Books. Tea. Cats. Scribbling.

Tag: travel

The Our Lady of Grace Mural in the Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighbourhood.

Summer Wanderings: Montreal

This summer, I did what everyone else seems to be doing, and I went travelling. On multiple trips, even! And we didn’t catch Covid-19 or Monkeypox either time!

The first one was to see my sister in Montreal for Canada Day. This was one of the first times she and brother-in-law have had guests over since moving to the city right when the pandemic started.

Myself, I last visited Montreal over a decade ago, and, my memories of that trip having faded, I was struck with a sense of jealousy over its dedication to not making itself a sucky place to live. Multiple mixed-income neighbourhoods! An abundance of missing-middle housing types, like lowrises and duplexes! Huge public murals! A functioning subway system! (Toronto could never.) Technically, I don’t live in Toronto anymore, but I am aware of its shortcomings.

We lucked out with the weather: sunny, hot, humid — perfect for outdoor dining. My sister and Mr. BooksAndTea were witness to me making a pilgrimage by shopping at Camellia Sinensis, the grand-daddy of fancy tea shops in Canada, and author of a decent reference book about the subject.

The Camellia Sinensis storefront, near Jean Talon market. The store was considerably smaller than expected.

We packed a lot into that one long weekend: seeing Jean Talon market, getting luscious things for breakfast at a local bakery, eating dumplings, touring the McGill University campus, shopping at Argo Bookshop, walking along the Old Port waterfront, setting foot in Librarie Drawn and Quarterly, watching a short film about the history of Quebec projected against the wall of a multi-story building at night… truly magical stuff.

We closed off the trip on Monday by visiting St. Viateur to get some authentic Montreal-style bagels fresh from the oven and then eating poutine at a hole-in-the wall diner. Looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

No tea, no books: just a trip to Vancouver

I didn’t plan to leave the blog alone for over 2 weeks, but here we are. I don’t have any tea or book stuff to talk about today, just some photos of what my life has been like lately.

So where have I been? Well, last weekend I took a trip to Vancouver! I was attending the annual conference for Editors Canada, a professional association that I’m part of. The conference moves from city to city each year, so a trip to Vancouver sounded like a great way to start the summer.

I got some nice swag while I was at there; the conference bag included a sample of tea called “Editors Blend” and there was an Etsy vendor there named Crafted Van who sold a book-and-tea-themed mug that was so perfect I couldn’t say no. I mean, look at this!


Books and tea really are all I need!

However, I was so busy with attending the conference that I didn’t get a chance to enjoy Vancouver’s tea culture — no trips to Murchie’s or The Chinese Tea Shop for me!

But really, there’s more to the city than just tea. So here’s a nice little treat for you: a look at some of the photos I took while my husband and I were on our trip to Vancouver. The conference hotel was near Stanley Park, so Mr. BooksandTea and I stayed mostly in the downtown core. Just click on each thumbnail image to see the full-sized version and any captions.

Chi Whole Leaf Teas: Powdered Teas That Aren’t Matcha

chi-whole-leaf-setChi Whole Leaf is a new tea company that offers a variety of teas in finely ground powders — think of something similar to matcha, where you gently whisk hot water into the powder, but using a variety of ingredients instead of just green tea. You can learn more about Chi Whole Leaf teas here.

Chi Whole Leaf currently offers 5 different blends, and I and several other reviewers were given tiny samples of all of them to try. There are 2 blends with caffeine and 3 without.

Yerba Maté

The first tea I tried was a mix of ground yerba maté (a high-caffeine herbal tea from South America), licorice root, and gingko leaf. It was a dark olive green colour and I took 1/4 tsp of powder, stirred it with a bit of hot water to create a thin paste, and then poured more hot water (about 95°C) to get a full cup.

I personally dislike yerba maté because it has a weird earthy taste, but I was willing to try this tea because the presentation is so unusual. However, I barely made it beyond a sip or two. The earthiness of the yerba maté mixed with the overwhelming sweetness of the licorice root to create something that was overpowering and highly unpleasant in my mouth.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I poured the whole thing out after only a few sips. This tea was not for me.

Green Mint

This tea was a mix of Darjeeling green tea, mint, and eucalyptus. I used 85°C water, but other than that, the preparation was fairly similar: I added a little bit of water to half a spoonful of powder to create a thin paste, then poured the rest of the water on top.

With this tea, the strongest taste was of the eucalyptus; the mint complemented it. I wasn’t getting much of a green tea taste, but I was getting a sense of herbal acridness at the back of my mouth. I’m assuming that this acrid note is a byproduct of all 5 samples being shipped in the same envelope — they all smell faintly the same, despite having diverse ingredients. With the combination of mint and eucalyptus, I bet this tea would be great to drink while having a cold. I could feel the back of my throat and it made my sinuses tingle a bit.

Floral Herb

I was filled with trepidation about this one. It’s a mix of finely ground hibiscus, jasmine, and rose — and hibiscus is one of those ingredients that can absolutely take over a tea and monopolize the palate if you’re not careful.

The dried powder was bright pink bordering on fuschia. It’s eyepopping, to say the least! I used about a half teaspoon of dried powder for 1 cup of hot water and was rewarded with a deep hibiscus pink colour.


The taste was much milder and smoother than I expected — the flavour of hibiscus was there, but I think the rose was more prominent. I added about half a spoonful of agave nectar and the sweetness helped bring out the fruity, jammy quality of the rose. I didn’t taste much jasmine, though.

As I continued to drink through the cup, the tartness of the hibiscus became more apparent, though it manifested less as a taste and more as a sensation of crinkling on my tongue. It’s interesting, but I would have preferred something a bit less astringent. The dry powder of this one was slightly less finely ground up than the others because individual flecks were more easily visible in the water.


This herbal tea contains a mix of chamomile, St. John’s wort (see my note about this in the “Concerns” section), lemongrass, passionflower, and peppermint. I used a similar preparation as with the other teas — I mixed 1/2 tsp of powder with warm water to create a thin paste and then topped the rest off with hot water. This time the water was 90°C.

The powder and the tea were a murky khaki colour. I could definitely smell the chamomile when the water hit the powder, but I also got a strong sense of peppermint when I drank it. The overall taste was of chamomile with a light hint of peppermint in my sinuses; the aftertaste was somewhat dry and chalky. I should note that, like other reviewers, I found that the powder for this blend didn’t dissolve well. It collected into a sludge at the bottom of my cup after I first mixed it together.


I drank this late at night to see what effect the combination of chamomile, St. John’s wort, and passionflower would have on me before I went to bed. I didn’t see much of a difference the morning after, but overall, I thought this blend was okay.

Ginger Chai

I’m happy to say that of the 5 teas that Chi Whole Leaf offers, Ginger Chai was my favourite.

The dry tea was a burnt orange that reminded me of terra cotta, and smelled strongly of clove with a hint of ginger. When I added my hot water to the powder (using the same method described above), I was immediately hit with a strong rooibos smell that was quite fruity and peppery.

Once I added the hot water, I topped the mug with a sprinkle of sugar and a splash of milk to add some body.

The strongest thing I tasted of this tea was the rooibos, oddly enough, rather than the ginger, cloves, or cinnamon. But like I said above, it’s fruity and peppery.  (Perhaps the pepper note was just the ginger in disguise.) I think that the spices are helping to smooth out the rooibos.


I quite liked the Green Mint and Ginger Chai teas, and would definitely consider getting larger quantities of these — especially since they’re so convenient for travel. I would also consider getting the Chamomile blend because it tones down some of the obnoxious metallic flavour I find in straight chamomile tea. However, I did not like the Yerba Maté blend at all.

Some Concerns

One thing I’m worried about is that the pamphlet I received with my samples contained much more detailed ingredient info than what’s currently available on the website as of the middle of August, 2015. The pamphlet lists each blend’s ingredients outright, while the product descriptions on the website mentions each ingredient separately through the body copy instead of grouping them into a dedicated list. That’s not good from a usability/readability perspective.

More importantly, although the pamphlet states that users should do their own research before drinking these teas, I want to emphasize that St. John’s wort is a plant that’s often used as an alternative/herbal remedy for depression. I really REALLY want people to be aware of this before ordering the chamomile blend, because I know that herbal supplements can interact with pharmaceuticals in unexpected ways. I think that the chamomile and yerba maté blends in particular (since the yerba blend contains gingko biloba, which is also an herbal supplement) should have stronger warnings about how they could affect people who take prescription medication.

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