Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tea and Coffee Show, Toronto, Sept 26-27, 2010

Last weekend was the second occassion I had to attend The Tea and Coffee Show in Toronto and I can tell you its was a spectacular for me as the first time. In 2007, I  was a plucky gal and registered for this trade show, saying that I was looking into a tea shop start-up. I registered for the tea cupping session and frozen desserts. At that time there were not that many distributors in the trade show and it was easy to walk around between the sessions to have a look at the trade booths. I was lucky to get some free samples of tea from the vendors and to meet vendors I might do business with. They were eager to share information.

My first cupping experience was with Brendon, the Tea Guy. I tasted a tea that was so full of energy and life, I knew that I wanted to search exactly for that energy, for that communication between self and tea. Even Brendon admitted years later that he'd not found a tea similar to the one we tasted that day in 2007.

Waiting for the next session, I heard there was going to be a tea steep-off, a contest involving some new machinery called a tea press, used in the same way as a coffee expresso machine but crushing the whole tea  first. Seeing The Tea Guy, Brendon passing by, I asked for directions. However, he insisted that I attend as a guest judge at the steep-off of all things. Following his instructions, I went up to the judging panel and sat down next to a man. I asked who he was and I learned I was sitting next to Bill Kamula, one of the instructors at George Brown College in the  Tea Sommellier course. He looked at me and asked, "Who are you?" and I replied. "I'm your next student!" and indeed I was. I registered in the Tea Sommellier program only a few weeks later.

The winning tea drink in 2007 was made by Margot  who won with her Spice Pumpkin Chai Latte. Even Jennifer Bain, the Food Editor from the Toronto Star and fellow judge was overwhelmed with the deliciousness of this hot tea drink and devoted more than a full page to the Show in 2007. Margot B. not only won the competition that year, she also won the Tea Cocktails at the Show this year. She is a great competitor and has certainly established the bar (no pun intended) on drinks in the house with her Banana Creme.

There were many other highlights including the amazing Gyokuro tea prepared by three representatives of the Japanese Tea Exporters' Association. I sat with my Sommellier colleagues listening to Canada's best known tea sommellier, Karen Hartwick from Strattford's Tea Leaves speak about business start-up. I love her passion for tea. She has so much to offer and I am so eager to learn. In fact, I asked Karen  for a photo. We both grinned and found out later that we were both Librans.

Once again I got free samples of tea and this time, I was able to introduce myself to the vendors as a Certified Tea Sommellier. On my way out from the trade show, I met Bill Kamula coming in. I am grateful for his teachings. See you next time everyone!

Monday, September 6, 2010

How to Use Up Old Tea

No doubt you have wondered what to do with old tea. Here's a tip: Mix it with other teas to enjoy new flavours and health benefits.

I have a mixed berry tea from Germany, maybe Poland that's mostly colour. There are blackberries, black chokecherry, elderberry, rowan (that's sarsaparilla), black currant leaf, hibiscuss and "flavour". Well, I can't expect much from a package that doesn't identify where its from. Also, I had some white tea hanging about for the past year. It was tied up into little bows and had visual interest but was low quality.

I got out my favorite glass tea pot and put a warming ring on the burner as I knew this would be a long steep to coax the flavour out of the dried fruits.  I poured boiling water over an ample portion of the berries, about 1/3 c. to 8 oz. water and a small handful (about 2 tablespoons) of the white tea. I didn't want to use any tea that would turn bitter with a long steep.

 A long steep is at least 5 minutes or longer.  It is important to give the tea time to steep, keeping it warm in the meantime.The berries have to absorb the water then release their flavours.  I prepared a serving tray and rhubarb-bran muffin. The sour berries and sour rhubarb would require a balancing sweetness. I picked a home-made peach jam to also add some complimentary colour.  I could easily have made an ice tea as an alternative. Other times, I have soaked the berry tea in warm water for 10 minutes before adding in hot water and tossing in the white tea at the end of the steep. This keeps any bitterness from taking over the pot.If you have any leftover strawberries blueberries, apple, orange pieces, add them in as well.  This tea needs a good helping of sweetener.

The result was a beautiful burgundy-coloured tea with high antioxidants, great for saturating colour in the 1st chakra  and giving you an energy boost. You could also have made a dessert jelly by adding some unflavoured gelatin or agar agar for setting.  This tea was perfect for warming up a damp day and waiting for the clouds to clear.