London Calling

London Breakfast

I spent two days in London, and saw everything you can possibly pack into that timeframe. I felt the need for quantity over quality. I will know better next time, and next time, London won’t simply be a stopover.

While on this trip, Main Man and I decided to pick up London Breakfast from a T2 in London, and New York Breakfast from T2 in New York. The gesture was a little ridiculous since both teas were readily available online and in my T2 near home. As I made the purchase in London, I thought, “This would be so much more momentous if you could only get London Breakfast in the UK.”

Well, Unilever must have been reading my mind, because since last year, a number of breakfast teas have now been geographically locked. Not all of them, obviously. Singapore Breakfast, New York Breakfast, and Melbourne Breakfast you can get anywhere in the world. But London Breakfast is stuck in the UK. Scots Breakfast is in Glasgow ONLY. And I’m not 100% certain Auckland Breakfast is even still a thing. Does anyone know?

I am not currently travelling, so this cute idea to limit the teas to their namesake locations is a lot less fun for me. Thankfully, a friend of mine went to London a little while ago and kindly picked me up a box of London Breakfast. You can tell from the photo, the box has taken a long haul flight. I think they’ve altered the blend slightly, but I have no real way of knowing.

This version was a smooth black, and a little bit smokey. It’s like a toned down Russian Caravan. London Breakfast is complex in the same way I imagine certain types of whiskey are complex. You can taste chicory as you draw it into your mouth, but if you let it sit in your mouth a moment, it becomes a fresh pine flavour. When you add milk, the tea retains its smokey smell, but it mutes the smokey flavour, so what you’re left with is like English Breakfast with depth instead of tannin. It’s a big winner in my books.

London Breakfast: 4/5
Enjoy with: Your UK travels, because you aren’t getting it any other way anymore!

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Nightmare

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.

Sincerely,
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.

Poison

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.

Snore

Black Rose

Occasionally, I get really bad insomnia. I haven’t had it in a while, but tonight it is making a comeback. Or should I say, this morning? It’s 4:30 am. I have not slept a wink. I am not able to fall asleep no matter what I try right now. Relaxing music? No. Read a book? No. Lie very, very still. No. It’s humid, which isn’t helping.

The thing with being up now, having had no other sleep tonight means things are logistically a bit complicated. I can continue to try and sleep now, but then I probably won’t be able to wake up until late in the day, making it difficult to sleep again tomorrow night. I could try to stay awake, but since I have been up for about 21 hours already, I’ll probably crash out around 11am and then sleep until 8pm and then I’m living a reverse acceptable waking hours life, and that benefits nobody, least of all me. The dilemma a bout of insomnia puts you in makes simple decisions fairly complex.

Black rose is also complex (sorry, subtle segues aren’t my forte on almost no sleep), even though I’d expected it would just be black tea and rose. White Rose is white tea and rose. Green Rose is green tea and rose. But Black Rose is just more complicated than that. It’s still black, it’s still rose, but it’s a medley of fruity flavours too. It’s sweet and fruity on the fore with obvious mango and guava flavours. The composition includes a smooth black and light rose notes that underpin the fruitiness. This is an exceptional introductory tea if you want to try out flavoured black for the first time. It’s also a winner if you’re a fan of French Earl Grey.

Black Rose: 5/5
Enjoy with: sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep

Old Friends

Morning Sunshine

There is something about old friends that is so comforting. People who knew you way back when, and still know you now, and still like you despite all the changes and challenges you have been through in those years.

Some people surprise you in becoming old friends. You go your separate ways, and yet somehow, you’re still collected into the ebb and flow of one another’s life. Sometimes you don’t realise that this is the person you will be talking to many years from now about things you can hardly imagine possible at this point in time. And then there’s some people that you meet and straight away they wiggle themselves into a unoccupied burrow in your life and you’re certain they’ll be there forever.

We’ll come back to this.

A short while ago, I was thinking about tea cups and how nice they are to drink from, and I thought, “I think I’d like a fine china mug for tea.” Then I thought nothing more of it.

Slightly later that morning, a delivery van came up our driveway. The driver got out with a package, scanned the package, looked at the address, looked at our house, recognised my Main Man, and then looked at the package. “Another one for you then, mate,” Mr Driver said. It was a T2 package. We get a lot of those around here. The thing about this package was, no one in our house had ordered it. Spoooooooookyyyy…….

Not really, there was a phone number on the postage label. The package was addressed to me, but the phone number was not mine. I searched my contacts and discovered the package had been sent by possibly the oldest friend I am still in touch with. Inside was a box of Morning Sunshine and gorgeous fine china mug.

It’s exciting to me that I’m able to say I’ve known her for over 20 years. We were in primary school back then and got up to all kinds of antics. It doesn’t bear thinking too far into the future when your world revolves around school, television, homework, music practice, and how to prevent getting chip bark in your shoes. I never would have guessed we’d still be in touch all these years later, but we are, and here she is sending me thoughtful gifts.

As for the tea, it was also delightfully surprising. It’s a smooth black with a mild fruitiness, and a hint of musk. I first drank it black and fond it slightly acrid, which can be a benefit for a morning tea if you’re looking to start the day with a bit of a bang. I wasn’t all that taken with it, so I added a splash of milk, and it brought the tea to life. The smoothness was highlighted, mild woody notes started to stand out, and the acrid flavour nearly entirely vanished. It’s like a morning hug, and an easy, everyday tea.

Morning Sunshine: 4/5
Enjoy with: a friend, old or new.

Gross

Banana Bake

I feel like there is a distinct, identifiable difference between an ordinary coffee shop and a commuter coffee shop. Commuter coffee shops all look like they are near a major transportation hub. They are never cosy. There are always too many people or chairs crammed into the space, and it always looks like there is no space to move behind the counter. The staff work at a crazy pace, but everyone is standing around disgruntled and ungrateful.

As a commuter, I tried to avoid commuter coffee shops at all costs, because they’re not a lot of fun. And they charge you the same for a cup of tea as a cup of coffee, even though chucking a bag into some not quite boiling water is easily cheaper in ingredients and labour than a macchiato. But I digress.

One time, I couldn’t avoid the commuter coffee shop. I’d left home without breakfast, and I was fairly heavily pregnant, so I stopped for some banana bread so that I could make it through the morning. I considered not having it toasted. But the thing about commuter coffee shop banana bread, is that it is made to only be grim and unpalatable unless toasted and covered in butter. So I took it toasted, and they put it onto the sandwich press while I waited. I managed to get to my desk on time and absent-mindedly began eating while I fired up my computer and started arranging my work for the day.

Soon, I was stopped dead in my tracks. The banana bread tasted weird. I took another bite. Yep, definitely weird. Weird like, garlic? Was that garlic? Surely not. I took another bite. That is garlic I am tasting, why is there garlic in the banana bread? Wait. The sandwich press. That’s the same one they use for all the sandwiches and foccacias they toast at lunchtime. DID THEY NOT CLEAN THE SANDWICH PRESS?

What was left of the banana bread made a swift exit into the bin and I washed out the flavour with the rest of my hot chocolate (no, my pregnancy diet was not what you’d ‘ideal’, but neither was my pregnancy). The whole experience put me off commuter coffee shops entirely, as well as any form of banana bread that isn’t baked by someone I personally know.

And I have to say, I’m similarly put off by T2’s Banana Bake. Granted, it doesn’t have a reminiscent garlic feature, but it did contain a strong bergamot or essential oil aroma and flavour that was a bit off-putting. Granted, it tastes just like banana bread. It’s a bold black with sweetness to it, and most of the aroma is black tea and banana lollies. I couldn’t imagine milk of any sort would enhance it. My Main Man put maple syrup in his, and I thought that made it worse. It would probably be best paired with some hot buttered toast.

Banana Bake: 3/5
Enjoy with: anything that doesn’t come from a commuter coffee shop.

Please, Thank You, and To You

Lamington

I once saw Miranda Hart live, and I loved it. A large portion of her show was devoted to explaining how baffling some social norms are.

Like why can’t we walk out of a shop, realise we’re going in the wrong direction, and just turn around? No checking watch or phone, just turn around and head the direction you mean to?

And parties! I’m not a parties person. Anything over 12 people is a heaving crowd and I’ll be looking for a quiet corner and convenient excuse for a swift exit. Miranda has a lot to say about parties. Like dress codes and chit chat etiquette.

Not being Australian, Miranda presented us with an array of Australian party food that she found to be utterly hysterical. She loved Cheezels, though she will never have the joy of being small enough to fit them on her fingers, because she is not under 5. I feel like the success of Cheezels lies almost completely in nostalgia. She also presented us with a tray of, “The most disgusting cake-like thing in the world.” Lamingtons.

And I agree with her. Supermarket lamingtons are truly woeful. The only worse way to consume a lamington is to have one frozen then not quite thawed out by the time you eat it. My mum used to freeze lamingtons for the school lunchbox. I’m done. I’ll have the occasional, fresh made, huge square, filled with jam and cream type from the CWA every few years. But never again on the supermarket lamingtons.

And it’s a similar situation for Lamington tea. It has a beautiful coconut, chocolatey, vanilla cake smell. Take a sip and that vanilla note disappears instantly. This is the kind of tea some people go ballistic for, but in honesty I think the cocoa and coconut highlight all the worst traits of the black tea. It’s astringent and kind of tangy and not the least bit satisfying. And the whole brew is muted if you add even the slightest bit of milk. So if you’re keen on a trip down memory lane where the frozen then thawed supermarket lamingtons lie, be my guest. My tastebuds have better things to be drinking.

Lamington: 2/5
Enjoy with: a healthy dash of Miranda Hart.