Tea – my first true love. I absolutely adore tea – loose leaf especially. There is something about the ritual of making the tea, coupled with the smell and the soothing nature of drinking from a delicate teacup that stirs something in my soul and makes me gloriously happy.
In looking through some writings from my past I found this excerpt – written in 2010:
[Let me tell you of my] love affair with my little blue teacup and the little leaves of rose petals, ginger, lime shavings, cinnamon, and all other little yummies. My little blue teacup and teapot pair can work magic you know. They can take the most dried up, shriveled ingredient in my tea jar and turn them into the most rejuvenating little sip of heaven I’ve ever known.” ~ 15/07/2010
I think that my appreciation for tea started around the time that I inherited my Nonna’s teacups. They are so delicate and ornate that I couldn’t bear to have them sit on the shelf all by their lonesome. And so, I started drinking tea and displayed the cups on my dining room cabinet (also inherited from my darling Nonna). Little did I know that these first few sips would turn into one of my most favourite hobbies.
It seems that, over the last few years, I was not the only one that developed a love for tea. More and more tea shops keep popping up on every street corner – and Ontario (including Niagara) is no different.
TEA – IN MY TEACUPS
Terra Teas – Not too much later after I started Local Lux this year I learned of Terra Teas. Their home-base is Hamilton but they have a place at the St. Catharines Market Square each week where owners Gloria or Oksana will be there selling their custom, organic blends. My favourite right now is their Earl Gray, Jasmin Dragon, Wild Blueberry and their newest holiday blend called Winter Wonderland. I love that their teas are high quality, natural and flavourful – if you are a tea-addict like me you will know that is a very hard combination to come by. To name all the other Terra Tea blends that I like would take too long as I have so many. For those of you who aren’t ready to commit to a big bag of tea, Terra teas sells little sampler packs that are $2 each and will make around 10 cups – definitely the perfect way to get started, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. They are my #1 go-to for tea and, if you’re looking for a tea supplier, I would suggest starting here!
Gwen’s Teas – Just a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting owner Pam who named her tea-shop after her grandmother Gwen. The shop is downtown St. Catharines on St. Paul. Once inside your senses are immediately calmed with the smell of tea. On the left wall is merchandize, tea pots and cups and other tea charms and such. To the right is a long bar behind which is a floor to ceiling wall of tins of teas. Pam has all the classics – black teas, red teas, green teas, white, rooibos and many others. Right now I have her Orange Spice Rooibos and Icewine Rooibos in my cupboard – and there isn’t too much of either of them left. I will be heading back there shortly to see what other treasures I will find on her shelves. Something I especially like is that she has a Niagara blend – it would make a great gift for a tea lover living inside or outside the area!
Distinctly Tea – The location I know is located in Stratford, Ontario (though there are more) this was actually one of the first tea shops that I fell in love with. It was years ago and the first time I ever visited this beautiful town with my then boyfriend (now hubby). To walk into this little shop and see shelf upon shelf of tea was overwhelming and inspiring at the same time. At the advise of a good friend I took home some of their “Hers” blend (which is now a staple in my collection). My other favourites from here are their Vanilla Chai Rooibos, Grapefruit, and Creme Earl Grey. I find that they always have great blends for summer that you can make into iced tea, iced tea lemonade and hot tea – so versatile. Distinctly Tea also sells little sampler bags of their teas; I never feel torn between two kinds because I know that I can always buy a sampler so I never go without.
Some other favourites in my collection are Awake from Infusion Tea , Carrot Spice by Sereniteas, Lavendar Earl Grey from NEOB Lavendar, Coconut Chai from Zhena’s Gypsy Tea and the Herbal Blend by Arbonne – that I get through my friend Julie Karanfilis. Not to mention the Ginger Peach, Rose-hip, and Monks blend that I got from Healthwise in the Seaway Mall in Welland (who are supplied by the Toronto Metropolitan Tea Company).
I would be lying if I said that my collection did not also include teas from Teavana (used to be Teaopia) and David’s Tea. Although I like these blends I am actually phasing them out of my collection because there are so many amazing local tea shops that I am more excited about supporting.
ADDITION: [Jan 22, 2013] Since writing this blog a few weeks ago I learned about another tea franchise called Steeped Tea. They operate much like Pampered Chef, Arbonne, Silpata and other such companies but around tea. They can host tea parties for you or, if you aren’t into the parties, you can simply order tea from them. Locally, I’ve connected with entrepreneur Katie Kahvo who sent me three tea samples – Hawa-ya-doin (Tropical Green), Organic Wild Blueberry and Carribean Daiquiri. Right now I’m sipping on the Hawa-ya-doin and I love the hints of papaya, pineapple and coconut. Check out Katie’s website – Tea With Katie
TEA – IN OTHERS’ TEACUPS
Every once in a while I like to leave the comfort of my home to enjoy some tea out and about. Yes, we all know that Tim Horton’s sells tea now-a-days, they will even steep it for you and give it to you without the bag. Little do many people know that Niagara has a few wonderful tea houses.
McFarland House – Located in NOTL on the Niagara Parkway across from Lailey Vineyard is the McFarland House. The house itself dates back to the 1700’s and, if interested, you can take a tour. The best part of this house is the atrium where you can experience the most brilliant selection of tea, crumpets, scones, sandwiches, fruits, jellies and jams. I was there to celebrate my 29th birthday during the summer of 2012 and we ordered the Newark Afternoon Tea (NOTL used to be named Newark). We had a blooming tea as well as an Orange spiced tea – both delish!
Arabella’s Tea Room – Located in Port Colborne on the grounds of the Marine Museum and Heritage Village, this tea room is run by volunteers and you can enjoy tea and scones for $4! What a deal. They are open daily June to September from 2pm – 4pm and all day during festivals (like the Canal Days in the summer).
Prince of Wales – Although I’ve never been I know that the Prince of Wales has a beautiful tea room/ solarium where they serve afternoon tea. Recently, my friend Andrew was there and you can read all about his experience on his blog called DobbernationLoves.Andrew graciously donated this picture from his recent visit to Prince of Wales and, until his NOTL piece goes up, has also suggested that tea-lovers (like ourselves) check out his review of Titanic Tea at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto.
Mahtay Cafe and Lounge – Downtown St. Catharines is the new Mahtay Cafe. My favourite there is their Chai Tea latte – but they also have a great selection of more traditional teas. I love that they have WiFi and the art hanging always switches out – not to mention the live music schedule. What’s not to love about this place?
THE GIFT OF TEA
One of my girlfriends – Cassie Smith – who I always greatly enjoyed drinking tea with, with her husband, thought up a great tea-gifting idea called Tenota. For a small cost you can send a personalized card and inside it, a teabag of a gourmet tea of your choice.
What a fantastic gift – I was certainly happy to receive one and am sure that any tea lover in your life would feel the same.
And so, with the thought of tea-giving in your head I will end my Ode to Tea with this, my favourite poem –
I had a little tea party, this afternoon at three. ‘Twas very small – three guests in all – Just I, myself and me. ~ An excerpt from the poem “The Tea Party” by Jessica Nelson North