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

Monday, November 24, 2014

French Vanilla Biscotti Recipe

I do not think you can ever have too many cookies for the holidays. Adding a variety to your cookie platter is one of the best things you can do. When I was little, I used to help my mom bake at least 5 different cookies each year just in time for the holidays. Anything from the classic Italian pizzelles to a chocolate chip recipe from my Aunt. The one type of cookie that was usually missing from our platter were biscotti. Biscotti, which literally means "cookies" in Italian, are a long shaped cookie that is made to be dry and crunchy--perfect treat with a warm beverage. If you aren't a fan of the hard texture a simple dunk will soften and release more flavours in each bite. These cookies are baked two separate times to give it that crunchy taste without feeling over baked. The word "biscotti" originates from the Latin word biscoctus, meaning "twice-cooked/baked."

For this recipe, I really wanted to have a french vanilla flavour that would compliment any black tea. You will notice that I used Vega One French Vanilla planted-based protein powder which was a great option for a flavour boost and made it a guilt free treat. Also, with the protein powder, the biscotti turned out to be a lovely green colour which is perfect for Christmas! The new Vega One will be available the beginning of next year and trust me--it is worth the short wait. It is similar to the current Vega One as it is still gluten free and no added sugar but it has been improved for the better. It now has 33% more protein, 2x more greens and still made from real whole food ingredients. Their all-in-one nutritional shake packets are perfect for on the go shakes and smoothie, however, I am finding that I love using them as an easy health add in for delicious recipes like this biscotti one. Plus, the french vanilla one smells incredible!

If you are not wanting to use Vega or any protein powder for that matter, you can simply substitute it in the recipe by using 3 cups of flour instead of 2 1/2 cups and add a bit more pure vanilla extract to your liking as the french vanilla taste won't be as evident without Vega One. One other difference is that your biscotti will not be green like you'll notice from my photos as that was due to the protein powder.

French Vanilla Biscotti (or Biscottea)

Ingredients 

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoon slivered almonds
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 small egg
1 cup brewed black tea, room temperature (I used this organic one from Teatulia)
2 tablespoons pure honey

Directions

1. Stir together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2. To prepare the black tea, steep 2-3 teaspoons of the tea leaves in one cup of water for 5 minutes. In order to make the tea powerful in this biscotti recipe, you use more tea leaves, not a longer steep time as that can create a bitter taste.
3. After the tea has steeped to the desired strength, strain the leaves, add in the honey and begin to mix it well allowing it to dissolve evenly into the tea.
4. Leaving the tea and honey mixture for last, add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients' bowl.
5. Once all is combined, you will want to have the mixture in a dough consistency and set aside in the refrigerator in a ball to chill covered for 30 minutes. If you're finding that the dough is too wet, simply add more flour slowly. If the dough is too dry, add more of your black tea until the desired consistency is reached.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit making sure the rack is in the middle.
7. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and cut it in halve. With the halves, form two 16 by 2 inch loaves on a greased baking sheet.
8. Bake until slightly golden, approximately 25 minutes.
9. Remove from the oven and allow the 2 loaves to cool for 15 minutes.
10. Place your cooled loaves on a cutting board and begin to cut 3/4 inch slices. For a true biscotti shape, cut with your knife on an angle. Depending on the width, this recipe can make about 2 dozen biscotti.
11. Once sliced, lay your pieces back on the baking sheet and bake for another 15-20 minutes.
12. Allow them to cool, enjoy the smell of your kitchen, and don't be afraid to dunk them in your tea to enjoy!

*If you give this recipe a try, send me a photo of your creation on my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

9 Unique Holiday Gifts for Tea Lovers

As the holidays begin to approach, it can be difficult to think of gift ideas for loved ones. I often find that I have too much tea for one person and I know my collection will continue to grow while my blog does. As much as I love getting tea for the holidays, I also appreciate the creativity of an interesting tea related product. It can be hard to find, but with some research and thoughts, there are many creations with teas that need to be highlighted.

I really enjoy unique gifts. Gifts that you can hardly find in a typical big name store. Gifts that have been handmade with some sort of tea twist. Gifts that you can tell the giver put some thought into it. That is why I created a list of some pretty great unique holiday gifts for that special tea lover in your life that is everything and anything but a package of tea to drink! Of course there may be tea addicts out there that simply love getting more teas to try so this list could help you with that little something extra for them. Also, I think you will agree that there is something for everybody in this holiday wish list.

So without further ado, in no particular order, here are some of my suggestions...

1. Tea Painting Prints by Dara Gold

As you might have noticed from a piece I did on Dara's art a few months ago, she has an eye for creating masterpieces out of tea. Since I have highlighted some of her favourite work on my blog, Dara Gold has opened an online shop where you can purchase her tea paintings prints on canvas, mugs, throw pillows and more. Why not help that tea lover in your life decorate her home or tea spot with some extraordinary tea art love? Check out her shop here!

2. Tea Jewelry by Claire Lowe 

Every tea lover out there usually eat, sleep and breathe the beverage. Now, give them the opportunity to wear it! Earlier this year, I had a chance to interview the designer. Claire Lowe creates jewelry of all sorts and even incorporates actual tea leaves in some of her pieces. If that's not unique, then I don't know what is. You can view some of her pieces here.

3. Tea Infused Lip Balm by Bare English

Being organic and vegan are not the only things that make Bare English's lip balms so wonderful. Each stick is infused with tea leaves. Handmade lip balms are important because you do not want to put petroleum based ones on your lips as it could just make them worse. I have tried three of Bare English's flavours before which I believe are the ones available at Shoppers Drug Mart but they have a whole line of more to offer on their website as well. These are a perfect Christmas gift because once Winter comes, so do those unbearable chapped lips. You can find out where to purchase your own here. (P.S. I noticed that they even have a Holiday flavour!)

4. Tea Festival Tickets

Tea festivals are always said to be fun for everyone. At the end of the day, there are so many activities beyond the endless amounts of vendors to check out. Purchasing tickets to a tea festival in your area could be a great gift start. There are also additional ticket options for certain workshops and presentations at some festivals. Be sure to do your research to get an idea of what could be worthwhile and perfect under that Christmas tree. If you're in the Ontario, Canada area, the Toronto Tea Festival begins Jan. 31.

5. Tea Pillow

When you can give someone the opportunity to sit back and relax, it's usually an excellent gift idea. Tea pillows are just that. Coming in various sizes, I take my travel tea pillow everywhere I can but I find it is especially great for long car rides. Filled with tea with a comforting aroma, it also works as a great air freshener! Tea GW has some trusty tea pillows available here.

6. Tea Inspired Body Soap by iHeartTeas

Sometimes teas just smell way too good to only want to drink it. The invigorating smell is something you may want to bake, cook and even relax in. It has been said that a cup of tea is like a bath for your insides and iHeartTeas plays off that. Rachel Carter hand makes tea blends but also tea inspired body products such as soaps and bath salts. With real and gentle ingredients, visit the iHeartTeas shop here and give a gift of smooth skin and relaxation this year.

7. Get Dirtea 

I first found out about this product from Instagram. I have always say similar products that are made with coffee instead and thought it was about time someone decided to utilize the benefits of tea. Dirtea is a certified organic, vegan and cruelty-free skincare brand handmade with love in Brooklyn, USA using fresh tea and oils.The idea of the homemade scrub is to treat dry skin, stretch marks, cellulite, eczema, psoriasis, varicose veins, acne and scarring naturally. You can purchase their product on their website here. They have two different scrubs, original and chai + coconut.

8. Tea Inspired Products by The Cup of Life


Why not get the tea addict in your life something that can help them express their love for the beverage? The Cup of Life online shop has a plethora of products (such as: tshirts, mugs, watches, bags, etc.) with nifty tea quotes like "Real Men Drink Tea", "My Blood Type is Tea" and more. Check out other tea inspired products on the online shop.

9. Amoda Tea Monthly Box

I know this is technically still purchasing tea for someone but it's a subscription service that offers more than just that. There are many great tea subscriptions out there but I like to find ones that stand out by doing something extra that adds something special to the purpose of tea and your purchase. Tea is always best when paired with someone you love and also music. With an Amoda Tea Subscription you not only get 4 different blends to indulge in, you also get a music playlist that goes well with each cup for your tea time. Subscribe on their website by December 1st to receive the December's Holiday Box for under the tree this year!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tea Review: Buddha Teas' Earl Grey

Earl Grey - Buddha Teas
"Buddha Teas was brought to life by the desire to better lives through high quality teas while also instilling inspiration and a peace of mind for those who held a desire to enjoy herbal teas in their purest form. Buddha Teas strives to provide not only a soothing cup of tea, but also a personal experience and a feeling of fulfillment in each and every cup we offer. There is a greater sense of serenity to be found in drinking good herbal teas, and many consider them a healthy alternative which makes herbal tea a far better option as a beverage."


Ingredients: Black Tea, Bergamot Oil

Steep Time:
 5 minutes

First Sip Thought: "Good morning!"

Smell: Like most earl grey teas, the aroma is exquisite. I love that the bergamot oil is quite prevalent. I instantly want to be whisked away to my kitchen to use this tea for my dark chocolate earl grey tea cookies and spread the aroma around my home.

Taste: It's no secret that I jumped at the chance of trying tea from Buddha Teas because of their great line and incredible branding. I mean, what could be better than drinking some Buddha Teas during my tea meditation? Even though their tea is packaged in tea bags they make a point to keep the bags unbleached, organic, GMO free and their carton packaging is 100% recycled. Their tea tags even feature different inspirational quotes which is a perfect symbol of their brand and what they stand for. Another plus is that you can tell right away that there are actual leaves in the tea bags and not your typical "dust" like other big name brands. I typically shy away from Earl Grey because of bad experiences. I have only a few that I will drink because too often I have ones that I feel are overloaded with bergamot or upset my stomach from tasting too artificial. Buddha Teas' Earl Grey has officially been added to my pile of earl greys I enjoy. The bergamot oil added is not overpowering and adds a tart citrus taste to the black tea. When I think of "good morning" I think of this tea by my side to wake me up and re-energize myself for the day ahead. I usually like my teas strong and will try to steep them longer when it's allowed. Steeping this tea for 5 minutes gave me a bold cup that was enjoyed with a bit of milk and honey for an even smoother flavor. I was able to get another decent steep from the tea bag but after that every other infusion was too weak. However, it could also be because I chose to use a longer steep time. Way to go Buddha Teas - you've impressed me in many ways and gained a lasting customer!

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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

An Inside Look at Eco-Cha - Responsibly Sourced Artisan Tea


"Eco-Cha was created to represent the artisan tea industry in Taiwan. Following decades of direct contact with farmers and learning the history and current trends of tea culture, we founded our company in order to share this experience that continues to captivate us. We recognize that tea lovers around the world have developed a level of appreciation for fine tea that warrants a responsible resource to learn more about this hand-crafted product that is rooted in an age-old tradition. Eco-Cha aspires to offer you a unique opportunity to understand and experience the world of tea culture in its current state in Taiwan."
 
Living in Taiwan and involved in tea culture there for about 20 years, Eco-Cha officially launched 1 year ago. Currently, they a running a quite successful Indiegogo campaign to raise awareness for traditional, small-scale tea making and share the story of an inspiring tea farmer, Tony Lin, along with an exclusive batch of tea from his new, certified organic farm.
A view of the new certified organic tea factory from the entrance.
Mr. Lin is at the ripe young age of 60 and has over 30 years of extensive experience in the industry. He is a tea farmer in Lugu Taiwan that is returning to his roots and going small-scale organic. Mr. Lin began learning all about tea as a teenager in his hometown, which happens to be the source of Taiwan’s historical Dong Ding Oolong Tea. You can learn more about Mr. Lin and his history with tea here.
Mr. Lin with the very first certified organic produce from his newly planted tea garden.
"This project is the culmination of 20 years of exploring Taiwan tea. Echo-Cha's recent connection with Mr. Lin, however, is what has brought this campaign into being. Eco-Cha was initially conceived to support sustainability in the local tea industry. They soon realized that the traditional industry that predated large-scale tea production is synonymous with sustainable practice – particularly now that responsible farming practices have been recovered and innovated. They see Mr. Lin’s current work in growing organic tea on his re-purposed family land and building a refurbished factory in his home for organic tea production as a prototype of our mission."
Examining the tea leaves

The leaves are repeatedly wrapped tightly in canvas cloth using this unique Taiwan invention that spins the ball of tea while the excess material is slowly released to twist into a knot before it is rolled.
These are the magic rolling machines - a Taiwanese innovation in the tea industry.
I encourage you to take a look at their Indiegogo Campaign - Promote Sustainability and Get Great Tea. Even if you can not donate much, $1 can go a long way and the lined up perks are nice. However, if you are not in the position to donate a simple share of the campaign will help greatly. Due to the amazing generosity of backers, Eco-Cha has already exceeded their goal of $10,000 and are now trying to reach a goal of $15,000. The original goal was needed to purchase the entire winter harvest to share with consumers and to produce a documentary to tell Mr. Lin’s story. The additional $5,000 will be going towards the repair of a damaged cabin on Mr. Lin’s farm to create an educational space for students, farmers and others in the tea industry visiting the farm.

To learn more about Eco-Cha, feel free to visit their website for more information.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Reimagine the Electric Kettle and Save Energy with Miito

Tea drinkers rejoice! I came across an interesting product online the other week and just had to dig a bit deeper and contact the company to find out much more. Introducing:

Miito is an innovative product that heats liquids directly in the vessel to be used, hence eliminating the heating of excess water. How many times do you overfill your kettle when you only need one cup of tea? All of that extra water you boil is going to waste as it requires more energy to heat. Miito solves that problem. With Miito you would simply fill your cup with water, place it onto the induction base and immerse the rod in the liquid. The induction base heats the rod, which then heats the liquid surrounding it. Miito works with any size and is especially great when you want to make yourself just a cup of tea or have people over for a pot or two. Miito isn't just for tea drinkers as you can also heat your soup or milk for a coffee. Another great feature is that the minimalistic shape of the rod allows it to be cleaned easily. No more electric kettles that accumulate limescale that can be difficult to scrub and make it look just like new.
Miito does not have an instate button: simply lift the rod from the base and it shifts to “Standby” mode. In this mode a small current flows, which detects the ferrous material of the induction plate. Once a vessel is placed onto the base and the rod is placed inside, the full induction power turns on and heats the induction plate of the rod. The device signals once the liquid has boiled and shifts back into “Standby”. By placing the rod on the base, the device shuts off.
This is probably the part of the article where you're wondering "how does this actually work?!" Miito is based on induction technology, which is basically the wireless transfer of energy. Its bottom base creates an electromagnetic field, which heats only ferrous (magnetic) materials, i.e. the stick. When the stick is placed inside a vessel filled with a liquid, it heats up and transfers the heat directly to the liquid, meaning that only the liquid will be heated. View the video at the end of this post to see the product in action.

I think the team at Miito has thought of almost everything in this very unique product! The one thing that I would love to see included is a feature where the water temperature can be chosen so that we tea drinkers can enjoy a more delicate cup of tea when we want.
The Cup of Life chatted with Nils Chudy from Miito to learn a bit more about their history with tea, how the product came about and what's next.

Do you have a love for tea?

At the moment I live in Copenhagen and I can tell you: the danish autumn and winter is dark and cold. On these dark and rainy afternoons it is simply the best to drink a nice tea and enjoy the warmth it brings!

How did you come up with this interesting concept?

Miito all started with looking at electric kettles and noticing that they all look so similar: either like a 3D render or like a high-speed train. Later, while researching electric kettles more closely, we noticed that there was a major design flaw in the majority of electric kettles out there: they are extremely wastefully designed! The minimum fill line of the majority of kettles is at approximately 500ml. This means that if you want one cup of tea (250ml) you waste 50% of the hot water, therefore one wastes 50% of the energy.

Leyla Acaroglu (sustainability provocateur) said in her TED presentation: “One day of extra energy use [from overfilling electric kettles] is enough to light all the streetlights in England for a night.”

With Miito we set out to redesign the electric kettle from the ground up, asking the question: how can we change people’s habits of overfilling electric kettles in order to save energy.

When is Miito expected to be available to the public?

Miito is still under development. There is a visual prototype of how Miito is supposed to look and a technical “working mock-up” to explain and show how Miito works. In the future we aim to combine these prototypes in order to make a working prototype of Miito.

What's next?

Getting Miito to the market! There are many different ways how this can be done and currently we are investigating our different options and scenarios. But one thing is clear: we want Miito to get out there and invade people’s kitchens!

Watch Miito in action here:

Copyrights of the Images used in this article are owned by Chudy and Grase.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Tea Review: Simple Loose Leaf's Darjeeling Second Flush

Darjeeling Second Flush - Simple Loose Leaf
Simple Loose Leaf 
"Simple Loose Leaf was founded on the idea that the tea community needs a member curated tea of the month club. We offer a way for our members, whether new to tea or an old hand at it, to experience tea and have the thrill of receiving something new in the mail every month in a way that keeps the reins of the club in our club member's hands.  Simple Loose Leaf offers the first members curated tea of the month club, where every member decides their own path and we simply lend a helpful hand."
Ingredients: Darjeeling Second Flush Black from Darjeeling, India

Steep Time:
3 minutes

First Sip Thought: "Forest."

Smell:
It has a woodsy aroma along with a golden amber liquor. You get a stronger scent than you would from a first flush. After steeped, a sweeter scent is evident that is also brisk and quite inviting.

Taste:
Ahh...the champagne of teas! Harvested in June, this Second Flush Darjeeling makes an exquisite, uplifting cuppa. Second Flush simply means the tea was plucked in the Darjeeling region of India during the second growing season. Second Flush Darjeeling leaves generally have a richer, darker taste. This is perfect for me as I really enjoy bold teas and I can never get enough of Darjeeling. With the earthy and musky after taste the flavours in this Darjeeling are quite distinct and reminiscent to a forest-y getaway (hence my "first sip thought". Due to the prominent earth and stonefruit flavours, this tea would be a match made in heaven for some cheese pairings. Within a few tastes, I gather a smooth and unique grape like flavour - something that may be enhanced with a nibble of cheese. After having this tea, I realized second flush is my favourite kind of Darjeeling!

 

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

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Coffee Leaf Tea: A Coffee Plant's Best Kept Secret

From the title of this post you might be thinking "Coffee? I thought this was a tea blog!" I completely understand however, you should not jump to conclusion just yet. 

The coffee leaf leaf was always overlooked due to the popularity of it’s hyperactive child, the coffee bean…but all that is about to change.
Max Rivest and Arnaud Petitvallet are looking to revolutionize the coffee industry by harvesting the coffee plant’s leaves for "tea". I use the term "tea" here lightly because since the leaf is derived from a coffee plant and not Camellia Sinensis, it is technically not true tea but that doesn't make it any less amazing! The two entrepreneurs are based in Vancouver, BC with their company Wize Monkey.  

"Wize Monkey is a tea company with an ambitious mission: to improve the livelihoods of coffee-dependent communities by harvesting a sustainable & healthy product. Wize Monkey provides with you a one-of-a-kind tea that not only does your body some good, it does coffee farming families some awesome."
The coffee leaf tea is made from premium arabica leaves and has higher antioxidants than green tea and the same amount of caffeine as a decaf coffee. It has little to no tannins, producing a clean and smooth flavour without the bittnerness associated with conventional green and black teas. Coffee leaf tea has been consumed in Ethiopia, more specifically Harar province, for over 200 years. On the other side of the world, Sumatrans have also been known to drink this tea instead of roasting the beans as they claimed it to be “more nutritious than coffee.”

“This has been overlooked for hundreds of years and now it’s time we see the coffee plant differently,” stated Max, Co-Founder of Wize Monkey. The opportunity to sell coffee leaves in addition to beans will create year-round jobs for coffee-farming families and help prevent recurring socioeconomic crises linked to the coffee industry’s seasonality and volatility.

The idea blossomed from a grad school project in early 2013 in France. Having been to Nicaragua, Max was aware of the economic difficulties facing Latin American coffee farmers. Intrigued by these challenges, the two started doing research and found a study on the health benefits of coffee leaf tea. As they continued to do more research, it became clear that the coffee industry could utilize this leaf in order to create sustainable year-round income for coffee-dependent families. Since the beginning of the project, they have created work for over 40 people in two separate towns in Nicaragua.
The only way to get your hands on this brew is to participate in their Kickstarter starting November 7th. They will be offering a $15 Christmas Special for two samples delivered before December 25th but supplies are limited so be sure to get in early. Check out their teaser video below.

I was fortunate to sample Coffee Leaf Tea and was given a few extra samples to have my boyfriend try it too. He was very pleased with it and thought it reminded him of his vacation to the Dominican Republic. Each sip allowed him to escape back to a tropical paradise.
 
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