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My Mom was, by leaps and bounds, the most avid of tea drinkers. She started drinking tea before she was old enough to attend school and she usually had at least three cups a day. Throughout the 86 years that my Mom lived I’d imagine she likely drank close to 100, 000 cups of tea but Mom was a purist. It had to be orange pekoe which to my understanding is a young, top-leaf, black tea. She insisted the water be at the perfect temperature. Milk was to go in the cup after steeping. Her reasoning was that putting it in before the tea was brewed would take the water too far off temperature and ruin the cup.
I always waited to see her reaction when she ordered tea in a restaurant. More often than not, a little stainless steel teapot would arrive with a tea bag sitting in hot, not boiling, water. A whitish foam would grace the surface. Sometimes it was even worse and the tea bag was still in its wrapper beside the tiny teapot. Mom would grimace and then call the waitress over. There was more than one occasion where my Mom ended up going into the establishment’s kitchen to teach the staff how to brew a proper cup of tea.
Mom would tease me about the herbal “teas” I would make my way home with. “That is not tea,” she would remark emphatically. Of course, Mom was right because many of those teas didn’t contain any tea at all and are referred to as tisanes. However, I loved the different flavours and endless varieties. Loose teas and tisanes were always my preference over plain old black tea.
One of the things I missed when we moved to Brant County was the proximity to a great purveyor of loose leaf teas. When we lived closer to the St. Jacobs I would venture out every few weeks to indulge myself at the tea seller who had a stall in the famous market. I hadn’t been there since we moved here in 2007. Back in October I went on a little excursion with my friend Carla and we ended up at a great little tea shop called Sandalwood Tea Company. It is located on Fairview Drive in Brantford.
I have to admit I was like a kid in a candy store. There must be at least two hundred varieties of tea all neatly displayed in very large glass jars. It is such a welcoming little place filled with all sorts of gorgeous tea accessories and, of course, some of the most delectable teas I’ve ever tasted. I noticed almost right away that the sweet little British lady who ran the shop must use one of the same suppliers that the tea vendor in St. Jacobs sourced his teas from. There it was, my son’s favourite tea, Blue Eyes. Blue Eyes, inspired by Sinatra, is a kid-friendly fruit tisane that contains dried apples, rosehips, hibiscus, cornflower petals, and natural flavours. It has a hint of a caramel flavour to it and tastes slightly sweet without needing to add anything. It makes wonderful iced tea and popsicles.
My favourite, aside from an Earl Grey with a little extra Bergamot added, is a toss-up at the moment. I seem to be wavering between several of them. I love the Lemon Cream Black Tea which is an orange pekoe blended with calendula blossoms and natural lemon flavours. It is a very comforting yet bright flavor combination. I quite enjoy the Pear Cream Black Tea that contains apple pieces, fennel, orange peel, calendula flowers and natural pear flavours. The Black Forest Cake Organic Black Tea is a great afternoon treat. It contains Ceylon black tea, carob, cherries, juniper berries, rose petals and natural flavours. The one I drink most though… simple hisbiscus blossoms which have a wonderful citrus note to them and leave the water a gorgeous hue when steeped. This one also makes a beautiful iced tea.
I’d love to hear what your favourite teas or tisanes are.
I love Friday. There are many reasons for this other than the obvious one—the weekend! My husband has a terrific career but it entails a great deal of travel so the weekend means a few days of time together. One of our little routines is to have coffee while conversing in the mornings. Lately, for me at least, that ritual has turned back to tea. I love tea as much as I love Friday.
Tea and I go back a long way and the love affair with this warming beverage started early. I have fond memories of being kindergarten-aged and Mom making tea for my little porcelain tea set. I was a mere twelve years old when my Aunt Gladys gave me twenty-five dollars as a Christmas and birthday present. I had saved as much from babysitting as well. You’d expect a child of that age to go out and buy some sort of toy, a new trendy top, a new music release, or the latest Trixie Belden book. Not this pre-teen. I went straight to an expensive gift emporium named Duncan McPhee and purchased a gorgeous teapot with a set of four matching cups. I had been looking at it for several months and waiting until I had enough money. Luck would have it that the particular one I wanted, a pure white pot with a gorgeous pink iris, was on clearance. Then it was off to the mall where I picked up a pot worthy mesh tea ball and some wonderfully blended loosed teas from a shop called The Second Cup. While renowned for coffee they had some lovely teas. This was no child-like tea setup and I was very proud of my find. I was still using this set twenty years later and would have continued if it had not been damaged in our 2001 house fire.
I strayed from tea for quite some time. My return started in 2004 when my darling little boy, who was three at the time, pulled up a chair and wanted to have tea with us. Tea time became a special time for family bonding.
Fast forward to this morning. My little boy, now a ten-year old with pre-pubescent attitude, is home from school with a sore throat and general malaise. He dragged his groggy self out of bed and came out to the kitchen. I had just put the kettle on. He asked if he could have some tea. I looked through my cupboard which has two shelves entirely dedicated to this beverage, and pulled out a brand-new package of Organic Peppermint Tea from Fair Trade. It is a fragrant and soothing cup that doesn’t have any caffeine, making it a great choice for a child with the chills. This reminds me so much of Mom making cups of Orange Pekoe for me when I was ill as a child.
My Mom has asked me to source a porcelain tea set for my daughter Kaia to have as a gift. As I look at these miniature little sets I am reminded of the times when I played “tea party” with such wonder. What a special memory and a lovely thing for my Mom to do for my daughter. Kaia is also going to her first real tea party in the Spring. My close friend is getting married and her bridal shower is to be a High Tea.
Me, well, I got busy and am just sipping my cup of Double Bergamot Earl Grey. Finally. It’s from Stash Teas, a brand that is one of my favorites when it comes to bagged teas. Their Meyer Lemon is delicious too.
I’ll post more about tea. Perhaps next time I will share some of my favorite ways to cook with tea.
In my last post I mentioned the Cookie Swap I hosted and the mulled wine. I had a few emails asking for the recipe and here it is. I used a Canadian Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon blend by Pelee Island Winery. Enjoy and toast to a Merry Christmas!
peel of 1/2 lemon
peel of 1 lime
peel and juice of 1 clementine
195 grams superfine granulated sugar
2 allspice berries
1 small bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
6 gratings fresh nutmeg or a scant 1/4 teaspoon
1 black cardamom pod cut in half
2 ounces cognac or brandy
5 cups dry red wine
2 whole star anise
Peel the citrus using a carrot peeler aka speed peeler. In a large saucepan add the lemon, lemon, and clementine peel to the juice and sugar. Add the spices except for the star anise and add the cognac. Pour enough wine over the mixture to just cover it. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir frequently. When the mixture has boiled add the remaining wine and the star anise. Heat gently for an additional 5 minutes and serve warm.