A Quiet Morning of Apple Tea & Golden Brioche with Jam at Terroni Bar Centrale

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Sometimes it’s the tiny things that bring us the most joy.  A little over a month ago I decided to take a random vacation day off from work to be alone with my thoughts and to be out and about on my own.  I wanted to walk around, I wanted some fresh air and most of all, I wanted to eat yummy things and get a head start on my Christmas shopping!  Truthfully, I’ve really missed the days when I had the flexibility of being out during the week and not just on the weekends.  The pace and atmosphere is just different and it’s something I can appreciate more now that I’ve been a full-time working girl.  I have such great memories from my days in grad school just exploring the city during the week (and working my tail off every other moment!) and growing as a person.  I knew taking a day for myself would do me some good and in true Deb fashion, I had a super fun day planned out for myself: tea and breakfast at a cafe, walking, window shopping, lunch with a friend, and more walking and window shopping.

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I’m nothing if not prepared!  So prepared that I woke up at the exact same time I would have woken up had I gone to work.  My alarm woke me up at 5:30am, it was pitch black out and no, I am not a crazy banana.  Even though I mumble and grumble every morning when my dreaded alarm clock wakes me up, quiet, peaceful mornings in the city are moments I really cherish.  I love sitting back and relaxing with a magazine, a cozy pot of tea and a plate of  warm comfort food like bacon and eggs or fresh bread hot out of the oven.  Having quiet breakfast to myself just makes me happy and it makes me look forward to the rest of my day that much more because I know I’ve taken advantage of every possible moment.

I hopped on the bus, headed to the subway, got off at Summerhill station and skipped on over to Terroni Bar Centrale for some hot tea and sweet breakfast nibbles.  After going to Terroni for weekend brunch last fall, I remembered their menu well and knew that they had sweet breakfast options and of course, darling little pots of loose leaf tea.  After choosing a pot of their Torta Di Mele black tea with apple ($4) to start, I hemmed and hawwed over my food: did I want biscotti?  Or maybe the yogurt and granola parfait with fruit?  Or their special Pandolci, Scandinavian-style pancakes with Nutella and jam?!  After some careful thought, I chose the Brioche con Burro e Marmellata: housemade brioche with housemade jam ($6).

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Believe it or not, good ol’ fashioned toast and jam is a weakness of mine and truly one of my favourite things in the world.  It’s a total comfort thing.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into quarters was my go-to lunch as a little kindergardener.  Toast and jam is the only thing I will touch when I’m not feeling well.  And there is nothing like the feeling of warm, crispy toasty golden bread crunching between your teeth with the sweet, fruitiness of jam or jelly lingering on your tastebuds.  It’s like a cozy hug from your favourite childhood teddy bear and I love it.  Terroni laid their golden slices of brioche on an adorable wooden platter with some butter and a VERY generous amount of jam!  It was warm and soft and buttery and oh so delicious.  Coupled with my pot of loose leaf tea, it made for the perfect way to start my day.  The wonderful thing about brioche is how it stands up to things like jam.  It doesn’t get soggy, it retains its shape and it has this lovely mix of thickness and lightness that just works.

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Mission quiet, peaceful, delicious morning to myself accomplished.

*****

Terroni Bar Central is located at 1095 Yonge Street on the corner of Price St. between Summerhill and Rosedale subway stations in midtown Toronto.  They’re open 7 days a week: 11:30am-10pm Sunday to Wednesday, 11:30am-11pm Thursday to Saturday.

It’s Crisp, It’s Fall, It’s a Wonderful Time for a David’s Tea Haul! Fall Tea & Wishlist Goodies

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So I’m just a teensy bit more obsessed with tea since the last time we talked.  Just a teensy bit.  I’ve been daydreaming about all the luxurious things I want to order from Harney & Sons, like the Orange Spice Gift Set with the white polka-dotted orange teapot (how freakin’ adorable is this??), white “knitted tea cozy” mug (even CUTER OMG) and about 6 tins of loose leaf tea (because, you know, I eventually want to swim in all of it).  I’ve been hemming and hawwing over what flavours of tea to order from Tea at the White House (I’ve been putting things in and taking things out of my shopping cart for DAYS now – this is why being an indecisive person is the pits!).  I’ve spent the last 2 weeks researching tea houses all across our beautiful province of Ontario and keeping a run list in a word document on my desktop and freaking out my boyfriend with discussions of GO bus rides to Cambridge (“you’ll come with me, right?  RIGHT??”).  Oh, and I have an order of tea magazines from Tea Times and Victoria Bliss from Hoffman’s Media on route to my magical mail box and I am so darn excited I could burst!

So I’m totally just a teensy bit more obsessed.

I know.  There really is no saving me.  Sigh.

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Tea has become such a passion of mine and I am loving it.  I have such sweet memories of drinking tea with my grandparents and playing with tea sets my aunt gave me as a little girl but I feel like I’ve been introduced to a whole new and exciting world these past few years learning about and experimenting with it (getting the perfect cup each and every single time is quite the task – it’s seriously an art all on its own!), discovering tea houses, looking up events, and just immersing myself in the fun of it all.  Which is why this little David’s Tea haul of mine is only just the beginning!  I had to use every ounce of willpower not to pick up every last thing I wanted from their adorable fall collection because 1) part of me dreaded having to carry the heavier items on the subway and bus rides back home, and 2) I really wanted to be a good friend and wait for my bestie to go crazy tea shopping  with me.  What fun would it be if I bought everything on my wishlist and just stood around the next time we went frolicking?  I think ahead, people.

I am dying to get the so-cute-it-makes-you-squeal forest animals tea mug and the cute-as-a-button bubble tea cups from David’s Tea’s fall collection as well as some loose leaf of Blueberry Jam, Long Life Oolong and Lime Gelato, but I was a good girl and stuck to picking up a bottle of their vanilla agave, 50 g of their new Cocoberry tea and 2 packets of their Mom’s Apple Pie tea along with their snazzy new fall tea menu!  And yes, that is my ultra-cool, super awesome sparkly pumpkin prop in the photo!  Hee!

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I haven’t tried my apple pie one yet but I have tried the Cocoberry one and what attracted me most at first was its chocolate-raspberry scent.  It smelled so luscious and decadent.  Its taste was so much more complex than just a simple chocolate-raspberry combo though.  For those who love the taste of currants with a subtle hint of cocoa and chocolate, this tea is for you.  The currant flavour comes out very strong in this tea and if you find it a little on the tart side, sweeten it up with a little bit of sweetener.  It’s not your typical berry tea as it’s much more earthy in flavour and that’s what I actually appreciate about it.  Berry teas have never sat well with my tastebuds because I’ve always found them to be either too sour or too artificial in taste, but this one is different from anything I’ve ever tried so if you love currants, go for it and try it out!

*****

For a list of all David’s Tea locations in and around Toronto, check out their store locator HERE (they are constantly expanding!).  So far I’ve been to these locations:

  • 336 Queen St. W (just east of Spadina)
  • 2389 Yonge St. (intersection of Yonge & Eglinton; north of Eglinton)
  • 10 Dundas Street E. (Yonge & Dundas; it’s actually just north of Dundas facing Yonge St.)
  • 100 King Street West (First Canadian Place in the underground PATH)
  • 424 Bloor Street West (in the Annex, between Spadina and Bathurst)
  • Yorkdale Shopping Centre (Dufferin & Hwy 401)
  • Dufferin Mall (intersection of Dufferin Street and Bloor Street West, just south of Bloor)
  • Scarborough Town Centre (between McCowan and Brimley Rd. off Hwy 401)
  • Promenade Mall, Thornhill (Bathurst and Centre St.) 

Tea in TO – Blackcurrant Tea & a Newfound Love of Twinings of London!

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Get ready for some gushing: this is a long overdue love letter to the tart and sweet, juicy blackcurrant flavour and the empire of teas, Twinings of London!  I know, I know.  I’m either embarrassingly clueless or just really, really, REALLY late to the party.  In this case, I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a little bit of both.  People have most likely been sipping away on this wonderful tea for eons while I’m here just raving about it now!  Twinings of London has been around for what seems like an eternity (I read they are celebrating 300+ years and counting, good lord!) and aside from passing by and throwing very brief glances at their tea boxes in some supermarkets, I had never bought a box to try until now and this newfound love makes me all smiley and excited!  It’s such a surreal feeling, one of those, “where have you been all my life?!”  or for that matter, “where the heck have I been?!” moments when you realize that you so totally could have been learning about it and enjoying it sooner.

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The love didn’t just poof into existence in a day though.  It all started with the Twinings Tassimo T-Discs I saw at work late last year.  Then I happened upon a beautiful magazine ad of a Twinings tea collection on a bookshelf.  A gorgeous, beautiful tea collection!  And finally, my fellow FBCer Heather Mulholland of Tea With Me did me in when she told me about her trip to the actual Twinings Tea Shop in London when we met at FBC2013.  And then she went ahead and did one better: she sent me a sample of a lavender Earl Grey she had purchased from the shop in London.  Well, colour me freakin’ ecstatic and say hello to a new tea obsession!  As mortifying as it is to admit that Twinings was never part of my foodie/tea world until I snapped out of my cluelessness this year, I like to look on the bright side of things: there are SO MANY delicious flavours to Ooo and ahhh over and try and by golly I have the rest of my life to try them!

My first official box?  Their blackcurrant!  Over the last year I have truly fallen head over heels for the blackcurrant flavour all over again.  Not only do I adore Bobbette & Belle’s blackcurrant/cassis macarons, but it also makes me feel all warm and fuzzy because the flavour itself brings back childhood memories.

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When I was little, I couldn’t get enough of the Ribena blackcurrant juice drink my parents used to get from the Chinese supermarkets.  I would feel so grown up lifting those heavy bottles all by myself, pouring some into a glass and diluting it with drinking water so it wouldn’t be too thick and concentrated.  It was my favourite drink growing up and I would always enjoy it with my dad by my side as he loved it just as much as I did.  Some kids thrive on milk.  Others get a little addicted to soda.  And then there are those who are more than content with juice boxes.  Me?  Ribean blackcurrant juice all the way, baby.  For me, this is the love of tea and the nostalgia of my childhood all wrapped into one sweet and charming Twinings of London box and you can bet it will always be close to my heart well after the tea pouches are gone.

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And for those of you who are wondering where this sweet little box came from, it came from one amazing supermarket chock full of European foods and goodies, a food emporium I’ll be posting about tomorrow.  Stay tuned for my upcoming post on the European foodie powerhouse in town known as Yummy Market!

Hearts Racing for Coconut Tea – Coconut Chocolate, Mango & Chai Latte in Tea Forte’s Coconut Tea Set!

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Have you ever found something in a shop or seen something online and loved it so much it made you instantly go, “OHMYGOD!  IWANTITIWANTITIWANTIT!”  That was me when I went perusing through Tea Forte’s website and discovered their fabulous and uber awesome COCONUT tea set!  I was beside myself.  I had to use every ounce of willpower not to impulsively click “BUY”.  It didn’t even matter that I hadn’t registered for an account or read through their shipping and payment terms; all logic just flew out the window because I wanted that coconut tea set!  If I had to choose a favourite type of tea, it would have to be coconut tea, hands down.  I love my different dessert teas, but my all-time favourites are coconut flavoured ones: Coconut Almond from Steeped & Infused (they haven’t opened their new location yet, so in the meantime, visit their WEBSITE to order) and Coconut Blossom from Tealish on Queen West.

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I know I go on and on about how much I love lemon desserts and lemon-flavoured things but when it comes to tea, coconut tea of ANY kind wins my heart!  Coconut is just so versatile – kind of like potatoes and eggs.  And let it be known that I have never met a spud or egg dish that I didn’t love and the same goes for coconut tea.  You can pair it with fruits, nuts, vanilla, chocolate and any other dessert combination and this is one of the reasons why I love it so much; the flavour is fresh, fruity, nutty, and sweet all in one.

Tea Forte and I met for the first time during the Christmas holidays in December.  My best friend had bought me their popular Dolce Vita dessert tea tin set which came with 6 silken tea infusers in 6 different dessert flavours and combos, my favourite being the Belgian Mint.  From that point on, I knew I had to integrate and keep Tea Forte products in my ever-growing rotating collection!

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tea at Indigo bookstore

Tea at Indigo!

I was a little worried at first that I wouldn’t be able to find many Tea Forte teas around town but Indigo has really expanded their Tea Forte selection over the last several months and that’s actually where I saw the Tea Forte Coconut collection in person for the first time.  I was so happy when I found the different Coconut sets at Indigo!  They had the Coconut tea set in a tin, in a box, ones with 6, 10, and 20, and even a gift set with several of the coconut teas with a gorgeous mug!  I thought for sure I was out of luck on the buying-in-store front and was prepared to buy it off their website if I really needed to.

Luckily for me though both Indigo and Blue Banana in Kensington Market carry Tea Forte teas and accessories!  YES, Blue Banana in Kensington Market, one of my favourite shops in the whole city!  Their tea selection is to-die-for.  They have Tea Forte, Kusmi Tea, Mighty Leaf, Harney & Sons and so much more.  It would make any tea lover hot under the collar.

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I bought my Coconut tea set from Blue Banana ($14.95).  This set comes with 10 silken tea infusers in 3 coconut flavours: Coconut Chocolate Truffle, Coconut Mango Colada, and Coconut Chai Latte.  The infusers come in a beautiful portable box and all the infusers are individually wrapped in little cardboard pyramids.  What I love about their teas is that the infusers don’t get soggy in your tea cup or mug; they hold their shape incredibly well.  And look at the adorable little green leaf up at the top!  It’s incredibly cute as it bobs up and down while you drink.

The Coconut Chocolate Truffle smells soooo good and the taste isn’t cloying or overpowering.  I’d even say that it leans more towards the earthy kind of chocolate taste with the sweetness of coconut.  This is a perfect warm and comforting kind of tea.  It has a lot of depth in flavour and to truly get the full experience, you need to hold it up close when it’s warm the soak in the aroma and drink it really slow, letting those first notes linger in your mouth when you first take a sip.  You’re not going to taste it fully if you gulp it down quickly.  It totally makes sense to sip citrus flavours a little faster in my opinion (letting it linger just makes it taste bitter), but not this one.  Aroma to contact is what you want to get the full yumminess affect!

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I’m hoping to try the Coconut Chai Latte and Coconut Mango Colada this week so I can choose my favourite out of the three.  And then I’ll keep daydreaming about adding more Tea Forte to my ever-growing tea collection.  For tea lovers, there’s no such thing as too much tea.

*****

Blue Banana is located at 250 Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market, just south of College Street, west of Spadina.  To check out Tea Forte’s huuuuge colleciton of tea sets, accessories, loose leaf tins and more, visit their website at http://www.teaforte.com/

What’s New, What’s Hot – What’s New: Celebrate & Steep Away the Holiday Season with David’s Tea ’24 Days of Tea’!

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Source: David’s Tea website

Oh my goodness, I don’t even know where to start!  A tea collection from David’s Tea with 24 different teas, one for every single day of December leading up to Christmas?!  HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL!  I’m so happy and excited I could pirouette around my living room!  I love this so much.  It’s cute, its’ seasonal, and I WANT IT.  This set allows you try 24 different teas (24 tiny single-serve tins, $29.50) and, HELLO, it’s modeled after an advent calendar, like those adorable Christmas chocolate countdown windows!

You know, the ones with 24 perforated cardboard windows, each with a chocolate hiding behind it.  You open a window every day until Christmas day and it’s jolly good fun because not only do you have a guaranteed sweet treat each day, it totally gets you pumped up for Christmas and the holidays as the big day inches closer and closer with each passing “window” opening.  My brother and I have had many a field day with these chocolate countdown windows and we would always make it a tradition (or at least a point) to open the day’s window and eat our chocolates together.  Except for the random days I would forget.  I know, I’m awful; how in the world do you forget to eat chocolate?!  My brother never forgot.  So a few times I ate two chocolates in one day.  And, um, there was one time I had to eat three to catch up.

ANYWAY!  Now David’s Tea has released a cute-as-a-button countdown to Christmas tea set clearly inspired by the advent calendar and chocolate windows!  And this is even better because each tea behind the tiny window is a surprise!  The website has a listing of the teas that are included in the set such as Read My Lips, Vanilla Oolong, Chocolate Rocket, and many others.  The element of surprise and suspense is still there though because everything is quietly tucked behind the little flaps, just waiting to be opened, brewed, and sipped.  Part of me almost doesn’t even want to drink the tea because the tiny tins just look so darn adorable in their sleeves and packaging.  But we know that won’t happen.  I’ll be steeping and enjoy tea till the cows come home!  And for a person like me who drinks tea every single day, this is AMAZING.  I am all over this like peanut butter on jelly.

*****

For a list of all David’s Tea locations in and around Toronto, check out their store locator HERE.  There are currently 17 locations in the GTA!

It’s Time for Four O’Clock Tea! Chocolate Spice, Gingerbread, Almond Biscotti & Hunting for Tea Around the City!!

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Puddles splashed under my feet, the air was damp and cold enough to chill me to the bone, and my umbrella was one gust away from auditioning for Mary Poppins.  And yet there I was, adrenaline pumping, frolicking around town with the most excited, giddy feeling bubbling out of me.  Nope, it wasn’t because of cupcakes.  Or sushi.  And no, I didn’t find a chunk of change on the ground although that would have been pretty nice too.  No, I was bursting with delightful joy because I had just bought two boxes of tea.  TEA!!  I could shout it from the rooftops: I LOVE MY TEAAAA!

I have never been more ecstatic over a food and drink purchase in my life.  And as you all know, I get excited about many things so this is huge!  I know, I gush about cupcakes and macarons and vegetarian food and Italian and brunch and cookbooks and food accessories and all that good stuff.  But I never had to hunt for any of it.  This time I hunted.  I looked and I hunted and I was rewarded with treasure: a total of 3 boxes of amazing tea that I cannot wait to drown my tea mesh ball in!  Before you ask what the heck I’m even talking about, let me start from the beginning.

Over the past several years, I’ve been drinking loose leaf tea on a pretty regular basis.  As a child, I would drink tea at dim sum with my family, sure, but this was different.  This was me going out to buy loose leaf from David’s Tea, going out to grab a cup at a cute tea shop, and keeping up with new flavours and flavours I had already tried.  After starting my job at Kraft, the tea situation has only intensified.  I drink tea every morning at work now.  I don’t miss a beat.  I drink tea the same way java junkies inhale their coffee.  I stock up and actually have a cute purple paper bag from Steeped & Infused that I keep in the cupboard of my co-worker’s kitchen that is full of loose leaf tea baggies in all sorts of flavours so I’ll always have something to choose from in the mornings.  And said co-worker?  Bless her heart, she adores tea as much as I do (if not more) and shares her loot with me.

Basically, my tea obsession has just gotten ridiculous.  But I don’t care.  Because I love it and it makes me happy.

So, my dear co-worker, who goes through Union station every morning to get to work, was given tea samples by some nice folks during the morning rush hour not too long ago.  Knowing how much I loved having a cuppa every day, she asked for a few extras so she could surprise me.  These tea samples were none other than the ones from the fair trade, organic Four O’clock brand and tea collection!  I was completely taken aback.  Four O’clock teas?!  How did this get past my radar?!  The packaging looked completely unfamiliar and the name didn’t ring a bell.  For all I knew, I could have had a tea from them in the past without knowing it was actually from them.  Either way, I brewed a cup of chai from one of the samples and fell utterly head over heels in love.  OH.MY.GOD.  Tea is warm, cozy heaven in a cup.  I had to know what in the world this tea was all about.

So I did what any savvy, modern foodie would do: I Googled them.

And I was floored.  As part of the Trans-herbe company based in Quebec, Four O’Clock teas are sold all over the world and are available in shops and health food stores all across the country and province.  Their website has a section where you can search for shops that sell Four O’Clock tea (CLICK HERE) and oh my goodness is there EVER a ridiculous number of places that carry it in Toronto and York Region!  This is my holy grail tea guide, folks!  And the flavours!  Banana Cinnamon Spice!  Tiramisu!  Raspberry Cream!  There was no way I was going to let this slip by and fade into oblivion.  I was going to hunt these teas down if it was the last thing I did.

And that, my dear friends, is how and why I ended up splashing in puddles around town looking for Four O’Clock tea in the wet and cold god-awful weather (not during the Whole Foods trip though, that day was sunny!).  And I’m over-the-moon blissfully happy because I snagged 3, count ’em THREE boxes of tea!!  And two of them are from their brand spankin’ new winter tea collection!!  I don’t even care that I came home with the toes of my shoes completely soaked!  I picked up a box of Chocolate Spice from Whole Foods Market in Yorkville ($3.99 with a $0.50 off coupon at Whole Foods) and the other two special winter collection boxes ($3.99 each) at Essence of Life Organics health food store in Kensington MarketChocolate Spice, Gingerbread, and Almond Biscotti!!  CAN YOU TELL HOW EXCITED I AM?!  Hunting for this teas was and is so much fun.  Not only am I getting to know a new (to me) brand of tea, I’m also getting to know shops I’ve never been to and in the future, possibly even parts of town I’ve never even been around.  Sigh.  I’m so happy.

And I am not afraid to say this: free samples totally work.