Category Archives: Drinks

Tea Time: Ti Kuan Yin Oolong (Review)

Well, I finally got to visit the tea shop My Cup of Tea again, after having been away from Montreal for a year. You would think that in Korea I could have visited some nice tea sMy Cup of Teahops and tasted some interesting teas, but though I went to a tea expo, it seemed to be less about tea and more about crockery.

My Cup of Tea

In any case, I wanted to pick up some of their Milky Oolong, which I hadn’t tasted in a long time, so I headed over to China town, where the shop is located on St. Laurent. The staff was helpful as always, and you’re free to smell thMCOT tease tea samples. The boxes of teas also look colourful and inviting. While I was there, I decided to pick up a box of ginseng oolong, which I had already tried, as well as a box of Ti Kuan Yin oolong.

Ti Kuan Yin

This tea is a few dollars pricier than their other teas, at $18 for 100g as opposed to $15, and it is limited edition. When considering the price, however, one should keep in mind that these types of premium, whole leaf, hand-rolled teas can be re-steeped up to 3 times.

Ti Kuan Yin (back)

Ti Kuan Yin (front)

The Chinese Goddess of Mercy

According to the package, this tea is named after the Chinese goddess of mercy, and Kuan Yin is short for Kuan-shi Yinwhich means “observing the sounds (or cries) of the (human) world.” IN one legend, Kuan Yin sets out to save all sentient beings from their unhappy plight. However, since there were so many people who needed to be saved, she struggled so to comprehend their suffering that her head split into eleven pieces. When the budda saw what had happened to her, he gave her eleven heads. After that, she tried to reach out and help all of the beings who were struggling. However, since she only had two hands, they shattered into pieces. Again, the budda helped her, giving her one thousand arms.

While I’m not quite sure what the goddess has to do with this tea, I do enjoy reading such legends.

Taste

This tea has a rather delicate, mild flavour. It does carry a hint of Ti Kuan Yin (leaves)sweetness, but I wouldn’t really describe it as floral. I’d like to try it iced after over steeping it a bit, as I think that may help to draw out its flavour. Ti Kuan Yin does have an interesting mouth-feel and its delicate taste does linger on the tongue, as is described on the box.

Well, ’til next time…enjoy your cup of tea!

Cocktail Hour: Romeo’s Gin (Review)

Romeo's gin 1st edition
Romeo’s gin 1st edition

Wow, exciting things have been happening on the Quebec gin front since I’ve been abroad. Yet another new gin from la belle province has made its way onto store shelves…and this one is even being marketed as ‘Montreal Dry Gin’. What a great time it is to be a Montrealer…well, if you overlook the struggling economy, bad weather, and ever-present language tensions. Still, I’m glad to be back in the city after a year of pining for cheese, bread, beautiful churches, and artichokes. As an added homecoming bonus, this gin is good enough to help you forget your worries…Romeo’s martini, anyone?

Romeo’s Gin: Background Info

Romeo’s gin comes from the maker of Pur Vodka, entrepreneur Nicolas Duvernois. After realizing that the restaurant business wasn’t for him, but that vodka was very popular, he decided to look into producing his own. Pur vodka, at the time it came out (in 2009), was the only vodka made in Quebec, and is to date the most-awarded Canadian vodka. Another Quebec vodka has since come out (in 2014), Quartz vodka.

Romeo’s gin was released to the public sometime between December 2015 and January 2016. I’m not sure what inspired Nicolas to choose gin as his next project, but I’m glad he did, since it is one of my favourite types of spirit. I’m also not sure what the story behind its name is…when I asked the question on their Facebook page, I received the following reply: “We called it romeo’s gin because of several reasons… But mostly because it’s a love story between Montreal, gin and art !”

MoZ
Mo’Z

This brings up the next point which makes Romeo’s Gin cool and unique, its link with art. The original design of the bottle features a logo and a work of art, Mo’Z done by a local (Montreal) artist, Stikki Peaches. The logo is to change every year, and next year and for every year thereafter, the distillers plan on creating two different logos, one featuring  a local artist and one featuring an international artist. It’s certainly a great idea, one which will no doubt help to achieve Nicolas’ goals of democratizing art and promoting local artists. He has additionally created a foundation called Romeo’s which aims “to preserve, democratize and modern[ize?] art.” 50 cents from the sale of each bottle of gin will go to said foundation.

Romeo’s Gin Flavour

Romeo's gin gibson
Romeo’s gin gibson

The main aromatics which were chosen to flavour Romeo’s Gin are juniper, cucumber, dill, lavender, almond and lemon. When I smelled it, I was only able to detect the juniper scent, which told me it was, indeed, gin. When I tasted it on its own, it tasted strongly of cucumber. After mixing it with vermouth in order to make a martini, I was able to taste, in addition to the cucumber, a floral flavour from the lavender and a nuttiness from the almonds. The almond seems to give it a slight bitter finish, which I’m not sure I like, but it does seem to be growing on me. On the whole however, it is an excellent gin with a unique flavour, and tastes very fresh and smooth. Though the cucumber taste is predominant, as in Hendrick’s gin, its flavour is different and distinctive. It’s no wonder they have just walked away with their first award, a double gold metal, which they received from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (2016).

‘Til next time, cheers to Montreal, art, and Romeo’s Gin!

 

Review: Brasserie Dieu du Ciel’s Rescousse (to the Rescue)

Dieu Du Ciel- 'Rescousse' boxDieu Du Ciel- 'Rescousse' bottleA local beer whose brewers will donate 66 cents for every six-pack sold to the Fondation de la faune du Quebec?  And which boasts this nature-goddess-like figure on the box?  How could I resist?

Described as an altbier (which is German for ‘old beer’), it is a style of beer brewed using top-fermentation.  This rousse boasts a surprisingly bitter finish with notes of chocolate and coffee…something one doesn’t usually find in red beers.  And there’s a a short poem on the box.  Awesome!

‘Till next time…cheers!

Restaurant Review: Bier Markt

MenuTonight I attended my first ever Concordia Alumni Relations event: ‘an evening of beer tasting and food pairing at Bier Markt’. Though I had never heard of Bier Markt before registering for the event, I have since learned that it is an Ontario-based chain whose Montreal location has been open for a couple of months. It is located on Rene Levesque where high-end steakhouse Queue De Cheval used to be. Having never been to Queue De Cheval, I can’t say how the restaurant’s appearance has been altered since that time, but I can say that the decor is quite nice. I found the bricks on the ceiling especially interesting.bricks Bier Markt

The place was quite busy when I arrived at about six. I checked my coat at the (free) coat check down stairs, then headed upstairs and checked in at the Concordia table. I eyed the menu which was table d’hôte style for the group and included 3 courses with a beer ‘pairing’ to go with each course, all for a flat fee of $30 which included tax and tip. This was quite a deal, especially when one takes a look at their regular prices. I also scanned the beer menu, which includes over 150 beers, about a third of which are on tap.

Palm Speciale Belgian Ale

Palm Speciale AleThe waiter who took our order was nice enough, and took the time to give us his recommendations food-wise. We received our first beer, the Palm Speciale Belgian Ale. Its menu description reads: ‘Brewed approximately 40 miles outside Brussels in Steenhuffel, Belgium, Palm is a well-balanced, approachable amber Ale that is full-flavoured up front and finishes with notes of spice and citrus.’ I thought it had a good, if not particularly remarkable, flavour,  some bitterness, and altogether was very drinkable. As it was only a half-pint of beer, and the wait for the first course wasn’t short, I drank about half of it before the soup arrived.

Bier Markt Mushroom Soup

The mushroom soup consisted mostly of an oily, lukewarm broth, which was faintly mushroomy in mushroom soupflavour. There were some sliced mushrooms (mostly button) in the soup as well, and some parsley floating on top. Needless to say, it wasn’t very good. I think I could have produced something similar in about five minutes with a mushroom stock cube and some button mushrooms. Okay, so to play the devil’s advocate here: I know that groups can be a pain, and that maybe the cooks thought the people in the group wouldn’t really appreciate/pay attention to the food. However, this soup is on the regular menu (so they should know how to make it), and soup is the easiest thing to prep a large quantity of ahead of time. For those reasons, I think the devil’s going to have to accept defeat, here. Since no beer pairing could have enhanced this soup, the beer-food pairing was a fail.

Service & Beer Pairing Gripes

Service started to get spotty at this point. The wait for mains was, again, not short, but the real issue was that our beers arrived when we were half-way through our main courses. This was an especially glaring faux-pas considering the nature of the event. It is apparent to anyone who has ever poured draft beer that (surprise!) it takes time to properly pour draft beer. Yes, they were busy. However, this problem could have been avoided by either pairing a bottled beer with the main, or offering different beer pairings for each of the three options. Pairing the same beer with each of the three different mains doesn’t really make sense anyway- if you take food-beer pairing seriously- which Bier Markt doesn’t really seem to do. In any case, the food should really have been held until the beer made it to the table.

Bier Markt Main: Salmon

SalmonAs for the food itself, considering the fact the I don’t eat meat, I was forced to choose the Atlantic salmon, something I don’t usually eat due to both sustainability and health issues. That said, the portion was large, and the fish was properly cooked and seasoned, though some fresh herbs and perhaps a wedge of lemon to give it some zip would not have been out of place. The tomatoes were fine, though not flavourable enough to add much to the equation, and the garlic chips, though properly cooked, were too few in number to enhance the salmon.  The quinoa cakes were good, though they also could have used more punch, and the bok choy and wilted spinach were fine…but unremarkable. Concerning the proportions of the dish, I could have done with a smaller portion of fish, only one quinoa cake, and more vegetables.

Erdinger Weissbier

When I finally received my pint of Erdinger Weissbier, I found it quite enjoyable. The menu description reads: ‘This Wheat Bier Erdinger Weissbiercomes from Erding in the heart of Bavaria. Erdinger Weissbier has a beautiful golden-straw colour that owes its Champagne-like effervescence to keg fermentation. Brewed according to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, Erdinger is an excellent match with seafood or chicken dishes.’ While it is easily the most bitter wheat beer I’ve ever tasted, it also has some of the lightness and sweetness one expects from wheat beers. While I found it quite enjoyable on its own, I wouldn’t say it went particularly well with the salmon.

Früli Strawberry Wheat Ale

Früli Strawberry Wheat AleThe next beer to arrive was the Früli Strawberry Wheat Ale. Its menu description reads: ‘Früli is a unique blend of high-quality, lightly hopped Belgian White Bier and pure strawberries. This all-natural Bier is a soft, refreshing indulgence that is
perfect as an aperitif, with a salad, or even as a dessert’. The intensity of the strawberry flavour was actually surprising. It reminded me of Fragoli, a wild strawberry liqueur. It definitely makes an interesting dessert pairing.

Chocolate Cake

The dessert itself, however, left a lot to be desired. I chose the chocolate cake, seeing as how late February is not exactly the season for strawberries in Montreal. It was okay, though I ate it more out a sense of duty than anything else. Though described as being a dark chocolate cake, the depth of flavour just wasn’t there, and I could taste no hint of mocha.

Chocolate Cake

If coffee or tea was eventually offered or not, I don’t know, but by the time I left, it still hadn’t been. Having only visited Bier Markt this once, I can’t comment on any of the other menu items, but, personally, I’d recommend steering clear of the food. If I do go back, it will be for the beer, and perhaps the oysters (of which they offer four different kinds).

‘Till next time!

Cocktail Hour: Cranberry Margarita

Cranberry MargaritaI visited the Nutcracker Market recently, and decided to purchase some cranberry syrup.  This syrup is manufactured by a company called Nutra Fruit, which specializes in products made with cranberries grown here in Quebec.  According to their website, Quebec is the world leader in the production of organic cranberries.  I’m not quite sure why none of their products (that I’ve seen) carry an organic certification, but I can tell you that all of their products that I’ve sampled so far are of exceptional quality, and that the cranberries are grown locally.

I decided to try adding this syrup to the ingredients of a basic margarita, and the result was quite delicious, so I’ve decided to share the recipe with you.

Cranberry Margarita Recipe

(For 1  drink)

2 oz tequila (I used Jose Cuervo Gold, but any decent tequila will do)

1/2 lime (juice)

1 tsp triple sec (I added a little to my cocktail, but since the cranberry syrup will add sweetness and flavour, it can be omitted)

2 tsp cranberry syrup

Rim margarita glass with salt.  Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake.  Stain into glass.  Garnish with rosemary sprig, to increase the festivity, if desired garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Drink.

Cheers!

 

Coconut Water vs. Maple Water

 

Maple Water: a New Product

I do purchase coconut water on a fairly regular basis, because I enjoy the flavour, and also because I tend to drink a lot of water, and I know that itcoconut water vs. maple water‘s important to drink other liquids as well in order to maintain optimal salt, sugar, and mineral levels.  I recently came across maple water at the store, and was wondering  how it compares to coconut water.

Maple Water vs. Coconut Water: Flavour

First things first:  taste.  The maple water has a faint, sweet,  maple sugar flavour, while the coconut water has a more aggressive, coconutty, base-ic flavour, which is more of an acquired taste.

Coconut Water vs. Maple Water: Sustainability

Next, sustainability:  Considering that the maple water is from Quebec, while the coconut water is not (I’m not quite sure where the coconuts are grown, but I know that we don’t grow them here), maple water comes out ahead on the locavore scale.  Aside from that, both products are completely natural, organic, and fair-trade.  Maple water is the pure, undiluted sap of the maple tree, and carries a the special NAPSI (natural, authentic, pure, sterile, integral) certification developed specifically to assure the quality of maple sap.  Because the sap is harvested in Quebec, a fair-trade certification is not necessary.

Coconut water is the juice of young green coconuts, and Coco Libre carries a USDA organic certification.  They do not carry a fair-trade certification, however, they do state, on their website, that they pay farmers a premium price for their coconuts and that “3% of the sales of [their] suppliers’ sales goes to a Partnership fund used for economic, social and environmental development, and fair trade promotion”. [Update 16/04/2016- It seems that some of their products do now carry a fair-trade certification, though I did not see anything about this on their website…?]

Coconut Water vs. Maple Water: Nutrition

Finally, nutrition.  Here is where things get a little bit complicated.  Upon comparing the two via their nutritional fact charts, one can clearly see that maple water contains fewer calories than coconut water per serving.  However, while the coconut water nutritional fact chart indicates that it contains potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, the maple water fact chart gives almost no indication of its nutritional benefits.  The front of the carton does boast that it contains 2% polyphenols per 250ml serving…but that is pretty much the only indication of its potential health benefits.  Additionally, their website is still not up and running, and as such, does not offer any additional information. [Update 16/04/2016- still not up, wow…someone is slacking…]

So…What Are Polyphenols, Anyway?

According to Wikipedia, they “are a structural class of mainly natural, but also synthetic or semisynthetic, organic chemicals characterized by the presence of large multiples of phenol structural units”.  Phenolic compounds also contribute to the sensory properties of foods (such as their colour and aroma).

Okay, But Why Should I Care About Them?

Well, because, as mentioned in this study, Polyphenols: Antioxidants and Beyond, “Polyphenols are the most abundant antioxidants in the diet”.  The study goes on to say that “current evidence strongly supports a contribution of polyphenols to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and osteoporosis and suggests a role in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes mellitus”.

Sounds Good, What Do They Know About the Phenols in Maple Water?

As early as 1964, researchers Filipic and Underwood had identified the presence of the compounds vanillin, coumarin, syringaldehyde, and coniferaldehyde in maple sap.   In 2011 researchers Liya Li and Navindra Seeram published a paper entitled “Quebecol, a novel phenolic compound isolated from Canadian maple syrup”.  Additionally, at the 241st American Chemical Society’s National Meeting in Anaheim, in March 2011, Navindra Seeram spoke about how he and his team have “now isolated and identified 54 beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup from Quebec, five of which have never been seen in nature”.  He goes on to say “it’s important to note that in our laboratory research we found that several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses.”

Okay, so phenols are antioxidants, and are probably good for me.

What About Vitamins and Minerals?

In ‘The Chemical Composition of Maple Syrup’, David C. Ball states that “the two most common minerals in sap are potassium and calcium, found at concentrations of 26–75 and 8–56 ppm, respectively. Sap also contains trace (< 10 ppm) of magnesium, manganese, sodium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper.”  Since one ppm is equivalent to 1 milligram of something per liter of water, this means that per cup, coconut water contains 530 milligrams of potassium while maple water contains between 6.5 and 18.75.  As for calcium, coconut water contains 60 mg per serving while maple water contains between 2 and 14 mg.  Coconut water obviously crushes maple water in terms of vitamin and mineral content.

Cytokinins: Another Type of Antioxidant Found in Coconut Water

Additionally, coconut water also contains antioxidants in the form of cytokinins. These are a type of plant hormone that promote cell division, also known as cytokinesis. Two specific cytokinins found in coconut water, kinetin and trans-Zeatin, have been studied and found to have anti-ageing effects on human cells.

So, after all that research, only two facts have become clear: for those in Quebec, or near there, maple water is the more sustainable (local) option, while coconut water packs more of a nutritional punch. Both are good products, so choose whichever you wish according to your needs…’Till next time…cheers!

Cocktail Hour: Piger Henricus Gin

Piger Henricus gin martiniOkay, so, a micro-distilled gin, made in Longueuil, Quebec…how cool is that?  Exciting things are happening on the Quebec gin scene…first, Ungava…now this.

Why Piger Henricus?

First, a little background information.  According their website, the distillery Piger Henricus is named after the latin word for a type of furnace used by alchemists during the middle ages.  The English translation of Piger Henricus is ‘Slow Harry’, and it was named as such due to its use in long and slow operations.  This type of furnace is also known as an athanor.

Piger Henricus- Flavour

Next…taste!  This gin is made using traditional flavouring agents such as juniper berries, coriander, angelica root, lemon peel and cardamom…however, the surprise ingredient, parsnip, is what makes it really special.  According, once again,  to their website, parsnip gives the gin a “delicate bitterness and a subtle floral aroma”…however, I would disagree and say that it gives it a subtle sweetness and earthiness.  Certainly, this is a quality product, and its flavour is smooth, unique, and quite delicious, providing justification for its price, which is comparable to that of Hendrick’s Gin (when one takes into account the smaller size of Piger’s bottles).

The Subversive Distillers

This is the first offering from the  ‘The Subversives Distillers’, a company made up of four guys whose desire to produce more micro-distilled booze in Quebec led them first to the states (in order to learn their craft), and subsequently back here, to set up shop.  Cheers to that!  I’ll be awaiting their next offering in eager anticipation.

Foraging Fun: Yarrow, Self-Heal, and Wild Strawberries

Self-healI’ve recently set my mind towards trying to identify which edible (or otherwise useful) plants I could discover growing close to home…whether in my boyfriend’s yard up north, or near my apartment in Verdun.  Getting started with plant identification may not be the easiest thing, but once you learn the name of a certain species you will likely have no problem identifying it when you come across it again, and indeed, if it is a weed, will start to see it everywhere!

Self-Heal

I had been wondering about one wildflower with very peculiar purple flowers which I had noticed grows all over my boyfriend’s lawn.  I was finally able to identify it by browsing through some wildflower photos on my wildflowers.com.  I originally checked my Peterson field guide, Edible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North America, but I didn’t have any luck there.  It is called Self-Heal, or Prunella vulgaris, and is also known as All-heal.  After determining the plant’s name, I was easily able to do a all-healbit more research into its possible uses.  It is in the mint family,  and the entire plant is edible.  It contains the vitamins A, C, and K.  Medicinally, it can be used as a poultice to treat wounds, or as a tea for sore throat.  I collected some, and decided to use the flowers and stems to make tea, and to add the leaves to a salad.  The tea, which I drank cold, was quite flavourful and meaty- a bit like stinging nettle tea.  I found it tasted a bit mustardy, as well.  Overall, it was quite pleasant.  The leaves, when added to a salad, were a little unremarkable, but good.

Yarrow

Yarrow (or Achillea millefolium) is another plant which I have seen growing in abundance in the yard.  It has also traditionally been used to help heal wounds (hence another of its common names, ‘soldier’s woundwort’).

Yarrow Identification

yarrow-drawing
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Its fern-like, aromatic leaves, and distinctive flower centers (which are actually made up of small disc flowers) make it fairly easy to identify.  However, one must make sure to positively identify it, as one who is not paying much attention to its distinguishing characteristics may mistake it for poison hemlock.

poison hemlock
Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)

Conium maculatum

Conium maculatum

In light of this, I would like to present you with two drawings which outline the distinguishing features of each plant. As you can see, they are quite different.  The leaves of the poison hemlock resemble those of carrot or parsley, while those of yarrow are fern-like.  The odor of the poison hemlock is rank, while that of yarrow leaves is pleasant and herbal.

Finally, hemlock flower stalks radiate from single points in umbels (like an umbrella) while yarrow flower stalks are more half-hazard, and, additionally, the yarrowappearance of the individual flowers is quite different.  If you are paying attention ( as you should always be when harvesting food from the wild), it is easy to spot the differences between the two.

Yarrow Uses

Besides its use in wound-healing, it has been used medicinally for pain-relief (for menstrual cramps, headaches, and toothaches), as an anti-inflammatory (to reduce fever), and as a treatment for colds and sore throats.  In the culinary arena, it has traditionally been used in beer-making, to make liquors and bitters, and also as a cooked vegetable and seasoning herb.

After tasting both the flowers and the leaves, I learned that the flowers were quite bitter, while the leaves were rather bitter-sweet and reminded yarrow tinctureme a bit of lavender or rosemary.  I decided to use the flowers to make a tincture, and use the leaves as an herb.  I figured I could use the tincture both as a bitter in cocktails, and medicinally.  The tincture worked out quite well, turning a pretty pale green and becoming quite bitter during the two weeks I let it steep.  I chopped up the yarrow leaves and mixed them with some chopped up onions and mushrooms to make a stuffing for fish, and that was quite good, also.  I’m not quite sure why it is no longer used as an herb, but I plan to collect more this summer, dry it, and use it both as a tea, and a seasoning.

wild strawberries growingWild Strawberries

On to wild strawberries.  These are also easy to identify, as they look just like the strawberries you buy at the store…only they’re much smaller, and more flavourful.  If you’ve ever grown strawberries (or seen them grow) you will immediately recognize their leaves.  In order to find more berries, one must simply follow the runners (shoots the plant produces in order to propagate itself).  The strawberries up north (in the Laurentians) usually appear in July.  They are not as sweet as commercially grown varieties, and their flavour is more concentrated.  Eat them as they are, orwild strawberries (runners) use them in any preparations you wish.  Also, I recently came across a blog, Wellpreserved.ca, which suggests drying strawberry hulls and using them to make tea.  I think that this is an excellent idea!  No waste!

Anyway, until next time, happy foraging!

Cocktail Hour: ‘Bowmore Sails Around the World’

Bowmore Sails Around the WorldThe inspiration for this cocktail stems from a lack of gin.  However, the cocktail that resulted from the limited repertoire of ingredients I had on hand turned out to be quite delicious, so I decided to share it with all of you (whoever you might be):

 

 

Recipe (for 2 cocktails):

3 oz Bowmore Scotch (this is a very peaty, smokey single malt, from the Islay region)

1.5 oz Jack Honey

1 oz Rooibos-Pomegranite syrup ( I used President’s Choice Rooibos-Pomegranite jelly, mixed with a little bit of water, and heated- however, another type of sweeter would do…maybe maple syrup or a citrus syrup)

a few wild strawberries (I had them lying around and used them to add some acidity to the drink, but other flavourful berries, or a bit of citrus juice, should work well)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker.  Muddle the strawberries a bit, to release their juice.  Add ice to the shaker.  Shake it up!  Strain into a martini glass.  Garnish with a strawberry, or a twist of whichever citrus fruit you’re using.

Enjoy!

Tea Time: Tea Sparrow Teas

I like the Tea Sparrow concept: premium loose-leaf teas, carefully selected from various sources, are shipped to your door each month, allowing you to taste varieties that you would perhaps otherwise never sample.  Since Tea Sparrow does not sell the tea, they can independently select those teas which they deem truly special, thus garnering exposure for small producers or blenders, whilst sharing the teas they love with subscribers.  The price per subscription, ($20 per month) may seem a bit steep at first…however, these are premium teas, and the quantity of tea in each packet shipped is enough to allow several cups to be brewed (at least 5 cups, I’d say).  Since you will be getting four different sorts of tea, that adds up to at least twenty cups, which is $1 per cup.  I’d recommend that, if you would like to reduce costs and share your experience, you split your subscription with a like-minded pal.

If you’d like to order one of these teas directly from the supplier, simply click on the tea leaves.

My First Eight Tea Sparrow Selections:

Milk Oolong:

Milky Oolong Although this was definitely an oolong, and smelled deliciously sweet, it was curiously listed as a green tea, and, on top of all of this, was not a Milky Oolong (though I think that it was striving for that), as it was made by steaming the tea leaves with milk.  This was most evident in the mouthfeel of the tea, which was not creamy, as is true milky oolong. It is described on Tea Sparrow as a Formosa Oolong…however, Formosa is a general name for tea from Taiwan, and thus, is not particularly descriptive. Its usage stems from the historical Portuguese name for Taiwan, Ilha Formosa or “Beautiful Island”. This tea is available through Aromatica, a BC-based shop which, a bit curiously, sells fine teas and soap. ‘What is the relationship between soap and tea?’, you might ask. Well, they use green tea to make their soap since it is good for the skin. To Aromatica’s credit, they do specify that the tea is “not classic Milk Oolong”.

Lemon Zest:

Though I did not find this tea to be especiaLemon-Zestlly lemony, I did appreciate the particularly fragrant flavour supplied, I believe, by the honeybush it contains…it reminded me of a tea that I’d tried previously.  I’m not sure if I’d like to order this tea, or just look for some honeybush leaves, or be on the lookout for other teas containing honeybush. Lemon Zest is available through Joy’s Teaspoon, a Chicago-based company which sells both teas and spices. Their website emphasizes their commitment to the environment, and they do offer some organic and/or fair-trade products.

Cali Persian Organic:

Cali-Persian-Rose-Organic A spiced black and green tea blend. The description of this tea given on Tea Sparrow was copied directly from the seller’s website, which I think is a bit sloppy. Anyhow, on to the tea… The spices are very strong- perhaps too much so!  The cardamom is especially potent.  Other ingredients include rose petals, orange peel, bergamot oil, rose flavour, and jasmine flowers. I think that, since I have access to all of the ingredients, I’d prefer to blend a similar tea myself, so that I could adjust the ingredients to fit my taste. This tea is available through Samovar, a tea lounge in San Francisco. Though visually impressed by their website, I don’t think that I’ll be ordering any tea from them, as prices are a little steep. It is also unfortunate that they don’t sell their teas in smaller quantities.

Blueberry Rooibos:

I do like rooibos, but I’ve never really been Blueberry-Rooibos1a rooibos lover- this blend, however, was really nice and fruity, and was a beautiful colour as well.  It has made me reconsider my opinion of rooibos a bit, and has also made me consider getting my hands on this blend…if the shipping is not exorbitant, that is. In addition to rooibos, it contains blueberries (surprise!), schizandra berries, hibiscus, and natural blueberry and strawberry flavours. I don’t remember ever hearing about schizandra (aka ‘five flavour’) berries before, but they seem to be rather interesting fruits. Not only do they contain the five basic flavours (salty, sweet, sour, pungent, and bitter), hence their name, but they can also apparently ‘reduce hunger, thirst and exhaustion’. The basis of the next energy drink craze, perhaps? In any case, Blueberry Rooibos is available through Rishi Tea, a Milwaukee-based outfit. They specialize in fair-trade and organic teas, and seem reasonably priced.

Champagne White tea :

White-Tea-Champaign-Tea This is classified as a green tea…I’m not sure why tea sparrow seems to make such mistakes so often? I guess they got the champagne moniker from the use of currants?  Otherwise I don’t see many similarities between this tea and champagne.   That said, I’ve never been a white tea fan, but this tea is very nice.  It’s quite fruity without being overly acidic, and thus is very drinkable. Besides white tea, it contains black and white currants, lemon balm, lemongrass, cornflower, and sunflower petals.   It’s available through Tea Desire, yet another BC-based company.

Buddah Bamboo:

I’m not sure whether the bamboo Buddha-Bamboo-Tealeaves add much (or anything) to the flavour of this tea, which I find to be dominated by the lemongrass, with perhaps some fruity notes (though I think that, in a blind taste test, I would be hard-pressed to pick those out).  The tea sparrow description of currant-strawberry-vanilla definitely does not ring true for me. This tea is also available through Tea Desire.

Coconut Milky Oolong:

Coconut Milky Oolong Tea The coconut doesn’t add much to the equation, here, but what’s evident is that this is a true milky oolong, complete with the requisite creamy flavour.  If you are a coconut fan, I would recommend perhaps mixing the tea with some coconut milk, as the coconut flavour is almost undetectable. This tea is available through The Tea Spot, a Colorado-based company which sells tea as well as some interesting ‘steepware’ products.

Thé des Lords: 

A very bergamot-y Earl Grey.  The The-des-Lords-Teasafflower petals seem there just to add a bit of colour. This tea is sold by Le Palais des Thés, a Parisian tea company.  On their website they emphasize the importance of their relationship with their suppliers, as well as their ethically minded tea purchasing policy.

Well, that’s it for Tea Time today.  Until next time…