Side Dish: All you need to know about tea

“Victoria The Essential Tea Companion: Favorite Recipes for Tea Parties and Celebrations” from the editors of Victoria Magazine.

Hearst Books, $24.95.

204-page hardcover.

June may be National Iced Tea Month, but that’s no reason to forgo relaxing with a fresh-poured cup of hot tea. Enjoy hot — or iced — tea for a special occasion like a bridal or baby shower, a casual afternoon get-together with friends, or a midmorning pick-me-up, say the editors of a new cookbook.

Regardless of your reason for taking tea, the cookbook from the editors of Victoria Magazine has suggestions for brewing the perfect pot and ideas for party menus. “Victoria The Essential Tea Companion” is a compilation of the best from three earlier Victoria tea books. It is beautifully illustrated with numerous full-color photographs.

This volume offers the history of tea, advice on selecting cups and serving pieces, two chapters with menus for themed parties from a children’s tea to a bridal shower, and more than 100 recipes, including those for both hot and cold home-brewed teas, tea sandwiches and other savories, breads, spreads, cookies, cakes, tarts, steamed puddings and sauces.

There’s also a section with information on types of teas, sources for tea and tea accessories, and favorite tea salons in the United States and Canada. (Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans is among them.) There is even a short list of tea clubs, organizations and museums.

Anyone who loves tea and enjoys the rituals of teatime will want to have “Victoria The Essential Tea Companion.”

Sweet potato contest

I got to check out the impressive new facilities of Louisiana Culinary Institute last Friday while I was there for the judging of the 2014 Sweet Rewards Recipe Contest, sponsored by the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission.

Amateur and professional chefs from throughout the country submitted entries for fresh, frozen or canned sweet potatoes. I didn’t realize just how versatile sweet potatoes are until I saw the range of dishes the semifinalists developed. The dishes were judged on overall flavor, visual appeal and creativity.

The winners and their recipes will be posted on the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission website, sweetpotato.org, in November. They will also be featured in Louisiana Cookin’ magazine. I can’t wait to get the recipes.

The panel of judges also included René Simon, executive director of the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission; Le Creolé Executive Chef Ryan André; Gino Sclafani, corporate chef of Ruffino’s Restaurant; chef Chris Wadsworth of Triumph Kitchen; Jim Urdiales, owner of Mestizo’s Restaurant; Nick Hufft, owner of Curbside Burgers and executive chef at Barcadia NOLA; Mary Gallent and Melanie Tullier, both with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture; Hannah Heltz, Baton Rouge Junior League Kitchen Tour chairman; Lathan Alexander, co-owner of Alexander’s Highland Market; Chelsea Brasted, NOLA.com; and Maggie Heyn Richardson, Spatula Diaries food blogger for 225 Magazine.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com.

Iced Lemon-Mint Tea

Makes 6 to 8 servings. Recipe is from “Victoria The Essential Tea Companion” from the editors of Victoria Magazine (2014, Hearst Books).

2 quarts water

2 tbls. lemon tea

2 tbls. mint tea

6 to 8 lemon slices

1. In a large saucepan, bring the water to a full boil. Add the lemon and mint teas, either loose or in a fine mesh infuser. Cover and let the tea stand for 5 minutes.

2. Strain and cool to room temperature.

3. Serve the tea over ice, garnished with the lemon slices.