Crunch

Go Go Goa

I’ve only seen a goanna in the wild a handful of times, but I tell you what, those vicious, leg snakes are formidable. Everything about them screams evil: long clicking claws on the ground; shiny, scaly skin; forked tongue that flicks the air around it; and the calculating movement of a cold-blooded killer. These things break into birds nests and crunch up unhatched eggs. Yes, it is as gross as it sounds.

Goannas don’t have much to do with anything, I just think of them when I say Go Go Goa. I feel like the logical progression is Go Go Goa Goan Goanna.

Something I like about Go Go Goa is the tiny little red berries it has in it. They look exactly like the berries on those weeds that grew everywhere while I was growing up, and though no one really knew what they were, everyone knew those were poison berries and if you ate them you would be violently ill. Then you would go to hospital and you would die. In the early 90s we were taught to fear these berries like we were taught to fear strangers. And now here I am, drinking little red berries and living in the age of Uber.

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Go Go Goa is probably my favourite type of chai. I’m partial to a masala chai, and a regular chai, but the full cardamon pods and orange zest make Go Go Goa such a delicious brew. There’s a hint of vanilla to give it a smooth flavour and the black tea is the right base for a mingling of spices. Perfect on its own, Go Go Goa is also improved by vanilla soy milk (or other milk, if you like, but vanilla soy is a queen of milk for tea, so why would you bother with too much else?). An absolute must, year round: warming in winter and refreshing when iced in warm weather.

Go Go Goa: 5/5
Enjoy with: Vanilla soy milk and…

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Kindness

Toasty Nougat

Some people are just born to be kind. I have one such friend, who is the embodiment of kindness itself. I sat with another friend of mine and we tried to come up with 3 people my kindest friend wouldn’t invite in for the night if they had no where to stay. We came up with 2.

She’s one of those people to whom I owe a great deal. We met when we began studying together, and she was a breath of fresh of air in a sea of hyperbole and affectedness. I understand that at university age, people are spreading their wings of opinion and learning to fly outside the confines of high school, but we were both well into our 20s and therefore considered ‘mature age’ students. We were the rung of mature age students that’s looking for some like-minded friendship. Not the type that sits almost at the front of the class and has ~a lot of questions~ that begin with, “It’s really more of a comment. (Insert my life experience here because it will be valuable, I’m sure).”

The years my friend spent studying in Australia, she and her husband became great companions to me and my husband. She kept me sane when I thought I was losing my mind over ancient languages. She also kept me humble because she could pull almost the same marks as me, except she’d write her essay in about 6 days and I’d take nearly 4 weeks. Then one day, her study time here in Australia came to an end, they packed themselves up and we saw them off at the airport.

18 months later, my Main Man, Little Lad, and I made the gruelling 27 hour trek to the Eastern side of Canada to visit. And we fell in love with the city, and can’t wait to go back again. But what was better than being in a beautiful location was being with our friends again. They seem to operate on our level and we reminded each other of some of the best of each other that goes by the wayside in our inevitable periods of absence.

Luckily for my friend, I reintroduced her to the love of tea. Canada doesn’t have T2 (real oversight, there T2), but they do have David’s Tea, which is pretty good if you can’t have T2. David’s has a herbal blend called ‘Forever Nuts’, and it has a heavenly scent. My friend bought some, and then told everyone about it, including the fact she wanted to bathe in it. For me, I couldn’t get the song “Forever Young” by Alphaville out of my head.

I snagged a small sample of ‘Forever Nuts’ to bring home, but a close T2 comparison is Toasty Nougat.

It’s a caffeine free tea, and I love it as an evening sip. It’s a bit fruity, but largely nutty, with popcorn, salt, and malty notes. Truly reminiscent of creamy nougat. It smells divine dried and once brewed, easily considered a liquid pudding.

Toasty Nougat: 5/5
Enjoy with: your kindest friends.

So, we meet again…

Riotous Rose

Once upon a time, there was a flower, called hibiscus. Hibiscus spread her petals wide and adorned herself in bright colours so everyone thought she was beautiful and happy all the time.

In the early 00’s, people wore her likeness on their clothes. It didn’t matter if it was the middle of winter, some chump was in board shorts and a Hawaiian shirt covered in hibiscus print. Keep in mind this was a world where you could carry more than 100mL of a single liquid on an international flight. They were simpler times.

Hibiscus was so beautiful and smelled so charming people started chopping her up and putting her in tea. And the world went crazy for it.
“Ooh,” they cooed, “The hibiscus is beautiful in this. Adds such a spectacular floral flavour.”

What hibiscus had not counted on was me.
I saw through that fakey-fake facade like I had fakety x-ray vision.

“We live in the suburbs. Why is everyone wearing board shorts? Why can’t we wear normal shorts? I have never been to Hawaii, but I bet no one there wears those shirts. They look like the kind of thing you sell to people leaving your island home.” (I have since been to Hawaii. I only remember seeing Hawaiian shirts in souvenir shops and on tourists of a portly persuasion).

“This tea? This tea is really bitter. It’s astringent. It tastes like blue-tac smells. That’s probably the hibiscus.”

What I had not counted on, was the secret weapon of hibiscus: turning on the charm when it feels like it.

“Riotous Rose, that sounds good, what’s in it? Oh great, full of hibiscus. I bet it tastes awful even though it sounds really nice.”

Well, I was wrong. So very, very wrong. I could barely tastes the hibiscus at all, even though the overall flavour of the tea was acutely floral. Rose did its job and rose to the occasion. There was a sea of fruity flavours mingling between sweetness and pleasant tart tastes. The hibiscus came to a party and chose not to ruin it. So I suppose hibiscus isn’t all that bad. I’ll still be on the lookout though.

Riotous Rose: 5/5
Enjoy with: constant vigilance in case hibiscus decides to come along and ruin things again.

Green

Geisha Getaway

Hello.
I read your book. I liked it a lot.
It’s one of those books that will stay with me.
Those are characters that live and breathe
Outside the page,
They never age,
But they burrow in minds and hearts.
Your book made me smile.
It made me happy,
I’m glad it was recommended to me.

Sometimes I write too,
But I can’t consider myself a writer.
Not yet.
Published people are writers, in my mind.
I say, “I dabble.”
But the reason I say this is because I worry.
I worry I’m not very good at words,
Though that seems absurd
If I’m casually observed,
But there’s a lot you won’t see
Just by looking.

I feel like the words are caged up inside me,
It takes a feat of strength to see them freed
Through my fingers, as I write.
Then they’re free in the world,
They have the life I thought they might live,
And I don’t see them as much when they don’t live inside anymore.
But your words, in your book,
Your words are now shut up inside me.
Is that the final resting place of our written words?
We send them out,
They soar,
Then when they capture another imagination,
They again become someone’s captive?
I like that ending.

I drank a cup of tea, that implied it should be free,
Geisha Getaway.
I say I don’t like green,
But I keep finding green to like.
This is another,
Not a grassy green,
This green is clean.
Floral, bright,
Vanilla, smooth,
Fruity, peachy,
Sweet to the last drop.
Poetry in a cup.

Geisha Getaway: 4/5
Enjoy with: Poetry or a good book

Today is Australian Reading Hour. Australian’s are encouraged to spend one hour today reading, on their own, or with their children.

Devotion

Monk Pear

High above the Plain of Thessaly, beside the Pindos Mountains in central Greece, towers a rock formation known as Meteora. Built into this unusual piece of nature is a series of monasteries that have a central role in the Eastern Orthodox religion. The geology of the place is difficult to explain, and the reasoning for building here is more difficult again. But it is a beautiful place to behold.

The largest of these monasteries is The Monastery of Great Meteoron. Most of it serves as a museum now, and the icons that cover the walls are testament to the devotion of the people who decorated the monastery. The smallest of all the monasteries is The Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas. During my visit a few years ago, only one monk lived there.

The devout life is one that has intrigued me since I first watched ‘Sister Act’ in the early ’90s. I didn’t really have much other exposure to nuns, other than watching ‘The Sound of Music’. I couldn’t reconcile that Maria in the Abbey was somehow pursuing a life similar to Maggie Smith’s in Sister Act, because Maggie Smith was (and still is) so much cooler than Julie Andrews. Julie Andrews has that amazing voice going for her though. I digress. I couldn’t understand why people were intent on locking themselves away in draughty churches, tending to small gardens for the entire lives. But, spending time in Meteora, I came to appreciate the attraction of a life of devotion. The paintings in the monasteries were painstakingly accurate icons demonstrating the extent to which faith mattered to these devotees. And for some reason, the painting and the maintenance of the icons was something that spoke to me. The outward demonstration of devotion to their faith was something meaningful.

So, what to say of Monk Pear, then? It’s definitely a contemplative brew. One for sipping slowly, it helped through both undergrad and postgrad. It’s a strong black base with fruity notes. I find this one easy to brew badly, and an over brewed version is the pits. I’m a fan of giving the leaves a cold rinse before brewing, and a short brew time of around 2 minutes. Monk Pear is a very agreeable black blend. Almost anyone who likes French Earl Grey likes Monk Pear as well. Milk is a definite no-no, the flavour is way to delicate, and as a sweet taste to start with, sweetener is unnecessary. This is a brilliant tea for afternoons, especially that 3:30pm slump at work.

Monk Pear: 5/5
Enjoy with: a sense of devotion.

Bad Mum

Tummy Tea

I have every confidence that every mum feels like a bad mum at some point. But knowing this doesn’t seem to make me feel any better on the days I feel like a bad mum. And I’d hazard a guess that knowing this doesn’t help too many other mums on the days they feel like bad mums. So here is my list of things that qualify you as a bad mum. You must complete this list, or you can’t be initiated into my special club (which is completely made up):

1. You don’t clean enough. Never enough. Even when you have done some cleaning, you must remind yourself of all the other cleaning you didn’t do while you were doing that cleaning.
2. You don’t engage your children enough. Even if you live in an entirely screen free home and play with them, cuddle them, read to them, feed them and keep their home safe and sanitary, it’s not enough. They’re behind somehow, but it won’t show up until they’re in primary school, and by then it will be way too late. You’ll be forever branded a bad mum then.
3. You aren’t imaginative enough. Making chicken for dinner again? Trotting out the same books again? Playing with blocks again? You suffer from a lack of imagination.
4. You aren’t selfless enough. Because you like the occasional night to yourself. Or a bath. Or closing the toilet door to sit alone for 3 minutes. How dare you? You’re a mum, you can’t be selfish like that.
5. You don’t take care of yourself enough. Haven’t you heard? Happy mum means happy kids, so why aren’t you prioritising things that make you happy?
6. You aren’t relaxed enough. You’re so worried about all the things you need to worry about, you forgot to worry about how much you worry. All the good mums are relaxed about their children, while simultaneously getting everything right. And you? You’re just a worrier. Anxiety transfers!

Feeling bad yet? Good. Here’s something that will make you feel worse:

Tummy Tea. I can’t stand it, even though it’s a really popular blend. It often gets labelled as a divisive tea because it contains liquorice. I like liquorice, but not Tummy Tea. It tastes like the time my sister dared me to eat a whole packet of equal (the sugar substitute). I don’t mean she dared me to open the packet and eat the contents. She dared me to eat the whole thing, packet and all. Obviously, I did, or else I wouldn’t be drawing on it as an example of what Tummy Tea tastes like. But there you have it. Saccharine, plastic, and lemongrass.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sit amongst some stuff in my lounge room and wallow in my mothering inadequacy.

Tummy Tea: 1/5
Enjoy with: someone else’s tastebuds.

I left my heart

Red Green Vanilla

Dozens of songs have been written about San Francisco, and for very good reason. San Fran is one of the few places in the United States that I really understand. I’m not a massive fan of the beach, but there is something about a bay that makes sense to me. The rolling hills that the city is built on mean that you’re never more than a few metres from a sensational view. And if you spend a weekend there, you’ll witness all four seasons and a few more.

It was difficult to convince my Main Man that we should visit San Fran, but I sold him by saying he could drive us down the coast road from San Fran to LA. That worked.

The truth is, I knew he would love the Bay City. And he did. A cable car ride across town where his eyes could drink in the beauty of the varied architecture and if you listen carefully, you can almost hear the length of the city’s history in the clang of the cable car bell.

In a foodie wonderland like San Francisco, it’s easy to assume the best part of the trip will be eating and drinking your way around town. That wasn’t the case for us. We decided to kill half an hour at the Boudin Bakery Museum that gave a history of the bakery and some insights into how their famous sourdough was created. Almost 2 hours later we emerged with an understanding of the history of San Francisco through the eyes of what began as a small, family bakery, and is now an institution. If you ever take a trip to San Francisco, be sure to put Boudin on your list of things to do.

Aside from bread, San Fran is responsible for producing the band Train, who happily sing at length about the joy of their city. And it’s to their enjoyable tunes I have sipped today’s tea.

Red Green Vanilla is a rooibos blend, meaning it’s caffeine free and after 4 friendly. The flavour is smooth and slightly sweet without any harsh flavours or tannins. It’s a great introductory tea for people still wanting to dip their toe into tea drinking, and also compliments sweet food. So brew up a pot for dinner guests once the meal is over and let the good times continue to roll.

Red Green Vanilla: 5/5
Enjoy with: dessert, Frank Sinatra, Train, or sitting on the dock of the bay.