Sometimes you give yourself no choice but to go "home." In this case, my home is the very place where some of the world's best grown teas can be found - Taiwan! It was a very fruitful, healthy, pleasurable and fun-filled year living in Toronto, Canada, after living in Taiwan for nine years. However, the constant reminder of Taiwan from one day to the next kept pulling me back to an island that has been home to so many fantastic and life-altering experiences.
Let's look back on a year and a "home" that was (and will always be), Canada...
The 'treasure chest' filled with bricks of tea and the detailed pots and cups of a true fanatic of tea landed at Pearson Airport in Toronto a few weeks after my arrival; and to great anticipation, too. Once the special cargo found it's new home there was very little time between being unpacked and put to good use. There was tea to be made and little time to waste!
Within weeks of the first (and many, many subsequent) steeps Innofarmer Tea started out on a soon-to-be well-worn path from the City streets, to farmer's markets, to tea shops and workshops. Delicatessens and other Fine Food establishments were entered, introduced to and, in a select few cases, even put on display some of our teas for future sales.
One restaurant stood out above all the rest. The Fish Street Market and Open Kitchen (2584 Yonge St. Toronto, ON | https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Fish-Street-In-House-Chef/273051692814850?fref=ts). Owners Anthony and Dany opened their doors and welcomed us with open arms. Aside from their 'D'elicious assortment of dishes, one of the sweetest couples I know allowed Innofarmer Tea to set up a display and tea tasting table in front of their store. It was a win-win for everyone: Customers discovered our collection of quality teas and tea lovers discovered The Fish Street! Sure, the food was great...but the hospitality and generosity of the owners and staff made Saturday the most exciting day of the week!
Tea, however, doesn't roll off the tip of one's tongue when talking about soft shell crab and clam chowder. Searching for the true tea lover takes a little more effort - and some extra pizzazz! Since I have such a deep love (and respect) for tea, having the opportunity to tell others about what I have grown to appreciate in this fine elixir was what I set out to do. Workshops, workshops and more workshops. Innofarmer Tea cobbled together a handful of workshops for tea drinkers - beginners to advanced. Throughout the winter months (and what a winter it was!), Innofarmer Tea offered several tea tastings in combination with a series of informative and engaging slideshows, presentations and Q&A sessions. Whether they took place in company offices, basement studios or local Comunity Centres, attendees thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful variety of tea of offer and the interaction that took place between students. The marvels of tea not only bring complete strangers together, but also stimulate conversation and interest in so many new discoveries.
Discovering what Torontonians (and by extension Canadians) want in their tea doesn't unfold through test groups and mark research all on their own. To get a real sense of what Canadians want in their beverage I had to offer tea tastings and workshops. What I didn't take into account was the value of the rapidly growing farmers market network throughout the City. Once Innofarmer Tea was entrenched in a local market in North Toronto the information was quickly realized. Farmers Markets have been a fixture in most cities throughout Canada, but only in the last 5+ years has the popularity markets exploded. Still, the lonely ol' tea merchant is rarely found among the tomatoes, corn, honey, strudels and Caribbean-Korean dumplings that cover most stands! So when it came time to cart out our tea bricks and bags every Friday we didn't have a clue what our day would bring us. Still, without a doubt, each and every Friday at the market was special and unique their very own way.
The unique qualities that make up Taiwan is very hard to describe. So when we discovered a network (and a big one at that) of Taiwanese living in and around Toronto we couldn't pass up the opportunity to not only meet but also greet many who eventually became our very good friends. On Eglinton Ave. East, two blocks east of Yonge St., you'll find a bubble tea shop that serves up Toronto's Best Bubble Milk Tea. Hands down, there's no contest! FormoCha Bubble Tea Shop (55 Eglinton Ave. E., Toronto, ON | https://www.facebook.com/FormoChaBubbleTea?fref=ts) was our valued partner in bringing Innofarmer Tea to a larger group of customers. Whether in tea bag or loose leaf brick, you could find a wide assortment of Innofarmer Tea on FormoCha's menu and counter tops. The two owners, Daniel and Erica Li, were not only partners in this venture but eventually became, and still are, lifelong friends. The fact that they are Taiwanese goes to show you that Taiwan and Taiwanese share that same uniqueness the world over.
Well, it's about time to wrap up this brief look back on the year that was. We had such a good time while living in Toronto. Introducing our collection of high quality, great-tasting teas sure was a memorable experience. Yet, there is still so much more on the way.
In the next Blog entry, Innofarmer Tea will look back at a handful of charitable and fundraising events that were attended throughout this past year and a pair of Travel and Tourism Shows that brought the best out in Taiwan through the taste of it's delicious tea.
Until next time...Keep Steeping and Drink On!
Innofarmer Tea has it's roots firmly planted in a country that bases so much of it's culture, history and even its future on the simple act of giving. For example, in 2004 I landed in a country that - at the time - was (to me!) only known by name. That's it. Little else. After only a few hours and some difficulty with the local language (Chinese Mandarin), I was at home. The people, the culture and the warm welcoming feeling from the Taiwanese people helped me to overcome the initial haunt of culture shock and helped me to eventually call Taiwan my home for 9 years - almost to the day!
Now it's time to give back...and not just to the Taiwanese but also to the Organizations, Associations, Committees and Clubs that seek to make a change for people across all walks of life.
This past weekend, Innofarmer Tea had the fortune to attend the Cancer Survivors Gathering at the Head Quarters of the Canadian Cancer Society in Toronto. We served tea to all the participants - both survivors and volunteers - and even had an opportunity to answer some questions from eager students of tea. It was a thrill and we will be attending two Relay for Life events (also run by the Canadian Cancer Society) in June. For more information on this fundraising initiative please visit the CCS website: Relay for Life (Toronto)
On May 3rd at Wilket Creek (Sunnybrook Park, Toronto), Innofarmer Tea will be waking up early to serve tea to organizers and runners who will be taking part in the 9th Annual Spring Into Action for Diabetes. This fundraiser, organized by a team of volunteers from InsideOut Studios in Toronto, will see participants take to the paths running or walking either 2km, 5km or 10km to help raise funds for Diabetes Research and Awareness. Once again, Innofarmer Tea will be in attendance serving up healthy, refreshing and quality Artisan Teas from Taiwan. Learn about the benefits of tea and the beneficial effects it has on diabetes. You can find out more about this event by clicking on the following link: Spring Into Action
Organizations and Associations aren't the only groups that Innofarmer Tea seeks help with raising of funds and awareness. In the past we have helped to sponsor and perform Tea Workshops. We also seeks to assist individuals or groups in their quest to complete enduring tasks that require strenuous effort, days or months on the road or trails, and projects that place health and the environment at the forefront of their mission.
In the coming weeks and months, Innofarmer Tea will be announcing several initiatives that have been incubating in our Sponsorship and Fundraising Department! If you are seeking sponsorship either through financing initiatives or through the use of complimentary tea, please send us an email through our Contact Us page with your Name, Country of Residence, Idea to Make a Difference and the Why? behind your desire to give! We will promptly return your email within days of receipt.
Rubbing my eyes and slowly getting out of bed, the alarm going off in the background, it is 4 a.m. and time to get out of bed. My wife, Sunshine, and I are packed and ready to head east to the City of Ottawa (also known as the Capital City of Canada) for the 2014 Travel & Vacation Show. As representatives of Taiwan and the Tourism Bureau (New York) we are setting out on a two-day adventure that will have us talking about and sharing our many experiences while living in Taiwan.
While living and exploring the unique landscapes of Taiwan, I would regularly wake up long before the sun welcomed the new day. Whether I straddled my bicycle or motorized scooter, or took to the highways and hills in my car, waking up and hitting the road before dawn was always a favorite past time of mine. With the sun just peeking over the mountains it was always an easy task to find a breakfast shop brimming with customers looking for their early morning nourishment. While tea wasn't necessarily on their minds, a wide selection of breakfast snacks could easily be found at any one of the many breakfast shops that dotted the cities and townships.
We arrived at the show (in Ottawa) shortly before the opening bell. With a little help from Sunshine and a fresh kettle of boiling water awaiting my retrieval, we were ready for the first steep of the day. In short order the first few arrivals at the show in stopped by for a sampling of tea and a few stories about life on Isla Formosa. The day could not have gone any smoother - even with our incredibly early start and non-stop steeping and talking until 5 p.m. that night. Many new friends from the City of Ottawa and the surrounding areas had so many questions and queries that covered topics from big cities to hiking to food and culture and so on. Answering each and every question brought me back to so many of the wonderful experiences I enjoyed for the first time after arriving in Taiwan.
Friends from Far and Wide
The thrill and excitement of attending these shows is very difficult to explain. The family of Taiwan representatives that flew up from the New York Branch of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau - Thomas and Rachel - and others from Ottawa and Toronto made this event worthwhile attending. Their support and teamwork helped to make this event - the second one for my wife and I - very special. In addition, a brief and inspiring visit from the Ambassador of Taiwan, Liu Chih-Kung, made the rest of the day and the following Sunday a weekend to remember.
It's Sunday evening, 5 p.m. Time to pack up our tea-making equipment, a few pineapple cakes and head home. What a busy and chaotic weekend; what a fun time we had! I think back to those April weekends that saw myself along with several friends head down to the southern tip of Taiwan for long holiday weekends filled with music, friendships and lots of laughter. Yep...Spring Scream! Ever year on the first weekend of April, Taiwan music and art lovers head south to soak up the warm sun, take a dip in the beautiful ocean and enjoy musical acts that number in the dozens. Well, Ottawa doesn't quite hold the same allure and attraction of Kenting, Taiwan. However, it was on this ride home that Sunshine and I could look back on with the knowledge that we introduced Taiwan and Taiwan tea to a crowd of Ottawatonians that will surely steep on again and again...and again!
A few weeks back we had some friends over for dinner. My lovely wife, Chia-Ling (Sunshine), put together a fantastic dinner with so many traditional Taiwanese dishes our bellies were bursting by the time the 4th dish was served. We sat around most of the evening eating, sipping on our drinks, talking, laughing and so on. A perfect night, no doubt!
After dinner came to an end I prepared an after dinner assortment of teas and desserts. With the kettle heating up and the leaves splayed across the table for everyone to enjoy, I posed a question to our friends who were over that night.
"What makes Taiwan tea so special and different from so many of the other types of tea on the market?"
Answers came from all directions and with ample consideration and discussion given to each one: Knowledge and experience of the farmers. Climate. Soil. Air. Rain. Ours is better than theirs! Taste. Smell.
And so on. And so on.
Then I weighed in on the subject with a point that was missed by everyone in attendance.
"The fact that the tea drinker can steep, re steep and steep yet again makes Taiwan tea very unique," I shouted with glee. A few heads nodded up and down, and a couple others grinned with pleasure.
I'm certainly not going to say that all Taiwan tea not only trumps but puts to shame all other teas. Certainly not. I've enjoyed many different types of tea - herbal, blends, you name it - from around the world. Some of these beverages are exquisite in taste, aroma and appearance. I even have a few in my own personal collection.
Nevertheless, the degree to which you can steep and re steep a tea is very important to me and should be to the customer, too. Most high-quality teas can be steeped at the very minimum 3 times; some teas even more. Of course, there are some important considerations when it comes to how many times one can use the same tea leaves:
1. Length of time one steeps their tea leaves.
2. Quantity of leaves used.
3. Temperature one steeps their leaves.
4. Quality and type of tea (This being the standard benchmark.)
So, the next time you walk the aisles of your local market in search of the best tea at the best price, consider not only the price you are paying for your tea but the quality, taste and the number of times that you can steep this very special drink.
If you would like to learn more about tea, the best ways to steep or just have a question you'd like answered, feel free to comment on this Blog or write Ashley at email@example.com.
Have a great week!
When I look back on the many years I called Taiwan "my home" I can't help but think about so many incredible experiences. Some great, some good, some so-so and others, well, decent. (Let me tell you, those 'decent' times were usually found at the end of a fun-filled road trip when work was only hours away or after a long fought battle on the baseball field only to see our team lose by 1-run!)
At the moment I call Toronto, Canada home. A wonderful city. A wonderful country. However, it's very far removed from the life I once lived on the island formerly called Formosa.
In 2004 I set out on an adventure that I had never considered playing out even as a child with all the fascination and wonder that a globe or map could bring a young and healthy mind. So it was, on a warm and breezy evening, I boarded China Airlines in pursuit of a tiny 'dot' on the map.
Growing up in a country like Canada can influence your perception of the rest of the world. Canada, with its vast land, infinite (or so it seems) natural resources and wide streets, gives birth to the idea that the rest of the world "must be the same." However, I was a 'veteran' of the movie circuit and knew better than to think that the world is only different in the way Macintosh is different from Granny Smith is different from Red Delicious.
Let me tell you that I was shocked with what I found, 16 hours and 2 flights later...
It didn't take long for me to discover this incredible island and all of it's many valuable assets. From beachfront views of the ocean to mountain-scapes that go on for miles and miles. From big city lights and sounds to busy restaurants filled with sensational dishes and an atmosphere of chaos and excitement, Taiwan really does have it all. But what really sets Taiwan apart from a handful of other countries that I've visited is the generosity and friendships of the very people that make up the communities, neighbourhoods, cities and the island as a whole. Because of this very generosity I speak of, I discovered my love and passion for a leaf that brings this nation together as a whole.
The Tea Leaf!
Tea, for it's beauty, it's taste and aroma, it's simple qualities and it's ability to bring people from all walks of life together, has brought together the Taiwanese for so many generations. This simplest of drinks captures the hearts and collective conscience of a society that is constantly evolving, modernizing, shedding the traditions of the past for the fads of the future. Still, it exists as a whole - even if the young up and comers like to splash a little sugar or mix their tea with a piece of dried fruit! No matter how one takes their tea, the leaf and what it represents will always speak of the way Taiwan is as a family and as a society.
I challenged myself to board a plane for new lands and I returned to my 'homeland' with so many incredible memories, long lasting friendships and a wonderful family. I will never forget, however, the one passion that will always round out my day and that is the tea leaf and so much that it represents.
Thank you Taiwan. Thank you friends and family. Thank you tea!
The pot of water is bubbling away. Not too hot; just right! I'm preparing an afternoon get together for some friends of mine who are enthusiastic tea drinkers. They enjoy not only the Canadian stables of Earl Grey and Orange Pekoe, but some of the more exotic varieties of Oolong and Black Teas, as well as the myriad of Blends that waft with an infusion of floral, fruity and sweet aromas.
I better be on my game this afternoon or the veggies and rice prepared and waiting to be cooked for dinner will be consumed by yours truly - alongside dim lighting and the CBC - and not my invited guests.
As my guests make their way up the steps to the front door I can't help myself in this pursuit to get the first pot of tea onto the table, into our thimble-sized cups and pressed upon our chilled palms. After all, it is mid-January and the temperature outdoors has pushed the thermometer below zero Celsius once again.
Knock - knock - knock goes the handle firmly attached to the door. They've arrived.
With a turn of the lock and a push of the door handle, the door lashes open with a booming chill.
"Hurry, hurry...it's freezing outside and I'm not much for catching a cold."
My friends shuffle in one by one tapping their boots, shaking their jackets and tugging at their toques. Everyone has arrived for an afternoon of tea, delicious snacks and a lot of time dedicated to catching up. After all, it has been almost 10 years since we were all in the same place - let alone on the phone or otherwise.
Boiling. Steeping. Serving. Friends.
The four pillars to the perfect cup (or cups) of tea.
What makes your tea-drinking experience perfect for you?
Within minutes my guests are sitting down at a beautifully crafted mahogany table warming their hands, shuffling their feet and wriggling into place. The next hour or so is going to be filled with a variety of conversation, laughter, catching up and a top-to-bottom menu of tantalizing tea from Taiwan.
Enjoying a cup of tea should be exactly that: A cup of tea! While I thoroughly enjoy a cup (or two, or three...) either reading the news, jumping into a mystery novel or biography, or while watching a documentary, I savour the moments that I have with friends (and family) and the myriad of conversations that I can engage in while sipping on a variety of teas.
How about yourself? What makes drinking tea with friends special for you and the people you choose to drink with? Perhaps you offer a delicious cup during important meetings, over Friday night dinner, just before the evening comes to a close. Reading stories about others and how they share "their cup of tea" provides wonderful thoughts for tea drinkers and readers alike.
Have a great day...and enjoy the special moments, one at a time!
While Toronto, Canada isn't home to any well-known mountains - in fact, no mountains at all - there are an endless number of places that I like to enjoy my very own special tea.
As I look back on some of the many places that I've had the opportunity to sample, steep and share many distinct flavours of tea, I'm always taken back to the very place that my love of tea began.
Looking across a beautiful sanctuary of rare wood and immaculate architecture, my breath is taken away from the presence of a humble Tea Master steeping and pouring with care many hot pots of Pu'erh tea. Climbing atop a mountain deep in the many crevices found throughout Taiwan's mountainscape, unfolding my tea towel and setting up the apparatus that collectively filled my backpack that lay across my shoulders. Rubbing my eyes as I wake up to a brand new day, unzipping my tent to find the deep blue ocean within inches of the door. Or while sitting in the park on a concrete slab talking about the day's and week's events.
These are the very special and memorable moments that only scratch the surface of what are my most cherished experiences with cup in hand and tea steeping away.
Canada will also bring with it's cold temperatures and new climate the sense of wonderment and enjoyment like those I felt on the Island that is Taiwan. The pleasure that is brought from that first sip in the morning can be enjoyed just about anywhere one chooses. At home, on the porch, in the park, even at the office. While the temperatures in Toronto hover somewhere between -15 and -20'c, soon enough the clouds will part and the spring temperatures will bring with them warmer days and plenty of opportunities to seek out local parks, the waterfront and Centre Island. What better way to complete an adventurous day then with a cup of warm tea overlooking Toronto's brightly lit panoramic view of the City.
It can be said with certainty that one's place (whether physically or spiritually) will not always be as he or she fully expects it to be. Nevertheless, we find happiness in the moments that we enjoy, appreciate and keep deep within our conscience. Whether enjoying your cup of tea on the highest peak or simply enjoying it in the park, the taste, aroma and uplift that a warm cup brings you will ultimately transcend the place in which you find yourself.
Two Thousand and Thirteen was a year filled with plenty of 'firsts' and many wonderful experiences at Innofarmer Tea. We enjoyed a handful of fun 'Tea Outings' and adventures that will remain in our collective memories for a long time to come. Setting aside the tastings, partnerships formed and the growing awareness of Innofarmer Tea, there remains one treasured moment that drives what we at Innofarmer Tea strive for in our small community and abroad.
Early in the Spring of 2013, Innofarmer teamed up with a couple living in Taiwan who were planning a 6-month hiking adventure along the Pacific Coast Trail in the United States. This adventure - unlike many others - would have taken this couple many hundreds of miles over undulating terrain, various weather patterns and many of the "unknowns" that come with the territory. We, at Innofarmer Tea, gladly offered to sponsor these go-getters with our tea that they would certainly appreciate throughout their 1/2 year adventure. From morning sips to end-of-the-day journal entries, we planned to be by their sides throughout.
So...here we are in 2014 and it's time to seek out and support someone or a group of adventurers who are willing to take on the most grueling of adventures in treacherous and unforgiving terrain. Perhaps your idea of adventure isn't treacherous or unforgiving. Please read on...
Are you an individual or a group of folks who are heading out into the wild? Perhaps you are merely a weekend warrior setting out on a mission to raise charitable funds and would like sponsorship in your endeavour. Whatever your cause may be, or the path you embark upon, we would like to assist you in your pursuits.
Send us an email with your name, your planned adventure or activity in mind and some ideas on how we can help you out in completing your goal. It would be our pleasure to offer an ample supply of healthy and delicious tea, and perhaps a few other goodies on the side.
Our contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please feel free to pass this Blog Entry to your friends, family and whomever you feel may be interested in seeking Sponsorship for their adventure.
Have yourself the very best year - Twenty Fourteen!
At Innofarmer Tea we take great pride in our excellent quality, very tasty and wonderfully aromatic tea that we offer customers worldwide. We have had the absolute pleasure of sharing our tea with folks in Taiwan, Canada, the USA and countries throughout Europe. One very important characteristic of our company is that we focus on our knowledge and thorough understanding of each and every type of tea that we offer our customers.
While we don't offer a great number of teas like some other large-scale stores and boutiques, we take great pride in the fact that the teas on offer are studied and researched thoroughly. It would bring us great pain and anguish if a potential or current customer asked us a detailed question in which we either didn't have an answer to or, at best, a partial answer without the greatest of confidence.
So let's take you on a tour of the teas that we offer either through our online site or our growing list of marketplace shops throughout Toronto and beyond.
Oolong Tea (or Wulong Tea)
Our Oolong Teas, like most of our offerings, come from a small village in Taiwan called Ming Jian Village, Nantou. While this area is not considered to be "High Mountain", the quality and flavour of the tea is breathtaking.
Oolong Tea can offer a light, fresh taste - Chin Shin Oolong Tea - and a strong, roasted flavour - Dong Ding Oolong Tea. Dig a little deeper and you will discover a very beautiful Oolong that goes by the name of Red Beauty which has a distinct flavour similar to the Lychee fruit - sweet with a hint of sour notes.
Oolong Teas makes a wonderful addition to most light flavour meals and can also be enjoyed as a midday treat or a compliment to any dessert. Rolled tightly during the processing stage, when mixed with hot water and left to sit for a minute or two the leaves unfurl to release the very distinct Oolong Tea flavour. Online Store
The Black Tea leaf compliments most desserts and can also be enjoyed throughout the day. Add a dash of brown sugar or honey and you have a tea that stands above the rest. Our Black Tea is dried into long, flavourful leaves that open up emitting a wonderful smell that pulls you closer to the cup with each and every sip. Let the tea linger in your mouth an extra second or two to allow the full flavour - delicately sweet - to make it's presence felt.
Compliment this tea with a fresh salad or dark chocolate dessert and you will discover a very unique Black Tea very different from many found in China, India and even Taiwan. Online Store
Ginger & Brown Sugar Cider
Our Signature drink, Ginger & Brown Sugar Cider, has been a very big hit in Toronto and through other parts of North America. As the cool Fall months turn to the frigid Winter months, there are very few drinks that compare in taste, warmth and prevention than this gem of a cider.
Proven to prevent illness and sooth the worst of colds and flu, this delicious Cider offers a wonderfully spicy kick with fresh and plentiful ginger alongside the sweet flavour of brown sugar. Add a spoonful or two of milk/cream and you've got the perfect winter comforter.
PS. From November ~ February, I have at least one cup of G & BS Cider to help keep my body warm and to prevent any potential colds and other illnesses that try to make their way into my daily life. Online Store
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”