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End of Season Teas

18 March 2019

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You may have noticed some reduced prices on our menus recently. With spring around the corner, these “end of season” teas will shortly be giving way to the all those new lots about to start coming in. They are being replaced by others not because they have expired or gone bad, simply that we need room for the new harvests. For many amateurs of most tea styles, a quest for freshness represents the goal in tasting. Though this goal never lasts more than a fleeting moment. Each year, we renew our efforts to present the best teas, the freshest teas possible, because we know just how much pleasure can be experienced in their tasting.

So what are these “end of season” teas and why are they not as good as “fresh” teas? As we know most tea loses its freshness during a year of storage, does that mean we shouldn’t drink it? Luckily, it doesn’t. As opposed to many other food products, tea never goes bad or stale, even over the years. Its great preservation is due to its very low humidity content. When we talk about tea’s freshness, we mean the intensity of its aromas, its impact on your taste buds rather than on your health. So if ever you find a bag of forgotten tea at the back of the cupboard it is always worth giving it a try. The worst that can happen is that it will be a bit disappointing flavour wise. It certainly won’t do you any harm!

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So why do we reduce the prices of these teas if they are still good? Because with time, the composition of aromatic molecules within the leaves change or dissipate. Even kept in the ideal conditions of a dark, cool and dry place, the most volatile scents cannot be held forever. The same phenomenon can be observed with spices or dried flowers. With time, they lose their aromas. And despite their very low humidity levels, tea leaves still undergo a slow oxidation in contact with air. This process, hardly noticeable at first, invariably leads to changes in both taste and colours. The leaves lose their bright visual aspect and gain smoothness as diminishes their aromatic vividness. Some styles benefit greatly from this slow oxidation. First Flush Darjeeling teas, for example, often reveal their full complexity and potential after a short mellowing period.

If you’re looking for teas to try during this “end of season” (those that have brightly stood the test of time or benefited from oxidation), here are a few picks from our team:

  • Huo Shan Huang Ya : delicate Chinese green tea with longue needle-like leaves. Reveals a superb softness in taste, a smooth caress for sunny afternoons.
  • Pu Bu Long Zhu : another Chinese green tea that, despite months of vacuum sealed storage, kept very lively its green vegetables notes and fresh herbaceous accents.
  • Darjeeling Thurbo 1st flush DJ-41 : a rare find (even by Darjeeling standards) still as good today as when we bought it. Over the months, we avidly followed its aromatic evolution from sharp herbal notes to its now smooth and perfectly balanced floral nuances.
  • Meghalaya Lakyrsiew Autumnal organic : appreciated at first for its bright leather and fresh tobacco aromas, a slow transformation towards a more chocolate/spicy character (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) made it our best ally against the season’s last colds.
  • Jingxian Jin Jun Mei : maybe one of you best chance to experience a grand cru from Jingxian at great price. Deep notes of cocoa and malt softly balanced by time.

Effective now until new stocks come in, “end of season” is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of great prices and experience new teas before the 2019 harvests take over.

Happy tasting!

Entrepreneurship: Our Founder’s Journey

5 February 2019

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According to Hugo, the key to entrepreneurial success is combination of careful planning, focused objectives and a decent dose of…luck!

Here is an interview with the founder of Camellia Sinensis tea house on the original launch of the company.

Tell us how it all started? Was founding a company your dream?

H : From planning my paper route when I was 10 to begging manager of the corner store to give me more responsibilities when I was 16, I always felt I was born to be an entrepreneur. I had been dreaming of launching a café-bar with a difference, so I travelled to Europe at 23 to do my market research. Whilst in Prague, I picked up the taste for tea as there were many places serving it with a blend of Asian tradition and an extra touch of “cool” . As I worked on my business plan I realized that we had nothing remotely like this in Montreal. That’s when I realized: it was going to be a tea house and not a coffee shop!

You must have have ran into quite a few challenges when you started out?

H : Yes. I actually underestimated the budget to launch this endeavour, so I had to worked 112h a week for the first year to compensate. It wasn’t easy for my friends, family and more importantly the bank to visualize the concept I had in mind.

Do you have any tips for the young entrepreneurs out there?

H : Firstly, is that you can’t do it alone. Find people around you that you trust and that can help you with certain tasks. Trust them and delegate. There are plenty of people and business services that will help if you ask.

Secondly, I would suggest to focus on one thing as launching a new business is very time consuming. Make sure that the other aspects of your life allow you to dedicate so much energy to this adventure.

Last November marked the 20th anniversary of Camellia Sinensis. How would you explain the continued success of this company?

H : Personal experience has lead me to believe that it is a mixture of three things:

1. A realistic plan. It’s important to plan but we also need to be flexible in order to see other opportunities that can help us improve our idea. I have never found it realistic to plan 3 or 5 years ahead. I plan the year and adapt with the flow to guide my next plan. Depending on your vision, you may want to observe your company’s evolution. Treat it as if it were a person with its own goals and aspirations.

2. Keep focused. Choose and define a mission, objectives and a target market. Remember, you won’t be able to please everyone and aim concentrate on what you do best.

3. Be on the lookout for Lady Luck ! After all, the whole idea of Camellia Sinensis came to me after working up the nerve to ask a girl out in Prague. She fortunately said yes and brought me to a hidden Tea house and that’s when everything became clear. Who knows what would’ve happened had I not met her. Being open and spontaneous to the benefits of chance can lead to wonderful things.

Camellia Sinensis isn’t only Hugo, you also have 3 partners. What is your secret ?

H : Quite simply: we get along really well. Having the same overall vision and our belief in the balance between personal and professional life is what has kept us together so long. Partnering up was very organic and seamless but having the same values is the glue that keeps it together. Starting out we all worked together in the store and teahouse as things developed we were advised to take on specific roles and to structure the company as it grew. It worked out for the best because we each had our own strengths and interests. Francois took marketing, Jasmin took operations and eventually Kevin joined in 2004, adding a wealth of experience after years in the tea market.

Any wishes for the next 20 years of Camellia Sinensis?

H: Definitely not a massive worldwide expansion. I’d rather focus on helping like-minded entrepreneurs to change the way we do business and spread the wealth. Running a healthy business can mean many things and measured in different ways. For us it’s measured in the quality of how we balance our personal lives.

Actually, I’ll take this opportunity to sincerely thank all our clients. Without their loyalty and support, Camellia Sinensis would not be what it is today. Thank you everybody!

Chai: Choosing the Perfect Milk

20 November 2018

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Though not new to the world of tea, Chai, the traditional Indian beverage, has become increasingly popular in North America. Gabriel Svaldi, owner of Bristol Chai has also noticed a growing demand for various plant milk alternatives to traditional cow’s milk. He shares his thoughts on the pros and cons on using these various milk alternatives.

Original Cow milk
Classic chai is prepared with a high fat milk, and sometimes with condensed milk or even butter. Our traditional version, only contains 2% milk. So cow’s milk gives chai it a smooth, rich and authentic taste. It tends to work well with any blend of spices.

Soy milk
Soy milk is more neutral and versatile alternative to cow’s milk. It has a similar creaminess and richness and it’s also a good match for any chai blend, from the more traditional to the woody or spicier.

Almond milk
Less creamy, almond milk is best used for the more punchy chai blends, like our Winston mix. Its subtle taste pairs well with spices to create a very well-balanced result.

Coconut milk
Although it is harder to pair, coconut milk can be a nice alternative for a fruity chai like our Scarlett or Eva blends, it comes into its own when prepared cold. But coconut milk isn’t a taste that suits everyone, so proceed with caution.

Oat milk
Oat milk may be taking over as our new favourite vegan alternative, even dethroning soy milk! It has a velvety texture and it offers a similar results with the spices to that of cow’s milk.


Have you heard of Bristol Chai?
It is the first chai bar in Quebec, launched by Gabriel Svaldi, a loyal member of the Camellia Sinensis family since 2009. Located in the heart of Montreal (at the intersection of Prince Arthur and Clark), the bar offers a charming ambiance and setting that combines Montreal’s dynamism and India’s warmth, wrapped with the unique combined scents of spices and homemade pastries

Discover their 5 different chai blends!

Team Portrait: Kevin Gascoyne, Tea Taster

2 January 2018

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Here at Camellia Sinensis we not only value the quality of our teas but also the quality of our team. How well do you know our four expert tasters ?
This month we’d like to introduce Kevin Gascoyne, co-owner of Camellia Sinensis since 2004.

How does your story with Camellia Sinensis begin?

Being the old man around here, I had another tea life and company before joining Camellia. I had been asked to be a guest on some local TV show and they were looking for another guest that was running a tea house. So I offered to go down and check out this new place that had just opened. On arrival I discovered 3 very cool guys running the most bohemian, eclectic and exciting little tea room I had ever seen. They were passionately into to both tea and having a good time, so we rapidly became good friends.
What is your role in the Camellia team?

Aside from tasting, sourcing and buying since 1993, I try my best to deal with Human Resources here in Montreal, staff training, public relations, our international projects and conferencing. I also love shopkeeping so I hop behind the counter to chat with the clients whenever I can.
Your tea highlight of the year?…

The Darjeeling Singell DJ 19 is probably my favourite tea this year. An exquisite example of the original Chinese seeds planted in the Himalayan terroir back in the 1860’s. That magic combination that gave the region its reputation all those years ago.
Do you have a recent discovery ?

Not known for my love of green teas I am really enjoying rediscovering this year’s spectacular Anji Bai Cha.

What are you best known for at Camellia?

Probably my obsessive enthusiasm for tea, my terrible dad jokes and for drinking large quantities the profits.

Our team reveals its tips and tricks

23 July 2017

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CS_Photo_Feuilles2The world of tea is exciting, diverse and surprising. Whether you are an amateur or an expert, there is always something new to discover. Everyone at Camellia Sinensis is a tea enthusiasts whether they are in the shop or the tea house, the warehouse or the central administration. Here are some of their tips and tricks to improve your tea experience.

Explore
Try going off the beaten track, with a family of tea less familiar, it is a great way to expand your palate. While some explorations may prove to be less to your personal taste, the exercise will help you discern new and subtle flavour aspects otherwise unknown to you. Best case: you could be pleasantly surprised and find a new favourite!

Here’s a way you can start: try our 15$ “all you can drink tea” promotion, available at our Montreal tea house. Our experts will guide you and help you to discover something new.

Tastings
When buying a new tea or a tea that is a little more expensive, try to create the perfect occasion to savour it in a Gaiwan or Gong Fu Cha. Creating that moment will surely make it more memorable!

After this, try the same tea in more “regular” teapot setting – this will just surely change the overall taste experience but your knowledge of the tea will be installed.

Various tips

  • Pre-heat your teapot before an infusion. A great tip to make sure your water temperature is accurate and retain heat while you drink it.
  • Pour a first cup then pour it back into the teapot: this will allow the liquor to circulate and even out.
  • Try high-pouring your tea. This can help cool your tea by up to 10 degrees Celsius.
  • For teas that require rinsing, pre-heat the pot at the same time with the same water…It saves both water and time!
  • With Gaiwan, pour out a small quantity to taste directly. This will allow you to observe the evolution of the infusion
  • When trying to choose between a $20 or $200 Chawan, ask one of our experts how it should be held. Feeling the object will help you choose.
  • Moving around with tea usually means spills. Using a tea boat as a tray help retain any overflow or drips.
  • To protect those delicate tea leaves (green or white tea leaves), pour a very thin trickle of cold water on to them prior to infusion. This will prevent them from mild scalding and help towards a perfect infusion.


What are YOUR tips & tricks?

Resolutions 2019: an invitation to explore

30 January 2017

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The beginning of a new year makes for an ideal opportunity to live new experiences and broaden your horizons. Why not take a moment to taste new teas or try a different infusion method? Whether you are a connoisseur or a new tea enthusiast, there is always something unknown to try.

1. Diversify your infusion methods

Do you usually prepare your favourite infusion in a teapot? Take a look at our videos to learn more about each of the various ways to prepare tea.

Gaiwan

The Gaiwan is a Chinese technique that is perfectly suited for the tasting of delicate teas such as the white, Chinese greens or wulong teas. A simple and affordable tool, it enables the exploration of the wide spectrum of flavors of a tea.

Discover our Gaiwans and watch the infusion method.

Gong Fu Cha

“The time of tea” is one of the interpretations of Gong Fu Cha. It refers to the time needed and the focus that must be invested in order to master this art. This technique, ideal for the preparation of wulong and Pu Er, allows multiple infusions of the same leaves and each time exposes their distinctive character. We suggest the use of an aroma cup and taste cup to enhance your experience.

Discover our Gong Fu Cha and watch the infusion method.

Senchado

The senchado technique is used for the great Japanese teas which are infused in a small capacity kyusu teapot. Comfortable to handle, it carefully filters small leaf Japanese teas.

Discover our Senchado and watch the infusion method.

2. Try new teas

  • Green tea enthusiast? Try matcha, a very fine green tea powder that promises an exquisite tasting experience. Invigorating and versatile, matcha is also useful in the kitchen. Watch our video to learn more about its traditional preparation.
  • Looking for a delicate and fragrant herbal tea? La Rose Pourpre is a mixture of raspberry, purple basil and wild rose buds. Deep purple, this herbal tea offers support to both the digestive and nervous systems. Additionally, this mixture supports the female reproductive system and can help to regulate the hormonal cycle.

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3. Fine-tune your knowledge

Whether to learn about a tea family or a producing region, or to be surprised by unusual pairings, Camellia Sinensis offers dozens of workshops.

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A Time Tested Method!

2 January 2017

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Since its early days, the tea industry experienced many phases of development that progressively required new machinery, tools and techniques. The rapid and impressive deployment of the plantations in India under the supervision of the British in the mid 19th century imposed, from the outset, a method of rapid, on-site analysis and quality control. A daily taste test, both rigorous and systematic, to compare each days transformed leaf, was an essential exercise for correcting and re-calibrating each step of manufacture. Comparative tasting was also used to rate each lot before their sale at auction. Buyers today still have the opportunity to visit a tasting room and taste the teas before buying. This technique has spread internationally and this equipment can now also be found in the research centres of China, Taiwan and Japan.

Though there are some subtle variations in manipulation the principal objective is to quickly analyze a large number of teas by regulating a series of controlled infusion parameters. Here is a basic summary of the method:

1. Place the teas in the order you wish to taste them and measure equal amounts of leaf for each sample into their respective cups (between 2g and 4 g depending on the style of tea) add a sample of each tea on the respective dish for visual analysis.

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2. Add water at the desired temperature, moving methodically from one cup to another in sequence, taking care to replace the lids on the cups.  Then start the timer.

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3. After the desired infusion time, ( 3-5 minutes as specified), turn and angle each cup on top of its bowl to completely drain the liquor off the leaf and into the bowl.

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4. Present the hot infused leaves of the inverted lid and place the cup holding the lid behind the bowl – for a 3 stage olfactory and visual analysis of the dry leaf, infusion (wet leaf) and liquor.

Voilà! Careful preparation allows us to observe the size, shape, uniformity and color of dry leaves, the fragrances and the color of the infusion. Then the third essential phase, allows us to inhale vapours of the liquor, to appreciate its texture, strength and aroma before we taste.

With this method the liquors are often intense due to the 3 fold water/leaf ratio, that’s three times the usual dose. This must be taken into account when tasting in order not be put off by their strength or bitterness. This approach has the advantage of extracting everything from the leaves of the teas tasted, giving us access to both the qualities and faults.

A discerning palate knowing this can therefore benefit from the technique and taste hundreds of teas daily.  This is fairly standard in the tea industry.

On a more humble and accessible tasting table 4-10 teas is a good start. This tasting method gives us access to subtle variations and nuances of similar teas, of neighboring terroirs or of completely different regions.

Enjoy!

Our Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide

28 November 2016

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The countdown is on – a few short weeks left before wrapping those holidays gifts! To help you save time, we’ve compiled a handy suggestion guide filled with original gift ideas for everyone. Meaning less time running around shopping and more quality time spent with loved ones.

 

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Iced Tea Epiphany

13 July 2016

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With the hot season in full swing and more hot days yet to come, this is the ideal time to rediscover your favorite teas in their iced tea version.

Whether you use a mixture already prepared or benefit from emptying your collection of bags of tea and adding fruits and spices, the procedure is simple. Just add cold water to your preparation at a dosage you would use for a hot infused tea, and allow it to infuse for 6 am to 12 hours in the refrigerator, then filter before tasting! Prepared the evening, it will be ready the next morning to satisfy both your thirst and that of your guests.

It is also an opportunity to experiment with new recipes or simply to prepare a natural iced tea, as we do every day in our shops, in order to give you the opportunity to taste our latest creations. While some of my colleagues daringly mix Darjeeling with green tea, or even Pu Er and Wulong, I am a little more  conservative and prefer to use a single tea in order to fully appreciate its potential. In this way I have  rediscovered a family which I sometimes forget to enjoy, that of white teas. My revelation was immediate and sublime when I tasted the sweet nectar obtained from a white tea from one of my favorite producers, Jingning Yin Zhen! Purity, lightness, delicacy and refreshing were my words. My feelings are still vivid and though I want to share my discovery with you I also hope to inspire you to vary your infusions.

Be daring, and let me know of your discoveries! I’m interested in your best recipes or simply your special favorites.

Wishing you a good summer!

Sébastien

Searching for balance!

25 May 2016

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A simple yet fundamental idea when preparing tea is that of how to make a good infusion. Clearly the main factors are the water and leaves, but besides the quality of these, three other parameters need to be carefully considered to get the best of our tea, this is why we have written on the bags: quantity of leaf, brewing temperature and time. For preparation in a teapot, around 2.5 grams (1 to 2 tsp) of tea per cup of water are submerged at the desired temperature, depending on the type of tea, and left to infuse a few minutes before removing leaves with the filter when the infusion has reached its balance! But what about the renowned sweet spot …

Each tea has its own chemical composition depending on a multiplicity of factors, and the rate at which its various constituents are released during the  infusion is also extremely varied. A minute too short can result in an infusion which gives the impression of  tasting a fragrant hot water, be very careful when infusing your tea since the tannins, which cause the sensation of astringency or dryness in the mouth, are progressively adding body to the liquor, and this happens more rapidly when the water is hotter. Those who prefer light and fine teas can therefore benefit from lowering the water temperature or shortening their infusion. It is useful to follow the evolution of the infusion by periodically tasting the liquor (every 15 seconds towards the end!), until the balance is what I call the nose and mouth, i.e. between the aromatic profile and the tastes and sensations (body, volume and texture). Too long an infusion and astringency may overwhelm the flavour, limiting the perception of more subtle nuances. Too short, and it offers too little texture and a lack of body. It is also good to know that the liquor changes even after having removed the leaves, becoming more full-bodied with time. A good reason to make small quantities at a time!

The three parameters are closely related, varying any one affects the others. A stronger dosage provides a  greater concentration of aromatic oils, but also more caffeine and tannins, sometimes resulting in a more pronounced bitterness. In this case it is necessary to  shorten the infusion to maintain the ideal balance. The techniques of infusions in small volumes (gong fu cha, gaiwan, sencha do) correspond with this idea.

Each tea merits being preparing according to a variety of different recipes in order to understand its multiple aspects.  A good knowledge of the infusion also enables adapting it to suit the moment, for a solo morning lunch,  a winter evening in good company or a family afternoon on the hot sand.

Happy experiments.

 
 

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