Pique Tea Crystals (How to Drink Tea in the 21st Century)…

Dear Readers,

I have an exciting discovery in the world of tea to share with you today!
276
Most of us lead very busy lives –we are constantly on the go, and rely on anything and everything that helps to simplify our lives.  This does not mean that we do not have an appreciation for the finer things, it simply means we must find the little pockets of time available to us in order to take a few moments and re-center ourselves.  Tea is one of the most popular ways to do just that; after all, to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.”

As someone who cannot do without tea even in the summertime, I find there are many accessories that I have to tote around in order to be able to make that perfect cup wherever I happen to be.  Tea packets, a tea strainer, stirring stick, and a cup/travel mug all rattle around in the depths of my Longchamp tote bag.  What if the process of having tea could be simplified without sacrificing the quality and one’s appreciation for the ritual?  Tea bags, you say?  I have something neater.

Enter Pique Tea’s innovative tea crystals, a concept by tea-loving entrepreneur Simon Cheng, similar to water-flavouring crystals, but better.  With a special process, Pique Tea is able to extract the antioxidants and fresh flavor of whole leaf tea at optimal levels, and no sweetening is ever included.  These 100% natural and organic crystals completely dissolve in water and enable one to instantly enjoy an exceptional cup of tea, without compromising on flavour or quality.  You don’t even have to stir!

“Tea Crystals are the biggest innovation in tea since the invention of the teabag,” Simon says, and I am inclined to agree.

Watch my video to see this product in action:

Pique Tea Crystals are available for purchase or via subscription in five flavours: Sencha, Mint Sencha, Jasmine, Earl Grey, English Breakfast, or you can opt to try them all with a Variety Pack. (Starting at $7.98/month).  They also have a sleek canteen for sale –I love the lines of it.

Have I… Pique-ed your interest?  If so, satisfy your curiosity and your thirst by visiting: www.piquetea.com

(Please note that as of this writing, Pique Tea’s website does not offer shipping to Canada.  Yet.)

Fairmont Chateau Laurier – Tea at Zoe’s Lounge…

A few weeks ago, during the Winterlude festival here in Ottawa, Alex and I decided to break the monotony of winter in our own little way — afternoon tea.  We were joined by his brother –whose first time it was– at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, and had a wonderfully soothing and refined few hours.
Afternoon Tea at Zoe's Lounge, Chateau Laurier - Group
Chateau Laurier - Afternoon Tea - MenuThere are very few places (as of yet) to have afternoon tea here in Ottawa, and Zoe’s Lounge is certainly one of the most elegant places to have it in.

The experience started with a glassful of seasonal fresh fruit; delicious, and refreshing!  It definitely whet the appetite, especially as I have a habit of not eating anything at all before tea, otherwise I find I get too full, too quickly to do all the tiers justice!
Afternoon Tea at Zoe's Lounge, Chateau Laurier - Tea TrayI chose the jasmine tea –which was lovely and light in the beginning, but as time wore on, started to grow incredibly bitter.  I hope that Fairmont will consider implementing a little dish or tray to put your tea strainers in so that it doesn’t get over-steeped.  Apart from that, and the fact that the bread for the butter chicken salad seemed a bit dry and stale, everything was lovely.  I tried not to indulge too much in the Devonshire cream and strawberry jam (too scrumptious to be sparing), and savoured every bit of my scones.
Afternoon Tea at Zoe's Lounge, Chateau Laurier - Alex, Cathie, GuillaumeThe staff were very friendly and attentive, and helped to elevate the experience.  Many thanks to the lovely lady (I did not get a chance to peek at her name-tag!) for patiently letting us sniff our way through almost their entire tea repertoire!

The ambiance was restful –soft music (both classical and more modern piano pieces) played in the background, although I did notice that the television on the wall was on as well; it usually isn’t, which I prefer, as it can be distracting to one’s focus on and pleasure in the moment.

All in all, such an incredibly enjoyable way to brighten one’s day and shake off the winter blues.

Afternoon Tea:
Monday to Friday from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m.

*Reservations are required for Afternoon Tea. Please call the hotel directly at (613) 241-1414 to reserve.

***

Afternoon Tea at Zoe's Lounge, Chateau Laurier - Cathie Maud

Fascinator:  Monsoon ‘Vivian’ velvet pillbox fascinator (2015)

Coat:  DKNY cascading ruffle wool ¾ length coat (2013) [buy here]

Top:  Kate Spade ‘abree’ cashmere sweater in black (2014)

Skirt:  J. Crew flounce skirt in bonded wool in cerise (2014)​

Shoes:  ALDO ‘Loralee’ ballet flats in red (2015)

For my outfit, I went a bit farther in my choices than I normally would, even for afternoon tea.  I remember feeling that day that I wanted to wear something ‘outrageous’ (for me, at any rate!) and pull it off because I liked it, whether or not anyone else giggled, smirked, or thought me odd in the belfry.  Wearing a substantial headpiece definitely was a little bit out of my comfort zone, but either people in Ottawa are incredibly kind, or being confident and forgetting that I am wearing lots of fabric on my head makes other people feel that this is normal fare.  I’m not sure which, but I truly felt that I had grown up just a little bit more.  It’s nice to try something with aplomb!

I wore my ‘Duchess of Cambridge-esque’ ruffle coat from DKNY — love the ruffle detail on the bodice, and all that is missing is for me to add a belt to the ensemble, and then the ‘copy-Kate-ing’ will be complete.  😉

For shoes, I really wanted to wear a pair of pumps, but knowing that I would be walking through wet, slushy streets, I decided for the still not-quite-sensible, yet slightly more practical ballet flats.  I was all about the pops of red as well; my skirt was the same bright hue, and it is a shame it didn’t get documented, because it has the most beautiful flouncy, ruffly hem!

Do you have any favourite afternoon tea spots?

Speak soon!

— C.x

Miss Cathie’s ‘Irish’ Tea Toddy…

As the little red bar in the thermometer continues to plummet down towards the bottom, I find myself constantly raiding my beloved tea stash.  Sometimes in the evenings though, just to make myself feel a bit more sophisticated, I reach for my man’s bottle of Baileys Irish Cream, and make a tea toddy.  It makes sipping tea more interesting.  😉

I’ve put my own spin on this recipe, but if you look for Baileys Tea Toddy recipes, you’ll likely find the original.  While I use DAVIDsTEA’s ‘the earl’s garden’ Earl Grey blend because it has extra subtle essences in it, you can easily substitute with a Twinings’ Earl Grey tea bag, or whichever brand you prefer.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and come up with your own recipe!  That’s what makes this so much fun!
Hot Irish Tea Toddy - Cathie Maud Recipe
Without further ado, I present my Irish Tea Toddy!

***

1 cup Earl Grey tea
¼ teaspoon sugar/honey (optional)
1 tsp milk (optional)
1 shot Baileys (That’s 44.36 milliliters, if you want to be fussy/pretentious like me)
1 shot Scotch whiskey (In my opinion, completely optional; I rarely add this!)
1 pinch cinnamon
Your favourite cup

Brew the tea as usual, stir in the milk, then add the sugar. Pour the Baileys, and add the dash of Scotch, which should be used sparingly, as too much ruins the flavour. Sprinkle the cinnamon on top. Settle yourself on the sofa or in bed, and enjoy with a book or while daydreaming!  And why not wear an Irish jumper while at it?

Enjoy the spice of life!

xoxo

— Cathie

Weekend in Victoria {Tea at the Fairmont Empress}…

When my beau took me to Victoria two weekends ago, the last on our to-do list was to go and have afternoon tea at The Empress hotel.

After checking out of our room, we had an hour to while away before the clock struck noon so off we went for some sightseeing and window-shopping.  It was St. Patrick’s day, but oddly enough not many people were out celebrating!  I wonder why?  We still enjoyed the Celtic music that played on the sidewalks and poured out of pubs.
Victoria in the Spring

Victoria may never boast the abundance of cherry blossom trees that Vancouver can, but the city has her fair share, and against the backdrop of Victorian/Edwardian architecture, the trees seemed twice as ethereal; an idyllic scene to be sure.  The one thing that ‘marred’ the beauty of the city was the fact that there were literally several dinky little ‘tourist’ shops that sold almost nothing but junk, to be quite frank.  In my opinion, when you start catering to tourists too much, you lose the beauty of the city and what attracts visitors in the first place.  I would really like to see most of those shops shut down and some quaint little boutiques to take over and attract discerning travellers!

Spring in Victoria --2013
This tree was the only one of its kind on the block. The intense reddish-brown colour of the bark is very different!

Finally, it was noon!  We were particularly ravenous as we had had no breakfast, and so we made all haste towards our tea…

The Empress Hotel

Since it opened on January 20, 1908, The Empress has carried on the beloved English ritual of afternoon tea.  On summer months, the Empress serves Afternoon Tea to more guests than most hotels in London, England –can you imagine!  This was quite surprising to hear, and I’m very curious to know –if there are any English tourists out there who have had tea here,… what was your impression of the standards in authenticity and service?
The Empress Tea RoomI managed to take a short (and rather shaky — my apologies!) video to share the ambience of the tea room.  You can hear me whispering, “Hang on!” to my man who was offering to take my picture.  Oops… I suppose the more ladylike reply would have been, “Just one moment!”  😛  My excitement turns me into a two year old, I swear!
The hotel has seen some very important people, including Rita Hayworth, Douglas Fairbanks, Harrison Ford, Shirley Temple, and Her Majesty the Queen, herself!  The place certainly has an exclusive though welcoming atmosphere!

Queen Mary's Portrait Presiding Over Afternoon Tea at The Empress
Everyone in the tea room enjoys their scones and jam under the benign gaze of a young Queen Mary.

Our tea started with a dish of seasonal fruit –being strawberries and cream, which is quite delicioius and my personal favourite.  The thought that I was now ready for kissing (you know how they write that ‘her breath smelled of strawberries’, or something along those lines…) flitted through my mind.  🙂
Strawberries & Cream -- EmpressThen came the tea itself, and we chose the ‘Empress Blend’.  (Exclusive to The Fairmont Empress, this delightful blend boasts a bright coppery colour and takes milk exceedingly well. The Assam component lends a rich malty character, while the Kenyan black tea provides subtle floral hints. Kenyan green tea infuses this blend and lively aroma, complemented by fruity, sprightly and airy piquant flavors of Dimbula from Sri Lanka. Small amount of Keemun draws the elements together with burgundy depth and light oaky notes.)

Empress Hotel-- Afternoon Tea Treats

The Menu

Smoked salmon celeriac pinwheel*
Mango & curried chicken sandwich
Ham & roasted apple mustard*
Free range egg salad croissant*
Duck rillette with brandied apricot*
Freshly baked raisin scone with strawberry jam & Empress cream*
Rose petal chocolate filled swans
Opera cake
Checker board shortbread*
Chocolate caramel mandarin tart*
Sacher torte

(* denotes personal favourites.)

It was so much fun eating things in little quantities, and I was actually glad that we didn’t have breakfast as we were quite full afterwards, and had some untouched goodies which we took home with us along with two complimentary boxes of the tea we had!  It came out to about $80 for the two of us (I had a Friends of the Empress discount, otherwise it is $100) and I feel that you are paying slightly more for the environment, the history, and the Fairmont name.  Whether it is worth it or not is up to you and what you are looking for!  Personally, I enjoy history, fine dining, and am a bit of a ‘Closet Brit’ so for me, it was worth every penny.  Even though we Canadians no longer have pennies!

Us at The Empress Having Tea!

Earrings: Swarovski heart clear crystal clip earrings (2011)

Necklace:  Chamilia charm necklace (2011 –gift from A)

Ring:  Ice.com ladies bevelled tungsten wedding band (2011) –and no, I’m not married!

Top:  Mara Gottler two-panelled top (2011)

Skirt:  JACOB tweed A-line mini skirt (2012)

Shoes:  Lucky Brand ‘Emmie’ ballet flats in metallic powder (2012)

Coat: Mackage ‘Edie’ trench coat in storm (2012)

Bag:  Flaska Laverne ‘Bookia’ in chocolate (2012)

Obligatory 'Spy' Elevator Shot... at The Empress Hotel
Obligatory ‘spy in the elevator’ shot? 😛

Happy mid-week!

xoxo,

— Miss Cathie

November Pastimes…

“November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.”

–  Elizabeth Coatsworth

This Friday, I am enjoying my day off from work, as well as catching up on some French assignments.  I earned a 90% grade on my French mid-term and am terribly pleased about it — thank you to all who wished me luck and encouraged me. ♥

I adore reading poetry, but it is around the autumn and winter months that I really get into the mood for thoughts and sentiments in rhyme.  It must be the nippy winds, the blankets and candle-lights, as well as cupfuls of steaming hot tea.  Just being surrounded by such comfort is poetry in itself, I feel.  It seems some old enchantment wakes at this time of year… and so in November, here is what I like to do or be…

I love to go for walks. You can think thoughts and dream dreams, and no one is there to interrupt the spell of solitude.

Funny Face - 1956I love reading and writing… sometimes I will bring book, pen and paper with me on my little autumnal jaunts.  This is one of my most favourite books to read:

A Little PrincessI like to sleep… blushful, I know, but how else is one to dream without being brought back to ‘reality’? (Sadly, I don’t look glamorous in my sleep.  I don’t know how Grace Kelly manages it.)

High Society

I like to write letters to friends and loved ones… putting little presents in each missive is something I adore doing.

Birdies

I love travelling –but never to warmer climates.  I am a cold-weather girl through and through. 🙂  P.S. You’ll never find me in sweats and runners on a voyage.  I am a huge proponent of the idea that one must be dressed respectfully and to the nines during voyages.

Paris, France

What do you like doing in November?