Monday, March 12, 2012

Tea at the CRFA show...and Getting Told Off by Georg Riedel

After the long, busy work season (aka Canada's RRSP season), last week I slowly crawled my way out of the office in search of some fun tea adventures.  I heard the CRFA show was on at the Direct Energy Centre.  Taste some food, wine, and of course, tea!  I'm in!

So I hop on the Bathurst 511 streetcar that'll take me to CNE grounds along the lake shore of Lake Ontario.

The event was huge!  Everything related to food services industry could be found!  All sorts of food, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcohol), equipment, glassware, dishes, even cooking demos by celebrity chefs Anna Olson and David Adjey!

I found out that The Tea Association of Canada had a Tea Pavilion with short talks on teas and its use in cooking, so that was a must to check out.  En route to the Tea Pavilion, met up with the very enthusiastic John Palacios of UrbanZen Tea and his partner, Alice Yu.  UrbanZen tea is real, freshly brewed from whole leaf green tea with various juices and sweetened with cane sugar.  Their tea is sourced from the high mountain tea plantations of Taiwan and bottled in Canada.

As John explained to me, the "zen" part of the company's name comes from the peaceful, zen-like state one can experience from drinking high quality Taiwanese tea.  They wanted to introduce that "zen" to us city folks, hence the "Urban" part of the name.

Alice Yu and John Palacios
I tried a sample of their honey jasmine tea and quickly knew this ain't no Nestea... the tea was pleasant, tasted of infused green tea, and a faint jasmine scent. It wasn't overly sweet like some other big name iced tea brands in the market, it was quite enjoyable.  I can see myself drinking this on a hot, summer day.  I would have liked to stay longer and sip some more samples, but was rushing to catch a tea chat at the tea pavilion a few aisles over, so off I went...

... And here is the Tea pavilion,

Tea and cooking chat

Tea Association of Canada's Riley Richman and President, Louise Roberge
with President, Louise Roberge


Certified Tea Sommelier, Raelene Gannon of Tea and all its Splendour spoke about ways to add tea into cooking.  Examples were adding the steeped liquor to sauce, grinding up tea leaves, smoking food with tea.  Her company launched a new product called "essence du thé" that can make cooking with tea even easier.  The name says it all; there are six essences of the tea made from a variety of tea leaves steeped in alcohol ... who needs vanilla anymore?!!  You basically use it the same way you would use vanilla.  Instead of regular shortbread cookies, use the essence du thé creme earl grey, and you've got earl grey shortbread cookies!

I tried all six and really liked the essence du thé acerola cherry & fig and the essence du thé pumpkin creme rooibos.

with Raelene Gannon of Tea and all its Splendour

A couple of new tea companies were also at the Tea Pavilion:

There was Sukash Teas, launched in November 2011.  Sukash Teas currently offers organic tea bags, their loose leaf and organic tea lines are geared for launch in May.  The president, Shankar Muthusamy, informed me that they are the first to use the Tea Association of Canada's new "anTEAoxidants" symbol on their packaging.

Also Certified Tea Sommelier, Linda Budd's Tealchemy.  Her line of products will be coming soon online in April 2012. 

Linda Budd (right)

There were more tea companies to be found once I left the Tea Pavilion, such as Tetley, Mighty Leaf tea Co., The Metropolitan Tea Company,

and Toronto's own The Tea Emporium.  Sabnam and Frank Weber's tea company has been offering quality loose leaf tea for many years.  Last November, they opened a new location inside the Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens , which is on my list of places I have to go visit real soon!

Frank Weber and helper at The Tea Emporium's booth

"Oh my!  So pretty, felt like we stepped into Paris!"  Sloane Tea Company, is definitely among the finest loose leave tea companies around.  Their tea is sourced and blended by Tea Sommeliers; with Certified Tea Sommelier, Hoda Paripoush, at the helm. 

Hoda Paripoush of Sloane Tea Company

Hoda was one of my classmates at George Brown College and we graduated from the Certified Tea Sommelier program together in 2009.  She has also studied perfumery and applied some of its theories to blending her teas.  Perfumes have top, middle, and base notes, so too do her teas.

I've had the pleasure of tasting quite a few of her teas and they are fine indeed.  Exquisite.  Available online, at selected retailers, and from April on, at Indigo too!  Do try the "Heavenly Cream" blend, mmm!

As a Certified Tea Sommelier, I am constantly in the process of learning new things and training my palate. So, when I found out that Georg Riedel, president of Riedel Glassworks (world renowned wine glass maker), would be doing a special seminar on wine tasting and his wine glasses, I was in!  I thought that could be very educational to see how different glasses can affect the taste of different wines.

Coincidentally, The World Tea Expo in Las Vegas will be offering a "Focused tasting" course called "Taste the Difference - Different Cups for Different Teas".  I can check out how different glasses effect the taste of wine today, and then check out its effect on tea in June?  What an idea! 

So after the visit through the Tea Pavilion, it was time to head over for the seminar.  With the long line up, I was happy I stopped by the Mighty Leaf Tea booth to grab a cup of tea.  Soon, the door opened, I walked into the big hall, and found a seat at one of the long tables.

I put down the paper cup of tea, and took off my puffy winter coat... when I noticed a finger pointing at my tea and this man in the stern, but polite, voice said to me, "This is competition, you have to take it out of here".

"What?  Excuse me?" I thought to myself, not fully registering what just happened.  I automatically started to apologize to the man.  I grabbed my still hot tea, and started walking towards the exit to get rid of the "contraband" liquid.

Instinctively, I looked back to have a better look at who that guy was... he was a distinguished looking, older gentleman in a very nice suit... hmm, he looks familiar... I walked some more and kept looking back at him... Oh my gosh!  It finally dawned on me... that was Georg Riedel!!  Umm, I just got told off by the head of Riedel Glassworks?!

Georg Riedel

Riedel wine tasting set, wine, and chocolates

Wow, it's not every day one gets told off by the 10th generation head of a 250 year old company!

Imagine that, tea's the competition...?!!