Southern Sunrise

If you’re raised on Australia’s east coast, the possibility of going to the west coast of any country and watching the sun set over an ocean is a tantalisingly exciting prospect.

So imagine my joy when I moved to Los Angeles, lived by the beach, and had a year’s worth of ocean sunsets to lap up before returning to the east coast of Australia. The thing is, I lived just far away enough from the beach that it was a planned walking expedition and not a leisurely stroll to the sand type affair, so I just kept putting it off. On my final day in LA, a friend asked if there was anything I wanted to do. I said, “Watch the sunset over the ocean.” My friend was a little hesitant, but obliged anyway. The sunset over the ocean was nothing special, because the thing about LA is, it is heavily polluted. So there is a point at which the sun hits the smog line, and all the romance of the idea dies right then and there.

A short while after I got back home, I watched a sunrise on the beach, and it was magnificent. No smog, clear air, the possibility of a new day, a crisp, summery breeze. It was a complete winner. And this is why I am convinced T2 have a ‘Southern Sunrise’ and no ‘Western Sunset’.

Southern Sunrise is a gorgeous summery tisane. It is bursting with tropical punch flavour: sweet pineapple, mango, paw paw, citrus in a balanced harmony. The overall effect is sweet, bright and fruity, making it a good candidate for iced tea. This brew is zingy and sherbety, perfect for summer days or nights when you’re after a refreshing hit.

Southern Sunrise: 4/5
Enjoy with: sunrise, sunset, or any other time of day.


The Best Parenting Advice Ever


I am not a big fan of mummy blogs. They are numerous, they come across as overwrought, and most of them read as the smug catharsis of privileged housewives. In my own, subjective opinion, it’s not a true ‘mummy blog’ if there isn’t that air of smugness. Good ideas, activities, recipes, and book recommendations by mothers are great. Keep blogging, you’re terrific! If you’re just telling me all about how Dewdrop and Xavianitus are the beaming light of your life and today you drank a coffee on yak milk and did yoga while suspended from a skyscraper, spare us.

Maybe I’m being unfair, but I’d really prefer parenting advice to come from people with some kind of education to back up their experience. One mummy blogger I once read gave a long recount of the conversation she had with her 8-year-old about some lost chess pieces. We got the full details of why the chess set was so important, and where it had come from, and why it was so devastating that some pieces were missing. She recalled the full dialogue between them, where she basically put all the responsibility on him for the game now being ruined because some pieces were lost. The comments were full of showers of admiration for how she ‘taught her child responsibility’, when all I could see was an adult thrusting guilt upon their child. The child, I might add, when alerted to the missing pieces, began to search for them frantically, until the mother told him to stop because, “They were lost.” How is that teaching responsibility? Unless you’ve been taking this precious chess board with it’s hand carved marble pieces on a variety of excursions, the pieces should be in the house somewhere. Keep looking!

Another mummy blogger I read a couple of posts from (thankfully they were shorter), kept using the phrase, “Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect.” It drove me nuts. I didn’t expect she was saying she was perfect, until she pointed out she wasn’t, at which point I now found the rest of what she had to say extraordinarily smug. Of course you’re not perfect, and neither is your advice, because you’re a parent who is making this up along with the rest of us!

So, here is the best parenting advice I have to offer, because, I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I’ve been doing this a couple of years now, so I’ve pretty much got it figured out.

Here it comes: get to know your kid/s, then do what works for your family.

I know, it’s earth shattering. But seriously, I don’t read that kind of advice often enough. (And it is possible I have oversold this advice in the title). My parenting is not going to work for another parent because we are different and we’re rearing different offspring. This is why I’m a fan of experts who can give some context to the psychological, educational, and social dynamics at play when we do and say different things. Give me some options to choose from, all with healthy outcomes, then let me go from there.

So what does any of this have to do with tea?

Well, I would say that Spring is the ‘mummy blog’ of teas. It’s overworked, obtuse, and smug, if teas can be such a thing. It draws you in with it’s seemingly pleasant name: Spring. I think, hooray, fruity and maybe a bit floral. Oh no, Hibiscus is in charge like the Mega Mummy Bloggers who have OPINIONS about APPROPRIATE activities, food, and entertainment for their DARLING CHERUBS (sometimes referred to a sanctimummies). Behind the hibiscus cowers some non-descript fruity flavours, with a hint of citrus, parading as ‘Spring’ (just as a mummy blog parades as sound advice) without having any substance whatsoever. Some people go nuts for it, I’m just not a big fan.

Spring: 2/5
Enjoy with: a good, un-smug read.


Mangoes and Cream

I am not mad about mangoes. It’s a really unAustralian thing to admit, I know. When I was a lot younger, and agricultural technology was not what it is today, mangoes were rare. The season was exceptionally short and the yield was low. Mangoes bruised easily and only grew in hot, steamy conditions, which are perfect condition to make them tor at an alarming rate. Mangoes were that rare and that expensive, they were a real treat. I’m convinced people went crazy for them because of their scarcity.

Although, my Main Man ardently disagrees. He thinks mangoes are pure joy and sunshine wrapped up in an edible form. He doesn’t think that wrestling the fibrous flesh off the inconvenient bone and getting covered in juice is too much hassle at all. ButI do. I think the texture is all wrong, and the flavour doesn’t do enough for me to persist. So you can keep your mangoes.

I came to mangoes and cream with some trepidation, but I was pleasantly surprised. It doesn’t so much taste like mango as it tastes like mango flavour. More like dried mango, with some peachy notes thrown in for good measure. When brewed hot it’s punchy and very sweet, but I couldn’t pick the ‘cream’ (the same problem I had before). Once you try it iced it becomes more refreshing and less punchy. Plus there’s the slightest whiff of ‘cream’ as well, so I suppose it passes. If you’re looking for something bold and sweet, or a tea that ices fine on its own, Mangoes and Cream is a winner.

Mangoes and Cream: 4/5
Enjoy with: the many other summer fruits that are just as delicious.


Singapore Breakfast

Dear Ms Tiph,

We, here at the Universe Department for Just Another Weekday would like to acknowledge your request for a weekday by virtue of the fact you woke up. We’re so glad you could join us. You see, we have this truly nightmarish day we’d like you to have. No, no. We promise, it’s right up your alley. What happens first is you’ll need to go to the library to print something, like you’ve done at least half a dozen times before. The thing is, the library has recently undergone a renovation. So it is new computers and new printers, and they are FULL of glitches because the software has been updated and the staff haven’t had a chance to get their head around it yet. We would like to point out that at this juncture you will not be alone in your frustration; we are fielding requests for weekdays just like yours for every library staff member also.

After 4 times as long at the library performing a simple task, it is time to navigate the busiest carpark in town. There will be no spaces available that aren’t next to poorly parked vehicles. Bring your best manoeuvring skills and be glad you aren’t still in the city.

Your trip to the chemist will be acceptable.

Next on the agenda is a visit to a government department. You know how you’ve been sick for a very long time? You know how you have to periodically deal with government departments to ensure your livelihood? You know how it is normally a hassle?  Well, today will be different. We have ramped up the hassle for you. What is going to happen is that you will take the same medical documentation to the department that you have been giving them for a year. Today the condescending individual at the front desk will tell you it is potentially not acceptable. After you explain this has been acceptable documentation for a year and that the convoluted documentation the individual requests has been unavailable to your specialist in the past, the individual will become patronising and insist that it is your responsibility to fix a systemic issue between the government department and the medical centre. You will leave with a small flare of symptoms. You will want the afternoon in bed, even though there are many other things for you to do.

Your return trip to the chemist will be acceptable, but 2 people in the carpark will glare at you for no reason you can decipher. Normally not a problem, but after the previous encounter you will be quite sensitive to these things.

After arriving home, ignore the desire to go to bed to soothe your symptoms and carry on with tasks that have been ignored for long enough you cannot possibly go another afternoon without completing them. You will wind up in bed anyway.

Just before 5pm, the government department will ring you to say your documentation is unacceptable. They will tell you to go to the GP and tell you to get another piece of documentation that has the same information in a new format. Explain to them that this is an absurd request, because they have the information in front of them. They will explain they are not a doctor and therefore cannot ‘make the call’ on a matter that the current documentation addresses. Read to them from your copy. Have them insist you must go to the GP (in the next 2 days) and get the new documentation. Explain that you are unwell and cannot simply go to the GP as though it is no big deal. Explain again that your documentation comes from a specialist who works 1 day a week and is 3 hours away. They will tell you the GP can fill in the new format document based on the information in the unacceptable documentation. Enquire why then, the documentation is unacceptable. They will explain again that they are not a doctor. Ask them to see sense. They will tell you they are ‘simply the bearer of bad news’, and imply you are rorting the system. Hang up and begin suffering full-blown physical PTSD symptoms.

You will then call the medical centre, as time is of the essence, and discover that your GP is no longer working at the centre (although they were there 3 weeks ago and made no mention of resigning), and make an appointment to see a GP who has no idea about your medical history. Get the new format documentation, but not to cover you for the entire period you need it for, because the GP does not know your history.

Fire off a complaint to the government department.

Finally, it will be time to collapse at home, in pain, and have your beautiful progeny beg you to sing an endless medley of songs. The giggles will be worth it. Unfortunately, you will spend 1-3 days in bed after dealing with this day. But on the plus side, we at the Universe Department for Just Another Weekday are unable to make robust plans if you aren’t moving between more than 3 rooms of your house, so you’re safe.

Do call again.

The Universe Department for Just Another Weekday.

The antidote to days like this is a properly comforting cup of tea, and I have discovered one that fits the bill: Singapore Breakfast. It holds all the deliciousness and comfort of a hot chocolate with no where near the same degree of preparation or refined sugar (as in, none compared to some). Singapore Breakfast is a mellow brew with an overall creamy taste and texture. It has buttery, coconut and popcorn notes that round out the complex flavour profile. The smooth cup feels like a hug from the inside and is a warm and comforting sip for any time of day. Complex and creamy enough on its own, if you don’t take black without milk, on add the tiniest splash. This one stands alone, and should be enjoyed often.

Singapore Breakfast: 5/5
Enjoy with: Good days, bad days, and every in between day.


Gunpowder Green

Did you watch Worst Bakers in America? Because if you didn’t, you should. It’s still on SBS On Demand. The premise is that 12 of the worst bakers in America come on television, learn from two expert bakers how to improve their baking skills, and then battle it out to win $25,000. It’s like the Great British Bake Off for people less interested in baking and more interested in colourful characters.

Genuine lines from the series include:
“Your brownies bent the spoon!”
“This is my lemon meringue (mer-in-gew) pie. But I was later told it’s pronounced ‘mer-ang’.”
“I chose to make hammer shaped cookies, because construction workers are hot.”
“This cookie is a french bulldog. These are poker chips for my love of gambling. And this represents my inner rage.”
“When I bake the delicates (desserts/pastry), I listen to them. I have to listen to the delicates.”
“I work in a cemetery. I deal with reality.”
“I hate how the PTA mums are so mean to anyone who can’t bake. I want to be Queen of the PTA.”
“I can’t touch eggs!”
“Brownies at a wedding? Classy.”
“This needs some more bling-bling. Ka-pow!”

The ‘Ka-pow’ contestant was constantly tossing powders, flour, glitter, sprinkles, sugar, and whatever else she could all of the place, while shouting, “Ka-pow!” It’s a contagious catch phrase as it turns out.

And what says “Ka-pow” more than Gunpowder Green? That’s right, nothing. I’ve had Gunpowder Green before, and the balls of leaves were small and tightly wound, leaving a strong astringent tea in its wake. This time I was brewing looser balls of tea and the overall effect was much smoother and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a complex brew that’s a little bit woody, a little bit fruity, a little bit vanilla, and it draws out a smokey flavour as it cools. This cup is a proper kick of green tea and is perfect on a 90 second brew.

Gunpowder Green: 4/5
Enjoy with: an episode of trashy tv. Go on!


China Jasmine

I like Chinese food. Well, I say I like Chinese food. The only countries where I have eaten Chinese food are Australia, Canada and the United States. At that point, you can hardly be calling it Chinese food. I’m sure if I went to China and tried to order sweet and sour pork or lemon chicken I’d be given a curious stare (also may be related to my complete inability to speak any form of mandarin or cantonese). And at the end of the meal, I could not for a second expect a fortune cookie. Those are America’s brain child.

My favourite not Chinese Chinese food is orange chicken. It’s not something you can get in Australia, I’ve only had it in the North America. It bears no resemblance to any flavour combination that was first cooked up in a Chinese kitchen. It’s deep fried chicken covered in a sticky orange sauce. It’s a beautiful thing, especially if you get it from Panda Express.

I craved it constantly when I was pregnant. I made a ‘healthy’ version in the slow cooker that simply did not cut it. I have no plans to go to the States right now, but next time I do, there will be orange chicken.

T2’s China Jasmine may also not be remotely like tea in China (although it may be), but it’s still a decent brew. With a short brew time you get a mild flavour both from the green and the jasmine. The short brew yields a smooth green and prevents the whole thing tasting like soap (as jasmine can easily do). It’s a gentle floral flavour, and in honesty, a bit bland. The fix for this would be a longe brew time, but then you’d increase the jasmine flavour and risk the mouthful of soap phenomenon. So the verdict is, it’s fine, but nothing special.

China Jasmine: 3/5
Enjoy with: Orange chicken, especially from Panda Express.


Citrus Sensation

There’s nothing like a bout of food poisoning to throw your whole week off. I had food poisoning in the middle of last week, spent the day in bed, and I’m still attempting to wrap my head around what day it is. It was such an unfair food poisoning too. I didn’t eat at a dodgy kebab stand, or cook some slimy chicken and think, “It’ll be ok.” I had milk that was within its used by date. That was it. It just turned days before the used by date and I was a hapless victim.

I spent the days afterwards fine in respect to digestive health, but couldn’t pull myself into the rhythm of the week. My routine was completely off kilter.

I’ve discovered that food patterns are really important to getting me back on track time wise. Last time I went overseas I had food jet lag way more than sleep jet lag. One night I wound up making dinner, and then having second dinner to sate my jet lagged stomach. As black tea in the morning is a pretty normal occurrence for me, a strong, enjoyable cup a couple of mornings in a row seems to help enormously.

One of my go-to morning blacks at the moment is Citrus Sensation. The base is a smooth black. It’s overlaid with tangy lemon and a slight orange sweetness. The leaves contain crystallised lemon rind that emphasise all the best parts of the lemon and the black tea. Refreshing, subtle and palette cleansing, Citrus Sensation is a real pleaser.

Citrus Sensation: 4/5
Enjoy with: not food poisoning.