The weather outside may be frightful thanks to an early blast of winter. But inside is so delightful as I sip on a new hot tea drink launched this week and designed especially for the colder days ahead.
The VIVA London Fog is the traditional hot beverage you may know but with a twist. It was dreamed up by Scandinavian teaware maker VIVA and Plentea, the edgy tea bar in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood.
SEE ALSO: Our profile of Plentea Tea Bar
The London Fog flavours of Earl Grey and vanilla are heightened with lavender for an extra soothing quality on those especially cold days as the daylight gets shorter. I watched as, behind the bar, Plentea co-owner Mohammed Binyahya pulled together the ingredients with the skill of a master mixologist before I was met with an explosion of steam and sound as condensed milk poured through their “teaspresso” machine combining with the dry ingredients to turn out a rich, sweet beverage that warmed my bones.
I was then delighted to watch Binyaha expertly pour the concoction into a lovely geometrically shaped, peppermint-coloured Anytime Anna tea cup that had been hand-painted by local artist Quinn Rockliff, on-hand for this special event.
In speaking with the founders of both companies, I realized it made perfect sense for VIVA and Pleanta to join forces on this special project. Both are hoping to revolutionize the tea experience for many Canadians by bringing beauty – both in design and flavours – to your favourite cuppa.
“Our mission is to help people relax,” explains VIVA co-founder Peng Lin. “We want to achieve that through innovation in the tea experience.”
And the way to innovation, Lin says, is to look to the past and other cultures around the world. “Tea is one of the most popular drinks worldwide. It has deep roots and is the foundation of social connectedness for many cultures. In this hyper-digital world, we want to help people unplug for a moment or two by facilitating opportunities for the new generation to connect with those people most close to them through the experience of sharing tea. And we want to do that with beautiful design and quality flavours.”
Illustrating his commitment to beauty, Lin shows me the the Alexander cup and teapot set, featuring a stylish bamboo top.
(You can see the entire colour collection available for the ALEXANDER at ShopViva.ca)
Plentea’s Binyahya agrees. “We want to revolutionize the tea experience,” he says. “My partner Tariq Al Barwani and I grew up in a tea culture in the United Arab Emirates. We wanted to bring something new and exciting to young tea drinkers here.”
They’re onto something. As I wrap my hands around the warm porcelain cup and gaze at the flurries beginning on the other side of the window, I know that it will be easier to meet the upcoming frigid months head on with a friend or two and a tea set like the Alexander to steep our antidote to winter.
Recipe: VIVA London Fog
- 1 tbsp earl grey loose tea or 1 tea bag
- 1/2 tsp dried lavender flowers
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups of boiling water
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup milk or almond milk
- Vanilla sugar for garnish (optional)
Follow these steps
- Bring water to a boil in a medium pot on a stovetop
- Steep the earl grey tea and the dried lavender (either loose or using an infuser) together for between 5 and 8 minutes. You want to make the tea as strong and dark as possible.
- Once the tea is stepped, remove the tea bag and the infuser or strain the lavender.
- Turn the heat to low. Add the milk and vanilla. Gently stir the mixture while bringing it to a simmer. (Make sure it doesn’t boil.)
- Pour the mixture into two cups and enjoy.
- Optional: top with vanilla sugar