I’m Creating a New Business!

According to my Twitter feed it is National Tea Day, which makes today a fitting time for an announcement. After a lot of contemplation between going back into the design industry or doing something with my Tea Sommelier and nutrition training, I realized as much as I love design, I enjoy creating things with my hands, being able to give people enjoyment with what I’ve created.

I’ve decided to create my own business – Wild by the Sea Tea Botanicals.

It’s a company inspired by the raw energy that can be found in the Pacific Northwest, that mix between earth, air, and water that is so unique to here. Most tea companies feature their own chai mixes, creamy earl grey, or some sassy herbal tisane, but I wanted something different.

wbts-announcement

Wild by the Sea incorporates tea with other herbs to create tea blends as well as individual body care products that bring this beautiful area to you. Taking a sip of our Mountain blend with its white tea base, refreshing peppermint, spicy ginger, and earthy sage will give you that exact “aaah”, moment one gets breathing in crisp mountain air. The tea is paired with a bath salt blend of Epsom and sea salts that replicate that aah moment in a hot bath so you can release tight muscles from hiking (or other exercises!). Other blends include an earthy pu-erh and fir tip forest tea and body scrub, vegetal sencha and clay mask for the sea, as well as a few others.

We purchase from local companies using organic ingredients and everything is made in small handmade batches.

Right now I’m in the middle of pre-production and just purchased my first big bulk ingredient shipment that will be coming within the next few days. I’m super excited to bring this company to everyone and I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!

Please follow Wild by the Sea over on our Facebook page for updates or you can sign up to the newsletter here. If you have any questions or comments let me know, I would love to hear from you!

Matcha Shortbread Squares Dipped in Chocolate

chocolate-dipped-matcha-shortbread

A few months ago over delicious charcuterie and wine I mentioned to a good food blogger friend that I was excited for this year’s Food Bloggers Cookie Swap knowing exactly what I was going to make. Fast forward a couple of months, over nearly the same meal I was handing her a tin full of these delicious cookies.

I lucked out with the location of my swaps; two of them being in close proximity to me I was able to hand deliver them. There’s something special about opening a package in the mail from an unknown stranger, but sometimes I feel like that’s where the magic ends for the maker. We go through a labour of love creating cookies, package them tightly so they don’t break, and like parents sending their kids to college, we ship boxes away in hopes that the stranger has fun. But when I was able to deliver them by hand, it gave me a sense of satisfaction seeing their eyes light up as they take the first bite especially when you introduce them to matcha for the first time. I was able to get instant gratification for my work instead of waiting patiently for someone to contact me saying they received their box of cookies. If they tell me said cookies are almost all gone and they didn’t share with their fiancée even better.

matcha-shortbread-ingredients

Shortbread may not be fancy sounding like earl grey and lemon madelines or peanut linzer cookies with strawberry chocolate ganache. The magic of shortbread is hidden away under simple ingredients and lack of the baker’s attention. For despite shortbread being a simple mixture of butter (lots of butter), sugar, and flour the brilliance in shortbread is the baker’s ability to know how much to knead and how long to bake. For if you over bake shortbread, it will come out hard, crispy, and lacklustre in taste. If you don’t knead for the right amount of time, the texture will be off. You might say shortbread is in my blood and a good shortbread needs to be lightly baked, soft, and melt in your mouth.

mixed-shortbread-doughmatcha-shortbread-without-chocolate

These cookies are a labour of love, especially when you can’t find a square cookie cutter anywhere and are so stubborn that said cookie had to be square instead of circle you hand cut them all. After taking the time to knead the dough to the right sticky and soft consistency, rolling them out, cutting them, you dip them in delicious dark chocolate.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t spike these shortbread with a little bit of tea and there’s nothing more Christmassy than green which in the tea baking word means matcha. If you follow my blog, I did a little post in preparation earlier this week letting you know the difference between quality matcha and powdered sencha. You don’t need a fancy 30 dollar matcha for 30 grams for this recipe. A lower quality works beautifully. I got mine from David’s tea for 30 dollars for 100 grams which if you’re not used to matcha can be pretty steep, but that’s a good price.

shortbread-dipped-in-chocolate

This shortbread is lightly sweet with a light vegetal undertone and the dark chocolate pairs beautifully with the matcha flavour and sweetens the overall cookie just a touch not to be overwhelming. These cookies turned a matcha hater into a matcha lover so be forewarned you may become addicted.

Matcha Shortbread Squares Dipped in Chocolate
  • SHORTBREAD DOUGH
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1¾ cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour*
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp matcha
  • CHOCOLATE DIPPING SAUCE
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chunks or chips)
  • ½ tbsp coconut oil
  1. Make sure your counter top is all clean before starting because you will be kneading your shortbread on it.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.
  3. In a mixing bowl, add all ingredients. With your hands, break up the butter and slowly rub/mix the ingredients between your fingers and thumb to create large pea size chucks of dough. Very similar to cutting in butter into pastry. Dump this dough onto your clean counter top.
  4. Proceed to knead the dough together, using some force at first to get the dough come together. Don’t worry, it may look like it won’t come together, but with a little work it will come together into a nice soft ball. Stop when the dough feels very soft and gives way to your finger pressing down onto it.
  5. Between two pieces of wax paper, roll your dough to about ¼-1/2″ in thickness. Cut with a square cookie cutter. Place onto baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of your dough.
  6. Bake until the bottom is just lightly golden, about 6 to 9 minutes. You do not want to over bake your cookies! Once baked, let them cool slightly on the sheets before transferring them to a cooling rack to fully cool down.
  7. Prep your cookie sheets with clean wax paper. In a double boiler, melt your chocolate and coconut oil together. Once fully melted take your cooled cookies and dip half of it with the melted chocolate. Hold it up and let it drain off slightly before placing on your sheets to completely cool.
  8. Eat, share, and enjoy!
*There’s an awkward amount of flour due to the matcha powder being added. You can easily measure out two cups of flour and remove two tablespoons before adding the matcha.

Serves: 24-28

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

 

Tencha vs Sencha: How They Affect Your Matcha

Taken from my presentation at a Tea Association of Canada’s class.

Being a food blogger with a holistic nutritionist degree who loves tea, I get asked about matcha quite a lot. It seems matcha is the new “it” tea on the market these days and unfortunately with more and more people wanting to try this tea the more in demand it gets which causes a little upset in production. Currently only Japan makes true matcha and being such a small island they have limited resources to make authentic matcha. So as the demand increases, tea producers need to find a way to keep up with it unfortunately this means cutting corners.

You see true matcha is created from a tea called tencha and this tea will fetch a higher price on the market. Lower priced matchas are actually powdered sencha, a different type of green tea from Japan.

matcha-powder

So what exactly is the difference?

Tencha is covered in black sheets to block out the sun roughly around twenty days before picking. This shade growth effects the plants photosynthesis which alters the proportions of sugars, amino acids, and other substances responsible for flavour. Unlike sencha, this tea is not rolled and the “meat” part of the leaf is used. Young leaves are picked in spring, dried, and de-veined then stored until November before being stone-ground.

Sencha on the other hand is a tea grown fully in the sunshine. Four times a year, beginning in spring, machines gather the leaves before being cleaned, sorted, steamed, dried, rolled, and then dried again. Some are hand plucked and are highly prized, but for the most part sencha is completely machine cut.

When producers turn sencha into powder they use the whole leaf, stem and all. They may use an older leaf or one harvested lower on the stalk. When these leaves are powdered they can create a yellow brownish hue. True matcha should be a vibrant green because of the overproducing chlorophyll, the greener the better!

Taste and feel will also be different between the two – a matcha will have a sweeter bright light vegetal taste where a sencha will have more of an intense flavour but with an astringent finish. When whisked a matcha will have a creamy silky texture where as a sencha will be courser.

How to use the two

Just like tea bag versus loose leaf, powdered sencha and matcha have their own uses. I would recommend anyone wanting to sit down with a properly whisked cup of matcha splurge for the higher price tag. This can be a bit of a shocker at around 30 dollars for 30 grams of tea. Yet, powdered sencha’s bright more vegetal flavour lends itself more to being blended or baked in whatever treat you want. When you’re also making treats with powdered green tea you’re going to use a lot of it to get that green tea flavour, so 100 grams for 15 dollars seems a bit more reasonable.

Just like champagne, any tea that calls themselves matcha that’s not created in Japan, is technically not matcha and even leaves in Japan that aren’t tencha leaves shouldn’t be called matcha.

So the next time you go to your local tea store, feel free to ask them exactly where and what their matcha is made from, so you can ensure that you get the right tea for what you’re looking for.

Smoky Lentil Miso Soup

smokey-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.

red-and-green-lentils

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.

lapsang-souchong-tea

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.

Bam!

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!