Tea in Gastown

I dropped by the new experimental Gastown Farmers' Market this morning. This market is a first in this neighborhood, which has very few grocery stores. So I hope it goes well and continues to happen throughout the summer – because if the starving artists in the lofts who live there have some food money to spend, they better get something local, freshly picker and/or organically grown.

And like any Farmers’ Markets, there is more than just fresh produce (even though that on its own is pretty darn exciting if you ask me!). There are some bakers and hand made soaps and cosmetics

We have a Farmers’ Market in the West End, just a few blocks away by Nelson Park every Saturday. But the purpose for my visit to the Gastown one was to pick up more Moonbeam Glory tea from Inner Alchemy's tent. From there the plan was to continue on to Powell Street Festival (the Japanese-Canadian cultural celebration that happens every year on the BC Day weekend).

Dawna's display was as lovely as could be, simple and elegant. And of course there is nothing better than hearing from her in person what is in each tea, how it tastes when warm or chilled, and see the passion and the glint in her eye as she tells the tale of each tea blend.

I also picked another favourite: Verdant Jewel, which I'm sipping now as I write this: a gorgeous melange of green tea and silver needle white teas with just a hint of refreshing mint leaves and crystalized ginger. It makes a stunning chilled tea and is a good, interesting substitute to more traditional green teas.

I also decided to be adventurous and buy to new teas that I've never tasted before: Little Star, which is a Puerh with hand-picked Chrysanthemum flowers; and Chartreuse Eau de Vie, an aperitif/digestive tea or cordial with French tarragon, fennel, chamomile and osmanthus. I am still waiting for my friend Tina who is a die-hard Chrysanthemum lover to try Little Star. But I have brewed the Chartreuse Eau de Vie several times since the market and will tell you more about its licorice-floral wonders on a separate post.

There were other artisans and vendors in the market that caught my eye, including this French Clay and Vetivert soap from Royal Herbs. They sell several other soaps and herbal preparations (i.e.: infused oils and various cosmetics and lotions) as well as some essential oils and synergies. But this grabbed my attention immediately because I’m suck a sucker for anything with vetiver, and recently I’ve been trying various vetiver soaps. This hand made soap bar smelled so nice and simple. The soap is a little sofat and has a nice rich lather, is not drying at all, and the best of all – has an incredibly nutty vetiver aroma, all natural.

And last but not least: Say See Bon Pattisserie, which makes the only macarons worth eating in Vancouver. The chocolate ones were served at my Tropical Tea Party. I tried Charlene’s matcha macarons this time, which she said have a new recipe for the filling, incorporating a white chocolate ganache. They were fantastic! I like them just as much as the chocolate – they are both perfect in flavour and texture, which is very challenging to achieve with French macarons.

And speaking of green tea - after that we went to the Powell Street Festival finding refuge from the heat in the shade and enjoying some summery Japanese street food, such as this shaved ice with green tea and azuki beans. It does not come with a cherry on the top - that was just part of the picnic I picked up at the farmers' market.

Tropical Tea Party

chi chi, originally uploaded by bobby__emm.

chi chi, originally uploaded by bobby__emm.

Your are cordially invited for a Tropical Tea Party - hosted by Ayala Moriel Parfums, themed around tropical flowers. Guests will experience 3 VERY limited edition perfumes inspired by tropical flowers and exotic spicy foods from Southeast Asia, and get to experience different natural essences from around the world.

The new perfumes will be revealed at 2pm, followed by a presentation about tropical flowers in perfumery.

Tropical flowers and exotic spices will be featured within the refreshments and pastries served to accompany Ayala’s exotic perfumed teas.

Sunday, July 19th, 1-5pm
Presentation at 2pm

#314-1230 Haro Street (corner with Bute), Buzz #295

Email: ayala@ayalamoriel.com
Phone: (778) 863-0806
Or via Facebook

*Spaces are utterly limited so please RSVP by July 16th to allow us to prepare enough treats and refreshments for all of you.

More details:
This fantastic summery tea party is hosted by Ayala Moriel Parfums, and is themed around tropical flowers. Guests will experience 3 VERY limited edition perfumes inspired by tropical flowers and exotic spicy foods from Southeast Asia.

Tropical flowers and exotic spices will be featured within the refreshments and pastries served to accompany Ayala’s exotic perfumed teas. You will experience these flowers with all your senses - touch, smell, sight and taste! - and if you listen carefully you may even be able to hear them sing!

At 2pm Ayala will introduce the 3 limited edition perfumes, and than guide the guests in a multi-sensory presentation about tropical flowers in perfumery. Only the party's guests will be privy to the scent and names of these perfumes, so it's a very special occasion you should not miss!

This is a rare opportunity to learn and smell previous raw materials from around the world, i.e.: Tuberose, Gardenia, Jasmine, Lotus and many more that you probably never heard of! Also will be featured rare attars from India, which are the traditional Indian perfumes.

The presentation will take place at 2pm, and is an intimate forum where you can experience r

All I will tell you for now is that each is centered around a flower and a Southeast Asian food or spice mix, which makes a magnificent and exotic contrast and a very well-balanced perfume.

Magnolia Oolong
Jasmine Green Tea
Pomelo Blossom Tea
Earl Gray Cream
Lychee Ice Tea
Young Coconut Juice with Kewda Water & Fresh Spearmint
*Tea tasting from Ayala Moriel's line of Perfumed Tea

1st Tier: Tea Sandwiches
Tomato & Tagetes
Peanut Butter & Banana
Avocado & Cilantro
Cucumber & Nasturtium
Minted Radishes

2nd Tier: Scones
Devonshire cream
Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Apricot Preserves

3rd Tier: Miniature Desserts & Truffles
Fresh Black Currant Cupcakes with Violet Glazing
Miniature Crepes with Mango & Whipped Cream
Jasmine-tea tarts with fresh Lychee
Vanilla Cream Cheese & Banana Cupcakes
Lemon-Lime Wafers (icebox)
Macademia-White Chocolate Cookies
French Macarons by Say See Bon Pattisserie
Hand-rolled Flower-Scented Charisma Truffles

Ayala's truffles and teas will be available for purchase of course so you can enjoy them at home too!

Paris Day IV - St. Germain & Pierre Herme

Today I mostly wanted to visit St. Germain des Pres, where Boris Vian used to live and work and play his jazz trumpet; and where now Pierre Hermé established his legendary patisserie. We were also planning to go to the Louvre after dinner but that never happened. I think my boyfriend is going to spend the entire day there tomorrow (and this way I can get away from the task and go sneak into Pierre Hermé again!)

We first headed out to Le Marais, an old neighbourdhood with narrow streets and Jewish population. My boyfriend insisted on showing me the falafel stands even though it would be the last place for me to eat while in Paris (I had to keep reminding him I am here for the macarons!). The falafel places were pretty close to the Israeli version, ran by loud Israelis of course who know how to make fast food fast. It was pretty good but I just tasted a little bit because I really do prefer the falafel back home and I can wait until than to have it. One thing to be said to their credit – they do use the proper pita bread (in Vancouver the pita bread is so think it’s ridiculous – the so-called “pita” is rolled like a wrap and everybody is suppose to pretend it’s ok). Le Marais is filled with little Jewish bakeries and on Friday the window displays are full of breaded Challas and the air was full of caramel-scent. After another mundane mission was accomplished (I had to buy a bag after the one I brought with me broke, sadly), we took the metro to St. Germain des Pres metro station.

It was again one of those terrible weather days when the weather couldn’t make up it’s mind. It repeated endless cycles of sunny-rainy-sunny-rainy etc. I was wearing l’Ecume des Jours and feeling particularly moody. Searching for Pierre Hermé we stumbled upon another Laduree location on Rue Bonaparte, where I bought some macaroons for later (the train ride to Grasse) and also some guimauve for my daughter. I was a bit disappointed – though not surprised - to learn that macaroons don’t travel well; but since she loves marshmallows, I think the guimauve will be perfect – especially when they come not only in white (orange blossom) but also in purple (violet) and pink (rose). I guess I will have to learn how to make flavoured macaroons until I’m able to take her with me to Paris again!

Pierre Hermé is a tiny little patisserie and everything there just looks spectacular. For some reason, I was particularly attracted to a vanilla tart and also wanted to try a few macaroons: Pink Grapefruit, Mint, Jasmine, Cassis, Pistachio with a clove-soaked redcurrant in the middle, Rose, Passionfruit-Chocolate. We walked to the nearby square to sit and eat our newly found treasures. The macaroons were hopelessly amazing. We just had two to start with: the mint – a flavour I would have never picked, and that was actually spearmint (with the leaves ground or chopped very thinly into the filling) and it was really delicious with the jasmine macaroon (which was obviously pure happiness).

And than came the vanilla tart. I’m afraid I’m unable to describe this without being profane, so I will just let you stare at this picture and imagine to yourself tasting something that is more creamy and vanilla than vanilla every thought it could be. It was like biting into a piece of cloud and a few minutes later I felt happy again.

We walked aroud a little bit more and went to Café Deux Magots where they serve Ispahan, a large rose macaroon with rose cream and lytchee fruit in the middle and rapberries all around. On top there was a rose petal with a dot of honey, which looked like a dew drop. It was perfect.

We than walked to Luxemburg Gardens, watched the people playing speed chess than walked towards the tennis courts and sat in lounge chairs to munch on the rest of the macaroons (the other flavours were unabashedly amazing – but what else to expect from Pierre Hermé?).

In the evening we went to the Morrocan restaurant l’Atlas on St. Germain for a couscous dinner. The restaurant was very pretty and the staff very friendly and hospitable. The chef even came out to check on the guests and see how they enjoy the food. The appetizer-salads we very flavourful and suprising – for example, sweet tomatoes with cinnamon and anise. We had Morrocan tea before we left, which is gunpowder green tea with fresh sprigs and leaves of spearmint, and sprinkled with orange flower water. A good way to end the day!

My First Day in Paris

I arrived in Paris late on a gray morning and on the way from the airport was able to view the many chestnuts in blossom while experiencing some Parisian morning traffic jams. The apartment I’m staying is close to everything (walking distance from the Champs Elysees for one thing) is quite old and has very steep swirling staircase leading to it. There I met my boyfriend and his sister and we spent the entire day together.

After spending a couple of hours recovering from the longish trip and its various side effects (via Montreal – over all about 11-12 hours flight), which included eating fresh strawberries from the market and some baguette and trying to taste a ripened cheese with a sharp taste of cooked cauliflower, we left the apartment for the first little tour of Paris on the Champs Elysees. Our first stop was Sephora, a very short stop that is because the entrance was infested by what I could only describe as petroleum fumes. I had to leave before getting an idea of what’s in the store, but I did notice it was gigantic – almost like an entire mall of perfume and makeup! – and that there is some lighter version of KenzoAmour already out in France, that comes in a beautiful white bottle with gradually transparent edges. I left as soon as possible and immediately spotted Guerlain, which is almost the next door neighbour but decided to cross the street and have some tea at Laduree so I can recover some of my strength before the strenuous mental activity of perfume sniffing…

Laduree had the nicest muted turquoise-green entrance in a somewhat art-deco style with a butterly motif and purple accents. We sat at the bar at the back and had some of Laduree’s house-blend tea (very fragrant with roses and violets I suspect), and accompanied by some of their newest macaroons – mango & jasmine, muguet, bergamot and the violet-cassis ones. The mango and jasmine was mostly mango, with the slightest hint of jasmine and quite delicious with an almost jelly-like texture of the mango filling; the muguet tasted primarily of almonds, the bergamot was intense and impressive and the violet-cassis was a heavenly balance of floral sweetness and tart red fruits.
On the way to Laduree we spotted an Arabian Oud boutique and now was a good time to check it out. I smelled 5 types of oudh – two Indian and 3 Cambodian ouds, ranging from light and woody to smoky and animalic. My favourite was one mild Indian oudh and also another more smoky Cambodian oud. This is the first place I’ve seen that actually sells real oud as well as the oud wood chips. The shop owner was kind and knowledgeable and even let me take picture of him and the shop.

We than crossed the street and went over to Guerlain, where the walls of two story shop are stacked with shelves of perfume and eaux de cologne vats ranging from 500ml to 1 and 2 litres. On the second floor is where the exclusive perfumes reside – including Sous la Vent, which I had planned to impulsively buy on this trip and wear it in my 5 days in Paris so it would be how I remember the trip by. .. I tried it at Montreal once and was immediately smitten… I also smelled a few other perfumes there: Vetiver pour Elle, which I had hard time not buying on the spot as well (and my boyfriend loved too – he seems to be really into the vetivers I like – i.e. Sycamore and Vetiver Tonka and always comments on them). He was also smitten with white florals and I think Cruel Gardenia was his favourite. But than he’s also smitten with my gardenia plant that blooms in the middle of my living room…! I love the dry gin beginning of Sous la Vent. It is quite herbaceous and dry with only very little florals and gradually warms up into a chypre base with only the slightest hint of tonka bean. This is how I'm going to smell in the next few days...

By now it was time for dinner and we wanted to check out l’Atlas – a Morrocan restaurant at St. Germain. Unfortunately, 5pm was too early for them to be open and we had to find something else. Of course we knocked into another parfumerie on the way – Diptyque – and I got a chance to check out all the candles I was curious about (Flouve, Figue Vert, etc.) and their new eaux. I was particularly taken with the freesia soap though above all things.

We went on and had some cheese fondue in a little side street and got scratched by a friendly yet aggressive resident cat and than went home all the way through Notre-Dame and along the Sienne, going through the Louvre and Jardin de Tuilleries and than all along the Champs Elysees and Arc de Triumph.
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