Book Cover Judgement

Creamy Choc Chai

9 times out of 10 when I hear the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” it refers to believing there’s more in the substance than on the surface. It is nearly always an encouragement to dig past appearances for enjoyment. Rarely, so very rarely, is the expression used in the opposite manner. That is, I hardly ever hear, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” to warn me against something that looks good, but in actual fact, isn’t.

Furthermore, I find this an infuriating idiom. If I don’t know anything about a book, the first thing I look at is the title. Then I turn the book over and read the blurb on the back. Then I decide if I want to open the book or not. This is the way books are designed to be sold. You are, in every respect, supposed to judge a book by its cover. Also, tacky romance novels have immediate cover art tells. I don’t like these books. So I avoid them, based on the information the cover conveys. I ALWAYS judge a book by its cover.

I expect this expression held more weight at a time before cover art and marketing blurbs were common. Maybe books that were soft cover with just a printed title were considered less worthy of reading, I’m not sure. But it’s useless now. Publishers realised that no matter how often people bandied about the saying, there was no stopping people stopping at the cover. But now, I don’t know how many well-marketed books I have begun and abandoned because the cover drew me in, but the text couldn’t keep me.

Basically, we need to start using this phrase to warn people off things that look good, but actually suck.

Take Creamy Choc Chai. Doesn’t it sound delightful? Doesn’t it sound like the kind of thing you’d brew in a stoneware pot and pour cup after cup on a cosy day while snuggled up in a blanket? When you read the list of ingredients it is undoubtedly tantalising, begging to be your next brew. Once brewed, the creamy, chocolate smell fills the air followed by sharp chai spices, most notably cardamon. And then you drew in your first mouthful.

And it’s the worst. This one could be renamed, ‘Uhh, dishwater, I guess?’ and it would give a better impression of what’s to come. There is an underwhelming chocolate flavour, like you’re licking the inside of a chocolate bar wrapper and getting a few tiny shards, but mostly you’re just licking a plastic wrapper. It’s not even a little bit creamy. And put on your detective hat if you want to go looking for those chai spices.

This tea is accompanied by a wildly ambiguous brew time suggestion of 3 to 6 minutes. Which is wrong, by the way. No brew time makes this a good cup.

But here is the most important thing to note: this tea is a green base. I don’t know of any other chai that is not black or herbal, for good reason. It just isn’t meant to be any other way. And, THIS MY FRIENDS, is one of the offending green teas that has taught me to be wary of all green tea forever after! Shame on you, Creamy Choc Chai, promising the world and delivering naught.

Creamy Choc Chai: 0/5

Enjoy with: Severe judgement.


Nerf Guns

Green Rose

This is the story of how I became friends with one of my best friends.

While I was studying, I moved into a house with 9 other people in it. It sounds like a recipe for absolute disaster, but it worked out really well. Many years later, I still maintain friendships with most of these women and I loved my time in that share house the most of any share house I lived in while studying (and I moved a lot in that time).

Things did not start smoothly though. My room came with a built in roommate, and we met the day that I moved in. She was nice, but we just kind of did our own thing, and stayed out of each other’s way. I wanted to know what she thought of me, and one night I overheard her talking to her previous roommate who’d come for a visit. She asked her old roommate to stay the night, because she missed her so much. I felt like I was failing in the roommate stakes.

A little while later, I showed her a video I was watching and we laughed together over it. We started talking a little more after that. A few more weeks passed, and MM (just boyfriend at the time), bought me a nerf gun for my birthday. A few days later I came into our room to find her with my nerf gun out, taking shots at her Drake poster. We took turns after that, and she gave me pointers on how to properly use a gun (because she is from America and has used an actual gun before). We had a lot of fun together. She went home for the semester break a couple of weeks later and left me a note saying how glad she was that we were friends and how she looked forward to coming back and shooting the nerf gun all over our room again.

We spent so much time together after that. We both loved documentaries, we both enjoyed tea, and we were both happy to sit quietly in one another’s presence without saying a word. She got on famously with MM. It was terrific.

Later that year I graduated and moved out, but we stayed firm friends. She was my bridesmaid, and MM and I went to visit her and her family in US a few years later. One Christmas she bought me Green Rose, and now I think of her when I drink it.

Green Rose is a delightful brew and the first green tea I admitted to liking. It lacks any of the grassy flavour some greens are known to have. It’s smooth with a strong rose aroma and flavour. Best brewed at a lower temperature for a mid length brew time (3ish minutes works for me). It’s delicate and dainty and perfect for fancy china cups. Never add milk, or you will regret all the bad things you have ever done in your life.

Green Rose: 5/5
Enjoy with: sensational friends.


Sencha Peach

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is back fore season 5 today. I’m pretty happy. I don’t always get behind the Saturday Night Live offshoots, but this one has captured my attention.

Jake Peralta (Andy Samburg), plays a detective working in Brooklyn precinct 99. He’s wise-cracking, rule shirking, and generally funny and childish. If you’ve seen Hot Rod, imagine Rod becoming a police detective. There it is.

The first time I saw Brooklyn 99 was in Canada. Despite having been to Brooklyn itself, the theme song reminds me of a snowy December evening in my friends’ living room, watching the shenanigans of the 99.

Season 4 ended on a real cliff hanger, so I’m keen to see how the new season resolves things. If you haven’t seen this program, I recommend it. It’s showing on Netflix, and the current season will be on SBS On Demand.

Therefore, let’s get straight to tea, so I can get to tv.

Sencha Peach has seen fit to carry on the surprise I get from enjoying a green tea. (I’d really love to know what kind of awful green tea I had that made me believe I didn’t like it at all.) Sencha is a smooth green, slightly floral and not complex in its own right, making it a great base for blending with other flavours. The peach in this tea is bright and fruity, and I have a feeling this would be a great brew when iced. It’s refreshing as a hot tea, and it calls to mind sunny summer days. Don’t touch the milk, and consider using this as a palate cleanser.

Sencha Peach: 4/5
Enjoy with: television


Kill the Rabbit


Some movies stand out in my mind as great, not because of much to do with the move itself, but because it became a family favourite. One such film that has coloured my childhood was the Bugs Bunny Road Runner Movie (currently on Netflix). It’s a series of short Looney Tunes animations, and it was on television once or twice a year. I think we had a short bit of it taped on video as well. It was on tv when we went to the hospital to see my baby brother for the first time. I was 6, and much more interested in the tv.

Eventually, the movie stopped being shown on television once or twice a year, but it did not make itself readily available on dvd. After I got married, I discovered Main Man didn’t have a clue what I was talking about when I referred to ‘The Flight of the Valkyries’ as the ‘Kill the Rabbit’ song. Obviously, I needed to educate him, but I didn’t pursue this idea properly at the time.

It wasn’t until we drank a pot of Assam tea, and I declared, “Assam, chop!” which was met by his confused expression that I realised how serious the situation was. I began looking for a copy of this film online, but none were available in Australia, and shipping for a single dvd from outside Australia makes the cost prohibitive. I resolved that film would have to remain a part of my memory and not be shared with my family.

Then one day, I went to the post office, as you do, and there on a rack of unrelated products was a copy of the Bugs Bunny Road Runner Movie! And it was $5. And MM and I had just had a conversation about saving money and not making frivolous purchases. So I bought the dvd.

When I played it for him, he said, “Oh yeah, I think I remember this movie.” Cue my unimpressed face. But I still occasionally say, “Assam, chop!” at the sight of Assam tea, because now I just have to remind him that we own the film now.

Assam is a full-bodied black tea with a robust smokey flavour. It can be over brewed if you’re not careful, and there’s precious little redeeming it after that. It’s the tea I like to have when I need a real kick start to my day. I favour the smokiness, but it can be tempered by adding milk (cow or vanilla soy work best), and you’re still left with the deep, rich notes of the black brew. A big tick from me, but definitely not for the faint of heart. And you aren’t alone if this isn’t your personal cup.

Assam: 4/5
Enjoy with: a hint of nostalgia


Indian Spice

I have had a good hodge podge of jobs over my working life. There’s something about being a student that keeps the right amount unpredictable in terms of availability and adequately desperate that you will take on almost anything legal that comes your way. Well, I always had the luxury of opting for legal work, I know not everyone can be that fortunate. No one escapes tertiary study without knowing which places pay cash in hand.

I was a nanny for a good number of years, both in Australia and the US. Following that I worked for six dismal weeks at a financial management institution. They were heavily into appearances, and reminded me three of four times a day that I was on probation. Plus the clients that called to ask about their money were not at all kind. I tried to work out at what pay bracket you start treating people badly, so that I could stay below it (no issues there, so far).

Then I worked as a receptionist for a community housing organisation and met every type of person you could ever hope to meet from the opposite end of the income bracket. They were, on the whole, much nicer to work with. The next job I had was to be Santa’s helper at Myer. I dealt with a lot of cranky parents there. I don’t have the magic ability to stop your terrified child from screaming in the Santa photo. I did that every year for 3 years, because humiliation and abuse from entitled parents pays well. I also taste tested for a major supermarket. That is not as much fun as it might seem. Have you ever eaten canned corn beef, or drunk beef stock straight?

After that I got a nice, normal, part time administrative job where we dealt with a lot of international clients. We had a lot of people from India make enquiries, and understandably, in a country with that many people, a lot of people share names. Often the only way to differentiate was by using dates of birth as well (although, there were a couple of occasions where that wasn’t possible either).

While I held this job, I was grocery shopping and the manager paged “Gurpreet Singh” to come to the service desk. I had come so accustomed to responding to that name by asking, “Could you tell me which date of birth that is?”, that I almost said this out loud in the supermarket. Try as you might to keep your work life separate from the rest of life, a little bit always comes with you.

This brings me to Indian Spice. This is a chai blend with no tea in it, so for any of those after 4 chai cravings, this may be what you’re after. That said, T2 recommends this as one to blend with black, so if you do that, don’t do it before you go to bed. The aroma of this baby packs a punch! The cloves are out in full force, but cinnamon gets a good look in too. Don’t let the smell put you off if you think it’s too strong. Once brewed, it’s a soothing cup where the ginger and cloves dominate the taste, and the cinnamon and pepper add a delicious warming tingle for cold winter nights. The flavour can be a little 2 dimensional towards the end of the cup though. That said, I wish I’d discovered this one sooner!

Indian Spice: 4/5
Enjoy with: that bit of your work life that comes home too.

Oui Oui

French Earl Grey

The French have had many things attributed to them, that I daresay they have absolutely no idea about:

  1. French fries (definitely not French)
  2. French onion soup (pretty sure they just call it onion soup)
  3. French onion dip (it’s American)
  4. French salad dressing (American again)
  5. French toast
  6. French cricket
  7. French Earl Grey tea

That being said, you jam the word ‘French’ on the front of anything and it instantly becomes more sophisticated and snooty. For example: bread (ok), French Bread (ooooooooh).

French Earl Grey is a blend that has sky-rocketed in popularity since T2 started selling it. It jostles with Melbourne Breakfast for first place in the popularity stakes. And I can’t count the number of times I’ve been discussing tea with someone and they say, “I like French Earl Grey. What else should I try?”

Here is my list of teas that are worth giving a shot if you like French Earl Grey:

  1. Monk Pear
  2. Terrific Toffee
  3. Black Rose
  4. Green Rose
  5. Milky Oolong (because everyone should try Milky Oolong)
  6. Melbourne Breakfast
  7. Gorgeous Geisha
  8. Jade Mountain
  9. Madagascan Vanilla
  10. Rose Earl Grey (not from T2, but worth the order from Pine Tea and Coffee!)

As for the tea itself (in case you are still, somehow, uninitiated), it hits you with a floral, citrus, bergamot aroma that entices as it brews. A 2 minute brew is enough for me, because it contains *ugh* hibiscus, and longer than 2 minutes makes regret my choice of tea. The sip itself has a strong black flavour, met equally by a floral flavour with citrus notes and an overall bright flavour. The tea can accommodate milk, and cow’s milk is probably the best (if you can have it), but for the most part, I recommend having it black, because some of the floral quality is lost when milk is added. Rest assured, this is one time you can trust the masses. This brew is divine.

French Early Grey: 5/5
Enjoy with: Your snootiest afternoon tea spread (including fine bread and cheese!)


Hot Date Chai

I am prepared to admit that I like some really dodgy television programs. There’s just certain types of reality tv trash that seems to hook me in. Broadly speaking, I like the first season or two of something ridiculous, but once the dynamic becomes formulaic, I go looking for something else. So here is my list of rubbish tv, in no particular order:

The Real Housewives of Orange County, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (much better), Operation Repo, South Beach Tow, Survivor (seasons 1-3, US edition, obvs), The Lie Detective (currently showing on ABC2, some quality nonsense there), Million Dollar Listing, Beauty and the Geek, Say Yes to the Dress, I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant, Ink Master, Shear Genius, Come Dine With Me, Cook or Con, and Mystery Diners, as well as just about any HGTV home buying and renovating program that 9Life is showing.

I much prefer American reality tv, because it makes me feel removed from the situation. I like to think, “That kind of thing doesn’t really happen!” I know it does. I know it happens here. I know there are many more Australian reality tv shows that would happily show me how much rubbish we’re capable of generating on our own, but I choose blissful ignorance.

One show I have never been able to handle a full season of, is the Bachelor/ette. I tried pretty hard early on. I tried again when they found a Bachelorette that had a great onscreen presence and was very clearly brainy. But I can’t do it. I can’t watch other people go on dates for weeks on end. It’s so tedious.

But, I have now found a date I would willingly return to again and again.

Hot Date Chai.

This is a new addition to the T2 range this winter, and it is a delicious blend. Make sure you breathe deeply before you brew, it smells heavenly in its ‘natural’ state. This tea has a long brew time, which I’m ordinarily distrusting of, especially in a black tea. However, the blend of subtle flavours made me think it would take a long brew time to get the complexity of the infusion. 6 minutes was about right. If you let the tea sit to cool for a few minutes before drinking, you’ll find yourself layer after layer of warming flavours. It starts with the overwhelming aroma of cacao nibs that lead you to your first sip, which I found surprisingly creamy. The fruity, creamy, sweet flavours sit on top and the spicy flavours follow, with the chilli dominating the spice blend. Towards the bottom is a chocolate layer, followed by full-bodied date flavours, before ending on a hint of chilli.

This is a tea to have on its own, or you’ll run the risk of washing out the spice blend.

Hot Date Chai: 4/5
Enjoy with: some trashy tv.