The Rough Draft

If you can't go through it. Go around it.

It’s no secret we like our tea in this house.  Coffee is fine once in a while but it’s really never done anything for me other than give me heartburn and keep me awake all night (that’s right, it’s decaf only after 3:00 pm).  For many years I drank Red Rose a bagged Orange Pekoe basically because I didn’t know any better.  Later on I’d step up to Bee Brand Loose Leaf Tea, a Flowery Orange Pekoe.  Bagged Tea is the lowest grade of tea you can get.  It’s mostly tea dust, the residue of better grades of tea.   Where I made the switch to high test came about because I was helping a friend move out of her old apartment.  We stopped for lunch in Rosedale at this great pulled pork place.  Just up the road was The House of Tea.  The store is run by Marisha Golla, who over time would become my Guru of all things tea.  It’s not a big store, it doesn’t need to be but the stuff she has on her shelves is pure magic in a cup and she’s always great to have a chat with.  She does have one rule though, new customers get served first, that way they don’t get freaked out by the amounts of her regular customers purchases.  It’s probably a good rule, I don’t leave there without dropping at least a couple of hundred.

The value of a product really comes down to how much waste is left at the end of all of the processing.  Cranberries are a no loss product, every berry gets used for something, Coffee is another, much like Tea, everything is used that can be used.  However the simple fact remains, bagged tea is mostly dust.

So a bit on the grading of Tea well Black Tea anyway, the Green Teas don’t really have a grading system, probably because the Brits were happy with the black tea they stole from China and then grew all over their empire.

The top Grade is TGFOP1  The acronym stands for Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe and the 1 stands for First Blush or First pick.  It is in essence liquid crack.  Once you try tea at this level, you’re not going back to anything in a bag.  In fact it all gets a bit ritualistic.  Our tea of choice is Panitola, a black Assam tea from Sri Lanka.  It’s organic and fair trade.

The first thing you notice is the variety of color in the tea.  The lighter bits are the flowers, there’s also the sweeter tips of the leaves in there, it truly is an amazing tea.

Her Masala Chai is pretty kick ass too.  Check out the Cardamon Pods in it.

Of course our favorite this time of year is the Christmas Blend.  The only way to describe it, is it tastes like Christmas.

Yes those are chunks of Orange and Cinnamon in there.  I bought so much today, she gave me the Kilo price.

The other cool thing about the House of Tea is the variety of product.  If I read or hear about something, chances are better than good that Marisha has it on the shelf.  I’ve always had a bit of a dodgy stomach and I asked her about nettle tea.  Not only does she have Nettle tea, she has African Nettle Pearls, the best on the market.  It tastes a bit grassy (I add a little mint to mine) but damned if it didn’t settle things down.

And you know the Chamomile Tea you get from any number of herbal tea places, well at House of Tea, you get German Chamomile Flowers.

No weak white watery liquid, this brew is bright yellow and yeah, you get sleepy.

Today I asked about Dried Red Hybiscus Flowers because I’d read about a bagged tea in this months Bon Apetite magazine.  Like I said, you ask, she’s got it.

Apparently when you take Tamaflu, the main ingredient is Extract of Red Hybiscus Flower.  Why?  Because it’s one of the highest sources of Vitamin C you can take.  It’s all smoke and mirrors, innit.

Green tea isn’t my thing but my daughter likes her Sencha Peaches and Cream.

The Japanese Green Teas are very differently cut from their Chinese counterparts.

So as you can see we’re a bit obsessed here with the whole Tea thing.

If you think you’d like to buy some of Marisha’s Teas, you can check out her website or contact her via email at

Finally, I’d just like to point out that all pictures were taken with my trusty Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-3.5 Macro HSM lens.  I briefly considered using the Lensbaby but in the end the old workhorse won out.

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