Tea Time – Totem “Earl’s Pipe” blend

Totem Tea & Spice is a lovely little shop in Montreal that specialises in, you guessed it, teas and spices. The first time I went in I was overwhelmed with beautiful smells and sights. Aside from delicious custom tea blends, the store is full of interesting objects and artwork. They have tables where you can sit and enjoy a cup of tea and a snack, or even have a little party. It’s an incredibly welcoming place with friendly, knowledgeable staff.

When you enter, you are greeted with a lovely table filed with samples of many varieties of tea for you to look at and smell. The first tea I was drawn to was Earl’s Pipe. One deep inhale and I was in love. I guessed what was in it without being told, but that’s no surprise as it blends two of my favourite teas. It’s a comforting, smoky blend of Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong. In a way, it makes me think of Sherlock Holmes. It tastes a bit how I imagine 221B Baker Street would have smelled in the evening; a good strong but straightforward black tea, with an undertone of pipe tobacco and a hint gunpowder. If you like strong black tea with a lot of character, it’s excellent served pure. If you’re a little wary of the potent smoky notes of the Lapsang it also tastes lovely toned down with a bit of milk and sugar. However, if you know for a fact you don’t enjoy the smoked character of the Lapsang, you may want to give it a pass. My mother refers to it as “that stinky tea” and even counter-balanced with the lovely bergamote notes of the Earl Grey, she still finds it overpowering.

I picked up several other delicious teas that I will likely be reviewing in the future. I also picked up this pretty little art print from local artist Jackie Bassett.

If you’re in Montreal, I urge you to stop by Totem Tea & Spice on Notre-Dame West. In the meantime, you can follow them on Facebook.

Tea Time – Kimono pattern bone china mug

So really, the last thing this household needs is another cup. Cups, mugs, demitasses, bowls… if it was designed to hold a warm steeped or brewed beverage, odds are we’ve got at least six of it. However, when I saw this mug, on sale no less, I knew it had to come home with me.

It’s part of a larger collection by a homewares company called Maxwell & Williams, and the name of the range is appropriately Kimono

I was very tempted to buy more, but we really don’t have need or space for it. However, if anyone ever happens to come across the matching teapot or other mugs and wants to give them a good home, I certainly won’t say no ;)

Tea Time – Taylors of Harrogate Lapsang Souchong

Most of the teas I drink are relatively light and floral. However, sometimes I need something with a bit (ok a lot) more oomph. That’s where a good old Lapsang Souchong comes in, and one of my favourites is from the classic English tea house, Taylors of Harrogate.

This is not a tea for the indecisive, by any means. It’s strong, it’s potent, and it’s rather an acquired taste. Lapsang Souchong is a black Chinese tea that gets a very distinctive character from being smoked in bamboo baskets after the drying process. It imparts a distinctly toasted smell and taste to the tea, almost reminiscent of a smoked fish or cheese. My mother refers to it as “that stinky tea,” and while I do love it I can see where she’s coming from. To me, it smells like woodsmoke and evokes a campfire. It reminds me of summers spent at the cottage, which may be why I find it so comforting.

The tea is quite “dusty”, little charred bits flaking off the leaves, and it tends to sneak through the strainer, leaving a bit of residue in the cup. It’s got a lot of personality, and can be sort of overwhelming consumed straight, especially since it continues to steep due to the residue. I prefer to soften it with a bit of milk or cream and sometimes some sugar, depending on my mood. It’s a great tea for warming up on a cold, damp winter day, or pairing with a big hearty breakfast.

Lapsang Souchong at Taylors of Harrogate

Tea Time – Cha Guan Premium Jasmine Dragon Pearl

Cha Guan is a beautiful shop and tea room in the Monkland Village area of Montreal. The atmosphere is serene and beautiful, and the teas are sumptuous and delicious. This store is small, but a complete gem. All the teas I smelled were rich, complex, and deliciously perfumed. Their selection of teapots, gaiwan, and normal cups were beautiful works of art, and the store itself has a wonderful relaxing atmosphere. It’s definitely worth a trip if you appreciate traditional Chinese teas and are in the area.

I caved in and bought some of their Premium Jasmine Dragon Pearl green tea after falling in love with the smell of it in the shop. The Dragon Pearl tea is small, tightly-wrapped balls, or “pearls” of young green tea leaves. The smell is clean, soft, and slightly flowery without being overpowering. It’s a wonderful relaxing tea to have with dinner or unwinding in the evening.

The flavour is subtle and smooth. If brewed properly (Cha Guan will give you specific brewing and steeping instructions for each tea when you purchase it), it has no trace of bitterness that some green teas can have, and no soapy feel from the flowers. It’s definitely a tea best enjoyed with no additions, but a tiny bit of honey might complement it well if you absolutely need a touch of sweetness.

You can purchase it online here: Cha Guan Online Tea Shop, and please rest assured I receive no remuneration nor am I affiliated with this shop (or any other tea I may review in the future). I am just sharing things I enjoy with you all.

Tea Time – Celadon teacup and pot

With so many selections of teas, sometimes not everyone in the house can agree on what to drink. Unfortunately, most of our teas are loose leaf, which can turn making a single cup into a bit of a hassle. Thankfully, we found an ideal solution!

There is a chain of stores called Le Rouet around the area where I live. They sell kitchen and home decor items, and are invariably always having some sort of sale. A while back I wandered in there and stumbled across these gorgeous little sets of a large mug and single-serving teapot that fits into the top of the mug. We got a couple, but the one I’ve claimed for myself was this beautiful shiny celadon green with ume (plum) blossoms across it.

It’s a good, solid set and I love the way it feels in my hands. The teapot is also excellent for keeping the tea warm – when I’m not drinking, I can put the pot back into the cup and it prevents heat from escaping.