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

#teafestto

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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:

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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!

Posted by: Lauren | November 18, 2013

Ai Weiwei: According to What at the AGO

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. How is this relevant to tea you ask? Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist, and much of his art has political undertones. One of his pieces in the exhibition was entitled “Teahouse” and was made entirely out of tea! Three forms moulded into the shape of houses were included, and all were made from solid blocks of Pu’er from China. Each weighed more than a tonne and were surrounded by even more loose tea. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to touch it, but it did smell delicious. Teahouses can be seen as the social centre of traditional Chinese culture. I would think the artist is playing on the social aspect of tea as well as the political parts of tea farming in this artwork, but as it is contemporary art, I could be wrong. I welcome your interpretation.

Though the exhibition is no longer available at the AGO, it will be at the Pérez Art Museum Miami from December 4, 2013 to March 16, 2014.

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Posted by: Lauren | September 3, 2013

Some new teas!

For my birthday, two of my friends picked me up some lovely tea at the Evergreen Brick Works market in Toronto. The packaging and tea itself is so pretty that it was almost too nice to steep (almost). Look how lovely it looks!

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The Tea Party herbal blend is particularly lovely and mellow (this is the type in the mug). This one is made of sumac, red clover and elder flowers. Check out Honey Pie Hives and Herbals for a full selection of teas and the other neat products sold by the company, such as soap, lip balm and lotions.

I also got some Lychee Oolong from Ten Ren Tea and it is SO good! It’s a beautiful oolong with the delicious flavour of lychee and flower. This is a great flavour enhancement for an oolong, which I highly recommend.

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Posted by: Lauren | June 13, 2013

Hong Kong Milk Tea

David’s Tea recently posted a recipe for Hong Kong Milk Tea. I tried making it at home and it’s absolutely amazing!

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I didn’t have any of the black tea in the recipe, but I tried it with one of my own plain black teas and it still came out great. It’s a perfect dessert tea and super refreshing and deliciously sweet. I highly recommend trying it out. Next time I pick up some condensed milk I may just try it out with some flavoured black tea!

Posted by: Lauren | May 7, 2013

Fun with Water!

With spring in full bloom, I’ve been experimenting with different herbal water infusions.

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My new favourite is mint leaves and cinnamon sticks. It’s so easy – all you have to do is boil water and add the mint and cinnamon. I like to add it right to the mug I’m drinking out of, but it’s also good to let it sit in a teapot for a while. It’s also yummy cold, with some added lemon too!

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I’ve also been making a lot of iced. So easy, and so delicious on a warm day. Any tea will do, simply double the strength and add ice, or make normal and cool for later. I also will sometimes sweeten it with a bit of agave. Peach rooibos and berry green tea are some of my favourite flavours for iced tea.

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Happy spring!!

Posted by: Lauren | April 23, 2013

Kale Matcha Smoothies

Since getting a new blender, I have been trying out a whole bunch of smoothie recipes. I have finally found my favourite type of smoothie – and it is green! The thought of putting kale in your drink may sound gross, but the kale picks up the flavour of whatever you blend it with, leaving the healthy benefits of kale along with the flavour of your choice.

My smoothies have looked like this:

– kale (about two leaves, the stems get thrown in too and blend nicely)
– matcha (about a teaspoon)
– greek yogurt (about 1/4 cup – optional)
– juice (any fruit juice will do, it helps cut the flavour of the kale – also optional depending on how liquidy you like your smoothie)
– fruit – I have tried pear, pineapple, navel orange, blood orange, strawberries and blueberries. Pineapple is my favourite, followed closely by pear – the sweetness of the fruits stand up wonderfully next to the kale

I’m clearly not following a rigid recipe here to create my green power smoothies, but I definitely recommend trying your own version of a kale smoothie! I have also tried spinach, which I did not care for, I find it is much too powerful in taste for a beverage.

Let me know if you discover a good combination! Happy blending!

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