Tea Quest at the Butchart Gardens

My view from the dining room
I was in Victoria this past week for work. I had a lovely supper in The Butchart Gardens dining room on Tuesday night (wild BC salmon, tarragon ricotta gnudi, summer squash caponata, almond crumb, tomato anchovy beurre blanc). Yes it was delicious. After dinner, I had the most amazing pot of Earl Grey tea. I took the tea to-go, to allow me to sit on one of my favourite benches to supervise the changing of the seasons in the plantings found in the sunken garden.
One of the comfortable teak benches in the Garden. This one has a spectacular view.
View from “my” bench overlooking the Sunken Garden – here in transition from Spring to Summer
Next day I’m pooped after an excellent day of training for my job. By 5 pm all I wanted was my pajamas and a TV on low volume to stare at. My room was on the main floor of the Royal Scot Suite Hotel. This is a hotel favoured by mature holiday makers, so there is a lovely ambient din as groups of happy people decide where they want to go for dinner, and how many bottles of wine they should purchase for said dinners (my kind of crowd).
I decide that I should join society in some fashion instead of sitting in my dimly lit hotel room. So I drag my tired body with arthritic knees into some presentable clothing and go for a slow hobble around the neighbourhood. I’m able to admire the greenery, the flowers, the sound of the clip-clop of the horses, and listen in to a tourist phone conversation with a person back home about being… “….in Canada! Yes they speak English. No French is on the other side of the country, I’m in BC and they speak English here! It’s beautiful…”. It’s at this point I get a nose full of the scent of Early Grey tea.
Well. I have some neurotic behaviours.
I’ll sit quiet while I hear you all collectively say, “No! Really? You?”.
That whiff of Earl Grey tea gets me in a mood for a nice cup of Earl Grey tea. But not any Earl Grey. THAT Earl Grey served in the The Butchart Gardens. The very one I had last night. Nothing else will do.
When I get back to my room, I call up the dining room at the gardens at 6:50 p.m. and inquire if their teas are available for retail in their gift shop (pretentious as it sounds I already know the answer to this question, but I always have hope). The person who answered my call was not certain, and asked if they could call me back. I said yes.
At 7:00 p.m. I receive the call back and am informed that no, it’s not available in the gift shop. Tut! Plan B. I ask when the dining room closes and if it would be okay to stop in to get a cup of tea made with said Earl Grey and be on my merry way. A quick consultation was had, and told yes, it was possible, if I could get to the dining room by 8 pm! Yipeeeeeee! A challenge!
I hobble down to my car, and away I go. By the time I hit the street it is already 7:15 p.m. I arrive at the gates to the garden at 7:50 p.m. (yes I drove the speed limit (not actually), no, I didn’t run yellow lights (maybe just two).
I practiced out loud “But Officer, there’s this tea….!!” It didn’t fly with me either and I became comfortable with the idea of spending the night in jail.
As it happens, I made it safe and sound and parked the car, extracted myself, willing my knees to NOT FAIL ME NOW. I stopped for a quick sniff of the double hyacinths and walked in the door the dining room at 7:55 p.m.
I announced my arrival, receive an “ah yes!”, and am asked to have a seat in front of the fireplace.
My pot of Earl Grey arrives and I have a few moments respite as one gets while waiting for a pot of tea to brew.
An elegant tea service with to-go cup (as I requested)
Once sufficient time had passed, I poured it into my to-go cup and away I go. It was a blustery night, too chilly for me to sit and study the seasonal garden change, so I rubbed Tocca’s nose for good luck, and was off for a leisurely drive back to my hotel, tunes on in car and me belting out the lyrics, a delicious cup of tea in the drinks holder, and the sun casting a golden hue over the lush greenery of Vancouver Island. The End.
Tocca (from a previous year, but he hasn’t changed one bit).
PS: A huge thank you to The Butchart Gardens for making my crazy craving for your Earl Grey tea come true. You were very kind.

David’s Tea

What? It’s wrong to have a beer accompany my weekend afternoon mug of tea?

In 2012 I did a post on tea, in particular my long standing favourite, Earl Grey. To do research for the post, I had written to a number of tea companies and got generous samples of their teas to try. One of these, David’s Tea, I remember well because their samples were generous and introduced me to varieties of Earl Grey I had never heard of before.

At the time however, I was quite overwhelmed with all the tea that was given to me, and didn’t want to play favourites with one company over another, because all the tea was good.

Michael’s tea-tin, full of Tetley. Beside that is my Tetley green, some tea from the Empress in Victoria. On the shelf is the coffee grinder and bag of Transcend beans that smell so awesome words can’t describe it.

I’ve always been a lover of tea, and just the other day after a particularly warming cup, declared to Michael that “Tea makes me feel good – it’s sort of like a nice warming of the tummy, followed by the all-over warm-fuzzies you feel after watching pandas go down a slide, followed by the feeling you have been hugged nicely by someone you love”. I further declared that “Coffee does not make me feel this way. Coffee makes me feel obligated to run through the apartment, and start projects like dusting, vacuuming, organizing cupboards, making a macrame plant hangar, and bake a cake designed to look like a princess from the Disney film, Frozen…..all at the same time”.

Michael blinked at me with the patience that he has, so I continued with my observation.

“Then I will realize after emptying our storage cupboard to look for vacuum bags, a fresh Swiffer duster, macrame boards, flour, and Frost princess cake molds that we don’t have these items! I will try to calm my nerves by sucking back another mug of coffee, but of course it doesn’t work! The anxiety and despair I feel for being so behind in my projects has risen to a level that any rational thought has no room to be considered and my mind is already jumping in the car and racing through rush hour traffic to get cleaning supplies from Wal-Mart on one end of the city, macrame boards from Michael’s Craft Store on the other, and then try desperately not to terrify a child in Safeway as I shout at them to quickly describe what a Frost princess looks like while I pick up flour that I forgot to get at Wal-Mart, along with the Frost princess mold at Michael’s Craft Store. At this point, I would be prepared to bake a sponge cake and whittle a Frost princess from it.”

While telling this story to Michael, he gently yawns and stretches like a cat that just woke from nap, and strokes my back in a soothing way while my pupils dilate, un-dilate, dilate, and my chest heaves from the heart palpitations.

More tea. Tea in tins. Tea in small round containers. Tea in bags. The bagged tea is from David’s Tea and covers oolong to green to black to herbal varieties.

I drink two, maybe threeorfourorfive, cups of coffee a day, but thought I should try to drink nothing but tea.

Day 1 of my new exclusive tea drinking went well. No headaches. A peaceful calm came over me. I didn’t feel I had to rush to do anything. I felt peace. Glorious peaceful peace. But peace doesn’t mean content with one’s tea supply. Suddenly my world of Earl Grey seemed awfully small, so with my new relaxed state of mind, took a relaxed lunch break at work and wandered over to Edmonton City Centre to check out the teas at David’s Tea.

I came home with assortments of oolong, blacks, greens and herbal. I attempted to discuss pu-erh tea with the person behind the counter, but when I said, “Oh, you have a lot of poo-air” the person looked just a little horrified.  I abandoned further discussion on that type of tea.

I will not bore you with describing all the teas I got because tea is such an individual thing. Michael drinks regular Tetley, day in and day out. This has been going on for decades. I need to change things up every now and then, and David’s Tea allows that to happen. What I particularly like about them is the ability to buy very small amounts just to try. I have always turned my nose up at fruit infused tea, but came home with a few samples that have change my mind.

Michael’s tea pot because he likes his tea out of a pot. I’m content with a mug, but just recently bought a pineapple pot from David’s Tea because it was on sale 40% off.

After two full days of tea only, I did feel far more relaxed, and had no headaches. On Day 3, I made the mistake of picking up a bag of Transcend Coffee beans I had purchased last week, and squished the bag. The scent of fresh, delicious coffee wafted out, and realized right then, that I could never give up coffee entirely. I am trying now to have just one maybetwo coffees a day, and fill in the rest with tea. Everything in moderation as they say.




A 2012 Photo Essay

Wishing all our family, friends, fellow bloggers, Facebook friends, the Twitterverse, and  everyone involved in the food and wine industry, success, happiness and good health in 2013.

Providing photographic evidence that Michael and I do more than just eat. I have captioned some of the photos – to read the longer ones, click the picture to make it big.

Cally’s Teas – Still Steeping

Good things take time. And Cally’s Teas promises to be an exciting addition on Whyte Avenue. Cally explained some of her plans, and although I don’t feel at liberty to share the details, let’s just say WE WILL HAVE A NEW PLACE TO HAVE LUNCH that supports local! Three cheers for independents. Three cheers for women in business. Three cheers for Cally!

It’s taking a wee bit more time to get things done just right. Cally explains she has excellent contractors, but “stuff” happens. And as anyone who is involved in construction and the food biz knows, it is a rare thing to have something completed on time.

Sadness is an Empty Tin of Earl Grey Tea (Come on, I want to hear you all say "Awwwwwwwwwww")

So, tea lovers, if you are like me, and just brewed your last few leaves of Earl Grey, you can still reach Cally for tea purchase and delivery by calling (780) 278-3294.

Cally’s Teas is Open for Christmas

Fellow tea lovers, you want the facts. Here they are:

Cally’s Teas
10151 Whyte Ave NW
Phone: (780) 278-3294

Christmas 2011 shopping hours:
December 21 to 23: 11 am to 6 pm
December 24: 9 am – 3:30 pm

True to form, you are warmly welcomed upon arrival, and a hot cup of tea is on the ready – poured just for you.

Cally has her loose teas available, as well as the knick-knacks and tea doo-dads, including the popular and much-loved Polish pottery.

The space is still a work in progress, but one can easily visualize how the place will look once it has been Callyified. If you lack imagination, I have this picture to help you.

(The real thing won’t look so blurry – promise – unless your prescription is old and you have putting off that appointment to see your optometrist).

There’s a bus stop (number 2864) serving routes 4, 7 and sometimes 94 right in front of her shop, and for those with cars, meter parking along Whyte Ave, and plenty of free 2 hour parking along 101 and 102 Streets.

The shop opened just in time for Christmas! With that in my mind, I say to my fellow tea lovers with dangerously low levels of Earl Grey, or those of you looking for cool gift ideas, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all tea lovers.  For unto you is a tea shop re-opened in the city of Edmonton, which is Cally’s Teas”.

Saturday Afternoon with Walsh Cooks

Today I was out and about with a dear friend of mine. The destination was the Muttart Conservatory to stop by Culina so I could get my hands on some of Cally’s Earl Grey Tea.

You see, up until today I had been rationing my Cally’s Earl Grey – so desperate was I to replenish my supply, I resorted to buying a box of Twinings from Safeway to stretch it out.For those of you who don’t know, Cally’s is in transition. Her shop on 99th has closed, and she is moving to her New and Exciting Location on Whyte Ave. But she’s not open quite yet. Watch this blog for news of the opening.

Twinings has a Royal Warrant, meaning it’s approved by the Queen. What they didn’t write on that Royal Warrant, that it is “by appointment of the Queen, but only while waiting for a supply from Cally’s”. Don’t get me wrong. Twinings make a nice cuppa. But it ain’t no Cally’s.

Lots to talk about today, so if you haven’t done so, do yourself a favour and pour a nice cuppa and relax while reading this. I’ll wait.

(LOL – I sat and waited. Seriously. Did a little chair dance to Mr. Scruff’s Get A Move On).

We’re back? Here’s the song, just in case you want to join in on the chair dance.

Let’s talk about the Muttart Conservatory. My friend, an Edmontonian, a well-traveled Edmontonian at that, hasn’t been to the Conservatory for about 20 years. I’m fairly new to Edmonton, so have been two or three times in the last 10 years. But the consensus is the same, the pyramids themselves haven’t changed that much. However, the central part of the building has.

I was expecting to see Culina in the centre of the complex much like where the old coffee shop was. I was pleased to see it just off the main entrance, making it a foodie destination for anyone, even those who don’t want to look at plants. A person could easily stop in and have a nice bacon, gouda and egg panini with nary a view of a hibiscus or Elephant’s Foot plant.

I was also charmed by the little gift store, opposite the restaurant. But the main attraction was what was found in the Culina restaurant. On a shelf, in a beam of light, I might have heard a harp, were little bags of Cally’s Teas. Of course the Earl Grey was there, but there were a select few other varieties as well.  In addition, there were a few jars of jam from the Jam Lady, and other bits and pieces from local producers. So, for those of you who are looking for Christmas gift ideas for the Foodie in your life, and you can’t make a farmer’s market on Saturday, take off during your lunch and head down to the Muttart Conservatory and pick up a few things from there.

Once in the Muttart Conservatory, I was excited to see the much talked about blue pointsettia. A pointsettia. That’s blue!

They had an absolutely lovely display of poinsettias for sale. They had many of the  traditional red, white, and pink varieties, along with some brilliant variegated white-reds that were stunning. Also found was a very impressive variegated purple-white pointsettia, but these were not for sale to the public, but found within the “feature” pyramid. I was with a friend who has a very dominate moral compass, so I couldn’t tuck one of the plants in my coat to take home with me. I wasn’t even allowed to pinch a coffee bean off the coffee plant. I resisted the theft, although I have to add, it is part of my genetic make up to steal from conservatories. My Baba snitched cuttings from the tropical conservatory at the Calgary Zoo and happily grew them in her home for many years. True story.

After a seemingly quick visit to the Muttart, it was time to find lunch. The plan was Mediterranian, and I had the idea to check out the new Greek restaurant on Whyte Ave near 109th Street. We found they didn’t open until 5, and my friend was quickly slipping into North American starvation -meaning, his mood was on the cusp of the slippery slope of grumpiness. So we went to our back-up location of The King and I.

We both agreed that Thai is in our Top 10 favourite food items, and I wonder why on earth I don’t eat this stuff every day. The flavours are amazing.

We started with a chicken – peanut satay, that was out of this world delicious. I’m sure that either one of us, if we were alone, would have licked the plate and/or used the little spoon in the satay sauce to consume the rest of the sauce as a soup.

This was followed by, for him, Matsaman Nuea – spicy red curry laced with cumin and peanuts, stewed with tender beef and potatoes. For me, the lady, the delicate flower of a lady that I am, I had the tiger prawn curry – tiger prawns served with fresh, sauteed vegetables served in a spicy green curry. Both were served with coconut rice.

And that sprig of black in the middle you see? See? That is pepper my friends. Pepper. Pepper I usually put in my peppermill. Hot. Pepper. My dining partner ate through that and didn’t even break a sweat. Me, the delicate flower of a woman that I am choked on the heat. Of course I hoped my cough and sputtering would have been interpreted as having had tickle in my throat, but the truth is, I couldn’t handle the heat.

But all that green curry you see, with my tiger shrimp swimming happily, is a bowlful of delicious happiness. I’ve not been so happy eating out in ages. As I said, I wonder why I don’t eat this every day.

Our day concluded with a nice cup of tea. And that, my dear readers, is the best way to end any day. With a nice cuppa tea.

(another pause)

Unless of course, you opened a bottle of red wine and got engaged writing a blog and listening to some awesome music, and drank too much wine, and do a lot of chair dancing and wear yourself out to the point you can’t wait to get into bed, a bed you have ALL TO YOURSELF, so you can have one of those nights where you can sprawl, toss, turn and snore to your hearts content without worrying about disturbing your partner. Don’t get me wrong. I miss my bedwarmer with all my heart and soul. But sometimes a night of not worrying if my elbow hits a face is a treat. A treat indeed.

(another pause)

… are there royal warrants for blogs? I am a fan of the Queen’s son’s Duchy Originals Cheese Nibbles. That should count for something. 😉


Specialty Tea

Regular reader of my blog? You know I love tea. New to my blog? I love tea. My usual is Cally’s Teas Best Earl Grey, because, it is simply the best Earl Grey tea on the planet. I’m letting you know this in case you are wondering what to buy me as a mid-summer just-because present. Cally hasn’t opened her new shop yet, but remember, you can call her at 780.436.5038. And until her new shop opens, she delivers, right to your door!

With my last order, she included a very tasty sample of Luxury Freeze Dried Pineapple. Not only would it give astronauts on the Space Station a very tasty treat for their Hawaiian Night parties, it is also very good added in cereal, muffin recipes, or as Michael and I like to do, eat it right out of the bag. Cally explained that the pineapple retains it nutritional value during the freeze drying process. Amazing considering how much it shrinks:

My good friend, who recently got me excited about playing boardgames again, sent me a link to some fun specialty teas. Now, Cally does not sell these at her shop, but they are available at the Neato Shop.  No offense to anyone I work with who is reading this, but my personal favourite is the Get Along with your Co-Workers Tea.  🙂

Click the pictures to read the small print.





Walsh Fry Up

It’s a lazy Sunday morning. The two of us were entwined together in our cozy bed and determined to stay that way all day long until I whispered the word “bacon” in my beloved’s ear.

The covers were kicked back with maddening speed, and next thing I know I’m pulling out fry pans, thawing rashers of bacon, beating eggs, and getting bread ready for toasting.

What you see above is a rasher of English bacon, or proper bacon as Michael would say. I had to pinch this picture from the net because I did not have the foresight of a breakfast blog, but safe to say ours looked the same as the rasher above, and was purchased from Todd at Old Country Meats found at 6328 106 Street, Edmonton. This bacon is absolutely scrumptious. Quite a bit different in taste and smell than our regular North American “streaky” bacon, but it is just as satisfying with the right distribution of hearty meat and crispy fatty treat bits of piggy goodness.

A proper full English breakfast should have the following: bacon, eggs, beans, sausage, tomato, fried bread, black pudding, potatoes, mushrooms, and of course, tea. Yes, like you must also be wondering, I am also puzzled how the English fared so well in WWII with this stuff padding their arteries.

I had a few of these breakfasts when I visited England back in the 1990’s when my incurable love affair with all things English was firmly established: Coronation Street, tea, rhubarb custard sweets, the Anglican Church, Jane Austen, the Monarchy, the Beatles, Caramacs, Peter Frampton, the BBC, the Tube, the smell of fireworks on Guy Fawkes Day, rugby…

I could go on for pages, and pages, but I don’t want you to think my love is exclusive to the English. I am in love with my own country too. I mean afterall, we have mountains, bears, hockey, poutine, central heating, Sunny Boy cereal, and Jann Arden.

With our breakfast this morning, I dialed it down, and we settled for bacon, eggs, toast, coffee and tea. A Walsh fry up, which we treat ourselves to every month or so.

It’s a tricky business with timing the cooking of all breakfasty elements and have it hit the plate at the same time, but after a few decades of practice, Michael and I have it down to a science. He’s in charge of toast, I’m in charge of the rest. I bark out “Now Now Now” as his cue to get the toast toasting, and with perfect synchronicity he plates the buttery toast as the eggs and bacon hit the plate. Then we trot off to the living room, sit in front of Setanta and watch football, or more recently cricket on the Cricket Channel, as we are in the midst of The Ashes.

And as I write this, I see Michael zooming from room to room as he does the laundry, and bakes us up a loaf of his Mum’s recipe for Irish Soda Bread. His efforts should be rewarded with a picture:



As I was trying zoom in for a typical close-up of the bread, Michael demanded that I don’t “Do that crazy Nigella Lawson close up shit”. So I backed up for the arial shot you see.

Sliced up with a bit of butter and strawberry jam, this stuff is delicious with a steaming cup of tea.

Wishing you all a great week ahead. XOXO

Cally’s Teas Celebrates Earl Grey’s Birthday

The title of this blog is a punctuation fanatic’s nightmare. Even owning the book and day-per-page tear off calendar of Eats Shoots and Leaves, I’m still never quite sure if I’m applying apostrophes correctly.

It’s a big day in the land of tea lovers, and especially those of us who are dedicated lovers of Earl Grey tea!!  HOORAY FOR TEA!!! HOORAY FOR EARL GREY!!! And HOOTS AND HOLLERS OF JOY for Cally:

As I sit here and enjoy my steamy mug of Earl Grey, I must pay homage to Cally’s Teas. Cally’s is just a block from where I live (at the moment, Cally expects she will be moving this year – stay tuned), and is a delightful treasure trove of tea and tea things:

There are also yummy edibles, such as Duchy Originals. I like to think Prince Charles has a hand in making each batch of biscuits, but I’m sure he is too busy running about with Camila and then stopping to have tea and biscuits on a plaid wool blanket, sitting on a hill with a sweeping vista of the Yorkshire Dales, instead of baking my biscuits. Regardless, this man is involved and makes a delicious product that also supports his charities. I’m a big fan of the Cheese Nibble, which is a savoury biscuit, but today we discovered the Toffee Biscuits Dipped in Milk Chocolate. I’d post a picture, but then you’d know what to look for, thus buying my supply. I can’t allow this to happen.

There are other non-tea things at Cally’s, and these are charming, whimsical and fun to find, like this Miso Pretty soap. Adorable!

To celebrate Earl Grey’s birthday today, Cally’s shop had tasty cucumber sandwiches and lovely shortbread cookies, cut in the shape of tea pots,  flavoured with Earl Grey Tea. They were delicious.

Click the photo above to be able to better read about the naughty side of Charles Grey.

When visiting Cally’s do yourself a favour, and go when you have the time to stop and chit-chat. Cally and her staff are social and friendly, will serve you a piping hot cup of tea, and your purchases are always wrapped (without needing to ask) in pretty, seasonally appropriate coloured tissue and bags, which recycle beautifully when gift giving.

Earl Grey’s birthday celebration is going to carry on all this week. Do stop in and say hello at 8610 99 St NW, Edmonton. There is even a little chair out front with cheery balloons, perfect for a patient husband to sit upon while waiting.
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