Saturday, November 19, 2016

West Coast: Westholme, Ucluelet, Tea, Sun and Son!

What a summer it was! My family and I were able to do a bit of travelling on the West Coast of Canada back in September.

We visited Vancouver then took the ferry over to Vancouver Island for some sun, beach and TEA! We visited the Westholme Tea Farm, home to Canada's first ever single estate grown tea!  Oh yes, I have tasted tea grown in Canada!  And written an article for Tea Journey Magazine about it!

A beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon, tea plants all around, a jazz duo plays while customers lounge on the patio sipping fresh Canadian teas and delectable treats. You can read more about the teas and the pairings and learn about Victor and Margit of the Westholme Tea Farm here.


As you can imagine, travelling all the way across Canada just to sample tea grown here was worth the well as driving through the incredible landscape of the Pacific North West, seeing all those beautiful old growth trees and young mountains until finally we arrived at the westernmost part of Canada.  The west coast of Vancouver Island, home to some of the most magnificent beaches and a few decent restaurants and nice places to stay.  We holed up in a resort in Ucluelet called the Terrace Beach Resort.  Owned and operated by the family of Jason Priestley, we noticed the family resemblance although I'd say he got the looks overall.  I don't know where he was, but he didn't show up while we were there and I'm just a little disappointed.  What's up with that J.P.? I even had tea for you...

The entire structure is built on stilts made of heavy timber.  Tsunami proof I'm guessing.  They were giving the place a face lift when we arrived, scaffolding all around the building we stayed in but it didn't manage to scare off the young buck deer grazing out front.

Although they have private access to a cute little inlet, we hopped back in the car and drove up the coast to Long Beach.  Sixteen kilometres of awesome sandy beach with rough driftwood structures scattered along the shore to offer some reprieve from the endless winds and pounding of the surf.
The odd washed up kelp looked
like it belongs in a space movie.  While my husband satisfied his inner caveman body surfing in the chilling seawater, my son had the time of his life running back and forth between the tide and the shore, carrying small rocks and shells to and from.  This summer the boy overcame his fear of the water in no small part due to seeing a short animated film, "Piper" that accompanied the Disney Pixar film "Finding Dory".

Once we'd worn the boy out (he slept easily and deeply that night), we ordered some takeout from Hank's Smokehouse, a gem of a restaurant we found through a friend on our first visit during our honeymoon a couple of years ago.  We overdid it the first time, but this time a balance of smoked this and that and salad and some overpriced drinks we picked up at the Ucluelet Liquor store (remind me to stick with the government outlets next time!).

Jealous yet?  I miss it already.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Lime and Moon Pie Company, Bowen Island and Yaletown makes two...

Who doesn't love pie?!

This is where it all began...(well, actually it all began in a kitchen on the other side of the island but that's another story). I met Stanka Oben about twenty years ago in Vancouver. Little did I know that she would become an entrepreneur with a little pie shop on Bowen Island and now with another location in Vancouver's Yaletown.  When she became Mrs. Oben, as an old friend of hers, I had the good fortune of getting a ride to the wedding from my future husband, an old friend of Stanka's husband.

As she readied for her first opening, I was called on as a tea sommelier to help out with tea selections. You'll find the original Lime and Moon Pie Company nestled in Snug Cove next to the ferry terminal on Bowen Island.  Lime and Moon specializes in hand-made organic pies, organic espresso and tea based drinks.

 Stanka and me
Photo: Drew Taylor
 Mmm, pie...Strawberry Rhubarb Fields Forever

And this is the new location!  1066 Mainland Street in Vancouver's Yaletown...
Photo: Carrie Riches
Interior of the shop
Photo: Stanka Oben
Chef Farhad and Stanka in the new shop with some of the organic goodies, savory and sweet pies. They also offer vegan and gluten-free options. 
Photo: Chris Oben
I was happy to be able to help again to curate the teas that she'll be offering at the new location. Organic high quality loose leaf teas that will pair well with her delicious baked organic pies.

I can hardly wait to to taste my pairings with her pies but unfortunately I am not able to make the opening since I am based in Toronto again.  Hopefully someone reading this in Vancouver will be able to visit the new shop and give a review in the comments!

Being a mother is awesome but it sure has taken me a while to get back to blogging. Now I am going to be juggling work and a baby as well. Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Happy New Year & There's No "T" in Pregnancy

No tea? At least, no tea blogging after I reached a certain stage of pregnancy.  

Photo: Drew Taylor
The event itself was dramatic and ultimately successful, with the well-steeped product turning out as perfectly as we could have wished.

Unable to simply sip this concoction, we have been taking constant doses but now are starting to develop some room for other infusions.

There certainly is a "T" in team, and while not tea related, here's a tremendous shout out to the staff and doctors at Women's Hospital in Vancouver, BC for their knowledge and dedication to helping us deliver a healthy and hearty boy.

From the moment of his birth I have to acknowledge the team at home, as I was helped by my husband, and he and I were supported by my mother and my sister who devoted weeks of their 2014 to staying with us and helping in the establishment of some order in our new world.

I won't go into too much detail, but suffice to say we survived (all of the above), and my relatively new husband, brand new son and myself are starting to develop a groove in 2015 that's going to include my participation in the Toronto Tea Festival in just a couple of weeks!  Woo hoo!

Photo: Drew Taylor

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Next Steps

So here we are!  Back where we started!  Adventures in Tealand with Certified Tea Sommelier Rita Fong!

Only everything is different now!  I have a much better idea of where I might fit into the whole business world as it relates to tea and me but for obvious reasons, I'm going to have to put starting my business on the back burner until after the baby is born and I'm settled.

For those of you who've come along for the ride, thank you for your patience while I shared my experiences from taking the Entrepreneurship course and tried to incorporate my own spin on the whole thing.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures and if you have a clear idea of a business opportunity you see for me, feel free to let me know!

Just kidding.  I have a business plan, and as mentioned previously I just can't go off spreading the ideas openly yet, until I have my model ready for action and my body is too!  

No surprise, I'm obviously interested in celebrating quality tea and tea products and uniting my desire to see a sustainable business practice joined to my love of travel, photography and positive people.

Part of being an entrepreneur is developing an eye for seeing a problem as an opportunity.  As I prep for my upcoming nuptials (Working on the wedding favours, which of course will consist of tea!), I can totally see why my instructor suggested a "last minute wedding planner" business might be a good idea. I had a month to prep my wedding, and if I didn't have my "team" to help me, I could definitely use the services of such a business. I can also see why brides are planning their weddings a year in advance!  

The next course in the University of Toronto Continuing School of Studies Certificate of Entrepreneurship is Market Discovery and Intelligence.  The course outline describes what the prospective student will gain:

Define their target customer and the different stages of their customers’ buying process
• Determine whether the customer problem/need is a valid one they are willing to pay to solve
• Utilize various available market analysis frameworks and market research techniques for early stage companies
• Collect and analyze primary and secondary research on their market to incorporate into their overall business strategy

The next course for me, however, will be focused on the business of a wedding, then setting up a nursery and supporting my partner in making a stable and safe home for our little one.  

I will also take great delight in using him as a guinea pig for trying things I can't indulge in for a while.  Stay tuned to follow what we get into next!

Follow #StartUpEdu@rfongtea@entrepreneurSCS on Twitter to join in on the entrepreneurship conversation.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies Certificate in Entrepreneurship program; however, the opinions provided are my own.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Travel, tea, photography and me!

Incorporating business ideas into a personal blog about tea and adventure isn't that big a stretch after all.   Nothing compared to my belly at the moment!

From my entrepreneurship course, we learned that the experts agree passion is a big part of succeeding in any business and my blog captures many of the things I love: travel, people, and fine tea.

But not just any tea.  It must taste good, be paired with delicious things, be served in artful surroundings and originate from sustainable sources, fair to the growers and good for the environment.
Chickens hanging out in the tea bushes in China

            Photo: Raymonde Drolet
Being a naturally bookish researcher type, I like to look things up but I'm also keen to see things for myself.  I relish good food and drinks.  I've trained myself with a variety of courses and sought out experiences to recognize quality products.  While I don't fret if I'm unable to procure the finest at any particular time, I truly appreciate good things when I can.

Part of my business model requires informing as many people as possible about the pitfalls that occur while exploring the world of tea.  To that end I've written about steeping techniques, do's and don't's, and shared pictures of the many places I've sampled fine teas(and some not so fine), as well as where they're grown, how they're dried, shipped, etc.  I've met a great many people who are already in the tea business.  That's why I think I could really enjoy the challenge.

Our world has many traditions, some better than others.  The tea world is no different.  I savour taking the time to enjoy a good cup, and as I learn more, to appreciate a good pot of transcendent tea. It's something I see as not just a personal choice(affording me peace of mind and pleasure to be sure), but as something to learn about and share and now even convert into a viable business.
Photo: Raymonde Drolet

I'm keen to pass on my lessons as I learn and do good business, ensuring people are getting value for their money and also that the values I cherish are shared as well.

Follow #StartUpEdu@rfongtea@entrepreneurSCS on Twitter to join in on the entrepreneurship conversation.

This is a sponsored post on behalf of University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies Certificate in Entrepreneurship program; however, the opinions provided are my own.