Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tea shopping

In my previous post, I noted the problems with online shopping with retailers outside of Canada - a problem that even the best retailer can't hide from - the customs charges we may get hit with on the other side. It's a shame because it often makes you think twice before ordering although there are so many good US companies to deal with, and the Canadian dollar is so good now that it is still hard not to buy out of country. There is nothing worse though than getting hit with a customs bill that's higher than what you've actually bought. I wish there were more Canadian retailers to deal with - it's crossed my mind to turn my former Farmers Market tea business into an online company but I'm still unsure of doing so. I am thinking about it, though.
One company I have dealt with for years is Harneys, which I believe is based in Connecticut with a store in upstate New York. I would love to go to that shop! Tea heaven, I'm sure. I've gotten many interesting teas from Harneys but my two favorites are Paris and Tropical Green. Some people describe Paris as a vanilla Earl Grey but I disagree. However, it was Paris that revived my taste for Earl Grey - even though it was a favorite in my earlier years, I couldn't stand it for years because I found it to be too floral. Paris does have a unique flavor and whenever I am in a quandry of what to drink, I usually reach for it. Not surprisingly, I buy it by the pound.
I am not a big green tea person but I make an exception for Tropical Green. It is flavored with pineapple and I can't really think of any other tea that is. It is so tasty and makes a divine iced tea - doesn't even need sweetener. It's a great summertime tea.

Sunday with tea

It's Sunday morning and I'm sitting with a pot of Darjeeling Makaibari Organic First Flush. I made it according to the directions but it seems a little weak - or maybe it's just really mild to my jaded palate. It's quite pleasant nonetheless. I actually prefer tea to be mild unless it's a spicey tea - then bring it on! I got this darjeeling from - I started dealing with them years ago and have always gotten great service. Their prices are good and they allow you a few free samples of own choosing with every order so it's a good chance to try tea you might not normally get. I tried a blood orange tea from them about a year ago - now there's a tea to get. If you like orange flavor with your tea, you simply must try it - it is delish!
The only problem with shopping at is that it is across the border in the US and sometimes I get hit with customs charges, especially if I buy non-tea items such as accessories or teapots. They have another tea that's great, especially in the summer, called Lady Londonderry. It's strawberries and kiwi on a black tea base. Yum!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Waiting for Supper

And what do I do? Snack! It's an unfortunate habit - especially when there's chocolate bars hanging around. When I hit the local dollar store the other night (the same one where I once found Scharffenberger bars for a buck), they were selling off Hershey's Extra Cacao milk chocolate bars and that's what I'm scarfing down right now. Pretty tasty for a buck. Try as I might, I still prefer milk chocolate to dark, although I eat dark quite often.
The library had a book sale and I got a Hershey's cookbook, along with a book of Buddhist vegetarian recipes. The second book even had a recipe for green tea ice cream - could be interesting. I've stayed away from tea-flavored products, except for the occasional package of mints - which I hated. Somehow, I just can't imagine tea-flavored ice cream - I love sweet things but I can't stand sugar with tea. There's even tea-flavored chocolate. Seems sacriligious some how ...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Now for some tea

Of course, I had to try some of my new teas in my new teapot. The first one I tried was the Shalimar Oolong, which featured oolong tea with rose petals, aronia berries, mango and apparently a passionfruit flavoring. Oddly enough, they used a toasty Formosa Oolong as the basis, leading to a toast and fruit flavor - I had it for breakfast so it worked, in a sort of odd way. I think the fruits would work better with an oolong tending towards the greener end of the spectrum. It was OK though. The second tea I tried was a black tea flavored with strawberry - that was good. I daresay it would also make an awesome iced tea. And everything worked just fine in my newest teapot.

New teapot

Don't you love it when the mail carrier brings you a parcel of new teas to try? It happened to me yesterday. He also brought me my latest Beehouse tea pot - a 15-ounce one in textured tan. My other 3 (yellow, lilac and pumpkin) are 22 ounce but already I like this size better - a perfect two cups, which is usually what I want when I make tea. I also love the color - sort of the color of chai tea, with a little too much milk in it.
I first got a Beehouse teapot about four years ago and I have been using them every day, several times a day, ever since. When I had the tea business, I sold them although some people balked at the price - a fact I found odd since these same people wouldn't think twice to spend the same amount on a piece of meat or a cake, a ticket or an item of clothing, while the teapot could be used everyday for the rest of their lives. The price wasn't even that high - between $35 and $40 - which is what you'll pay for any quality teapot in Canada. The best part of a Beehouse? Besides their deceptive size (it's amazing how much tea those things hold) and stylishness, they don't drip!
And we don't want to waste any of that tasty tea, now do we?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mondays, blech

It's been a few days since I've written so I figured I better post something. Not an easy thing to do on Mondays.
What is it about Mondays? I never want to do anything on them, let alone work. I continuously tell myself I have to change my attitude and I do try but every Monday is the same. I don't even have the energy to make a proper cup of tea - it's a bag this morning, Twinnings Four Fruit. Not bad but not what I'd normally want first thing in the morning. Would probably make a dandy iced tea though. Sigh. Guess I'd better drag myself to work...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sounds of silence

I have been a musician most of my life and I work in a radio station. So why do I enjoy silence so much? When I drive, I rarely listen to anything. At home, if there's music playing, it's usually one of us practising. I've never been a huge fan of concerts - I'd rather get the DVD and see it at home. Deep down, I know it's because I am, what most would refer to as, a snob. I only want to listen to what I really like. I know exactly what I like. But I also liked every kind of music, from country to classical. If I'm going to spend time listening to something, it has to have something that reaches me. It doesn't necessarily have to be technically accurate or hugely emotional. In fact, those things tend to repel me. But I do enjoy hearing musicians play with restraint, but there's so little of that anymore.
How about less restraint on the restraint?
My tastes in tea tend to run the same way. I'm not a fan of big bold flavors. I prefer subtle, quiet tastes, preferably without any enhancements. A really good tea has no problem with this - it can stand on its own, without milk, sugar, spice. But finding that perfect flavor can be a challenge. I've been searching for years for the perfect darjeeling.
And I suspect I will spend many years more on that quest.
It is said that it is the journey, not the destination, that matters.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Restaurant Tea

Years ago, ordering a cup of coffee out could be a dangerous thing. You could even end up with a cup of instant coffee with whitener. Fortunately, thanks to consumer demand, you're pretty much assured a decent cup of brewed coffee wherever you go these days.
So why can't the same thing happen with tea?
This evening, I attended a banquet at what's supposed to be this area's premiere restaurant. The food was OK (too much salt but that's a personal preference) but the tea was dishwater. I mean, they had to work to get it tasting that bad. So what's the problem? The demand for better tea has been growing - you can't turn anywhere without hearing something about how tea is good for you or that it's the world's most popular drink.
Yet restaurants in this part of Canada continue to serve swill to their customers. Part of the problem is that they don't reserve cups for tea drinking only. The other part is that they continue to use cheap bags. They go to all the trouble to ground coffee beans and run them through filters yet they can't be bothered to do the exact same thing with tea.
Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bad case of the grumpies

I am in a grumpy mood tonight. Have been all day, actually. Things aren't going the way I want and that's not necessarily a good thing. When I get in a mood, I either eat too much or not at all. It's pretty amazing really, how our diet is affected by how we feel. I even resorted to a childhood comfort food tonight - an orange float. My mom used to make me these every year, usually around Christmas and then we'd wrap presents together. Just vanilla ice cream and orange pop - but it's so good. However, there were no presents today to wrap - or unwrap. Just unpleasant stuff to grumble over.
But the float was delicious.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Good Vice

With the exception of some mild gastrointestinal problems and my even milder arthritis, I've always been insufferably healthy - and I pray it remains that way. But recently I was diagnosed with a slightly elevated cholesterol level and my doctor told me I could probably get it back down through diet.
Having grown up mostly on a low fat, low salt, low cholesterol diet because of my father's health problems, I'm all too familiar with cutting back and I confess the last few years have been a bit of a reaction against that way of eating. So I have been regularly indulging on butter, bacon, red meat, potato chips, cheese, chocolate, French fries and other tasty but not-so-good- for-you foods. I had even started putting butter AND marmalade on my toast and even used the occasional sauce and gravy on my potatoes - something I would never have done years ago. As a result, I have gained a few extra pounds, which I really don't need.
I have started cutting back - no more salad dressings (never really care for it much anyway - much prefer the taste of the plain vegetable), the bacon has left the freezer and will no longer be coming into my home; my chips are gone and it's going to remain that way and I'm not eating as much butter on anything anymore. As soon as this package of Walkers Shortbread sitting in front of me is gone, that will be it for store-bought cookies coming into the house. Any cookies or pastries will have to be made by me, and while I do make some pretty tasty treats, I'm hoping my lack of time will stop me from doing so too often. So hopefully this, and much less eggs, dairy products and red meat, will help lower my cholesterol to an optimum level so I can avoid having to take drugs. My doctor seems to think it will. It's worth a try anyway. Right now some things are non-negotiable - I'll still have a little cream in my occasional cup of decaf coffee, cheddar cheese and chocolate - but even these will be scaled back somewhat.
Fortunately, I don't have to cut back on tea. It seems that everyday, there's some new reason to drink it. It's good to know that one of my vices is actually good for me!

Christmas Teas in the Spring

The Farmers' Market was great yesterday - they actually had fresh lettuce which was a surprise since I went at 11:30 am and they should have been sold out by then. The weather has been warm but for some reason, I'm still craving wintery teas. Maybe because it's the holiday weekend? Yesterday and today, I've been drinking my own holiday blend which is a black tea that has cinnamon and apple flavors added - tastes Christmasy and is quite delish. Today, we're going to a provincial park so I have to pack some picnic things - not sure what to do there. Maybe some tins of iced tea will have to do. Oh yes, there will be food too - chicken salad wraps and granola bars, at the very least.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Darjeeling and the Farmers Market

I'm just heading out to the Farmers Market, to meet with a friend and bring her some teas that she wanted - mostly Assam and an Irish Breakfast Decaf. I'm drinking a Tukdah First Flush Darjeeling which is OK. The best thing about this tea is that it's fairly cheap compared to most First Flushes. Trust me, there are better ones out there but the price is pretty good on this one if you're watching your pennies. And these days, who isn't?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

So much food, too little time

You've probably realized by now that I love to eat. And work hasn't been making things easy this week - employee lunch on Wednesday, free pizza and cannolli for lunch today and then this evening, I went out to supper, thanks to a gift card from work. Everything was delicious but it's not helping the waistline any! Tomorrow, it's back to plain food, fruit, crackers and tea. And I think the perfect tea would be a Golden Nepal, a tea I ordered from, sometime back. I've just become acquainted with black teas from Nepal and the Himalayan areas and they're so good. Light, flavorful - the very essence of what I like tea to be. I'm not a fan of heavy Assam-like teas - I prefer lighter teas that caress your mouth. Illam is a particularly nice tea - I think it's also from Nepal and has a darjeeling quality to it. I think I just talked myself into opening a one pound bag of Illam - oh well, these things must be done eventually.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chai and Star Trek

I started my day with some Tim Horton's Chai tea - which would have been nice if the server hadn't put so much milk into the cup! I even asked for very little milk but they alway put in too much which is why I just won't bother getting it again. Chai is about the only tea I drink with milk but I'll try it without milk the next time. In the fall, Tim's sells Pumpkin Spice tea and I usually buy a few boxes to drink on those cold fall and winter mornings - it's great stuff.
In the evening, we went to see the new Star Trek movie - it's great and it explains a lot of stuff. Now I feel ready to start watching the rest of the movies!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Love to eat and that decaf Earl Grey

I may not have been too impressed with those cookies last night but to day, oh boy! They're excellent so I'll be using that recipe again. It's from one of the Company's Coming Cookies cookbooks - one of the small ones. It's worth trying. I also made a pan of coconut ice for the first time, which is also delish. Take a package of unflavored coconut, a can of condenced milk and a half a cup of sugar and mix it all together. Put in the fridge overnight and prepare to make a pig of yourself - it's that good.
So much for modifying my diet for weight control and lowering my cholesterol.
I really do enjoying eating, drinking, cooking and everything surrounding all of these things. All my best memories even incorporate food in some way. I'm ashamed to admit I have more positive food memories than of anything else - guess I should work on that! But seriously, I really do have to work on eating more nutritiously - sometimes I wonder how I've escaped Type 2 Diabetes this long (and I was just checked less than two weeks ago and I'm perfectly fine).
Of course, tea can be incorporated into a healthy diet. I have to limit my caffeinated teas to three cups a day but that doesn't stop me from enjoying good tea - despite what many would like you to believe, there are good decaffeinated teas (and coffees) out there. Interestingly enough, the Earl Greys seem to stand up rather well to decaffeination. I am currently drinking a decaf loose Earl Grey from Metropolitan Tea that is perfectly fine - in fact, I prefer it to the caffeinated version. You could probably pick it up in any place that sells loose teas or at gift shops which sells Metropolitan's 4 oz loose tea gift bags. It's good stuff.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Another Munchy Monday

Just finished making oatmeal raisin cookies using a new recipe. Should be OK but I'll probably go back to my normal recipe, which comes from the California Raisin people - best recipe there is, in my opinion. I do think a chai would go well with these. Although I am a loose tea drinker, there are sometimes when I do prefer a bag and that's the case with chai's. My personal favorite is Stash's black tea chai, followed by Tazo chai and then Stash's Christmas Chai. For some reason, the spices always seem to fall to the bottom when it comes to a loose tea chai and I usually end up with one cup that's all spice. Somehow, the bag seems to keep everything in the right balance. Chai's are also the only teas to which I add milk, but never sugar. Can't stand sugar in any type of tea, really, although some say it brings out the flavor in some flavored teas. To each their own.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Des(s)ert Island Fare

With all this talk of flu and pandemics, it makes you wonder what would happen if we all had to stay inside for a month or two and even if we could go out, no stores would be open. So what sort of goodies do you keep stockpiled in case of emergencies? Here's my list.
Teas - Upton's New England Harvest Blend; Harney's Paris Blend; Metropolitan Tea's Orange Spice and for those really lazy days, Stash's Orange Spice Tea bags.
Chocolate: Hershey bars with almonds - my cheap all-purpose fix; Scharfenberger Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate; Lindt Coffee Milk Chocolate - actually, anything by Lindt.
Cookies: Anything chocolatey by Leclerc; Walker's shortbread; my own oatmeal raisin and/or triple chocolate chip.
Other: chicken noodle soup, pasta, cheddar, eggs, oranges, grapes, potatoes and other assorted fruits and vegetables and whatever else that's needed to fill out a meal.
See a pattern here?

The First Post!

This is something I have been meaning to do for a while but it has taken a while! This will be a blog to do reviews of two of my favorite things - tea and chocolate. Of course, music and books may be featured as well - we'll see how it goes. I am a tea-loving, chocolate-consuming musician and writer who has an insatiable appetite for yummy new things. I once had a small business selling loose teas so I've been able to try lots of interesting types.
Right now, I am drinking Adam's Peak from Upton's, a white that's suppose to have incredible medicinal qualities and it's OK. I am trying to convince myself that it is something special since it's pretty expensive stuff but I don't know if I'll be getting any more. There's nothing wrong with it - I'll finish the bag but there's nothing making me want another one. If you're just getting into whites, you may want to try something less expensive.
Whew! First one out of the way! Onwards and upwards.