Monday, August 28, 2017

My Cuppa: It’s Maya Chai, Darjeeling!

Yup. That’s a corny title. I try and add humour in my writing whenever I can. Didn’t say it was always good! Anyway. A few weeks ago I had attended a tea and baking workshop hosted by Teaventures. I really enjoyed my evening meeting like-minded people, talking tea, and making some tea infused treats. As mentioned, I was given a gift of a packet of tea by the event co-ordinator. The tea is called Maya. It’s a Darjeeling tea, and I am now trying it out!

Oh Darjeeling!

Darjeeling, as a masala chai, isn’t really the norm. Assam has traditionally been the chosen chai to make a masala chai. Assam is strong and bold enough to handle a variety of spices. Darjeeling, the "champagne of teas", is quite delicate, and best consumed on its own. Teaventures has done a great job of combining a simple and very subtle blend of spices to Darjeeling without destroying the tea. The spices used are star anise, green cardamom, and cracked peppercorns. They did not go overboard with gazillion different items to create this lovely tea!

From the aroma of the dark green tea leaves when the packet was opened, to the taste of the golden amber coloured liquor, everything about Maya was gentle. I found the smell of the dry leaves fresh and grassy. The spices in combination with the tea leaves smelled familiar to me. It reminded me of an herbal blend I use in some Italian dishes. 

Ohhhh Darjeeling!

The infusion was superb! Darjeeling is perfect without the need for milk or sugar, and that same sentiment holds true for it as a masala chai. It was flavourful without spice overkill. It’s slightly astringent at the end of each sip, but it did not linger. I really enjoyed this tea!

Teaventures has a Chai Collection of various black teas and a selection of spices to go along with that particular tea. They all sound amazing and I’m very curious to try each one of them. I’m sure they will become regulars in my ever-expanding tea cupboard!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Tea Spot: A new chai to try!

A little shop I've been meaning to check out since it opened not too long ago, is Elchi Chai Shop. It's received some great reviews, and I now know why.

Elchi Chai Shop is a cute little place with simple decor. The columns are plastered with fun facts about a variety of spices that are used in the shop. The menu looked great and I did have some trouble deciding what to get. I'll definitely have to swing by a few times in order to try the various dishes and drinks.

When I finally settled on my order and waited patiently for it, I was salivating at the food the neighbouring tables were getting. Everything looked delicious! It was a grey day but quite muggy, so I decided to go for an Iced Masala Chai instead of a hot beverage. For my meal, I went for the Butter Chicken Roti and Vegetable Samosas.

The samosas were a nice mix of spices. They were crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. They were served with a tamarind chutney that had just a touch of sweetness. I was expecting just one, but received two. Not complaining at all!


The butter chicken was creamy with tender pieces of chicken. Not overly spicy, it came with some chopped peanuts to sprinkle on top. They added another level of texture providing a good crunch. The roti came in rough pieces. It was soft and slightly crunchy and went well with the butter chicken.

Butter Chicken!

On to my iced tea. I loved it! It came presented in a mason jar which I thought was just too cute! It was sweet, but not so sugary. It was a perfect balance of spicy and sweet. I could detect cardamom and anise. It really tasted like a traditional, authentic, masala chai you'd get in India. It was refreshing and went well with my meal.


The Elchi Chai Shop has become one of my new favourite places to attend. It's simple, casual, and affordable, with a great menu and very friendly staff. I've already been thinking of my next visit and hope to bring along a few friends to enjoy it as well.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Teaology 101: Today’s post is brought to you by the letter ‘S’!

Time for the letter ‘S’ in our tea focused dictionary. Don’t forget all the previous letters:

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R

Samovar:  A heated metal container used to heat water in for making tea. Quite popular in Russia.

Scented tea:   Teas leaves that have been flavoured with oils, flower petals, or spices. Jasmine and Earl Grey are such examples.

Self-drinking:  Teas that don't need to be blended as they are perfect on their own.

Semi-fermented:  Tea that has only been partially oxidized prior to being fired and dried. These types of teas usually refer to Oolongs.

Sencha:  A popular, Japanese green tea that enjoyed as an everyday beverage.

Silver Dragon:  A Chinese green tea that's slightly sweet and nutty.

Silvery Oolong:  A costly tea made from the delicate whitish first flush leaves.

Silvery Tipped Pekoe:  Rare and costly, this is White Tea made of the unopened tea leaves or buds.

Sinensis:  This is a variety of the Camellia plant. See Camellia sinensis.

Sappy:  Full and juicy flavour liquor.

Single Estate Tea:  Any tea that originated from one single tea garden or plantation.

Smoky:  Tea leaves that give a taste and aroma of smoke as a result being fired over open flames on wood. Lapsang Souchong is such an example. However, the smokiness may also be unintentional and caused by faulty driers during the drying process.

Soft:  Lacking in flavour, this is weak tea that is under oxidized.

Souchong:  Referring to leaf size, this is inferior tea made from larger, older leaves of the shoot, usually the third or fourth leaf.

Sour:  Tea that has an acidic smell and taste. Not a good trait.

Spicy:  This does not refer to a Masala Chai. This is liquor with the characteristics of spices such as cinnamon, cloves, or ginger possibly caused by cross-contamination.

Sri Lanka:  Formerly referred to as Ceylon, this island produces some of the finest black teas.

Stale:  Tea that is passed its prime and no longer fresh.

Stalk:  Tea leaves that contain pieces of stems due to improper plucking.

Steaming:  Light heat application, usually on green tea, during the manufacturing process.

Stewed/Stewy:  Soft liquor due to a lengthy fermentation, low drying temperature, or incorrect firing. Also refers to brew that has been infused far too long giving an unpleasant taste.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Adventures in tea and baking!

A couple of nights ago, I attended a Baking with Tea workshop hosted by Zen of Teaventures in partnership with Feena of Fefe Bonbon. It was a very casual evening and I had no expectations of any kind. To me, it was a night out meeting people who have a common interest.

Pretty teapot!

Zen opened the event by having the small group introduce themselves. I got the feeling everyone already knew each other through friendship or past events. I was the newbie! Zen introduced herself as a Tea Sommelier graduate from George Brown College. It's always nice to meet a fellow graduate and seeing where their studies took them. She continued her tea talk by sharing family stories, types of tea and how to brew them, and the many uses of tea besides consumption. It was an open dialogue where the group offered up their own experiences with tea. Unlike coffee, tea is a very social experience. As we chattered on, we enjoyed a pot of Darjeeling Chai produced by Teaventures. 

What to drink?
Later on, Feena, our Baker, took over and guided the group in the making of masala chai infused shortbread cookies and icing for cupcakes. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the participants did not get to make icing, and instead just used the icing made by our baking instructor. The baking and decorating portion of the workshop was not very difficult. In fact, Feena, who instructs baking courses to children, brought along all her colourful cooking instruments she normally uses in her children's classes. Hmmmm... I wonder if she finds children easier to school than adults! LOL! Anyway, I wasn't expecting anything too deep in the workshop. The cookies and cupcakes looked decent and tasted pretty good. I have used tea in some of my past baking, and will definitely fine tune what I learned this evening and take them into consideration. 

Colourful tools!

Masala chai cupcakes!

When the evening came to an end, Zen approached me and offered up a package of her Darjeeling Chai, thanking me for attending her event. I will surely be enjoying this lovely tea. It really is good! She also seemed a bit apologetic about the workshop possibly being a little too easy for me because of my tea and pastry background.  I assured her many times over that I had a great time, enjoyed meeting her and everyone else, and had no expectations at all for what I signed-up for. She is super kind as is Feena, and I look forward to attending future events hosted by this talented pair.