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Cooking With Matcha: Banana & Matcha Donuts

26 March 2019

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Baked in the oven, these donuts are as delicious as their traditional version and are much healthier. If you do not succumb to the temptation to eat them all out of the oven, they can also be frozen and warmed up.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 35ml melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup of greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 to 2 crushed ripe bananas
  • 90ml of white chocolate
  • 1 tsp Matcha Sora

Preparation

1. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2. In another bowl, mix the egg and the brown sugar. Add the melted butter, vanilla and banana.

3. In this same bowl, add in the yogurt and flour mixture in two steps. Mix gently.

4. Place the mixture on a buttered donut pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350 °F.

5. In a small bowl, mix the melted white chocolate with the Matcha Sora.

6. With a fork, glaze the donuts with the matcha & white chocolate sauce.

Watch the video

Belle Humeur: Our Newest Tisane

20 March 2019

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Tisanes: A Beverage on the Rise

It’s not long ago that herbal infusions were associated with Grandma’s night-time tonic. But beyond the traditional and very obvious camomile, these plants hold infinite array of taste, flavours, benefits and scents. In fact, the market is trending heavily in that direction; “44% of tea drinkers also drink natural herbal teas, which is a 17% increase compared to 2015″. (La Presse, ATTC). We’ve noticed that our Camellia Sinensis clients, this trend has translated into a 90% bump in sales in the last 4 years.

Consumers are also putting more importance on the quality and origin all the food products they purchase, be it for coffee, tea or wine. So tisanes often called ‘botanicals’, are no exception. As the demand for local and premium products grows we constantly strive to evolve our catalogue creatively to bring to you new experiences. Thus our latest concoction: La Belle Humeur. We’ve developed this new blend in collaboration with the Herbalist La Maria located in St-Michel-de-Bellechasse.
How do we create these new blends?

The process is relatively straight forward. the project was to introduce a new tasting experience, with a product that was available year long. Our partners then met up with Jasmin and recommended a few plant options that would lend themselves to the very diverse and extreme Quebec climate. At that point, we went through a long tasting and blending process to create this very distinct herbal blend for our collection.

Visual, delicious and rich with properties

A very warm infusion, its floral and citrus notes are predominant. The finish is more nuanced with sweetness and a vegetal delivery. The silky texture and delicate taste is feels like a beautiful summer day.

La Belle Humeur is a blend of marjoram, lemon basil, raspberry, calendula and rose petal which makes it a valuable ally for both the digestive and nervous system. In fact, it named as such by Elodie, one of the Camellia team who trained as a professional naturopath, who was inspired by its benefits.

Discover this organic botanical treat for its beauty and its taste!

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!

Maple Tea Studio: A Simple Pairing

17 March 2019

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A long time coming

Creating a 100% pure and authentic maple tea was a challenge we were definitely up for! Our starting point was clear: the taste of black tea with a hint of maple syrup. We had been toying with the idea of this tea for a few years but we were never quite able to get the results we wanted. The main reason was our insisting on a 100% natural tea without all the artificial flavours usually used.

Finding the perfect balance

Though a black tea base seemed to be the way to go, we eventually tried a green tea out of sheer curiosity. It was somewhat interesting, but not as good as black tea. Our next step was to find a black tea best paired with the rich flavours and aromas of maple. After quite a bit of research, we landed on our Indian black tea, from Coonoor. Its classical structured taste is malty yet sweet and perfectly complements the maple without overpowering it.

So we are proud to announce that the new maple Tea Studio blend is comprised of 50% Nilgiri Coonoor black tea, produced out of our own experimental factory in India and 50% from maple sugar crystals from the maple forest of St-Ferdinand in Quebec.

These blend perfectly with the tea, giving it a natural and delicious maple flavour. An agreement in simplicity, which brings out the dried fruit notes of tea and offers the right dose of sugar. The result: the true impression of having added a little maple syrup to the tea!

An original and unique tea

Blended at our Montreal warehouse we are proud to present a rich maple tea of such quality! We’re also happy to announce that it will be available year round so you will be to enjoy it plain or with a cloud of maple milk. If that piques your interest, simply brew your tea as you normally would and add a bit of hot foamed milk and maple syrup. Add a few maple sugar crystals on top if you’re feeling fancy! A rare delight!

2019 Travels : Our Tea Taster’s Plans

14 March 2019

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Spring has always been an exciting time for our team and our clients, as our experts leave Quebec for a few weeks to find new gems and bring back some of the freshest tea out there. As of the end of March, Camellia Sinensis’ four tea tasters will travel all across Asia as to meet our beloved producers, set up new projects and return with some world class tea.

Here’s what they can each expect over the next few weeks…

Kevin Gascoyne

Kevin will begin his annual trip in India at the Tea Studio, our experimental tea factory in order to meet the project partners, help produce some tea and collaborate on the development of new products. It will also be an opportunity to enhance the educational and touristic offer, as the Tea Studio will host a group of Americans tourists visiting for a few days. Our team is very excited to develop this side of the Tea Studio over the next few months. Kevin will also take part in meetings to help formalize the creation of a community-based project in which 1% of each sale will go to improve the village’s infrastructure.

Following his stay in the Nilgiris, Kevin will then head to Darjeeling to look for some new teas as well as do research. He will also meet two up and coming industry players from the industry and help improve their plantation operation.

His journey to India will end in Kolkata, where he will visit the Earl Gray factory, meet the Tea Board of India to discuss the Tea Studio. He will make a quick stop in London before returning to Quebec to give a lecture at the UK Tea Academy. Stay tuned!

This year, Kevin will be accompanied by the African producer Alexander Kay (Satemwa, Malawi) with whom he’s very excited to chat about tea factory.

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Jasmin Desharnais

For his yearly spring travel in Yunnan, Jasmin will be accompanied by Laurence Lambin-Gagnon, a tea advisor at our store in Quebec City. Laurence is a huge fan of Pu Er, making him the perfect companion for this trip. They will both go on the hunt for some world class Pu Er which has become increasingly rare in Yunnan.

Jasmin will then head to Guizhou, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian. On the menu: create a new celadon collection in Longquan, acquire some new knowledge about green tea processing in Jingning and Anji, and visit a compostable glass factory.

Jasmin is particularly eager to make tea with producers this year, get a good feel for the leaves and dive into the tea processing techniques.

Intrigued by China? Read our recommendations for a memorable trip!

Tea Studio 2018-19

Hugo Américi

Hugo will visit Japan between May 6th and 17th along with his son Léo as well as François Marchand. They will visit some of the core research centers in region of Saitama with Mr. Miyano, producer of our Temomicha. The majority of the trip will then take place in Shizuoka, where they will meet our dear collaborators and friends from Sencha Nagashima (a 40 farmers cooperative) and award them with the 2019 Award of Excellence. To complete the 2019 Japanese tea menu, they will partake in many other tastings and visits.

They will complete their travels in Tokoname where they will meet some potters and pick out some of the gems that we will feature on-shelf this year.

On a side note, Hugo is particularly eager to show Japan and all it has to offer to his son!

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François Marchand

François’ trip will be quite different this year as he will accompany Hugo throughout the country of the Rising Sun. He hopes to seize through various photos and videos the beauty of the tea gardens and also to interview producers, artisans to create content for our platforms. He’ll be equipped with a drone and a camera, so he’s surely to have some fun while capturing what we’re sure will be images to makes us all dream. While in Japan, he will take advantage of the opportunity to report on the matcha production in the Kyoto region, with our producer of Matcha Uji.

Do you have questions or requests for our tasters? Feel free to leave a comment under this article!

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Tea Masters Cup: A Competition Between Tea Enthusiasts

13 March 2019

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Back in October 2017, Kevin had the chance to attend the World Finals of an event called the Tea Masters Cup whilst in China for a conference. This very exciting competition between young tea enthusiasts of all styles is very similar to the barista competitions of the coffee world and is now becoming an international phenomenon.

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If we divide modern tea culture into three principal categories: production, trade and consumers, the Tea Masters Cup is a project entirely focused on the cultivation of the consumer market. It is seen as a think tank for the evolution of tea culture, new preparation methods and service concepts.

This March, Kevin travelled to Moscow, to act as a guest judge in the Russian competition, to learn more about the organization and to further the process of bringing the competition to Canada for the first time in September. A project he is working on with the Canadian Tea and Herbal Association. Not to be missed!

More about the competition:

  • The Tea Masters Cup started in Russia and is now held in 23 countries, from France to Australia, Vietnam, China, Korea, Latvia … More and more countries join the competition each year;
  • Participants can register in one or more of the four categories: Preparation, Pairing, Tasting and Mixology;
  • The movement is entirely run by volunteers
  • The competition is fuelled by enthusiasm for tea, beyond the rivalries between companies;
  • Participants are often young adults, passionate about tea and keen to take an active part in the tea evolution of tea culture.
  • The prize for the winners of each country’s national competition is to be sent to the world championships to compete against winners from all the other countries.

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Producer of the Month: Mr Gao

6 March 2019

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Each month, the Camellia Sinensis team presents one of its favorite producers, shares the story of their first encounter, and the producer’s story.

This month, we have Mr. Gao Shi He, wulong tea producer Taiwan. Hugo met Mr Gao in his Pinglin gardens over 10 years ago. They have kept contact since then and you can find Mr Gao’s excellent Gaba Cha in our selection each year.
When and how did you first step into the world of tea?

Tea has been my family’s main source of revenues for a long time now. When I was young, my father was in charge of the whole production. But when he fell sick and my family risked losing its main income, I took over. It’s been more than 30 years now since my career started. Since then, I have developed a specific taste for the natural floral aromas of tea.

Tell us a bit more about your gardens.

The gardens my family owns cover just over one Jia in area. This is about two and a half acres with an annual production of roughly 1000 kilos. Recently, we have developed another plantation with an area of two Jia, so a little less than 5 acres.

How much Gaba Cha do you produce annually?

More or less 200 bags of 600g each.

Gaba tea is seasonal. The best period to produce it is one week before and one week after Duan Wu (dragon boats festival). This is when the insects called Jacobiasca Formosana come to the gardens and start biting the tea leaves. If you harvest when their bites are still on the leaves, the tea quality will be optimal.

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How many workers do you hire?

Three permanent employees take care of managing the gardens. To this we add eight to ten seasonal employees for harvesting the leaves.

Which aspects of your work do you prefer?

What I prefer is managing and tending the gardens. I like to witness the growing of the trees, observe the different changes at every stage and see the leaves flush. This is my favorite place to be. I always feel relaxed and happy in a natural landscape on the mountain.

Who’s buying your teas? Local or international clients?

Right now, most clients are Taiwanese buyers, with a few travelers coming freely from China, Japan, Europe, America, etc. Other than that, you are certainly our most important international clients!

Have you seen any changes since your beginnings in the industry?

Today, the tea industry is greatly affected by abnormal meteorological environments. The growing cycles of the trees and leaves are often disturbed and unpredictable, making the intervention of technology increasingly important in the fabrication process.

Luckily, as scientific and technological progress marches on, so do the machines we use. Better in performance than before, they are very precious allies to maintain the tea quality we need. I don’t think this industry would still be viable here without them.

Regarding clients, the majority of consumers are middle-aged people, with only a small portion of young people drinking our tea.

What is your favourite tea?

I like many styles of tea: Baozhong, Laocha, heavily fermented teas, black teas, Mixiang teas… but my favorite is still Gaba tea.

Learn more about the virtues of Gaba Cha in this article.

Vietnam: Tea in Women’s Hands

5 March 2019

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Though many women participate in tea harvesting activities, they are not as present in the tasks involved in tea manufacture, most of which are traditionally and still carried out by men. There are exceptions, however. In Vietnam’s Thai Nguyen region, it is mostly women taking care of tea production, from the first cultivation to the final sales.

According to Ms. Hiep, the inspiring 67-year-old manager of the Tan Huong Cooperative, the dominant role women play in her company reflects the reality throughout Vietnam, where women occupy eighty percent of all jobs in the tea domain. Amongst this small cooperative’s thirty-seven employees, only five are men. Sharing all of the tasks and equipment, men and women jointly produce a green tea comprised of large twisted leaves intended for the domestic market.

Despite the quality of the teas produced in Thai Nguyen, Vietnam’s most renowned tea region, the market is quite saturated. Some growers limit their production to avoid a surplus. In seeking to develop Vietnam’s primarily domestically-oriented tea market, some artisans have attempted to produce small-leaf teas of a higher quality; sadly, due to a lack of regular buyers, they are usually forced to return to their regular production.

This market reality, common to many tea regions, has forced some growers to develop new lines of traditional and everyday teas. Over the last few years, the Tan Huong Cooperative has been making Wulong tea in an attempt to diversify their production. On international markets, Wulong can sell for up to four times the price of their regular green tea and demand is on the rise. Should the cooperative succeed in introducing this new tea to the international market, it will certainly have a great positive impact.

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With this in mind, in 1997, the women from Tan Huong began to plant the cultivars used to produce Wulongs. Without the expertise or equipment required to transform these leaves, however, they have not yet managed to develop a satisfactory product. To address this problem, the cooperative has recently joined ranks with Mr. Xu, a Taiwanese specialist, to learn more about Wulong transformation processes and the complexity of parameters that must be respected to create a quality tea.

According to Ms. Hiep, their recent progress has been very encouraging, but, before entering the foreign market, the cooperative will have to resolve many other organizational challenges regarding transportation, financial transactions, and quality control. With Mr. Xu’s help, the members’ perseverance, and the good fortune of having the support of the next generation ready to join them, the future looks bright for the Tan Huong Cooperative.

Quebec Ceramists

4 March 2019

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International Women’s Day is approaching and we thought of introducing you to the many Quebec ceramists who adorn the Camellia Sinensis tablets, and your tea spaces at home. Artists with incredible talent and each with a very characteristic artistic signature.

Makiko

Makiko Hicher Nakamura was born in Hokkaido Japan. She lived for many years in France before settling in Quebec in 2011. When asked how she became a potter, she replied. “Quite by chance!  I saw a course advertised for a ceramics workshop gave it a try and loved it. I immediately thought:  this is for me.”
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She creates delicate work while retaining the essence of the material, leaving room for intuition and spontaneity in the design ”I let my hands work and I clear my head. Turning puts me into a trance.”
She prefers making cups and bowls. For her, teaware is more demanding than other table pottery. During production, she is more aware that they are utensils dedicated to a very specific purpose: “I learn by simply drinking tea, I analyze why pieces are good or not. I practice the tea ceremony a little to better understand their use.”
Makiko loves simplicity, the joy of daily life. She loves cups that hold well in the hand (she does not like mugs). Most of all, she loves to imagine that people enjoy their tea (or coffee) in the teaware she produces.
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Julie Lavoie
Julie Lavoie’s passion for the world of ceramics began in 2005, while studying at the Centre de Céramique Bonsecours in Montreal. There she developed a keen interest in porcelain and firing at high heat.
A few years later, she undertook a six-month trip to Japan in order to learn more about the types of wood ovens and firing techniques used there. This trip allowed her to appreciate teaware in much greater depth. She also discovered that ceramic teaware, the work of the artisan, is ubiquitous in Japanese society and she left permeated by their approach to the material and its transformation. It is in this spirit that she has developed a series of teaware designed for tea tasting.
The forest is, for her, a a source of infinite inspiration: trees and their special presence, also the sky – on which day and night are portrayed, and the water courses in which they reflect. The desire to get closer to nature has recently involved leaving Montreal to install her studio in a small village in the region of Estrie.
The works she offers are fired at high temperature in a gas oven. She uses specific glazes, the fruits of long research, which allow her to create a unique and personal world. As a base, she prefers porcelain for its delicacy, strength and whiteness, qualities that offer the glaze a base to present their story.
About her work, Julie explains: “A bowl that molds to the palm of your hand and fits perfectly to the lips to deliver its promise of flavor. That is the whole simple poetry of a ceramic piece. The items of tableware and teaware are the ones that I love the most, because their presence nourishes our lives.’
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Carmen Abdallah
The pricinpal focus of Carmen Abdallah is on the production of pieces for the art of tea. This choice was inspired by her three year stay in the south of Japan (2002-2005). The function and aesthetics she gives to her works is inspired by the knowledge she gained during her ceramics training in Japan. Her work on the glaze and shape makes every Carmen Abdallah piece unique and, nevertheless, retaining the characteristic style of the artist.
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Bowls.Carmen Abdallah works the red and white clays that she turns on an electric or foot powered turntable. She carves, reshapes and modifies the symmetrical forms to make them more spontaneous and organic. Her glazes are inspired by traditional Japanese recipes, containing a large amount of wood ash. She fires her pieces in an electric furnace or oven.
In 2010, Carmen Abdallah returned to Japan and learned how to build an Anagama style wood oven. Ever since then, she fires her pieces in the oven she built in Quebec. Regarding this process, Carmen says: “This method fascinates me and I am deeply focused on the effects of ash and flame in such a firing. It gives good results from melted wood ash on the pieces which looks like glass. This process makes each piece even more unique, and even heroic, to have faced and survived such heat and atmosphere for 24 hours or more. ”
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Nadine Desmarais
Looking into her story, we realize the potter has a rich artistic background in visual presentation, advertising and photography. This explains such artistic maturity in a new line of work. “I have tried to express myself in many ways during my life (…) However, it is through clay that I find today an inner freedom from which springs my creativity”.
Carrying the Gaspésie region deep in her heart, it is no coincidence that Nadine Desmarais’s ceramics, with their pearly finishes and soft textures, always remind us of its seashores.
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Catherine de Abreu
Laval ceramist Catherine De Abreu advocates a contemporary approach to the objects she creates.  As she prepares her ceramic’s third firing, the artist lays out laser decals that will add her object’s undeniable signature: the jellyfish.
Why this creature? “There is no specific reason … I find this marine specimen fascinating, it’s seducing simply by its beauty.”
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Stéphanie Blanchet
Quebec ceramicist Stéphanie Blanchet creates mainly utilitarian pieces to enhance and share the daily rituals of life. Her vibrant style expresses “(…) the passion, the joy and the richness that my work gives me.” And that is precisely the impression we have!
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