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. 

Art Gallery – Sakura Valentine

Sakura Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day! I had grand plans to do a really sweet, romantic coordination on the mannequin but that went awry as plans are wont to do. I still wanted to share something though, since I love you all so much for continuing to support me. I’ve been working on this illustration for a while now. Initially I was going to share it during cherry blossom season, but the pink floral theme seemed perfect for a Valentine. It’s not much, but it sure is pretty, and I hope you like it!

I’ve also set up a shop on Society6 with some prints of the occasional artwork I do and share here, including this one. I get a few dollars from each one sold, all of which will go back into the fund to help support the blog.

A Promissory Note for Spring

I am utterly, completely fed up of winter! I am tired of the cold and the snow, and I am tired of this awful ear infection/sinus/flu situation I’ve been fighting off since the beginning of December. I really needed to remind myself that this will come to an end eventually, and spring is on its way.

This kimono always feels good for this time of year, since it’s got multi-seasonal flowers and the colour scheme is pretty subdued, but with the right accessories it can really pop. I got the obi from Lyuba of Strawberry Kimono and I suspect it’s going to be come a fast favourite. I love the bold pattern, and it’s really nice and soft, but textured enough to hold well against itself. I tend to dislike overly soft formal obi because they can also be slippery and don’t hold a nice shape, but the slightly rougher fabric of this and the fact that it feels more casual means it’s great for relaxed, natural-looking obi musubi.

Soft leaf-green accessories helped reinforce the spring vibe of the outfit, and a pink haneri helped to emphasise the pink bits of the outfit. Of course, since I got the obi from Lyuba I had to tie the obiage in a bow shape that always reminds me of her kitsuke.

After the winter-heavy efforts of the 12 Days of Kits-Mas, it felt good to do something more transitional and bright. It was tiring working through being sick to do this, but I’m glad I did!

Vintage style with modern convenience

After Gofuku no Hi, I realised owning at least one other hakama would greatly expand my kimono wardrobe. Even though I’m still far too chunky to fit into most of my kimono properly, they do a great job of hiding a less-than-ideal hip wrap. I found a lovely modern teal polyester hakama from ebay seller Yoshihori and snatched it up. The seller had embroidered ones too, which were utterly lovely, but significantly more expensive. So I decided to be reasonable and buy the plain one. So imagine my surprise when the seller contacted me, incredibly apologetic, telling me the plain one was sold out and would I like the embroidered one instead, for no extra charge? Of course I said yes!

A few days after I bought it, but before it had arrived in the mail, a friend of a friend posted on facebook that she was selling off a large chunk of her collection, including a gorgeous mauve kofurisode that was clearly meant to be worn with hakama. The colours were gorgeous, and it had a wonderful sort of large-scale Taisho-inspired feel to it. I knew it had to come live with me, and be paired up with the new hakama as soon as it arrived in the mail.

Initially, I’d planned to wear the ensemble to Otakuthon, Montreal’s big anime convention. However, it’s in the middle of August and we’re already regularly breaking the high 30s temperature-wise. Even in a heavily air-conditioned convention centre, there’s no way I could wear synthetic awase and not die. So I decided to put the outfit together to see how it looks. Everything is very heavily decorated with sakura, so of course I chose a coordinating haneri. I waffled a bit between yellow and purple obi, but decided to use the purple so it sort of disappeared. The kimono and hakama are busy enough, the outfit didn’t need another level of contrast.

I know I say this a lot, but I love love love how this turned out. I can’t wait until it’s cool enough to wear it. Maybe for my birthday, in November?