Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Tea Spot: Puttin’ on the Ritz!

Today on this lovely Sunday afternoon, I spent time with my tea-loving group for Afternoon Tea at the exquisite Ritz-Carlton. Of course, the Ritz has a reputation for high-end, first-class service. From the beautiful, mellow ambiance, to the artistically prepared incredible eats, and the fantastic service of their staff. The Ritz did not disappoint. It’s a must for repeat visits.

Blue teapot.

Our hostess went into some detail of the types of teas they offered, encouraging us to open each sample of loose leaf tea for closer inspection and taking in the lovely fragrances each tea provided. The teas are made by a Canadian company called Sloane. It is a company I am familiar with but never had the chance to try. I selected the Oolong Crème which was a blended oolong from the Wuyi Mountains of China. The tightly rolled, dry leaves smelled phenomenal! Coconut with floral hints. 

Sloane Teas.

Our finger sandwiches and desserts were to die for! A definite departure from tradition. Everything was a feast for the eyes! Even the pedestal they were displayed on took them to new heights. You would never think to feel stuffed when partaking in Afternoon Tea. Really? The Ritz provided so many nibbles to leave you completely sated for the rest of the day! The items we enjoyed with our pots of tea included:
  • Quiche Lorraine with spinach and mushrooms
  • Egg salad with sliced tomatoes on toast
  • Cheese with sun-dried heirloom tomatoes on toast
  • Smoked salmon in a croissant
  • Curried chicken mini burgers
  • Cucumber with dill cream cheese on toast

Finger sandwiches.

My plate.

  • Scones with raisins
  • Maple choux paste pastry
  • Macaron with fresh raspberries
  • Red velvet mini cupcakes
  • Lemon meringue custard tart
  • Chocolate and coffee layered cake


Holy macaron!

Is this a menu or what!?!

My oolong was superb! Delicate with a light coconut, floral aroma and taste. I enjoyed two pots along with all my treats. One thing I really liked best about the Ritz was the way the tea was offered. The tea leaves were brewed in the teapots with their very own built-in filter. This allowed me to remove the filter after my preferred steeping duration. This was unlike some of the other tea spots I attended where they placed the tea leaves in the pots without filters, causing the tea to turn into a bitter soup over time. The Ritz nailed it!

My tea!

With excellent food, tea, and service, a great time was had by all. I also enjoyed the lively and jovial conversations I had with the lovely gals at my table. As for The Ritz? It is definitely on my list for an afternoon escape another time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Yes Chef: Genmaicha Do-It-Yourself!

On a previous post, I talked about what Genmaicha was and how to make yourself a cup of this lovely tea. I used a pre-made mix I had purchased from a tea shop. However, Genmaicha is quite is easy to make at home. All you need is some brown rice, and a green tea you have on hand. I’ll be using Sencha in this example, but you can use Bancha, Tencha, Gunpowder, Longjing etc... Try different green teas and see what you like. Finally, determine the quantity of the final product you want and follow these steps:

  • Spread an even layer of brown rice in a pan. Place over a burner on medium heat about 5 – 8 minutes.
Time for toasting!

  • Swirl the rice occasionally for complete toasting of each grain.
  • Allow rice to slowly turn a darker brown colour. Some grains may pop and that’s fine.
Golden grains!

  • Remove pan from heat and allow rice to cool down. I placed the rice on a plate for cooling.
  • Mix the toasted rice with your choice of green tea.

  • Make yourself a cup and enjoy! make this!

The toasted rice will have a nutty aroma and even a bit like popcorn. You can place the rice in its own air-tight container to be used for mixing when you’re ready to make yourself tea. Alternatively, you may combine the rice with the green tea right away in a container. I use my mix within 2 weeks.

Play around with the ratios of rice to green tea when mixing. I did a 1:1 ratio. Some may want more tea and less rice or vice versa. If you’d like, you may add a ¼ teaspoon of Matcha to the mix for each cup in order to make Matcha-Iri-Genmaicha. Yum!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Steeping Beauty: Toning with a touch of tea!

Time for another beauty moment! On previous posts, I've shown you how to create a mask using Matcha, a scrub using Sencha, and a hair spritz using Assam. Now, it's time to create a basic toner using a green tea.

This one is as simple as making yourself a cup of tea. Just boil up some water, allow to cool for a few minutes, and then pour over on the green tea leaves of your choice. That's it! I used 2 tablespoons of Sencha for 1 cup of water and infused for 8 minutes. You may use a second infusion of your loose leaf tea leaves instead and just drink the first infusion. Remember, loose leaf tea leaves go a long way. If you don't want to use loose leaf, tea bags work just as well. Once steeped, remove the leaves using a sieve, and then pour the liquor into an air-tight jar or a spray bottle. 

Tea toner!

I keep my tea toner supply in the fridge for 5 – 7 days. I use it twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed time, applying it over my face and neck with a cotton ball after cleansing. It feels cool and refreshing! If you have it in a spray bottle, just apply a light spritz over your face and neck. Not need to rinse in either case.

This beauty recipe is pretty simple. As you learn about the wonders of other items and products such as honey, baking soda, salt, and olive oil, you can look into adding them in as an ingredient to any of your recipes. Everything is natural, have their own benefits, and provide amazing results!

Monday, March 9, 2015

My Cuppa: A little rice with my tea!

Have you ever had rice with your tea? I don’t mean some rice as a meal along with cups of tea or rice infused with tea. I’m talking about tea leaves combined with rice grains. It’s so good!

A few days ago, I purchased some Genmaicha from a local tea shop. I've had this tea before, and love it. Genmaicha is brown rice tea. Basically, it's a mixture of Japanese green tea leaves and toasted brown rice grains. Some even call it popcorn tea as some of the rice grains pop during toasting making them look like popcorn. Apparently, the rice was used as a filler in order to reduce the cost of the tea for the low socio-economic Japanese who consumed Genmaicha. As such, this beautiful tea is also referred to as the people's tea.

Brown rice tea!

The Genmaicha I am going to make, uses Bancha leaves, which are second flush tea leaves from trees used for making Sencha. These leaves are harvested sometime between Summer and Autumn. 

Use the following as a guideline, and adjust the amount, temperature, and duration to your liking: 
  • Bring some water to a rapid boil in a kettle. Then allow it to cool down to about 75°C - 80°C.
  • Scoop out 1 – 2 teaspoons of Genmaicha for every 1 cup of water and place in your teapot. 
  • Steep no longer than 1 – 2 minutes as the liquor will become bitter for greater durations.
  • Filter the leaves and pour yourself a cup.

This Genmaicha provides a clear, lemon-yellow colour liquor with a light, toasty aroma much like that of popcorn. It tastes sweet and nutty, with just a hint of a grassy, vegetal flavour.

Like other teas, you may steep Genmaicha a few times. Steep for another 1 – 2 minutes for a second infusion, and then 3 – 5 minutes for a third and fourth infusion. Enjoy!

Genmaicha is very easy to make at home.  No need to purchase pre-made tea from the store.  On a future post, I will show you exactly how to make it.  Stay tuned!