich was extraordinary. I did find the portions to be a bit large, so I ate the fillings out of some and left some of the bread. Still, it was a real pleasure to enjoy the sandwiches with tea.
teadessert.jpgI thought the feast was over, and that was fine because i was really quite, quite full. But then the proprietor came out with desserts- little tea cakes for the glutenoids and, surprisingly- a lovely banana cream pudding with a two layer raw-foods style fudge. I was nervous about the fudge, until she thoughtfully told me all the ingredients- basically walnuts and dates, with raisins thrown in for fun. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was actually a delightful sweet treat. It was like a very, very fresh Lara bar. The pudding was also quite nice, although a bit sweeter than my sweet tooth is accustomed to.

Here’s a recipe for a vegetarian banana pudding (with eggs and milk)
a vegan
southern-style banana pudding- just substitute gluten-free cookies or leave them out!
a raw-foods, gluten-free recipe for banana-choco banana pudding

More interested in raw foods dessert recipes?
Here’s the Recipe for Date Nut Torte that I enjoyed at the tea
OR, if you’re in the mood for chocolate,
try this chocolate dried fruit raw fudge recipe

And you thought tea and sandwiches were off the menu! No way. I am also happy to report that I didn’t feel so much as a twinge from the food- so they must have really taken the CC issue seriously. They did a great job of keeping me, and the other gluten-free girl (a third grader!) safe. So, who knows. The next time you come across a gluten-full event like this- try talking to the manager or owner and see if special arrangements can be made. Believe me, sometimes a little effort results in a lot of fun (and some great food!)

babycenter.jpg partyhats.jpg girlsinhats.jpg

After I came home I was eager to recreate the yummy sandwiches in my own home, so I put together the below recipes for tea sandwiches. They aren’t QUITE as good as the ones at the tea shop, but they were pretty yummy all the same.Next time you feel like tea, scones, or tea sandwiches, why not make them at home- any lunch can be special, with a little extra preparation and a teapot full of imported tea brewing.

*Oh, and because we were visiting my friend over Easter weekend, we also dyed some eggs together- the natural way with vegetables and colorful spices. The eggs turned out great and it was lots of fun, so I included the recipe below in case you want to try it. Who needs artificial colors and cardboard boxes with bunnies on them? Not me, now that I know how to make my own super-food-safe coloring liquid. Enjoy and a Very Happy, if Belated, Easter.

Read about gladtobeglutenfree’s experience with a gluten-free tea service
Or, make your own tea treats from Milk for the Morning Cake’s roundup of gluten-free teatime recipes.

Gluten-Free Vegetarian Tea Sandwich Recipe
1/2 loaf of your favorite gluten-free bread, sliced, with crusts removed if desired.

Sauce 1:
GF Mayonnaise (Spectrum Vegan or other)
smidgen of GF Mustard
Fresh Herbs, minced (thyme, marjoram, basil, whatever you like)
Fresh Chives, minced
dollop of yogurt (soy, goat, or cow yogurt works!)

Filling 1:
1 Eggplant (asian is desirable, but anything is ok), thinly sliced to make strips
1-2 zucchini, thinly sliced to make strips
1 yellow squash, thinly sliced to make strips
Olive oil
chopped fresh herbs (thyme, marjoram, etc.)
Fresh basil leaves
1 organic tomato, sliced

Sauce 2:
Cream Cheese (Tofutti better than cream cheese or dairy)
Fresh dill, minced
Fresh chives, minced

Filling 2:
Thinly sliced cucumbers

Sauce 3:
Your Favorite Hummus
kalamata olives, pitted, and sliced or chopped

Filling 3:
Fresh Avocado slices
Thinly Sliced tomatoes
fresh sprouts

Combine ingredients for all sauces in separate little rice bowls and reserve. Take your sliced vegetables for filling one, baste lightly in olive oil and chopped fresh herbs or your favorite blend, and grill them nicely until they look done. Season with salt and pepper. Prepare your bread and spread sauce 1 on two pieces of bread. Next, layer filling 1 on the bread and cut it into a cute triangle. Make your second sandwich with sauce and filling 2, and your third sandwich with sauce and filing 3.

Enjoy with hot, delicious black tea and a light salad if desired.

Naturally Dyed Easter Egg
1 quart water +2 tbsp white vinegar

Color Elements:
Blue: Red Cabbage, 4 cups
Yellow: 3 tbsp turmeric

You Can also try the following color elements:
4 cups onion skins (12 onions)
4 cups chopped Beets
1 quart strong coffee, no water

To make each dye, bring water, vinegar, and color element to a boil, lower the heat, simmer 30 min and strain dye. You can boil eggs with dye or cold dip, for 5 seconds up to overnight, and dry on wire wrap. For Turmeric, you can just add the powder to hot water without boiling it.

Deep yellow- soak eggs in turmeric for a long time
Teal- Soak eggs in turmeric solution for 30 minutes and then cabbage soak for 5 seconds.
Bright Blue- Soak eggs in cabbage solution overnight (or just for a long time)

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