Smoky Lentil Miso Soup


Work has been insane recently, thanks to a couple of people going on vacation at the same time. Instead of picking up till I hit 25 hours a week, I’ve been scheduled for an average of 35 hours. I just finished a full week of 40 hours and I know that may sound fabulous to some people, but it hasn’t given me any time to work on Tea with Me or my tea blend company (more on that later). I keep telling myself this gives me money for Christmas, yet it really messes up with the social schedule. (Sorry to anyone who’s contacted me and I haven’t responded!)

Fall has also hit us with wave after wave of rain. The fireplace has been turned on often, my fleece line leggings came out of hiding, and I’ve been enjoying knitting with kitty cuddles. A little cabin fever has hit especially on the few hours I have off because it seems Mother Nature wants me to stay inside. On Tuesday I was looking forward to catch up on some fresh air, grocery shopping, and working on my computer yet again she laughs in the face of work since the power went off midway through my day and didn’t come back till it was nice and dark.


Sometimes accidents come in the form of great things. Unlike the electricity going out on my day off, this soup was happiness in a bowl. If you haven’t read My New Root’s new cookbook, I suggest you go buy it or find it at your local library since it’s absolutely amazing. I’ve been trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into my diet and testing out how my system reacts to more legumes, beans, and rice. So when I read about her, “Best Lentil Salad ever,” I had to try it, except I didn’t realize the amounts were for a potluck picnic so after eating bowls and more bowls, freezing a couple of containers, I still had a lot of leftovers. So I threw some into a pot with miso and a delicious concoction occurred.

This is my remake of my happy accident. I included a cup of lapsang souchong tea to add some smoky flavour to the miso and the depth of flavour that results is unreal.


Lapsong souchong is one of those black and white teas; you either love it or hate it. It’s a fully oxidized black tea made from China, but at the end of the oxidation period instead of drying it normally they place it over pinewood fires to dry, taking on a smoky flavour. Souchong refers to the fourth and fifth tea leaf, which means it’s farther down on the branch away from the prized tip or pekoe part of the leaf. This also means that it’s older so the flavour compounds are less, so smoking adds something special to a blah leaf. People compare the flavour to whiskey having the same peaty, piney, smoky flavour.

In a cup the smoke can be quite strong and it’s not for dainty tea drinkers, but adding it into a pot of soup adds a subtle nuance which is compared to the umami saltiness of white miso. Turmeric, cinnamon, a dash of cayenne, and a splash of apple cider vinegar takes up your typical lentil soup up a notch.


I wouldn’t suggest having your power go off, but if your day is windy and full of rain, I suggest whipping up a pot of smoky miso lentil soup for a great warming vegetarian meal.

Smoky Lentil Miso Soup
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tsp lapsang souchong loose leaf tea
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • ½ cup red lentils
  • 4 cups veggie stock
  • 2 tbsp white miso paste
  • 1tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ⅛ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Add your water and loose leaf tea together and set aside to brew. You want this nice and strong.
  2. Heat up a soup/stock pot to medium. Add coconut oil, onion, celery, and your bay leaf. Saute till translucent. Add your lentils and stock. Bring to a simmer, let it continue fr 15-20 minutes until your green lentils are cooked.
  3. Remove your tea leaves from your brewed up and pour the brew into the pot, add your miso, spices and vinegar. Stir to break up the clumps of miso. Taste for seasoning of salt and pepper.
  4. Serve with a nice crusty bit of bread.
I use two different types of lentils here. The red lentils, break down and give this soup some thickness while the green lentils keep their shape and give some texture/bite.

If you make this, let me see! Tag your photo with #teawithmeblog on Instagram.


Why is Water so Important to Tea?

It’s November, which means rain and more rain for the Pacific North West. Time to put on the woolen socks, cuddle under the blanket, get that fire going, and slip on crosswalks while running into Starbucks or is that just me? Does anyone else slip on painted strips while wearing Toms? I feel like a little penguin doing baby steps as I try to run as fast as possible because of course I forgot a coat and I just had to get one of those infamous red cups.

Usually we start getting rain around the end of September, but October was an abnormally dry month with beautiful sunshine and temperatures. As much as it put a smile on my face to walk to the library in just jeans and a t-shirt, the lack of rain has me worried.  Vancouver lives for its rain. Yes, we may complain about it on months end, but we need it to survive. Without rain there is no snow on our slopes, which means a reduced amount of tourism money coming into the city. It also means that throughout the province there will be a reduced amount of snow falling this season causing a decrease in run off in the spring. Where will our reservoirs be in the summer?

Personally I feel there’s a distinct lack of care when it comes to rain. I say this because a couple of days ago we had a downpour that didn’t let up all day. When I made a comment to most customers they were shocked to find that I absolutely loved it. For you see most people will think of the weather today without thinking of how it effects the future. People grumble about the water without really realizing how everything revolves around it.

For a tea blog, you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about the weather, but this analogy is the same for tea.

During my first tea class I had a eureka moment; my teacher described tea as 90% water, that good water can make an ok tea leaf taste good, but crappy water can turn your very expensive high quality tea into the most disgusting cup ever.  When we think of tea, we focus more on the actual leaves than the water we brew the leaves in.  We compare brands against one another, just like fashionistas comparing labels; using highly chlorinated tap water to brew an expensive First Flush Darjeeling, can make that cup taste like a Lipton tea bag. So once you wrap your mind around the concept of water characteristics first, it helps shift your focus into realizing how important water is to the overall end result. Just like shifting focus into embracing November downpours for the future Summer comfort.

There are three types of water general tea drinkers use to steep tea:

  • Generic tap water
  • Distilled water
  • Mineral-spring water

But each one has their own issues.

City water comes through the tap already filtered and disinfected with chlorine. If you ever drink from the tap and get that drying puckering mouth feel afterwards, it’s usually the chlorine having an effect. Depending on where you live you may have a high or a low amount of chlorine in your water.  It’s this chlorine that has an objectionable effect on tea flavour.  So the same tea can taste differently to people on opposite sides of the country. One can try filtering this water to remove the chlorine or at least trying to deactivate it by charcoal to help improve your tea flavour.

Distilled water is water that has been vaporized and recollected, it’s essentially stripped of all its naturally occurring mineral compounds. It’s empty, dead, when you taste it, you can’t taste anything but a cool liquid sensation.

The only water in this list that may present a true clean tea flavour is mineral-spring water, but that depends on the minerals found within the water.  Each brand comes from a different spring therefore there is no accurate compound list.

You see the truth about water and tea – is “steeping, brewing, infusing and extracting describe a critical chemical reaction between compounds already in the water and compounds already in the leaf.” If you can control the amount of compounds found within water such as calcium, magnesium, silica, iron and other salts, you can control the end result. This is a why a cup of tea made at a professional tea house can taste completely different than the same leaf you brew at your own house. Most tea houses have machines that calibrate the water to the exact concentration of compounds they want in the water to make the best cup of tea.

What Can You do at Home?

If you’re a tea connoisseur and want to improve your tea flavour at home, be acutely aware of the water you are brewing with, don’t just pour tap water into your kettle and boil.  One of my teachers told me to use Evian spring water for tea tasting due to the neutral ph, but that can get really expensive if you drink tea on a regular basis. Personally, I only used it when I was doing my blind cuppings to try and get as close to an accurate and clean flavour as I could. At home, I use a filter stick that increases the ph of my water so it’s more alkaline and infuses my water with calcium, magnesium, and other beneficial minerals as well as reducing the chlorine content.

The best recommendation I can give you is try different waters, taste them before you brew tea and after. Taste the difference and come up with the water that works best for you. As soon as you see tea as water first, it opens up a whole new world of control and flavours.

Get tasting!

Genmaicha Roasted Delicata Squash


This past month has flown by in a whirlwind of sleep, work, knitting, and Netflix. One day I was sitting down to eat three turkey meals and the next I’m being asked by twenty plus people at 5 pm on Halloween if we have any candy left. Recently I got a job at a grocery store as a general clerk working around 30 hours per week. For my sedentary body the change from lounging in my pjs for days on end to one with lifting and standing for seven hours a day was a huge change. Life really has consisted of little else. So I apologize, dear readers for my absence as I adjust to a new routine.

My Pinterest is slowly starting to be taken over by Christmas pins as Canadians move slowly into Christmas mode especially now the west coast rain has set in for good. Yet, I’m still in sunny Fall mode, full of squashes, apples, and pears. Probably due to the fact that I was so busy to enjoy October so I’m chasing down that crisp sunny air feeling.

Delicata squashes are my favourite winter squash behind butternut or kabocha mostly because of their ease of use. These squashes have a very thin skin on them perfect to eat. All one needs to do is clean out the middle, slice and cook. Problem with them though – they may be a tad hard to find depending on where you live. Moving across the river I’ve lost my favourite farm stand that carries an abundance of variety especially in Fall. So this year I had to chase them down, I had almost given up and was going to use kabocha squash instead until I found them under a miscellaneous festival bin. The clerks working had thought they were a purely decorative squash. For others they may be labelled as bohemian squash.

Whatever the name this type of winter squash is loaded with amazing benefits. Full of digestion promoting fiber and an excellent source of vitamins A and C these starchy squash have good insulin regulating properties. So if you have any diabetic problems especially if you are type 2, take a look at adding them to your diet when in season.


The starchy nutty flavour of delicata is paired with a Japanese green tea called genmaicha. Most of you are probably familiar with the taste if you eat sushi, for most Japanese restaurants serve this type over a Sencha. Genmaicha or genmai cha translates to – Tea of Genmai. As the story goes, a servant served his samurai green tea with a few toasted rice kernels brewed within. The samurai was so angered that his tea was no longer pure; he took up his sword and cut off the servants head. As he sheathed his sword, he took a sip of the brew, finding it delicious he was distraught with what he had done; he named the tea after his servant, Genmai. Essentially this tea is the people’s tea; taking pure good quality green tea and cutting it with toasted rice kernels or popped corn to increase yield. This tea is vegetal yet slightly nutty toasted making it perfect to pair with squash.


This recipe was inspired by an Instagram image by Teaspoon and Petals earlier this month. She was drinking a cup of genmaicha tea while waiting to roast some delicata squash and I thought, why not pair the two of them together? This is a perfect side dish, but you can easily pair it with a lentil salad and a sprinkle of cheese to make a main meal.

Genmaicha Roasted Delicata Squash
  • 3 delicata squashes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp genmaicha tea
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Wash skin of squash before carefully slicing lengthwise and scooping out the seeds. Slice into ½ inch half circles. Place on a large roasting/baking pan. Pour the olive oil over squash and toss to coat before adding the rest of the ingredients in and tossing for full coverage.
  3. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until soft and caramelized.

If you make this, let me see! Tag your photo with #teawithmeblog on Instagram.

Pu-Erh Tea Spice Rub


As the air gets a little crisp and for us living by the mountains, yes it has been a little crisp this past week despite the beautiful sunshine which makes perfect fall weather, my thoughts have turned to all things Autumn. There’s something about fall that makes me want to nest – hoodies, blankets, warm food and drinks. All I’ve wanted to do was curl up on the couch, drinking tea, watching Netflix (yay new season of Once Upon a Time!), while knitting ALL the things! Today is the first day we have cloud cover and I’ve had to turn the light on in the office. When this happens I want to start eating warming foods and spices and nothing can beat that by a nice spice rub.

Pu-erh is a unique tea and I say that mildly. I was introduced to it on my first day of TAC’s tea sommelier program and with one whiff I knew I wouldn’t like it. My nose is incredibly sensitive to mold and that first cup of pu-erh reminded me of a museum full of musty aging items. In fact I recall describing it after my first sip like, “that canoe found in an old peat mog Bob and I saw in the National Museum of Ireland.” It’s always interesting how our senses can take us back with pin point precision to a random memory.


That’s not the greatest way to convince you to try this rub right? Haha

The more I’ve had to drink it the more it’s starting to grow on me. Pu-erh has a very unique earthy taste that I find you either love it or hate it when it’s prepared as an infusion. Using it in cooking is another thing entirely. That musty old smell completely disappears and instead an earthy umami flavour comes forth. Pair that with spicy cayenne pepper and peppercorns with the sweetness of five spice and allspice powder and it all combines magically into a unique spice rub for any type of meat. Here I’ve rubbed down a pork loin roasted it with apples and potatoes, but pairing it with a grilled flank or skirt steak would be amazing.

Pu-Erh Tea Spice Rub
  • 1 tbsp Pu-erh loose leaf tea
  • 1 tbsp Sea salt
  • 1 tbsp Chinese five spice, powdered
  • 1.5 tsp Allspice, powdered
  • 1.5 tsp Cayenne pepper, powdered
  • 1 tsp Ground black pepper
  1. In a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, place the pu-erh tea and grind it into a powder. Dump into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix together. Store in a sealed container and use when needed.
  2. For example, I used this on a small pork roast to give the mild pork some zing or you could add it to a flank steak and grill it on the BBQ.

If you make this, let me see! Tag your photo with #teawithmeblog on Instagram.


What is Tea?

Just like any interest – health, design, food, etc., when we delve into it deeply we assume everyone knows what we know. So it took me by surprise when I had asked my Mum months back to get, “plain black tea bags,” (I think it was for sun tea) she wasn’t sure what that meant. For the generic grocery store brand just said ‘tea’ on the label which confused her. This post and page combination came from having multiple people tell me they were surprised to find out that all tea came from the same plant.

So for the people who aren’t quite sure what consists of tea, this post is for you.

The Legend

A Chinese legend puts the discovery of tea in the year 2737 BC. Shen Nong, a legendary emperor, decreed everyone must boil their water for health reasons. It is said that one day he sat in the shade of a tree waiting for his water to boil when a couple of leaves fell in. The resulting brew was delicious and he was captivated; tea was born.

Simply put tea is made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant found native in Asia. There are two main varieties; var. sinensis which was found in China and var. assamica which was found in the Assam region of India. The tolerance to low temperatures and higher altitudes give var. sinensis an advantage to growing in places like Japan and China. It also has a somewhat perfumed aroma with little body. Whereas the var. assamica is resistant to monsoon like conditions and does well in places like India and Sri Lanka. This variety will have more body and briskness.

Tea Types

Novice tea drinkers are surprised to find out that white, green, oolong, black, and pu-erh tea all come from the same plant – camellia sinensis. There are slightly different production methods that are applied to the leaves to get a variety of flavours from one plant such as withering, oxidation, and fermenting. These methods make the final product look different not just in colour, but in texture.

Click an image below to learn more about a specific tea.

  • white-tea-thumbnailWhite
  • green-tea-thumbnailGreen
  • oolong-tea-thumbnailOolong
  • black-tea-thumbnailBlack
  • pu-erh-tea-thumbnailPu-erh

Tea, Tisane or Decoction

I find these words are used throughout the marketing of tea like products. For example, tisanes are usually called herbal teas despite the fact they don’t have any proper “tea” in it. The word tea has almost become synonymous with brewing any herb in water, but in fact true tea is made with the camellia sinensis bush. Here’s a little breakdown of the difference:

  • Tea – A product created from the Camellia Sinensis bush such as white, green, oolong, black, or pu-erh tea.
  • Tisane – Usually known as herbal tea which is created from the leaf or floral parts of herbs such as peppermint or chamomile, they do not contain any camellia sinensis.
  • Decoction – Usually lumped in with herbal teas when found at most natural stores, but technically these, in the herbalist world, are known as a decoction since they need a longer brewing time. They are made from the roots or bark of plants such as licorice or ginseng.

Now that you have gained some insight to what defines tea, go out to your local tea shop and try some new teas.

Tea is the second highest drunk beverage in the world behind water. It has the ability to calm us when things are rough, warm us during a rainy day, and energize us to meet a deadline. It has such a variety of flavours and nuances over the typical black tea with milk and sugar. It also has the ability to help with our health physical and mental. Hopefully this post clears some things up to where you feel comfortable going to your local tea shop and trying some new teas you’ve never dared before.

Did I leave something out that you want clarified? Leave me a comment!