The White Witch

White Rose

I love reading. And as much as I love reading, I love books. The idea of an e-reader is appealing in that I wouldn’t have to store books, but the thought of not turning pages, not having the physical book in my hand, it makes me sad. I like books.

Non-fiction is normally more my wheel house, especially travel, and memoirs, and travel memoirs. I have been embracing more fiction of late, but I find myself drawn to children’s fiction. I’m currently reading Treasure Island, for the first time. It’s a good yarn, and worth a read if you haven’t already.

My favourite series are all children’s novels. Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons books have a special place in my heart. I also love Elizabeth Honey novels, and finished the Harry Potter series for the first time this year (so now I’m a fan). But I’m fairly confident that my favourite books are the Chronicles of Narnia. Long before I was old enough to read them, I was staring, round eyed at the BBC adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, completely captivated by Narnia. No one was more formidable than the White Witch, and no one more majestic than Aslan. I was also a younger sibling that got picked on a bit, so Lucy was my home girl.

I never understood Edmund from the tv series. Why would he be so keen to betray his siblings, especially to someone he had only just met? Once I read the books, a little more texture is added to Edmund’s character and I understand his motivation more now. The most perplexing thing was, when I had Turkish Delight the first time, I hated it. I simply could not imagine that turning over my siblings in exchange for a box of the stuff was a fair trade. Just a few years ago, I went to Turkey and had fresh, handmade Turkish Delight for the first time. It was simply divine, but still not quite sell your soul worthy.

All this brings me to T2’s White Rose. With a long brew time, this cup tastes like the distilled essence of Turkish Delight, somehow made better by not having any sugar in it. It emits a heavenly, heady floral scent, with a minor sharpness of white tea behind it. Sipping the white liqueur and having the fragrant rose swell over your tastebuds, you realise, this is worth betraying your siblings into the hands of an evil witch for.

White Rose is one of T2’s more expensive orange boxes. It is to be bought sparingly and savoured lovingly. Morning or afternoon, and even post dinner, this tea suits any time of the day that you have a minute to be mindful and concentrate on every sip.

White Rose: 5/5

Enjoy with: a good book.

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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.

Freedom!

Snow Dragon Jasmine

Something I’ve taken to doing a little bit of is free writing. The idea behind free writing is that you set a timer for a certain period and you don’t stop writing the whole time the clock is ticking, even if you have nothing to write. If you have nothing to write, you write down that you have nothing to write until something pops up.

The thing about free writing is that it isn’t designed to be shared with anyone, so it never has to be edited or shown to another soul. The idea is that this where ideas become unlocked. The thing is, this post is a result of free writing, so I feel a little pressure to come up with something decent. That said, I’ve kept up a good clip so far, and haven’t really been over thinking too much. I may need to do a little editing for clarity, seeing as thought other people will actually read this. At least, I hope they will.

If I leave my free writing timer too long, eventually I come around to tea, even if I’m trying to avoid the subject. I really like a good cuppa, and there’s not much I can do to stop it, mostly because I don’t want to. We had our neighbour over the other day for the first time for a cup of tea. She isn’t so into tea, but as our conversation wore on, she exclaimed, “Wow, you must REALLY love tea!” Which I do.

But I don’t love every tea that I drink. In fact, there are some I will swear off forever. Like Lipton tea bags. Those things are awful, and I’d really rather have nothing than drink a cup of Lipton. The tricky thing for me is when teas fall into the neither love nor hate category. I probably find them the least satisfying, because I can’t determine if I really want to drink them again or not.

Snow Dragon Jasmine is a bit like this. I am not a huge fan of jasmine, I find it too fragrant and floral for my liking. But I quite enjoy Snow Dragon Jasmine. If jasmine is brewed too long, I think it tastes like hand soap, but a light brewing means I can appreciate it as a flavour. I think this is why I’m ok with it is Snow Dragon, because the green base only demands a short brew time. The overall effect is delicate, and not astringent, which is something I’ve come to expect from both green and jasmine. However, this cup is floral and slightly sweet, and as a result, I don’t mind it. I just don’t think to drink it too often, because on the whole I find it unremarkable.

And, my time is up.

Snow Dragon Jasmine: 3/5

Enjoy with: a stint of free writing.

Little Bo Peep

Watermelon Sorbet

Do you remember a simpler time in life, where Darrell Lea had shops all over the country? In Brisbane, they were nearly all exclusively in the city, so visiting one was a big deal. It was like visiting the sweet shop from the opening scenes of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Only there was less singing and a lot more parental supervision.

There was one outlet at Brisbane Central Station for a time, and occasionally when my Dad was coming home from work, he’d stop in a pick something up for me and my sister. He would always get the same thing, the pinnacle of all Darrell Lea products: The Bo Peep jar.

For those who never had the fortune of sampling one these beauties, it was a small glass jar filled with tiny, pillow-shaped boiled sweets, that had the most extraordinary flavours which exploded from the tiny storehouse. They made a satisfying clinking noise against the glass as you poured them into your eager palm. If you weren’t careful with the jar (or got a dud one to begin with), shards to discarded sweet would wind up caked around the bottom of the jar, an impossible to remove due to how small the neck of the jar was. They were topped with coloured aluminium lids. Pink and blue were always available, but the purple ones were rare. Therefore my favourite, and also the best.

When opened, a jar of Bo Peeps had a rich, sweet aroma that could fill a room. Raspberry, watermelon, grape, liquorice, lemon, and spearmint mingled together and spilled over the lip of the jar, perfuming the surrounds. That smell stayed in the jar long after it was emptied, and even jars that were several months old still housed a faint whiff of the boiled sweet medley.

That is what Watermelon Sorbet tastes like. A refreshing, strong flavour of watermelon, fruity and sweet without being overpowering. Wisps of spearmint appear throughout the brew, adding another refreshing element to the flavour, and a cooling sensation to the texture. I’m not always a fan of fruity tisanes, but this one suits me pretty well.

As summer is hiding just around the next corner, this is the perfect brew to ice, especially with Turkish Apple, if you aren’t avoiding sugar.

Watermelon Sorbet: 4/5

Enjoy with: some warmer weather

The Local Haunt

Mudan Rose

My town has a beautiful tea cafe. It is safely nestled at the back of a homewares store that makes a credit card quail in fear. Everything you could possible want to use to mix, bake, chop, baste, sift, roll, or decorate is somewhere in the store. and then you’re greeted by no less than a wall of tea. If you happen to venture beyond it, you will find a cosy cafe area that is so very proud of its tea, and well it should be.

I’ve been there a couple of times now. The first time, I went with one of my friends. She likes tea and more so since I’ve moved here and arrested some of her spare time with this blog. We laughed at the laminated food menu compared to the multi page bound tea menu. The tea is served over tea warmers, so each cup is good tot he last drop. The china is just the right type of afternoon tea china you’d expect in the setting.

I drank a sticky chai, of some description, but my friend ordered a divine vanilla black, whose name escapes me at present. The next time I went back, I didn’t even consider the rest of the teas on offer, I just wanted a pot of that vanilla black tea all to myself. It was just the right drop for me.

So much effort is spent on the appearance aspect of the tea experience, it almost seems a shame to drink anything that isn’t a flowering tea. Flowering teas are tightly bound balls of tea leaves that unfold as they brew, making them as appealing to the eye as they are to the palate. Definitely not teas to bung away in a pot that isn’t transparent. You also want company or an insatiable thirst because you have to brew at least 4 cups of a flowering tea at a time.

T2’s Mudan Rose is a flowering tea that you’d be happy to share with guests. This one has a large brew window, and the taste changes quite dramatically with brewing time. Sitting at about the middle of the brew window is where you’ll find the fragrant floral notes, and a delicate balance of flavours overall. The rose parries playfully with a subtle smokey note, and the smokiness intensifies at the upper end of the brew window. Complex and musky, Mudan Rose is a friend of the discerning palate.

Mudan Rose: 4/5
Enjoy with: good friends

Liquid Magic

White White Cocoa

I’m patting myself on the back at the moment. I did something I was supposed to do today: I went to the pool. It’s important for me to exercise regularly because every aspect of my (less than stellar) health is improved through regular exercise. But I am really good at not exercising. Regular exercisers who are reading this won’t understand, but I have become so good at not exercising I hardly ever feel guilty for not doing it. I suppose it’s better to exercise out a motivation other than guilt, but for some people, it’s all they have. Or doctor’s orders, they’re pretty potent in the motivation stakes as well.

But today I hopped in the pool without a whiff of guilt. I did inhale sharply as it’s warming up here, so the temperature of the pool is being lowered. It’s actually cold to get in now. Winter is one of my favourite times to swim, because the water is heated to such a wonderful temperature. Summer is the next best time to swim, because the weather is hot and a cool pool is welcome. Autumn is an ok time to swim because the pool tends to be heated before the weather gets too cold, but it isn’t great. Spring (now) is the worst time. The days aren’t warm enough yet, but the pool heat is being turned down. And somehow, today I managed to convince myself to swim anyway. Woo! Go me! High five!

The other issue with being bad at exercise is that the slightest win with exercise sends me into a ‘treating myself’ frenzy. No, exercise is not a reward in itself. Even Olympic athletes wouldn’t say that, they’re all training to win a medal. And since no one is hanging any hunks of precious metal around my neck for doing laps, I have to reward myself. Normally with chocolate. Which really defeats the purpose of all the exercise.

There is a solution though, and it is White White Cocoa. Imagine someone liquified a Bounty Bar. I don’t mean melted, I mean distilled into liquid. That there is the flavour of White White Cocoa. It’s a delicate white tea infused with the flavour of fresh coconut flesh. In the background of every mouthful is a faint chocolate/cocoa husk taste. Brew this one properly and you have yourself a magical cup of dessert. One cup is never enough!

White White Cocoa: 5/5
Enjoy with: Celebration