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 CafĂ© 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!


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


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!