In The Quest For Tea…

sheona     Guest blog by Sheona Della-Fort

If you are from England you will understand our love affair with tea. Though I have adapted somewhat to coffee drinking and Tim Hortons in Canada, I will always love a hot steaming cup of tea.

When I opened the kitchen cupboards the other day and found out that I had run out of my favourite drink, I was really glad that the European Pantry in Welland was open. Jacqui, the owner sells a bewildering array of teas.

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I have enjoyed a number of the teas she carefully selects from a variety of tea blenders from as nearby, as Wainfleet, Ontario and all over the world…definitely the best place to go in Niagara for the best teas. Click here for more information about their tea selection.

As I walked down to The European Pantry, my mind slipped into a reverie and memories of a country I had traveled to which is a major exporter of tea. tea 1Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was called by the British is an island off the coast of India, and its teas are world renowned. Interestingly, it was also a Dutch colony during the 17th century.

During my last visit to Sri Lanka in 2012 I was able to visit a tea plantation. The scenic drive to the tea estate based in Nuwara Eliya was breathtaking with numerous waterfalls, bakers falls near tea estatelush green hills and fields thickly covered with tea plants. The cooler climes of this region make it the ideal place to grow teas such as Orange Pekoe. Tea pluckers in colourful garb were busy picking tender tea leaves and placing them into baskets tied to their backs.

tea factory

After arriving at the centre, we were allocated a lady guide who showed us pictures of the history of the factory before we went into the main tea processing plant. Our guide continued her commentary by stating that Orange Pekoe undergoes extensive processing before it gets to the market. Tea leaves must first wither, after which processors roll, heat and ferment them. It is this fermentation process, which is also known as oxidation that distinguishes black teas from white and green teas.

tea3

tea2Later that day, my interest was piqued as I found out about the conditions for tea workers on the island. I had read about human rights violations in the past and hoped to discover what improvements were being implemented. I met with my friend Charlotte who was originally from the UK and now resided in Sri Lanka helping street kids in various parts of tea workersTea image - some of the kids being helped by CHILd Action Lankathe country. She was part of a charity called Child Action Lanka or CAL for short. Because of my concern for women and children who live in poverty, I had volunteered with this charity in the past. Charlotte was able to tell me about the work that they were now doing reaching out to children who live in grinding living conditions. You can read about the charity’s work here.

 

Volunteering abroad has made me realize how fortunate I am to live in a western country where access to basic necessities and education is available to all. It stops me taking things for granted and to live with an attitude of gratitude. Helping in a small way through personal volunteering or making a financial contribution seems like a drop in the ocean compared to the need, but it is necessary to keep me grounded.

My walk was over so time for my reverie to end and decide which of the teas here at The European Pantry I will enjoy this time. I reached for a packet of herbal tea…

 

Memories of Hungary

European Pantry in Welland brings back memories of historic Hungary

 Guest Blog by Sheona Della-Fort

The lure of breathtaking scenery, a chance to experience another culture and the warmth of the friendly Canucks were the reasons that drew me to leave England to study in Canada. Settling into Welland, located in the Niagara Peninsula was not particularly difficult and I adjusted well to the wintry conditions.

It was on one of those frosty mornings that I discovered by chance the European Pantry. I first thought it was a quaint house,DSCF9274 but on entering the store discovered it to hold a bewildering array of cheeses, smoked meats, chocolates and spices.  Remember the time you walked into Grandma’s house and she had spent the day baking and preparing treats for you? The warmth of the store enveloped me and the colourful array of goods begged me to touch, taste and smell.

I spied some Hungarian paprika on a shelf and immediately a flood of memories came back to me of when I last visited Budapest.  I remember visiting Szentendre, a DSCF9304charming town near to Budapest and seeing shops selling paprika in its various forms. I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing like authentic Hungarian paprika in your Goulash with lashings of soured cream.

Another memory of handcrafted table linen slipped into my mind.  Handcrafted linen is a dying art these days in our technology focused world. I remember one Hungarian lady displaying her wares. There was something so sweet in her stature. Though she had hands gnarled with years of59124_1616205210915_7658038_n hard work, she proudly displayed a tablecloth with an intricate pattern of flowers.  A truly beautiful lady.

Anna and Richard, my Hungarian friends also introduced me to Langos – a dreamy dish of fried dough topped with cheese.  Highly calorific but well worth it. They handed me a shot of Palinka or firewater to wash it down; a fruit based brandy to add to my Hungarian experience.

Walking along the Danube River at night is an experience not to be missed; the skyline is dotted with landmarks of historic buildings and is an impressive sight to behold.  The sounds of busking musicians and the bustle of restaurants getting ready for the nightly trade filled my senses.  A moment in my life when time stood still.

Back to the real world. Jacqui the owner of The European Pantry breaks into my DSCF9279reverie and offers me a sampling of cheese and introduces me to the delights of marzipan chocolate.  Will I be coming back? Yes, of course when I need my European fix!