Some Verse

Puerh Sweet Orange

Puerh is a dark, stormy brew.
When sweet orange is steeped in it too,
The flavour picks up,
It’s a delicate cup,
And the aftertaste settles like dew.

3/5

Advertisements

Let it Snow

Ginger Spice

Somewhere, deep, deep down in my memory, the words ‘ginger spice’ exist together, inseparable from the image of Geri Halliwell. She was, and always will be, Ginger Spice. The shock of red hair, and the force behind the feminist, “Girl Power” message of the Spice Girls, the image of the iconic 90’s girl band is one I am going to struggle to forget as long as I live. But Geri was the one who said farewell to the band and got out while they were still on top of the charts. “Goodbye” ended up not only being a tribute to Geri, but the basic direction of the band from there on. The new millennium didn’t want the Spice Girls. Pity. But at the same time, Mel B is a bit of an annoying TV personality, so it’s probably best to leave sleeping dogs lie.

The T2 offering of Ginger Spice took me a little by surprise. I expected I would find it acceptable, but that I wouldn’t really be over the moon for it. I’m always a little hesitant when it comes to ginger. My mum is a big fan of ginger, and will apply it lavishly, when a fraction of what she wants is necessary. The other thing she is big on is crystallised ginger, which is truly disgusting. It looks like embryonic gummy bears, and tastes like rancid fire ants. Never have I so keenly expected the taste of sugar and been met by a flavour so angry and peppery. I knew never to bite into crystallised ginger again. Which was fine. Until it was baked, unseen, into a batch of biscuits. My mum said, “Here, have a ginger biscuit your grandma baked.” I bit in, and thought, “It’s not that gingery.” I took a second bite, containing crystallised ginger, and a world of peppery, spicy pain was unleashed on my juvenile tastebuds. I’ve always been wary of ginger since then.

I do like baking gingerbread though. I have enormous fun baking gingerbread men and houses at Christmas. I love the smell of these baked goods, travelling into every room in the house, adding to the festive atmosphere. I love pretending I’m in a cold climate, and that the icing isn’t going to melt in a heartbeat because I live in the Southern Hemisphere. As Australians, we get many things right, but we get Christmas wrong. Christmas belongs in a cold climate. There is no way you can argue for anything other appropriate form of Christmas.

You will hear Australians say constantly, “It’s great having Christmas in summer. You can have a barbecue, you can hang out outside or go swimming or go to the beach.” They say this like the Northern Hemisphere doesn’t understand the concept of ‘summer’. Any Australian that says they like a summer Christmas better either a) has never had a wintery Christmas, b) is delusional, or c) all of the above.

The one thing that make a cold, and especially a snowy Christmas the most inviting, is that you have the ability to control the aroma. In summer, you are at the mercy of whatever the stale breeze blows your way. In snowy places, the general atmosphere stops offering you outside smells and you are free to create the fragrance you choose inside. This means baking, mulled wine, and spiced cider can dominate the home, creating a more inviting cocoon of festivities.

Should I find myself preparing for a proper (that is, snowy) Christmas again, I daresay I’ll have some GInger Spice on hand. It’s the perfect wintery tea. The black base is filled out with a smooth vanilla flavour. The ginger I was so wary of balances in nicely with the black and vanilla and the whole delightful brew leaves a hint of citrus behind in every mouthful. This is not a tea to add milk to. I wouldn’t recommend any sweetener either, because it would damage a lot of the subtlety. Overall, this is the perfect winter tea. I’d love to give it a perfect score, but it reminds me of how much of a failure summer Christmases are, so I’m penalising it on personal grounds.

Ginger Spice: 4/5

Enjoy with: winter, friends, family and Christmas Cheer.

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

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.

20170914_160124.jpg

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.