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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

3 Items That Can Make Travelling with Tea Easier {+ giveaway!}

It may be hard to face but it can sometimes be difficult to find great tasting, high quality tea when you're on the go. In addition, grabbing a tea to go can be a lot more expensive. I have never been the type of person to go out for a tea run at a Starbucks, Tim Hortons or other fast service cafe chains. My initial reaction would be "why would I get a tea there when I have so many at home?" But as life is, we are often pulled into different directions that doesn't allow us to be home all the time where we know the best tea is. As a solution, I first started by bringing around some of my favourite teas that were in tea bag form so I could enjoy a cup I know that would be to my liking wherever I am. As my palate changed and my want for higher quality tea leaves grew, I knew there was something else that had to be done. Of course, there is the usual thermos that is great for preparing tea prior to leaving for your day but I wanted more. I needed more. Something that would eliminate the extra few minutes to wait for my tea to be perfectly made before I leave the house.

After countless products testing and many cups of teas later, I have narrowed my list of tea on the go products down to three items. I'm rating them similar to how I do for my tea reviews, out of 5 tea leaves (1 being the lowest rank, 5 being the highest). Continue reading to learn more and enter the giveaway at the end for your chance to win one of these three products!

Rating 3 Items for Tea on the Go

1. Tovolo TeaGo Tea Infuser
Suitable for this post, this product was made with the idea that no one makes tea as well as you do for yourself at home. The TeaGo is designed as a small tea press that you are able to carry around with you as it can easily fit a bag or purse. There is even a clip on the top side that allows you to clip it on to something and not lose it. The inside doubles as an airtight container that you can fill with your tea leaves for the day and it can keep your leaves fresh until you decide when to pour the leaves into the bottom half and steep your tea in a cup. The bottom has fine mesh holes to prevent leaves running away into your cup. It is also recommended to press the top half into the bottom to release all the liquid into the cup. Beside not wanting to actually squeeze my delicate tea leaves, the other con I found with this instruction was that it makes it difficult to clean out your tea leaves afterwards. The creator came up with an excellent design and certainly thought of almost everything, but I still think there is room for improvement for this product. Visit Tovolo's website to learn more about their TeaGo product.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 tea leaves

2. On-the-Go Tea Powder
I don't have a specific product when it comes to this item but I first found an on-the-go tea convenience with tea powders. However, I'm not talking about instant tea extracts. I'm talking about tea powder that come in little sachets that are actually filled with 100% pure tea leaves that are cold milled into a fine powder and nothing else added. There are many out there that are not necessarily real tea so be cautious before you make a purchase. One I can recommend is the one pictured above, Rishi Tea's Sencha On-the-Go tea powder. Real tea powder for on the go is something that is often helpful if I'm craving an iced tea that is unsweetened. I can just add one sachet to a bottle of water on hand, shake and enjoy. Since this product isn't instant some tea leaves may be present at the bottom. Always be sure to shake well before drinking. With no wait time at all, you can take this anywhere.
Rating: 4 out of 5 tea leaves

3. Libre Tea Glass
This is a tea tumbler that exceeds all of my expectations. 100% BPA-free, it is everything I want all in one and it's perfect for hot or cold beverages. I especially like that it keeps the tea hot or cold for a reasonable amount of time. The aesthetics is just a major plus but as tea is such a beautiful beverage it deserves to be shown and a clear Libre Tea Glass does just that. With a glass interior comes a durable poly exterior so that the tumbler is protected and shouldn't break. To prepare your favourite tea on the go, there is a removable stainless-steel filter that keeps the tea leaves in the glass, away from your mouth. There are 2 easy ways to enjoy your tea with a Libre Tea Glass. Watch their how-to video here to find out.
Rating: 5 out of 5 tea leaves

Giveaway

Based on the ratings, it is no surprise that the Libre Tea Glass is one of my favourites for tea on the go. I would love to gift a Libre Tea Large Black Brush glass to one of my readers so you may experience your own the go tea moments with it (a $26.95 value). To enter, simply follow the instructions on the widget below. We have made it so that there are many ways for you to enter, increasing your ballots and chances to win!
Please note that this giveaway is open to residents of the United States, Canada and the UK. Winners will be selected at random and announced on April 10, 2015 by email, social media & on our site. Feel free to enter as much as you can each day, and best of luck! 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Matcha Comparison: Do You Know What You're Buying/Drinking?

MATCHA
It seems like the biggest "trend" for 2015 thus far but matcha has been around for centuries! I'm glad people are taking notice of the incredible beverage of course but there are many grades out there that you should be aware of before you make your purchase. Today, I'm going to talk about ceremonial and culinary grade. I am in no way a professional but matcha is something I am continually educating myself about. Please feel free to share your thoughts whenever.

Ceremonial is the highest grade. If you are wanting to prepare your matcha the traditional way this is the best grade that you will want to purchase to use. 

Culinary is a lower grade and because of this it is usually less expensive. It's best used as an ingredient in food and/or beverages such as smoothies. 

Unfortunately, you may sometimes find companies selling culinary grade as ceremonial and you still have to pay the more expensive price tag. When I first started drinking matcha I ran into this problem. A lot. I thought I was getting such a great deal when I found 80 grams of matcha for around $30. After a bunch of research and a lot of chats with people in the industry I began to learn that there wasn't only one grade of matcha no matter how often a company may tell you "our matcha is best matcha out there." So how do you know what quality you are buying? Don't be afraid to ask questions before hand. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that I find work best for me. Feel free to chime in if you have anything to add.
  • Where was the matcha grown and processed?
  • How does the colour look?
  • What part of the tea plant was used to produce the matcha?
  • Is it organic and/or are there any additives?  
I happen to have four different matcha brands in my tea stash that would be perfect for a fun matcha experiment. While it is more common to prepare matcha with a "foam" on the top layer, for this purpose of exposing the entire liquid, I did not attempt that during this experiment. I have also set aside each matcha in a smaller white cup so that it is hopefully better to see the colour. I will not be sharing the brands' names in this post. This experiment is not intended to call out certain brands, rather help others decipher and understand different matcha qualities better. I am also not saying that a specific matcha is bad and you should only stick to a certain one. Everyone has their own palate. Depending on how you like your matcha and plan to consume it, you will make your own decision on what makes your taste buds sing.

Matcha #1

 Name: Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder
Origin: Somewhere in China
Harvest Date: Undisclosed
Price: $29.00 for 80 grams
Tasting Notes: At first glance, this matcha powder is not as bright as the others compared. Although it doesn't specify the grade, I would consider this one to be more of a culinary grade. One way I can gather that is that this matcha is a bit more stubborn when it comes to trying to froth it. A great rule to follow is the higher quality the more easier froth will appear. Also, the price--it seems really affordable. I do not think you can find ceremonial grade matcha for that price. This matcha is earthy and has a sweet taste. It is also a lot more grassier than the other three.

Matcha #2

 Name: Japanese Matcha Supreme
Origin: Somewhere in Japan
Harvest Date: Undisclosed
Price: $34.00 for 50 grams
Tasting Notes: While the powder from this matcha is brighter green than the first it is still a bit dull. The froth accessibility is friendlier. For the taste, I found this matcha to be rather light. It is a shame that I could not find the exact region in Japan this matcha came from to get more information.

Matcha #3

Name: Organic Ceremonial Grade Matcha Powder
Origin: Aichi, Japan
Harvest Date: Undisclosed
Price: $29.00 for 30 grams
Tasting Notes: Aichi is more north Japan which results in colder climates. I was informed that this could cause the leaves to become harder creating a more bitter taste. I think this made for a unique taste. It's quite vegetal and thankfully, stronger than the other two.

Matcha #4

Name: Ceremonial Grade Organic Matcha
Origin: Uji, Japan
Harvest Date: May 2014
Price: $25.00 for 30 grams
Tasting Notes: This matcha is the brightest of them all. The very fine powder and the vibrant green just sings to me. With a full body, this matcha had a delicious creamy texture that made me want more. I was surprised to see that it is also price very well given the high quality.

Now let's answer those questions we were asking ourselves earlier... 

  • Matcha that was grown and processed somewhere in Japan is going to be your best option for high quality because of the environment.
  • The greener and more vibrant the colour of the matcha, the higher the quality.
  • Learning what part of the Camellia Sinensis plant was used for the matcha may be harder to find out but I have been told the top leaves and bud are to be used. If your matcha has a harsher taste it could be because bigger leaves and stems were mixed into the powder. 
  • You are consuming the actual tea leaves with matcha and because of this I believe that organic should be the way to go. You do not want to be ingesting chemicals with your super drink. Also, sometimes you may find matcha that has other sugar or flavourings added to it. Stick to pure.
This experiment made me realize more how important it is to ask questions. Finding information about some of the matcha brands online was difficult. Instead of just ignoring the unanswered questions go out there and ask! It's nice when a company has all the helpful details about it's matcha outlined on it's website so consumers can research before their purchase. Kudos to those that do!

Did you find this matcha comparison helpful? Do you have anything to add? Please let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Kiwi Lime Ginger Matcha Smoothie Recipe

While this winter was not as bad as the last winter I experienced, February certainly came with a lot of freezing temperatures and snow falls for one month. When you live somewhere where the weather hurts your face because of the wind you have to find many ways to keep your immune system strong. With chilly weather follows thoughts on hibernation (for me, at least) and while that may seem like a great idea at the time, it's not reality. Counting down the days until Spring is fun, but it'll go by quicker when you live through the winter season healthy and happy! ALOHA said it right when they explained they believe that "happiness can be attained through a balance of eating thoughtfully, exercising regularly, embracing mindfulness, maintaining meaningful relationships, and pushing oneself mentally."

Of course, to keep warm I bundle up and drink copious amounts of tea. Tea is almost always labelled with all the health benefits it comes with so I guess that's the perfect bonus for this season. I find that when winter comes around so does consuming more comfort type foods especially since it's harder and often more expensive to get fresh produce. While that may be okay from time to time, it's important to include many vitamins and nutrients into your day as well. Eating healthy doesn't have to be boring. You will absorb health benefits from a meal more if you actually enjoy it. 
Colour Difference: Less matcha added to the one to the right.
This Kiwi Lime Ginger Matcha Smoothie not only sounds good, it is good. So good. It is filled with antioxidants your body needs any season. Protein powder is added for, of course, protein but I used Vega One as it is plant based and it is also filled with 6 servings of green! If you do not have any on hand you can omit but I encourage you to try it one day.

This smoothie incorporates tea in two ways: Kiwi Lime Ginger from Tea Forte and Matcha (green tea powder). In addition to the tea, the flavours and benefits are enhanced by two of the healthiest spices out there: turmeric and ginger (yes, more!).

Matcha can quickly calm/relax you and it may decrease risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or strokes. I feel like there is so much I can say about Matcha but I want to leave you with one thing especially: make it how you will love it so you can experience this form of tea. Adding it to a healthy recipe, like this smoothie, is a great start to your matcha journey. If you are going to use matcha primarily for smoothies and in recipes then look into getting a culinary grade as it is less expensive than ceremonial and does the trick!

Turmeric has been labelled as the most effective nutritional supplement in existence before. While I do not have much facts on that matter I do know that studies show it has major benefits for your body and brain.  It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is a very strong antioxidant.

Ginger is loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds. Like turmeric, it's a great anti-inflammatory and can help fight infections. I know there is technically ginger already added into the herbal tea used for this smoothie but I wanted it to shine a bit more through the other ingredients so I added more ginger powder or you can use fresh grinds.

Kiwi Lime Ginger Matcha Smoothie

Ingredients

1 medium size banana
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup Tea Forte's Kiwi Lime Ginger herbal tea steeped (cooled; room temperature)
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon matcha (you can use culinary grade but I had ceremonial on hand from Midori Matcha and used that)

Directions

1. Break the banana into smaller pieces (easier to blend depending on the machine you are using) and place into your blender with the yogurt, protein powder and herbal tea. Blend together thoroughly.
2. Add in the chia seeds, turmeric, ginger and matcha and watch as the smoothie begins to turn into a beautiful yellow-ish green when you pulse these ingredients together with the rest. The colour comes from the turmeric spice and matcha addition.
3. Pour into a glass of your choice and sprinkle the top with some extra chia seeds (optional).
4. Sip and enjoy this dessert like smoothie with a healthy kick!

*If you give this recipe a try, send me a photo of your creation on my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! I would love to hear your thoughts :)

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Cup of Zen: Matthew Johnson

A Cup of Zen is a series that began on the blog September 2014. The following is The Cup of Life's seventh post for the series featuring a reader, Matthew Johnson.  For more information and to be featured, please visit its page.
http://www.zazzle.ca/thecupoflife/gifts?cg=196769805268757267
Working night shifts in a factory, I find it difficult to get a decent sleep during the day. From the time I get home to the time I have to get to bed I usually have about one hour. It's probably the one hour of my day I dread the most. It feels so quick, so jumpy and just not long enough. I was a major coffee drinker and I realized I had to switch my beverage of choice so it could suit my new night owl lifestyle now. Drinking coffee just wasn't a smart choice after I got home from work and had to hit the sack. 

Being a manly man (or so I like to think), I was a bit skeptical in giving tea a try at first. I feel it has always had "it's only for girls" label growing up in my household and that is what steered me away. I started with the typical orange pekoe from Tetley and wasn't too much of a fan. I found it to be too light and no flavor at all. When I was introduced to loose leaf tea, that's where I realized I have been missing out on something for far too long. With more flavor and a much stronger brew, tea in loose leaf form instantly became my new favorite. While I liked my tea strong probably because of my coffee acquired taste, I didn't find that tea affected me nearly as much as coffee did when I would have a cup before bed. Of course, I could have went for the typical herbal tea route but I am not into the herb and flower flavors. 

Nowadays, I find the last hour I come home and have to go to bed for my next night shift my favorite time of the day. When the nights at work feel long, I look forward to this hour the most. In the short period of time, I have noticed that unlike the coffee, the tea has me more relaxed and not just from drinking it. I think this benefit is also evident when I am preparing the tea too. I no longer have to just flick a switch on a machine and wait for something to brew. I am really enjoying the process of making tea.

From The Cup of Life, I noticed there is such thing as "coffee leaf tea" which is quite intriguing for a ex-coffee lover like myself. I think that may have to be my next investment!

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

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tea Review: Tea Ave's Ginger Lily Oolong

Ginger Lily Oolong - Tea Ave


"It started with a cup of LiShan Oolong, an aroma cup and an idea. Brother and sister team Jeff and Heidi Chen put their professional talents (designer, PR guru) together with their insatiable love for oolong tea, and magic was made. Born and raised in Taiwan, where tea is an important part of the culture, Jeff and Heidi think tea is more than a drink—it’s an adventure. Tea Ave reflects their shared values and passions: clear, authentic advice, a top-notch e-commerce experience, and, of course, delicious oolong tea." 

 I need to start by saying that Tea Ave has officially left a great, lasting impression on me after they surprised me with a wonderful tea package prior to their launch on March 1, 2015. I was speechless and I'm not quite sure what to say now except for thank you. So I'll say it three times. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I also have to mention that Tea Ave does an amazing job at putting so much information on their tea package. I do not think I have seen anything like it before. I love the convenience of having the origin, mountain altitude, cultivator, roasting and oxidation levels and more available with the tea itself. They do it in such an excellent way that it doesn't seem like they are bombarding you with so much information either.

Ingredients: High Mountain Oolong and Alishan Jin Xuan

Steep Time: 2 minutes

First Sip Thought: "It's flavoured?"

Smell: A mild yet soothing aroma is followed before and after steep with this oolong. Sweet ginger notes are evident with subtle floral essences. This could possibly be one of my favourite oolongs to just sit and inhale the aroma and steam for hours on end.

Taste: If I were to do a blind taste testing with this tea I'm not sure I would be able to tell that it is actually a flavoured oolong. The flavours accompany one another so nicely that you are left with an exquisite oolong that is not overpowered by a strong addition. It was made clear on the packaging and it is most definitely a light oolong. I like it this way, too. It is creamy with floral and buttery notes. The ginger is noticeable in the taste as it was the aroma--more sweet than spicy. I believe it becomes more evident in the smooth finish. I was able to resteep the leaves up to 4 times. While I found it was not as creamy than the initial brew, the sweet notes just kept getting sweeter. Tea Ave says "call it Summer in a cup" and that is just what I will do especially since there is no escaping the current snowfall out my window.
My new tea pet enjoyed indulging in this oolong with me too! 
 
Verdict: 4 out of 5 tea leaves
**If you or someone you know would like a tea reviewed, contact me.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Career in Tea: Inspiration on Prettygreentea

It's not too often I get to sit down with a cup of tea and write about myself in a way that would hopefully inspire others. I jumped at the chance when I heard that Daisy from Prettygreentea was looking for people to talk about their career and life path. The series "Career Inspiration" was designed to help people looking for career ideas, a career change or simply an insight into what others do. Daisy started this series on her blog because it is often difficult to know what you want to do with your life and that is something I found to be true even when I was still in college. Good things take time and when you find that one thing that you're really great at and passionate about, never let go of it. Take it and make something out of it for yourself! 

Here's a snippet from my interview:

How do you plan to develop your career during 2015?

I hope to eventually focus more on tea. Writing has always been a passion of mine and I am happy I’m able to marry my other passion (tea) with it. I hope to one day be able to do that for marketing and assist a tea company with their strategies. Until then, I’m going to keep writing and focusing on The Cup of Life. I have a lot of ideas steeping in my head such as tea workshops and tea infused recipes. I really need to put them on paper and take action.

I am happy to have found tea and create something more from my love for the beverage. Skip over to the interview on Prettygreentea.com to read the rest about my tea writing journey and other fun things I do as a career. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Tea Pillows: Healing Benefits for the Mind, Body & Soul

"A steaming cup of artisanal tea has the power to soothe our minds or wake us up, satisfy our souls and blanket that inner chill. Heralded for healing properties, tea should be a regular part of a healthy lifestyle. But when work and travel stand between you and a hot cup of osmanthus oolong, take comfort in our plush silk pillows, stuffed with genuine, aromatic whole-leaf tea."
Tea GW has a great selection of tea pillows that need to be noticed more. I have their Jasmine Tea travel size pillow which is a white silk pillow that is printed with bold Chinese characters. It is filled with jasmine tea, the flowers of which are well known for healing powers and an intoxicating scent. The moment I opened the package I could instantly smell the aroma of the beautiful jasmine tea leaves. The packaging that is accompanied by the pillow is also stunning. 

You may be asking yourself what exactly is a tea pillow and what is it used for? Tea pillows are an ancient Chinese tradition. It is believed that through the tea's natural aroma and its beneficent qualities, the tea pillow gifts the sleeper with a grounding of one's spirit for a restful sleep, an aid to boosting the immune system, opening of the sinuses, relieving overall tension and prevents cold and/or flu. 
Source: My Instagram @teaaholic
I most recently had my tea pillow accompany me during a matcha session. I found it to be another relaxing moment sipping my freshly whisked Midori Matcha while being against my pillow. It kind of felt like a whole new floral matcha with the jasmine aroma surrounding the area. It's probably best described as a mini meditation session where I felt more grounded and just enjoyed the tea I was indulging in physically and emotionally.

"The better the quality of the tea used in the pillow the better the results!"
 
When choosing a tea pillow for yourself it is important to keep in mind the quality of the tea and materials the company uses. Healthy quality of fabric is the safes route and organic tea is the best route to go as you will not want the tea's aroma to be artificially enhanced as this could deter the health benefits.  

Tea GW's pillows are ones that I recommend as I have been very satisfied with mine and noticed an increase of restful sleep. Tea GW offers their pillows in various sizes. The travel size is the smallest but the most perfect for taking on your plane or car ride journey has it fits on the headrests. Other available sizes are the bolster style and lounge style.

*More information about the tea pillows are available online and also sold directly from their website here.
 
Template: Blog Designs by Sheila