Silk Road Tea Store – Golden Phoenix Pu-Erh

I’ve been sleeping really badly in the past week or so. In fact, I’ll even say that my sleeping patterns are shit right now. The culprit? Stress and increased intake of delicious coffee at the wrong hours. I know that caffeine plays a major role in it, but I also prefer cream over sugar while ignoring the fact that I’m somewhat lactose intolerant at night.

I already had a coffee this morning but I’ll definitely be riding out the afternoon slump with some tea I got from Silk Road Tea Store!

Silk Road Golden Phoenix Tea

Silk Road Tea Store is a gorgeous organic tea store located in the heart of Chinatown in Victoria, BC. It doubles as an organic spa, but they’re best known for their insanely good teas. It’s sort like Teavana or David’s Tea but a million times better!

I found out about this place when I went to BC for a little vacation and visited Victoria’s Chinatown. The sleek storefront caught my eye even though my mom never noticed it before! After spending an hour inside, we walked out with bags of tea in adorable little tins!

But this time, I bought a 40-cup tin of their Golden Phoenix Pu-erh tea through my cousin, who was already ordering some stuff from Silk Road.

Silk Road Golden Phoenix Tea

Golden Phoenix Tea of Prosperity | Semi-Green, Organic

Ingredients: Chinese semi-green tea, citrus peel, cinnamon bark, calendula flowers, tangerine, grapefruit, cinnamon essence

The tea mix had a fresh citrus scent when I first opened the tin, but it didn’t really transfer into the tea very well! I was a little disappointed in that, but the tea was still delicious and didn’t have a high astringency like other semi-green teas that I’ve had and over-steeped like I always do.

Golden Phoenix Tea

I was rather surprised that it turned my tea into a dark, orange-brown drink instead of a clear, lighter coloured tea that I was expecting for some strange reason. Maybe it was the citrus scent that forced me to think of lighter colours?

The best way for me to describe this tea is “smooth” like the smoothest cream you could imagine without all the fat! I don’t know how it works, but it works!

It’s definitely not as strong as other teas like the classic oolongs or jasmine tea, but there’s a lot of subtle citrus and flowery notes that I really appreciated. Surprisingly enough, I could smell the cinnamon as it steeped, but I didn’t get any of the usual burning sensation or flavour! Strange, but I didn’t really miss it, either.

Check out Silk Road Tea Store and their huge selection of organic tea, spa products and teaware! They offer free shipping for purchases over $50 and then $10 flat rate for anything less!

Ever try their teas? How do you think they compare to the big chain tea franchises?

xoxo,

B.elle

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Topbox.ca – February 2014

More subscription mail today! I got my very first Topbox!

Topbox February 2014

What is it? Topbox is a Canadian monthly beauty box subscription that features 4 deluxe samples for $12 per month, shipped right to your door via Canada Post. Some months (like this time), they include full sized products for customers to get! Keep in mind that they do have a waitlist of about 2-3 months from initial sign-up before you get a box!

I got back home pretty late today, so it was a pleasant surprise to see it at my door!

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Topbox February 2014

essie Nail Lacquer in Headmistress – $9.99 for 13.5mL (Full Size)

I’ve never had essie nail polish before, so I was really excited to see this in my box! The only problem that I’m facing now is where to stash all my polishes.

I could only tell after comparing it to butter London’s Come to Bed Red, but it’s more of a classic cherry colour with a slight blue undertone to it that’s really quite lovely in proper lighting.

essie Headmistress

The lights in the room are way too warm to really show off the true colour. (I need a manicure soon!)

So Susan Lip & Cheek Sublime (moisturizing lip & cheek stain) – $18 for 2.5g (Full Size)

I’m naturally blushing most of the time, so I doubt I’ll be using it as a cheek stain. But, it feels really nice to apply and the colour is a cute peachy pink that I’ve been wanting to try out for spring!

It looks like it might bleed a little bit on me, but it feels like it’ll double as a lip balm at the same time.

Here it is swatched with my Givenchy Le Rouge (301) for comparison…

So Susan Lip & Cheek Sublime vs Givenchy La Rouge

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Topbox February 2014

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant (30mL sample) – $25 for 50mL

This is such a generous sample! Taken at retail value, this is already $15!

This skin protectant looks perfect against winter this year especially with some mild eczema flaring up, but I’ll have to wait for it to thaw out before I can try it since it was completely frozen. I hope it doesn’t affect it!

Epic Blend Lip Balm in More Moisture Unflavoured – $3.49 for 4.2g (Full Size)

More anti-winter goodness! It’s even better since it’s made out of organic moisturizing ingredients with a bit of vitamin E and rosemary extract to round out the ingredient deck. Nothing else needed and nothing else wanted!

What’s even better? It’s a Canadian company and Canadian-made!

I just bought a new EOS the other week, but I might save that one for summer since this one will probably melt off my face in the hot sun.

Verdict: 5/5 This box is AMAZING! I’m sure I’ll be using all of the products in the next little while and I’m ultra excited to do so!

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Did you get a Topbox? What did you get?

Want to sign up? Click here! Don’t forget to check their Facebook page for the latest updates!

xoxo,

B.elle

Nerd Block – February 2014

I got my NerdBlock today! Woooo!

As you might be able to tell, NerdBlock is a monthly subscription box that’s dedicated to all things nerd/geek in mainstream culture for $19.99 (before tax). It’s purely Canadian and each month includes a featured tshirt design made by ShirtPunch.

If you know a small nerdling human between the ages of 6 and 11 that would love to get a monthly box, they’ve just released Nerd Block Jr. that’s available in boy and girl versions, too!

Here’s what they put into the February box…

Nerd Block February 2014

This month, they put in 7 items! They didn’t include a card of any sort, so I don’t know where you might be able to find them if you’d want to pick up another one or if you want to know about the companies.

ShirtPunch Tshirt: Metroid! In block form! Loving it!

Nerd Block February 2014

Halo ActionClix: Red Spartan Battle Pack – WizKids

It’s apparently part of a tabletop game, but it doesn’t say anywhere on the package that it’s actually meant to be played like that. Even after opening it up and looking at the cards, I gave up and had to check out the website listed on the back to check it out. It seems like a pretty interesting tabletop game, but I don’t have the time or energy to invest in something like this.

But, the detailing they put into the figures is amaaaaaaaaazing. I don’t expect anything less from WizKids/Neca! Even though I don’t think I’ll really get into it, they’ll make for some fun decoration!

Playful Gorilla presents The 80’s – GelaSkins for Smartphones

They’re so cute! I love them! But they’re so not gonna go on my phone. Optimus Prime will make his home on my laptop.

E.T. Foil Collectible

I like blind boxes and foil collectibles, but I’m not a fan of E.T. The detailing on the mini figurine is pretty good, but I can’t really say I like it enough to keep it around for very long. Sorry, bud.

Nerd Block February 2014

The Wolverine Mini Mates 2 Pack – Wolverine (Street Fight) and Shingen Yashida

I actually haven’t seen this movie yet! CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?! But I have to say that they perfectly captured Hugh Jackman’s rage face, chest hair and cheese-grating abs here. I love it.

The Smurfs Tag-athon!

Smurfs is nerdy? Really? And, it’s another game piece of a game that I won’t play. It’s actually geared towards a much younger demographic, so I’ll be donating this to a small human related to me pretty soon.

Avengers Squishy Thing – Hawkeye

I threw out the packaging before I really got a look at the brand! Oops!

I’m fairly sure this is supposed to be comic book Hawkeye instead of movieverse Hawkeye, but it doesn’t make it any less creepy. But, it’s nice and squishy and it won’t hurt if it gets thrown at you, so it’s coming with me to work!

Of course, it’s the way of the universe that I get the comic book archer. Of course.

Update: It doubles as an excellent cat toy.

Verdict: Ehhh. I like getting the tshirts, the Wolverine and Halo figurines, but I’m not overly wowed by the box at $30 after tax and such. I’ll see after March if I’ll continue, but I might just keep an eye on ShirtPunch for awesome shirts.

Want in on the nerdism? Sign up for a box here! Does your small nerdling want their own too? Check out Nerd Block Jr.!

xoxo,

B.elle

Mistobox – February 2014

I haven’t even finished my last box and I got my new batch of coffee!

BEHOLD – THE AWESOME MISTOBOX OF FEBRUARY 2014!

MistoBox February 2014

In all seriousness, they’ve renamed the smaller-sized subscription that contains four 1.7oz bags of coffee the “Awesome Subscription” and the bigger-sized sub of four 3.4oz bags of coffee as the “More Awesome Subscription.” They’ve even added an option to get it bi-weekly instead of monthly!

MistoBox February 2014

 

Barefoot Coffee Roasters’s Guatemala Amarillo – USD$19.00 for 12oz

“Tropical fruit acidity, syrupy brown sugar sweetness, and a delicate, yet balanced mouthfeel”

This sounds like a great cup of coffee to enjoy on its own, but I won’t know until I try it out for myself! Like they recommend, I don’t open the packages until I’m ready to grind them up and brew. But, the natural sweetness sounds like it will balance out the tropical fruit flavours quite nicely.

Also, congratulations for this bean for winning 3rd place in the Guatemala Cup of Excellence program!

HalfWit Coffee Roasters’ Peru Tupac Amaru – USD$17.00 for oz

“Heavy fig notes, a creamy cashew butter sweetness, and a round, syrupy body that is reminiscent of molasses”

Wow, this is gonna be a treat to have! It sounds like such a decadent treat that I’ll have to try it when the weather’s a bit worse (which is like this entire season).

It’s also great to see that this exclusive, small lot is made by 24 producers of the Tupac Amaru Cooperative in Puno, Peru. I love coffee from smaller producers! You can almost taste the love they put into their crops.

MistoBox February 2014

 

Onyx Coffee Lab’s Ethiopia Misty Valley – USD$18.00 for 12oz

“Coffee blossoms, jasmine, black cherry and a luscious, creamy body”

One of my favourite country of origins for coffee is most definitely Ethiopia! I haven’t really noticed if there’s a particular region I prefer, but anytime Ethiopia comes up when coffee is mentioned, I’m there. This is going to be no different with such a unique blend of flavours! Even though I tend to prefer simpler flavours in coffee and wine, I’m looking forward to this one!

Bowtruss Coffee Roasters’ Costa Rica La Cuesta – USD$17.00 for 12oz

“Light, clean, balanced, concord grapes, spiced pecans”

It looks like this particular blend is a micro-lot from Costa Rica! If you like South American coffee, this one would be the one to buy since it’s such a classic combination of flavours with just a hint of sweet grapes and spiced pecans, which sounds like it’ll raise the cup to a new level.

The printing actually cut off a bit on the right side, so I’m actually guessing what it says.  But, I can tell that it comes from a region that produces some of the best coffee in the world!

Verdict: I never have a problem with MistoBox! They always deliver me delicious, single-source coffee right to my doorstep from the US and they’re even faster than ever now!

Want to make your mornings more exciting with MistoBox? Subscribe here! For Canadians, it starts at $25/mo for a monthly Awesome box and goes up to $70/mo for bi-weekly More Awesome box with enough coffee to fuel a full office!

Do you like coffee? What’s your favourite?

xoxo,

B.elle

Note: I am not paid by MistoBox or any of the companies mentioned in this post for this review. All opinions and views are mine. I am not responsible for discontinued products since those listed in this post are limited commodities.

February 2014 Tasting Box by Foodie Pages

I got my Tasting Box today! What I love about the Tasting Box is that it features Canadian small business artisans that I normally wouldn’t know about! All of the products are available on the Foodie Pages e-marketplace for easy shopping.

Tasting Box February 2014

Here’s what’s inside!

Cocolico’s Salted Butter Caramels – Vancouver, BC (sample of 4 – approx. $3.60)

Cost: $9 for 100g/3.5oz

I’m not sure how many are in a full size, but the picture they used on Foodie Pages looks like there’s 10 in a 100g box, so I took a calculated guess from there.

I used to work for a salted caramel company for a summer and I have to admit that I missed them a lot! Unlike the ones I worked with, Cocolico mixed the salt into the caramel so you get that delicious sweet/savoury taste through the whole candy. It’s so decadently soft that I may have to hide these for a treat before someone else steals them…

Bonus: All natural ingredients AND the cream’s from local BC farmers!

Tasting Box February 2014

Bix Bakery’s Lemon Pizzelle Cookies – Toronto, ON (Full size)

Cost: $17.95 for 3 full sized cookies

It’s allergen free! Woo! I’m not allergic to anything food-wise, but it’s great to see more products that try to accommodate those with food allergies or sensitivities.

But $17.95 for 3 cookies seems a bit steep for me, especially since said cookies have to come to me by mail in various sized pieces, like they did now. Thank god Bix Bakery’s in Toronto so I can make a visit there!

For the cookie itself, it’s really light, fluffy and airy with a great lemony taste to it. It’s just a tiny bit grainy to the chew from the rice flour, but I don’t mind it.

Dave’s Roasted Garlic Hot Pepper Jelly – Invermere, BC (45mL – approx. $1.65)

Cost: $7 for 190mL / $42 for 6-pack

This stuff smells great! It actually reminds me of a really good salsa with a ton of garlic and jalapeno. Too bad I don’t have any tortilla chips in the pantry…

Even though it’s a sweet jelly, the savoury notes from the roasted garlic comes in right after the sweetness and the spicy peppers just jump on your tastebuds right after that! The card says that it makes a great glaze for barbecued ribs, so that’s a great excuse for me to roast off some ribs soon.

Tasting Box February 2014

Full of Beans’ Deluxe Kitchen Sink Soup Mix – Bornholm, ON (250g – $2.50)

Cost: $5 for 500g

This generous sample alone makes makes 7 servings of 8oz., so I can only imagine how much soup the regular size makes! I’ll be making some baked bean stew tomorrow to see how this turns out.

Tasting Box February 2014

Urge Chocolates’ Oranji Dark Chocolate Bar – Burnaby, BC (60g – Full Size)

Cost: $5 for 60g

I usually don’t like flavoured chocolate. For me, if I’m craving chocolate, I want it to be dark, simple and preferably in fudge form.

But this chocolate? Oh. My. God.

The orange flavour is so fresh and inviting, like that first scrape of orange zest in the summer, and it pairs up so beautifully with the goji berries embedded right in the dark chocolate, which is already sooooo silky and just bitter enough for all the flavours to have a party. I will definitely be buying more of this once I finish this pocket bar!

PS – I love the packaging!

Verdict: I love, love, LOVE this box! My favourite has to be Urge Chocolate’s Oranji Dark Chocolate Bar, but everything that I could taste so far is so delicious that it’s well worth the cost. I paid $25 and got $30 worth of products, so that’s always a bonus!

Did you get one? What did you think of the box?

Want to subscribe? Only 50 boxes are available each month on the 1st, starting at noon, right here (with my referral) on Foodie Pages! Act fast or you’ll miss a box of the best of Canadian artisan cuisine!

xoxo,

B.elle

Note: I am not paid by Foodie Pages or any of the companies mentioned in this post for this review. All opinions and views are mine.

Activate Drinks – Balance Fruit Punch

I mentioned in my last post that healthy, simpler beverages were still trendy for 2014. While functional beverages (as people in the industry tend to call them) have been heavily marketed since the 2000s, it only really started to gain momentum when “fitness” drinks like Gatorade and Powerade hit the shelves that soda alternatives started to become popular.

But other than those two brands, what other functional drinks do you know that are available in Canada? The only ones that come to mind for me is Fuze and VitaminWater, and they’re pretty loaded with a couple tablespoons of sugar and long ingredient lists.

Here’s one that’s set to hit the Canadian market in the upcoming months: Activate!

Activate Drink

 

This nifty drink claims zero calories, naturally sweetened and delivers “fresh” vitamins from a capsule inside the cap. It’s naturally sweetened with stevia leaf extract as its sugar substitute.

I know some people don’t mind the taste of just stevia as a sweetener, but it left a strange, unpleasant aftertaste for me.

Activate Drink

Their main selling point is that the added vitamins and nutrients that you’d find in other functional beverages will degrade over a certain period of time. It’s right to a point since many vitamins are water-soluble and the drinks tend to taste a little funky after some time.

To release the nutrients into the water, you have to twist the coloured knob at the top until you see the stuff hit the water. Keep in mind, you really need to do this or else you’ll be drinking a bottle of plain ol’ water.

Shake the bottle, let the vitamins settle and dissolve, and then you’re good to go!

Activate Cap

 

Now, I have no doubt that Activate provides a pretty good amount of nutrients… They’ve taken the liberty to mention that TWICE to me on the bottle.

IMAG0665 Activate Drink

 

Seriously, America. Do you really need to be told twice that there’s 100% vitamin C and 30% vitamin A and such of your recommended daily intake? I think you guys are smarter than that!

That aside, the vitamin intake seems to be pretty high and it can serve as a supplement to your daily vitamin. Good thing it tastes exactly like Flintstones Vitamins!

They must use the same type of flavouring agent as the makers of Flintstones Vitamins because I was suddenly 6 years old again, slowly chewing on a chalky, grape-ish tablet only I was sitting at my desk, sucking back on an Activate.

I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not since it definitely triggered an emotional reaction, but it wasn’t a necessarily good reaction…

Verdict: It’s pretty good considering it’s a vitamin-enhanced drink. I’m not a big fan in general of these things, but I enjoyed it while it lasted. Will I buy it? Maybe, if I knew that I haven’t been eating too well and I wanted a small vitamin kick. But, I wouldn’t buy it because of its features; namely the zero calories, stevia substitute and the “fresh” vitamin release cap.

What do you think of functional beverages? Do you like Activate?

xoxo,

B.elle

 

 

 

Food Trends 2014

According to Jennifer Water’s article from Market Watch, we’re going to see some major price changes in the market.

Beef will get a major price hike since drought hit many US pastures and cow herds suffered in population; canned tuna will keep increasing since bluefin tuna is still being over-fished despite being on the verge of extinction and sushi is still ever popular; and chocolate prices will still keep going up because of increased international demand.

She also sees a rising trend with (rich) chefs investing in personal farms to extend the rooftop garden concept to harvesting their own vegetables for service, more nose-to-tail and root-to-stalk dishes, cronuts, a return to more basic drinks and food, and a stronger indie market in 2014.

What does this mean? Food trends are becoming more and more localized to your own region or even your own city area.

And that, my friends, means that we are going to be seeing more emphasis on simple, homey dishes in both restaurants and magazines.

Here’s my predictions for 2014:

1. Local Meats and Fish

With beef and conventional canned fish prices to go up, people are going to gravitate more towards chicken, pork and seafood. I’ll get to you vegetarians and vegans in a second.

I live in Toronto, where it’s almost landlocked with a fantastic port that brings in food from around the world. Even though I love that I can easily find great fish like marlin, pacific salmon and shrimp, they’re not exactly the freshest proteins I can eat! So, I’ll be sticking mostly to Ontario chicken and pork.

2. Eggs, eggs and more eggs!

EGGS! I love eggs, so it’s my pleasure to announce that eggs are going to be VERY trendy this year. The chicken market is getting stronger and there’s more and more oh-so-nutritious eggs to go around for all those quiches and egg bennies we’ll be making.

That’s great news for vegetarians since restaurants are positioned to pick up this trend very easily. Let’s hope they don’t put ham in it.

3. Meatless dishes

Now, I’m not saying that there’s going to be more vegetarians and vegans because that’s what  a lot of people think when they see or hear about dishes without any meat. Anybody who knows me well enough that I’d never be able to become a vegetarian myself. (Carmelized pork is a sultry temptress.)

I’m not even talking about the vegetarian options that try to be meat but really aren’t like meatless, vegetarian hot dogs with ingredient decks a mile long.

I’m actually talking about dishes like spiced sweet potato fries,  baked beans, roasted vegetable and lentil soups, mushroom risotto and red bean pudding. Those dishes don’t have any meat, but they’re packed with protein and there’s a certain heartiness that’s similar to that feel you get when you tuck into a good steak.

Of course, you can always add a bit of meat as garnish to any of those dishes and I think that’s okay. The meat turns into something more of an afterthought, not the main feature.

4. Ready-to-cook convenience

Face it, the economy’s still a bit in the shits even though a lot of places have relatively low unemployment rates. People are working longer hours during the week and finding less time to prepare their meals. What do they do? Grab some chicken from the market, go home, fry up the chicken, cook some pasta and sauce, mix and then tuck in.

This trend of semi-cooking has been rising in the past decade or so, but I don’t think it’s showing any signs of stopping anytime soon, compared to the downward trend of using fully ready-to-eat dishes where you simply put it in the oven or the microwave.

5. Healthier, simpler beverages

We all know that Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and basically all the high-fructose carbonated beverages out there are terrible for us and we shouldn’t drink them, but they always show up in the office meeting, barbecues, parties and somehow in your hand. It’s most likely here to stay for a few more decades at this rate.

But, people are looking for convenient, healthier drinks on the market with low sugar, no preservatives and some sort of health benefit that makes it different from plain water.

It’s been a rising trend in the past few years with teas and flavoured waters becoming more and more readily available and I don’t think it shows any sign of slowing down.

We’ll see what happens this year since Nature is a finicky thing and anything can happen!

What do you want to see as a food trend? Share your thoughts!

xoxo,
B.elle