Hor-Tea Cul-Ture, and Old Geology Books

Picked up some tea that seems to have absolutely no record on the internet. …Outside of the Art Knapps store, from which it seems to be a new product of theirs.

It’s always a little exciting to be the first to discover a tea on a community database-like setup like Steepster, although I always like reading through others’ reviews before making a purchase–it helps me decide.

However, it’s always exciting to be the first person to discover a whole company. This has happened more than once for me on Steepster. There’s a good number of Canadians on the site, but not enough (never enough Canadians [never enough until we infest the place]). I got to add Tealicious (a great discovery, I’m glad it’s getting more recognition).

Back on track, a few days ago I came across Art Knapps’ apparently very new tea line. So new that there doesn’t seem to be a single google result on it, except for one leading back to the Art Knapps site. I went there the other day to help my mother load up on flowers for her garden (heavy lifting, it’s all I’m good for–minus the fact that I’m a stick with noodle arms). I ended up wandering off and rooting through their Home Decor section, looking at teapots and spices. Eventually, after winding through the confusing setup, I rounded a corner and found tea. A whole tea section. A tea counter, in fact, complete with samples. I think I have a nose for tea. I always manage to find it.

The counter was run by an amusing young man who very much did not wish to be there. I think he must have been the son of one of the other workers, because when I first found the counter, he was not behind it, but instead standing with some other employees–ladies–off to one side, and asking to be let go early, due to various circumstances and finished jobs, and the lady calling bullshit in a very direct, mother-to-son manner. The lad eventually trudged back to his counter and offered me some tea to sample. I refused at first, but eventually accepted when my mother rounded a corner, saw me, saw the tea, and promptly went, “of course this is where you are”. I’m very predictable.

There are photos of the setup in the Art Knapps site, however, they’re very small, and part of a scrolling Flash collection, so I can’t exactly capture them for use here. But here is a link anyhow, for a good idea of the setup.

The boy behind the counter was brewing up some Pear Spice, a white tea, and so we sampled that. He spouted some health-benefits rather amusingly (to paraphrase from my poor memory, “and it’s healthy for you, antioxidants and stuff”; you have to give him props for trying). It was actually quite tasty (I will write up a proper Steepster review another day), and so my mom picked up a bag (fifteen dollars (CAD$) for three ounces, and don’t worry, I’ll cover what’s in the bag soon enough). As you can see from the scrolling images, the counter has a setup of each bag of tea offered, and a little cup showing the contents. The contents in the little bowls are… somewhat accurate, at least.

I spent most of the time there eyeing the Fig Formosa (fig-flavoured oolong tea), but didn’t want to spend fifteen dollars without trying it first. Sadly, that wasn’t one of the samples he had out that day (I’ll have to check back, because it really caught my eye). My mom picked this one up though; I’m supposed to make it iced for her (she wants to get the President’s Choice iced tea pitcher [it comes with an infuser for infusing the hot tea, and then you pull out that insert and insert a second holder that contains the ice cubes–separate from the tea, so it doesn’t water down the flavour; smart]). This is a pretty big bag for three ounces. Huge. And you’ll see why.

I tried to picture it as best I could (using the Perfect Scoop teaspoon for scale), but this bag contains a lot of stuff. These are some really fluffy flowers. And not individual flowers, or even just petals, no. You can see the stems. These are giant yellow chunks–no, bouquets. Helichrysum flowers, so says the bag.

I have no photography skills, I apologize.

As you can imagine, it’s a bit difficult to get a good teaspoon scooped out for brewing purposes.

I would also like to bring up just how strongly this tea smells dry. I opened the bag and was punched in the face with pear flavour. It’s much more subtle in the tea, but this was just… wow. Fresh? All I know, is I don’t think Art Knapps gets an outside source to do their blending. Or if they do, it’s not “the usual guys”, because they use a LOT of unusual ingredients. Most flavoured teas (and I believe all but two of Hor-Tea Cul-Ture is flavoured–Sunrise Assam I think it’s called? And a simple nondescript green tea of unknown origin) employ blue cornflowers, occasionally marigold petals, maybe rose, or mallow. I can’t remember all of the things Hor-Tea Cul-Ture used, but among them, giant clusters of halichrysum flower (see above), and poppy petals (in their Fig Formosa). I know there are some other ones. It’s unique and interesting, I think. I’d add the other teas to the Steepster database, if only there were more information on them on the website. Just a few small photos, alas.

But it’s no wonder the sample-counter uses such a giant teapot and infuser basket for this tea.

The area had lots of interesting little tea knickknacks there. Some very petit cast iron teapots, trivets, some travel mugs, glass tea mugs with included infusers… You’ll have to squint at the Art Knapps website to make most of them out.

This has been my ramble for the month, I suppose. For those into flavoured teas, I think it’s worth checking out. Y’know, if you’re in Canada. The line’s not much for pure teas, but it’s interesting. Many of the blends describe the exact tea base used–this Pear Spice lists bai mu dan, and I believe the Fig Formasa blend describes the oolong, but I can’t remember it exactly–also, an amusing note… the line includes a pu’ehr (with chocolate and mint, as I recall) tea, which is listed AS its own kind of tea–pu’ehr (review the photo I took of the bag, where “white” is noted along the bottom, on the same line as the net weight of the tea), however, the Fig Formosa oolong, which as listed as “oolong tea” under “Fig Formosa”, is categorized as “black” along the bottom; this either a mistake because they used a darkly-coloured oolong and didn’t know better, or just a typo. I do remember the bag detailing the “black dragon” definition of oolong, so perhaps they took the “black” literally.

Just an observation. Back to sipping incredibly floral tea.

If all goes well, I’ll be leaving for my summer job again next month. Hopefully this time I’ll get to hang around Faking Sanity a bit longer.

On a completely different note, I managed to amass a giant stack of geology books from the 60s.

A gift from my uncle, who is a bit of an antiquer. I don’t know if they’re “antique” or “vintage” (I suppose vintage is anything that is “hip” and old? I assume antiques, in contrast, must actually be worth something to qualify), but I love them and plan to read them. The green book at the bottom there is roughly five times as wide as the largest book at the bottom of that stack, and about twice as tall. It is a HUGE book of the geology of western Canada, and includes many giant maps. I have many more pictures from inside these books, but I’m sure they won’t find an audience in a tea blog.

I’ve always secretly wanted to collect old geology books, and I think my uncle must just be psychic, because this is a damn good start. Shown here are An Introduction to Rock-Forming Minerals, The Evolution of the Igneous Rocks, Principles of Physical Geology, Sedimentary Rocks, Engineering Geology and Geotechnics, Igneous and Metamorphic Petreology, Subsurface Geology: Petroleum Mining Geology, The Observer’s Book of  Geology, and Geological History of Western Canada.

Cheerfully posting without proofreading at three-thirty AM. Some people keep proper blogs, I keep a log of rambling experiences, tea, books, and geology.

A transgendered, tea-drinking, rock-hammer wielding, mineral-collecting, fashionable, mid-twenties Canadian.


  1. What a nice looking tea! It sounds very similar to a tea that I’ve purchased from Butiki Teas called “Exotic Pear”. It also uses Helichrysum flowers.

    I’m still working on my photography skills too – don’t feel bad!

    • AJ

      17/05/2012 at 12:28 PM

      Maybe this is their source. Butiki does stock some pretty interesting teas, quite often. I will have to take a look.

      Hahah yes, exact same ingredient list, and I just noticed Art Knapps’ bag sneakily reads “Manufactured FOR” not “Manufactured AT”, which is what I thought it read earlier.

      None of Hor-Tea’s other teas are on Butiki in some form, so they may be sourcing from multiple companies. Or perhaps drew inspiration from Butiki teas. Hmmmm.

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