Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The It's Almost Christmas Tea

It has been about 10 years since I retired from a 23 year long career with Tupperware Canada.  I started when my kids were little and myself a stay at home mom.  At some point I needed to get out of the house and I joined the company.  First, as a consultant doing home parties, rising through the ranks,  and at the end I worked with Corporate and was in charge of some Kiosk programme in the malls.

Interestingly enough, it is because of Tupperware that I am a Tea Sommelier and created a side business whilst still working with the company.  I had earned a trip to Victoria BC, and was treated to my first Afternoon Tea.  I remember thinking, now wouldn't that be a great way of doing a themed Tupperware party and resolved to speak to headoffice about the idea.  Little did I know that we just gotten a new CEO, who came from the Darjeeling region and was introduction TEA and tea parties into our Tupperware portfolio.   My glass teapots are still from that time.

Serendipity I would call it, we worked out a great model for tea service within the party concept and at the same time I saw a workshop for High Tea at the local Chefs College, which I attended.  My background is in Hospitality and I always kept taps on what is "new" in the industry.  Out of that workshop, the Tea Sommelier Certification programme was born and I along with some of the ladies you met on my first blog were it's first graduates, after 2 years of studies.

For this tea I had invided my dear friend Aniheeta, who used to be my upline when I was still a consultant, and Surinder who was a colleague I worked with at the kiosks and Marie Therese, my team leader at Corporate with the kiosk programme.  M.T. as we call her lives now in Abu Dhabi with her husband and twin girls. Each year for Christmas they come home to Canada for a few weeks.  So we got together (without Aniheeta who had the flu) for an Afternoon Tea, the last of the series.

 Surinder is a Vegetarian, so I created a new sandwich for her  and M.T. had never experienced an Afternoon Tea, and I wanted her to have a memorable experience.

 Toasting to a long overdue reunion, we are off to a great start!

I had staged the table before they came, in case I had no time once they arrived.

This time the Tardis delivered the Kengsington Palace scones with golden sprinkles

Egg Salad Sandwiches

Hummus and Avocado and Lettuce

Cucumber Christmas Tree

Candy Cane Smoked Salmon

Watermelon an Chestnuts

I also served some hot vegetarian samosas

My desserts included some of my Christmas baking and Persian pastry.  I served Indian Chai with the sweets and regular Earl Grey with the Savories.

With this, my travels with the Tardis are at an end.  Aside from helping me host some very dear friends, it witnessed the collection of over 1000 purses filled with hygiene products and niceties that were handed out to Women Shelters all over York Region.  Also very much present each day as I rehearsed my lines for the upcoming production of The Vagina Monologues, another fundraising event, in which I will be presenting the Flood. Tardis was still in the house as we celebrated a wonderful Family Christmas.  

Now on its way to Calgary to the next Hostess where I am sure the Canadian adventure continues.

Happy New Year Everyone!
PROSIT 2016!

Tea and Quilts

Another Afternoon tea gathering was planned with some old and new friends... 6 in total, 3 got sick. I was especially pleased that Judith (this was a surprise tea for her) was able to attend. Judith is a friend, who used to be a client, many years ago.  Isn't it interesting how at times a client turns into a friend over a cuppa.   When I first met her, she was going through Chemo therapy and her friends surprised her with a tea that time as well.

She is healthy again and once in while she bemoans the fact that I no longer have a tea company to cater afternoon teas for her and her clients.  So I decided to have her over at my home and she brought her friend Donna.  I also invited Ana Paula, my Argentinian Camino friend who is an artist when it comes to quilting.  I asked her to bring some of her quilts and so she did and what a show and tell we enjoyed.

Let the Show begin.

Ana does traditional quilts, but she specializes in Art quilts.  Her technique is precise and she uses free hand machine quilting and embellishments to create her quilted paintings.

A combination of tradition and new.  The portrait has tiny tiny square.

Black and White quilting

 Memories of Japan, a few years ago she attended and International Quilt show and competition.

 Fairy garden
 The Lady in Green

Pilgrim on the Camino
Ana has plans to create 33 quilts depicting the 33 stages of the Camino Frances.  These quilts will be part of a quilt show in a park.  She aims to have this showing in Summer 2016.

 Oh that is one of her favorite quilts.. Marilyn Monroe.

In case you are wondering, YES we did get to have our afternoon tea. A festive table set for my friends.

Wonderful to see how much my 3 friends enjoyed each others company, I made the usual fare. Scones etc, Savories and Sweets and we drank some of the An Ji Bai Cha that I had left and the Golden Monkey tea.

This time, the Tardis truly became a part of the Afternoon Tea service.

Until next time, Sip a cup of sunshine, Sip a Cup of Tea.

The Tea Box

Most of you know that in 2009 I received my Certified Tea Sommelier Certification, being part of the first group of Canadian minted Tea Sommeliers.  During the intervening years I hosted Afternoon Tea events and oodles of Tea Tastings, which were and still are my favorite tea activity.

Each Spring, when the harvest is due, the anticipation rises until I get my hands on some of the newly plucked teas.  Luckily for me, I live in Toronto, where tea is "the thing".  Many of my tea colleagues have ties to Tea plantations and Tea gardens and so we all enjoy a yearly ritual of getting together and "tasting" the new crop.

This Fall I was asked to be part of a tea tasting experiment called the Tea Box.  I was given 6 teas to taste and rate and give a review. I was one of many and our results will be unveiled at the Toronto Tea Festival  this coming January 23/24.  

I thought you might enjoy this too and since the Tardis was handy, I stepped into it and off we went to the various locations.

We soon landed in Anji County in Zhejing Province in China.  This is where they grown and harvest my favorite green tea - An Ji Bai Cha from Tao Tea Leaf. This tea is often mistaken for a white tea because of it's pure taste and colour.  The leaves also have tiny white hair on it, hence the "Bai" in the name.  Bai means white. 

I love this tea, I can't get enough of it.  This modern cultivar was rediscovered in 1982, but has been around for a long time.  It is one of China's most prized tea.

I like to steep the tea in a glass pot, so I can see the leaves unfurl and slowly float to the bottom. I steep at about 90C and have a hard time waiting out the steeping time, which can be 5 plus minutes, unusual for a green.   Just before I cover the pot, I inhale the wonderful aroma of the tea.  

Btw, I do not waste the leaves, I put them into my vegetable soup... it is just another green  I add. 

Next stop Fujian Province in the Wu Yi Mountain region. we stop and taste Roui Gui Oolong Tea from Capital Tea.
This is a traditionally roasted bold long leaves tea that produces a strong flavourful tea liquor, a hint of chocolate and cassia cinamon bark. Earthy and holds up well to multiple infusions.  The wet leaves are almost black and the liquor a caramel brown.  It is slightly astringent, but quickly sweetens. 

I steep my Oolongs in an Yixing pot, I fill the pot half with the leaves and then pour boiling water to the rim, rinse quickly and add more water and within 30 seconds empty it into a pouring pot and then serve in tasting cups.  This is not a green Oolong, it has medium oxidation, just the way I like it.

Just around the corner, also on the famous Wu Yi Mountains, we sample one of the 5 "Rock teas". These teas are grown in rocky areas, making the mineral content of the soil much denser and this is what gives those teas their signature flavour.   Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) by Tao Tea Leaf, is a dark, heavy, oxidized Oolong.  Full bodied with a sweetness to it that reminds me of baked goods or molasses.

I steeped this one Gaiwan style. I first rinsed the leaves to awaken them and then my steeping time was about 1 minute with boiling water.  With each steeping I add about 5 seconds and this allows me to enjoy the full depths of what this tea has to offer.

Back in the Tardis, we travel quickly to the southern most tip of Chinas Yunnan province to the Jing Mai Mountain.  Here we find an area that produces Pu'erh tea. Tao's Imperial Puerh is a fantastic Shu or cooked Puerh.  Cooking Puerh originated as a way to imitate raw aged (Sheng) Puerh by exposing the processed leaves to hot and humid conditions accelerating the fermentation process.  This can take up to 2 months to complete.  

This Puerh is a full bodied tea, earthy and has woody notes with a thick rich finish.  It is a perfect fall and winter tea.  For me, a daily ritual, after dinner.  Especially during the festivities, when we consume so much heavy food.  I find it soothing and digestive.  

Every time I sip a cup of puerh, I remember my first ever tasting, - I spit out the tea, it was so aweful, it smelled and tasted like barnyard - it was a bad crop.  Puerhs are certainly an acquired taste, but over time, I have come to love it, so much, that in my possession I have now a 25 year old Sheng  Puerh, only to be served on special occasions and shared, well with me!  

Stepping back into the Tardis, I remember that I left some tea behind in Fujian, from the ZhenHe region, the famous Golden Monkey Black Tea.  This is a legendary black tea made from buds and youngs leaves that give you a sweet and gentle flavour.  The tea is sometimes compared to the Silver Needle, because it has a larger number of buds to leaves, but it is the age of the leaves that give the Golden Monkey it's sweetness, fruity, with nutty and floral undertones. 

This tea can be steeped in any vessel, I usually use a glass tea pot. It is a black tea, so full boil on the water and 1-2 minutes for the first 2 steeps and then 3-5 for the next ones.  

This is a China black, so no milk or sugar or other stuff added... Please... don't spoil it. Here you see it served in one my valued Golden Dragon china cups, the bottom so thin, you can glance at the Geisha. 

Last, but certainly not least, the Ruby 18 by Genuine Tea.  This is a Taiwanese Tea, harvested near the beautiful Moon Lake, it is a Gold Medal black tea and a hybrid between an Assamica and a native Taiwanese cultivar.  The leaves dark, long and wirey. Steep as you would a black tea, and it holds multiple infusions. 
Ruby 18 is coppery coloured liquid and has a fruity and caramel aroma with a hint of chocolate. Slightly astringent, but then mellows out and leaves a citrusy after taste.

I will be curious, if any of the teas I tasted will make the cut.  I certainly had an enjoyable time.  

Did you know the Tardis has a kitchen... well I discovered it just in time to finish my Christmas baking.  Here are some of my  creations.

Almost ready for the oven, Applestrudel and Rumball strudel

 Done and ready for the fridge for another tea time

 Making my Rumballs... golden starglitter... the right kind of sprinkles

I also baked Vanilla crescents and Hazelnut moons, Fruitcake clusters, Gingerbread, Macaroons, Walnut stars and Linzer Toertchen.

Landing safely back at home, I was ready for a well deserved Cuppa.

Until next time, try some of the teas mentioned... and you too will travel in time.

What happens when Tea Sommeliers get together for Afternoon Tea

The Tardis arrived with much noise and clatter. The noise due to my neighbour still doing some yardwork and the chainsaw sounded just like the noise the Tardis makes in the Dr. Who movies.

My husband and I have been Dr. Who fans for a long time, granted we enjoyed the old ones better than the new ones and we don't get to see most episodes anymore.  Nevertheless, it conjured up some fond memories of early married life.

I had been preparing my home for Christmas for a few days, in anticipation of having guest over for Afternoon Teas.  And my first travelers on board the Tardis were 2 of my fellow Tea Sommeliers - Momo and Rita.

Momo had just returned from Japan and brought with her some wonderful Matcha. Rita had just recently returned from living in Vancouver, gotten married and had a baby, so there was lots to chat about.

I found a wonderful little sleigh, that became the home for the Tardis during its stay in my home.

Here we are the 3 of us in front of my Christmas tree, about to take off into a wonderful tea adventure
Momo in the white top has her own online tea company and sells premium Japanese Tea, you can find her under Momo Tea on Facebook.  Rita is very much involved in Toronto Tea scene, especially with our upcoming Tea Festival in January.  

We started in my kitchen, where Momo expertly whipped up one of her premium Matcha. No ceremony, just everyday tea prep when one wants to enjoy a bowl.  

Proper temperature absolutely necessary, about 80 degrees C., I have a programmable tea kettle, so that is easy.  

The finished brew, it tasted fresh and oh so sweet, perfect, it didn't even make it to the table.... Yum we also had some Japanese sweets, which you taste ahead of time to give it the proper set up for the tea.


I had prepared my favorite scones, they always come out perfect and everyone loves them so very much.  To Eve's Kensington Palace scones, I added a touch of gingerbread seasoning as flavour and served Marmalade and Wildberry curd and of course Clotted Cream (imported from England). 
I added 3 more teas to it, pictures show two. With my savories I like to serve green and Oolong teas, I usually start with my favorite one, which is AnJiBaiCha.  (I have another blog post about it, so more later on those teas)


The third tea was a Genuine Tea Ruby 18 a native Taiwanese cultivar with an Assamica leaf. Perfect with sweets.

I have a lot of fun with my savories, especially when it is for a limited # of people, I like to decorate and create different styles.  

So let's start from the middle, the Lettuce wrap in the glass: Mango/Avocado/Daiko/Carrot with a poppy seed dressing - 2 bites and it was done.  

Then going clockwise:  Duck/Pear/Bluecheese with a touch of beetradish and a dot of cranberry; Smoked Salmon pinwheel with a bit of cream cheese/dill/caper; Egg Salad, I add a bit of hot mustard; then my signature sandwich, my Curry Chicken sandwhich, this time I added shredded Grany Smith apple into the mixture; Tuna with Avocado (instead of mayonaise) to round it out.

Top tier: Marzipan Stollen and Chestnuts
Middle tier: Marzipankartoffel and Gingerbread cake baked in a Christmas Tree form
Bottom Tier: my Applestrudel

Top: Vanilla Chai Macarons and my Rumkugel (rumballs)
Bottom: Tiramisu cakelets and Almond tartlet

I hope you enjoyed traveling with me and my friends.
Wroom wroom wroom until next time!  Ingrid

P.S.  I've had some trouble with the uploading of the pics and manipulating the script.  I hope the next blog will be a lot faster... I owe you a few more.

Lunch with our Disney Daughters

Yesterday I invited our four Disney daughters for lunch.  My husband and I enjoy chaperoning our high school choir trips to Walt Disney World.  Every three years, our choir director takes the sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  So, each student has the opportunity to go once while in high school.  The first trip was in December of 2003.  The students sang in the Candlelight Processional.  The last three trips have been in the spring and the choir performs at Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs).  We have a group of four to eight students each.  Every trip, I think I can not get a group that will be as fun as the last group, but each trip I seem to get a wonderful group of girls.   These four were my group from the last trip.  They have stayed in contact and are in college now.  While they were home for break, they wanted to get together.  
I moved the Disney Christmas tree from our bedroom to use as a centerpiece, along with some stuffed and plastic characters.  (We didn't drink tea, but the traveling teapot was part of the fun.)
Little Disney trinkets filled a take home goodie box.  I used our retro Disney cups and some Pooh plastic ware.
Our menu
I wasn't ready when they arrived, so I put them to work helping fix lunch.  They were wonderful help and knew their way around a kitchen.
Our Clubhouse sandwich makings
Minnie's Bow Pasta, Tinkerbell Wands and Finding Nemo Crackers
Arabian Night Stars and Mater's Dipsticks
One of my boys asked if I made a cake.  I asked why.  He said it was one of the girl's birthday.  They failed to mention that when they selected the date.  He quickly headed to a local bakery for a cake.  Her favorite character is Sully and he found a cake in those colors.  The baker quickly added a Mike and Sully ring.
Our planned dessert was decorated Mickey cookies.  The girls decorated them anyway, and saved them for later.
We played Settlers of Catan and a lot of cards.  (These girls are avid card players.  We didn't play on the trip, but they spend the week of our county fair at our camper playing cards - Thirteen, Kemps and Up and Down the River are their favorites - and work for a large group.)  We taught them a game they hadn't played before.  We have always called it Nertzi, but most just call it Nertz.  It turned into a 3.5 hour game.
They made me a couple goodies and a new Disney ornament for our tree.  These girls are talented!  It was a fun afternoon.

Sips and Smiles,
Teresa (Momma Mouse) and the Teapot