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.

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Book Cover Judgement

Creamy Choc Chai

9 times out of 10 when I hear the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” it refers to believing there’s more in the substance than on the surface. It is nearly always an encouragement to dig past appearances for enjoyment. Rarely, so very rarely, is the expression used in the opposite manner. That is, I hardly ever hear, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” to warn me against something that looks good, but in actual fact, isn’t.

Furthermore, I find this an infuriating idiom. If I don’t know anything about a book, the first thing I look at is the title. Then I turn the book over and read the blurb on the back. Then I decide if I want to open the book or not. This is the way books are designed to be sold. You are, in every respect, supposed to judge a book by its cover. Also, tacky romance novels have immediate cover art tells. I don’t like these books. So I avoid them, based on the information the cover conveys. I ALWAYS judge a book by its cover.

I expect this expression held more weight at a time before cover art and marketing blurbs were common. Maybe books that were soft cover with just a printed title were considered less worthy of reading, I’m not sure. But it’s useless now. Publishers realised that no matter how often people bandied about the saying, there was no stopping people stopping at the cover. But now, I don’t know how many well-marketed books I have begun and abandoned because the cover drew me in, but the text couldn’t keep me.

Basically, we need to start using this phrase to warn people off things that look good, but actually suck.

Take Creamy Choc Chai. Doesn’t it sound delightful? Doesn’t it sound like the kind of thing you’d brew in a stoneware pot and pour cup after cup on a cosy day while snuggled up in a blanket? When you read the list of ingredients it is undoubtedly tantalising, begging to be your next brew. Once brewed, the creamy, chocolate smell fills the air followed by sharp chai spices, most notably cardamon. And then you drew in your first mouthful.

And it’s the worst. This one could be renamed, ‘Uhh, dishwater, I guess?’ and it would give a better impression of what’s to come. There is an underwhelming chocolate flavour, like you’re licking the inside of a chocolate bar wrapper and getting a few tiny shards, but mostly you’re just licking a plastic wrapper. It’s not even a little bit creamy. And put on your detective hat if you want to go looking for those chai spices.

This tea is accompanied by a wildly ambiguous brew time suggestion of 3 to 6 minutes. Which is wrong, by the way. No brew time makes this a good cup.

But here is the most important thing to note: this tea is a green base. I don’t know of any other chai that is not black or herbal, for good reason. It just isn’t meant to be any other way. And, THIS MY FRIENDS, is one of the offending green teas that has taught me to be wary of all green tea forever after! Shame on you, Creamy Choc Chai, promising the world and delivering naught.

Creamy Choc Chai: 0/5

Enjoy with: Severe judgement.

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

 

Green

Geisha Getaway

Hello.
I read your book. I liked it a lot.
It’s one of those books that will stay with me.
Those are characters that live and breathe
Outside the page,
They never age,
But they burrow in minds and hearts.
Your book made me smile.
It made me happy,
I’m glad it was recommended to me.

Sometimes I write too,
But I can’t consider myself a writer.
Not yet.
Published people are writers, in my mind.
I say, “I dabble.”
But the reason I say this is because I worry.
I worry I’m not very good at words,
Though that seems absurd
If I’m casually observed,
But there’s a lot you won’t see
Just by looking.

I feel like the words are caged up inside me,
It takes a feat of strength to see them freed
Through my fingers, as I write.
Then they’re free in the world,
They have the life I thought they might live,
And I don’t see them as much when they don’t live inside anymore.
But your words, in your book,
Your words are now shut up inside me.
Is that the final resting place of our written words?
We send them out,
They soar,
Then when they capture another imagination,
They again become someone’s captive?
I like that ending.

I drank a cup of tea, that implied it should be free,
Geisha Getaway.
I say I don’t like green,
But I keep finding green to like.
This is another,
Not a grassy green,
This green is clean.
Floral, bright,
Vanilla, smooth,
Fruity, peachy,
Sweet to the last drop.
Poetry in a cup.

Geisha Getaway: 4/5
Enjoy with: Poetry or a good book

Today is Australian Reading Hour. Australian’s are encouraged to spend one hour today reading, on their own, or with their children.

Festivities

Marrakech

Recently, I returned to the city for a tea festival. I wish I could talk about the tea festival in depth, but I’m at a loss for what to convey. There were stalls, I tried all manner of different teas. Some were very interesting, some were painfully pedestrian. But I enjoyed myself immensely.

The thing that stood out to me most was that I seem to have assimilated to country life at a remarkable pace. I lived in Sydney for over 7 years, and have only been in the sticks for a few months, but my initial reaction to the tea festival was, “Wow, it’s crowded.” And it became more crowded as time wore on, meaning I enjoyed myself less. I found myself waiting patiently to come to the front of the queue and more than once, people who hadn’t been waiting as long took advantage of the lack of order and crowded me out. I forgot living in the city required being on your guard so much of the time. Driving the few hours home, watching the landscape change from urban sprawl to rolling hills, I could scarcely imagine going home to anywhere else. The country has bewitched me, and I’m happy to oblige.

Back at the festival, one particular tea I enjoyed was from the Literary Tea Company. If you fancy yourself a bibliophile, as many tea enthusiasts do (including me), they have a broad range of teas inspired by famous authors. Understandably, their stall was extraordinarily busy, so I just zipped in to have a little taste of one of the teas. I tried Jane Austen, because that’s what the woman serving was holding at the time. The profile consists of Earl Grey, rose, and lavender, which balance well, to nobody’s surprise. I’m not a big Austen fan, so I quipped that her tea tasted of, “High-minded introspection and rheumatism.” That was supposed to be a blight on her work, not on the tea. I’d happily drink that tea again.

Every tea I tried (and I must stress there were hundred of samples at the festival I didn’t get to), was a combination of dried ingredients, as you expect tea to contain. This is what makes T2’s Marrakech stand out among other teas. The green tea is infused with peppermint oil. I was sceptical that this would make a difference to the flavour, but it does. The green tea tucks itself behind the peppermint oil in the flavour profile, but the flavour is a world away from other teas with dried peppermint. And again, I find myself with a cup of green tea I’m very fond of. I’m starting to think I really do enjoy green, despite previous misgivings.

Marrakech: 5/5
Enjoy with: a place to call home

Memory Lapse

Lung Ching Classic

I knew this would happen. I knew there would come a tea for which I scribbled down some hasty notes, with all good intentions of drafting up a post about it very soon after, and then forgetting to. Well Lung Ching, you’re the lucky candidate (and you might not be the last if I’m honest).

I can’t make a usual length post from the notes I made on this tea. They simply read:

Hard to describe
Smooth Green (surprising)
Raspberry notes?
4/5

That’s it. I don’t remember much about the tea at all. These notes are sandwiched between two long to-do lists, with about 30 items on each list. I was clearing drinking this tea with other things on my mind. Once I realised this, I was prepared to write a self berating post about how it’s much easier to do a good job at something if it is given your whole attention and how I should work on one thing at a time.

But in fairness, life doesn’t always give you that chance. You have those days where thoughts buzz mercilessly and you just CAN’T stop to pay better attention to anything else. So you leave home without your wallet or your house keys or your kid (that hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’m banking on it in the future).

And sometimes the best recommendations you can give to a friend are the vague ones. If someone says to me, “I definitely enjoyed that tea/restaurant/book/other thing. I can’t quite remember why, but I’m confident it was good,” I go into the experience with some expectations, but they aren’t sky high. And when I make up my own mind, I don’t feel like I’m doing it against someone else’s extraordinary experience. Similarly, if someone says, “I don’t remember being a big fan of that. I can’t really remember why,” I don’t feel like I’ve been warned off something I was interested in just because someone else had a bad experience.

My memory of Lung Ching Classic

I’m a big fan of people justifying their reviews. If someone says they hate a movie outright because the director/lead actor/make up designer is Desmond Destiny Goldsparkle the Third and they have taken a vow to despise all work that comes in contact with Des, then I know it’s just personal. If people say they didn’t like something because it was racist or sexist, then I know it’s probably worth avoiding on principle. But sometimes, the vague review is the friend of many.

So tea friends, I enjoyed Lung Ching Classic. It was a smooth green. I think it had a hint of raspberry. I don’t remember too much else about it, but it might be worth checking out.

Lung Ching Classic: 4/5
Enjoy with: something…