Tea Time – Sakura Matsuri Tea

With a shop name like Tiaras ‘n Teakettles and years of experience organising tea parties, dinner parties, and formal balls, you know Jess has to be serious about tea. Nowhere is this more evident than in this custom blended Sakura Matsuri tea. I’ve been fighting off some kind of sinus/throat crud for just over a week now, so a nice cup of tea seemed like the perfect treat today.

Sakura Matsuri is Japanese for Cherry Blossom Festival, which makes it a perfect name for this tea. It’s a blend of quality. long-leaf green tea with cherry essence and dried rose petals that give the green base a fresh, spring-like flavour.  Even though the cherry and rose of this tea are subtle and well-balanced, I would still recommend it more as an afternoon treat or a dessert accompaniment – the flavours likely wouldn’t mesh well with hearty main course foods, if you’re the type to enjoy tea with your dinner.

The risk of incorporating florals into tea blends is that they can often end up tasting soapy but the rose aspect of this tea is perfectly complemented by the green tea and the cherry notes. It’s definitely there, but it’s subtle enough that the focus remains on the tea itself. When I made the first pot of this to try out, everyone in the household was a fan, which is rare. This is a light, lovely tea for the transitional springtime. And of course, with a sakura-themed tea, I had to use this sakura cup from Ceramic Ai that I love to bits. It snowed here in Montreal this morning, but this combination of tea and cup brings a little bit of brightness into my life.

The packet sold is a very generous amount, good for several large pots. I also love the added detail of including the steeping directions on the label. Lighter teas often require cooler water and shorter steep times, and having them right at hand is very useful. It’s a small touch, but very much appreciated.

If and when spring ever arrives here, this tea would be perfect for a dessert picnic under the flowering trees. Something to look forward to, I suppose!

 I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site. 

Review – Japanese Collection from Squish Candies

Squish is a locally-based candy company that’s grown into quite a success story over the years. They focus on unique and seasonal flavours aimed at adults (including an entire cocktail-inspired collection), and offer a huge selection of all natural and vegan options. As someone with allergies to both artificial flavours and milk proteins, their efforts in avoiding common allergens and really clearly labelling all their products is incredibly appreciated.

So of course when I saw they’d released a special edition Japanese Collection for this spring, I knew I had to jump on it. I was very curious to see how they’d hold up to some of the more gummy variations of wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets. They released three separate flavours that all play very nicely together; sakura & sake, sake blossoms, and yuzu mimosa.

I was most looking forward to the sakura & sake flavour, and while they were tasty enough they ended up being my least favourite of the three. Between the cherry flavour and the slightly herbaceous accent of the sake they come off a tiny bit medicinal, for lack of a better word. They’re by no means unpleasant and I’ll happily eat them, but I’m not nearly as crazy about them as I am about the others.

The sake blossom ones have a very fresh and clean taste. It’s subtle but definitely has the familiar taste of sake. There’s even a hint of that warmth you feel after drinking alcohol. The nice thing about these is that they aren’t overly sweet, so they’re refreshing and not overwhelming.

The yuzu mimosa ones are by far the standout here. They’re absolutely delicious and it was very difficult for me not to eat them all in one go as I was trying them out and photographing them! They’re the perfect balance of tart citrus and sweet gummy, without being cloying. They taste like sunshine and summer and brunch with friends on the patio.

And look how cute and springy they are all mixed up in this jar! Eating them mixed like this seems to balance the flavours perfectly. You get the sweetness of the sakura, the bright citrus flavour of the yuzu mimosa, and the delicate sake to balance everything out.

Are these a substitute for imported wagashi? Sadly, no. Are they delicious, and a great accompaniment to a seasonal meal or snack? Absolutely! I’m definitely going to be stocking up on the yuzu mimosa and the sake ones.

 I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.Note: A portion of all purchases of sakura & sake during the month of April will be donated to support The Véro & Louis Foundation. This Quebec-based charity’s mission is to build and operate group homes to support autistic people twenty-one and over. 

Tea Time – Pure Leaf Matcha & Ginger with Orange Blossom

Anyone who has had the pleasure of performing or witnessing a traditional Japanese tea ceremony knows how serene and meditative it can be. It’s a beautiful experience, one I think everyone who appreciates traditional Japan should have at least once in their lives.

However, sometimes you crave the fresh, soothing taste of a hot cup of matcha but just want a quick and easy drink. Thankfully, Pure Leaf tea has a solution! While their iced teas have been available for some time now, they’ve recently ventured into bagged and loose-leaf hot teas. I was selected to review two of their new hot teas; individual servings of matcha and a lovely ginger and orange blossom tisane, courtesy of ChickAdvisor.

First off, I knew I wanted to start with the matcha. It’s a single-origin tea from Japan, 100% pure tencha leaves cultivated specifically for matcha. The trees are protected from the sun as they grow, ensuring even exposure which results in a smooth, delicate tea. The nice thing about these pre-measured sachets is that all you need is hot water, a sachet, and a teaspoon! No fussing with pots, whisks, or braziers.

The tea has the distinctive fresh, grassy taste of the matcha we’re all familiar with. It is a smidge more subtle, less of the “soapiness” of tea from a tea ceremony, but that’s not a bad thing. If anything, it makes it more versatile for folks who might not necessarily be familiar with traditional matcha. Certainly, nothing will replace the experience of a proper tea ceremony, but these are a delicious and accessible alternative. They’re small and convenient enough to keep in your purse!

Next up, Ginger with Orange Blossom. This is much more of a typical herbal tea comprised of ginger, orange flowers, orange peel, lemongrass, and other all-natural ingredients. There are no tea leaves of any variety in this blend, which makes it great for a nighttime drink or a treat for anyone sensitive to caffeine. It comes in wonderful pyramid bags which allow for much more water flow and movement than old-fashioned flat bags. It’s the closest you can get to loose-leaf tea without losing the practicality of the bags.

This is a warm, comforting tea with the familiar heat of ginger at the forefront. It’s very well-balanced, somehow taking very strong flavours but keeping them delicate. I drank it plain, but a dollop of honey would be delicious in it. I also think it would make a fantastic iced tea in the summer!

I highly recommend both of these products, and I look forward to trying out more hot teas from Pure Leaf soon. Thank you to Pure Leaf and ChickAdvisor for giving me the opportunity to try these out.

 I received this item from the manufacturer for honest review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me. 

Review – Doll Kimono by JaponSakura

If you’ve ever gone hunting for doll kimono for smaller dolls (Barbie, Monster High, Pullip, Blythe, etc) you know how hard it can be to find accurate, well-made ones. There are lots of really nice options for wa-lolita styles and more modern/fashion types, and some beautiful options for larger BJDs, but if you’re looking for a stylish traditional kimono the options tend to be slim. I’d been looking for a proper kimono for Willow Grace, my beloved Pullip doll (on a 27cm Obitsu body), for a while and wasn’t finding anything that really spoke to me. Then I found Makiko and her shop JaponSakura on Etsy and I knew that was about to change!

The shop is sorted by doll size and type, so whether you’re looking for a kimono for the tiniest MiniFee BJD or your 70cm tall beauty, there are options available. There are multiple feminine styles as well as masculine options, as well as hakama for both.

There are a huge array of options for kimono fabric, obi fabric, obi style, accessories, etc, allowing for nearly limitless combinations. If you still can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, Makiko will also take entirely custom orders as schedule allows. I’ve got one of those in the works for a big project and will hopefully be showing you all soon!

All the items are very solid and well-made. The kimono is fully lined and everything is very cleanly finished with tiny stitching. The kimono is long enough to make a proper ohashori. I used a small clear hair elastic to hold everything in place, and it worked perfectly. The obi is pre-tied and closes with velcro. At this size, that’s quite helpful; tying a full obi would be incredibly fiddly and frustrating. The obijime is tied in a beautiful decorative knot and then just attaches in the back behind the obi musubi. For anyone wondering, the tabi and zori are standard 27cm Obitsu products that I purchased separately. My custom order will also be including tabi, but for now I can’t comment on the quality of those. However, I can only assume they’re made with as much care and attention as the rest of the items.

And of course, what’s a girl to do when she’s got not only an adorable doll and a gorgeous kimono, but also a doll-sized koto she found at a thrift store for six dollars? Why, take more photos, of course!

Overall, I am incredibly happy with the artistry and craftsmanship of the whole outfit. Everything coordinates very well and I think the fabrics I picked suit my little Willow Grace very well. She looks very at home in the cabinet with my other Japanese dolls now! And yes, I will have photos of that cabinet eventually.

Don’t forget, there’s just over a week to go in my Facebook giveaway! If you haven’t checked that out yet, now is your chance. 💖

I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.

Review – Erstwilder “Nihon Journey” Collection

Erstwilder is a small Australian company that makes some of the most fun and funky accessories out there. So when I was presented with the opportunity to review some pieces from their new Japan-themed Nihon Journey collection, you can bet I was over the moon.

I selected three pieces; the Mysterious Maiko brooch, the Nishikigoi brooch, and the Noble Neko sweater chain/brooch. They arrived in beautiful boxes that serve as both protection and display, each one with a cute little card describing the design. The pieces are made out of layers of vivid, shimmering acrylic bonded together, and feel incredibly solid and secure without being bulky. They’d make excellent gifts for both kimono collectors and non-collectors alike. While these are all a fantastic way to inject a little Japanese flair into a non-kimono outfit, I thought they’d well and truly shine used as kitsuke accessories as well.

The polymath of the Japanese tea-houses across the land.
From serving to singing, dancing to dining. These girls do it all.

Mysterious Maiko is utterly lovely. She definitely has a hint of the vintage pin-up vibe Erstwilder does so well, but she’s still far more accurate than a lot of maiko and geiko imagery. It’s very clear that Carmen Hui, the designer of this collection, really loves and respects Japanese culture. The pieces are all quirky and unique, but still so undeniably Japanese in style and influence. The pattern detail on her kimono is gorgeous – I’d love one like this for myself. Her hairstyle is simplified, but definitely has the overall shape and volume it should. Her face, despite being reduced to a few graphic black and red swatches, still conveys a sense of coy playfulness. Since the pin back on this one is vertical, I just slid it around the obijime and I think she looks very at home here!

Koi ponds and water gardens are my habitat of choice.
Although I’ve often been known to appear in tattoo form.

Nishikigoi might be the stand-out for me. The colours used are so impossibly lush and deep and iridescent, and the photos I took barely do it justice. The water is rich and shimmery, the koi itself glows from within, and the blue and orange contrast each other perfectly. This brooch will need an obidome converter, unless you’re okay with the fishie being sideways. Honestly though, it works from all angles so if you don’t have access to a converter you could still make it work. I’m also absolutely going to be wearing this with western-style clothing too!

Never ignore my motion as I just might be attempting to divert you
from something dangerous on your intended path.

Noble Neko is absolutely adorable! I actually requested this one because I was curious to see how a traditional sweater chain would work as a haori-himo, and look how perfect it is! The two maneki neko are mirrored, which I think brings a lovely balance to the whole piece. Using it to hold your haori shut is the easiest thing, you can just slide the vertical pin backs through the loops on the haori, so there’s no chance of permanent damage. I honestly find it easier to do and undo than a traditional haori-himo or a chain-style himo. The neko are also small and subtle enough that they would work with a slightly more traditional outfit, while still injecting a bit of cuteness.

All in all, I am very impressed with this collection. The pieces are so well-made, and it’s clear this theme was designed with love and respect and just the right amount of whimsy. Far too often lately have we seen “Japanese” themed things released quickly and with no forethought, clearly designed to take advantage of a culture and aesthetic that’s not well-understood. That is absolutely not the case with Erstwilder. I am seriously debating adding a few more pieces from this collection as well as some from their other collections to my own stash!

If you’d like one of these for yourself (and I highly recommend them), the Nihon Journey collection is on sale as of today.

I received this item from the manufacturer for honest review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.