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.

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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

Nerf Guns

Green Rose

This is the story of how I became friends with one of my best friends.

While I was studying, I moved into a house with 9 other people in it. It sounds like a recipe for absolute disaster, but it worked out really well. Many years later, I still maintain friendships with most of these women and I loved my time in that share house the most of any share house I lived in while studying (and I moved a lot in that time).

Things did not start smoothly though. My room came with a built in roommate, and we met the day that I moved in. She was nice, but we just kind of did our own thing, and stayed out of each other’s way. I wanted to know what she thought of me, and one night I overheard her talking to her previous roommate who’d come for a visit. She asked her old roommate to stay the night, because she missed her so much. I felt like I was failing in the roommate stakes.

A little while later, I showed her a video I was watching and we laughed together over it. We started talking a little more after that. A few more weeks passed, and MM (just boyfriend at the time), bought me a nerf gun for my birthday. A few days later I came into our room to find her with my nerf gun out, taking shots at her Drake poster. We took turns after that, and she gave me pointers on how to properly use a gun (because she is from America and has used an actual gun before). We had a lot of fun together. She went home for the semester break a couple of weeks later and left me a note saying how glad she was that we were friends and how she looked forward to coming back and shooting the nerf gun all over our room again.

We spent so much time together after that. We both loved documentaries, we both enjoyed tea, and we were both happy to sit quietly in one another’s presence without saying a word. She got on famously with MM. It was terrific.

Later that year I graduated and moved out, but we stayed firm friends. She was my bridesmaid, and MM and I went to visit her and her family in US a few years later. One Christmas she bought me Green Rose, and now I think of her when I drink it.

Green Rose is a delightful brew and the first green tea I admitted to liking. It lacks any of the grassy flavour some greens are known to have. It’s smooth with a strong rose aroma and flavour. Best brewed at a lower temperature for a mid length brew time (3ish minutes works for me). It’s delicate and dainty and perfect for fancy china cups. Never add milk, or you will regret all the bad things you have ever done in your life.

Green Rose: 5/5
Enjoy with: sensational friends.

Nine-Nine!

Sencha Peach

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is back fore season 5 today. I’m pretty happy. I don’t always get behind the Saturday Night Live offshoots, but this one has captured my attention.

Jake Peralta (Andy Samburg), plays a detective working in Brooklyn precinct 99. He’s wise-cracking, rule shirking, and generally funny and childish. If you’ve seen Hot Rod, imagine Rod becoming a police detective. There it is.

The first time I saw Brooklyn 99 was in Canada. Despite having been to Brooklyn itself, the theme song reminds me of a snowy December evening in my friends’ living room, watching the shenanigans of the 99.

Season 4 ended on a real cliff hanger, so I’m keen to see how the new season resolves things. If you haven’t seen this program, I recommend it. It’s showing on Netflix, and the current season will be on SBS On Demand.

Therefore, let’s get straight to tea, so I can get to tv.

Sencha Peach has seen fit to carry on the surprise I get from enjoying a green tea. (I’d really love to know what kind of awful green tea I had that made me believe I didn’t like it at all.) Sencha is a smooth green, slightly floral and not complex in its own right, making it a great base for blending with other flavours. The peach in this tea is bright and fruity, and I have a feeling this would be a great brew when iced. It’s refreshing as a hot tea, and it calls to mind sunny summer days. Don’t touch the milk, and consider using this as a palate cleanser.

Sencha Peach: 4/5
Enjoy with: television

 

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

Fear

Gone Surfing

I was a fairly bold person in my late teens and early 20s. I seem to have mellowed with age. I used to think there was very little that could frighten me, but I’m more honest now. One of my less than rational (but still understandable) fears is large bodies of water. Lakes, deep rivers, and the open ocean are formidable places. My fear stems from a series of incidents in my youth.

First of all, I was the airy-fairiest child imaginable. I thought everything was alive in some sense. I had to rotate my t-shirts because the ones at the bottom of the drawer might get upset. Toys were definitely alive (imagine my joy when Pixar created Toy Story and my suspicions were confirmed!). And naturally occurring bodies of water were sentient. Some bodies were nice, others tried to kill you. I saw this trailer for ‘Godzilla’ when I was about 9, and it terrified me at the time. That swelling wave haunted my dreams. A few years earlier I saw an episode of “Water Rats” where someone drowned, which also freaked me out. Basically, I was acutely aware that the ocean was full of things that could harm you, and if those didn’t get you, the water itself would just crush you. Just a few years ago I went to the American Natural History Museum in New York and saw a model of a blue whale. The ocean hides those things!

That said, I enjoy swimming and don’t mind the beach, so long as I get to stay in the breakers. I had a brief and fervent stint of learning how to surf just before I went to high school, but never lived close enough to a beach for long enough to make it a real hobby. I like the bush, you can keep the beach. So where does that leave me in terms of the tea, ‘Gone Surfing’?

Gone Surfing is caffeine free, so a good one for the evenings, and more so now that winter is starting to fall behind us. The sights and sounds of the coast are calling as summer days draw nearer.

Sipping this tea, the words ‘lemony’ and ‘fresh’ come to mind, but so does ‘briny’. There is a definite hint of bitter, salty sea spray in the flavour that is off putting. Personally, I think I need to blend it with a bit of Mint Mix (3:1 Gone Surfing to Mint Mix is my guess), and see if that takes the saltwater edge off it. This is a tea that is most definitely supposed to taste fresh, but I can’t escape the seaweed like aftertaste.

Gone Surfing: 3/5
Enjoy with: Warmer evenings.

Kindness

Toasty Nougat

Some people are just born to be kind. I have one such friend, who is the embodiment of kindness itself. I sat with another friend of mine and we tried to come up with 3 people my kindest friend wouldn’t invite in for the night if they had no where to stay. We came up with 2.

She’s one of those people to whom I owe a great deal. We met when we began studying together, and she was a breath of fresh of air in a sea of hyperbole and affectedness. I understand that at university age, people are spreading their wings of opinion and learning to fly outside the confines of high school, but we were both well into our 20s and therefore considered ‘mature age’ students. We were the rung of mature age students that’s looking for some like-minded friendship. Not the type that sits almost at the front of the class and has ~a lot of questions~ that begin with, “It’s really more of a comment. (Insert my life experience here because it will be valuable, I’m sure).”

The years my friend spent studying in Australia, she and her husband became great companions to me and my husband. She kept me sane when I thought I was losing my mind over ancient languages. She also kept me humble because she could pull almost the same marks as me, except she’d write her essay in about 6 days and I’d take nearly 4 weeks. Then one day, her study time here in Australia came to an end, they packed themselves up and we saw them off at the airport.

18 months later, my Main Man, Little Lad, and I made the gruelling 27 hour trek to the Eastern side of Canada to visit. And we fell in love with the city, and can’t wait to go back again. But what was better than being in a beautiful location was being with our friends again. They seem to operate on our level and we reminded each other of some of the best of each other that goes by the wayside in our inevitable periods of absence.

Luckily for my friend, I reintroduced her to the love of tea. Canada doesn’t have T2 (real oversight, there T2), but they do have David’s Tea, which is pretty good if you can’t have T2. David’s has a herbal blend called ‘Forever Nuts’, and it has a heavenly scent. My friend bought some, and then told everyone about it, including the fact she wanted to bathe in it. For me, I couldn’t get the song “Forever Young” by Alphaville out of my head.

I snagged a small sample of ‘Forever Nuts’ to bring home, but a close T2 comparison is Toasty Nougat.

It’s a caffeine free tea, and I love it as an evening sip. It’s a bit fruity, but largely nutty, with popcorn, salt, and malty notes. Truly reminiscent of creamy nougat. It smells divine dried and once brewed, easily considered a liquid pudding.

Toasty Nougat: 5/5
Enjoy with: your kindest friends.