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When things aren’t going according to plan, it’s a difficult task to keep calm and not stress about every little detail. I often don’t take notice of my stress levels and I am sure that many of us rarely do. But I want to change the notion that stress management is not a priority in our day to day tasks. In fact, I think that we should pay more attention to the process of handling certain situations rather than how we envision the end result. I see this all the time, we stress so much about how a situation will be resolved that we end up harming ourselves in the process. We sacrifice our mind and body because that is our only currency when it comes to reaching goals. Well I say it’s time to put the constant overflow of liabilities to rest.

I have one simple answer – tea. Yes, I know it might not seem like much, but believe me, its effectiveness is not to be doubted. Tea has been around for much longer than any of us and has been used across various continents as a remedy for stress relief. Besides the obvious properties of tea such as its immune system booster and antioxidant powers, it also provides comfort and warmth that we associate with safety and relief. But just like leading a healthy lifestyle is important to those who work out, tea must be drunk with the desire for tranquility of the mind.

I know that most days it is impossible to find any time for the real cup of tea, you know, the one with which you sit down, hold with both hands, and feel its warmth without any distractions. What ends up happening is that we grab a cup to go and rush off to work, school or a meeting instead. This is when we simply want to wake up, be more alert and end up relying on caffeine rather than comfort. I am of course no stranger to drinking tea on the go and can honestly say that sometimes it is a necessity. However there is absolutely no excuse for not taking a moment after the hectic day and enjoying a cup of a relaxing tea, away from the noise. I suggest finding a small place, some type of a nook, where you can escape the daily hum.

I guess my message to you all is to be good to yourselves, to take a few moments each day and focus on finding quiet in your mind. Let the hot cup of tea take away your worries, stress and anxiety and let it bring you calmness, peace and happiness. In case you are wondering what my choice is when it comes to choosing tea for relaxation, I generally avoid caffeine and find that herbal blends work best. Try the Herbal Relaxer or Sleepyhead for soothing, Vanilla Rooibos or Candied Almonds for warmth and Clari-Tea or Crimson Sunset for tension relief. Let the tea be your companion – trust it and let it help you.

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And this time the wind currents brought me to the beautiful Kingdom of Spain, Barcelona to be specific. Naturally, the first required magical phrase one must learn is “Quisiera copa de cava, por favor”, which was my best friend for the rest of the trip. Of course when you are in a land of the best sparkling wines in the world, you ought to know how to order one! One of my all time favourites is Segura Viudas, believe me when I say, it will change your views on sparkling wine forever.

My cava obsession aside, I spent my time wisely and headed straight to the Sagrada Familia Basilica upon my arrival. Sagrada Familia is an architectural masterpiece, designed by Antoni Gaudi whose presence is strongly felt all around Catalonia, embodying a mixture of medieval and art nouveau styles. My next stop was at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao of modern and contemporary art, designed by Frank Gehry! Frank Gehry is the brilliant mastermind behind our prized possession here in Toronto – the Art Gallery of Ontario. I must say it was very comforting to see familiar shapes and structure pieces across the ocean, somehow everything is always connected. Luckily, I got a chance to see the “L’Art en guerre, France 1938–1947: From Picasso to Dubuffet” exhibit, which featured works that stood in defiance of the political and military atmosphere of the war period. One of the main messages of the exhibit is that it is not enough to simply appreciate work for the sake of appreciation; it must be understood. When art is understood it is immortalized…there is a change of perception, and that change is so important, it is an opportunity to learn through art.

Next I was off to the San Sebastian, a coastal city in Basque Country where I got a chance to paddle board on the Atlantic. Paddle boarding is one of the most fun and hardest activities I have ever tried! If you don’t believe me, I dare you to try it! San Sebastian is absolutely stunning, filled with history, culture and life. After much strenuous exercise I treated myself to some pintxos – a type of snack, consisting of small slices of bread with various toppings (boquerones, cheese, potatoes) supported with a spike, thus the origin of the name of this appetizer. The majority of the dishes featured seafood and were served with a glass of Sangria made from the finest Rioja wine.

And of course no trip goes without a memorable piece of entertainment. For me it was the Flamenco show that derived its essence from old poetry, where each move, each step, each spin told a story. Such a lyrical performance left me breathless. I knew that I did not need to understand the language to understand the story and the emotion that was presented. The singing was a language of its own, a universal language, uniting and binding souls of the past and present. Here is a beautiful Flamenco Performance on the Street I saw passing by!

 

Yet another action packed weekend has been conquered! As I have mentioned in an earlier post, we had a very special speaker join us at the Tea Emporium this past Friday – James Norwood Pratt! JNP’s lecture “Introduction to tea” focused on tea history, methods of manufacturing, tea health benefits and a detailed discussion of different families of tea, giving an insight into what makes tea so special. JNP’s enthusiastic take on presenting some intricate details of tea production and consumption brought us laughter and created a light discussion on topics of tea regions, cultures and regional distinction. Simply put, the event was a success and I thank everyone who came out and hope that all of you enjoyed it as much as I did! For those of you who did not get a chance to come out, I strongly encourage you to pick up JNP’s The Tea Treasury or the Tea Dictionary to learn more about tea and its qualities, they are a must have on every tea lover’s book shelf.

“Tea is a miracle of vegetation that has become a treasure of the world as medicine, beverage, currency and communion – the wellspring of empires, industries and arts. Tea is second only to water itself as mankind’s favourite beverage today.” – JNP’s Tea Dictionary

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Another amazing event that took place this past weekend was the Fortune Cooking Festival at the Harbourfront, and the Tea Emporium was happy to be a part of its vibrant display. I had an immense pleasure on giving two workshops, one of the art of tea blending and the other on how to make your own mocktails! The first workshop on tea blending featured three teas – Garden of Eden, African Queen and Sencha, which were used to demonstrate that different types of tea can complement each other. I have asked the group to first try each tea on its own, to get familiar with the flavours and the ingredients. After asking the participants on what they thought about the taste of the three teas, the answers couldn’t be more different, ranging from “grassy” to “sweet”, which were all correct, proving that all teas have a range of distinct flavours and can be paired with others to create new exciting combinations to fit your own taste. Once the blending began, the participants got a chance to experiment with the ingredients and create their own personal blend and take it home to enjoy.

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For the second workshop I demonstrated an easy way to make mocktails at home and how to pair them with certain alcoholic beverages to make them into cocktails. The first was a strawberry, currants, apple and hibiscus fruit tea (African Queen) mixed with a raspberry puree, which can be paired with raspberry flavoured vodka or even beer! The second was a Moroccan Mint tea mixed with lime juice and freshly muddled mint leaves, which can be mixed with the rum of your choice. Third creation, which blew everyone away was Jasmine green tea mixed with freshly squeezed orange juice and cucumbers which can be paired with Sake! And lastly, a Baked Apple black tea mixed with coffee, which can be paired with Baileys for all those much anticipated autumn evenings. For all the blends I also recommend adding a small amount of simple syrup to bring out all the necessary tea flavours.

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Don’t be afraid to try something different, you never know what you’ll come up with.

Happy tea blending everyone!