Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas, Tea Lovers!

Ho, ho, ho!!!
You know what?  I just came back from my local tea shop to purchase a butt-load of teas to give away to family and friends.  The gift of tea!  How perfect is that?!  I'm even more excited to give it away than I am to get it for myself (although I did have to get some for me too, because, well, because.)

For some people I got the tried and true with a boost, Cream Earl Grey.  It's a great standard, but with an added hint of sweetness not unlike a Campino candy.  Not for everybody, and it's not my very favorite either. But it's good for those who don't drink a lot of tea, and who would enjoy something a bit different from the usual Tetley tea bag.

For others, I got some Chocolate Mint (a black tea flavored with real mint, and the smell of the dry tea leaves reminds me a lot of those Girl Guide minty-chocolaty cookies) - it's a nice treat when you want to indulge in sweetness without the guilt.  Some Cochin Masala Chai, and a new flavour to this tea shop, Almond Black, round off the list.

For myself (I only got myself 2 samplers because I couldn't seriously justify getting any more tea with such a big stash at home already) a Coconut Black - a flavour that seems to be extremely popular these days, although usually in a coconut pouchong (somewhere between a green and an oolong), which I need to find.  But you know, now that I've figured out the art of tea flavoring (my god, I feel so dumb), I probably could get the exact same effect by adding dried coconut shreds to my cup.  I also got a Chocolate Cream, because I can't get enough of that chocolaty goodness!  I plan on sipping some while wrapping presents tonight.  Actually maybe I should have some right now, because my sweet daughter is having a meltdown (I'm blaming the candy canes), and I want to remain in my Christmassy, happy frame of mind!

To further the topic of chocolate and Christmas and tea, I thought I'd share this link which was sent to me by my good friend April (bless her socks!) - it's a thing of beauty:

Merry Christmas, Everyone!  *Mwah*  *Mwah*

photo courtesy of tripp-e on

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Ultimate Tea Diet - The Book

The book arrived a couple of days ago (thanks, Chapters!) and I've read it.  It didn't take me long, because I skipped over a lot of it.  It's not the worst book I've read.  For $5.99, I'm happy.

Basically, the book can be summed up like this:

1.  Drink tea that you love, and lots of it, all day.
2.  Believe in yourself.
3.  Engage in a healthy lifestyle and diet.
4.  Drink more tea.  And if you can't drink any more, cook with it.  Recipes included.

So that's fine.  All good stuff.  Not necessarily life-altering or anything, but a good, basic outline for how one should live their life.  Hey, I can't argue with the drinking tea stuff.

I was a little put off at how the author, Mark "Dr.Tea" Ukra (not an actual doctor), considers himself a pioneer in the booming tea industry,

Although tea has been around for thousands of years, there has never been a face and voice of tea until tea found me and I found dr.tea's.

Also, he didn't exactly conduct any scientific experiments himself...he surveyed 18 TEAmmates and gets "hundreds of tesTEAmonials" (how annoying is that?), although he does cite many sources at the end of the book to support the majority of his claims.

Also, he writes that white tea has the least amount of caffeine.  I read the opposite in Harney & Sons Guide.  Who to believe?  (Actually, I really don't know who to believe.  I've heard both elsewhere, and need to get to the bottom of this.  More later.)

Also, a lot of it seems to be geared toward reforming coffee addicts.  I've never been addicted to coffee my whole life, so that doesn't interest me in the least.

I can't say that this is all bad.  After all, The Ultimate Tea Diet is renewing my interest in drinking tea for health's sake.  It has given me some new ideas - such as mixing my teas with different ingredients, or different teas for that matter.  And, it has made me steep my leaves many times over (so that you still get the "good stuff" without too much caffeine with the added benefit of getting more bang for your buck. There is also a decent section of recipes which use tea as an important ingredient.  I plan on trying low-fat yogurt with green matcha, and perhaps an oolong chicken and steak rub.  These are fun and healthy meals to try, so if you wouldn't be losing out on much money if you bought the book just for that section.

You'd think, with all the not-so-good stuff I've written about The Ultimate Tea Diet, that I wasn't recommending it.  Not true.  Go get the book if you are actively trying to lose weight and want another tool by your side.  Certainly no harm can come of it, and maybe it will help you.  For such a low price, I'm glad to have this book on my shelf.  I want to lose weight, and I'll be overjoyed if tea plays a part of that.

Good night!  I'm off to brew another pot (re-steeped) for the evening.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Ultimate Tea Diet (Now We're Cooking with Tea)

Ehm, so I've gained weight again.  It is quite depressing to think that just a few short months ago I was thirty pounds lighter (and looking fairly decent, I might add).  Although I needed to lose another, say, 20 lbs to be at an "ideal" weight, I went the other direction and pigged out with a passion.  I don't know why, really.  Because I was feeling really good, I was in shape - exercising daily, eating anti-oxidant packed nutritious foods - and I loved the way I was looking.  But anyway, here I am.  And it's time to get that scale needle to budge downwards again.

What better way than to get my beloved beverage on board?  I have no idea if tea can help someone lose weight, although there are many who believe that it can.  I'm not talking about swallowing "green tea extract" pills (I think that might be dangerous, actually).  Besides, that just takes out all the enjoyment of drinking it, n'est-ce-pas?

I do believe that tea can play an important role in a healthy lifestyle, however, so I'm going to ramp up my use of Camellia Sinensis leaves in my day-to-day diet.  I'm going to drink more cups during the day, and I'm going to start cooking with it as well.  I've already started, in fact!  Today I made my newest and neatest culinary experience - Chai Oatmeal.  I prepare the masala brew minus the milk, and add quick-cooking oatmeal to the pot for 5 minutes.  It's really, really good.  And good for you.

I've also ordered a really cheap book from Chapters.  It's called The Ultimate Tea Diet, and although I have some misgivings (I'm hoping that this book doesn't condone tea fasting or anything), I've heard that this book contains recipes that include tea.  That makes me excited.  I'll let you know what I think when I receive it in 4-8 days.

So while this is not a weight-loss blog, I'll be chiming in from time to time about my progress and what I find works when it comes to tea.  Who knows, maybe I'll start a project a la Julie Powell, testing out tea recipes.  We'll see. 

In the mean time, I'm open to suggestion - if you have any favorite tea recipes or ideas of how to incorporate tea into a weight-loss diet that you'd like to share, please let me know!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Some Like It Hot

My apologies for the delay in writing.  My computer has succumbed to a virus or viruses, and therefore I am now writing this blog while in "Safe Mode"!  Too bad there's not a tea for that.  There is a tea to soothe my nerves and lower my blood-pressure while I try not to punch my computer screen however...and tonight I've settled on Bangkok White Rose, by Shanghai T Merchant.  A perfect digestif, it is a refreshing brew after a big, bloating supper.  I've also just had the brilliant idea to turn it into iced tea, because I think it would kick-ass.

Speaking of iced - how's this for a segway? - I'd like to talk a bit about temperature.  Not the temperature at which you infuse your tea, but rather the temperature at which you drink it.

When I was 20 years old (almost 14 years ago), I spent the summer working as a waitress at a hotel & country club restaurant in the U.K.  It was a fun job, even though we were run off our feet most of the time.  The staff was really grateful for the tea break we'd get on the evening shift.  We would take turns getting tea for each other; it was pretty easy, because we'd just pour it out of the large urn that had been prepared for the restaurant.  It was always Earl Grey (there was no other kind offered), we always had milk and sugar in it, and it was BOILING.  I always marvelled at my friends who seemed to be able to down it right away.  I always had to wait at least a couple of minutes for it to cool down just a little, even though our time was limited.  Scalding my palette and throat never seemed pleasant, but many of my fellow waiters didn't seem bothered by it.

Is this a cultural thing?  It seemed that most of the British people I hung around with, including some relatives (I'm half British) liked their tea HOT.  I've also heard that in many countries where black tea is heavily consumed, it is usually done so at very high temperatures.  Unfortunately, I've just read that doing so can be bad for your health.  As in, esophageal cancer bad.  Apparently some studies were done in Iran, where it was shown that drinking such hot tea can weaken the lining of the esophagus, and therefore contribute to cancer rates, even in those who did not consume alcohol or cigarettes (the usual culprits of esophageal cancer).  So the advice was to wait, about 4 minutes, before drinking your tea.  Makes sense to me - I'd rather taste my tea than feel it.  It'll still be nice and warm at that point, so why not?  You can add the extra waiting time to your tea-making ritual by meditating or by anticipating the taste and non-scorching sensation of your favorite cup of tea.  And if you're truly worried about losing heat, knit yourself a tea cozy for your teapot.

Note: This shouldn't be an issue for drinkers of white and green tea.  It is often recommended to wait a minute or two before even pouring the water on or around the tea leaves, so that you don't "bruise" them.  Bruising can lead to a bitter cup, and I believe it can affect the amount of times you can re-infuse. If you want, you can purchase a thermometer to use in your kettle, so that you can get an idea of your perfect brewing temperature.

Friday, November 13, 2009

For all the Sickies Out There

I fully believe that tea (with additions) can help you when you're sick. Tea isn't a medicine, and I'm not a doctor, naturopath or a practitioner of Ayurveda. But these are some of my recommendations:

For those suffering from H1N1, stomach flu, dysentery, Montezuma's Revenge, Delhi Belly, or basic indigestion: Add ginger to your tea. Lots of it. As much as you can stomach. I found this wonderful recipe at the Chai Pilgrimage website and tried it today. Not because I'm having any tummy problems, but rather because I had a large chunk of ginger waiting for something fabulous to happen to it. Good call. It was so gingery that it gave the impression the tea was hot even when the liquid was tepid. Very tasty, and I'm sure my stomach will love me for it.

For those with sinus colds, congestion: White tea with lemon and honey. Drink it all day long. The caffeine will keep you going too. A nice thing about loose leaf tea is that you can usually infuse it many times. Good bang for your buck, and it'll shorten your cold. Yay!

Also for your sinuses (colds, allergies, sinusitis) - this doesn't have anything to do with tea, except that the apparatus looks like a teapot, and that can only be a good thing in my books - use a Neti Pot.

For sore throats, I like Honeybush, or a green tea with lemon and honey.

I also like the "usual" tisanes, like echinacea, chamomile or mint for soothing purposes.

For general good health (I believe this will rejuvenate your arteries, and possibly fight cancer too!): Mix some turmeric, black pepper and sweetener (I like black molasses) into your black tea. It's not for everyone. My friend Rebecca said it was like a curry broth. Admittedly, it's an acquired taste. But there are good stories coming out of the scientific community about the excellent effects of turmeric, and I'm going to take that to heart.

Like I said, I don't really think these will cure you of anything, but they certainly can't hurt to drink (well, except the Neti Pot. Don't drink from that. Snort it up your nose instead!) And besides, a cup of something warm usually makes you feel better anyway. So if you're feeling a little something coming on, don't panic. Just put the kettle on, get your favorite blanket and hot- water bottle and sip something wonderful.

And get better soon, 'cause personally I'm getting sick of toting the Purell around. :)

Photo courtesy of Auzigog @

Monday, November 9, 2009


This past weekend I was really happy to visit a tea house in Ottawa with my special friends, Rebecca and April. I was excited to be there because I hadn't been to a tea house in a long time, and it was nice to share the experience. Do people ever visit tea houses alone? It seems to me that this is something you would do with friends most of the time.

Nectar Fine Teas (no website yet) is located on Wellington Street across from Thyme & Again Catering (another place you must visit, if anything to get an amazing lemon cake with white chocolate icing). Nectar is a little shop, divided - people actually line up to purchase loose leaf teas or tea ware on one side, and on the other side you can sit down to tea. It's a lovely place, minimally decorated and quite laid back.

Highlights of Nectar Fine Teas: The tables actually showcased different tea leaves under (plexi?) glass, so it was kind of neat trying to identify them. The waitress was friendly and helpful. She brought us each a digital timer to let us know how long to steep our tea - something I had never seen before, which was kind of neat. The owner was knowledgeable and busy - her place is obviously popular. She also gave us a sample of an apple cider tea, perfect for colder weather.

There is a small but nice selection of tea ware and books at this shop. I purchased a beautiful little covered cup that is small, but perfect for multiple infusions - I just wish I had asked where she got these cups, as there is no potter's signature or manufacturer marking on mine. But I've already tried it with the three teas I purchased there: Jasmine Pearls, Ti Quan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy) Oolong, and Thiashola Estate Nilgiri (2nd Flush SFTGFOP). Mmm Mmm Good! More thoughts on these particular teas to come.

I plan on visiting more tea houses in the near future. Although I might not have the selection there is in Ottawa, I'm looking forward to some time at Tea at the Whitehouse, which is in Waterdown, about 5-10 minutes' drive from my house. Who wants to join me?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

All I Can Smell is Asparagus

I'm ramping up my tea appreciation a little bit. I just purchased this amazing book, The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea, by Michael Harney. You know that saying, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear"? Yeah! This is my new go-to guide!

This book goes beyond the usual, and it teaches you how to be more of a connoisseur by describing how a master brews and tastes all the myriad types of teas out there.

I have yet to get myself a kettle thermometer, and a gaiwan (small lidded ceramic cup ideal for smelling the drained leaves), and I also need to dust off my water filter. But I'm certainly paying more attention to my brewing rituals and trying to assess what I smell and taste.

It's not easy. After all, I've never had exceptionally refined tastes - I've eaten way too much junk food in my life, and I believe that it has clogged my taste buds (not to mention my arteries, but I won't cry about that just right now; I've got too many teas to taste). I also suffer from environmental allergies, which sometimes inhibits my smelling capacities. Two strikes against me. However, keep calm and carry on!

A nice thing about Michael Harney's Tea Guide is that he makes you feel very at ease about tea tasting. He suggests that you drink what makes you happy, what puts a smile on your face. And, he repeats that there are never any wrong answers when it comes to impressions and taste: "From ten tea tasters will come eleven opinions." So he doesn't make you feel inadequate in the least.

I will be following the guidance of And hopefully I will become more able to distinguish a great oolong from an inferior one. My blog will probably never include such descriptions as, "It contained delicate high notes of Tasmanian boronia, with a lingering aftertaste of vanilla orchid". But at least I won't have to say that I liked a tea "just because", nor will I need to reveal which tea goes best with a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. So thank you, Michael Harney!

Chai Update: I tried brewing yesterday with Rishi Tea's Ancient Emerald Lily (which is awesome on its own - it reminds me of a Darjeeling, actually). It was actually the second brewing for this set of leaves, so the tea taste was quite mild compared to the masala, but it was delicious. I even gave some to my daughter Sophie, who drank it all up once it cooled down.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Secret

Anyone who knows my tastes in tea and tea ware will know that I'm not into Victoriana or fine bone china. I prefer earthy, heavy and artistic teapots and I usually drink my tea in a coffee mug. I don't like the dainty tinkling of silver plate spoons in fragile cups, or sitting in chairs with flowery, laced antimacassars. I'm anti-antimacassar. I don't subscribe to a particular tea time, either.

But, I have a secret. I would really like to take my daughter Sophie to a very fancy High Cream Tea when she's older. I don't even know why, but I get a little giddy when I think about going to The Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto, all dressed up and ready for some delicious scones, rich Devon cream and a nice hot cup of specially-blended tea. I don't care what they serve it in, although I assume it'll be fancy-schmancy. And I cannot wait! I want it to be a mom-daughter occasion, not on a birthday or a holiday, but a just-because day. I have no idea if she'll want to do this, but over the next few years I'm planning on instilling the idea - making little hints, kind of like the way I tell her that there are magical things in the forest across from our house. Perhaps she'll go along with it because she'll see how excited I am. Hopefully she'll get as much enjoyment out of it as I do. Heck, I don't even know if I'll enjoy it that much. But I can't wait to try. It's expensive and a little bit ridiculous, but it's an experience that I'm hoping will create a fond shared memory.

Have you gone to High Tea before? What was it like? Do you have any special memories surrounding tea?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Oolong can you wait?

Well, I got a response from my tea gurus...and the response was something to the effect of "We cannot comment on this tea because we do not sell it. Ask the people who sold it to you."

I appreciate that my gurus took the time to respond, and I also appreciate that there are so many types of tea that one can't possibly know all the answers. I guess I had just hoped that there might be a suggestion of where I could research it, besides the one who sold it to me. It left a little taste in my mouth that was slightly astringent, and not the nice Darjeeling-type of astringent. I am demoting my gurus to just good authors! I'm sure they won't mind.

So, my research continues...fortunately I do have a "bite" from another tea blogger, who appears very knowledgeable and willing to help. And of course, I'll be talking to one of the tea vendors who sold me the mysterious Oolong.

You see, the problem is with the "milk" part of the Oolong. Apparently China does not have its own milk industry, and therefore a question is whether the milk flavour is real or artificial. And does this matter? It could matter. So, as I've said before, stay tuned! We'll see what I turn up.

On another note, my daily masala chai experiments are becoming quite fun and enlightening. Today I tried simmering my spices for 30 minutes before adding the tea. I love the way this concoction makes the house smell. I'd almost do it just for the scent alone. I also added the golden brown sugar sooner so that it would become a little syrupy before adding the tea. It would have worked very well, however I ended up steeping the tea a little too long for my taste, and unfortunately the tea grains (this is an assam that is grainy - more on that another time) were small enough to pass through my strainer, and so it was difficult to eliminate the grit factor...not a quality I wish for my cup of chai. Lesson learned.

Soon I am going to learn how to make some special cookies that are supposed to be dunked in chai. Perhaps I can sell them when I become a chai wallah. A chai and cookie wallah. And if I can't become a chai wallah, at least I can dress up as one for Hallowe'en.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Not Milk Oolong

Ok, so I'd said that my next entry would be about this tea called Quangzhou Milk Oolong, but I lied. I had every intention on doing it, but as it turns out I still have quite a bit of research to do on this somewhat mysterious tea. The fun part of the research is that I actually emailed my "tea gurus", Mary Lou & Robert J. Heiss, who wrote The Story of Tea, A Cultural History and Drinking Guide. If one of them or their staff replies to me, I'll most likely post the response. I was actually a little nervous sending the email to them, but they seem like very down-to-earth, friendly people. Even if they don't answer, I'll still write about it. So stay tuned!

This morning I enjoyed a large cup of KTE Organic, which I also got from my dad - he brought it back from Nepal (did I mention how lucky I was?) Oh, it's so smooth! Dad gave me the teabags in Ziploc bags, so I didn't have any info from the box, but I decided to Google the information that was on the tag, "KTE Kanchanjangha Organic Tea", and was happily surprised to find a great website about their estate. It's so much fun to find this kind of information, especially knowing that Nepalese tea is not very common in Canada (yet), so it is a treat to dream about a district in eastern Nepal bordering the tea area of Darjeeling.

Have a look at this amazing place:

This afternoon I had another homemade masala chai - with the added benefit of beautiful spices from The Spice Emporium in Hamilton. Fresh cardamom, whole cloves and peppercorns brewed with a cinnamon stick and Assam Rainforest tea? I could have cried! I feel like selling this stuff on the street - hmmm. Perhaps I will become a chai wallah after all...I wonder what the licensing would entail?

I'm topping off the evening with a blend called Bangkok White Rose. It contains Pai Mu Dan white, Chinese Sencha, peppermint, elderflowers, red and black peppercorn, and rose blossom. It's a great way to end the day, calming to the mind and tummy. I got it from a store called Shanghai T Merchant (hailing from Nanaimo, BC), located in Jackson Square (of all places), Hamilton. They offer beautiful tins to keep your tea, and I'm thinking of collecting them.

An attempt at being artistic with the tea tins
from Shanghai T Merchant

Saturday, October 24, 2009

From The Other Blog

Just call me Chai Wallah – I’m There

One of the very very neat things about writing a tea blog is that I can make myself all sorts of concoctions with abandon. It’s fun, educational, and tasty for me, and fairly amusing to friends & family who see me somewhat hopped up on a constant smooth caffeine high.

Today is a day that will go down in history for me: the day that I made my own masala chai. Oh. My. God.

First, a note on the word chai: It literally means tea.
  • Mandarin Chinese: Cha
  • Chinese Amoy Dialect: Te (pronounced tay)
  • Dutch & German: Thee
  • Italian, Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Hungarian & Malay: Te
  • English: Tea
  • French: Thé
  • Finnish: Tee
  • Latvian: Teja
  • Korean: Ta
  • Tamil: Tey
  • Sinhalese: Thay
  • Scientist-ese: Thea
The Mandarin, cha, became ch’a in Cantonese and passed as cha to Portuguese (during trade at Cantonese-speaking Macao) and so also to Persian, Japanese and Hindi, becoming shai in Arabic, ja in Tibetan, chay in Turkish, and chai in Russian.

From The Tea Companion, A Connoisseur’s Guide, by Jane Pettigrew.

So, for the love of loose leaf, please try not to order a “chai tea”. Especially if you are riding the railways in India. Unless, of course, you enjoy seeing people smirk at you.

So anyway, I had intended on making an entry on masala chai (masala = spice). And the thought occurred to me, “why not make my own?” I’ve never done it before, and what better way to be inspired?

I’m lucky to have relatives who travel all over the world. My dad brought me back some beautiful teas from his recent trip to India, including a Darjeeling Mountain tea. It was this one I decided to use for my “Indian Masala Milk Chai”. Here is my recipe:
  1. Boil 2 cups water in a stainless steel saucepan
  2. Add: A cinnamon stick, 4 cardamom pods, 4 whole black peppercorns, a little ground or whole cloves. In a moment of inspiration, I also added a spoonful of shredded coconut because I had it in the cupboard and thought, “why not?”. You could also put in a little crushed ginger, but I didn’t feel like it this time.
  3. Also toss in 2 tsp. loose leaf black tea
  4. Boil for 1-2 minutes
  5. Chant some sort of mantra to make it fun and more authentic.
  6. Add 2 cups milk (not skim) and a tsp. vanilla and let cool.
  7. Add sugar: brown, white, maple syrup, honey, whatever. To taste.
  8. Strain the mixture into your favorite mug (this is no time for fine bone china) and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.
  9. Never buy store-bought again.
This turned out so well, that I plan on making it whenever I need to be soothed or warmed. I’m also going to make it for anyone who wants to try it. It’s the kind of thing that needs to be shared.

Some of the main spices used in masala chai.  Photo by Move The Clouds,
Some of the main spices used in masala chai.
Photo by Move The Clouds,

If you want to know more about masala chai, here are some very nice links with recipes for chai, and recipes that use chai.

Magic Pearls

I thought I’d talk a little about jasmine tea, as I happened to mention it in my introduction. It is one of my favorite teas, and it has such a calming effect on me when I drink it – even more so than certain commercial teas that claim to soothe the soul. I’m not sure who came up with the idea of pairing a floral with tea, but I could kiss them.

There’s something wonderfully magical about a flower that blooms and releases its perfume in the evening. Jasminum sambac happens to be such a plant. It is a ‘climber’ with sweet fragrant flowers, “scattered stars” of purest white. J. sambac, or Arabian jasmine, is the type used to scent tea.

There are many varieties of jasmine, approximately 200 species in all, but rich J. sambac gives Chinese tea its intoxicating aroma.  The white flowers, “Moonlight of the Grove”, are said to exhale a richer fragrance at night. For this reason, it is critical to gather the blossoms at the right time. Ideally, they are picked at noon in order to bring them to the tea factory around 4:00pm. There they are stored for a few hours in a warm room to encourage the development of the aroma, and then the production of jasmine tea begins around 8:00pm.

About forty pounds of flowers are required to scent a hundred pounds of tea. As you can imagine, jasmine bushes need to be planted in abundance, and so there are areas in the Fujian Province in China that are famous for their jasmine flower production.

Manufacturing jasmine tea requires at least several days, and the finer quality jasmines necessitate up to a month of scenting. Fresh blossoms are introduced to giant piles of tea leaves, and are left to infuse their perfume into the leaves for several hours. When the flowers are ’spent’, another batch is brought in, and this operation can be repeated a few times.

Sometimes you’ll see jasmine tea with flowers in it, but they only add to the appearance of the tea and not to the taste. Most times, the flowers won’t be present at all in good quality teas, as the blossoms have been blown out of the tea factory by large fans. You can imagine these flowers being scattered to the wind, having done their duty. What they’ve left behind, in my opinion, is much more beautiful than what you’d find in any perfume bottle. And you get the added benefit of tasting this exhilarating potion.

I’ve been very lucky to stumble upon a gorgeous jasmine tea called Dragon Pearl. The leaves have been hand-rolled into little balls, which unfurl in the brewing process. I have a tin of Dragon Pearl Jasmine made by Harney & Sons, and the aroma is indeed enchanting when you take off the lid. I’ve compared it to other commercial jasmines, and there’s absolutely no doubt about the difference in quality. I’ve read about a more costly Yin Hao Jasmine tea, which apparently is scented about eight or nine times, and it can take as long as one month to finish a batch. I desperately want to try it. I might just have to order some online.
Dragon Pearl Jasmine, by Harney & Sons
Dragon Pearl Jasmine, by Harney & Sons

For more information on Harney & Sons, visit their website, where the above photograph was taken:

Questions of the day: Do you have a favorite scented tea? What is it? Do you think that scent is an important part of drinking tea? Do you prefer florals or something more fruity? Or do you believe that tea ought to be left alone, as it has its own distinct fragrance?
Sources: The Fragrant Path, by Louise Beebe Wilder and The Story of Tea, a Cultural History and Drinking Guide, by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss.

And for some listening enjoyment:
Dome Epais le Jasmin – The Flower Duet (Lakme)

Are you a tea purist?

Look, I’m not a writer. I don’t even know why I started this blog, although I find myself impassioned by tea and I guess I felt the need to disseminate information about it.

I’m not an expert or tea master, either. But for some reason, when someone mentions tea my ears prick up and I feel the need to contribute to the conversation or answer a question about it.

Take yesterday, for example. My daughter and I were on the train leaving Montreal to come back home to Dundas, and I decided to settle into the trip by ordering a tea (Jasmine Green)*. The woman sitting across from us also ordered a green tea, and exclaimed out loud, “Jasmine is green tea?” So I jumped at the occasion to explain that jasmine was the scent added to the tea – the process involves piling the sweet-scented flowers onto the green or black tea so that the perfume infuses into the tea leaves. The woman nodded her head and politely said “Oh.” The conversation about tea ended there (I do know when to shut up), and we continued to talk about other things, and all in all we had a lovely time together.

So I realize that writing this blog is something I want to do. If you want to follow along with me, welcome! We’ll see where this goes. If not, go drink your Pepsi or whatever it is you drink and have a good day!

To get this conversation started, I thought I’d ask you: How do you take your tea? Are you a purist, in the sense that you believe you should not add anything to your brew? Or do you prefer to pour in a little milk and sugar? What about lemon or honey? Do you ever add spices to your tea? Also, do you use tea bags, or do you think the leaves ought to be loose? Let me know what you think, and over time I’ll let you know my preferences too.

Ciao for now.

* I thought I’d give it a try – I was reluctant to order tea on the train, as I’d done it once before and the “brew” was so disgusting that I had to throw it out. But, VIA Rail seems to have improved their refreshment options, and it turns out I wasn’t disappointed this time ’round. I was happy to see that it was fair trade, and the jasmine flavour was decent, allowing me to relax and enjoy the start of my trip.

So Sorry to Have Done This

I've changed blog sites. Sorry. Had to do it because my former blog host wouldn't allow me to change my url. I hope you'll forgive me! I'm going to cut and paste my entries into this blog and we will continue where we left off. Please stay tuned, next entry: Quangzhou Milk Oolong.