Monday, November 30, 2015

A blending bonanza with my brew buddies!

November is ending off on a crazy note! The last couple of weeks for me have been a frenzy running around attending various tea events. Only a day after a tea tasting session, I attended a tea blending event to learn about the art of mixing teas and a variety of other ingredients to create a unique product. The lesson was held at T-Buds, a sweet little tea shop I’ve been to before and just love for the great service, delicious food and teas, and friendly staff.

I’ve done a bit of blending on my own in the past by just reading and learning about how to achieve the best results with what ingredients I chose. However, it’s always good to learn from others for new ideas and better ways of doing things. Plus, this was just a fun event. A little messy, but definitely fun.

Some explaining to do!

Our host from T-Buds was great. He started off by explaining how blending became trendy in the last 10 years and is all the rage right now. You can see this with the dominance of tea shops like David’s Tea with their range of tutti-fruity, nutty, and colourful tea blends. I’ve always stated that I’m not a big fan of these teas, preferring the purity and true essence of the tea itself, but, I do understand the appeal. Some of them aren’t too bad. Others are way too overwhelming with everything but the tea!

All available options.

Upon the wrap-up of instructions on ratios, proper portioning, using items just for visual effect, and mixing in various spray essences, we began preparing 4 different blends as outlined in recipes with allowance to adjust and play around with items as we wished. As the evening wore on, the room began to fill with the intoxicating aromas of chocolate, mint, coconut, ginger, strawberries, and so many other wonderful scents. 

Are we doing this right?

Yeah, looks good!

Once completed, each group gave funky names to their blends accordingly. My group came up with the following names for our blends:

Hey, I think we could easily market this stuff, no?

Time for a taste test!

We did get a chance to try a couple of our blends, the Sencha and Masala Chai, in our case. They were pretty good. Not really overpowering in ingredients outside of the tea, which is the star. However, blends do need time to settle and mingle before getting a true taste of them. I will try each one sometime in the future and give my review then.

Whew! So glad for a little breather as we enter a new month.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Go to the light!

At the latest tea event, held again at Infuse Café, the group and I tasted some amazing white teas! I gotta say, the BKON brews weren’t too bad this time around. I was iffy about the technology when we were comparing dark teas last month, but I am still learning about BKON. I still prefer the traditional steeping methods for the whites we had though.

We tasted a selection of 4 white teas, 2 of which I had previously. The teas included:

  • Peach Blossom (Blend)
  • Shou Mei
  • Silver Needle
  • White Peony (Wild Harvest)

Peach Blossom Leaves.

Peach Blossom Tea.

I’m not a big fan of flavoured teas, but, this Peach Blossom blend was pretty good. Not too fruity which is always off putting for me. The Silver Needle and White Peony teas are what most people go for in white teas. They are the most popular. Silver Needle is what I normally purchase. Not as often as I’d like to, however, as it is rather pricey. The Shou Mei tea was the most interesting in appearance. It’s a brick tea that looked more like a Pu-erh. It’s at the complete opposite end of Silver Needle in terms of taste, aroma, and price. Not a horrible cup, but, I wouldn’t run out to buy this right away.

Shou Mei Leaves.

Shou Mei Tea.

As with the dark teas, the BKON brews produced very pronounced white teas in colour, taste, and aroma. Everything about these teas were heightened, and as I said, they weren’t too bad. I didn’t find them overly bitter which is always my concern, and I was wondering if this method was the best choice for such delicate teas. I don’t know, but, I suspect because white teas are so delicate, is the reason they produced decent cups with the BKON. It’s done in one shot extracting all the flavour from the leaves. You could really detect the different tastes of the teas: nutty, flowery, fruity, and even a little spicy.

Silver Needle Leaves.

Silver Needle Tea.

I really enjoyed these whites teas brewed old school though! Some things you just can’t touch. This tasting session was a learning lesson for me. The brews were far better than what I’ve had in the past. I don’t think I was steeping my white tea leaves long enough in order to get a good, flavourful cup. I always found the liquor subtle. Not bad, but, not as strong as I’d like. I’ve learned that an extended infusion time didn’t hurt the results. We even had second infusions of some of the teas and they were just as good. The tastes and aromas were equally as good as the BKON brews, however, I preferred the way the liquors coated my tongue with the traditional brews. They were softer and creamier than the BKONs. Perhaps it’s the way the water is handled? 

White Peony Leaves.

White Peony Tea.

I believe that our tea tasting events will normally be held at Infuse Café from now on. This is a good thing for me as I only live about a 5 minute walk from it. Woo-hoo! Also, I’m really becoming more and more interested in this whole BKON technology. It’s definitely interesting and fun comparing the brewing methods of the teas, with traditional infusions outweighing the BKON brews, for now at least, for me.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Tea Spot: An Afternoon at Nicol’s for Tea!

Today I hung out with a small group of gals for Afternoon Tea at a shop located just outside of Toronto called Nicol’s Pastry Shop. It had been a while since I’ve gone out for tea and treats, so I was looking forward to spending a chilly day with others for cups of tea and great conversation.

Though Nicol’s was easily accessible and a fairly decent size, it was obvious as the clock ticked that they are far better known for their sweets rather than a place to enjoy Afternoon Tea. The tea event was really nothing special. It consisted of a few sandwiches, scones, quiche, and some sweet treats. 

Typical treats.

Not bad, but I’ve had better. I thought the best item was the blueberry scone. Slathered with clotted-cream, it was divine! The salmon sandwich and cucumber roll could have been presented better. 

Quiche and sandwiches.

The lemon meringue tart, raspberry tart, and chocolate brownie cake were good, but didn’t have that “wow” factor like some of the other tea spots I’ve been to in the past. The service wasn’t the greatest either. Our hostess was pleasant enough, but a little vacant at times. 

Lemon meringue tart.

I hate to say this, but I thought the tea was terrible! The teas offered were by a brand called Mighty Leaf. I’ve heard of this company but have never had their teas. The tea pouches just didn’t do it for me. I had a black tea called Vanilla Bean which indicated it was a “full-bodied cup” with an “intoxicating aroma of wild Madagascar vanilla beans”. Hmmm…I didn’t get this. I thought the aroma was weak and the flavour completely bland! The second steeping was even worse which produced a muddy colour. 

Not so mighty tea!

The conversation around the table was wonderful! We talked about everything from reliable transportation, JFK, royalty, over-population of the world, UFO’s and aliens, and strippers serving tea! This is what really makes attending Afternoon Tea events worthwhile. As for Nicol’s?  Well, I wasn't impressed.  It was just not my cup of tea!

Monday, November 9, 2015

My Cuppa: Matcha in an instant!

Though I don’t drink them very often, occasionally I like to indulge in one of those fancy beverages offered at various cafés. I’m talking about lattés, Frappuccinos, and mocha-hottie whatevers! They are rather pricey and just the fact that I have to go out and get one deters me from enjoying them more frequently.

One day whilst I was out grocery shopping and strolling through the tea and coffee aisle, I came across packages of Matcha Lattés by Emperor Love on display. 

Emperor Love Matcha Latté

They were big bags that contained 12 individual packets of latté for single servings in each bag. The price wasn’t bad, so I purchase a bag. 

For singles!

It was quite simple to make. Just place the contents of the packet into a cup, pour in 50°C water, and mix. That’s it! It actually wasn’t bad at all. The colour of the powder was much like Matcha, but of course, it contains other ingredients such as sugar, whey powder, and a bunch of preservatives. 

Looks like Matcha!

The result was a sweet and creamy drink that really hit the spot! The package indicated that these lattés can be prepared both hot or cold over ice. I think having it iced would be perfect! 

Tastes like Matcha too!

I definitely would not drink these lattés every day because of the sugar content. However, they are great when you want instant gratification but can’t be bothered running to your nearest café and paying a pretty penny for.