Japanese Cherry White Tea

WHEN YOU STEP into Michi, there is a particular scent in the air, like mimosa and leather and iris. It is yet to be established whether the scent is intentional ambiance or the result of the new leather furniture in this spanking new café: Michi Waffle and Espresso Bar is a Japanese dessert and beverages cafe that opened on Robson less than 3 months ago, in March 2010. Besides espresso and waffles, they also offer a nice selection of small desserts (Madeleines, tuiles, and the most amazing matcha shortbread I have ever tasted in my life), plus fascinating Japanese smoothies such as matcha with red bean, and fresh taro root. I only discovered it now and it instantly became a favourite spot for neither espresso nor waffles (which I am yet to try), but… tea!

And to be more precise, their organic Japanese cherry white tea. I picked that tea first for a reason - I thought it could serve as a good indicator of the quality of teas overall in that location. Cherry flavours (and cherry-flavoured teas are no exception) are usually very artificial-tasting with a fierce bitter-almond aroma that I’m not fond of at all. I was hoping the fact that it is labeled as “organic” makes for a high probability that there will be none of the artificial flavouring. Thankfully, I was not only spared the bitterness, but also pleasantly surprised: As it turns out, this particular tea is stunning!

The white tea leaves are lightly infused with the light aroma of cherry blossoms: a delicate floral aroma that is a little hard to describe, but has a transparent, floral-nutty and soft texture. There is no bitterness from either the tea leaf or the cherry blossoms. It’s exceptionally beautiful and I only wish I have discovered it earlier, as it would have made a wonderful way to celebrate the sakura season while it still lasted. Oh well, there is always next year!

The other teas at Michi all seem rather promising, or at least decent, including organic jasmine green tea, English Breakfast, Assam, Earl Gray, a few Rooibos flavours and a selection of herbal teas that includes the more obscure rose petals and osmanthus blossom. All teas are served in individual glass teapots that are re-steeped upon request up to several times (and must, because the tea becomes too strong after a while – so be sure to request for more water or remove the strainer before it gets to that point). In fact, I think that a teapot might be better for sharing with another person. Which is really how all teas should be served in, rather than a paper cup with a tea bag.

And there is something to be said about the atmosphere at this place –the décor is sleek and minimalist with dark leather furniture and hardwood floors, an whole spread of fashion magazine in English and Japanese, and a nice lounge by the front windows with couches that would make for a perfect spot for catching up with a few friends. And if you come here alone the staff is as friendly and helpful as you could ever hope for.

Michi is located on 1319 Robson Street, corner with Jervis. Tel. (604) 568-8750

P.s. this article was originally posted June 3rd but was accidentally deleted due to Blogger tech issues today. I have recovered it and posted it again.

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.

Mental Notes: Nuts on Matcha and Lilacs

Today (or is it already yesterday?) is an exotic nutty day - I was wearing Vetiver Tonka, which had that unique sesame seed note roasting in the background.
Surprisingly, the traditional (unsweetened) matcha I had late this afternoon at Steeps Tea was nutty and smelled like white chocolate or cocoa butter.
On the way back home this evening after belly dancing I met two lilac bushes, one in full bloom with tiny flowers and one with large ones but not as fragrant or as abundant quite yet. The small one, planted in a bit pot on the patio of a restaurant on Davie street, was so fragrant it was just like perfume on a bush.
It reminded me of how strange it was to compare Diorissimo just a few days ago with the real living flowers. Side by side, they almost had nothing common. At least it wasn't all that obvious with the parfum concentration. Which goes to show that Diorissimo is a perfume, not just a lily of the valley note.

Mental Note: Green Powder Addiction

sencha in blue, originally uploaded by pzed.

I am willing to admit of having one addiction.
Perhaps the only thing I drink (almost) every day.

Today's mental note is for the scent of green tea. There are many types and grades. But I'm particularly smitten with the ones grown in Japan. The other day, my friend Junichi gave me a couple of tea bags that are a non-traditional alternative (shall I say sacrilege? But since it was given to him by his mother, who is Japanese through and through I think it can be trusted) for a loose-leaf brewed tea. It's a blend of sencha leaves and matcha powder. I couldn't help but deelpy inhale this green goodness (only to find some suspicious green powder residue up my nostrils a bit later...). What a way to start the day.
The brand I believe to be Kirkland and it is quite good actually. I particularly like the fact that the tea bag is not made of paper but of some kind of sheer fabric of sorts, through which the appearance and aroma of the leaves and the matcha powder comes across quite invitingly.

And throughout the day I was sipping not matcha, but my own (first) tea invention: jasmine tea with lemon verbena leaves (the latter are organically grown at my mother's garden, harvested, dried and packed with plenty of love which makes it taste all the more magnificent).

Today was an ode to tea. Of the green kind.

First Chocolate Truffle Workshop Report

My first chocolate truffle workshop was extremely successful! We had a full house, and we made two types of truffles:
Blood Truffles - dark chocolate with Turkish rose otto, saffron and chilli pepper (ouch!)
Charisma Truffles - inspired by my perfume by the same name, with matcha green tea powder, jasmine sambac, litsea cubeba and spearmint. These were covered with a mixture of matcha and powdered coconut.
We made two batches of each - one for the students to take home, and one to serve on my upcoming Perfume Party - launching Tirzah. I think the matcha truffles will be a perfect complement to the linden blossom fragrance. We'll also have a linden blossom tea made by a local tea artisan.
If you live in Vancouver, you should not miss the party (Saturday, June 16, 7-11pm) or the upcoming workshops here every Thursday at 6:30pm.
Next Thursday, June 14: Interactive presentation about how to think (and sniff!) like a nose and an introduction to natural perfumery.

I am really looking forward to meet more of you, and hope you could come and join me at one point or the other... Spaces are limited so book yourself well in advance: we have room for up to 20 people for the presentation on June 14th, and all of the "hands-on" workshops are for 6 people max. It's really important to keep the forum small so each student can get the guidance and close attention they need during the learning process.

P.s. I will post photos of the fabulous truffles tomorrow when there is daylight...
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