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

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tea Review: Vicony Teas' Keemun Hao Ya A

Keemun Hao Ya A - Vicony Teas
  "Vicony Teas Company, the organic tea manufacturer, specializes in tea planting, production, selling and research. As a Chinese tea wholesaler & supplier, it is able to supply various kinds of Black tea, Green tea, White tea, Yellow tea, Oolong tea, Dark tea, Pu Erh Tea, Scented tea, Flowering tea, Herbal tea and Tea Powder at keen prices on a regular basis. To meet the needs of oversea tea shops, tea houses and retailers, Vicony Teas started to provide the oversea door to door tea wholesale service in 2009."
Ingredients: Chinese Keemun Black Tea

Steep Time:
3 minutes

First Sip Thought: "Full."

Smell: A light smoky aroma for both the dry leaf and after steep. This tea produced a bright reddish brown color. Vicony Teas say that "in a cup, the premium tea gives bright golden ring appeared near the edge of liquor to the cup. The golden ring is the sign that tea leaves are rich in theaflavins that is vital for good quality."

Taste: Brought to me by Qimen County, Anhui Province, China this Keemun is the highest grade. Some teas have specific names but are generally only grown and processed in a particular region. Keemun from China is one of those teas. This Keemun Hao Ya A is deep and rich in flavour with, like the aroma, a hint of smoke. With its sharp flavour profile and full body this Keemun is wonderfully energizing yet comforting. It's a great morning brew! Although some black teas are still great with the addition of milk, I prefer Keemun without and that is how this cup was prepared. I experimented and steeped this tea for 2 minutes at first but found that it wasn't strong enough to my liking. I recommend 3 minutes as I feel it brings out all the unique flavours from this tea that shouldn't be missed in one cup.
 
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 tea leaves
**If you or someone you know would like a tea reviewed, contact me.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tea Review: The Persimmon Tree's Lapsang Souchong

Lapsang Souchong - The Persimmon Tree 
Ingredients: Organic Black Loose Leaf Tea

Steep Time:
3 minutes

First Sip Thought: "Camping night."

Smell: Picture yourself outside on a chilly night surrounding a campfire with friends. Breathe in the air and you'll get something similar to this tea's scent. Much like a campfire, the smokiness aroma really hits you. It's quite intense. I would recommend steeping this tea for the first time in an open area since the aroma may be overpowering compared to other teas you're used to.

Taste: What makes this tea so unique is that the tea leaves have actually been smoked over pine needles. This is what gives it the very bold, but soothing, earthy flavour. The scent alone kept me away from trying this tea for a while probably because it was too heavy for my liking. I'm happy to say the tea itself is actually not bad. After steeping, you are left with a caramel brown type liquid. I have noticed that if you steep it a bit less, the woodsy flavour is more enjoyable as it is not has strong. A pine smoke flavour is quite predominant and I even get a hint of a bacon taste. I do not hate Lapsang Souchong but I think it would take some time before I can actually enjoy it as a beverage alone. What I do love is using Lapsang Souchong for baking or cooking! I think it has become one of my most favourite teas to use in the kitchen as I believe it is something easy to work with. I also imagine that is tea would be ideal for cheese pairing. Hello smoked cheddar...mmmmm. I had heard so much about this tea for a while that I just had to give it a try. I do not regret that I did. While this tea might not be for everyone I think it's one that needs to be tried (at least once) by all.
 
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 tea leaves
**If you or someone you know would like a tea reviewed, contact me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Spicy Chai and Red Wine Poached Pears Recipe

I've been following Tealish Fine Teas on Instagram for a while now and have been visiting their blog often for some of their tasty recipes. I just came across this one that they posted back in February 2014. It uses their Spicy Chai blend, but if you do not have their brand on hand I think another Chai would suffice. This would be a great treat to make this Valentines Day, however, I believe "love day" is every day. Tealish was happy enough to share this recipe with The Cup of Life readers. So here is the recipe for you all to enjoy 365 days of the year :)  

To view the original post by Tealish Fine Teas visit their blog here.

 Image

Ingredients

1 tablespoon Spicy Chai tea
1 tea filter
2 cups fruity red wine
1 cup orange juice
½ cup plus ¼ cup white sugar
2 pears – Anjou or Bosc, preferably
Orange slices, to garnish

Directions

  1. Place tea into filter and secure at the top with a knot. Put filter into a medium-sized saucepan along with wine, orange juice, and ½ cup sugar.
  2. Turn heat to medium high. While mixture comes to a boil, peel the pears, leaving the core and stem intact.
  3. When tea and red wine mixture is boiling, add the pears and lower heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook for about 20 minutes, gently turning pears every five minutes or so to ensure even colour (the pears will turn a beautiful bright red!)
  4. Remove pears from saucepan and let cool. Meanwhile, add the additional ¼ cup of sugar and let sauce simmer 10 more minutes, until it becomes thick and syrupy. Remove tea and transfer remaining liquid to a sealed container.
  5. Store pears and sauce separately in fridge until ready to serve. Spoon sauce over the pears and garnish with orange slices.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

How to Make Herbal Tea Bath Sachets

Tea itself has a calming effect when indulging. It's something that is easy to go down and you may have also heard it be described as "a bath for your insides." Playing on this saying, I wanted to do something different for a relaxing evening one night. Instead of a typical bubble bath with a cup of tea by my side, why not incorporate the tea directly to the bath? Tea does wonders for the inside of the body and also the outside.
In this TEA.I.Y (witty, isn't it? haha) I'll be sharing with you how to make your own tea bath sachets. Technically, there is no actual "tea" in these though. Most of the ingredients are things you would find blended with actual tea leaves, or on its own as an herbal tea or tisane. These sachets are made to soak directly in the bath tub and are completely safe for you to relax in the tub with them still "steeping" so to speak. I hope you enjoy following this tutorial and, more importantly, enjoy using them! Add all of the tea bath sachets you create into a mason jar, place a ribbon around it and you have an inexpensive, cute gift--Valentine's Day is right around the corner!

Benefits: soothing, relaxing, stress relieving, euphoric, excellent for skin and sore muscles

Herbal Tea Bath Sachets

What You'll Need...

  • Chamomile flowers
  • Rose Buds
  • Epsom Salt
  • Baking Soda
  • Essential Oil of your choice
  • Bowl
  • Spoon/Scoop
  • Tea filter bag or Sachets (You can find these at a Dollar store)
  • Ribbon or string 
1. In a small container, take a scoop of baking soda and add 1-2 drops of your essential oil. 
2. In your bowl, gently combine all the ingredients (including the baking soda and essential oil mixture) together making sure not to crush any. There isn't really any set measurements for this DIY. I just take about a handful of each ingredient. Add your essential oil last to the mix and use only 1-2 drops. 

3. Spoon about half a cup into a tea filter bag or sachet.
4. Seal the bag so no ingredients get out by taking your ribbon or string and tying it around the top tightly. I make sure it is secured by tying it twice around. 
5. Start a bath and add the sachet to the tub.
6. Take in the aroma and relax!
    Give these a try and let me know what you think! You may be surprised at just how simple they are to create. If you make them be sure to send me a photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

    Thursday, February 5, 2015

    Discover the World of Tea at the Toronto Tea Festival

    "The Toronto Tea Festival will enable you to discover the world of tea from the traditional to the trendy. You will be able to sample hundreds of teas and learn from experts in the industry at one of the complimentary presentations. Taste a variety of teas uniquely and exquisitely prepared by exhibitors; noting how the flavours may differ depending upon place of origin, processing techniques, and preparation styles. Experience the event to the fullest by engaging with the exhibitors and learning about all things tea." (Source: Toronto Tea Festival Website)
     
    Attending the Toronto Tea Festival for the first time this past weekend was a wonderful experience and exactly how I expected it to be. In addition to learning more about tea, meeting others in the industries and getting "tea drunk" off many samples, my appreciation for the beverage grew. When arriving, you are greeted with a tote bag to fill with your purchases and inside you are given a program schedule and a map of over 40 vendors. Another nice item in the generous tote bag was a tasting cup. I was surprised to find that the tasting cup was actually glass. It's environmentally friendly and such a lovely keepsake afterwards! 
    With several presentations ranging from Tea 101 to Kombucha to Cooking with tea, there was something new to learn for everyone. The entire atmosphere was a great feeling. Who wouldn't want to be in a room full of tea lovers? You know the tea festival committee did everything right when you don't feel like leaving! Beautiful music accompanied you throughout the room from the Toronto Hanfu Society. Everywhere you turn there is another vendor kindly presenting you with one of their many teas to try. Once you pull out your tasting cup from your tea festival tote bag they begin to pour their tea for you to smell, sip, savour and enjoy.
    The Toronto Tea Festival presented three different tea ceremonies - Chinese, Korean and Japanese. With a brief explanation of all the tea tools and items used, a ceremony begins and continues to have the attendees' full attention for the half an hour. The one thing I love most about tea is getting to learn and experience how tea is enjoyed in different cultures. What tea is the most common to drink there? What details go into the preparation? Most importantly, seeing people indulge in their tea of choice is one that brings a closer connection. The Toronto Tea Festival did a great job bringing all of these key areas to their event during the tea ceremonies.

    A few of my highlights:

    - Attending the Wellness Teas Presentation by Shabnam Weber from The Tea Emporium (I'll blog more about that another time!) 
    - Having an informative chat with Adi Baker from Tea Association Canada about their online tea program to become a Certified Tea Sommelier.
    - Tasting and picking up some wildflower honey from Rosewood Estates Winery
    - Watching The Tea Kings create fresh matcha with their stone grinder
    - Enjoying matcha prepared by Austin Wong, currently the only person certified to teach Ueda Ryu style of Japanese tea ceremony in Canada.
    - Falling in love with kombucha, specifically from Pekoe
    - Bringing home my first ever tea pet. I was searching for one for a while and I fell in love with a "Meditating Buddha" from Zhen Tea (Don't worry, this little guy will be shared on the blog some more soon…)
    Whether you are new to the world of tea or an aficionado, the Toronto Tea Festival is an excellent place to be to grow in the industry, meet new people and learn about other tea companies. As a tea blogger, I deal with tea companies daily but I have noticed I have a larger network of U.S. companies than I do of Canada. I really liked that the festival gave me the opportunity to gain more insight from my country's tea lovers as well.

    I'm happy to say my first ever tea festival was a success and just makes me want more. Why can't there be a tea festival every weekend? Next year I will plan to go all weekend--one day for presentations and the next day for visiting vendors and enjoying the tea ceremonies. It's a tea filled weekend with lots of information that just can not be missed!

    Tuesday, February 3, 2015

    A Cup of Zen: Amy Taylor from The Art of Tea and Tasseomancy

    A Cup of Zen is a series that began on the blog September 2014. The following is The Cup of Life's sixth post for the series featuring Amy Taylor from The Art of Tea and Tasseomancy.  For more information and to be featured, please visit its page.
    I'm a Tea Enthusiast, Tea Program/Workshop Facilitator, and Tea Leaf Reader for over 25 years. Sole proprietor of The Art of Tea and Tasseomancy. I think that I have always been fascinated by all things tea. As an adopted child (I knew from an early age), who grew up in a great family environment with lots of love where I was encouraged to be creative, to try out everything and to question everything. I think that the fascination with tea things started when I was a little girl in kindergarten.

    You see, my Mom was an interior decorator/designer, we had all kinds of antiques and art pieces in our home. More than anything I remember the Chinese pieces (which was very much in fashion back then) we had in our living room, a show room of sorts. The things I was most attracted to were the small things; a jade cigarette humidor, jade incense jar and I remember distinctly these two beautiful tiny teapots. One teapot has a simple salt glaze with green vine and white flowers and the other more ornate, with cranes in flight. I still have the salt glaze one in my collection (circled in the photo), the other is long gone.
    My Mom would take me on trips to Chinatown in downtown Toronto. We would walk the shops looking for interesting sculptures, standing screens, paintings, knick knacks and the like. For me it was the beautiful Gongfucha tea sets and Gaiwans, beautiful tea sets in baskets and the pretty porcelain figurines of animals. I tried my first tea with my Mom in a Chinese restaurant back then; that was my first cuppa, a good cup of Chinese green tea in a chawan cup poured from a simple white porcelain teapot. I have loved tea, all tea, ever since!

    Later in my teens a high school friend’s parents gave me this beautiful pastel pink Aynsley teacup and saucer set. I had that set for over 30 years, until last year, where it got a fatal crack through it. It is not with me anymore as I’m afraid it didn’t survive its injury. It’s okay though, I have well over 100 others to take its place!

    A few years later, while having dinner with my family in our favourite Chinese restaurant, was when I first became curious about Tasseomancy (tea leaf reading). I didn’t know what I was doing that night, but I saw things in the cups of all my family members. After much research and through several interesting experiences, trial and error and sheer determination I discovered that I was onto something! I moved out to California for a few years, honing my skills and when I came back in the early 90’s I began to read leaves professionally, but on a part time basis as I was still trying to make a career work.
    In 2000 I began to teach people about the Art of Tasseomancy. I did this as I realised that the Art may not be passed down much anymore, it certainly wasn’t passed to me in the traditional sense, and this year (2015) will be my 15th year teaching the Art to others. Not long after, I began teaching about tea; all aspects of tea, tea culture, tea health, tea types, tea wares etc. . . . I have since developed several tea programs that I am able to present to the public. Working with tea as long as I have (such a valuable tool in my line of work), you kind of have to learn about it, or at least that’s how it has been for me. It’s a passion!

    In 2007 my husband and I bought a house in Hamilton, Ont. That year was momentous for me as I was also reunited with my biological Mum, a wonderful and life changing experience; we have become very close and are a huge part of each other’s lives ever since. Really, couldn’t live without her now. It was through Mum that I discovered that my great grandmother was also a tea reader back in Leeds, UK. This was the ultimate confirmation of my path forward with the Art and a huge puzzle piece about my life put into place for me.

    So, it was in 2009 that my business, The Art of Tea and Tasseomancy was finally born where I started teaching more often about tea, the Art of Tasseomancy and have been reading the leaves for many people at private parties, events and businesses on a regular basis, and since 2011 it’s my full time job. Funny really, it only took me 27 years to realise that this is what I was meant to do!

    There have been many accolades and rewards in my work over the years, but I would have to say that for me . . . well I suppose every day for me, is my Tea Moment

    Where to find Amy...

    Her Website: http://www.taotat.ca/

    *You're turn! Submit your #ACupofZen tea moment to me for a chance to be featured just like this next month!

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

    Tea Review: Modern Tea Girl's Fig Peach Oolong from Amoda Tea's Tasting Box

    Fig Peach Oolong - Modern Tea Girl
    I was able to try this oolong thanks to Amoda Tea and their Holiday Tasting Box. You can learn more about them in my previous blog post here.
    "The Modern Tea Girl brand is more than just delicious teas. It's a whole line of unique tea and tea-inspired products to fit the lifestyle of a modern tea girl. Feminine and fun, Modern Tea Girl offers hand-crafted teas, tea-inspired dry frosting mixes, modern tea tools, tea charms and other fun ways to experience and share tea."
    Ingredients: Se Chung Oolong, Golden figs, Mission figs, Apricots, Peaches

    Steep Time:
    4 minutes

    First Sip Thought: "Sweet & silky treat."

    Smell: The aroma of the dry leaves is pretty pleasant. As the leaves begin to steep, I gather a scent that is mellow but I am still able to notice sweet notes from the figs, peaches and apricots.

    Taste: It's been oolong time since I had a tea with figs in it (haha, too corny?) I will admit I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this tea. I was worried that I would be turned away by the figs in this oolong but to me that is what made this tea so exquisite! It is an interesting combination that works quite well. While the dark oolong is the star with its earthy and silky texture, the figs, apricots and peaches enhanced the flavours nicely. The figs are noticeable through each sip more than the apricots and peaches. I can get a hint of peaches every now and then but the figs play a bigger role in this blend which makes for a naturally sweet taste. It is always nice to have a tea blend that doesn't mask away the actual tea but also keeps the ingredients real and not just artificial flavourings. I do not think this tea would have been as enjoyable without its real ingredients. That special touch gives this tea the uniqueness and the "freshly picked" flavours it deserves.

    I first enjoyed this treat after Christmas dinner and was impressed with its dessert like qualities. With its mellow characters, it was the perfect end to a big meal and accompanied my pie nicely as it did not overpower.

     
    Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 tea leaves
    **If you or someone you know would like a tea reviewed, contact me.
     
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