What a weekend! I hope that some of you got a chance to stop by and say hello to us at Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium event this past Sunday. It was great fun and honor to be one of the proud sponsors and of course a part of a great cause (all proceeds go to support the My Food My Way youth nutrition education program). Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium yet again brought an amazing line up of up and coming chefs of Toronto that blew us all away: Andres Marquez/Howard Dubrowsky of Fonda Lola, Rodney Bowers of Hey Meatball & Food Network, Peter Ramsay of the *NEW* Geraldine, Jesse Vallins of The Saint.  And of course the event could not have been complete without the lovely panel of judges: Trish Magwood, Mike Chalut, Vita Chambers and Maggie McKeown!

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Battle Two blew us away. The food was absolutely fantastic and the secret ingredient this time….pickles! From pickled soup to tortillas with pickles the winner ended up being a master of turning something traditional into something new, tasty and exciting – Rodney Bowers of Hey Meatball with his legendary meatball sandwich and of course pickles, don’t forget the pickles! Delicious simply doesn’t cut it, believe me. Not only was the day filled with yummy treats, the music was phenomenal. Special guest and judge, Vita Chambers performed a beautiful ballad that left our stomachs hungry for more.

We were also very happy to chat with a few of you who came to say hello at our Tea Emporium stand – I hope you all enjoyed our refreshing iced teas! If you missed the first two rounds, do not despair, round three is on its way – more food, drinks, music and raffle prizes to come and of course more of our Summer Iced Teas!

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I also wanted to mention the CAWEE Afternoon Tea event that was held this past Friday at the King Edward Hotel, where I was honored to give a speech on a brief history of tea! It was also amazing to hear some inspirational stories from other women entrepreneurs and executives – quick shout out to Julie Ellis, co-founder of Mabel’s Labels and Ellen Roseman, journalist and author of “Fight Back”, both of whom gave a few useful business tricks and tips we all enjoyed. And of course it was a pleasure to meet and network with other vibrant and talented women in the business industry while nibbling on savoury finger sandwiches (tomato confit with cucumber goat cheese and fresh basil was phenomenal) and delicate pastries (lemon posset with muddled bumblerries, yum!) It was a perfect afternoon, and I am so happy to have been a part of it.

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Anyone who has ever traveled knows that each country or region has its own culture and tradition. Tea drinking is also something very unique to each part of the world. It has its own culture as well, and is consumed in a various fashion over the world and for the most part, carries a symbolic meaning. If you decide to travel in the near future, keep these fun facts in mind when you engage in a tea drinking ritual, they will guarantee you a pleasant and enlightening experience.

If you decide to travel to Turkey, you will soon discover that tea drinking is taken very seriously here. Turkish tea (çay) is served in small, curved glasses on ornamented saucers. Be careful when picking the glass up, make sure to hold it at the top by the rim so that your fingertips do not get burned. A few things to keep in mind is that tea is not generally served with milk, you will save yourself some trouble if you just go without it. If you find yourself in a group setting, make sure you refill the glasses of those around you, they will do the same for you, but don’t refill your won, it is not considered neighborly. If offered tea, don’t refuse it, even if you take a few sips, it signifies hospitality and friendliness.

India is not only a large consumer of tea but also an enormous supplier, so it is of no wonder that it has an extensive tea culture. Indian tea culture has its own Dos and Donts, but mostly relies on respect and knowledgeability of visitors/guests. For example, avoid leaving the spoon in the cup, gently remove after stirring and place on the saucer. If invited to a tea party, it is courtesy to bring a gift for the host. And as funny as it may sound, while holding your cup, avoid sticking out your pinkie, as it is considered impolite, gently place all your fingers facing toward you and remember to look down at your cup when taking a sip. It is also generally accepted that you decline the first cup of tea offered to you, and agree on second or third offer, and if you do not wish to have any at all, remember to decline three times (although not advised, since tea offering is a very significant indication of hospitality).

One of the most intricate tea drinking ceremonies is of course is The Way of Tea in Japan. The ceremony is not only beautiful, it is very spiritual and complex. If you wish to participate in such a ceremony, I suggest reading up on the details of the procedure or you can always visit our Tea Emporium School of Tea sessions, where we provide an interactive seminar on the Japanese Tea Ceremony. When it comes to simply drinking green tea in Japan, there are a few tricks to impress your host. Upon receiving your drink/food, slightly bow and say the phrase “itadakimasu”, which means “I humbly receive” to articulate gratitude. Hold your cup with your right hand, and support it underneath with your left. If you wish to add something to your tea, it is expected that you try the tea as is at first and then add the desired contents after e.g. sugar.

A unique experience is something you are guaranteed to get once you visit Argentina. It is also a consumer as well as producer of tea, and is mostly known for its national beverage – Mate. It is served in a hollow gourd, and is drunk through a metal straw called “bombilla”. If you find yourself in a group setting it is customary to pass around the gourd (clockwise), do not say “thank you” when it is your turn, it will mean you do not wish to drink any more. Try not to touch the straw as you drink with your fingers, it is believed that it diminishes the flavour and avoid stirring the mate, it is considered bad manners. If the gourd is handed only to you, it is considered polite to finish the whole drink and slurp loudly to let your host know that you enjoyed it.

You simply can’t separate tea drinking in England from its culture. It is not only a vital part of everyday living but a vital part of any special occasion. A popular event is called an Afternoon Tea (not to be confused with High Tea). A few things to remember: it is a gesture of respect to avoid making noise with your spoon; you can avoid this by simply placing it on the saucer on the right side of your cup. Never wave your tea cup in the air, make sure to keep it close to you at all times, and placed on the saucer when not in use. It is also considered rude to stir your tea in a circular motion, instead, try holding the spoon at a six o’clock position and lightly fold the contents toward the twelve o’clock position. If you find that the tea is too hot, do not blow on it, but rather, just leave it on the table to cool. Similarly, never sip from the spoon. If you are attending a tea party, never arrive early or late – either one is equally frowned upon. With all the details and intricacies aside, when you are attending any tea event, remember to be polite, to smile and be graceful.

I hope that you enjoy your tea drinking experience no matter where it is you decide to venture off to. It is always an amazing and pleasant experience, and my best advice to all of you who are trying new things is to get familiar with the culture and open yourself up to enjoy new and exciting opportunities. Bon voyage and happy tea drinking!

I am feeling hopeful and excited. There are a few things on the agenda that are going to bring positive changes and I am patiently awaiting their arrival. More details to come, so stay tuned!

A few things that I am excited about at the moment, are all the upcoming summer events that we will be a part of this summer and some new additions to our product family. Next week you can catch me speaking at the 3rd annual CAWEE Afternoon Tea event on July 19th or feel free to come join us on July 20th for the 4th annual Thrill of the Grill event on the Danforth. But there is more! On Sunday July 21st, join us for Battle Two of Abbey’s Kitchen Stadium for new and exciting delicious creations and of course a cup of our refreshing iced tea! (You can sign up for the event here: https://www.uniiverse.com/listings/abbeys-kitchen-stadium-battle-two-toronto-Q048T)

One of the products that you will soon see on our shelves will blow you away! Say hello to the ‘Cold Brew’ steepers! These gadgets allow for you to steep your tea cold. Yes, you read that right. Cold steeping is what is hot this summer and we decided that it will be a perfect addition to our new summer teas that will hit the shelves very soon – you can look forward to White Honey Dew and Rooibos Citrus Cranberry. Keep an eye out for these wonderful items in the next few weeks!

In the meantime, I encourage all of you to keep checking our events board for all the upcoming School of Tea sessions and don’t forget to subscribe to us on twitter for updates about new items and delicious tea recipes!

If life is like a cup of tea, then it is all in how you make it

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Summertime is all about bright colours, memorable flavours, delightful scents and new discoveries, and I have just the perfect thing for all of you to try and fall in love with!

I know that cooking with matcha is nothing new, but it is often not about the product itself, but how you can utilize or improve it in order to get the desired outcome. When it comes to cooking with matcha, there is plenty of room to experiment. I have stumbled upon a very exciting recipe recently that is definitely now on my favourite’s list – Banana Matcha Rhubarb muffins!

What you’ll need:

2 tbsp matcha powder

2 cups plain flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup caster sugar

rhubarb (cut up), optional

2 bananas (mashed up), optional

caster sugar, to top

“Preheat oven at 170degC. Line muffin tin with muffin cups. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients. Then, slowly add in wet ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Then fold in the cut rhubarb. Fill muffin tin with mixture about 3/4 of the way. Sprinkle granulated sugar to the top. Bake for around 15-20 minutes.” (Recipe courtesy of  http://dishpiglets.wordpress.com)!

Now if you just want to experiment using matcha in your baked goods, here is a simple recipe for a matcha cake:

What you’ll need:

3 ounces (3/4 cup) cake flour

1 t. Matcha tea (ingredient grade)

6 ounces (4) whole large eggs, at room temperature

3 ounces (scant ½ cup) granulated sugar

Powdered sugar for dusting the top of the cake before serving, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

“Sift the cake flour with the tea three times. Using aerosol pan spray, coat the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan lightly. Place a round of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan and spray the parchment lightly. Set the pan aside. Place the eggs and sugar into a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisking constantly, heat until the eggs and sugar feel warm to the touch (approximately 100-110 degrees F.). Then pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer, outfitted with a whisk attachment, and beat until light in color and texture, approximately tripled in volume. Then, gently but thoroughly, fold the dry ingredients into the egg foam without deflating, making sure that there is no undissolved flour lurking at the bottom of the mixing bowl. Immediately scoop the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the cake tests done when a skewer is inserted into the center. Cool on a rack. Dust with sifted powdered sugar just before serving, if desired.” (Recipe courtesy of http://www.matchasource.com)!

Happy matcha baking everyone, and remember – don’t be afraid to experiment!