Saturday, July 5, 2014

MyTea Brew

My Tea Friend, Donna

It is always a pleasure to drop by and visit Donna Sikora, owner of MyTea Brew. She sells premium quality loose leaf teas and tea blends. Her company reaches into the community at local market places in the Toronto area. Donna is selling MyTea Brew teas at Humber Bay Shores Farmers Market until the end of the 2014 season. Drop by and tell I sent you!

Donna and I are fellow certified Tea Sommeliers and were among the first year graduates from the tea school at George Brown College. We laugh and share stories and recipes and ideas. Sometimes we meet up for a chat over tea with other tea school graduates.

Donna always has a little something special and today she was serving samples of  Sweet Prickly Pear Herbal Tea. This exceptional tea is flavoured with green tea, bits of melon, papaya, pineapple and mango and  has attractive yellow sunflower and blue cornflower blossoms.  The tea can be served hot or cold. Mytea Brew has other teas that work at all levels of the senses. You can see and feel  the tea leaves from the sampler. Smell it, taste it ! My fav is the little yogurt stars in Cinnamon Star!),

Now here is a great tip for iced tea: To keep the beverage cold for family, visitors or guests, make the tea in advance and freeze some in a reserved yogurt container or other mold. Pop out the frozen block of tea and add it to a large iced tea  pitcher or serving urn like the one pictured here with Donna.  The frozen iced tea will keep the beverage cold and will not dilute the drink. You can also freeze edible flowers, sliced fruit or herbs such as mint leaves into the ice block for an extra special presentation.

I find most teas make excellent iced tea brews. I prefer to use the cold steep method*(see below for instructions). Its fast and easy to prepare and ready to drink without the fuss of making ice cubes and ending up with a diluted drink.  However, I find that more flavours develop with a hot tea brew and are more intense. So, you have to use a little bit more tea when using a cold brew. To freshen up a tea containing herbs, rub the leaves gently between your fingers before brewing. This will help release some of the essential oils and flavours during brewing. Crack open any cardamom seeds to get extra flavour or add an extra stick of cinnamon for more intense flavour. I use the cold steep method when using Japanese teas such sencha or flavoured sencha

Donna has very flavourful teas some of which she has blended herself. From my experience, they are all wonderful and you should try a new one every week to maintain your gastronomic interest. Check out Donna's web site for descriptive ingredients and pricing.  I had a delightful hot cup of White Jasmine Goddess this afternoon. It was fragrant with Jasmine leaves and the floral scent of Ti Kuan Yin oolong tea. Very aromatic and gently relaxing for the afternoon and very aptly named as the liquor is pale. Later tonight, I will have a Camomile & Lemon before bed.

* Cold Tea Brew Method

Fill a carafe such as a Bodum Ice Tea Jug with cool filtered water. Add tea in the ratio of 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 ml) to 250 ml ( 8.4 oz) of water to a paper tea filter, large tea ball or a section of cheese cloth tied with string. Loose tea is messy and you will need to filter the tea before drinking. Drop the tea bag into the water, swish until leaves are wet, then cover. Place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 7 hours. Remove the tea and filter the cold beverage if necessary before serving.
If you are using tea bags, try using 4 tea bags to 3 cups of water, One of my favourite cold tea recipes is combining  2 chamomile and 1 mint tea bags in 3 cups of water.  Serve with fresh mint. Or try 2 mint tea bags and sliced cucumber in 3 cups water.
A cold brew mellows out the high notes from the tea and makes it less bitter and thus more sweet tasting. People who use sugar may find a cold brewed tea sweet enough. Adding natural sweeteners such as Honey, Stevia or Agave can compliment iced teas.
Remember, you can add additional herbs and/or sliced fruit to play up the notes in the tea. For Prickly Pear Tea, add speared cubes of fresh prickly pear into a glass before serving. Star Fruit, Dragon Fruit and other exotic fruits are often fragrant and maybe a bit bland tasting but really look pretty as a garnish.

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