Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A sparkling finish to the year!

Another year is coming to a close. My goodness how time flies! As the hours dwindle down, I thought I’d share one last treat with you before the New Year arrives. This is an easy one. If you still have some tea syrup available, add a drop or two into a wine glass and pour some sparkling wine over it. Yup. I am ending the year off with a lovely glass of bubbly with hints of Earl Grey tea. It’s pleasant and refreshing, you gotta try it.  Did I mention this is a quick post too?

Tea bubbly!

Happy New Year and have a great 2015 everyone! Cheers!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Yes Chef: What to do with that sweet goo!

On my last post, I showed you how to make a syrup using tea. Now, you’re probably wondering what you can use that syrup for. There are plenty of things you can use it for. It will also depend on the consistency of your syrup which can easily be adjusted by adding a little water, reheating and cooling down. I kept my syrup in the refrigerator which became solid, but not rock hard. It was soft and I was able to touch it and create indentations with my finger.

I wanted to use my Earl Grey syrup for French toast. So, I decided to nuke some of it in the microwave, add a little water, and whisk it like crazy. Once I got it to the consistency I wanted, I ran it through a sieve to remove any solid particles, and set it aside in order to begin making my French toast. Then, I just drizzled my syrup over the toast. They tasted yummy! Quite different from maple syrup. I could really detect the tea and the citrus notes of that famous Earl Grey flavour.

My sweet breakfast!

What else can you use your syrup for? Well, you could drizzle it over ice-cream, baklava, a parfait, or hot oatmeal cereal. You can add it to a smoothie, or even use it as the sweetener for your tea. I also poured some of mine over Greek yogurt with chopped almonds and enjoyed that for dessert. 

Remember to think of the consistency of your syrup. Re-heat the syrup in the microwave or on the stove-top, add a little water, whisk it and strain it through a sieve if you need to. It’s a bit of work, but the results are worth it. You could even make your syrup to a consistency just a little thicker than water or that of maple sap. Then, depending on what you plan to use it for, you can heat a portion of it and thicken it to your liking. Pretty sweet!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Yes Chef: Here's a sweet solution!

A great way to incorporate tea into your cookery is by adding it in as a syrup. This is very easy, but requires some patience. All you need is equal parts of water and sugar, and your choice of tea. I would not recommend any strong, smoky teas such a Pu-erh or Lapsang Souchong. Try a tea you drink on a regular basis. Flavoured teas are especially wonderful as they will add another dimension of taste and aroma. Tisanes work just as well too. I’m going to use Earl Grey to create my syrup as I like it for its citrus notes.

Ingredients:
  • 1 ½ cups of water
  • 1 ½ cups of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of Earl Grey loose leaf tea 

Preparation:

1.   Heat water to boiling point in a saucepan. Remove it from heat and add Earl Grey loose leaf tea. Allow to infuse for about 10 minutes.

2.   Pour tea through a sieve a couple of times to remove the leaves. Add in the sugar and heat on medium. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. This should take about 2-3 minutes.

3.   Use a whisk and continuously stir in order to reduce the liquid. You want a consistency similar to that of maple syrup at the end. This took me about 20 minutes.

4.   Once you've achieved the right consistency, allow it to cool for a few minutes and then pour into an airtight glass container. This can be kept in the fridge for up to a month.

Pour some sugar on me!

Ditto!

How easy was that? It tastes really good too! I should know…I licked the whisk clean! This Earl Grey syrup can be used in many foods and drinks. I'll show you what I used it for on a future post!




Monday, December 8, 2014

Tea Tips: Infuse and Reuse!

Time for some more great ways to use tea leaves after drinking it!

Before dumping used tea leaves in the organics waste or better yet your garden composter, you can extend their life by freshening up places in your home. After you've enjoyed several infusions of your tea, take the leaves and spread them evenly on a flat surface and allow them to dry. Once dried, use them much as you would baking soda to collect food odors in your fridge or other places to clear the air. Here are a few suggestions for you to try:

Fridge: Place tea leaves in an open container to absorb food odors. I leave mine in the fridge for a few days before throwing them into the organics waste basket.

Sneakers: Throw some tea leaves into your running shoes. About a ½ an hour or even a few hours before you’re ready to wear them again for your next run should help.

Cat Litter: If you have a cat, the litter is the perfect place to dump some used tea leaves. They won’t harm your kitty either.

Carpet: Freshen up your carpet by sprinkling tea leaves on it for about 20 minutes. Then vacuum as normal.

Wooden Cutting Board: Place tea leaves onto your cutting board to absorb traces of food smells that have been chopped on it. A ½ an hour should do the trick.

Of course, there are many other places you could reuse tea leaves to absorb odors. You can also reuse tea bags. Once they've dried-up, rip open the bags and use the leaves as described. Try a fragrant tea such as Earl Grey or Jasmine to add a lovely scent. 

Dragonwell tea in my fridge.

Using tea leaves as an odor absorbing agent is environmentally friendly, economical, and a great way to increase the longevity of tea leaves before discarding them.  Try it out for yourself! Remember, these are USED tea leaves that have already been infused for drinking. Don’t waste perfectly good tea leaves intended for drinking. Infuse and reuse!




Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Tea Spot: A delightful evening with a Turkish twist!

I just got back from a holiday tea get together organized by my good friend Lisa. This time, we headed over to a small establishment call Art Square Café which is a restaurant and art gallery combo. I've been here before and I just love it for its atmosphere.

For the tea and art lover!

This gathering was just a simple mix and mingle amongst tea lovers. Like most such functions, it included raffles, ice-breakers, seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones. 

Chocolate teapots!

The food included cheese and fruit platters, as well as Turkish cuisine like roasted red pepper, eggplant, and hummus spreads served along with garlic pita. Turkish Delight was offered for dessert which was so good. Not super sweet and not the bright orange you normally think of for this dessert. Of course, we had some amazing Turkish tea which was smooth and soothing. I found myself sipping it like wine especially since it was poured into cute little glass vessels.

Fruit platter.


The food spread.

It appeared everyone had a good time participating in the wacky games, eating great food, and looking at beautiful artwork. A nice night out on an unseasonably warm final day of November. I’ll definitely be coming back to Art Square again. It’s the perfect place to enjoy some amazing teas and write up a post or two!

Art of tea!




Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Cuppa: Quit yakking and start cracking!

On my last post, I yakked about butter tea. Now I’m going to show you how to make it.

The problem I ran into was finding yak butter. Even here in multicultural Toronto, I was unable to find it anywhere. So, I decided to make the appropriate substitutions instead. Since this is my first attempt, I thought I’d play it safe and use Assam instead of Pu-erh. I’ll give Pu-erh a shot sometime in the future if everything goes to my liking. I used 2% milk, though you could use whole milk which is recommended. I used regular, unsalted butter you can get in any market. Finally, for a bit of authenticity, I used Himalayan pink salt! I also don’t own a butter churner, so I used a whisk for mixing instead. You could mix everything in a blender too if you’d like. What you want is a butter tea that’s a little frothy.

Tea, butter, salt.

Whisky business!


Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoon regular, unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons of 2% milk
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of Assam tea
  • 1 teaspoon of Himalayan salt

Preparation:


1.   Brew tea using 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of Assam. I brewed it for 10 minutes to make it extra strong since I’m not using Pu-erh. I removed the leaves before moving on to the next step.

2.   Add 2 tablespoons of butter. This will start to melt upon contact with the tea.

3.   Add 1 teaspoon of salt.  Mix all the contents with a whisk.

4.   Add milk. I just eye it and look for a certain colour. It was about 2 tablespoons. Vigorously whisk everything.

5.   Pour into a drinking bowl, take a deep breath and sip.


Transferred goods!

It actually tasted pretty good! It was salty, hearty, buttery, nutty, creamy, and rich. The aroma was buttery. The colour was velvety and shiny with an oily surface. I can see myself making this again to enjoy on a cold night when I don’t feel like having a heavy meal but want some sort of comfort food. I felt full and relaxed. It was very soothing.

I can see why Tibetans would enjoy their yak tea with tsampa. I had a desire to drink my butter tea along with some warm bread to nibble on. I even had ideas of using the butter tea as a soup and adding dumplings into it! How cool would that be? 

A hearty bowl!

Well, since this was a success, I will definitely try making a butter tea using Pu-erh. I’m sure the results will be different, but it’s all about experimenting.

Hey, if there are any Torontonians out there who know where I can get my hands on yak butter locally, please let me know.






Monday, November 17, 2014

Teaology 101: Time to yak about butter tea!

Perhaps you take your tea with milk and sugar. Maybe you enjoy it with honey and a squeeze of lemon. Maybe you’re a purist and like tea all on its own. Have you ever tried tea with butter and salt? Sounds weird, I know, but in certain parts of the world, Tibet in particular, the locals drink up 50 cups of this mixture a day. Wow, and I thought I was a heavy tea drinker! This strange brew is called Yak Tea, Butter Tea, or Po Cha.

Yak tea is the combination of a strong, smoky tea such as Lapsang Souchong or Pu-erh, yak butter and salt. This concoction helps nourish the Tibetans and provides the much needed calories to keep them energized throughout the day. Drinking yak tea is thought to keep the skin supple and even prevent chapped lips due to constant wind exposure from living in high altitudes. It is also believed to aid in digestion and help you stay alert.

To prepare a traditional bowl of yak tea, pieces from a brick of tea are crumbled into water and boiled continuously for hours in order to produce a thick, dark, bitter brew called chaku. This chaku is poured into wooden, cylindrical churns called chandongs. Yak butter and salt is added into the chandongs and then all the contents are churned for a while before being transferred into clay pots for serving. The result is a thick, oily, stew-like liquid. Tibetans normally enjoy their tea with tsampa which is a snack made of roasted flour and yak tea. The tsampa is eaten along with tea and even dipped into the tea.

Churn it, baby!

I actually had the chance to try butter tea while enrolled in my Tea Sommelier course. My instructor had a powder formula of the ingredients in a packet he purchased during his travels. All you had to do was mix it with some brewed tea. We used Pu-erh. It wasn't bad. It was definitely different and unusual. I recall it being very salty. Not sure if the packet had an expiry date on it, but I’m sure freshness would play a part in making a great cup of this tea.

Tibet is on my bucket list of places to travel, so hopefully one day I’ll get a chance to try authentic yak tea. However, you can try butter tea without having to travel halfway around the world. Stay tuned, I’ll show you how!



Sunday, November 9, 2014

Steeping Beauty: A simple scrub with Sencha!

On a past post, I wrote about how you could use Matcha to make a face mask. Now, I’m going to show you how to make a gentle scrub using tea to exfoliate your skin. It’s so simple!

I’m going to use Sencha but feel free to use another type of tea if you wish. All tea is good tea! Using a mortar and pestle, I grinded 1 teaspoon of tea into a fine powder leaving some larger particles. 


A fine mess!

Then, I just mixed it with a cleanser and a sprinkle of sugar. You could use a moisturizer or lotion, but I feel something soapy works best. I also wanted to use a cleansing product that was free of a gazillion ingredients and scents. I chose Simple, because it’s, well, simple.

Cleaning combo!

After mixing the tea, sugar, and cleanser together, add a few drops of water and work the combo into a lather. Then just massage onto your face in gentle circular motions. 


My massage moment!

Rinse your face with lukewarm water and pat dry. Your skin will feel clean and alive. So simple!




Friday, October 31, 2014

My Cuppa: No tricks, just treats!

BOO! Okay I thought I'd do up a post in celebration of Halloween. Hopefully this doesn't scare you away! 

Every year around this time we are bombarded by all things pumpkin: pies, muffins, even scented candles. Something else we can’t get enough of is PSL or Pumpkin Spice Latte. I figured I could come up with my own concoction instead of having to fork over my life’s savings to the coffee houses each time just to enjoy this treat. Really, how hard could it be?

It really is not difficult at all. To make this popular beverage, all you need is a good spicy tea and some pumpkin purée. For my tea, I used the recipe from my Masala Hottie post I did a few months back. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of making the spices, no problem. Such spices are available pre-made at grocery stores. You can even use pre-made masala teas available as loose leaves and tea bags.

Pure Pumpkin

Using my masala chai recipe:

1.  Pour the brewed tea through a sieve to remove all the large solids of the spices.

2.  Add some pumpkin purée. I used 1 tablespoon for every cup. Mix over medium heat until purée is completely dissolved. 

3.  Pour through a sieve once more to remove any remaining fine particles and lumps. 

4.  Add your choice of sweetener and milk to taste. I used raw sugar and 2% milk. 

5.  Heat for another minute or so, then pour your pumpkin, spiced tea into large mugs. You’re done…almost! 

You could enjoy your brew as is, or you could kick it up and add whipped-cream for something extra special! I found a coconut whipped-cream at the grocers. OMG! I am a coconut freak! Then sprinkle some cinnamon or chocolate on top if you’d like. I used some nutmeg. The result was frightfully good!

With coconut whipped-cream! OMG!

There you go. Nothing spooky here! Have a Happy Halloween!



Sunday, October 26, 2014

This Pom is the Bom!

As I proceeded with my weekly rituals of searching the flyers to make my grocery list, I came across an ad for a pomegranate drink by Pom Wonderful. I do like the Pom drinks, but because they are rather tangy, I cannot gulp them down like water. I need to sip them slowly like wine.

The advertisement was for a new line of Pom drinks that contained tea as an ingredient. Though the product is a bit pricey, I thought I’d give it a try. Four different tea types combined with pomegranate were up for grabs: Peach Passion White Tea, Lemonade Tea, Sweet Tea, and Honey Green Tea. 

A body to die for!

I went for the Honey Green Tea. The aroma was light and fresh with just a touch of fruit and floral notes. The colour was more that of watermelon juice. I wasn't sure what I was expecting in terms of the taste, but I needed to take several sips before determining if I liked it or not. It was not as tart as the regular Pom drink. This almost had a bubble gum taste to it. I could detect the green tea as well as the honey. The taste was unusual but not bad. Definitely something to enjoy during a backyard barbeque in the summer or used as an ingredient in a cocktail.

Pom touts itself as a healthy beverage, but I could care less if it’s true or not. It’s something I enjoy once in a while. Though I'm always a little suspicious of a product claiming to be healthy but uses an “extract” of one thing or “concentrate” of another thing then some “natural flavours” of some sort, and a little “organic” something. Really?

Just the facts!

As I said at the top, this isn't an everyday beverage for me. Just something I would consider when I want something a little different and purchase because it was on sale.



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Steeped in History: A surprise in every box!

Did you ever get excited about cracking open a Kinder egg to see what treasure might be waiting within? Or how about the classic Cracker Jack? From my ever diminishing memories of childhood life, I recall always getting a crappy plastic ring! I always looked forward to opening sugar-induced cereal boxes and shoving my arm to the bottom in order to retrieve the toy give-aways. Another surprise I enjoyed getting was what was hidden in Red Rose tea boxes. Yup. Even tea had gifts. These came in the form of tiny ceramic figurines of animals, houses, nursery rhyme characters, holiday themes, and so much more.

Mom's Wade Whimsies.

These tiny treasures were created by George Wade Pottery in Burslem, England. The company began as a small shop in 1810 producing mostly bottles, pottery, as well as ceramics for industrial use. Later on, Wade began making Art Deco figurines, and then designs of various animals. Along the way, the company ran into obstacles concerning different moulds, colours, and glazes. Even World War 2 had on impact on the company. Ceramic production was limited to design for functionality only rather than a thing of beauty.

The ceramic small wonders were introduced to Canada by Red Rose in 1967 by offering them in their boxed-tea sold at a premium. In 1983, they were open to the U.S. market which saw their popularity rise even further.

On a more interesting note, because these mini-marvels had rough, unglazed, ridged markings on their undersides, they were used as strikers for matches in pubs and kitchens. I remember often colouring the bottoms with magic markers!

Humpty Dumpty.

Wade whimsies are collectors’ items today and are still given away by Red Rose in some countries. Sadly, they are no longer offered in Canada with distribution coming to a halt in 1983. Not in Canada!?! What a pity!



Friday, October 10, 2014

My Cuppa: Feeling good about getting stuffed!

In my opinion, October is the kick-off to eating season! Yup. Gone are the light eats of summer. It’s time to stuff your face silly with mashed potatoes, turkey, holiday goodies, and Halloween treats! This all comes at a price of course. The achy stomach, weight gain, and feelings of guilt. Can’t do much about the guilt, and there's always exercise for the added weight.  However, there is help for tummy troubles. Fennel seeds! 

Lovin' spoonful!

Fennel seeds are flavourful, aromatic, and have many medicinal properties. They smell and taste like licorice. Traditionally, they are used to as a remedy for digestion issues. If you've ever been to an Indian restaurant for their all-you-can-eat buffets, you may have been offered fennel seeds at the end of your eating extravaganza. They may be candy-coated in various colours or stark naked on their own. Either way, they help calm your stomach and freshen your breath. Just take a spoonful and slowly chew away your troubles.

You may also enjoy these seeds of wonder as a beverage. A fennel seed tisane is super easy to make and does not take much time at all. Just boil up some water and pour it over some seeds. I use 1 teaspoon for 2 cups of water. I also like to crush up the seeds a bit using a pestle and mortar to release some of the flavours. Allow 10 minutes to infuse. Then sit back and sip away. You can remove the seeds using a sieve, but I just let mine sink to the bottom of the cup to collect, and gather up to enjoy chewing once I've finished drinking the brew.

The colour of the liquor is a clear, pale yellow-green. The licorice taste is not overly strong as it would be if you chewed on the seeds straight. It’s soothing! Even the aroma is light and pleasant.

What's swimming in my drink?

You can find fennel seeds available in tea bags for convenience, albeit pulverized to dust. I recommend buying the seeds in bulk and preparing your drink as I described. Then, get in touch with your inner-chef and create all sorts of dishes using fennel seeds in both sweet and savoury goodies. Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Cuppa: This Sencha is berry good!

Not too long ago I purchased samples of various teas being sold at a local tea shop called Steeped and Infused. One of the selections I chose was called Sencha Berry Fig. It’s a Sencha blended with pieces of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, along with figs and peony petals. Sencha is one of favourite green teas, so I decided to try this interesting mix even though I’m not a big fan of fruity teas. It’s just a sample, so why not?

The dry leaves look pretty. It contains sprinkles of the berries, figs, and peonies. The aroma is sweet and fruity. 

Colourful Sencha.

I prepared this tea using the same directions indicated in a previous Sencha post.

The leaves produced a pale yellow liquor. The aroma was just as sweet and fruity as the dry leaves. You can really detect the strawberry. It tasted good! It was quite mild with light fruity notes. Very smooth with no aftertaste. It didn’t taste at all like the Sencha I’m used to. I managed to get 3 good infusions before the leaves lost their flavour. The fruitiness did diminish after each steep, but it did not take away from a great tasting cup.

Berry delightful!

I thought this tea would be perfect over ice with blueberries floating in it. A great summertime drink! Or perhaps even as a syrup for drizzling over ice-cream or some pastries. Hmmm…the endless possibilities!



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tea Tips: It's a dirty job, but I gotta do it!

Chores are never fun, but they must be done. I noticed my wooden pieces of furniture were quite dull looking no matter how often I dusted and wiped them down. I love my solid wood furniture and did not want to use harsh chemicals on them. A mixture of water and vinegar could work, but the smell is not particularly pleasant. I had heard that tea could be used as a substitute cleanser, so after some sleuthing on the internet for confirmation, I came across many do-it-yourself articles about using tea for cleaning purposes. 

Just spray...

It’s very simple! For your wooden furniture or hardwood floors, use the cheapest black (red) tea you have. Tea bags, even the no-name brands work just fine. Just brew as normal making enough for what you want to clean. I steeped 2 tea bags in 4 cups of water. After allowing it to cool down, I poured it into a spray bottle. You may need to brew more tea and pour it into a bucket if you intend to use it for mopping the floors.

and wipe.

Now it’s time to clean. Simply spray the tea onto your furniture, and use a cotton cloth to buff and wipe. Not only will the tea clean and make the surface shine, the acidic properties of the tea will help keep the wood in good condition and even enhance its colour. Add a few drops of lemon juice to your brew for really dirty surfaces like the floors. You can even try a flavoured tea like Earl Grey or some other fruity blends to add a sweet scent to the room. 
 
It's clean!

Tea as a cleaning solution is so economical and friendly to the environment. Happy weekend chores!




Saturday, September 13, 2014

My Cuppa: A good shot of green tea!

A little while ago, my mum provided me with a package of green tea she did not want.  I happily accepted!  This was Temple of Heaven Special Gunpowder.  A nice everyday green tea in my opinion.  

Gunpowder is grown in the Zhejiang province in China, but like any other tea, there are variations. Taste, aroma, and appearance depend on where and how the plant was grown and processed. In China, it is referred to as Zhu Cha which translates to "bead tea" or "pearl tea" but please don't confuse this with the Bubble Tea topic that I posted a couple of months back. No, this is something completely different. Gunpowder's name comes from its appearance. After the plucked leaves are withered and steamed, they are hand-rolled into pellets. Then, these pellets are dried resulting in a final product that looks much like grainy, black powder. 


Pellets of green tea.

To prepare Gunpowder, I use 2 teaspoons of tea for every 1 cup of water which I bring to a full boil and allow to cool down to 75°C. Ideally, you want your water temperature to be between 70°C - 80°C. As always, play around with the amounts and temperatures to find what works best for you.


I steep my tea for about 2 minutes allowing the tightly rolled leaves to slowly unfold as it mingles with the water.  The colour of the brew is a golden yellow.  The flavour and aroma is bold and smoky.  I can even detect hints of honey and grass.

A shot of Gunpowder.

You may do several infusions of Gunpowder. I'm able to get 4 infusions before the tea begins to lose its flavour.  Each time, the leaves unfurled even more so, creating another level of tastes and scents.

As I said, this is a nice green tea to have on a daily basis. Gunpowder is often the green tea served in restaurants, in particular sushi joints.  It's very popular in the Middle East.  Mix it with spearmint and you've got yourself Moroccan Mint Green Tea.  I just might do that!



Sunday, September 7, 2014

My Cuppa: It’s Rooibos, honey!

Things were hectic this past week, so I thought I’d start September off with a simple tasting. I've selected another Greenfield sample suggested by my friend. This one is called Honey Rooibos, which is a Rooibos tisane flavoured with honey. My friend didn't like this at all as she is not a fan of honey.  Really?

Before!

I prepared the tisane as instructed on the packet by steeping it for 7-9 minutes. As the water gradually grew into a gorgeous, golden orange-red colour, the aroma of the honey really became noticeable. I did find it a bit strong and overpowering myself.

After!

I love Rooibos. It’s great on its own or even with a little milk and sugar. However, I was just not impressed with this brew. I was expecting something far more flavourful because of the intense colouration and strong scent. This sample lacked in flavour and felt thin as it lingered on my tongue. It seemed as though I was just drinking warm water. I drank it as is, but I don’t think that adding anything to it would have helped.

There are many teas and tisanes that aren't so bad even when made using tea bags. From my own experience, I find Rooibos produces much better cups from loose leaves, but I’ll continue to keep an open mind for the sake of research and discovery!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Steeping Beauty: This is a real head turner!

So many uses for tea I keep saying! It’s found in many beauty products from creams and lotions, to shampoos and scrubs…the list is endless. Of course you can make up your own recipes right at home. All you need is tea, perhaps a few other ingredients, and a little time and patience.

My trademark hair is long, dark, with reddish highlights, and I do my best to look after it. One way I take care of it is by rinsing it with black (red) tea. It’s very simple and you need not purchase high quality, expensive loose leaf teas. Use tea bags instead. Red Rose, Tetley, Lipton, even a no-name brand will do. Brew up some tea as normal and allow the tea to cool down completely. I brew my tea for much longer than if I were to drink it. Going well over 20 minutes is fine. I also make enough to fill a small spray bottle allowing me to have it ready to go for another time. 

Put your hands up!

After the tea has completely cooled down, simple pour it into a spray bottle, and spray onto your hair. Make sure your hair is totally saturated with the tea. Pin up your hair, and relax for about 20 minutes. You can also, ladle the tea over your hair, catching it in a bucket to repeat several times before discarding it. After the time is up, wash it out. Shampoo if you desire, or just rinse out with water. Your hair will look radiant over many applications!

Hit me with your best shot!

Apparently tea rinses can help darken grey hair. Perhaps not entirely, but I’ll have to wait several more years for me to confirm this claim. Some even believe their hair becomes stronger and prevents shedding after several rinses with tea. This might have something to do with all the incredible nutrients and antioxidants tea has. 

Blondes can also do a rinse using Chamomile as I mentioned in a previous post. I suppose redheads could try Rooibos to enhance their hair colour as well.

If anyone was able to turn their grey hair darker with a tea rinse, let me know. Would love to know if it works.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Sippin’ by the lake!

Up until this last weekend, I hadn't been to Harbourfront Centre for about a year. It’s a lovely area by the lake and there’s always something to do there especially in the summer with so many cultural and foodie events. In the last couple of years, there have even been a few tea events. I decided to attend a couple of them during the Hot & Spicy Food Festival.

The first event I attended was a cooking demonstration for Chocolate Cayenne Shortbread Cookies along with a lecture on Victorian Afternoon Tea by Marilyn Mirabelli of Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas.


Fit for tea!

She discussed the history of afternoon tea, table-setting, tea wares, tea preparation, and etiquette. The shortbread cookies had a twist in that they included cayenne pepper as an ingredient which added a kick near the end of each bite. Everyone had a chance to sample the cookies along with cups of Red Rose tea, and we were all provided with a copy of the recipe for home baking.

Spiced-up cookies!

The second event was held in the evening and was presented by my fellow Tea Sommelier, Carol whose events I've attended in the past. Her show was called The Art of Throwing a Sizzling Hot Cocktail Party. Carol talked about required bar and food items, party themes, mood music, and activities. As well, she demonstrated how to make some popular drinks and prepared various finger foods and dips. One of the drinks she made was a Sweet Southern Tea which is very much like iced tea. A member of the audience, who happened to be a bartender, volunteered to make a pomegranate cocktail using the sweet tea and slices of citrus fruits.

Though Carol’s presentation was not centred on tea as her other events, it was still interesting to see how to put together an affordable Mardi Gras themed party with a little imagination and creativity. A booklet of all the drink and food recipes were also provided to all the attendees.


Life of the party!





Thursday, August 14, 2014

A cold one for the lazy girl!

A few weeks ago, a friend and I attended the first ever Taste of Toronto. I was lucky enough to win the tickets by correctly answering a tea trivia question from one of my Twitter followers. The event was quite good. There were plenty of yummy samples to try along with more higher-end offerings available for purchase.

There were a lot of tea vendors, so naturally I lingered a little longer at their booths. One vendor had a display for an iced tea called Pure Leaf, which I had never heard of. As I sipped on my sample, the vendor was explaining what Pure Leaf was: a product with no preservatives, added colour, or artificial flavouring. It was just tea brewed from the selected tea leaves grown on some of the best plantations around the world. 


Ready to go!

I loved it! It really did taste like a cup of freshly brewed tea. It was not artificial tasting or overly sweet and masked with so much lemon flavouring like one of its popular competitors which always deterred me from purchasing and consuming it. I sampled the lemon flavoured iced tea, but there was also a raspberry flavour as well as unsweetened flavours.

The great thing about attending foodie events is the many coupons and discounts you are offered. I received a couple of coupons from Pure Leaf which I so happily took and redeemed immediately! Hey, as much as I love brewing up my own iced tea, sometimes you get a little lazy and want someone else to do all the hard work. Nothing wrong with that, and this just hit the spot!



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My Cuppa: Tea for stayin’ alive!

Thought I'd start off August with another tea review. I was given some packets of a PC brand tea from a friend who thought it might be good for me to try when I was feeling a little under the weather. It's called "Feeling Revitalized", a green tea with ginseng and astragalus. Huh?

I scanned the list of ingredients on the packet. It contained plenty of items, some of which were well known: Ginger Root, Green Tea Leaves, Rooibos Leaves, Peppermint Leaves, Yerba Maté Leaves, and Rosemary Leaves. As well, a variety of lesser known ingredients:

Siberian Ginseng Root - Fights fatigue, increases overall energy, and also enhances memory.

Gotu Kola Herb - Used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, this is a small herbaceous plant. It is found in beauty products, used as a treatment for varicose veins and heals wounds.

Astragalus Root - Used in traditional Chinese medicine, it helps slowdown the aging process, improves energy, and stimulates the immune system.

Guarana Seed Extract - Contains a high concentration of caffeine and is often used in soda and energy drinks.

The list of ingredients also included some natural flavouring but no indication as to what that was.

The scent through the tea bag was pleasant and earthy. I could detect hints of ginger, rosemary, and peppermint the most.




Nope...not beer!

The leaves produced a golden yellow colour, a little cloudy, almost like beer. The aroma was mostly that of ginger and rosemary. It tasted like ginger, but I found the feel of the liquor a bit thin. It wasn't bad. Drinkable, but not something I would run out and purchase immediately. However, I did feel a little more upbeat and alert after consuming it.



Thursday, July 31, 2014

My Cuppa: The wonders of whites!

White tea is one of the trendiest teas to drink right now. It’s being touted as the latest go-to item for its abundant health benefits. Well, of course it’s a powerhouse of goodness, it comes from the amazing Camellia sinensis plant just like all other teas, each having its own list of health benefits.

Of all the teas created from Camellia sinensis, white tea is the least processed. Therefore, it retains most of its naturally-occurring goodness. White tea is produced mainly of leaves from the Fujian province of China, though it is being produced more and more in other tea regions like India, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan. Only the buds and/or the youngest leaves covered in fine silvery hairs or pekoe are used to make white tea. These leaves are plucked for two or three days every early spring. 


Though white tea is classified as non-oxidized, a certain amount of oxidation does occur naturally during the withering process. So, after the leaves are gathered, they are allowed to wither for a period of time and then dried either naturally by air or by some mechanical means. That’s all! Some manufactures may add a step of quick steaming or frying after withering in order to stop any further oxidation.

Silver Needles

To make a cup of this beautiful tea requires certain water temperatures, tea amounts, and steep durations just like any other tea. I’m using one of the best white teas called Silver Needle. It is made entirely from downy buds only. In its dry form, they resemble needles, hence, the name. Feel free to try other whites instead if you wish. White Peony is another wonderful white which consists of a bud and two leaves. 

A cuppa silver needles.

The following is just a guideline you can try out and then adjust to your own liking:

  • Bring water to a full boil and allow it to cool down. Ideal temperature for white tea should be around 70 °C to 75 °C. I've had great white tea at 65 °C. I would not go higher than 80 °C as the tea may become bitter and you don’t want to scald white tea leaves as they are very delicate. 
  • Select your vessel of choice. I'm using my trusty little teapot with a built-in filter, and add two teaspoons of tea leaves per cup.
  • Pour water over the tea leaves and allow to steep. White tea leaves can handle longer steep durations. Try a shorter steep time of 2 – 3 minutes first. Then go longer, 5 – 10 minutes, if desired. See what works for you. You're drinking it!
  • Like most other teas, white tea leaves can be used several times, usually about 3 steeps before discarding them. Increase the duration for subsequent steeps.
  • Enjoy your white tea as is. This is a very delicate that is best enjoyed on its own.

Enjoy!

The colour is a very pale yellow. You may notice the fine white hairs of the buds floating in it as well. The flavour and aroma is mild and sweet. Some describe a chestnut taste. I do detect a nutty flavour.

White tea, especially Silver Needle is not cheap, but do try it out once in a while, it is so worth the purchase.




Saturday, July 26, 2014

Blooming with tea!

Tea is not only wonderful to drink, but it’s beautiful to watch infuse. Specifically flowering or blooming teas. These are teas that are formed into bundles using tea leaves and various types of flowers. Upon contact with water, the bundle unfolds and expands into a beautiful bouquet all within a matter of minutes of steeping. It really is quite interesting to see what emerges.


Flowering pod.

Preparing a flowering tea is very simple. All you need is the tea pod, water, and a transparent teapot which makes for better viewing. Just place the tea pod into the teapot and pour in hot water. I used 4 cups of water for each pod and steeped for about 5 minutes though you may steep longer without the liquor ever becoming bitter. Then, sit back and watch the pod reveal itself as it slowly dances with the water. 

Beauty unveiled.


The close-up.

Many types of flowers can be used to create these beauty bundles including amaranth, chrysanthemum, jasmine, lily, marigold, and carnation. The container of pods I purchased was a Chinese green tea from the Fujian province, perfumed with jasmine, and sewn around the various flowers to form the bundles. It’s from a company called Primula. Each pod had a lovely name to go along with it such as Juliet’s Kiss, Lover’s Blossom, Fairy Lily, and Butterfly Floret.

Pod product.

The various pods I tried were pretty good taste wise. You could smell the aroma of the flower being used along with the jasmine. The taste was not bitter at all and the liquor was a clear golden yellow colour. Each pod can be steeped up to 3 times. I had it both hot and cold, drinking it throughout the day keeping me alert and hydrated. The only downside was the number of bathroom trips I had to make!


Enjoy this quick video I made of a tea pod revealing itself!

video







Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bursting the bubble on tea!

Every now and then something new pops up and it just explodes. It could be anything from gourmet burger joints, all-you-can-eat sushi shops, salad eateries, poutine places etc... One of these trends is Bubble Tea. They've been around for years, and they are everywhere!

First time I had bubble tea was about a decade ago. I thought the name was strange. What was the reference to bubble anyway? The actual product didn't even look like tea as I knew it. Well, first a little history. Apparently, bubble tea was first made in the 80’s in Taiwan. Like anything new, there are different stories with a claim on its invention. The two versions I found during my research was nothing more than a couple of tea shop owners taking a chance and dropping balls of tapioca into tea. The drink was so well received by their customers that it went on to becoming the most popular item on the menu. 

My bubble tea!

Along with the many styles offered, bubble tea also has many names. I've always know it as Bubble Tea, but depending on where you live, it can be referred to as Pearl Milk Tea, Boba Milk Tea, Momi Tea, Tapioca Tea, and so many other names. The basic ingredients in bubble tea is milk, brewed tea, sugar, and tapioca balls. However, there are many variations that include both natural fresh fruit of many kinds and artificial flavourings of syrup or powder, with or without milk, different types of milk, hot or cold, green, red (black), or oolong tea, coffee and so on. Even the pearls come in different sizes and flavours too. Plus there are other items you can add such as adzuki beans, seaweed, jelly cubes etc… Really, the list is endless. The “bubble” refers to the bubbles that appear when the drink is shaken, kind of like a milkshake, and not the actual tapioca balls sitting at the bottom. Strange.

Great balls of tapioca!

I went to enjoy a bubble tea at a new shop that opened up in my neighbourhood not too long ago. I pretty much sat at the counter going over the endless list of options on the menu board and even discussed favourites and what the more popular items were with the very patient and friendly salesperson. I wanted something different, but something basic and not too drastic that I may not like it. I opted for the jasmine green tea with coconut milk and tapioca balls on ice. My love of coconut continues!

My bubble tea was yummy! The coconut went very well with the jasmine green tea. The tapioca pearls were soft, chewy and sweet. Fun to drink too! Was a little worried I might need the Heimlich maneuver from the possibility of choking on the pearls. Hey, I'm sure it’s happened along with a lawsuit! 

A choking hazard?

Definitely not something I could or would drink every day. Bubble tea is not exactly a health food, though I'm sure there are healthier versions available. You can make bubble tea at home. I might fiddle around with some recipes and create some crazy concoction of my own.