Tea Bag vs Loose Leaf – Is There a Difference?

If you’re anything like my family, you grew up with a couple of boxes of black tea in the cupboard brought down when company was over. Or at every Christmas you got the standard miscellaneous concoction of different varieties given to you by that random Aunt who doesn’t know what to get you. Tea bags were just a standard product that gave off an astringent brew that in my young little head translated into adult taste buds, kinda like beer or coffee.

Loose leaf was never a term I heard until tea became more main stream, this is when David’s Tea was the new kid on the block, popping up everywhere with their fancy artificial fruity sweet flavours. During this time I got extremely excited, whenever I saw an authentic tea store I would spend long minutes, opening containers, smelling the aroma, getting giddy at the notion of gunpowder green tea, black tea with rose petals, and Japanese sencha. These teas were something you could never find in a regular grocery store tea bag. It was a whole new world for me, one that I greedily gobbled down without a thought. I just accepted the fact; loose leaf was a better quality tea, just like one buys a Guinness versus a Molson Canadian beer. (Yes, I’m a beer snob). But for others, one of the first questions people asks themselves when they first start dabbling into tea is – “What’s the difference between loose leaf and tea bag?”

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Jasmine Green Tea Lemonade

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I hate summer. There I said it.

I want to love summer, I really do.

When March rolls around I get excited for the possibility of going out without an umbrella, the mountains aren’t soggy so hiking is possible without bodily harm of slipping, the idea of going camping and being in nature is super exciting after being cooped up in one tiny house for months on end with the rain pouring. The barbeques, the events, sitting on patios drinking mojitos and sangria with friends, there’s so many things to do in summer! So many plans are made for finally enjoying summer except … every single year I forget how bloody hot it gets.

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A New Focus

I’ve been staring at a blank word document on and off for several days trying to decide what is the most eloquent way to describe the last year in blogging. I left FBC 2014 with large goals. I was energized by being around so many like minded people and I had just graduated with holistic nutrition credentials. Yet Tea with Me just sat here, an empty shell, due to a lot of personal concerns and a variety of topics I couldn’t commit to.

One moment I wanted to focus on holistic nutrition; have the focus be on grain-free whole foods to supplement my business. But I sat there staring, wondering how I could be a good nutritionist while working at a chocolate shop, stuffing my face full of candy and barely eating any greens. How could anyone look up to me when I wasn’t even a good role model for myself?

Then in mid spring, I joined the Tea Association of Canada’s Tea Sommelier program; eight modules and a final certification exam. I’ve always enjoyed tea, thus the name, yet I never knew one could take classes. Part of me wishes I had known about the course before going to IHN, I think if I had known I wouldn’t have become a holistic nutritionist.

That’s the kicker.

So I sat, trying to figure out what to do – do I combine all my skills into a mish mash blog or focus on one topic? Words from the conference kept taunting me; Aimée from Simple Bites asking us how to describe our blog in one hashtag to focus on one topic and become a master at that. Then another who looked at me oddly when hearing my blog name, yet finding out that it wasn’t a tea blog. I texted blogging friends, asking if the name was too confusing, if Tea with Me made sense for the purpose I wanted it for (combining nutrition and tea posts). I held tightly onto the knowledge that I had just spent a year, getting a degree, that in this point in time I didn’t want anything to do with. That’s a mind numbing, paralyzing thought, to the point where I haven’t touched Tea with Me.

Several weeks ago, I took a sip of Darjeeling tea and another from Assam; both are black teas from India and immediately in my mind associated one with more muscatel notes and the other with malt. I got so incredibly giddy that my senses were finally able to discern the two. It was in that moment, I realized I enjoyed learning the nuances of tea than the inner workings of nutrition.

Tea with Me has been an ever evolving blog, starting off when I was trying to get into photography, a generic food blog, and then one that focuses on primal. Now it will be going back to the roots of its name – tea. I will not be focusing on reviews, but you may find one here and there. The focus will be sharing knowledge, for example – the difference between an English, Scottish, and Irish Breakfast tea, using tea in recipes (sweet and savoury), and even how tea can help your health.

I thank everyone for following me on my journey and I hope that you will continue to do so in this new chapter. If you have any comments or questions about the future, please feel free to share.

Heads up – there will be changes being made over the next little while. A new bio photo (you don’t want to see me with my current greasy ponytail), proper static pages, and a new recipe index.

Tantallon Castle

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Part 1 – Christmas and Hogmanay in Scotland
Part 2 – Foggy Boxing Day with Relatives
Part 3 – Visiting the Kelpies
Part 4 – Craigmiller Castle with Friends

First off everyone needs to get themselves or know someone who has an Irish terrier, then second fly over to Scotland and have them pose perfectly in front of gorgeous old ruins. Burberry should use rugged Scottish models posing with Irish terriers in their ads because you know they make everything gorgeous. The above photo is probably my most favourite out of the bunch. Well timed Dad and Dougal, bravo.

After this post goes live I’m pretty sure I’m going to get an email from the Dad’s saying, “told you so” and yes I know that jacket and red plaid scarf looks good on you.

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I’ve mentioned the fact that Scotland really only gets technically 7 hours of daylight during the winter, let’s say five functional photography hours. It can be hard to go visit things when the sun sets at 4:00 in the afternoon, but it makes the lighting dreamy. Everything has a nice glow because the sun isn’t casting harsh shadows and light everywhere. It’s like taking photos roughly at the golden hour for most of the day. Combine the fact that I actually had nice weather minus some wind chill at night made it a really good time to travel .. this time. Last time it was snowy and rainy, not so pleasant. I say this because the above two photos were taken between 9-10am, roughly versus the rest of the photos during mid day. They look like they were taken at dusk.

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What’s the first thing to come to your mind when I say castle? Probably something along the lines of a gothic style keeps with parapets and towers. Thanks to Disney and other fairy tell stories, we forget that castles came in different shapes and for a longest time they were built as fortifications not decoration. Craigmiller castle is a tower house keep, a square stone building with fortification walls surrounding it. Tantallon was the last curtain wall castle to be built in Scotland, essentially a U shape building at the edge of a cliff. The rooms were built into defensive wall protecting the kitchen, great hall, and most likely the stables.

It was absolutely stunning.

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Vibrant green fields, red sandstone, and grey-blue ocean against a backdrop of a gorgeous blue winter day; it can’t get much better than that. I think I was so caught up with the location and rugged beauty of the place that I didn’t take many photos of the castle itself. Problem is when you combine sandstone with ocean spray you get a ruined ruin (ha). You can bring your Irish terrier along and convince him to walk up and down narrow stairs that most people have to contemplate.

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Overall it was a fantastic trip – I relaxed with family, got addicted to rosemary salt crisps which I cannot find here (hint hint), visited a few castles and explored Scotland outside of Edinburgh city. I would do it again.

Thank you Dad, Bob and Dougal!

Craigmiller Castle with Friends

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Part 1 – Christmas and Hogmanay in Scotland
Part 2 – Foggy Boxing Day with Relatives
Part 3 – Visiting the Kelpies
Part 5 – Tantallon Castle

Traveling is an excellent way to go through your reading list. Purchase an e-reader, download some books, and voila instant travel companion. I read so many random, mostly non-fiction, books when I was in Europe for my seven week trip. It was great. When I was first in Dublin e-readers never existed and thus had to make the hard decision on what books to bring. No instant download. Whatever book I brought for that trip, it was boring, I don’t even remember what it was. To keep me entertained while they had a nap, Dad gave me his book telling me I would enjoy the historic Scottish fiction. Fast forward nearly ten years later and I’m still addicted to the series written by Diana Gabaldon.

That’s right – my Dad, not my Mum got me addicted to the slightly porn esque books that is Outlander.

Suffice to say I was one of those book worms; I liked the series before it ever saw the light of television.

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Maybe it’s because I have family in Scotland or that I enjoy my history, but I never got excited nor did the thought cross my mind that I would be going to the country where Outlander is filmed. To me Scotland is a place of history, where battles were fought, sacrifices made, and everyday life was held. It’s full of rugged beauty and misty weather. Yet the first thing my friend Sierra said was, “Omg you’re going where Outlander is filmed!!” or roughly of that sorts. When reading that Instagram comment, I rolled my eyes and moved along.

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I can’t say I’ve been to that many castles, yet personally I felt Craigmiller was one of the most well-kept ones I’ve been in. Most are just ruins; you see the outer wall and the keep which you walk in and try to imagine several wooden floors above you, long rotted. Maybe it’s a combination of reading history books and Outlander or the fact that masonry was a large industry thus actually having multiple stone floors, but Craigmiller felt like a preserved castle. One could walk through hallways, duck into fireplaces, and spend time in the great hall imagining people packed into such a tiny room. You could almost imagine the heat and the stench. You can walk up stairs and visit rooms knowing that the occupants slept, fought, and did other things.

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It was built in the late 14th century and was used as a noble seat. Sir Simon Preston, Provost of Edinburgh lived here and one can imagine this place being a place of country residence for the family when they weren’t in town, despite its close proximity to Edinburgh. Of course, like most castles in Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots did stay here.

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So Sierra, fan of Outlander who really should read the books, this castle is for you.