When I wrote about South Korean Teas from Teas Unique on Monday I realized that I’d never but into blog-post-form the story of how Rob and I visited this really cool place on Jeju Island: The O’Sulloc Tea Museum.
I know, a tea museum? But trust me, it was so, so, awesome. Even if you’re not a tea freak like me, I’d bet you’d still get excited at the adorable demonstrations of Korean tea culture and beautiful, historic tea artifacts found inside. Plus, there’s a delicious café that serves FRESH matcha and these delightful matcha Swiss rolls, served chilled so their creamy centres are almost an ice-cream-like consistency.
How better to honour Oscar Wilde, playwright, poet, novelist and total lush, than to savour tea named after him in a gilded room just around the corner from Piccadilly circus in the heart of London’s West End. In his old haunt you’ll find some of the fanciest tea snacks and opulent walls in the city known for its love of afternoon tea. Continue Reading
Happy Hot Tea Month! In the speculiar (spectacular and peculiar) vein of niche holidays, I’ve discovered that January is hot tea month in Canada and the U.S. (maybe other places as well – the niche holiday Google queries were unclear).
According to legend, Emperor Shen Nong first discovered tea in China in 2,737 B.C. It’s said he was traveling when some leaves from a nearby bush blew into water he was boiling. When he drank the liquor, he was infused with energy. Thus, tea became a thing.
That bush was the camellia sinensis plant. In Mandarin the camellia sinensis plant is called cháhuā (茶花) which literally means tea flower.
All tea comes from one of the two varietals the camellia sinensis plant. It’s only the difference in processing that creates the six different types of tea.
This tea is really easy to spot because of its unique white hairs. White tea is covered in a fine fuzz. The leaves are plucked before they can open and as a result the tea flavours are milder with a sometimes light sweetness. You won’t find any vegetal or chlorophyll tastes here. You see white tea often given a lot of artifical flavour (ex: white blueberry), but try a Bai Mu Dan (white peony), Bai Hao Yin Zhen (white hair silver needle) or Shou Mei (longevity eyebrow) for some hallmark pure white tea.
How to brew: 70˚-80˚C water, steep anywhere from 2-5 minutes.
Very rare, this tea I’ve only had once. Chances are you won’t find it on the grocery aisle shelves. These teas are created in a process similar to green tea, except during the creation process the wet leaves are left to dry for longer and steamed under a damp cloth. Because of that they turn yellow and lose a lot of the grassy flavours that green teas have. Jun Shan Yin Zhen (silver needle yellow tea) is a famous Chinese yellow tea. China is also the only country that makes yellow tea.
How to brew: 80˚-85˚C water, quick 1-2 minute steep.
One of my favourites! Green tea is unoxidized tea. The leaves are picked and then either roasted in a pan or steam-heated to stop oxidization. Pan-firing is more common in Chinese practice and steaming is more common in Japanese. That’s why Chinese green teas like Dragonwell or Gunpowder have more of a smokey, nutty, toasty finish as opposed to Japanese greens like Sencha or Gyokuro. Steamed Japanese greens have more of a chlorophyll flavour that can sometimes almost taste like seaweed.
Matcha is also considered a green tea. It’s made of ground tencha. Tencha is actually made using the same process as Japanese gyokuro (jade dew) green tea, except instead of being rolled before drying, the leaves are laid out flat to dry. They then become crumbly, are de-veined and ground into bright green matcha powder.
How to brew: 80˚–85˚C water and don’t steep too long; 2 minutes will do. Here’s how to brew matcha.
This is the tea master’s tea. Oolong is semi-oxidized tea, in between green tea and black tea. The edges of the leaves are ‘bruised’ (often by tossing them in baskets) so that the border of the leaves oxidize faster than the middle. Oolong is anywhere from 10-80% oxidized. The more red/darker your leaves are, the more oxidized. It’s hard to tell when they’re dry and brittle, but after you steep your leaves it’s easy to uncurl them to see what they look like.
So, why the tea master’s tea? Good oolong takes a lot of artistry to produce. Chinese tea connoisseurs value a good oolong. The Chinese Gongfu tea ceremony was also largely created around oolong tea.
[white_box]Fun Fact: I’m a big fan of Taiwanese oolong. It has a unique taste and history. Oolong in Taiwan was started by labourers brought over from Fujian province (the home of oolong in China) to work for the Dutch when they were colonizing the island. About fifty years later the Fujianese immigrants kicked the Dutch out and oolong production continued to flourish on the island. Later oolong production was influenced by the arrival of Japanese technology, so today’s Taiwanese oolong production is a mix of Chinese and Japanese techniques.[/white_box]
How to brew: Depending on how oxidized your tea is, anywhere from 85˚-95˚C and I recommend multiple steepings. Your first steeping can be 2 minutes and then increase the length of steep by 10-20 seconds each time. Unlike most teas, oolong can be re-steeped many times and often improves with each steeping.
As you might have noticed, out teas have been getting dark/more oxidized as we go along. Black tea is fully oxidized tea leaves. It’s the most common kind of tea in the western hemisphere (although green is rapidly gaining popularity). Black tea is grown largely in India, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania.
You can get quite a difference in flavour between the different regions, although generally a rich amber liquor is what we’re looking for. Often times black tea will be scented (ex: black tea with bergamot is a.k.a. Earl Grey). Most of the breakfast tea blends we’re familiar with in the western world is a combination of teas from India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania. Famously, Scottish tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton started his tea empire in Sri Lanka.
How to brew: 95˚-99˚C. If you’re from the Maritimes people here dump about ten tea bags into a craft and leave it all day on the stove. If your palate can’t take strong astringency and tea that can strip the paint off the wall, try instead brewing for 6-7 minutes with one tea bag.
Cakes of pu’erh tea sit in the centre of the green tea caddy.
Fermented or aged tea, stored in square or flat circle cakes. Pu’erh started in the Yunnan province of China. Originally the cakes would be buried after they oxidize. It has a distinct, strong, earthy taste and (I’ve been told) goes well with liver. Food for thought.
How to brew: Water at a rolling boil. This is the only tea that really likes water this hot. Pu’erh is nice to drink in the same style as oolong. The first steep is 15-20 seconds long, then go to 20 seconds, 40 seconds, etc. For an easier western brew, steep for 2 minutes.
A Note on Infusions
A chamomile infusion.
There are a lot of infusions made of hot water and mint, ginseng, chamomile, rooibos, etc. often called tea. But unless there’s some camellia sinensis leaf in there, it’s not tea. It’s an infusion or tisane.
Sometimes people say herbal tea, but that’s always struck me as confusing because it mixes the meaning of tea with infusion.
So now that you know all what’s out there, over the month of January what about giving a new type of tea a try? English Breakfast is great, but have you ever tried Nepalese Black Tea? Or Frozen Summit Taiwanese Oolong?
There’s a whole world of teas out there! What about trying teas from different countries? Do you usually just drink Darjeeling from India, or Sencha from Japan? Try shaking it up with a Ruhuna from Sri Lanka or Bai Mu Dan from China.
I’m looking forward to writing more about tea for January. Speaking of, is there anything you’re interested in? Anything you’d like to know?
If you were looking for an excuse to fill that extra cup of tea, this month is it. Enjoy it, hot tea lovers.
Day 2 was more packed than I would have thought possible, as this morning’s hangovers can tell you.
The sunrise woke us up early yesterday in our free camping spot in Victoriaville, and we headed to the nearby McDonald’s to make use of their washrooms (they were really nice – this was one of those fancy play plazas – the sinks were granite), get some breakfast, and wifi.
After, we stopped by Victoriaville’s adorable public market to get some fresh food for the road and groceries. We have a cooler that plugs into our car and keeps things old as we drive. Awesome for road trips!
Right beside the farmer’s market there’s this cute little Bar Laitier (Milk Bar) and mini putt. We didn’t get a chance to play, but it would have been a sweet spot to spend the day.
Before 10am we were on the road heading into Montréal, with our Radiolab podcasts to keep us company.
We arrived shortly before lunchtime at our friends’ Montréal apartment in the Verdun neighbourhood, where we were couch-surfing for the night. We then set out with him to explore the city.
Fresh oysters from various regions of Québec were on offer, as were Nova Scotian and PEI specimens. All were served in boxes of crushed ice with cold lemon wedges.
These are not your CostCo Oysters. They’re big, meaty, and taste like fresh ocean. If you come to Marché Jean Talon, it would be a mistake to leave without tasting some of these. Most species are around $2 each, and they shuck them right in front of you.
We are fortunate in that this friend we were staying with happens to be David Atman, co-founder of La Décapsule, a Montréal-based local beer and food blog, who is a wizard at finding good eats in this city.
From Les Cochons Tout Ronds we tried the strolghino for a classic saucisson. Of course, you won’t have our handsome Quebecois friend to slice it for you with his pocket knife, but that’s okay. I promise it will still taste great.
I bought a whole bucket of fresh peaches here for $5. Most of the merchants will also let you sample their fruits and veggies before buying. What a great experience. If you lived nearby, this is the only market you’d need to go to.
Across the street from the market is a store that sells almost exclusively duck meat. We buy some duck sausage. The guy who runs the store used to be known as ‘the sausage pimp’. Hearsay says he used to sell these delicious sausages out of the back of his trunk.
I’ve been consistently impressed with the higher calibre of tea houses that keep popping up across Canada as tea drinking becomes more and more aligned with mainstream culture. The host showed us an enviable menu of teas from each major tea-growing country in the world, including what they had just received from their most recent flushes (tea harvests).
He also explained correct matcha brewing technique, and was very knowledgeable on their product. They also offer classes in their tea school. Plus, look a their beautiful library of teas!
Local Craft Beers and Pitchers of Poutine
Pitchers of poutine. I know this is what you’ve all been waiting for.
Unfortunately, we had to wait to! Le Petit Medley didn’t open up 3pm, so we killed some time at another great establishment with local brews: Vices et Versa.
We hung out on their shaded back patio and ordered off their beer board seen above. They even had one of our favourites on tap, Moralité. The star of the show here was a legendary LTM Double IPA, brewed with 13 different kinds of hops, that only comes out once a year in the summer.
We headed over to Le Petit Medley and ordered a $22 Pitcher of Poutine we had been waiting for. It’s not even on the menu, but if you order it, they will make it.
Thanks to David Atman at La Décapsule for the shot above and below.
This poutine was so potent, Rob’s fork broke while he was trying to eat it. I had to go on alone for awhile. It was hard, but I’ve never been one to surrender in the face of difficult challenges.
Their house microbrew is the Simple Malt. I tried the Blonde D’Abbaye, a Belgian Ale Beer. I found it paired nicely with the poutine.
The Best Macarons in Montréal
Next, we said goodbye to our friend and went on a mission of our own: to find the best macarons in all of Montréal, in honour of our friend Chelcie’s birthday. Chelcie is a third year med student and baking ingenue back in Halifax who works her butt off, and as she was unable to travel to Montréal we wanted to do our best to try some macarons for her.
We did not fail.
Point G has a selection of 22 Macaron Flavours, plus one special ‘mystery’ flavour (this time around, it was the mojito one I eat in the video above).
Guys, it turns out: I like macarons.
Seriously, before I had only had bad ones, and sort of passed them off as stale meringue wafers that never tasted any good.
That was before I had these ones:
These are the macarons of the gods. I tried: Mojito, S’More, Lime Basil, Roasted Pistachio, Apricot-Black Tea, Poppy Flower, Blackcurrant, Lavender-Blueberry, Caramel Fleur de Sel, and Madagascar Vanilla.
St. Viateur Bagels
On our way to Mount Royal Park, we came upon a St. Viateur’s. While not that hungry, I couldn’t help grabbing a bagel to safe for later. For .89c I got a fresh rosemary and sea salt bagel. I’m eating it for breakfast right now as I type this, and it’s delicious.
Also, while buying my bagel, I was talking to the cashier. Did you know St. Viateur makes upwards of 6,000 bagels per day? And that’s just the location I was at, on Rue Mont Royal. Their flagship location on 263 Rue Saint Viateur O is open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Mount Royal Park
We sat down at the base of Mount Royal Park, found a tree to sit under and ate all those macarons I was talking about. Then we had a lazy nap while watching an amateur ballgame that was going on, and people watched for awhile. This is such a great city. I had daydreams of what it would have been like if I went to McGill here. I would hope to have lots of lazy, sunny Sundays in the park like that.
After resting and taking a few photos, we walked up to make our way to the drum circle that happens every Sunday at Mont Royal.
There was a huge crush of people here enjoying and vibing with the beat. For about a half a kilometre southeast from the epicentre of the music, spread out all over the ground with picnic blankets, and the ephemera of picnics were hundreds of people, mostly in small groups of friends, enjoying the afternoon.
On our way home, we also caught a free concert happening at Place des Arts for the Land InSights aboriginal festival that was going on. There’s always something happening here.
We had excellent hosts! David and Laurie made sure we always had coffee or a drink, and prepared us a supper of homemade burgers, smoked salmon potato salad, and sausage infused with the traditional Québec cheese curds.
Then, they sampled us some of their fine liquors, including this Kriek Porter, which tasted like a Black Forest Cake – dark chocolate and cherries.
And these curiousities: maple vodka, vanilla vodka and bacon vodka, mixed together you can make maple bacon shots, maple vanilla shots, or vanilla bacon shots, or (dare I say it) bacon maple vanilla shots.
To end our day of feasting and frivolity, we had some friends from Bishop’s University who were in Montréal for the day come out to meet us in Verdun around 11:30pm, and we all headed out to the bar once more.
Thank goodness its Quebec, and even in this mostly residential area there was a Benelux bar nearby – one that served creamsicle beer carbonated with nitrogen for a smoother taste.
Word on the street is this brewer has been teased by other brasseurs for making such a ‘girly’ beer, but it’s so popular he can’t stop making it.
Even though I was practically falling asleep in my beer, and probably not making much sense by the end of it, catching up with friends is always worth taking time for. We got home sometime after 1am. And that’s s wrap for Day 2, folks.
Day 2 Costs:
McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, Hashbrown, Tea in Victoriaville: $8.37
Groceries at the Marché Public in Victoriaville: $32.00
Duck Sausages: $4.50
2 Matcha Lattés at Camellia Sinensis Maison du Thé: $7
Pitcher of Poutine and 3 Beer at Le Petit Medley: $39.25
10 Macarons from Point G, 2 bottles of water: $18.00
Bagel from St. Viateur: $0.89
1 Beer, 5-Beer Sampler at Benelux: $27
Beers with friends and all the delicious food we wanted to try made this day a bit more expensive than usual, but we’re hoping to make up for that with lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as we drive through the States, as well as staying with some family later in the trip.
Distance Travelled: 1,442.5.5km/10,500km = Approx. 13.73% of Driving Complete!