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Discover Kusmi Tea Paris This Holiday Season and Enjoy It All Year Long

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This post is proudly presented in partnership with Kusmi Tea Paris, as always all opinions are personal. Emily is a 2018-2019 Kusmi Tea Paris Ambassador.

Whether winter’s snow is softly falling or spring’s wind is gently blowing, a cup of tea is a small, yet luxurious comfort I enjoy all year long. However, there is something about the chilly Canadian days (and honestly we have more than our fair share of them) that just call for a perfect cup of tea; something that not only warms the body, but the soul too. It’s a delightful ritual that I love to indulge in!

Which is why I’m so excited about my partnership with Kusmi Tea Paris – a company that has been offering the best in teas for more than 150 years!

This amazing tea house, with a rich history, has recently opened a beautiful new location right here in Ottawa at the CF Rideau Centre. When you’re doing your holiday shopping this season, be sure to pop in, because it’s really quite extraordinary. 

Kusmi Tea Paris has a long, rich history 

Beginning in 1867 in St. Petersburg, Kusmi Tea Paris has been celebrated for its richness and originality, travelling across Europe to London, Berlin, New York and settling firmly in Paris in 1917. This brand of tea has a splendid reputation and I am delighted to vouch for it as well.

The first thing I noticed about Kusmi Tea Paris was its amazing packaging. I felt as if I had travelled back in time with its elegance and treasure-like appearance. The gorgeous tins are not ornamental alone though, within them they contain perfect blends of traditional and exotic flavours, that make a wonderfully gourmet cup of tea. The kind of cup you hold dear in your hand, inhale its aroma, and slowly sip with utmost care and appreciation.

Let me tell you, if you have a tea lover on your gifting list this year, Kusmi Tea Paris would be a wonderful holiday present they would no doubt cherish.

A few of my favourite blends from Kusmi Tea Paris

Over the past few weeks, I’ve tried a wide selection of their teas and I am convinced they will remain a favourite petite indulgence in our home. Each tea is its own special world of taste and flavour.

Kusmi Tea Paris’ limited edition holiday flavour, Tsarevna, is like having a bit of Christmas in a cup. It features a delicious black tea with notes of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, licorice, orange peel and aniseed. It’s truly the perfect festive hot drink to enjoy all season long.

One of my favourite teas from the Kusmi Tea Paris collection is the Spicy Chocolate. It combines black China tea with scents of chocolate and spices; this tea warms you up and the touches of clove make it a perfect afternoon treat!

If you enjoy tea for breakfast (or anytime of the day really) the St. Petersburg, created to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the city would be a wonderful choice – it combines Earl Grey, caramel, vanilla, and red fruits to create a robust cup of black tea. Similarly, Prince Vladimir, created in 1888 to honour Vladimir the Great, is another blend of Earl Grey with citrus, vanilla, and other spices is a great tea for any occasion.

A cup of tea makes everything better

Another brilliant tea is the Anastasia, inspired by the story of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, this is a blend of black China and Ceylon teas with bergamot, lemon, lime, and orange blossom and will lift the moodiest stormy weather blues! It’s a tasty and spirited tea, indeed.

In a similar character for an uplifting tea, the Four Red Fruits is a wonderful harmony of flavours, which I enjoy as an afternoon break – this tea is another blend of black teas with hints of raspberry, strawberry, redcurrants and cherries this tea is lovely by itself or with your favourite pastry or cake.

Truly, I think teatime should be a customary meal in Canada too!

The sampling I am enjoying from Kusmi Tea Paris is certainly enough to convince me of its luxury and all around enjoyable taste. Yet, by no means have I tried enough to fully appreciate the vastness of flavour and richness that defines Kusmi Tea Paris, with more than 80 teas available in Canada! I can’t wait to continue to explore the many other blends and flavours they offer.

Give the gift of tea this holiday season + 10% off discount code!

If you are looking for a wonderful holiday gift, are hosting a seasonal get-together, or simply want to treat yourself to a little luxury every day then I highly recommend you try Kusmi Tea Paris. You can use my discount code: best10 at kusmitea.com to receive 10% off your order! Enjoy friends, xx.

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LIFESTYLES

As shopping habits change, Ottawa targets credit card swipe fees

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The federal government is taking aim at credit-card transaction fees as shifting shopping habits resulting from pandemic lockdowns have substantially driven up costs for many small merchants.

The budget released this week promises the government will launch consultations aimed at lowering the average charges — known as interchange fees — paid by merchants every time a customer pays with a credit card.

Though federal officials plan to engage with stakeholders, including credit-card issuers and merchants, about possible changes, Monday’s budget also raises the threat of legislation to regulate fees “if necessary.”

This is the third time in less than seven years that the federal government has pressured credit-card companies to lower transaction fees, which vary between retailers, types of cards and payment methods. In 2014, there was an agreement reached with Visa Canada and Mastercard Canada to lower average fees to 1.5 per cent. Then in 2018 a five-year pact was struck that included voluntary commitments to lower average fees to 1.4 per cent, starting in 2020. (American Express struck a separate deal with Ottawa.)

But COVID-19 has rapidly altered consumers’ spending patterns, creating pressure to revisit that deal. Many of the interchange fees that were reduced applied solely to payments made in stores. As public-health restrictions have forced stores to limit access or close, fewer customers are swiping, tapping, or paying in cash. As a result, businesses are bearing the brunt of higher transaction fees charged for online purchases – unless they pass those costs on to customers by raising prices.

“The pandemic has been a huge driver of credit-card interchange [fees] as people have dropped cash and have moved online,” Karl Littler, senior vice-president of public affairs at the Retail Council of Canada, said in an interview. “It is a rapidly growing cost and was a rapidly growing cost even prior to the pandemic.”

The interchange fees paid by Christina Kotiadis, co-owner of Toronto gift store Lemon & Lavender, have gone way up during the pandemic. She built an online store for the first time to process e-commerce orders, and more customers who visit the store are tapping cards to make contactless payments. She also bought a mobile terminal to take payments anywhere in the store, or at the front door, which charges higher fees than the store’s plug-in terminal. For health reasons, she allows customers to pay with cards even for small purchases and absorbs the added costs.

“I refuse to raise prices. I don’t feel good about it. Everyone is trying to stay safe, and I don’t want to raise the fee because they don’t want to use cash,” she said.

Before the pandemic, about 60 per cent of payments at independent grocery stores were made with credit cards, and the rest with cash or debit cards, according to Gary Sands, a senior vice-president at the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers. Now, more than 90 per cent of purchases are with credit cards as online ordering and curbside pickups become more popular, and the resulting interchange fees are adding up.

“It impacts prices, it impacts the ability of small businesses to stay in business,” he said.

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LIFESTYLES

Ottawa considers taking action against ‘predatory lenders’

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Ottawa will consider lowering the maximum interest rate to stop the “predatory lending” of outfits that make high-interest loans, which anti-poverty advocates say have exploited Canadians during the pandemic.

In Monday’s budget, the federal government announced plans to launch consultations on lowering the “criminal rate of interest,” the maximum annualized interest rate for credit allowed under the federal Criminal Code.

For instalment loans — longer-term credit with high interest — lenders can charge up to 60 per cent annual interest under the usury rules.

Payday loans — high-interest loans that are typically due two weeks later — are exempt from federal rules under a 2007 amendment, if provinces have their own regulations for payday lenders, which all now do. 

Many low- or moderate-income Canadians rely on high-interest, short-term loans to make ends meet or for unanticipated emergencies, leaving them stuck in a cycle of debt, the budget states. 

Anti-poverty advocates have zeroed in on companies like Money Mart, Easy Financial, and Cash Money, accusing them of misleading advertising, not being forthright about the strings attached, and pushing borrowers to take out larger loans at the highest interest rates possible. 

They say the practices are continuing during COVID, when more Canadians than ever are facing financial hardship.

“They’re thriving, because they’re taking advantage of people,” said Donna Bordon, a member of the anti-poverty group, ACORN Canada. “People are afraid of losing their homes, so they borrow money from these places.”

The consultations are a “first step” in tackling predatory lending, Bordon said, adding she hopes they include more than industry representatives, who will sharply oppose any changes.

Despite low interest rates set by the Bank of Canada, poorer borrowers are more likely to lack the requirements to access safer loans from traditional banks. Instead, they seek quick cash from payday lenders, despite the risk of falling into debt they can’t escape.

In Ontario, for example, payday lenders can charge $15 in interest for every $100 over a two-week period — equal to an annualized interest rate of 391 per cent. 

Last July, the Ontario government capped the interest rate that lenders can charge on defaulted payday loans at 2.5 per cent per month. It also set a maximum fee of $25 that lenders can charge for dishonoured or bounced cheques, or pre-authorized debits.

In 2019, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada found that two per cent of Canadians had taken out payday loans in the previous year. The percentage was even higher for Indigenous people, and low-income and single-parent households.

Last month, NDP finance critic Peter Julian tabled a private member’s bill to lower the maximum interest rate to 30 per cent, and to remove the exception for provinces that regulate payday lenders — measures ACORN supports.

The Canadian Consumer Finance Association, which represents payday lenders, said in a statement that while it’s still reviewing Monday’s budget, it’s opposed to lowering the interest-rate limit.

“Instalment loans are long-, not short-term loans, and they provide an important source of credit for many Canadians who cannot access credit elsewhere,” the organization said.

“Any reduction to the federal maximum interest rate will result in removal of access to credit for those Canadians with lower credit scores who previously qualified at the current rates. The government should not take any action that results in denial of credit to Canadians, or forces borrowers to access credit from illegal, unlicensed lenders.”

A survey of 376 ACORN members published by the group last February found 40 per cent of respondents were turned down by a traditional bank before taking out a high-interest loan. Seventeen per cent said they’re now unable to make repayments due to COVID-19.

The federal government should seek ways to provide alternative lines of credit to low-income Canadians, such as mandating banks to offer lower-interest loans, Bordon said.

Besides setting up a complaints process for consumer lending that’s stronger than the provinces’ systems, it should also consider postal banking for rural areas and small towns, she added.

The ACORN survey found that 70 per cent of its survey respondents had once turned to payday loans. Forty-five per cent had taken out instalment loans, an increase from a similar survey conducted in 2016, when only 11 per cent said they’d taken out such loans. 

ACORN represents low- to moderate-income Canadians. Sixty per cent of its survey respondents earn less than $30,000 a year.

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Federal budget 2021: Ottawa ties end of financial supports to completion of COVID-19 vaccination campaign

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The federal government will extend its business and income support programs until the country’s vaccination campaign is complete, but their subsidy levels will start to drop before the deadline for all Canadians to get their shots.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s budget, tabled Monday, sets Sept. 25 as the end date for the direct business and personal income supports the government introduced in response to the pandemic. That is in line with the end-of-summer deadline Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set for the completion of Canada’s vaccine rollout. It’s widely expected Canadians could also be sent back to the polls around that time.

The government proposes spending $15.1-billion more to extend the emergency support programs until September and create a new subsidy, which Ms. Freeland called a “lifeline” for Canadians and businesses in her speech to the House of Commons.

The budget also, for the first time, pegged the cost of Canada’s vaccine contracts at more than $9-billion; however, officials were not able to provide any details on that number, including how much has been already spent or allocated.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said it was encouraged by the extension of the business supports during the pandemic and cautioned against their hasty withdrawal. “The government must ensure that support is not being removed too early and that the level of support does not decrease too quickly,” president Perrin Beatty said in a statement.

On Monday, neither Ms. Freeland nor federal officials were able to explain why the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, Lockdown Support and the Canada Recovery Benefit will all decrease before the vaccination program is expected to be complete. The government also did not say whether the decrease is based on metrics such as COVID-19 case counts or vaccination rates.

“No one knows for sure what the course of the virus and new variants will be, and that is why we are prepared to act further and to further extend the supports should the course of the virus require that,” Ms. Freeland said at a news conference.

The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit are also set to end in September. If the pandemic gets worse, the government will introduce legislation that will allow it to extend those programs until Nov. 20.

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