Sunday, September 26, 2010

Welcome Fall and the renewed tea spirit

So Fall started a few days ago and the tea spirit is revived. Not that summer is not conducive to tea drinking - but Fall makes you wanna go in a blanket and sip your comforting tea. David's tea will be (or has) bringing it's Autumn tea collection back (I think with some new additions). Also, David's tea has opened up a few new locations in the city like in the Eaton Centre (so now accessible downtown) and on Sherbrooke West (Westmount area). I've yet to check them out. I actually haven't been to any location other than Mont Royal E. 

Anyhow, lately I'm in a pure tea mood - as in unflavored. I've got nothing against flavored tea, but for some reason I've been really enjoying pure teas. The last few days have had massive tea concentrations. 
Thursday Paw and I made a visit to Camelia Sinensis. We decided to have the in-season teas that would likely soon be discontinued. She had a green tea and I had an oolong. I am terrible with remembering the names of teas at Camelia :( Both were very good. As we stayed till closing, we got some left over peppercorn and lemon scones. 
Friday, Captain Wildchild and I went to Cha Guan and had some old faves. I got jasmine dragon pearl green tea and he got ginseng oolong. 
Today, I had genmaicha - a tea I haven't had in over a year. Definitely missed the brown ricey taste of this tea!
I also had a battle with Kuding - bitter tea. In this match it was Kuding - 1, Njosnavelin - 0. It defeated me in bitterness. But Paw tells me I put too many leaves. So I will try again. I made my mom try it, too. She nearly died, lips curled - "It tastes worse than quinone!". 
I'll let you know how round two goes. 

Until the next tea tasting ;) For now, I'll continue on my pure tea trip. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Secret Weapon

Greetings tea lovers!

It has a been a long while since any of us have posted. It is summer time and while we do still drink tea, most tea parties and active degustations have been put on hold (naturally, of course :P). Today was a rather rainy and chilly day - definitely conducive to tea drinking! So after the Bubble Battle around Mont-Royal metro, we made our way to David's Tea for premium chillage and general tasting of new teas. They have some new teas for their summer collection. We didn't try any though. We were all enchanted to try some of the other flavors.

I will only cover the tea I had as I did not try the others. But, Captain Wildchild and Silvermaple had 3 wishes, another friend had Rooibos de Provence and Paw had one whose name I do not recall (wow my memory stinks today).

I have "The Secret Weapon", a white tea, described as follows by DT:

Kick-start your immune system
This blend just might give you the edge you need to stay healthy. It’s a white Bai Mu Dan, so it’s naturally high in immunity-enhancing antioxidants. Plus it contains licorice and goji berries, a Chinese wonderfood reputed to have 500 times more vitamin C than oranges. The best part? The almonds and cocoa nibs. They don’t fight colds, but they make this an amazingly tasty weapon of choice. 
When I smelled it, it was like awesome almond happiness with a hint of sweetness. I love almonds and I was sleepy. So I thought, hey, why not? Let's boost my immunity and have some yay. The smell is probably the best part of it. It was less nutty and definitely less sweet that I was expected. So, it was like a white tea with a hint of generally nondescript flavor. It lacked umph. Today, I am not impressed. But ah well. Not all teas can be winners. I give this one a 2/5.

As a side note, as the premium fall season full of crunchy leaves is approaching, tea parties should start up again! Next theme TBD. Woot woot.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Saigon Chai

Type: Black Assam Tea
Class: Flavored
Flavor: Chai (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, rose pepper)
Intensity: More smell than taste
Mood: Creative
Perks: Looseleaf, organic, Saigon cinnamon
Source (in Montreal): DAVIDsTEA

A semi-accidental stop at David's Tea resulted in acquisition of this interesting specimen. The taste is not overpowering (read could be a bit more pronounced) but the smell fuels imagination. This tea has the warmth of pure chai, but being much milder does not monopolize your attention. An excellent complement for creative undertakings (so far tested in the domain of cooking and blog writing). 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ginseng Achtung (special herbal edition)

Type: Herbal (not tea, just grass)
Class: N/A
Flavor: Ginseng, chyeah-duh!
Intensity: BOOM!
Mood: Relaxed
Perks: Looseleaf, bulk, cheap
Source (in Montreal): La Compagnie Foung Tak Canada ltee (not sure of the name of the store, but it's a bit south of the St. Laurent and Rene-Levesque intersection, on the west side of St. Laurent)

About a month ago I tried the Ginseng Oolong at Cha Guan and liked it quite a bit. Since then I kept on planning to return there an buy some for home, but just never got around doing it. Today while searching for sushi supplies around Chinatown I came across the the dry ginseng flowers in bulk, for about 6$/100g. I must admit, there's somewhat of a fetish of making things as much from scratch as possible, so of course it was impossible to just walk by.
All my previous flower tea experience screamed that it the taste of flowers infused solo is rather delicate. Was I ever wrong! The smell of ginseng itself, and especially the look for some reason reminded me of broccoli; no sweat, I actually happen to like it. So hoping to get a better taste I packed the strainer half way up with these dried mini-broccoli wannabes, and let them soak in hot water for a half a dozen of minutes. This resulted in a mild green liquid, reminiscent of the water left after steaming the said broccoli (again, maudit broccoli!). A good swig demolished the illusion: the only thing that I ever tried that was more bitter was an occasional bad almond (those who experienced it will know what I'm talking about). After massive watering down it became drinkable, but the taste in itself still kept some vegetable hints in it.
The original plan was to mix it with oolong (also bought in the same store) but the lady there suggested to try them individually. Verdict: mixed is way better. With a bunch of water and oolong the drink is actually very relaxing, with the tastes blending nicely (so far the proportions still need working out, but there is a lot of potential).
So it goes, gotta know your herbs before trying to be all zen...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Une grenouille dans la théière

On Tuesday, Ranitaloca and I headed over to Une grenouille dans la théière following a most awesome lunch at Ramen-Ya. It was our first time checking the place out, but figured why not? We have our conscience verte coupons, so let's do it (you buy a piece of pie or cake and get free tea - so a total cost of $3.50 - awesome deal). 

The place is located on 5940 St-hubert, close to Beaubien metro station and starts just after Plaza St-hubert ends. It's a rather nice location - slightly out of the way and quiet. It's small and has nice decor - turquoise, gold and red fill the room. I guess it can fit about 15 people comfortably. 

Ranita got cranberry almond pie with a Jasmine Dragon Pearl tea and I got apricot almond pie with Da hong pao oolong tea (something new!). 

Da hong pao

As is customary with tea outings, we shared our teas. I am an absolute fan of Jasmine Dragon Pearl tea - classic and you can't really go wrong with jasmine. It also smells amazing. Da hong pao is something new - at Grenouille they said there's actually some debate as to whether it is an oolong or red tea. On wikipedia, it says it's an artisanal tea and as such, the crops are very small, giving it quite the price tag (I think it was 8$ or more for 25 g, which is about 5 cups of tea, albeit multiple infusions). In addition it has a rich history, which you can read on Wiki.  The tea itself is really good, it's not too strong and is slightly fruity. I probably should've written about it on Tuesday, because I don't remember the exact taste, just that it was good and Ranita really loved it and wanted to buy it. 

Overall, Grenouille is a great tea place and I would definitely go back to drink tea. It's excellent for chilling given it's slightly secluded location and has some original decor (china hats with fringe for light covers!). On the other hand, I probably wouldn't buy tea because they are rather pricy and for good reason - their teas are organic. But, it's not always affordable. One interesting thing is their pie is rather cheap and tasty, too. Most times cakes cost more than tea, but tis not the case here. So if you happen to have the conscience verte coupon, use it! But even if not, the place is worth a visit for sure. 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring cleaning for your body

So spring is among us Montrealers. As usual with extreme fluctuations in temperature - the weather can never make up its mind. Regardless, many of us feel the need to do some spring cleaning, whether it be your environment (as in your house) or even yourself and get ready to enjoy the new season. This brings me to the subject of detox teas. Most teas have some form of health benefit (just go to Cha Guan and each tea has a list of what it does).

What i'll cover in this post is any tea that's called a detox tea or any tea that is associated with helping your digestive system (and I'll include another little extra bit to talk about my stomach power pack)!

Green Tea Kombucha Lime

This is a green tea (in case you didn't guess from the name) that has pieces of lime and kombucha interspersed. I bought this tea earlier this year at the Tea Emporium in Toronto while visiting a friend. 
Why detox: Kombucha is a symbiotic culture of yeasts and other micro-organisms that acts as purifier to the blood and organs. 
What's it like: The tea is generally light - it's especially good after a meal or even just during the afternoon. It has hints of lime (I'm not sure what kombucha tastes like, so I couldn't tell you if there's any hint of that). But, I guess you could say you feel really healthy after having it, but without an extremely strong tea taste and it's also not nasty. Tea Emporium says it also makes a good iced tea. I'll have to try it out and report back to you. 
Rating: 4/5 - It's nice and healthy, but it still wasn't a kablam, this is the most amazing tea I've ever had. 

David's Tea - Organic Detox

I bought this tea on a whim while visiting David's Tea with Paw and two of our other friends. I figured, why not? I had tried a tea at Cha Guan that had lemongrass and liked it. So, let's try this tea out. 
Why detox: From David's Tea: "Need a reboot? Try this traditional formula. The rooibos will restore your equilibrium with iron, potassium, zinc and manganese. The sencha will pump you full of antioxidants. The ginger’ll zap lethargy and headaches. The ginkgo will clear your mind. The lemongrass will detoxify your liver. And the juniper berries will flush out toxins and any lingering regrets. Not working? Just go back to bed."
What's it like: The lemongrass is strong in this tea - that was the very first thing I noticed. Secondly, the combination of flavors isn't so premium. They told me it tasted really healthy. I guess they're referring to the school of thought that healthy has to be nasty. It's drinkable, but pretty disappointing considering David's Tea has a lot of good stuff. I drink it now and then, mostly because I bought it. Luckily, I only got the small tin. I won't be buying it again though. 
Rating: 2/5 - 2 points for effort and I like the individual components of the tea, but don't enjoy this particular marriage of flavors.

Tou cha Bonbon

I went to David's Tea yesterday to check out some of their new spring collection. This includes some new Pu-erh teas. I was attracted to Tou cha Bonbon and its 2 other friends  because they're really cute! Individually wrapped little cakes. Of the three, this one smelled the best. The chrysanthemum one was really overpowering and I wasn't a big fan (not a big fan of that flower in tea generally - at least in big quantities). 
Why detox: In general, Pu-erh is known for helping the digestive system (in addition to reducing LDL cholesterol and boost your metabolism. What a superhero this tea is!). It helps to relieve constipation and just make sure everything is running smoothly (no pun intended). When visiting the shop, Thé Santé last year, the store clerk told me that it's best to drink pu-erh with a meal for maximum benefit. So yes, Pu-erh goes in the detox category for me. 
What's it like: Apparently, it's supposed to have hints of licorice when steeped (yay for that because licorice, also known as fennel is also great for digestion). It also claims to be 5 times steepable. Now, this tasted like any other standard pu-erh to me. No hint of licorice and it was also only about 3 times steepable. After that, it was just colored hot water.  
Rating: 3/5 - A really cute tea and I like pu-erh. On the other hand, there's nothing special about it apart from the fact that it's cute and portable. I won't it again, unless it's a gift and the person will go "aaaah, kawaii!!! ^_^". 

Organic Pu-erh Ginger

This was part of my David's Tea expedition yesterday. Lately, I'm on a big ginger kick. Combine that with pu-erh, and I'm sold. 
Why detox:  As I mentioned, Pu-erh has a bunch of health benefits - a tea superhero. Ginger is like root superhero. Ginger can do everything - drink it when you have a cold, when you have indigestion. You name your illness, ginger can help you. It also has the bite of a pepper without being one. So, check it out - you have stomach problems...
Pu-erh: I'm great at regulating digestion, but I need some help to chill out this person's stomach before I do my magic. 
Ginger: did someone call my name
And there you have it, the creation of the dynamic-duo. No stomach illness is safe. You also get the bonus benefits, in case you have a cold at the same time and you're trying to reduce your cholesterol and generate awesome metabolism. 
What's it like: I really like this tea. You definitely taste the ginger a bit more, just because it has a rather strong flavor. Fear not though, you can still taste the pu-erh. You definitely feel great after it, too - slightly energized and also happy. You needn't only drink this when your stomach feels nasty of course. You can enjoy it at any time, as I intend to do (on a rotational basis, because I need to deplete my teas). 
Rating: 5/5 - Earthy pu-erh meets spicy ginger in perfect balance with sufficient bite. I think we have a winner. It's also organic! 

The Stomach Power Pack

A while ago while talking about some mint teas, I mentioned my 3 essential ingredients for stomach ailments. I have a bit of a sensitive stomach, so this is essential. Even if you don't and just happen to have occasional ailments, this can be useful. 

The magic three: Ginger, Mint and Fennel. Each of these has a special power. I never mix them though (maybe it'd be nasty, I have no idea). 


I carry around a lot of stuff with me. On any given day, my friends know that in my bag I will probably have anything they need for a given situation (toilet paper, hand sanitizer, plastic bags (for carrying items or in case someone feels ill), advil, lactaid, hand cream, etc - you get the idea). I am sort of like a walking pharmacy - I inherited this wonderful quality from my dear mom. 

Among the things I carry are bags of tea - I usually will have about 2-3 bags of ginger tea, particularly by Yogi Tea (not a fan of other's I've tasted). In addition, for all their tea's, Yogi Tea has little I guess, fortunes on their labels - but they're more insightful than fortune cookies. It is also organic. You can get it from any health food store. 

If you want to make fresh ginger tisane, you can just cut it up and steep it in hot water for a while. Another thing I really like is Ginger-Lemon juice. They make this at l'Escalier, but it tends to be rather pricy. The raw materials are extra cheap (1 thing of ginger is less than a dollar and you can get 4-6 lemons for 2-3$, especially in the summer). It doesn't take long and you'll make about 1-1.5 litres of it, depending on how concentrated a taste you want. Add some honey to it and a bit of cinnamon. Refrigerate. Then you have a great cool and spicy drink. Don't let it sit too long though (I guess for a few days - week), apparently it ferments and you get an alcoholic drinks - or so my friend told me. 

It's also great in food (but you already knew that). 

Stomach benefits: Stop nausea in its tracks. Also helps with general indigestion and heart burn (which seems kind of counterintuitive since it's spicy, but hey it works). 


Mint tea is something else that I'll occasionally carry around - whether it be Moroccan mint or peppermint. Though, most times I just have mint gum and it does the trick.  I actually haven't bought any form of mint tea in a while. I've depleted my White Peony mint and gave away my intense "Folie Morocaine" because it scared me. What I love doing is buying fresh mint, steeping some green tea and putting a bunch of mint in there. Sometimes I'll add a bit of honey. It tastes great. Nothing beats fresh mint. I also like it in salads and various dishes, like this particular Mexican soup made with fava beans. 

Stomach benefits: It's great for digestion (especially in the form of gum). Like, generally, I'd have this after a meal for digestion. If my nausea were prolonged, I would take ginger tea. 
In addition to stomach benefits, it's a mild decongestant and helps chest pain (think of Vick's vaporub). 


Ok, so check - I hate licorice (it's nasty!), but somehow I can handle fennel. Sometimes I buy fennel tea, but I actually discovered that fennel seeds are a lot cheaper (2$ for a bag at Asian or West Indian stores). All you do is take about a tea spoon and steep it in hot water. Fennel seeds are really prominent in Indian cooking (sometimes you'll find them in samosas and other times I've just seen them at the cash register in a bowl for people to take with a spoon). Fennel (has the consistently of celery) can be made into lots of things - awesome in soup. 

Stomach benefits: Reduces flatulence and helps associated gas cramps. 
It's also supposed to be a good diuretic and as such helps to reduce hypertension. 

In practice, my stomach power pack would be most useful in portable form. As such, you should either have tea bags, gum, fresh fennel seeds or licorice to chew on or if you like chewing on fresh ginger (I've seen it! and tried, dang it's spicy), do that. Whatever is most convenient for you. So far it has worked for me. 

That ends my lengthy post on spring cleaning for your body! Wishing you all great health for this season (and beyond of course). 

1st tea party

last weekend, our first ever 'official' tea party took place at fil's.

on the menu:
- 'oh canada' rooibos
- the earl's garden (earl grey w/ extra bergamot, strawberries, raspberries and black currants)
- masala chai

it was a success: warm drinks + delicious foods + friends = great way to spend a sunday afternoon/evening.

we expect to make these tea parties a regular event, so... until next time!