The Toronto Tea Festival

Last Saturday February 2nd, I attended The Toronto Tea Festival.  Held at The Toronto Reference Library, the festival brought local tea lovers together to meet new tea companies, try new tea and learn about the innovative ways people use to share tea with other people.  I was a little disappointed at first on the small venue because it meant there were not as many exhibitors sharing and talking about tea.  However, if you took it for what it was, there was a great mix of different tea companies who were all individually passionate about tea in their own way.

I do wish more of the exhibitors sampled their teas because I loved the fact that there were so many elements of the festival that tickled my senses.  I was able to smell, touch and drink so many different teas.   It was a great experience especially because I could share it with people who were just as passionate about tea as I am.

Here is a list of the exhibitors that stood out to me the most:

Steeped: This particular tea company based is out of Minden, Ontario and they host tea parties in your own home!

Cha: A brand new online subscription company that sends you tea based on your personality type.  Take their quiz online and find out what tea you are!

T by Daniel: An online tea company that gives tea a modern twist, using friendly tea names and crazy infusions to make tea fun!

Bare English & Co: They created an all organic, vegan, tea-infused lip balm. The Coco-Mint flavor was amazing!

The King Edward Hotel: These guys were here because they serve afternoon tea in the hotel restaurant.

Majesteas: I really liked the presentation of this company, it was fresh, welcoming and they had a stamp card for regulars.

Another place was giving out free plastic travel mugs, there was a tea ceremony going on while we browsed through the tables and tea presentations were held throughout the day in an adjoining room. The above exhibitors seemed to stand out to me the most… it could have something to do with the delicious mini cream filled treats from The King Edward.  Also, I purchased a GREAT coconut oolong from Majesteas that I have been drinking almost every day since the festival.  MMMMM!

That is all, I will be writing my next post about the presentation I sat in on.  I wish there was more to write about, but we didn’t stay very long, maybe two hours max.  I’m not sure if it is something I would go to again.  If there were more exhibitors/tea companies, tea tasting and maybe a bigger venue I think it would have been more enjoyable.  I also wish I could have sat in on more of the presentations as I enjoyed learning new things about tea.  I did humbly enjoy my experience at the festival though and recommend going next year if you want to explore a little more about tea!

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El Almacen Escapade

So I’ve always wondered, what is the proper way to drink maté tea?  What is so great about this South American tea? You drink it from this little gourd and with a straw…who drinks tea from a straw??? Well now I do.

El Almacen is a cozy, welcoming cafe on Queen West in Toronto.  Definitely passed by it several times while I have been shopping in that area and missed the part of the sign that read “Yerba Maté Cafe”.  When I heard about it from a coworker I just had to make a special tea-venture downtown Toronto and discover what this yerba maté cafe was all about.

Three of us ventured down to El Almacen on a surprisingly warm winters day and it was as if the cafe was waiting for us with open arms.  The woman working at the time recommended we share the serving of maté if we wanted to drink it the traditional way from the gourd so we ordered one maté serving and three delicious little treats on the side called Alfajores. These coconut caramel little treats were delectable!  I would go back to El Almacen just for those pastries.

mateAs she brought our order over I asked the server if she could show us how to properly enjoy the tea.  She was happy to show us the maté ways and explained we would need about 8 teaspoons of tea in the small gourd and suggested adding a few teaspoons of cane sugar to sweeten the taste of the maté.  Traditionally, yerba maté can be sipped through a bombilla – a stainless steel straw capable of filtering the tea without consuming the leaves.  After she filled the gourd with maté, cane sugar and about 74ºC water (as to not burn the leaves), she placed the bombilla in the center of the gourd and reminded us not to move it about or stir the straw as it will become clogged with the tea leaves.

matedrinkerWhat an experience!  We passed the gourd around between the three of us, taking turns drinking through the bombilla and refilling the gourd with water before passing it along.  I loved the bonding experience involved with drinking yerba maté and it seemed to fit right in with the the welcoming relaxed atmosphere of the cafe.  The artwork was beautiful along the walls and on the tables, the staff was very friendly and I felt as if I had been there before even though I seemed to only pass by this enchanting cafe.

Not only did the server show us how to drink the yerba maté, but she explained to us that it is very energizing in a different way that coffee is.  I like that she mentioned we will be more mentally alert after drinking the tea and not crazy infused with a jolt of caffeine.  We were very energized afterwards, ready to take on the streets of Toronto!  And I would definitely come back here with friends and enjoy the traditional ways of the maté world.  The welcoming atmosphere brought people together and left you with a calming energy to last the rest of the day.

tabletealadyThanks El Almacen for the great tea experience!

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