When You’re Under the Weather – Eating and Drinking Comfort in a Mug

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I couldn’t escape it this winter.  Although I have certain ailments that I’ve dealt with throughout my life (migraines, for example), I pride myself on being one of the lucky ones who skirt the mega colds, flus, and bugs.  Aside from a bad bout of bronchitis almost two years, I’ve been sick-free since.  My luck has run out though.  I mentally cursed when that feeling of achiness started creeping in last night and by morning, it was official: I was under the weather.  Arming myself with a hot mug of tea with honey and a throat lozenge, I shuffled my way around the house in fuzzy socks and a sweater willing my body to stop aching.  It didn’t listen.  Oh, the tea helped.  And so did the throat candy.  But alas, I sit here with aches in my shoulder blades, lower back, and legs, only temporarily distracted for an hour while I watched Iron Chef America: Battle Deep Freeze (how appropriate for the winter!) on Food Network.  At least my flaming cheeks don’t feel like hot plates anymore.

I had plans to show you all another wintry scrapbook layout today, but because of my aches I could not sit still and had to give up a quarter way through.  I shuffled around long enough to gather my scrapbook supplies and I sat down long enough to crop my photos and cut out my cardstock.  Then I gave up and retreated to my living room couch and proceeded to fidget and sulk in my blanket as I watched television for the rest of the day.  Sigh.  How pathetic.

So instead of the pretty scrapbook layout, I’m posting about what makes me feel better when I’m not feeling well: ginger ale, tea, toast and jam (when I had bronchitis, I ate 4 slices of toast with jam in one sitting!), and food and drink in a mug.  I have taken quite a liking to eating and drinking my breakfasts and snacks out of my giant orange mug and the best part is having something warm and cozy in my hands straight out of the microwave. 

My current obsession: vanilla almond cereal with sliced almonds in almond milk.  I swear to you I’m not an actual almond in human disguise!  If someone told me several years ago I’d be in love with almonds, I would scoff and then laugh.  Even though almonds are technically seeds or drupes as opposed to true nuts, I’ll refer to them as nuts for argument sake.  In all my life, I have never really liked cow’s milk or eating nuts of any kind.   Over the past year though, I’ve fallen in love with almond milk (which I prefer much more than cow’s milk) and I’ve found myself truly enjoying almond baked goods and actual almonds. 

After hearing about almond milk from vegetarian and vegan friends, I gave it a shot and loved it.  I’ve been taking advantage and integrating more vegan options into my diet (I have an allergy to soy milk so it’s almond milk all the way!) and my mum took advantage of a few sales at the grocery store, so I’ve been able to slurp it up more often now.  I feel really lucky not having nut allergies like so many of my friends do, so nuts are something I don’t take for granted anymore.  

My feel-good remedy besides tea and toast with jam?  Pouring some almond milk into a mug, nuking it for 30 seconds, and making a mountain of vanilla almond cereal (Oatmeal Crisp or Special K will do the trick!) in it with crunchy sliced almonds on top.  Even if it doesn’t banish the germies, it’ll make you feel warm and cozy all over.      

It’s Tea Time! Colourful Accessories, Holiday Brightness, and Coconut Almond Rooibos at Steeped & Infused

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I’ve been excited about the upcoming holiday season for awhile now, but something has really ignited my creative fire over the last few days and now I can’t get the Christmas season out of my head!  I’m thinking about all the cookies I want to bake, all the cupcakes I want to decorate, the craft projects I want to do (and speaking of which, I am so horribly behind on my scrapbooking for the blog it’s pathetic), and all the places in the city I want to visit, food-related and otherwise.  I love Christmas so much and there’s nothing like walking past city streets decorated to the nines with Christmas lights, wreaths, and beautiful, intricate storefronts that might as well be featured on a holiday themed runway.  I think about ice skating and I think about cupping my mittened hands around warm drinks, especially tea! 

Tea is my comfort drink and over the past three years, I’ve been overjoyed with all the different flavours and types that I’ve been able to try at different tea places around the city.  An old friend of mine got me hooked on David’s Tea a few years ago, I attended my very first afternoon tea at the Windsor Arms Hotel last year, and I finally introduced my tastebuds to Tealish over the summer.  I’m constantly finding out about sweet little tea shops for loose-leaf teas and the one tea discovery that has stuck with me for months now has been Steeped & Infused.

The very first time I drank tea from Steeped & Infused was actually almost a year ago in The Distillery District!  For those of you who have followed me on the blog since the very beginning, do you remember my Christmas in the Distillery District posts from last December?  Remember the gorgeous, gigantic Christmas tree, wreaths, and jaw-droppingly adorable life-size gingerbread house from Sweet Escape Patisserie?  It was all part of the beautiful Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District last year, and Steeped & Infused was there with some much needed hot tea and warmth during those cold winter days!  During my visit to the market, I bought a little 10g packet of loose-leaf coconut almond rooibos from their  amazing collection and selection and it quickly became one of my favourite teas ever.  Fast forward to last week.  I had the most monstrous craving for the coconut almond rooibos tea that I absolutely could not shake off and that’s when I knew I needed to visit the shop and get my Steeped & Infused fix. 

Located on Queen Street East in Leslieville, Steeped & Infused is a beautiful, cheerful loose-leaf tea shop dressed in a bright outfit of forest green, white, and bright purple.  The shop is a tea lover’s emporium with tea accessories, gift sets, and kitchen and dining decor, and in the store you’ll find two giant walls of loose-leaf teas in packages and canisters with everything from white tea to green, black, rooibos, herbal, pu-reh, oolong, yerba mate, and fruit tisanes.  There are descriptions of all the teas that correspond to the little canisters on the shelves which you can open and take a heavenly sniff from.  Their loose leaf teas are available for purchase in either prepackaged bags or in measured increments of 50, 100, and 250 grams, along with a vast selection of 10 gram samples on spinning carousel racks by the cash counter.

Not only can you spin the tea wheel and take you pick from their many loose leaf varieties for a hot tea to go, but you can also fancy things up by having your tea in the form of iced teas, hot tea lattes, iced tea lattes, matcha tea lattes, matcha iced tea lattes, and matcha tea smoothies.  Their drink menu is huge and the flavour selection is fantastic.  Their menu of hot tea lattes include masala chai, chocolate supreme, chocolate cappuccino, caramel oolong, vanilla bourbon, and black currant berry among others. 

What makes the drink menu even more fabulous?  The lattes can be made vegan because you can have your lattes and matcha lattes with soy, rice, or almond milk!  I am so giddy about this!  I am in love with almond milk and I’ve had friends ask me about coffee and tea shops that specifically offer rice milk and I’m ecstatic that Steeped & Infused offers these options!  I know a number of places that offer soy milk and/or almond milk, but all three of these?  Fabulousity!  The presence of these options means that vegans and those with lactose intolerance and nut and/or soy allergies have choices and that’s always a great thing.

I’m excited to try their other tea drinks, especially some of the hot tea lattes and matcha tea lattes.  If they’re anything like my beloved coconut almond rooibos, they will be delicious.  What has disappointed me about a few of the teas I’ve had in the past at other places was the lack of flavour strength.  Coffee and tea drinkers alike will agree that one of the most common ways of ruining a coffee or tea beverage is to dilute and water down.  The whole point is to smell those aromas and have them translate into tasty, strong flavours, not to taste something that tastes like plain hot water or watered down flavoured water.  If the flavour itself ends up not being your cup of tea (pun totally intended), that’s okay, so long as the flavour is actually there. 

The coconut almond is just all sorts of yummy.  The tea itself has such a wonderful, rich and creamy taste to it which is pretty remarkable considering there isn’t a hint of cream in sight!  The creaminess of the coconut comes out full strength when you first drink it and the almond taste comes after, just as you’re about to swallow and the creamy coconut and almond flavour lingers as an aftertaste.  I have friends who worry about bitter tea aftertastes, but you won’t find that with this one.

My favourite things about Steeped & Infused have to be the accessories (the teapots and dish and tea towels are adorable!), their gift sets (hello, holidays!), and their 10 gram samples.  For those who enjoy having a variety of teas to drink through as opposed to being committed to just one, the 10 grams samples are wonderful and I love them.  They’re $1.75 and each 10 gram sample is good for about 3-4 cups of tea!  My sample from the Distillery District market gave me 4 cups and you can bet I’ll be getting more this holiday season!  I’m super happy because the Christmas Market at the Distillery will be back again this year from December 2nd-18th and Steeped & Infused has already secured their spot.  The shop is so pretty, the ladies who work here are really nice and helpful, and there’s plenty to browse and shop through when you’re here.  I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

*****

Steeped & Infused is located at 1258 Queen Street East in Leslieville, at the corner of Queen Street East and Hastings Ave.  They also have a mini location inside a store called Adornments on Queen at 338 Queen Street East.  They are open 6 days a week from 11am-7pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 11am-6pm on Fridays, 10:30am-6pm on Saturdays, and 11:30am-5pm on Sundays.  The shop is closed on Mondays.  You can visit their website here and follow them on Twitter @steepedinfused.