This past Saturday I ventured on the TTC down to Bloor & Yonge where my new tea guide, Rita, would be meeting me for an afternoon of tea and conversation at a local shop Tao Tea Leaf (www.taotealeaf.com). I arrived to find Rita, two of her friends, Katherine (who works at Tao) and Mr. Tao Wu waiting for me and waiting to get started on what would turn out to be a fun-filled (and first experience in a Toronto tea shop) 3 hours. Fun-filled it was!
After our initial meet and greet, I sat down to my first taste test for the afternoon. In fact, we only had time for two tastings as Mr. Wu was welcoming two groups from Buffalo, NY, who heard through word of mouth about his store and wide selection of high-quality and great tasting tea. (By the way, the two groups left with both hands full of tasty treats and notebooks full of valuable information!)
The first tea we dove into is called Green Pu'erh. This Pu'erh was harvested in 2007 and had a light, yet lovely taste to it. Unlike most Pu'erhs that I have tried, this one was very light in color - similar to a Dong Ding Oolong. This tea was grown in Yunnan Province, China, and can be found in LinCang located not far from where it was grown.
The second tea we tried is a 2010 Pu'erh which was grown in JingMai, which is also in Yunnan Prov., China. This Pu'erh looked and tasted very similar to the ones I have tried before - and enjoyed! And did I ever enjoy this wonderful, woody and aromatic tea. Delicious! This Pu'erh, as with many if not all, came from a very ancient tea tree which looks very similar to your average tree (which is in stark contrast to the standard tea bush which is usually shorter).
The day wouldn't be complete without a visit from a member of the Tea Association of Canada and instructor for the Certified Tea Sommellier online course (French version). I had many questions for Raymonde and she was more than delighted to answer them all for me. I better not hesitate for much longer - the Tea Sommelier course starts on September 16 and I have yet to enroll!
Well, our visit to Tao Tea Leaf was everything that I expected. Relaxing, warm and full of wonderful convesation with NEW friends! Thanks very much to Rita (for organizing this greet and meet), Mr. Tao Wu (for sharing his two types of Pu'erh), Katherine (for keeping the hot water flowing) and Raymonde (for answering my endless number of questions).
Now it's onto another location to make some new friends and try some new teas!
Tao Tea Leaf
Downtown Toronto Location:
934 Yonge Street
Tel: (647) 728-3858
Just before leaving Taiwan I took the opportunity to meet for the last time (well, for about 1 year) with one of the farmers that Innofarmer Organic Tea works with and a close friend who also shares a love for tea. Sean, our farmer and Alex (who lives in Taipei) met my wife, son and I at a local tea shop that dates back a dozen decades if not more. The setting could not be more perfect to try yet another wonderfully delicious and silky smooth tea that I just know many people will come to enjoy sometime in the near future and beyond.
As you will gather from some of the pictures below, we were allowed the opportunity to sit in a very quiet, calm and relaxing environment. What was considered to be traditional and the environment necessary to enjoy the company of friends, we were surrounded by coy fish, wooden spacing and an intricate layout of private dining areas. All that would be required to make the morning complete was some fresh water boiled to perfection. Oh, and some wonderful tea leaves to infuse in Sean's favorite tea pot.
Sean, who has been farming on his family tea plantations for many years, is always on the hunt (in a creative sort of way) for the excellent tasting tea and more attractive tea leaves. Tea isn't just a wonderful tasting beverage that offers a laundry list of benefits, but it also attracts a sense of artistry and beauty. The leaves that he produces - along with the flavour - is unlike many other types of tea that I have had the opportunity to explore over the years. So it was with this initial eye-catching pleasure that I tried the tea which he calls Hang Mei Ren Tea, Red Beauty Tea (or Black Tea).
This Black Tea has a slightly stronger flavour than traditional Black Teas. The colour is a spectacular auburn that resembles a deep rosewood, offering up a wonderful fruity smell. As always, enjoying this tea with close friends in the proper setting makes this tea - and just about every other - something very special and incredibly desirable.
After a laid-back and easy morning it was time to head back out into the world to complete our packing and final arrangements before our quickly approaching departure date to Toronto on August 8. As is often forgotten in times of stress and busyness, "With the old and departed comes the new and delightful."
We are on our way!
“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”