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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Top 5 Tea Resolutions 2013

There are so many things that I want to accomplish in my life that a single New Years resolution cannot wrap around my aspirations for 2013.  I want to embrace opportunities in my current and future job, empower my body through yoga and healthy recipes while expressing and accepting the love around me fearlessly.  I also want to progress in my tea-ventures and I hope those of you reading become a part of this tea journey as I make a list of Top 5 Tea Resolutions for 2013!

Top 5 Tea Resolutions 2013:

  1. Try a new tea or tea shop every month
  2. Find a good tea documentary to watch, any recommendations?
  3. Go to the Toronto Tea Festival February 2nd
  4. Have many tea experiences with new and old friends
  5. Explore different tea infused recipes in the kitchen

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Next stop: Tea Factory

It was a lovely Saturday afternoon, we had just finished eating all you can eat sushi and trying on silly coats at the thrift store when my boyfriend and I decided to stop by this new tea shop.  We had spotted in the night before when picking up our fish and chips dinner along the Lakeshore strip in Port Credit.

The Tea Factory is right on Lakeshore close to Cawthra/Hurontario in Port Credit.  Only open for about three months now, this delightful tea spot is just what Port Credit needed.  I was very pleased this time with the customer service, the owner was very knowledgeable and helpful as she happily showed us about a dozen teas and encouraged us to smell as many as we liked.  As someone who adores tea as much as I do it is always appreciated when someone shares that passion and is open to sharing their knowledge about tea.

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The store itself was very cozy, I loved the dark wood surrounding the counters.  The small seating area made it easy to sit and have a small treat with our tea (which was complimentary!:).  And next to where we were sitting was a giant chalkboard with a list of prices and a message about tea tastings!  Of course I inquired about it and the owner informed us that at the end of the month she does tea tastings of the different teas in the store.  I can come in and pay a set price and enjoy trying as many teas as I please!  This is such a wonderful idea especially because the Tea Factory is new to the neighborhood.  People can come in and meet other tea lovers, learn about tea and take pleasure in tasting new flavors!  What a great way to bring people together:)

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I can’t wait to go back for their tea sampling and it is so close to my neighborhood!   I don’t have to go all the way downtown Toronto to explore new teas and shops.  I am also excited to see how the store progresses in the next coming months.  Port Credit is a quaint little area close to the lake which is pretty busy in the summer months when you can walk along the streets, by the lake and enjoy the warmer weather.  Now you can also enjoy a great cup of tea! Go Tea Factory! Check out their Facebook page here.

Purchases and Tastings:

  • Apple Oolong and Go Nuts tastings
  • Saturday Afternoon and Godiva Pu-erh as a 50g bag of tea

Check out my next posts about these new teas!

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Christmas Eve Tea Time

Merry Christmas Eve Everyone! Whose drinking a warm beverage today? Whether it is hot cocoa, coffee, or a bit of rum in your cup, you can all be a part of Christmas Eve Tea Time.

Today is the day everyone is getting ready for the last few days of Christmas.  Last minute shopping, baking cookies, wrapping and then finally when the malls close, the Christmas lights come on and the snow starts to fall we can all relax with our warm beverages and enjoy the wait….Ahhh…the wait for what you may ask?  Well Christmas of course!  Don’t act like you are not excited! Everyone gets a little bit excited about Christmas, even if you do not celebrate it.  I don’t usually have this much spirit at this time of year, but the Grinch in me has been left in his cave and the Cindy Loo-Who is dancing about.

I have had some great Christmas experiences the past few weeks at work and I’d like to share with you these moments that have warmed my heart.  I’m currently employed at David’s Tea and have been working like crazy during the holiday season.

A few weeks ago a girl come in to the store with her dad and they both ordered a cup of tea, ones that I had recommended.  Because she had mentioned she worked for another David’s Tea and I wanted her to feel welcome in a store that she was familiar with even if not her own I gave her the teas for free.  As I was making their teas, she asked me what tea I’ve been wanting to purchase for myself but haven’t had the chance to yet.  I thought hard about this and said it was always great to have a plain peppermint tea in the house when you feel like something soothing.  She agreed and ended up buying 30g of the Peppermint Amour.  A moment after her purchase, she borrowed a marker and scribbled something on the bag of tea.

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Story #2

The other day, a little closer to Christmas madness now, a young girl walks in to David’s Tea.  She instantly lit up the store with her big smile and red vintage Christmas sweater.  As I was showing her our Christmas teas she told me that she was a don at her university and was always making tea for her students.  She even had a BYOM (bring your own mug) rule and faithfully brews teas from Davids.  As I was packaging teas for her, taking away and ringing her through the cash I also gave her cup of tea for free.  However, I did not tell her I had done so until the transaction was over and she was so thankful.  Merry Christmas, I said.

About an hour goes by and she walks in again to order another cup of tea.  She also left money to pay for the next two people’s tea.  I told her she was a wonderful person and her students were lucky to have her as their don.  I took the money and paid for the next two teas, explaining they were from the previous woman who was looking to pass on her Christmas joy!  And did she ever!  Not only did she make my day special but two other complete strangers.  And it all started with a cup of tea…

Merry Christmas!

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Tealish

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Tealish has been around for about 7 years in the quaint Queen West area right by Trinity Bellwoods park in Toronto.  If you are ever downtown near Queen St W and Bathurst there is a quiet little tea store just waiting for you to order a cup of tea.

I’m going to be honest, I was a little disappointed when I walked in to the store, or boutique as they like to call themselves.  I was the first to say hello and strike up a conversation after a while as I was browsing their festive tea accessories near the front of the store.  I had been excited to discover this new tea place and I unexpectedly found they were not as welcoming as I had hoped.  Maybe I’m spoiled in the suburbs with people who like friendly conversation, because the downtown crowd seem to keep to themselves.

I wanted to know MORE about tealish!  I follow their blog and they have great tea recipes and information about their different types of teas.  However, the service I received in store was mediocre.  The clear disinterest when showing me their different teas and talking about the company shortened my stay and left me disappointed.

Minus the poor service, the store was absolutely adorable and I did not leave totally disappointed.  The wooden floors squeaked as I walked around the front of the store browsing their tea accessories.  It was the beginning of my Christmas shopping that day so I decided to get a tea for the road.  And what better way to start your Christmas shopping with a mint chocolate rooibos, black tea and vanilla soy latte!

While one of the girls was making my latte in the back room I joined the other tealish girl in the front to have a look at their different teas.  I wanted so many!

  • Pink Dragonfruit
  • Dreidels and Donuts
  • Carrot Cake
  • Earl Greypfruit.

I ended up purchasing 50g of the Earl Greypfruit, which takes a zesty grapefruit spin on the classic Earl Grey tea.  It is a great morning and afternoon tea with that hint of citrus kick that makes the tea a little bit lighter than the classic Earl Grey.

Final notes:

  • Tasty tea lattes.  Each of the staff created their own and they are having a competition to see whose is the best.
  • Poor customer service.  Bring a friend when you visit because it will be more enjoyable with someone else.
  • Be prepared to purchase a 50g minimum amount of tea if you are looking to bring some loose tea home with you.  I would have bought more tea if I could have purchased a smaller amount to test out.  Although I am already half way through my Earl Greypfruit…
  • ALL NATURAL flavouring in their teas.  No artificial nonsense that confuses people.
  • Toasty Almond is the same tea as David’s Forever Nuts.  The similarity of the teas surprised me, they had one or two other teas that were closely similar to those at Davids.  Who created them first?  I do not want to start that debate.

All in all, if you love loose leaf tea go check tealish out! Bring a friend and definitely try one of their festive lattes!

 

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Top 5 Get Well Teas

It’s been a crazy month of sickness for me.  Coughing, congestion, sore throat, headaches and fatigue.  With all the Cold FX and oil of oregano I have been consuming I should be super woman by now! But apparently my immune system is not as strong as I thought and maybe I forgot to wear my scarf a few times and have stayed up late looking at tea blogs… Whatever the case may be I have become sick for the second or third time this season.  So it is time for a top five get well tea list to help those of you who have been dragged into the sick pool as well.

Top 5 Get Well Teas:

1) David’s Tea Cold 911

The eucalyptus helps relieve congestion.  You can steam this tea in the shower and breathe it in as well as drinking it.

2) David’s Tea Bravissimo

The licorice root in this tea soothes and coats your throat when those dry coughs get irritating.

3) Yogi Tea Echinacea Immune Support

Echinacea is known for boosting the immune system and that is just what is failing us in times of sickness.

4) My own herbal remedy of fenugreek seeds [with honey and lemon]

Fenugreek nourishes the body, soothes the stomach and can aid the respiratory system.  Mix the seeds with another tea or just with lemon and honey for a sweet tisane.

5) David’s Tea Ginseng Oolong

Gin-sing! Fun to say isn’t it?  Ginseng is also an immune booster and sweet on the throat, just what you need when you do not want to get out of bed in the morning.

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