Sunday, January 31, 2016

It's all about the tea!

My whole day was occupied by tea yesterday. It always does, but, this was on another level altogether. I volunteered my time at this year’s event of the Toronto Tea Festival. This is a weekend when tea vendors come together to show off their latest products to tea lovin’ consumers.

I want the green one!

 I had a great time working the show floor as an Exhibitor Supervisor. Fancy title, indeed! Really, my duties included assisting vendors with their needs as required such as fetching water. I also directed attendees to the stage and speakers areas advising them of the next presentation. Pretty much the same duties as the last time I volunteered at the festival, only much busier this time around. This conference is getting bigger and better as it becomes more recognized, which is a great thing for tea. However, a larger venue is a definite must. Perhaps next year. 

Upon finishing my volunteering shift and retrieving my “thank you” gift of a tea product, which I will write about on a future post, I made rounds to visit the vendors and of course, sip some tea! It was nice seeing familiar faces and companies like TByDaniel, Camellia Sinensis, TeALCHEMY, and Samadhi Tea House

Great tea Daniel!

It was also great meeting some vendors I had never heard of like Chaiwala, Capital Tea, and Genuine Tea

Nice meeting Genuine Tea!

I tried some amazing teas including some delicious Oolongs, a wonderful Matcha, some yummy blends, and lovely tisanes. I learned some new things by some of the vendors I talked to. I even took in a lecture on Chinese Teas. It really was a great event.

Ready for my Matcha.

A cuppa green goodness!

Later that evening…


After my day of running around, answering questions, and smiling forever, I was itching for a stiff drink. Luckily, there was a tea meetup that evening at Infuse Café where a group of us got together for tea cocktails. There were a few choices available to us, but all were infused with vodka rather than water using the BKON system, and then topped off with some Sprite. Woo-hoo! I went for the Genmaicha, the only tea infusion. Others went for various tisanes with names like Sweet Peach, Tropical Crimson, and Wild Hibiscus Berry.

The combination of the tea, vodka, and Sprite was great. It was one of those drinks where you don’t notice the alcohol unless you really try and taste each sip. My Genmaicha had a light roasted aroma and flavour. I liked it. I wanted to suck it back. I sucked it back! It was refreshing. I went for a second round going for the Sweet Peach. It too was good, but I didn’t find it as flavourful as the Genmaicha. In the end, our host from the café hit us all with complimentary shots that included a portion of all the flavours. Not bad at all!

Time for a stiff drink!

I guess the booze was finally kicking in as the evening wore on because lively conversation ensued. We talked about everything and got to know things about each other beyond our love of tea. Faces were becoming flushed and jokes were cracked. Then the incident with the blah, blah, blah – hiccup – and then yadda, yadda, yadda – hiccup – happened and…well my goodness! Am I drunk? Seriously? It’s a good thing I don’t live very far from Infuse Café. Staggering home was a breeze!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

My Cuppa: Blending bonanza brew 1!

A couple of months ago, I had attended a tea blending session at T-Buds where we learned how to create a few mixtures using various ingredients. As I stated in my post on that event, blends need some time to mingle before you can get a good reading on their aromas and tastes. I think sufficient time has passed, so I’m ready for a tasting!

I’m going to begin by tasting what ended up being called “Seduced by Sencha”. Yeah, part of the blending session was for each group to come up with names for our products. This blend contained the following ingredients:

  • Sencha Tea
  • Orange Peels
  • Safflower
  • Calendula
  • Dried Papaya Fruit
  • Dried Pineapple Fruit
  • Coconut Shreds
  • Piña Colada Essence

Sencha, are you trying to seduce me?

A lot of ingredients, yes, but, we were informed by our host that some items in blends are for visual purposes only, while other items just give blends some body. For some ingredients, you will get their scents and flavours, however, the key is to keep the amounts of these items used to a minimum. The central character is always the tea. Learning this, I think “Seduced by Sencha” was blended quite well. The dry leaves still had the normal grassy aroma of Sencha. However, there was also a light candy-like aroma.

I prepared this blend using my usual directions for Sencha. The appearance of the liquor produced was no different from pure Sencha, not that I was expecting a colour change due to the various ingredients used in this blend. However, there was a change in aroma and taste. Just slightly. The grassy notes of Sencha were definitely there, but I could also detect the coconut shreds and the p
iña colada essence. I also found each sip had a creamy feeling, which I rather liked. 

Seduce me!

Not a bad blend at all! I will definitely be finishing off “Seduced by Sencha”. I was a little worried I might be throwing out or giving away these mixtures. One down, three more to go!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Cuppa: Okay! Oku Yame is yummy!

At a past event about black teas, I was given a gift of a package of tea after correctly answering a very easy skill-testing question.  The tea I received was a Japanese black tea called Oku Yame, one of the teas we actually sampled that evening.  I didn’t really get a chance to describe this tea in depth so I thought I’d provide further thoughts on it now that I have more time to really analyze it.

Japan is not really known for their black teas, so this was a real treat.  Harvested in the Summer, the tea leaves used to make Oku Yame are normally used to make Sencha, my everyday green tea.  The dry leaves look very much like many known black teas with wiry, charcoal slivers, and hits of golden specs. I found it had a fresh, earthy scent.

Oku Yame dry leaves.


  • Measure out 1 teaspoon for every 1 cup of water used.
  • Bring water to a full boil in a kettle.  I always wait about 5 minutes before using the water.
  • Pour the hot water over the tea leaves.  I have my trusted mini teapot with a removable filter.
  • Infuse for 5 minutes then remove the tea leaves from the liquor.
  • Pour the infusion into a cup and enjoy.

The water rapidly turned to amber, and then finally into a golden, mahogany colour during the infusion process.  The liquor had a light, caramel aroma, or as my tea instructor in school suggested, like “cooked yams”.  It really resembled your typical, commercial, black teas offered in teabags. The taste, however, was not at all bitter as one would expect of a black tea.  It actually tasted a little sour to me.  I liked it. 

Oku Yame in a mug.

 I prepared a second infusion of the tea leaves and found it less bold then the first infusion, but still quite enjoyable.  Oku Yame is a good black tea I could regularly enjoy in the absence of other additives like milk or sugar.  Perfect, as I’m more and more leaning towards drinking teas in their true essence!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A freshly brewed pot!

Finally, a new year has arrived! Along with it, resolutions, new ideas, and new hopes! I thought I’d kick off the first post for 2016 by showing off one of my Christmas gifts. I received a beautiful teapot with a built-in filter along with 4 different blended teas. When everyone knows your passion for something, expect to be showered with all sorts of those products and gizmos! Thanks to my sister and brother-in-law!

Teapot and teas.

Very zen!

The teapot is a lovely, white ceramic with a square shape. It will definitely go well with my teapot collection of unique shapes. The 4 loose leaf teas for sampling came in 2 black and 2 green types. I’ll give my thoughts on them on future posts.  For now, here is a list of their ingredients:

Black Tea

1.   Black tea leaves, bergamot flavour, marigold petals, and cornflower petals

2.   Black tea leaves, apple pieces, natural apple and banana flavours, rose petals, cranberries, cornflower petals, and hibiscus flowers

Green Tea

1.   Jasmine green tea leaves, and jasmine petals

2.   Green tea leaves, natural pineapple flavour, and marigold petals

Time to brew!

Now, it’s time to tackle all the teas I’ve bought, blended, or been given over the past few months. Happy sips!