"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."
~ C.S. Lewis

Friday, May 22, 2015

Tea Review: Adagio Teas' Sagittarius (The Zodiac Series)

Sagittarius (The Zodiac Series) - Adagio
"Adagio Teas was founded in 1999 with the aim of providing consumers with unmatched quality and variety of teas. It has become the most popular destination for tea online, and among the highest rated companies. Their goal is simple, deliver the best quality gourmet tea from around the world, straight to your cup." 

Ingredients: Black tea, Raspberry pieces, red safflowers, creme flavour, vanilla flavour, bergamot flavour, raspberry flavour

Steep Time: 4 minutes

First Sip Thought: “Oh, sweet Archer!”

Smell: A very sweet aroma with hints of bergamot and vanilla lingering before and after steeping this tea. I get a bit of a chocolate scent after the tea has steeped, too. Before even opening the packaging, the smell of the tea was escaping and filling the air.

Taste: I think the concept for this entire line is really neat. Of course, I’m obsessed with anything zodiac so the moment I got the chance to try my own sign’s tea I jumped on it. The zodiac tea line was created in collaboration with designer Inguna Trepsa of NYC. I was really impressed with how wonderful the tea was presented. The loose leaf tea in enclosed in a beautifully designed tin that can easily be reusable. I feel the taste does not match up to the aroma very much because while it smelled like an earl grey, the tastes tells a different story. The raspberry flavours shines and the creaminess helps soften the flavours making for an incredible cup. They subtle vanilla taste makes for a great treat at the end of each sip. Add a splash of frothed milk with a sweetener and you may just have my next favourite tea latte. Think a London Fog twist. I’m a Sagittarius, so I may be biased, but this blend was marvellous.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 tea leaves
**If you or someone you know would like a tea reviewed, contact me

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tea Review: Williamson Tea's Traditional Afternoon

Traditional Afternoon - Williamson Tea
"Williamson Tea are fifth generation family tea farmers, who have been growing tea since 1869. Williamson Tea have four farms in the Kenyan highlands and are unique by being the only brand whose teas come solely from their own farms. It is the knowledge of the individual soils and microclimates of each farm that means they are able to create teas of unrivaled quality and freshness time after time, crafting and controlling the process from bush to cup with complete transparency. All of their farms are Rainforest Alliance certified and the Williamson Tea Foundation ensures that all of their land is managed sustainably so that future generations can continue to enjoy fertile soils and wild ancient forests."

Ingredients: Kenyan Black Tea

Steep Time:
3 minutes

First Sip Thought: "Needed for this morning."

Smell: A beautiful cooper colour is present after steeping this tea. I would really recommend using a glass vessel when preparing this tea so you are able to enjoy the appealing shade. In addition to its appearance, the tea gives off a woodsy aroma that is light and enjoyable.

Taste: Despite the name of this tea, right away I would say this tea is perfect for a morning cup. The brisk qualities of this Kenyan black tea match the time of day perfectly. This classic afternoon tea is very robust with a rich maltiness and only the slightest astringency in the end notes. I actually find that the astringency even fades entirely as the tea cools to room temperature. While sometimes I like to drink a black tea with milk and sweetener, this one was just as wonderful straight but I do think I'll enjoy it as a creamy treat for my next steep! Traditional Afternoon is offered in both variations, loose leaf and tea bags, and is sealed in a stunning packaging. Their typical packaging is a box for their tea bags and a tin for their loose leaf. I love that they also offer select teas in their award winning elephant caddies that are their signature look available in various sizes.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 tea leaves
**If you or someone you know would like a tea reviewed, contact me

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tea Talk with Tea Campaign Canada

Germany native Dr. Hans-J. Langenbahn studied Social Anthropology and on one of his post university-trips to Ethiopia he suddenly became hooked on the coffee there. After completing some extended cup tasting trainings at the national “Coffee Liquoring Unit” he found himself and for almost 15 years, in the Specialty Coffee business.

During this time, in October 2007, he moved from Germany to Canada. For several years he continued travelling to coffee producing countries as well as running his German online shop for Specialty Coffees. But after a while he knew it was time for a change. An old friend of his, and long-time manager of the German Teekampagne, requested to sell their teas in Canada. After 6 or 7 years of asking Dr. Hans to commit to this new venture he finally said 'yes' in 2014. 

I chatted with Dr. Hans to learn more about the history of Teekampagne, the goal for Tea Campaign Canada, and tea trends he is noticing in Canada.
1. What is one of your earliest and favourite tea related memory?
My earliest memory: tea is in little bags, and only poor people drink it. Those who can afford it drink coffee. That was the mentality of the social (farmers- and workers-) environment I grew up in.

My favourite early memory: more than 20 years ago I discovered in a little town in the southwest of Germany, a tea-store. The owner spent many years in Japan and he served me - in his words - the best Japanese tea he had in stock (I unfortunately forgot which tea it exactly was). It was an extremely light-bodied, tasteless tea – I thought. But then he explained to me more about the tea, its taste, flavour etc., and after a few more cups I started to discover the fine, for an inexperienced palate, hidden flavour. This was the moment when I realized how important knowledge and taste-training was if you wanted to explore and discover the flavours beyond “Ostfriesen Tee” (you know, this bold, strong brew that needs a lot sugar and milk).
2. What do you believe sets Tea Campaign apart from other tea companies?

There's a bunch of things that sets the German Teekampagne and the Tea Campaign Canada (as well as the Boston Tea Campaign in the US and the Tea Campaign in New Zealand) apart.

Basically there is the paradigm: buy a top quality product for a fair price and sell it for the lowest possible one. At the first glance this doesn't make sense, as high quality and/or rare products (and Darjeeling tea is a relatively rare one) are always and everywhere sold at the highest prices. But the founder of the Teekampagne, the Economist Prof. Guenter Faltin, asked the question: why do they have to be expensive? And isn't it the high price that makes them inaccessible for too many people?

After intense research he was convinced that it is the number of middlemen between producers and consumers that makes those products so expensive, not necessarily a limited quantity or other reasons. Based on this understanding, but also on the ideas of Gottlieb Duttweiler, the founder of Migros in Switzerland, he developed, in the early 80's of the last century, the “campaign principle”. The Teekampagne was originally a theoretical model. To prove that the model not only works but also can be successful he founded the Teekampagne.

The pillars of his “campaign principle” are:
  • Be focused on only one product (Darjeeling tea)
  • Buy directly from tea gardens; exclude middlemen 
  • Buy in bulk 
  • Use large packets; this saves on packaging, labelling and handling costs
  • Convince your customers to buy their year's supply at a time; this saves shipping and warehouse costs
  • No advertising; just word of mouth
Originally the Teekampagne sold the bulk of their tea exclusively within a short period of time in the year after the arrival of a new harvest. Customers were (and still are) informed in advance about the arrival and could (and still can) make their orders. Hence the name “Campaign”.

Another difference between us and our competitors is, besides our organic certification, each tea-lot is tested for all kind of possible chemical residues (currently 486 chemicals). This is unique.

3. How was it decided to have Tea Campaign Canada focus on Darjeeling only?

The decision was made by Prof. Guenter Faltin simply by the fact that focusing on one single tea results in higher quantities compared to buying smaller quantities of 10 or 20 different teas. And a higher volume results, as we know, in a lower price. And as long as this price is a fair price, everybody is happy: producers, importers and consumers.
4. Do you find it is more difficult to focus on one tea only?

From a business perspective: no. From a personal perspective: yes. There is always this inner desire to offer all this great variety of teas produced around the world. But this desire is not limited to tea. When I started my online coffee shop I had, one purpose, only one coffee: Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia’s No.1 and one of the worlds best coffees. But then this desire… I ended up with having fifteen absolutely great coffees and Espressos, but due to the inevitable smaller quantities of each, I had to pay the highest prices for the green coffee; and roasting small batches is also inefficient and costly. So, what is the better decision – at least business wise…?
5. Tell me a bit about Tea Campaign’s tea growers. What kind of relationship do you have with them?

Honestly, I'm the wrong person to answer this question. I'm too new in the Darjeeling tea business, but people like Prof. Faltin or the manager general Thomas Räuchle could give you detailed answers. Especially Mr. Räuchle, who has been with the Teekampagne from almost the very beginning, knows all 86 tea gardens in Darjeeling, knows all their owners, managers, parts of their staff and workers. But one thing I know for sure: the Teekampagne has strong ties to many of the gardens. This doesn't necessarily mean that there is always “Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen” (“peace, joy and egg-cake”) as they use to say in Germany. Producers are producers, buyers are buyers; and both parties have to be satisfied with a deal. But due to its economic and environmental impact, the standing of the Teekampagne among the tea gardens is a strong one.
6. I’m always very interested in Canadian tea habits. What have you noticed from being here?

Basically the same as what I experienced in coffee too: Canadians, at least the Canadians I know, like it bold and dark (exception: the watery Tim Hortons coffee and the watery beer of the big national breweries; but there it's not about coffee or beer: it's about tradition, legacy, identity and...branding!). To bring my experience I would like to quote a tea-store owner here in Ottawa: He recently said to me: “I try to get rid of my First Flush Darjeelings. People don't want it. It's too light and flavourful for them. They like it bold. They like the Second Flushes.”

More about the Tea Campaign Canada you can find on:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Cauliflower Steaks with Tea Umami Sauce

Last week I introduced you to Annelies Zijderveld's new cookbook, Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea. As promised, today I am sharing a recipe from the cookbook with permission of the publisher, Andrews McMeel. The tea in this recipe is used to make a sauce that will later be poured over the cauliflower for an added smoky flavour. An umami sauce is a savoury flavour that will make your mouth water. This tea umami sauce will surely enhance every bite in this recipe. Get your Lapsang Souchong tea ready!

In the introduction note of this recipe Annelies states, "my impulse visit to Blue Hill in New York City left an indelible imprint. The crown jewel—surpassing even the dessert course—involved a cauliflower steak the size of a dinner plate, crisped on the edges and luscious under the weight of my fork. This recipe is my homage to that evening."

Cauliflower Steaks with Tea Umami Sauce

Makes 4 Servings

Cauliflower Steaks

2 heads cauliflower, rinsed and patted dry, sliced into 4 steaks 1½ inch thick
4 tablespoons safflower, grapeseed, or other neutral oil

Tea Umami Sauce

¼ cup lapsang souchong tea, brewed and cooled (1 teaspoon loose, finely ground)
¼ cup tahini
1 tablespoon liquid aminos or organic soy sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Sumac, for garnish (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

To Make the Cauliflower Steaks:

Place an 18-inch sheet pan on the middle oven rack. Preheat to 450°F. Position a foil tent on a plate near the stove.

Place a 2-quart fry pan over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Swirl in 2 tablespoons oil to coat. When the pan begins smoking, use tongs to carefully place (it may splatter) one steak in the hot oil. Sear 2 minutes. Turn and sear the flip side 2 minutes. Transfer the steak to the plate and cover with the foil tent. Repeat with the other steaks, adding oil as needed.

Once all the steaks have cooked, arrange them on the preheated sheet pan, making sure no sides are touching. Bake 10 minutes.

To Serve:

Whisk the tea with the tahini, liquid aminos, maple syrup, and pepper. Pour the umami sauce over the steaks. Sprinkle with sumac and chopped parsley, if using.

From Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea by Annelies Zijderveld, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tea Review: The Persimmon Tree's White Chai

White Chai - The Persimmon Tree
Ingredients: White Tea, Ginger Root, Lemon Grass, Cinnamon Bark, Pineapple Pieces, Cloves, Dried Coconut, Cardamom Pods, Red Peppercorn, Apple Pieces, Natural Spice Flavor, Natural Cinnamon Flavor

Steep Time:
3 minutes

First Sip Thought: "Very different."

Smell: It certainly smells like a typical chai but with a tropical twist. Pepper being the strongest here next to cinnamon, a sweet apple scent and toasty coconut join in.

Taste: I'm not sure what I was expecting when first going in to try a chai with a white tea base. All I knew was that with my recent masala chai kick, I was into anything and everything that had the typical spices added. This is definitely a funky twist on a classic tea. Given the tea base, I decided to not add milk and sugar as I normally would for a chai. It is a pale steep but the white tea is evident and I find it to be rather light and refreshing. I do think with a more delicate tea used here, it gives the spices the opportunity to shine. I was very impressed with the peppercorn appearing to be the star of the spice flavours. A nice sweetness was given through each sip from the additional fruit pieces as well. While this White Chai was enjoyable on many levels, I would prefer my usual with a black tea base for a much stronger cup made the traditional way. However, this white chai was great straight.
Verdict: 3 out of 5 tea leaves
**If you or someone you know would like a tea reviewed, contact me

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Cup of Zen: Wendy Weir from Libre Tea

A Cup of Zen is a series that began on the blog September 2014 to share tea moments from tea enthusiasts around the world. The following is The Cup of Life's ninth post for the series featuring Wendy Weir, from Libre Tea.  For more information and to be featured, please visit its page.
Wendy - owner and creator of the Libre Tea glasses. Inspiring tea moments is her mission.
From my trip to China, I was inspired with touring temples and gardens. So many teas in China – such a rich history of tea - to fall in love with and so many had interesting containers that they were carried in. Seemingly everyone, everywhere enjoyed their tea by their side. 

During my journey there an inspirational moment was on a bus in Shanghai, it was so packed and chaotic, and yet this is where I witnessed a bus driver who managed to block us all out and savour his red light stop to enjoy a moment to sip, a moment to nourish and a moment to rest.

I really knew that we in North America could use this ‘tea moment’ in our day to rejuvenate and relax. And now what feeds me is the opportunity to inspire tea moments … a moment to connect and reflect in our busy days - to be here now and connect to ourselves and our world.  And so….

Returning home, I was inspired to create a practical and pretty solution to the messy, yet delightful loose tea experience – so much more taste and choice and with less impact than bagged tea. I had saved a special model I’d purchased and was soon in touch with the supplier. With their help, still my supplier today, we created a durable, re-usable, thermal and stylish travel beverage container. It’s unique; double-walled with a glass interior, a poly exterior and removable filter that combines fresh taste and a practical, go anywhere feel.
And now I’ve discovered several more uses for the Libre tea glass – a great matcha or protein powder shaker, a perfect container for fruit’n herb water infusions, lovely for practical clean tasting hydration all day long.

We know in our hearts that we are all interconnected and that if we can take our own moment to relax we can make our own contribution of ’peace’ into the world by keeping our own nature in its naturally loving state.

A moment of presence – I reflect and connect with a tea moment often and know I can make this place a better world with my own nature nourished.

Where to find Wendy...

Her Website: www.libretea.com
*You're turn! Submit your #ACupofZen tea moment to The Cup of Life for a chance to be featured just like this next month!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Canadian Tea in Fresh Cup Magazine's May 2015 Issue

When a tea is steeping and the aroma fills the air it is one of the most magical experiences to indulge in. Each cup has a different story to tell and tea time is the moment the adventures are shared. The energy of those that grew and harvested the tea leaves from the plant is one to be felt. After all, it is their hard work that has gifted tea enthusiasts everywhere the beautiful leaf. From the list of growers around the world that have carefully and mindfully produced the beverage another will proudly be added to the list. 
May issue featuring Vancouver Island's Teafarm. Cover photo by Nik West
Victor Vesely and Margit Nellemann have took it upon themselves to begin Teafarm, Canada's first tea plantation on Vancouver Island. I was delighted when I had the opportunity to chat with them about their experiences growing tea in Canadian soil and I'm also excited that I got to share their wonderful story in Fresh Cup Magazine's May Issue. You may have remembered in the past when I wrote for Fresh Cup's December 2014 Issue that it is a coffee and tea industry publication. Published monthly, each issue features a bit of both beverages for the readers. In this month's issue you will find my article about Teafarm "Tea of the Northern Isle". We chatted about how Teafarm started, the ups and downs during the growing process, their tea processing experiments (can you say maple smoked tea? yum!) and much more. As a Canadian tea blogger, I am thrilled to be able to share an inspiring tea experience from my country. 

Making the cover story, it is perfect timing for the World Tea Expo. Fresh Cup Magazine is a subscription based publication and you can order your copy of the May 2015 issue right now on their website here. Also, great news for World Tea Expo attendees, Fresh Cup will be bringing copies of this issue to their booth (# 632) for you to pick up and read more! I can't wait for everyone to spot Victor and Margit on the cover and learn more about growing tea in Canada. Steep yourself a cup of your favourite tea, flip through and enjoy the words and photos canvasing the pages. Who knows, maybe one day that favourite cup of tea will be Canadian grown. 

Please let me know your thoughts if you get a copy.
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