Kill the Rabbit

Assam

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

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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!)

Rubbish

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.

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…

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.

Flushed Away

Darjeeling

Darjeeling is a tea with many faces. Darjeeling first flush is a joy to brew and sip, because it’s light and floral. Some years it can be smooth and creamy, and other years it is a lot more musky. You never can be certain exactly how the leaves will turn out. The flush of darjeeling has to do with the growing season. First flush is normally from the middle of march until May. The other flushes come later in the year. Third flush is generally the bog standard darjeeling, which is darker in colour.

It is darjeeling that allows tea enthusiasts to venture in the snobbish realm of great interest in a beverage that is normal reserved for snooty, grown up wine drinkers.

Take that, winos. We made our own snob club!

I remember the first time I tried first flush and the surge of snobbery that washed over me. I could taste the different nuances in the flavour and I was so excited to speculate how the weather had affected the crop. I had a grand old chat to the woman serving me. I went back a year later and did the same thing. I’ll be slurping my tea in a silly hat with my pinkie sticking out before you know it. I’ll need to find some peasants to look down on too, because first flush is FRIGHTFULLY expensive and peasants will not be forking out for it, because they’re pretty smart not to spend ridiculous sums on a fancy tea come to think of it.

Regualr darjeeling has a surprisingly light flavour and is somewhat coppery and a little earthy. T2’s offering is no different, and darjeeling is a terrific go-to have on hand for versatility. It handles milk and sugar if it has to, but stands proud on its own. It’s good for tea novices and snobberoos (like me). It’s a terrific morning cup. And if you ever do lost your senses and get yourself a tin of first flush, you will, without doubt, enjoy every last drop.

Darjeeling: 4/5
Enjoy with: your nose in the air and your pinkie out.

The Satellite’s Been Jammed – Raspberry

Really Russian Caravan

Once, not all that long ago, I considered purchasing a Samovar. Why? Just to have. I am that person who thinks having a Samovar is a reasonable thing to have hanging around on the off chance that perhaps I’ll fancy some very specific tea.

I did not purchase a Samovar, because I am also the type of person to have an idea like this, and think, “Are you mental?”

A Samovar, for those who don’t wish to do any googling right now, is a large metal container that makes tea for you. I think of them as Russian, but my Main Man seems to think they’re Turkish. I’m pretty sure I’m right though. That said, they’re popular all over Eastern Europe now. What you do with a Samovar is you boil water in it, and then add your black tea and you steep the living daylights out of those leaves. Like 15 minutes worth of steeping. This bomb-proof brew isn’t what you wind up drinking, you’re actually making a concentrate. Then you pour some of the concentrate, top up with boiling water and milk if you want it. Then the crucial ingredient is JAM! Some say strawberry, others swear by raspberry, but everyone agrees you need some good quality stuff to properly enjoy this magical cup. The idea is you’ll have some tea concentrate to keep you going for a while and it will stay hot in the Samovar, because Russia is cold and probably joyless, and tea with JAM IN IT is the opposite.

I once had a professionally prepared Russian Caravan latte served with raspberry tea, at an amazing Sydney haunt called “The Rabbit Hole”. I could not recommend it enough. The Rabbit Hole, or the latte.

I already knew I liked T2’s Really Russian Caravan. It’s a hint smokey, it’s a thick and hearty brew and it is perfect on a winter’s day as a simple black tea. But I was ready to ramp it up a notch. Samovar or not Samovar, I had discovered what jam could do to tea and I was curious to see if the magic could be recreated in my own kitchen.

It could.

I drink so many cups of tea at home, few of them stand out in my mind, but this was one cup that was remarkable. I brewed the tea a bit longer than normal, and thanks to the local market in my town, I was fortunate to access some truly spectacular raspberry jam. Add that to the milk frother MM gave me a few months back and I had a homemade latte I scarcely imagine I shall ever surpass. I wanted a Samovar again, so I could keep pouring myself cups of this magnificence. So, next time you’re making Really Russian Caravan, do yourself a favour and get some sweet jam into that brew!

Really Russian Caravan: 5/5
Enjoy with: Jam! Always jam! Neglect adding jam to this tea at your own peril!

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