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   Camping. I have always loved camping. Smelling your sweater when you get home, all smoky and smelling like citronella and soot and meat. I love it. So when I got home with my first little sachet of smoky 'Lapsang Souchong' black tea from Steeped and Infused here in Toronto, I was super excited.
Lapsang Souchong, a black tea from the Wuyi region of the Fujian province of China, is a lower grade of black tea that has been smoke-dried over pine fires. The aroma of this tea is crazy exciting. Camp fires, smoked salmon, and pipe tobacco. There is even a slight fruity note in there by the second and third steeps.

  I sat myself down in my little tea nook and grabbed my basics. Now, you don't need all the things I have here, this is just one of my every day tea set-ups.

  Today I am using: a kettle, a tea pot for my hot water, a thermometer, a mesh insert and a serving cup, the gong fu tea pot and my favourite glass tea cup. I have other tools but right now this is all I need!

  This is a permanent set up for me in my little nook. Tea tools, my strainer and serving pitcher, two drip trays (because they always seem to come in handy) and my white tea pot with the rubber spout that I pretty much only ever put hot water in.
  I like to pour my boiling water straight into my tea pot so that I can get the big clunky kettle out of the way and keep an eye on my temperatures. That reminds me, grab a simple thermometer and pop it right in the spout. Now we can keep an eye on our water temperature while we select our tea pot.

This little guy. My tiny glass gong fu pot. I love this dude because I can enjoy a little taste of tea without ruining the patina on one of my yixing pots. (I will be talking about yixing clay and gong fu style tea brewing later)
I also enjoy being able to see my tea while it steeps! 
Time for the tea! I have just under two teaspoons of my Lapsang Souchong measured out here. It smells awesome...
Once our water has reached its required temperature (for a black tea we dont really need to wait longer than a minute off the boil) we are just going to pop our tea into our little pot and fill it up with nice steamy hot water. 
Then we get to relax for about 3-5 minutes and think about life or space or pudding. 
Oh yes...lookit it go. 
 Okay, now that the tea is almost ready, its time to grab our tea cup and serving pitcher. I haven't found a fancy strainer yet so I just use one of my spare strainers from another pot. 
I also opted for my glass tea cup just because it matches...I can be SUCH a girl sometimes. 
 Now...depending on the type of tea, you wont always need a strainer but you never know what tiny fleck of leaf might sneak its way past the spout.
(pop the used strainer onto one of those drip trays I mentioned earlier...they really are handy)
 Another reason for using a serving pitcher is if you plan to share your tea. Pouring the tea into the pitcher mixes it all up so nobody is getting a lighter or heavier flavour. 
There we go. now we can re-fill our gong fu pot and strain it into the serving pitcher for a second round. 

  Now for the fun part. TASTING.
  Im not going to lie...I didnt actually like this tea.
  Don't get me wrong! I loved the experience and I would happily do another tasting. I just wouldn't drink a whole cup. The aroma was thick and smoky-sweet. The flavour was a little overpowering and while it carried me off to happy memories of camping with my family and roasting weenies on the fire, I also just felt like I was drinking a camp fire. Not in a good way.

  I will give it this, I am really excited to COOK with this tea and I am really REALLY excited to find a tea to blend with. I wont give up on this tea. Lapsang Soushong is a unique experience to say the least. I will sip on it again but don't expect to catch me downing a mug of it any time soon. Perhaps I will try a Russian Caravan style blend and throw one of my favourite Oolong teas in there to soften that smoky punch. Hmm...

UP NEXT:    A Pu-ehr for people who arent ready for Pu-ehrs!   'Rose and Mint Pu-ehr'
Greetings! Just enjoying a pot of tea, nothing crazy just some earl grey. I thought I would whip up a quick little tea graphic!

Its always to handy to have a simple at a glance guide when you just boiled a pot of water and cant remember what kind of tea needs what temperature of water!

A few things I try to remember when I want the best cup of tea I can make:

-Try not to use re-boiled, still, or overly filtered water. Boiling and standing water lack oxygen and create a flat taste and filtered water tends to lack those yummy minerals that you will find from tap water. Dont fear tap water. Tap water is your friend. It is also free .

-Keep a simple thermometer on hand so you can stick it in your cup, kettle or tea pot before steeping your leaves.

-use a tea timer app on your phone or pick up a little digital timer. We dont want to over steep our leaves. Its just as bad as burning them. Yuck...

-Dont feel like you have to be super precise ALL the time. You will eventually develop a sense for temperatures and times.

-Never rush your tea time. Wait for the water to fully boil. Let the temperature fall and enjoy the anticipation as your tea steeps. I treat tea time like a bubble bath.

Anywhoo, here is a quick reference chart for you!
Ive got a nice little tea review coming up next...

Hey! People call me Tea. For the longest time, it had nothing to do with my love of the drink. How convenient that I should develop an appreciation and slight obsession for this amazing plant!

Now, Im not a tea guru, I will never claim any of my experiences or findings as fact, but I am very excited to share my thoughts and learn new things about this fascinating culture!

I grew up thinking that all tea came in a bag. Preparation was always the same. We would pour boiling water in a coffee cup and let the bag sit in the water for hours. (I always figured...the longer the bag steeped, the better it was for you. Turns out I was wrong!) When I moved to Toronto, my first job here was as a barista for a big coffee chain. I made iced tea beverages and sold tea bags in paper cups. Nothing special but I began to notice a trend of "whole leaf" teas in bags and started looking into higher quality bagged teas. I found a few and it only fuelled my curiosity more. 
My first loose tea was a white tea with peach flavours. Naturally, I had no idea how to prepare it so I was left with a cup of burnt sludge. I dropped loose leaf tea for awhile.
After a few more jobs in little indie cafes, I was re-acquainted with loose leaf teas from suppliers around the city. I bought myself a little white tea pot with a basket filter in it and started collecting a few simple teas. Green sencha, a plain Yerba Mate and a variety of herbals. It was fun for awhile but I got bored of herbals and was frustrated by how astringent my green teas tasted! 
Little did I know, I would score a job in a tea shop. I learned about the history of tea, the benefits of different tea and even found out that it is all from the same plant! I had no idea!. After learning how tea is processed to produce white, green, oolong and black teas, it made sense that each variety of tea would require different water temperatures and steep times. No wonder my green and white teas tasted like burnt grass!

After being introduced to the seemingly endless world of tea, I began doing my own research on my days off....I am now a self proclaimed tea nut. I will be sharing as much information as I can but I will start with the basics. 

I hope you enjoy reading about my big tea adventure!