Posted by: Lauren | June 12, 2015

Four O’Clock Summer Teas

My poor neglected blog has been looking for some inspiration, and I finally have some! I received some wonderful Four O’Clock tea samples from Trans-Herbe, just in time for summer. The summer 2015 flavours include: Rooibos Pineapple Coconut, Cucumber Mint Green Tea, Fruit Sangria Herbal Tea, Orange Sorbet Herbal Tea, Strawberry Daiquiri Herbal Tea and Pink Lemonade Herbal Tea. While I usually talk about loose leaf teas, these tea bags were quite great. The first thing that caught my eye was the amazing artwork on the bag – which was created by Montreal artist Bruce Roberts.


These teas are great cold, hot and of course, in cocktails. Trans-Herbe has provided me with some wonderful cocktail recipes as well that are inspired by mixologists Marc-André Fillion and Lawrence Picard, check out the recipes here. So far I have experimented with the Green Spirit and Sangria – both which were delicious.

The Cucumber Mint Green Tea is amazing. I tried it both hot and cold, and it’s great each way. The first thing I thought when I took a sip was how juicy it tasted. I’ve never really used the word juicy for a tea – but this one definitely was! It also made a great cocktail – the Green Spirit was an extremely refreshing summer drink that I can’t wait to keep making again and again. This is definitely a guest impressing beverage.


The Fruit Sangria Herbal Tea was a little bit on the tart side, but added super flavours to the Sangria Cocktail I put together. I only had unsweetened cranberry juice on hand, so my cocktail was a little too tart – but with some sweetened cranberry juice this cocktail is golden. The herbal tea in the Sangria adds a lot of depth to the cocktail.


I also iced the Pink Lemonade Herbal Tea. This one was also quite tart (which I actually really enjoy), and perfect in a cold form. Some sweetener would definitely make this a much better alternative to the extreme sugary lemonades you can buy in stores.


More to come as I keep experimenting with some cocktail recipes!

Posted by: Lauren | February 6, 2015

The Third Toronto Tea Festival

Last weekend (Jan 31 – Feb 1, 2015) marked the 3rd anniversary of the Toronto Tea Festival, and of course my third visit. Overall, the festival was great! I go every year with my dad – a fellow tea nerd. This year we decided to get there super early to avoid the lines and crowds that are growing with the popularity of the festival. When we got there right at the opening, there was already a line to get in and a crowd inside. When we left in the afternoon it was mobbed, so despite the morning crowd it was still better than the afternoon. Crowds of tea lovers are much nicer than other types of crowds so it wasn’t too bad, but it still may be nice to see a larger venue in the future.

And of course, we shopped, because obviously I needed more tea… right? (If anyone has any storage tips I would LOVE to hear some ideas… my tea “bookshelf” is out of space!)

So what did I get?…

At Lemon Lily I picked up some Cafe Caramel Pu-erh. Love it! A great blend with that added kick from espresso beans. Lemon Lily offers extremely reasonable prices and some delicious flavours.

Café Caramel Pu-erh

I also stopped by the Riston booth and picked up some of their famed Milk Oolong. Riston is a wholesaler company, but always comes to the Tea Festival and sells out of their delicious Milk Oolong. This is one of my favourite types of teas, and Riston definitely does it justice.

At Momo Tea I purchased some yummy Hojicha – a roasted green tea. Once upon a time I had a creme Hojicha that I loved, so I was happy to pick up a new Hojicha tea. Momo, who is behind Momo Tea, was great to talk to at the festival!

I of course stopped by Basilur – I’ve been enjoying their inexpensive tea for a few years now. Their tea is delicious and wonderful, with extremely reasonable prices. Depending on the flavour, you can get a box of 100 g of loose leaf for as low as $3! My favourite has always been the winter cranberry flavour, but this time I went for Tea Book Volume 1 – a black tea flavoured with jasmine and almond.

The Peru booth was also great. Having visited Peru last year, I was stoked to see Peru represented. I picked up a new smoothie recipe too – almond milk, cooked quinoa, cacao and vanilla. So good!

Teabot was definitely a highlight at this year’s festival. The following is from teaBOT’s website, describing the company: “We make personalized loose-leaf tea through robotics. Ever find yourself craving that perfect cup of tea on-the-go? Our automated kiosks blend, bag, and serve your tea your way.Whether you’ve mastered your blend or are trying something new, your custom cup of tea is just a tap a way. Use our app to perfect and order your recipe, see what’s trending, and share your personaliteaTM.”


The teaBOT!

It’s so cool and such a great idea! I’m looking forward to seeing some of these teaBOTs throughout Toronto. TeaBOT was giving visitors a chance to make their own blends and take some home in loose leaf format. When it launches, teaBOT users will be able to pick flavours and have a cup to go. And, one of the coolest parts – you can plan the blend out on the app and scan it when you arrive at the teaBOT.

My flavour I of course named after my blog – Steeped in Tea, it was a combination of Chocolate Mate (40%), Strawberry Hibiscus (10%) and Nutty Caramel (50%). So good!

Bare English & Co., where I usually stop by to pick up some tea infused lip balm, was previewing their new hand and body butter. The all natural Passion Fruit cream is great! Looking forward to seeing the rest of the line when it comes to stores, and especially looking forward to the unscented cream that will be offered. For now, check out the varieties of lip balm flavours on their website.

Last, but not least, I also discovered what Kombucha is at the festival. I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover Kombucha – a fermented tea beverage. It’s fermented using a “SCOBY” – a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Pekoe Kombucha Bar was at the festival sampling their Kombucha, and it’s amazing! Dan Johanis’ talk at the festival was great, and has inspired me to start my own home brewing of Kombucha – stay tuned for more posts about this soon!

These are just a few mentions, there were a lot of other fantastic tea vendors at the festival.

A great third year at the Toronto Tea Festival – and now a lot of work to do. And by work I mean tea to finish off!! And some home brewing to start too!

My overflowing Tea Festival bag!

Posted by: Lauren | December 4, 2014

“The truth about tea”

I stumbled across the below article a little while back, and it was so great I thought I would post the whole thing right here. This is exactly what I have been saying for years! And it’s not too late to join in on the wonder of loose tea. The original article can be find here from the Washington Post.

Tea might become your favorite hot beverage, if you ditch the little bags

 October 21  

Tea is the second-most consumed beverage in the world, after water. But it is a second-class citizen in our nation of hot-liquid drinkers, no matter how much the tea numbers are trending upward. That’s surprising, considering that tea — green as well as black — was the go-to refreshment in America long before colonists dumped 340 chests of it into Boston Harbor. Contrary to popular opinion about a patriotic grudge that sent people on a coffee quest, they kept drinking tea after the Revolutionary War, too; they still had the pots and brewing paraphernalia.

These days, the tea bag rules here and in England. Problem is, it’s the coffee equivalent of instant granules. We can do better, America.

Nonetheless, Bruce Richardson sees progress. “We are enjoying a tea renaissance right now,” says the author of 14 books on tea and the owner of a tea wholesale business in Danville, Ky. (Also bullish: Starbucks, hence its 2012 acquisition of the robust Teavana chain.) He is convinced that 20-year-olds are getting hip to leaves, coming in to sample single-plantation varieties and blends at his tea bar. “They appreciate the health aspects. . . .When they want to stay up late to read, they should be drinking tea” — not coffee, he says with a paternal air.

Perhaps that’s because of tea’s comparatively mild jolt. Typical brewed black teas contain about one-third the caffeine found in coffee (55 vs. 150 milligrams in an eight-ounce serving), yet there’s a contradiction in the cup, as Richardson puts it. True Camellia sinensis, or tea leaves processed differently to create black, oolong, white and green teas, contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps the brain to simultaneously relax and concentrate. In other words, a little buzz with focus. No wonder tea drinkers feel good about pouring four to six cups per day.

Ask a coffee aficionado what he doesn’t like about tea, and the response might be the same as when the question is turned around for a tea lover: bitterness. Although the reasons for bitter coffee are various, the cause of bitter tea is more likely a matter of over-steeping, which might entail using water that’s too hot as well as letting the infusion go on too long.

Which leads back to the tea bag, really. Ever since its invention in early 20th-century America, the tidy packet has simplified teamaking. Hands-on prowess with loose-leaf tea has become rare — akin to the mid-century era when Americans’ embrace of convenience foods begat a decline in their kitchen acumen. And the quality of the tea in the bags has been unreliable.

Tea brewed via tea bags accounted for more than 65 percent of all tea consumed in the United States in 2012, according to the Tea Association of the USA.

“I just don’t get it,” says Linda Neumann, co-owner with Michelle Brown of the four Teaism shops in the Washington area. “I think if more people took the time to steep and strain instead of dunk and dash, the world would be a better place.”

Not a surprising position for her to take, given Teaism’s exclusive trade in loose-leaf teas and tisanes, which are herbal infusions (not real tea). However, quality is at the heart of the matter. What’s in tea bags “doesn’t come close to the quality of loose-leaf tea. It’s just not of value,” Neumann says. Walk into their Alexandria restaurant and shop, for example, and you can plunk down $15 for a mere 2 ounces of Jinzhen, a Chinese black tea with golden-tipped leaves and a light chocolate aroma in its brew. That works out to about 80 cents a cup. Affordable.

“People think loose-leaf tea is too hard,” she says. “But tea is really very simple.”

Tea has been closely associated with medicinal use and health benefits for centuries. In the past decade or so, consumers have sought out green tea, drawn to its antioxidant properties and studied ability to help prevent cardiovascular disease. So it stands to reason that the full potential of loose-leaf green teas would be preferable to tea bags that can contain little more than tea “dust,” or fannings.

Still, the tea has to taste good to keep you interested day after day, which is why sampling and reading descriptions that act like wine shelf talkers will go a long way toward your personal tea education. There are blends with winelike complexity. Committed tea drinkers will go with an eye-opening black tea in the morning and midafternoon, then switch to something milder, decaffeinated or herbal — officially a tisane, not tea — in the evening.

Getting familiar with tea brewing basics is key. Black teas are steeped with hotter water than green teas, and each type of tea has a recommended range of steeping times. A good tea shop will include specifics on each package, so there’s no need to commit the information to memory.

Experts prefer stainless-steel strainers with deep wells rather than tea balls or chambered teaspoons, so the loose-leaf tea has more room to expand or bloom as it steeps, for optimum flavor. Some teakettles have markings that allow for matching water temperature to tea variety. Travel tumblers and cups for the office sport built-in strainers designed to sit on built-in resting pads.

And there is an acceptable alternative to the commercial tea bag: filling your own. Look for individual, biodegradable tea filters made of simple porous paper that are long enough to drape over the edge of a cup. They take seconds to put together. Pyramid-shaped tea sachets (also biodegradable) are gaining in popularity, as well — a good choice that allows the leaves some room to steep.

Posted by: Lauren | October 29, 2014

Bella Sabatina Tea Shoppe

I recently discovered a new(ish) tea shop in Toronto called Bella Sabatina Tea Shoppe located near Avenue and Lawrence. It’s a fun little shop, and I picked up a couple new teas… of course.

The site reads: “Bella Sabatina Tea Shoppe represents a new concept in the pleasurable tea experience bringing you hand picked teas from the best companies all in one beautiful upscale location.” Based on the two I picked up, I would defiitely agree that the teas are great.

I am absolutely loving the Lychee Peach black tea from Bella Sabatina. This tea is definitely up there as one of my favourites in my tea collection now.


The Cinnamon Plum herbal is also great – and super cinnamony, perfect for fall.


Check out the shop if you are in the neighbourhood. Some of the teas cost a bit more than I typically spend, though the ones I picked up were in a fair range. Overall, a good selection, though as a flavoured herbal fan I would have liked to have seen more rooibos and mate varieties.

Posted by: Lauren | August 25, 2014

Tea Time!

I went a little overboard a few weeks ago making some tea treats!

2014-08-08 19.58.15

The cupcakes and cookies were so delicious that it’s only fair that I share the recipes!

The matcha icing for the cupcakes was one of my favourite parts. It was so creamy, buttery and delicious:

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tbsp whipping cream
  • 1 heaping tbsp matcha

Frosting: In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, blend together sugar, butter and matcha. Keep mixer on a low speed until ingredients are blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. (Note: I used a hand mixer and it worked).

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

The recipe for the actual cupcake came from here. I used a different blueberry white tea. Next time I would probably brew it much stronger as the flavour was very weak in the cupcake (though still yummy!).

The cookies were from Sweet Beet & Green Bean. I used a raspberry black tea for the recipe. Next time I would probably use a stronger tea for this recipe as well, but they were still quite delicious. I didn’t follow the icing part for this recipe, and instead made a simple Royal Icing mixture using Meringue Powder.

The tea cookie cutouts were purchased on AmazonAmazon also has a variety of teacup cupcake moulds. I also found a set by fluke at a dollar store (Dollarama).

Happy brewing and baking! 

Posted by: Lauren | April 22, 2014

Coca of Peru

I had the pleasure of visiting Peru in March. And of course, I had to try the local tea. Although I didn’t find any notable “tea” per se, I did enjoy coca tea, or mate de coca (an herbal infusion). What is coca? In a nutshell (as described on Wikipedia, yes, Wikipedia), Coca is a plant native to South America, grown in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and of course, Peru. Unfortunately, the plant is known throughout the world for the alkaloid it creates – cocaine. In Peru, it is instead part of the traditional Andean culture. The content of cocaine in coca itself is minimal – between 0.25% – 0.77%. However, this is the stigma it has worldwide and as such I was unable to take any home.

In Peru, many enjoy coca leaves simply by chewing on them. I, however, really enjoyed it steeped. It is delicious! It tastes like a combination between green tea and mate – earthy and sweet, with a yellow green appearance.

Steeped Coca

The abuse of coca is quite sad, and really quite unfortunate given the many uses of the plant.

The main reasons for coca leaf consumption in the Andes include: energizer, medicinal, social and sacred. As an energizer, coca can act similarly to caffeine as well as reduce hunger. It also offers numerous medicinal properties. Socially, coca can be used in labor exchange. As sacred, it allows people to communicate with the supernatural world and obtain protection.

During my visit to Machu Picchu, our guide provided us each with 3 coca leaves. Traditionally, the Peruvian peoples will leave the coca leaves behind as an offering or to obtain protection. We left them in the stones for our own personal ritual offering, which was quite lovely. Our guide asked us to give thanks to those who we wanted to and to appreciate being in the mountains of Machu Picchu and in Peru.

I am particularly interested in the medicinal properties of the plant, as there are many. For me, it was helpful for the altitude sickness I was experiencing in Peru. Livestrong names a few other of the benefits including: weight loss, energy, boosted immune system and aiding in digestion.

I look forward to seeing what happens with coca in the future, and for now will have to remember the taste of the tea until I return to South America!

Posted by: Lauren | February 4, 2014


I had a great time at the Toronto Tea Festival this past weekend. The festival was at the Toronto Reference Library, and offered a variety of talks on tea, ceremonies and of course, a lot of tea vendors. I focused more of my time on the talks this year as my tea cupboard is getting, well, pretty darn full!

I am very excited, however, about the Moose Tracks Black tea I picked up from Herbal Infusions which smells absolutely amazing! I’m looking forward to trying this one as a latte. I also picked up some new tea from Basilur Tea, a tea company that offers delicious blends at low costs – and in beautiful tins! I grabbed the Yellow Fiesta citrusy green tea.


I was also excited to discover that Bare English and Co – a company that creates tea infused lip balm – now has even more flavours! Super pumped for the amazing smelling Cucumber Melon balm that I purchased. The balms can be found at Rexall, and soon to be at Shoppers as well.

Bill Kamula hosted a great talk on “Buried Treasures”, focusing on the tea collection he explored at the Royal Ontario Museum. Some really neat history of tea culture is found in the collection storage at the ROM. The museum even has a puerh cake in its collection!

Jeff Fuchs offered a great talk on Puerh’s Ancient Roots. It was absolutely amazing to hear his stories about sourcing tea from Asia. His goal was to bring the human element of tea forward, and he definitely succeeded. Interestingly, he also discussed how he does not like flavoured teas. He once tracked the source of a flavoured blueberry tea, and brought it back to the original grower of the tea who did not even recognize his own tea leaves. While I still enjoy my flavoured blends, it was interesting to hear how this part of the world sees tea as a fuel, food and medicine that’s meant to be bitter.

The images he takes while abroad are also amazing. Click on the picture below to see even more wonderful pictures from Jeff Fuchs.


Lastly, I checked out Diane Borsato’s talk on Tea in Contemporary Art, where she showed us images of how tea has been represented over time in the art world. One of my favourites examples that she showed us was David Shrigley’s contemporary artwork depicting tea. I thoroughly enjoyed the anti-psychotic tea blend!


All in all, a great day at the Tea Festival! Some other neat companies that I discovered and am looking forward to exploring more in the future were Lemon Lily and teALCHEMY. Lemon Lily offers over 150 varieties online. Not too shabby! TeALCHEMY creates seasonal blends, with a philosophy of creating something new through blending. Neat!

I’m looking forward to seeing what the festival has in store for next year. Assuming the festival continues to grow, I hope to see even more vendors next year at a potentially bigger space!

Posted by: Lauren | January 31, 2014

The Toronto Tea Festival

The Toronto Tea Festival is this weekend and I’m really excited to check it out! Last year was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed trying out new teas and hearing new things about tea during the talks. Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to hearing about Buried Treasures, Puerh’s Ancient Roots and Tea in Contemporary Art. Expect an update next week!


Posted by: Lauren | January 13, 2014

Iron in Tea

As an alumnus of the University of Toronto, I was super stoked when I stumbled across this article about “Saving lives one cup of tea at a time“, an innovative research project taking place at the University.

The article explains that many perinatal and maternal deaths each year are caused by iron deficiency. “Professor Emeritus Levente Diosady of Chemical Engineering believes these numbers can be reduced by creating an ‘iron brew,’ or in other words, developing iron-fortified tea leaves for consumption.” Diosady was initially a part of the team adding salt with iodine, and later iron. He explained, “trying to fortify tea with iron was the next logical step”.

This is a really neat project and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

Dr. Levente DiosadyThe Toronto Star states: “Dr. Levente Diosady was awarded a $250,000 grant by “Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development,” an international initiative calling for innovative ideas to save the lives of mothers and newborns in low-resource countries”.

Tea is the second most popular beverage, next to water, around the world. This study definitely could make a difference if it works!

Posted by: Lauren | January 10, 2014

Pineapple and Tiramisu and Candy Apple, oh my

It’s a new year… and it’s probably time to stop neglecting my lovely tea blog.

I was in a health food store recently and discovered “Tea Squared” – a new company with some really great teas. I picked up Pure Energy, a mate pineapple flavoured blend, and I’m in love. I have problems finding really good mates, and this one is SO good. Based on the site, I’m not sure where to recommend buying the tea, but hopefully it will start showing up in more stores.

I also love the design on the packaging, The Evolution of Tea:


So great!

I also discovered LuxBerry Tea. I’ve been looking for a Tiramisu Rooibos ever since I finished mine from David’s Tea, not realizing it was from one of the seasonal tea menus. I stumbled across LuxBerry Tea, and purchased both Tiramisu Rooibos as well as Candy Apple Crunch Rooibos. The Tiramisu is perfect, one of my favourite flavours in my tea collection. I’m always looking for some green rooibos too, so I was happy to find Candy Apple Crunch, which also has green honeybush in it. Both are fantastic. I imagine I will be trying Lava Cake quite soon too.

ImageIn other news, I’m extremely excited for the Toronto Tea Festival coming this February. I had a great time last year and am looking forward to seeing what’s in store for this year.

Until next time, happy steeping!

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