Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Chá's Launch Party

On evening of Saturday, February 23rd, my friend and fellow Certified Tea Sommelier, Raymonde and I joined a group of tea lovers at the Yoga Tree Midtown Studio for the launch of a new tea company called "Chá".   I was excited to see what a launch party for a tea company would be like.

Would it be like the stuff you see on ET Canada? or like those star-studded film premiere parties at TIFF?  I had no idea!...so off I followed the others into the studio, ready for anything...
The Yonge and Eglinton area yoga studio carries Herbal Infusions Tea Co.'s teas.  Herbal Infusions was featured in a previous post on a tea cocktail workshop, click here to read.  Yoga and tea, a great combo!
Ah, here we are!  Where's everyone? Are we early?  No, it says start time is 6pm on the ticket...it's almost 6:20pm now...
 This is what happens when the host runs late.  You get recruited to help set up...
  (Photo: Raymonde Drolet) 
 This is more like it, let the party begin!
Some of the yummy tea infused treats.  The matcha macarons from Ruelo Patisserie, mmm, so were the blueberry ones.  We didn't make it to the cupcakes from the Itty Bitty Bakery though.  If someone reading this was at the launch party too, please leave me a comment to tell me what kind of tastiness I missed...

Dan Johanis (one of the three founders of Chá) and friend at work mixing the tea cocktails for the crowd

Menu of the tea cocktails being served and some of the tea syrups used.  Not listed was one made with Toasted Almond tea.  I really enjoyed the lemon lavender one, it was like a fizzy lavender lemonade spiked with gin.
Tea cocktail recipes were created by Dan 

Matcha and fruit cake from Furama Cake and Desserts was delicious!
People lining up to do the quiz to find out what tea type they are. Once they know their tea personality, a box of teas fitting their profile will be sent to them each month for the duration of their subscription.

The three founders of Chá, David Zhang, Matthew Woo, and Dan Johanis (who is also the Founder of Herbal Infusions Tea Co.).  They announced that 20% of Chá's profits will be donated to a charity dedicated to bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations called Charity:Water.  A fitting charity since water is known as "the mother of tea" in ancient China, for without water, there is no tea.

A great idea with heart.  It's not only nice to see when businesses give back something to charity, but that they are being transparent, clearly stating the charitable organization and how much, so they can be accountable.
Getting close to my turn to do the quiz.  Some of the little boxes of gifts to the attendees (nice, we do get swag!)

Finally, my turn!  Wonder which cool profile I belong to...?
 The quiz
So apparently I am a Traditionalist.  (sounds kind of boring... I thought I'd be more Alchemist or Adventurist...)  Well, I do "appreciate a good cup of premium grade traditional tea"... "whatever your cup, you'll be right at home with a comfortable cup" mmhmm, okay, true.
"You would enjoy Chamomile tea", whoa, wait a minute, I don't like Chamomile...um, that can't be right, I want a redo on this quiz! 

Oh good, there's David.  Hey, David, need a word with you... 
from Chá's Facebook album
The contents of my little gift box (for the Traditionalist tea drinker). A fridge magnet, a little glass vial of English Breakfast tea, and a card describing how to steep the tea, suggested food pairing and how the tea is good for you.
This subscription box geared to your tea profile is a neat idea.  It sets them apart from some of the other monthly subscription tea companies already out there.  Especially for someone who's new to tea, who doesn't know what they'd enjoy or even where to start.  

It was a fun evening!  I'm glad I was part of a launch of a new tea company.  It was nice to catch up with a few familiar faces that were at the party too.  Congratulations and best wishes to  David, Matthew, Dan, and rest of the staff at Chá! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

CRFA Show 2013: The Search for Tea (Part 2)

After visiting AIYA Matcha in Part 1, I continued my search for more tea in the sea of aisles of restaurant equipment, packaging companies, foods and drinks at the CRFA Show.

Calibre (a packaging company)'s mascot posing for me

Chai Tea flavoured cheese. Ha! Tea is so hot that they're making tea flavoured cheeses!   It was not bad, spices with Monterey Jack cheese.  But I think I preferred the Jamaican Jerk Spice cheese (yumminess overcame me and I forgot to take a photo of it)

Numi Organic Tea (Numi means "citrus" in Arabic). Founded in 1999 by brother and sister team of Ahmed and Reem Rahim.  The latest addition to their line of premium organic, Fair Trade certified teas and tisanes is the 'Savory Tea".  As soon as I saw Numi I was excited to be able to taste these new veggie-spice tea blends that I had heard about...but, was told it's only available in the U.S.!  No!  Disappointed, I took my consolation sample of their Desert Lime tea and walked off.

Nope, not even candy could pick me up...
"This product may contain peanuts"...what? not tea?
I was in need of something more...and then I found it, TEA!  Something familiar like Sloane Fine Tea Merchants!

some of the many old fashioned perfume bottles of teas to check out
It was nice catching up with fellow Certified Tea Sommelier, Hoda (Director of Sloane) and her husband, Dean (CEO of Sloane).  Sipped samples of Sloane's Iced Crimson Berry, a delicious and refreshing berry and hibiscus tisane.  But I arrived at their booth late and missed out on samples of the new Almond Truffle.  I was looking forward to tasting that too!

They will be adding four new teas to their existing line.  These four flavours were specially commissioned by Heather Reisman and will be exclusive to Chapters Indigo.  You won't even be able to buy it online at Sloane's!  Dean said you can pick it up at their pop-up shoppe at Commerce Court (Glad to hear that their lease got extended 'til Mother's Day).

The four flavours are Cherry Blossom, Peaches & Cream, Chocolate Truffle, and Divine Creme.  They brought sample bottles of the Cherry Blossom and Peaches & Cream.  Peaches & Cream smelled good but the Cherry Blossom was a little too faint (most likely from bottle being opened so many times).

They will be launched in time for Mother's Day, so watch for them!
Close up of the Jasmine Snow Dragon tea
Elsa from King's Zen Tea recognized me from the Toronto Tea Festival and waved me over to their booth to check out some of their tea.

Some of their many Chinese teas and herbal blends.
Two of their top sellers are Lotus Leaf tea and Rose tea.  Rose tea is high in vitamin C , has an uplifting effect, is good for your skin, and you can read more about its benefits here.  Lotus leaf tea according to traditional Chinese medicine is good for colds and helps with weight loss and more.

Twisted Tea, a malt-based spiked iced tea with 5 % alcohol. There wasn't an overpowering alcohol taste, pretty smooth, subtle, lemon iced tea taste, kind of like a spiked Nestea.  Hmm, not bad, can I get another?

As I entered the tea pavilion, saw the familiar faces of Adi and Louise (President) of the Tea Association of Canada.
Photo: Raelene Gagnon
How delightful!  Tealish!  They have a great little tea shop with cheerful and friendly staff.  There is a sit down area where you can enjoy a well-made matcha latte or have it to go and enjoy some window shopping on the cool Queen Street West strip.  What a delish way to spend an afternoon.
They were showing off their new package design and new line of pyramid teabags, you'll see it out in a couple of  weeks or so.
Pleasant and refreshing

You are getting sleepy... zzz 

Oh good! some fragrant Earl Grey to wake me up  - still more tea to be found, can't rest yet!
Another familiar face!  Certified Tea Sommelier, Raelene Gagnon, of Tea and All its Splendour!  Tea and All its Splendour is a gourmet loose leaf tea company.  Their teas are in many cafes around town and some private labels carry them, including Trish Stratus's Stratusphere.  March is Mango Madness at Tea and All its Splendour featuring free shipping for orders within Canada for a limited time only!  So hurry and place your orders!

Finally I found the Teapigs that the reps from Tetley told me about!  Teapigs are a UK tea company that offer premium whole leaf tea in tea temples or sachets.  They are Rainforest Alliance certified, their tea temples/sachets are made of biodegradable corn starch, and their packaging is fully recyclable.  How nice!

I tried the Everyday brew (English breakfast), a blend of Assam, Ceylon and Rwandan. It was strong, balanced, malty, and a bit zesty from the Rwandan. Very interesting, I'd be curious to try some more of their teas.

Teapigs are set to launch in Canada this April in food services establishments.  Hmm, wonder which places have selected to carry Teapigs... if you spot them, please come back, comment and let us know!
These 6 are on their way to food service establishments in Canada in April
Oh my gosh! The motherload, look at all the teas at Metropolitan Tea's booth!

It was great to see how tea was represented in this year's CRFA Show.  With such a selection of fine tea companies to educate food service industry folks, hopefully we're not going to get presented with a wimpy teabag in tepid water at the end of a fine dining experience again.

After some more sniffing and examining of tea leaves, I was a happy girl and ready to leave...until I saw
Do I venture into Mexico?  With all it's tempting offerings? ...

Hmm, work tomorrow...better stick to tea for now.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tea Guild of Canada event: "Tea and Tales"

Tea Guild of Canada is a non-profit corporation that is dedicated to the fostering of excellence in the world of specialty tea.  As a member since its inception, I am happy to announce that we are presenting "Tea and Tales" at the historic Montgomery's Inn on Saturday, April 6th.  

Yes, we're at it again!  This will be a fun afternoon of tea and food pairings.  This year's theme of "Tea and Tales" will be like previous years, groups will be led through four station set up in various rooms of this beautiful and historical inn.  Tales about the social history of tea, tea ware, legends of tea, and afternoon tea will be told.  Various exquisite teas paired with delicious foods to be had!  

Seating is limited, so don't hesitate, call now to reserve your spot!  See you there!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

TeaTalk.ca (A new forum is born)


Hey everyone!

Just a quick announcement that there is a new tea forum out there!  It was just launched this week!  It is THAT NEW!  www.TeaTalk.ca  

It's not linked with any specific tea companies, just individuals who love tea.  Based in Toronto, but all from around the world are welcomed.

Tea newbies and experts alike are welcomed to come and share in all things tea.  Share your tea adventures with other tea lovers.  Learn more about tea, tea wares, meet other tea enthusiasts in your town and from around the world!

Why not be a part of history and become one of TeaTalk's first members!  Steep up your favourite tea, shimmy up to the virtual tea bar, and let's start some tea talking!  

Now back to finishing up my blog post on "CRFA Show 2013: The Search for Tea (Part 2)"...

Monday, March 11, 2013

CRFA Show 2013: The Search for Tea (Part 1)

Déjà vu

If you're thinking this looks familiar, you were probably with me on my adventure last year at the CRFA Show when I accidentally upset a certain famous wine person (I took tea into a wine tasting...bad idea! Tip: don't do this!).

The annual Canadian Restaurant and Food Show is a great chance for me to shake off the cobwebs from working long and busy hours of RRSP season.  A chance to venture out  and taste some wine, yummy food and of course teas, that our city has to offer.  

Let's see what we can find this year, any old faces, or new discoveries...?

Construction cranes, a familiar sight in our city
Here's something familiar, UrbanZen Tea!  I met John Palacios of UrbanZen Tea last year (you can read about it here).  Their natural, hand picked, whole leaf brewed iced teas are truly refreshing. They harvest the teas from their plantation in Taiwan twice a year.  Because they don't use anything artificial in their teas, it can take them up to two years to develop and perfect a new flavour.  They used the show to launch their latest flavour, Calamansi Lime (a cross between lime, kumquat and clementine) with aloe bits.  It had a  citrusy lime with a light tea taste, quite enjoyable.  Their Honey Jasmine is a nice one to try too.  UrbanZen can be found at local grocers or cafes, give it a try! 
John on the left with staff member showing off a top seller (Mango) and their newest flavour, the Calamansi Lime
Some of the yummy treats found...
Sweet, chewy macarons

Delicious olives
Tetley's here too!  One of the top selling tea brands in the world. Yes, there are LOTS of folks that like the convenience of a teabag.  This holds true especially in food services industry.  At least people are drinking tea!

Not all teabags are bad.  Shocker!  Gasp!  It's really what's in them that counts.  Is it full of tiny pieces of tea leaves? Or just the dust and fannings? Or whole leaves?  Some examples of good quality tea in a bag are Rishi Tea, Numi Tea, Mighty Leaf's to name a few.  

As people learn more about tea, companies like Tetley must up their game in order not to be left behind.  The fellas I spoke to at their booth told me that after years of prodding by the Tea Association of Canada, they may finally send one of their staff to take the tea sommelier courses! 

If you work in food services, drop me a line!  I can hook you up...

A classic in a new package
You can click here to see how the drawstring works.  It's cute!  No more drips, no need to use fingers or the back of a spoon to squeeze out the bag before tossing it out. 

It tasted a lot better than the usual Tetley teabag, so they must have up'd the quality of the leaves used in these drawstring bags. But, it is still a far cry from a high quality loose leaf tea.  So, they told me I should go check out 'Tea Pigs", a high end line that Tetley's handlers just launched in Canada.  So onward I go...

Gotta have cake! 
Dufflet has delicious cakes, pies and baked goods.  
 Latest addition to the Dufflet line, a "Two-person' cake.
The little chocolate cake with a purple flower on top serves two people perfectly.  
More tea! AIYA Matcha (according to their website, they are the #1 manufacturer in the world 
for over 120 years, wow!)

Bumped into fellow Certified Tea Sommelier, Ingrid Folkers, at the AIYA Matcha tea booth.  Ingrid walked the Camino de Santiago last fall! Pretty awesome!

Ingrid wasn't too keen on this, but I kinda liked it.  It was fun and tasty.
A neat way to introduce novice tea drinkers to  matcha.
 Plain Matcha - I was told they actually diluted quite a bit to cater to the taste of the attendees.  I would have liked to try it stronger to get a truer taste of their matcha.

Here's an interesting video on the history of AIYA and Matcha:

Beer and more treats as I continued on...

Hmm, I know there's more tea to be found... stay tuned for Part 2 where we'll encounter Sloane Tea, Tea Pigs,and  the Tea Association of Canada at the Tea Pavilion.