Well – we just returned from our trip to Asia.  It was fantastic.  Such a different world than the one that surrounds us.  We were fortunate enough to be a part of the spring harvest pick in Japan.  The smells in the factory were beautiful – a sweet gorgeous smell that can only come from the freshest young leaves.  It was an amazing experience.  From Tokyo we went on to Vietnam – a whole other world again.  Friendly and welcoming – what a beautful place – and I can’t forget the chaos.  Fascinating – as we were coming from the order and precision of Japan – but the chaos seems to work somehow.  We weren’t as impressed with the tea – but the industry is young – so I’m sure that it will develop.

We have finally been able to set the dates for our 2008 session for our Tea Specialist Certificate.  This year Session 1 will run on August 11-12 and Session 2 on August 25-26.  Space is limited, so if you’re interested, please do email us at info@theteaemporium.com for a registration form.  For those of you that want some more information on the course – click here for more information:  Tea Specialist Certificate.  The groups last year were a lot of fun – and we sure had a blast!

Wow – it’s been a while since we’ve been in here – life sometimes takes over however.  We told you about our new location in the Hazelton Lanes – but it appears we didn’t post about our fifth location in The Beach – or The Beaches – depending on who you talk to – don’t get me started on that argument.  Anyway – the store is cute – and we love the neighbourhood – can’t wait for the warm months in this area!

We are so happy to be able to tell you about our newest store opening.  It has been three years since our last opening – and the truth is – we had the itch – the itch for change – the itch to open something new – and the excitement as well as fun of sharing great tea with a whole new group of customers.  The new location is in Hazelton Lanes – in the heart of Yorkville.  There are so many exciting changes in this neighbourhood – and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.  We’re aiming to open this fall – early fall – but will let you know of the opening date as soon as we have one.

I always fear that creation will expire before teatime – Sydney Smith

What a week!  We’ve just held our first Specialty Tea Certification course – and it was a blast.  We had a thoroughly enjoyable time giving the course – but more importantly – meeting the great people that attended the course.  We covered a lot!  There were moments when we thought we would never get through everything we had planned – but we did – including tasting at least 40 different teas.

You may have heard these buzzwords in the media lately – what is it and why do you want it?  “Functional foods” – or foods that have a functional effect on our health is the category that probiotics and prebiotics fall in.   Both probiotics and prebiotics have a positive effect on the good bacteria that reside in our digestive system.  This good bacteria is essential in maintaining a healthy digestive system.  A probiotic is defined as:  “A preparation or product containing viable, defined micro-organisms in sufficient numbers, which alter the microflora of the host intestine and, by that, exert beneficial health effects on the host” (Schrezenmeier & DeVerse 2001) – In other words, good bacteria that helps the digestive system work properly.  There are ofcourse a number of ways  we can get probiotics – through yoghurt, supplements or specially formulated probiotic drinks.

The second part of favourable foods are prebiotics.  These are foods that help increase the amount of good bacteria in our system – they help the digestive system as well as the immune system by increasing microflora levels.

The good news for tea drinkers is that one form of taking in prebiotis is through the antioxidants present in tea!  So keep drinking – it’s ALL GOOD!

Here is some exciting news from the tea industry to share – below is the media release by the Tea Association.  We have obviously known and been able to prove for years the health claims associated with tea – my goodness – the Chinese have been drinking tea for health purposes for over 5000 years!!  It has taken some time however for Health Canada to officially allow the health claims to be printed on any packaging – so a big step for the industry – as well as further verification that tea is good for you.

Press Release – May 2007:

Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD) has deemed tea to be a natural health product and has officially recognized tea for its role in maintaining good health. After a period of extensive review, the NHPD has approved three health claims for tea. All types of tea infusions (black, green and oolong) are recognized as a source of antioxidants for the maintenance of good health. Tea is approved for increasing alertness. And tea is further accredited as helping to maintain and/or support cardiovascular health.  Green Tea extract is approved as a source of antioxidants for the maintenance of good health. It is also approved for use as an adjunct treatment in a weight management program in combination with a healthy diet and regular exercise.  “This is great news for tea and the millions of Canadians who enjoy tea,” says Louise Roberge, President of the Tea Association of Canada. “The approved health claims will help educate consumers about the health benefits of drinking tea.” The NHPD’s ruling will enable tea manufactures to include the approved health claims on product packaging and will set stage for allowing the use of the accepted health claims in marketing tea. “Canadians are concerned about maintaining their health and are looking for products that genuinely will benefit them,” says Roberge. “Now with these accepted health claims, Canadian consumers will know that tea is officially a healthy beverage choice.” The scientific evidence about the numerous health benefits of tea has been mounting for nearly two decades. Hundreds of research studies have found many potential health attributes associated with tea including protection from cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Tea is second only to water as the healthiest beverage choice according to guidelines for healthy beverage consumption that were developed by a panel of American nutrition experts and published in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of American Clinical Nutrition. “Tea is rich in naturally occurring flavonoids which act as antioxidants” says Dr. Carol Greenwood, Professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto. “In fact, tea is one of the highest sources of antioxidants in the diet.”   Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize the body’s naturally occurring but cell-damaging free radical molecules. Damage by free radicals over time is believed to contribute to the development of many chronic disease including cancer and cardiovascular disease, explains Greenwood.    Part of the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada, the NHPD is the regulating authority for natural health products sold in Canada. It ensures that Canadians have ready access to natural health products that are safe, effective and of high quality.  Natural health products include herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, vitamins, minerals, traditional medicines, probiotics, amino acids and essential fatty acids.

We’ve received our first flush teas and we are so excited – we’ve brought in a first flush Darjeeling from the Makaibari estate as well as a first flush Assam – Sewpur – very interesting tea.  Also from the Makaibari estate we have a very rare Oolong and from one of our favourite estates – Margaret’s Hope – we have an unusual white Darjeeling.   For more information on all of these teas – visit our website at www.theteaemporium.com.  Has anyone tried this years first flush teas – we would love to hear your comments.

If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty – Japanese Proverb