O5 Rare Tea Bar

O5 Rare Tea Bar by Ayala Moriel
O5 Rare Tea Bar, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Last Friday, I was finally able to pay a visit to my friend Pedro's brand new tea bar - O5 Rare Tea Bar, which opened in September while I was too busy traveling. Pedro sources rare teas directly from family farms in Korea, China, Japan and Tibet. You may have met him or enjoyed his tea from his former company Dao Tea, or have met him at one of my tea parties, where he did tea tastings and also contributed with his own beautiful teas.

O5 Rare Tea Bar

O5 is like a cross between a tasting room, a tea salon and a tea shop. It’s a space where people may share a moment of sincere admiration for the ancient art of tea. Or, if they are short for time – pick up a bag or two of intriguing teas to brew at home.

O5 Rare Tea Bar
On the street, a barrel laden with steaming tea samples lures bypassers in. As you enter, you’ll notice the left wall, lined with shelves bearing the collection of directly sourced and carefully curated teas are laid out for you to explore on your own. But the heart of the space is the long bar lined to your right, with a hosting tea master that invite visitors to sit down on a bar stool while they watch the tea being prepared. Scattered around you’ll notice wooden boxes shaped like beehives, filled with heaps of freshly sourced tea.

O5 Rare Tea Bar

O5 carry the same high quality teas that I remember from Dao Teas – such as Korean balyhocha oolongs, Sejak green tea (also from Korea), and the ever so memorable wild chrysanthemum tea - plus a few more to surprise and delight.

The tea bar is quite the experience - being a beautiful space, serene yet not intimidating; warm, inviting and at the same time uncluttered. To top it off - Pedro and the staff are knowledgeable and friendly (rather than pompous – which is not uncommon among tea connoisseurs, I’m sorry to say), and will brew the teas to perfection right in front of you while telling the story and explaining the quality of each tea – how it was grown, harvested and prepared, and what are the best ways to make it and things it might remind them of as they watch your facial expressions sipping a strange tea for the first time.

Tapas at O5

On Friday nights, you might be able to join a tea-cocktail event and stay till the wee hours of the night. And you can also enjoy tapas or sweets, all made on the spot: goat brit with homemade blackberry & japaneo jam; Candied Jamaica in its own tart syrup; Darjeeling tea caramels; or ones flavoured with matcha that is manually ground on location with granite stones.

Golden Curls

The tapas menu changes, and so do the suggestions for tea tasting and “flights”. It was a no brainer for me picking the Autumn Flight of three teas: Golden Curls from Yunnan province in China that come from ancient tea bushes (more like trees by now); Balhyocha MLH which is mild and smooth with notes of sweet dried persimmon (if you haven't tried that, you should pay a visit to Ayoub's); and 1991 Oolong which is 21 years old and is the tea equivalent of whiskey and will knock your socks off!

Tea caramels
Truly, each tea deserves a SmellyBlog story of their own. I will only say that I spent two hours sipping several steepings of each and nibbling on tidbits of elegant goodies on the side, which makes it quite the experience. We started with the golden curls, which albeit being technically a black tea, come from yellow coloured leaves. They were very mild and smooth,  reminiscent of roasted butternut squash. The 21 year old oolong was so spectacular and awe-inspiring that I would have to dedicate an entire post to it; and the balyhocha was the finishing notes because of its calming effect as well as it being credited for aiding digestion. After the rebellious oolong though, I was so overwhelmed that nothing could quite impress me. Well, unless you count the caramels and the candied hibiscus blossoms!

Bowl of Yunnan Golden Curls

The golden curls were so perfect for Autumn that I had to take home a bagful for my upcoming Halloween themed tea party this Sunday. I also bought some Ghorka estate black tea (from Nepal) which has astounding delicacy and even with my love for milk in black tea I felt no need to do so. And of course - Jamaica (hibiscus blossoms) from Mexico, and the very last bag of Japanese sencha (not on the website). I decided to leave the 21 year oolong behind so I can have more excuses to visit O5 and have it brewed properly in the right pots. I was pleasnatly surprised to find out that the tea tastings and treats were all half the price when you purchase over $25 in loose leaf tea. I sure hope this will bring O5 plenty of business, as what they are doing is so unique, and this will basically educate the new generation of tea lovers who are younger and ready to appreciate tea - but perhaps are not quite ready to turn off their smartphone and not talk for two hours of a tea ceremony in Chinatown.

Dao Tea - Farm To Table Teas from China & Korea

Here are some videos that Pedro Villalon took in his travels to China and Korea when meeting the tea farmers whose teas he imports to Canada and Mexico. His teas are available through online DaoTea.ca

For more stories from Pedro's travels and the tea masters and farmers he works with visit his blog.

Making Sejak (the Korean green tea that Pedro served at my tea party)

Tea Master Zhan Zimei and her husband - making Wild Chrysanthemum tea (this is so far my personal favourite from Dao Tea). We served this tea chilled with spearmint at my Midsummer Tea Party.

Kim Shin Ho Handcrafting Korean Green Tea

Dai People - great folks that Pedro met searching for tea in Yunnan

Fall Harvest Tea Party

Just to give you an idea what's been going on here in the past few days... I've been baking like a madwoman for my Fall Harvest Tea Party, because thanks to some unexpected flood in the space here, I had to spend two precious days out of my prep-work getting this problem solved. So, in the end, I had 25 hours to bake and prepare 15 items on the menu. Not a simple task, especially if one intends to get some much needed sleep. It was made possible thanks to the awesome and generous help of my friends - Monique, Yaniv, Brenna and Shawn whose professional photos of the event will be posted later on. For now - here are some snapshots I took with my iPhone in some rare quiet moments during and after the event...
Fall studio display, reflecting the changing leaves outside...

Flower arrangement by Brenna.
The lovely leaf doilies were generously donated by my student and intern Monique.

Fruit & Flower Fall Display by Brenna, also known as the altar of offering to Martha Stewart and all other home goddesses thereof!

Japanese rakku glazed porcelain leaves

Raffle tickets... The prize was a gift bag with Lavender Bath Salts, Dao Tea Sejak (green tea), and Charisma perfume mini, which went to leaf no. 11 - held by the lucky Melinda!

Goody bag! These had gift cards and some amazing osmanthus tea in them - a personal favourite :-)

Fall display of perfumes and fake leaves raffle tickets...

Now, you probably want to hear about the food... There's a few shots of the infamous 5-tiered tea-tray, and this time instead of printing out menus, I asked Monique to prepare little signs for each food item. She kindly agreed, and I wish you could see her awesome calligraphy... Oh, wait! I'll snap a shot of them now, after they'd served their purpose. They were really quite something:

The full menu included some classic favourites from my tea parties (I think after doing these tea parties for a year and a half I have formed my own "classics"...), and a few experimental ones - such as a the new truffle flavours infused with oolong tea or with saffron and osmanthus tea (shaped as squares, by the way).

Everything was planned with harvest in mind - pumpkins, squashes, carrots, corn, seedcakes... The seedcake madeleiens (which just looked like any other madeleine) were spiked with cinnamon, cloves and caraway seeds. This is an interesting marriage between the English seedcake, which was traditionally used in harvest celebrations, and the dainty little French cakes (awesome for dunking in spicy chai tea the next day when they turn stale!).

Tier 1: Savoury Appetizers & Canapés
Roasted Beets ****
Polenta with Roasted Butternut Squash, Portobello Mushroom & Sage
Red & Green Tortilla rolls w/ Guacamole or Black Beans (Vegan)

Tier 2: Tea Sandwiches:
Brie & Pear Tea Sandwiches
Carrot & Ginger Tea Sandwiches
Fennel & Tarragon Tea Sandwiches
Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches

Tier 3: Scones
Concord Grape + Blue Cheese Scones
served w/ Devonshire Cream & Merlot Wine Jelly

Tier 4: Desserts
Carrot-cake Sandwich Cookies
Gianduja (Hazelnut) Brownies **
Seed Cake Madeleines

Tier 5: Truffles & Petitfours
Oolong Truffles**
White Saffron Truffles**
Espioange Truffles**
Marzipan & Apricot Pettitfours ****

* Dairy Free (contains eggs)
** Gluten Free
*** Dairy & Gluten Free
**** Vegan & Gluten Free

Here are closeups of two of my brand-new desserts:

White Saffron & Osmanthus truffles

Gianduja Brownies - these are packed with fresh, organic and local hazelnuts, and are dairy and gluten free!

The heart of the event was Pedro's tea tasting and demonstration - he brewed a wild suk (artemisia) - an herbal tea from Korea, from shade-grown and very youngn leaves; Sejak green tea from China, and Balyhocha (yellow tea oolong) from two different farmers in Korea - Kim shin ho, and Kim jong yeol.

Pedro is an unusual tea curator and importer that traveled through the mountains of China and Korea to connect with small independent tea farmers. These farm-to-table connoisseur teas tell the stories of the soil they were grown in and the hands that harvested them. More about each tea on Dao Tea website.

More photos of guests during the tea tasting (they were so serious and quiet taking notes during the demo - that is the only reason I was able to take all these photos LOL!)

And last but not least - my own presentation, featuring three scents for times of transition, and giving some advice about how to pick a scent for fall. I passed around scent strips and roll-on bottles of Moon Breath (in honour of Artemis, the goddess of the moon, and to reflect the tea menu which included artemisia tisane). This is a perfume I originally created for the moon breath meditation - a type of breathing that involves breathing with the left nostril only, while covering the right one with your right index finger. It has soothing notes of amber, incense and eurphoric jasmine - all associated with the moon. I originally had it as a meditation and anointing oil for the candles I burnt during meditation. I find meditation to be very helpful in transitional times - which tend to be very stressful (especially now with market season approaching!).

Immortelle l'Amour is a classic comfort scent - it smells like sweet breakfast food (cinnamon waffles with maple syrup!), and just makes one feel warm and protected...

And last but not least - a not-yet-released perfume which I have been blogging about its creation for a while here - my ginger & amber perfume, in its 6th and final mod. This is very cozy, bracing hot and cold at the same time. The amber makes it feel like a warm fuzzy cashmere sweather. The ginger has both heat and coolness to it, and the orange is very juicy - it's with orange juice essence, rather than just using the peel. More about that scent at another time though!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
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