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

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."

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.

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.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Different Ways to Sweeten your Cup of Tea

"I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water." - George Orwell

To an extent, the above quote is something I believe in. However, I am never one to judge people's taste preferences especially since even today I am still guilty for sweetening my teas. I like to think I have improved from when I first started drinking tea though. That was back when I would put refined sugar in every cup not even thinking about how the tea tastes on its own. I would automatically assume this liquid needs to be sweetened. While I do not do that anymore there are some teas out there that I think make the perfect cleaner treat with a hint of additional sweetness. Every tea is different and I sometimes find that each steeping needs a different level of sweetness.  Here are some items that I have used in the past and some that I currently use to sweeten my tea.
White Sugar: Certainly not the healthiest item to add to your tea but it is what I started with and feel it should be mentioned as I am sure it is a common additive for others, too. White sugar is my least favourite at sweetening a tea as it alters the taste completely. Depending on how much you add to your cup, it starts to just taste like flavoured sugar water as it masks the complexity of the tea. I used to add two teaspoons to any cup (I cringe when I think of that now) and have slowly changed that by putting in half a teaspoon less each time.
Honey: Since I am not a huge agave syrup fan, I find honey to be the perfect match for tea. I first discovered the combination years ago when I was feeling sick. I always gravitate towards tea and when I am sick that doesn't change. However, I know that adding white sugar to my tea wouldn't make sense for someone under the weather so I went for a spoon of honey.  Honey is one of the most popular among natural sweeteners and I don't think it takes the "tea" away from the star role. It is best if you use pure, raw (unpasteurized) honey.
Maple Syrup: Please note that I am not talking about popular name brand syrup you buy at your grocery store to top your french toast and pancakes with. This isn't Aunt Jemima. I am talking about maple syrup that is actually tapped from a maple tree. Being from Canada, real maple syrup is not hard to find locally. If you're looking for real maple syrup be thorough when checking the back labels in the grocery store. The darker the syrup, the more its sugar has been concentrated. I find this sweetener to be a bit more difficult to match with a tea. So far, I have found that any kind of "nutty" or "fruity" teas goes well with this as it compliments the flavours nicely. You can also use it with chai.

German Rock Sugar: This one is probably my new favourite way to sweeten tea. As a long time tea drinker I only just tried German Rock Sugar last month. While adding a lovely sweetness to a cuppa, it enhances the flavours of the tea without altering the taste as it is a lot milder than the other sweeteners listed. These sugar crystals are crystallized through a heating and cooling process that allows large sugar crystals to form. They are then coated with caramelized sugar and allowed to dry before consuming. The Persimmon Tree has some on their website that is affordable (pricier than white sugar, but worth it) and can also come in a glass jar for better storing. My only complaint is that I wish it melted faster so I could enjoy my tea quicker!

Do you like to add sweetness to a cuppa from time to time? What are other items that you use to sweeten your tea? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Cup of Zen: Tegan Woo

A Cup of Zen is a new series I have begun on my blog. The following is The Cup of Life's third post for the series featuring Tegan Woo from Amoda Tea.  For more information and to be featured, please visit its page.
I'm a lifelong tea lover. My first experience connecting with tea, and actually what introduced me to tea's amazing ability to do this, was my weekly lessons in the Japanese Tea Ceremony. It started as a way to indulge in my tea curiosity, but it turned into a weekly retreat where I became present in the moment more than any other time. Now, I'm in the business of tea and love sharing stories over cups of tea.

About a year ago, I discovered how incredible my day could be if I start it by setting an intention. Usually the intention is how I want to feel that day. This morning I decided I wanted to feel patient. Each morning I want to get deeply connected to that intention before I start on any part of my day. I find that preparing and sipping tea helps me connect more deeply by creating a full experience that uses all my senses. As I get carried away into my day, I have this clear sense of how I want to feel that day. I can connect to that throughout my day, in any situation - to help me make decisions, shift my mood and uphold myself. It's a pretty cool tool.

So, I drowsily walk to the kettle right out of bed. I'm pretty simple when it comes to steeping my tea, so I reach for my favourite mug and a basic stainless steel strainer. It's the familiarity and the daily ritual that I'm after and the cup of tea to sip. While the water boils, I'll choose a black tea from my collection and grab my journal and a pen.

I sit in my comfy lounger and sip, close my eyes and think about my intention. Today I was not only thinking about being patient, I was experiencing how I would feel as a patient person. It feels so calm and in control! Sip more tea, journal a little about the thoughts and feelings, sip some more tea. It's only about a 5 minute thing once the tea's made. 5 minutes, a cup of tea and I've set myself up to have a pretty empowered day.

Where to find Tegan...

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