Monday, December 3, 2012

Boozy Teas: Tea Cocktail Workshop at Herbal Infusions

The Holiday season is in full swing, folks getting ready for Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's Eve parties...pretty Christmas lights are up along Yonge Street, the big Christmas tree is up in the Eaton Centre, the malls are staying opened later for the shoppers. 

Even The Grid, Toronto's weekly magazine, had a special "Holiday Hooch" issue out this week.  Their guide to Holiday Cocktails, complete with a legend of snowmen in varying degrees of inebriation, is a survey of the city's top bars for those looking for some holiday cheer. 

So what's a tea lover to do if they want a tea cocktail?  What if they don't want to go all the way to The Comrade in Riverside for an Uncle Garth (a maple-citrus and Earl Grey tea-infused bourbon drink)?!  Sure, there's the Blueberry Tea that any bar should know how to make, but what if you fancy yourself as an amateur mixologist, love tea, and want to save some money?

Tea cocktails have been popping up everywhere lately, even though tea and alcohol has been around for a while.  Think, tea and whiskey...   

There's O5 Tea with their Cocktails, Tapas, and Tea events in Vancouver.  David's Tea brought out "The Cocktail Collection", a collection of five teas with recipe cards.  The LCBO featured some tea cocktails using Sloane Teas in their Food and Drink's Autumn issue.  I even heard a radio interview with Sabnam of The Tea Emporium on tea cocktails a few weeks ago!

You can google recipes on line, or... you can do what I did recently and go to Herbal Infusions Tea Co. for a Tea Cocktail workshop!  Only $30!  Such a deal for a fun and educational workshop!

Dan Johanis left the corporate finance world and opened the tiny modern tea shop at the north east corner of Spadina and Adelaide about three years ago.  Herbal Infusions carry many teas and tisanes.  Dan has collaborated with ChocoSol Traders in creating a Cacao Tea made with 100% organic cacao shell which comes in three different flavours.  (hmm, another thing for the chocoholic on my list...)

Some of the tea wares
Close to a dozen guests crowded into the little shop to watch mixologist, Michelle Tham and Dan work their magic.

  Michelle pours the welcome drink - Me Love Oolong Time

 Made with Orange Blossom Oolong tea syrup (made with fresh tea leaves ahead of time by Dan), Lemon Juice, and Tag No5 Vodka. 
Light oolong tea taste, well balanced and refreshing.

Interesting name,  though it sounds like something you'd hear on the streets of Da Nang......this was just a time to enjoy an adult oolong tea cocktail.  It was tasty!

The Mo'Teato was next, a volunteer helps measure and pours the Peppermint Dream syrup

 Peppermint Dream is a tisane made of peppermint and lavender blended in-house by Dan.
Add some lime juice, Bacardi Black rum and it's ready to drink.  I found myself wishing for some fresh mint leaves...but it was good.

Next we were transported to the Polynesian islands with Lomi Lomi Tea-ki Tiki

Lomi Lomi syrup, pineapple juice, Bacardi Superior Rum and Coconut milk ~ tasted like a piña colada. 

Finally, an experimental Lavender Gin Cocktail

Victoria Gin was stirred in ice to chill.  Apparently, you shouldn't be shaking your alcohol, if you want a good, smooth drink.  Shaking it in ice breaks up the surface area, since you're in essence whipping air into the liquid.

So... what does that say about James Bond who likes his martinis shaken, not stirred?  Hmm, maybe that's why the franchise needed to add Daniel Craig to give a dash of toughness back to Bond...

In case you were wondering what that vessel on the bar is... it is a Prohibition era Martini shaker disguised as a tea kettle.  

This was a strong, herbaceous (pink Tibetan Lavender), booze forward cocktail.  By now, I don't remember what else went in there, and my hand writing had become illegible.  Maybe I should just stick with plain tea...  hmm.. nah! 

This pretty drink's got no name.  Perhaps the Lavender FlamingoPretty in Pink?  Can you think of a cool name for it?  I'll pass it on to Dan!

Herbal Infusions will be conducting two more Tea Cocktail workshops:
Thursday, December 6th @ 6pm
Sunday, December 9th @ 2pm.

Space is limited.  RSVP at or call Dan at (416) 900-6942.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bay Street Fine Tea Encounter:

Sloane Launches Pop-Up in Financial District

Up 45…down 200, up 100, down…so goes the ticker on the S&P/TSX and Dow Jones Industrial Index….

Since the late 90s when the dot-com bubble burst to recent years' global financial crisis, this has become modern day main street news, you don't even need to dig deep into the financial sections or watch BNN to hear it anymore.

Whew!  Queasy yet?  Stressed out?  Welcome to Bay Street, Canada's Wall Street.  Now imagine what it would be like if you worked in the Financial Industry like I do?! 

That's my day job so I don't need to imagine.  How do I survive and not lose all my hair from the stress?  One of my secrets is ….TEA.  

William E. Gladstone once said: "If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited, it will calm you.”

So it is a blessing for us Bay Street types that Sloane Fine Tea Merchants has just launched a pop-up tea salon right in the heart of Toronto's Financial District.  Some readers may remember Hoda and Sloane Fine Tea Merchants from an earlier post.

Hoda founded their brand.  She is also a Tea Sommelier like me, a graduate from GBC and certified by the TAC.  In addition, she's done the U.S. Specialty Tea Institute program and studied perfumery in France.

As the weather gets colder I'm delighted with this new development in my neighbourhood.  You know you're going to get a beautifully blended cup of tea at Sloane.  A total delight for the senses!

The Tea Salon is located in the Commerce Court at King and Bay.  If travelling by TTC, your destination would be King Station, get out of the subway and head into the famed underground PATH and follow the sign for Commerce Court.

Two doors down from the Second Cup and among the "Heritage Row" of Commerce Court,

There you will find the elegant Sloane Fine Tea Merchants' Pop-Up

very pretty!  (wait till you see the packaging...)

A touch of luxury - Sloane's linen-embossed gift boxes
Like tiny bottles of French perfume, the tea samples are ready to be experienced
Sweet Violettas and Rococo Roses - sugared petal delights
  I spy something perfect for the chocoholic on my Holiday list...
For chocolate lovers, Sloane Tea Company collaborated with artisan chocolatier Laura Slack of Laura Slack Chocolate to create their special Amethyst collection of hand painted tea infused truffles.  I sampled them at a Tea and Chocolate tasting at the recent Canada Sweet Baking Show.  They were yummy!  I especially enjoyed the one infused with Oolong Crème.

The truffles are hand-made and were not ready for their close-up when I arrived on opening day.  I see another visit in the near future...
Hoda Paripoush
Sloane will be in Commerce Court for the next three months until the end February 2013.  They will be serving tea samples.  Starting next week, they will also have teas to go.

Holiday shopping season has just started, what perfect timing!  Head down to Sloane's and sample some of their many delicious teas.  Pick up a China Tea Treasury sampler or a caddie or two of teas for the tea lovers on your list.

Which tea will be your new favourite?  Will it be the signature Heavenly Cream?  The Jasmine Snow Dragon?  (two of my favourites)   Or perhaps the Cocoa Chai Chai?

Feel free to post a comment and share your delightful new find with us!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

O5 Tea + Kale & Nori = Cocktails, Tapas and Tea Event (An Impression)

On the lovely dry fall evening of October 17th,  my impromptu field reporter Drew Taylor walked into the O5 Rare Tea Bar in Vancouver as part of a birthday gift from me.  

 Some readers may recall Drew from a previous post, when my coffee drinking friend joined me at the Urban Tea Merchant for their Sakura Westcoast Tea Service.  Little did he know what he was in for as he took another leap into the world of fine teas.  

 What happens when you add a rare tea hunter, a creative mixologist, and a talented chef?   

A collaboration of fine teas, cocktails and culinary delights!   Pedro Villalon of O5 Tea, Lauren Mote and Chef Jonathan Chovancek of Kale & Nori Fine Culinary Arts joined together to combine each of their special talents and showcase the beautiful teas of Yunnan, China. 

You can find the full menu and tea influenced cocktail recipes here.

Drew's impression of the evening, in his words: 
"The drinks took the edge off the gathering and allowed the ensemble of tea enthusiasts to relax and meet while enjoying succulent dainties, all infused with many fine teas.  All the hosts were passionate, articulate and informed.  For the ticket price of $50, people definitely got their money's worth."

Photos by: Drew Taylor

Kale & Nori's line of bitters created by Lauren Mote

That's a matcha tea grinder on the left

Pistachio crusted turkey marble, Moondog spice, apricot - Moonlight tea puree (paired with the "Moonlight Desires")
"Moonlight Desires" (Gin & Marigold Flower Cordial with O5 "White Moonlight" tea syrup)

Kombucha Squash-tea emulsion, sherry-maple-pecan glazed pork belly (paired with the "Hekou-Lao Cai")
"Hekou-Lao Cai" (with Bison Vodka influenced by "Golden Curls" tea)
hmm, this must have been good, Drew had seconds!

O5 Tea Hunter - Pedro Villalon and Kale & Nori Chef - Jonathan Chovancek
Silver needles braised mushroom and rice croquette, wild ramp kim chi, green onion tofu aioli (a vegetarian addition to the menu paired with the "Misterios")
"Misterios" (Mezcal with Silver Needle & Rosemary Syrup component)
Silver Needles tea steamed Gulf Island mussels, Chinese sausage, Indian carrot pickles (also paired with the "Misterios")

 Sakekasu beef kababs, sweet & hot peppers, rockets, coronation raisin (paired with the "Ushky")

The "Ushky" (with a pu'er component)
Kale & Nori mixologist - Lauren Mote
O5 Tea Server (Kendra)  and Event Photographer (Issha Marie)

Teas from Yunnan - the Inspiration

 Oh snap!  I should have been there!  Maybe next time...