Posted by: Lauren | August 10, 2016

Tea in the Netherlands and Belgium

This post is almost a year late… but better late than never?

Last year I visited Holland and Belgium, and obviously some tea shops… I’m going to share a few of my favourites.

One of my favourite cities that I visited while in the Netherlands was Haarlem, where I discovered probably the best tea shop I have ever been to. The shop is called The Art of … Tea, Herbs and Spices. I was in heaven. It was hard to choose what to buy, but one of my favourites I picked up is Het Palet van Rembrandt – a green rooibos.


Look at all that tea! HEAVEN!

The Tea Bar was also a fun find. I learned this shop uses some of the same tea suppliers as David’s Tea… just a little further away!

Another favourite was Four Leaves. This was a great spot for a rest after a long bike ride in Amsterdam. I love the Carpe Diem rooibos blend I picked up there.


A lovely spot… especially after an exhausting bike ride

I didn’t stop there though….Simon Lévelt was a great chain I found. I’m a huge fan of the Honeybush Mango Lemon.

Wait… there’s more. ‘t Zonnetje was another great one in Amsterdam. This tea shop is in a building from the 17th century and has some great charm. The guy in the shop was great to talk to. Very cool!

Oh but there’s still more… judging me yet?

In the Hague I discovered Wijs & Zonen, yet another charming tea shop. My favourite from there was a green tea called Hemels.

I haven’t even gotten to Belgium yet…

In Brussels I visited Palais Des Thes, a favourite of mine after discovering it in Paris a few years back. Thé des Alizés is awesome – a peach flavoured green tea.

I also stumbled across  Betjeman & Barton another Paris company. I do believe I visited the location in the Hague, but there are locations worldwide, including Belgium as well.

My next stop is Spain, so if anyone knows any teashops there, I will be happy to investigate…

Until then I better make some room for new teas!

Posted by: Lauren | May 10, 2016

Pickles Made with Tea!

I made pickles with tea! In January, I visted the annual Toronto Tea Festival. I enjoyed some talks on tea, visiting tea booths and of course trying a lot of tea! Now, you’re probably wondering what pickles have to do with the Tea Festival! At the festival, I picked up a cooking with tea recipe book called Hot Tea: Cooking with Camellia Sinensis by Suzanne Catty.

One of the first recipes that caught my eye was for pickles. Confused at first, I learned tea can keep pickles crunchy! How? Those tannins found in tea (which are also found in wine… hmmm… wine pickles….). Tannins are naturally occurring polyphenols.

They were quite delicious. Mine turned out a bit sweeter than expected, so I may cut back on the sugar the next time I make them and I also plan to experiment with a garlic version. I also used baby cucumbers sliced in half as a substitute, so mine look a bit different than they would if I used the English cucumbers the recipe calls for.

Anyways, the recipe is as follows and is taken directly from page 20 of the book (Catty, 2015).



The final product!

Hope you’ll give the recipe a try and let me know what you think. Happy pickling!

Posted by: Lauren | November 6, 2015

The Wonders of Kombucha

One of my new favourite tea obsessions is kombucha – and I feel like I’m one of the last to the party. After discovering kombucha, and learning how much it is to buy a bottle (3 – 6 dollars), I decided to brew my own “buch”. There are tons of sites on how to brew kombucha, so I won’t get into too much detail on how to brew kombucha here. To find out more about brewing visit Cultures for Health. In a nutshell, you brew unflavoured tea (oolong, black and green work great) in sugar water. After the mixture cools down, you add the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and you’re good to go! After 7 – 30 days the brew is ready and you have kombucha. If you are going to attempt a brew, make sure you follow the ingredient ratios very closely as listed on the different sites.

After brewing comes the fun part – flavouring the kombucha. My favourite, quick way to do this is to create a 20 percent juice, 80 percent kombucha mix. Grape juice is my favourite. Bottling it in a Grolsh style bottle and leaving it on the counter for a few days makes a wonderful, fizzy flavour of kombucha. Apple juice mixed with cinnamon makes a delicious applie pie flavour. Of course, plain kombucha is also great. And for a subtle flavour, some freshly squeezed lemon and orange goes a long way.

So why kombucha anyways? It is kind of weird right – drinking a tea that fermented via bacteria and yeast. Mainly, I’m doing it for the taste. It’s a wonderful alternative to other types of beverages. It’s a great, quick drink to have in the morning for a fast jolt of caffeine. It’s been enjoyed by many for years, and has been dubbed the “elixir of life.” Some call it almost a cure all – for all types of ailments, such as pain, digestion and hangovers. I can’t say I have noticed any changes since I have began enjoying kombucha, but there is tea in it, so there is no denying there are benefits within the drink.

If you haven’t tried kombucha yet – give it a shot. It’s not too difficult to find these days, and almost all health food stores will most likely have some bottled kombucha in a variety of flavours.

My first big batch of kombucha brewing – I have since switched to a 1 gallon jar with a nozzle for a continuous brew system.

Posted by: Lauren | August 10, 2015

Great Tea from The Chai Palace

I was recently sent some teas from The Chai Palace, an online tea store, to sample and they were all fantastic! Blends are based on family recipes and are craft-blended in small batches. Currently, The Chai Palace is shipping across Canada with plans to start shipping in the United States.

First, I have to mention how beautifully these teas came packaged to me. It’s all in the details, and I definitely love these ones.


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The Jasmine Green Tea was great. The recommended steeping time was 3 – 5 minutes, though I do recommend steeping around 3 to avoid it becoming too bitter. I love how the jasmine in this tea isn’t overpowering, and balances the green tea perfectly.

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The Classic Chamomile Tea was my favourite. The ingredients include lemongrass, chamomile, orange peel and peppermint. As someone who doesn’t normally drink chamomile, the flavour of this tea was a welcomed surprise. The first word I thought of after my sip was “buttery”. The smooth, deliciousness of this tea is great – and I highly recommend it. The flavours come together to create the perfect blend – with the chamomile making it a fantastic calming cup of tea. Don’t let the term “classic” fool you – this is definitely a unique chamomile blend that’s worthy to belong in all tea collections.

The Lemon Mint Chai is also a great blend – how can you go wrong with two types of mint. A mix of green tea, peppermint, spearmint and lemon peel, Lemon Mint Chai proves to be a delicious green tea. I’ve always loved minty teas, and the lemon peel in the blend is a great way to emphasize the flavour of the mint. This will for sure be one of my new go to minty flavoured blends.

2015-08-10 14.13.16Overall, the three teas that I sampled were amazing. I highly recommend giving The Chai Palace a chance and sampling some of these teas for yourself. Definitely pick up some Classic Chamomile Tea!

Posted by: Lauren | June 12, 2015

Four O’Clock Summer Teas

My poor neglected blog has been looking for some inspiration, and I finally have some! I received some wonderful Four O’Clock tea samples from Trans-Herbe, just in time for summer. The summer 2015 flavours include: Rooibos Pineapple Coconut, Cucumber Mint Green Tea, Fruit Sangria Herbal Tea, Orange Sorbet Herbal Tea, Strawberry Daiquiri Herbal Tea and Pink Lemonade Herbal Tea. While I usually talk about loose leaf teas, these tea bags were quite great. The first thing that caught my eye was the amazing artwork on the bag – which was created by Montreal artist Bruce Roberts.


These teas are great cold, hot and of course, in cocktails. Trans-Herbe has provided me with some wonderful cocktail recipes as well that are inspired by mixologists Marc-André Fillion and Lawrence Picard, check out the recipes here. So far I have experimented with the Green Spirit and Sangria – both which were delicious.

The Cucumber Mint Green Tea is amazing. I tried it both hot and cold, and it’s great each way. The first thing I thought when I took a sip was how juicy it tasted. I’ve never really used the word juicy for a tea – but this one definitely was! It also made a great cocktail – the Green Spirit was an extremely refreshing summer drink that I can’t wait to keep making again and again. This is definitely a guest impressing beverage.


The Fruit Sangria Herbal Tea was a little bit on the tart side, but added super flavours to the Sangria Cocktail I put together. I only had unsweetened cranberry juice on hand, so my cocktail was a little too tart – but with some sweetened cranberry juice this cocktail is golden. The herbal tea in the Sangria adds a lot of depth to the cocktail.


I also iced the Pink Lemonade Herbal Tea. This one was also quite tart (which I actually really enjoy), and perfect in a cold form. Some sweetener would definitely make this a much better alternative to the extreme sugary lemonades you can buy in stores.


More to come as I keep experimenting with some cocktail recipes!

Posted by: Lauren | February 6, 2015

The Third Toronto Tea Festival

Last weekend (Jan 31 – Feb 1, 2015) marked the 3rd anniversary of the Toronto Tea Festival, and of course my third visit. Overall, the festival was great! I go every year with my dad – a fellow tea nerd. This year we decided to get there super early to avoid the lines and crowds that are growing with the popularity of the festival. When we got there right at the opening, there was already a line to get in and a crowd inside. When we left in the afternoon it was mobbed, so despite the morning crowd it was still better than the afternoon. Crowds of tea lovers are much nicer than other types of crowds so it wasn’t too bad, but it still may be nice to see a larger venue in the future.

And of course, we shopped, because obviously I needed more tea… right? (If anyone has any storage tips I would LOVE to hear some ideas… my tea “bookshelf” is out of space!)

So what did I get?…

At Lemon Lily I picked up some Cafe Caramel Pu-erh. Love it! A great blend with that added kick from espresso beans. Lemon Lily offers extremely reasonable prices and some delicious flavours.

Café Caramel Pu-erh

I also stopped by the Riston booth and picked up some of their famed Milk Oolong. Riston is a wholesaler company, but always comes to the Tea Festival and sells out of their delicious Milk Oolong. This is one of my favourite types of teas, and Riston definitely does it justice.

At Momo Tea I purchased some yummy Hojicha – a roasted green tea. Once upon a time I had a creme Hojicha that I loved, so I was happy to pick up a new Hojicha tea. Momo, who is behind Momo Tea, was great to talk to at the festival!

I of course stopped by Basilur – I’ve been enjoying their inexpensive tea for a few years now. Their tea is delicious and wonderful, with extremely reasonable prices. Depending on the flavour, you can get a box of 100 g of loose leaf for as low as $3! My favourite has always been the winter cranberry flavour, but this time I went for Tea Book Volume 1 – a black tea flavoured with jasmine and almond.

The Peru booth was also great. Having visited Peru last year, I was stoked to see Peru represented. I picked up a new smoothie recipe too – almond milk, cooked quinoa, cacao and vanilla. So good!

Teabot was definitely a highlight at this year’s festival. The following is from teaBOT’s website, describing the company: “We make personalized loose-leaf tea through robotics. Ever find yourself craving that perfect cup of tea on-the-go? Our automated kiosks blend, bag, and serve your tea your way.Whether you’ve mastered your blend or are trying something new, your custom cup of tea is just a tap a way. Use our app to perfect and order your recipe, see what’s trending, and share your personaliteaTM.”


The teaBOT!

It’s so cool and such a great idea! I’m looking forward to seeing some of these teaBOTs throughout Toronto. TeaBOT was giving visitors a chance to make their own blends and take some home in loose leaf format. When it launches, teaBOT users will be able to pick flavours and have a cup to go. And, one of the coolest parts – you can plan the blend out on the app and scan it when you arrive at the teaBOT.

My flavour I of course named after my blog – Steeped in Tea, it was a combination of Chocolate Mate (40%), Strawberry Hibiscus (10%) and Nutty Caramel (50%). So good!

Bare English & Co., where I usually stop by to pick up some tea infused lip balm, was previewing their new hand and body butter. The all natural Passion Fruit cream is great! Looking forward to seeing the rest of the line when it comes to stores, and especially looking forward to the unscented cream that will be offered. For now, check out the varieties of lip balm flavours on their website.

Last, but not least, I also discovered what Kombucha is at the festival. I’m not sure why it took me so long to discover Kombucha – a fermented tea beverage. It’s fermented using a “SCOBY” – a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Pekoe Kombucha Bar was at the festival sampling their Kombucha, and it’s amazing! Dan Johanis’ talk at the festival was great, and has inspired me to start my own home brewing of Kombucha – stay tuned for more posts about this soon!

These are just a few mentions, there were a lot of other fantastic tea vendors at the festival.

A great third year at the Toronto Tea Festival – and now a lot of work to do. And by work I mean tea to finish off!! And some home brewing to start too!

My overflowing Tea Festival bag!

Posted by: Lauren | December 4, 2014

“The truth about tea”

I stumbled across the below article a little while back, and it was so great I thought I would post the whole thing right here. This is exactly what I have been saying for years! And it’s not too late to join in on the wonder of loose tea. The original article can be find here from the Washington Post.

Tea might become your favorite hot beverage, if you ditch the little bags

 October 21  

Tea is the second-most consumed beverage in the world, after water. But it is a second-class citizen in our nation of hot-liquid drinkers, no matter how much the tea numbers are trending upward. That’s surprising, considering that tea — green as well as black — was the go-to refreshment in America long before colonists dumped 340 chests of it into Boston Harbor. Contrary to popular opinion about a patriotic grudge that sent people on a coffee quest, they kept drinking tea after the Revolutionary War, too; they still had the pots and brewing paraphernalia.

These days, the tea bag rules here and in England. Problem is, it’s the coffee equivalent of instant granules. We can do better, America.

Nonetheless, Bruce Richardson sees progress. “We are enjoying a tea renaissance right now,” says the author of 14 books on tea and the owner of a tea wholesale business in Danville, Ky. (Also bullish: Starbucks, hence its 2012 acquisition of the robust Teavana chain.) He is convinced that 20-year-olds are getting hip to leaves, coming in to sample single-plantation varieties and blends at his tea bar. “They appreciate the health aspects. . . .When they want to stay up late to read, they should be drinking tea” — not coffee, he says with a paternal air.

Perhaps that’s because of tea’s comparatively mild jolt. Typical brewed black teas contain about one-third the caffeine found in coffee (55 vs. 150 milligrams in an eight-ounce serving), yet there’s a contradiction in the cup, as Richardson puts it. True Camellia sinensis, or tea leaves processed differently to create black, oolong, white and green teas, contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps the brain to simultaneously relax and concentrate. In other words, a little buzz with focus. No wonder tea drinkers feel good about pouring four to six cups per day.

Ask a coffee aficionado what he doesn’t like about tea, and the response might be the same as when the question is turned around for a tea lover: bitterness. Although the reasons for bitter coffee are various, the cause of bitter tea is more likely a matter of over-steeping, which might entail using water that’s too hot as well as letting the infusion go on too long.

Which leads back to the tea bag, really. Ever since its invention in early 20th-century America, the tidy packet has simplified teamaking. Hands-on prowess with loose-leaf tea has become rare — akin to the mid-century era when Americans’ embrace of convenience foods begat a decline in their kitchen acumen. And the quality of the tea in the bags has been unreliable.

Tea brewed via tea bags accounted for more than 65 percent of all tea consumed in the United States in 2012, according to the Tea Association of the USA.

“I just don’t get it,” says Linda Neumann, co-owner with Michelle Brown of the four Teaism shops in the Washington area. “I think if more people took the time to steep and strain instead of dunk and dash, the world would be a better place.”

Not a surprising position for her to take, given Teaism’s exclusive trade in loose-leaf teas and tisanes, which are herbal infusions (not real tea). However, quality is at the heart of the matter. What’s in tea bags “doesn’t come close to the quality of loose-leaf tea. It’s just not of value,” Neumann says. Walk into their Alexandria restaurant and shop, for example, and you can plunk down $15 for a mere 2 ounces of Jinzhen, a Chinese black tea with golden-tipped leaves and a light chocolate aroma in its brew. That works out to about 80 cents a cup. Affordable.

“People think loose-leaf tea is too hard,” she says. “But tea is really very simple.”

Tea has been closely associated with medicinal use and health benefits for centuries. In the past decade or so, consumers have sought out green tea, drawn to its antioxidant properties and studied ability to help prevent cardiovascular disease. So it stands to reason that the full potential of loose-leaf green teas would be preferable to tea bags that can contain little more than tea “dust,” or fannings.

Still, the tea has to taste good to keep you interested day after day, which is why sampling and reading descriptions that act like wine shelf talkers will go a long way toward your personal tea education. There are blends with winelike complexity. Committed tea drinkers will go with an eye-opening black tea in the morning and midafternoon, then switch to something milder, decaffeinated or herbal — officially a tisane, not tea — in the evening.

Getting familiar with tea brewing basics is key. Black teas are steeped with hotter water than green teas, and each type of tea has a recommended range of steeping times. A good tea shop will include specifics on each package, so there’s no need to commit the information to memory.

Experts prefer stainless-steel strainers with deep wells rather than tea balls or chambered teaspoons, so the loose-leaf tea has more room to expand or bloom as it steeps, for optimum flavor. Some teakettles have markings that allow for matching water temperature to tea variety. Travel tumblers and cups for the office sport built-in strainers designed to sit on built-in resting pads.

And there is an acceptable alternative to the commercial tea bag: filling your own. Look for individual, biodegradable tea filters made of simple porous paper that are long enough to drape over the edge of a cup. They take seconds to put together. Pyramid-shaped tea sachets (also biodegradable) are gaining in popularity, as well — a good choice that allows the leaves some room to steep.

Posted by: Lauren | October 29, 2014

Bella Sabatina Tea Shoppe

I recently discovered a new(ish) tea shop in Toronto called Bella Sabatina Tea Shoppe located near Avenue and Lawrence. It’s a fun little shop, and I picked up a couple new teas… of course.

The site reads: “Bella Sabatina Tea Shoppe represents a new concept in the pleasurable tea experience bringing you hand picked teas from the best companies all in one beautiful upscale location.” Based on the two I picked up, I would defiitely agree that the teas are great.

I am absolutely loving the Lychee Peach black tea from Bella Sabatina. This tea is definitely up there as one of my favourites in my tea collection now.


The Cinnamon Plum herbal is also great – and super cinnamony, perfect for fall.


Check out the shop if you are in the neighbourhood. Some of the teas cost a bit more than I typically spend, though the ones I picked up were in a fair range. Overall, a good selection, though as a flavoured herbal fan I would have liked to have seen more rooibos and mate varieties.

Posted by: Lauren | August 25, 2014

Tea Time!

I went a little overboard a few weeks ago making some tea treats!

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The cupcakes and cookies were so delicious that it’s only fair that I share the recipes!

The matcha icing for the cupcakes was one of my favourite parts. It was so creamy, buttery and delicious:

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tbsp whipping cream
  • 1 heaping tbsp matcha

Frosting: In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, blend together sugar, butter and matcha. Keep mixer on a low speed until ingredients are blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. (Note: I used a hand mixer and it worked).

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

The recipe for the actual cupcake came from here. I used a different blueberry white tea. Next time I would probably brew it much stronger as the flavour was very weak in the cupcake (though still yummy!).

The cookies were from Sweet Beet & Green Bean. I used a raspberry black tea for the recipe. Next time I would probably use a stronger tea for this recipe as well, but they were still quite delicious. I didn’t follow the icing part for this recipe, and instead made a simple Royal Icing mixture using Meringue Powder.

The tea cookie cutouts were purchased on AmazonAmazon also has a variety of teacup cupcake moulds. I also found a set by fluke at a dollar store (Dollarama).

Happy brewing and baking! 

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!

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