Road Trip

Mint Mix

Minties have been around for 95 years. We’ll come back to this.

Many years ago, when I was young, my family piled into a red BMW and drove from Brisbane to Sydney. My brother was about 2, which was a good age, because he was still in his car seat. Sleeping in the back seat of a car was so much easier while my little bother was still in a car seat, because you could lean against his seat and fall asleep. Once he outgrew car seats he also saw me as the next weakest link in the back seat food chain and would argue that I should have to sit in the middle instead of him. Still, this particular road trip was in the blissful car seat years, so it’s a happier memory.

For some reason, my parents decided that Manly Beach was an unbelievably attractive prospect in the middle of June. So that was where we headed. Manly Beach is not an attractive prospect in the middle of June, just in case you’re thinking we had a delightful, off-peak holiday.

Driving holidays are the only kind of holiday my family ever really took, and now that I’m grown up, I appreciate how much of the country I have seen because we drove everywhere. That being said, spending many hours confined to a small metal box with 4 of your relations can breed a certain degree of tension and boredom. The consumption of lollies was a must on long car rides, but having 3 children bouncing around the back seat of the car loaded up on sugar is a recipe for disaster.

Thus, the Good Fairy was born. The Good Fairy was my mother, and there were never any illusions about this. Every half hour, one of my siblings or I would point at the car clock on the dashboard and yell, “It’s Good Fairy time!” My mother would reach into the glove box and produce a lolly for everyone, close the glove box with a snap and there would be no asking for any lollies for another half hour. If you fell asleep, the Good Fairy was in debt to you. So after 2 hours you could wake up to a 4 sweet deposit. If you fell asleep for too long, the Good Fairy ran out of sweets because she didn’t reserve your share while you were sleeping. The Good Fairy would not have had a long career as an investment banker.

This particular family trip, the Good Fairy was stocked up with Minties, and something better than Minties. Spearmint Minties.

For the 75th anniversary of Minties, Allens released a limited edition spearmint flavour, which was superior to the regular Minties, because spearmint is better than peppermint. Anyone who disagrees with this has broken and inferior tastebuds. It’s a consumables fact that spearmint it better. We all expected that at the end of the year Spearmint Minties would go off the market. But they didn’t, they hung around for another couple of years before fading into obscurity. And there are days I miss the spearmint sweets like you miss an old friend you haven’t seen in a while.

This driving holiday took place 20 years ago. Thus Minties have been around for 95 years. In 5 years time, it will once again be time to release the Spearmint Mintie again. To be certain I won’t be disappointed, I have penned the following letter (that I emailed) to the Allen’s Confectionary Company, to inform them of the upcoming expectation that Spearmint Minties are expected on the market:

Dear King of Minties,

I am writing to inform you that Minties have been around for 95 years this year. I’m certain you are already aware of this fact, but I wanted to make you aware that I was aware. Now that our levels of awareness are comparable, I shall continue with my correspondence.

In 1997, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of arguably, Australia’s most iconic sweet, limited edition Spearmint Minties were released for the public to purchase and consume. And purchase and consume my family did. So much so, we were thrilled that the limits of the spearmint edition were extended until around 1999, when we stopped being able to purchase and consume.

As it is only 5 years until the 100th anniversary of the sweet for which you are King, I am writing to inform you that you have roughly 5 years to put Spearmint Minites back into production, so they will be ready for release by the 100th anniversary. You may even want to make those bizarre choc-mint and vanilla mint ones again. Hey, it’s the 100th anniversary, why not take a crazy trip down memory lane?

One major oversight of the previous Spearmint Mintie release was that they were not called (as they obviously should have been) ‘Spearminties’. Thankfully, my family had the presence of mind to give the sweets their rightful name, and I now generously allow you to use that name (with no need to compensate me) when you re-release the sweets in 5 years time.

I must warn you, that should the 100th anniversary of Minties arrive and depart without a hint of spearmint in its wake, there will be consequences. I will be very upset, and your being King does not intimidate me in the slightest. Retaliation will be swift, and largely online.

Yours sincerely,
Mintie Peasant.

I shall let you know if I receive a response.

And so, tea. T2’s Mint Mix was an absolute delight. It contains both peppermint AND spearmint, which thrilled me no end. My Main Main being a mint muggle (say that 5 times fast), has always preferred peppermint flavoured anything to spearmint flavoured anything. This is how we have maintained a steady supply of Just Peppermint for so long. Mint Mix brings the refreshing, herbacious cup of peppermint to new levels. The spearmint varies the flavour profile and a hint of citrus makes the whole cup more refreshing. Thankfully, MM agrees, and I can see Mint Mix rotating with Just Peppermint as a late evening cup. Now to begin the rest of his spearmint conversion. I might just wait 5 years until Minties do the job for me.

Mint Mix: 5/5

Enjoy with: Road trip memories.

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…

Remarkable

Orange Pekoe

Standing at the top of the world, bracing against the roaring gale, witnessing the whole sky dance and unable to take it all in at once, I had never felt so tiny and so human. And it all began with a cup of tea.

Reykjavik is the capital city of Iceland, the most northern capital city in the world. But for a country with ‘ice’ in its name, it is surprisingly warm, even in the depths of winter. The Gulf Stream from Mexico empties out right above Iceland, so winter temperatures are reasonably stable within a few degrees of zero. Sure, that’s cold, but it’s not deathly cold just to walk outside. And it is winter after all.

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Iceland is a magical country. It’s so untouched by the rest of the world, but also familiarly European enough not be alien. The snow clings to the ground like a dusting of wonder, and the long winter nights lend themselves to cozy fires, warm drinks, and reading. Storytelling is in the fabric of the culture. Arriving just after Christmas gave me an insight into some of the holiday traditions. The Yule Lads complement Santa. One of 14 troll-like creatures come in the windows of children’s bedrooms each night in the lead up to Christmas. Children leave out a shoe where the trolls deposit a chocolate for well behaved children, and a potato for the naughty ones. Reading that the majority of Icelanders still believe in the elves (Huldufólk) of their ancient folklore sounded absurd to me, until I arrived. I’d believe in elves too if I’d grown up in that country. It has an indescribable mystical quality in the atmosphere and the dark winter is friend to the imagination.

My main ambition while in Iceland was to witness the Aurora Borealis. I’d read and heard about this phenomenon for many years, and could hardly believe I would be in the right part of the world at the right time of year to behold the Lights for myself. I booked a tour with remarkable optimism. The evening came, the tour bus arrived, we eagerly hopped on board. The conditions were perfect. Clear sky, high solar wind activity. We waited, we watched, and we waited some more. Alas, there was no sighting that night. The tour company offered a complimentary tour due to the lack of sighting.

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The next night, the tour was cancelled. It was overcast and the atmospheric conditions were not ideal. We would have to wait one more night. As the evening wore on, the sky cleared and a strong wind picked up from the harbour. Deciding to brave the wind, we went in search of a hot drink, and found ourselves at a basement tea bar on the main street. The room was heaving with people and hot drink orders were about to close (the booze was only just starting to flow though). I jostled for a table and my Main Man was left to make drink orders. He returned with an Orange Pekoe for me. The warm tea was heavenly on the cold night. Patrons playing the piano in the corner provided a lively atmosphere amongst the cozy candlelight. We toasted our decision to travel to the other side of the world once again. Aurora or not, this was a trip worth taking and a country worth visiting. When we were walking home, hearts and stomachs warmed, for no reason, MM looked up at the sky.

“What colour do you think that is?” he asked.

We stared for a minute.

“Wait! That’s Aurora!”

We dashed up the hill, the wind fighting us the entire way, until we were standing in the square outside the cathedral. We could see the entire sky from our vantage point, but could scarcely take it all in. Band after band of colour rippled across the sky, twisting, turning, teasing us. It didn’t need our existence, nor did it dance for our benefit, it simply glowed because it was supposed to. The sky becomes so much larger when you try to survey the whole thing at once. It highlights how small you are, how incapable you are of conjuring something this spectacular because you’re just a human. It made think just how much easier it is to believe something else, something bigger or more magical, exists in moments just like these.

In the middle of the city, where we were told the light pollution would destroy all chance of seeing the Lights, on a night when we were told there was no chance of a sighting, we stood, open-mouthed and marvelling. And all because a little earlier in the evening we’d gone in search of a cup of tea.

In a necessary twist of irony, one of the most remarkable events in my life was preceded by one of the most unremarkable teas. Every Orange Pekoe I’ve tried is an unremarkable black, and T2’s offering is no different. It’s a straight black tea, without much depth, and a bit temperamental to brew. It’s not difficult to get a cardboard flavour out of this tea, and milk doesn’t do much for the flavour. My personal recommendation is a squeeze of lemon to lift the cup somewhat. My other recommendation is to see the Northern Lights to lift the experience immensely.

Orange Pekoe: 3/5
Enjoy with: a squeeze of lemon and a celestial marvel.

Bad Haircuts

Good Evening

I’m going to jump right in here and start with the tea, because the moment I drank it I knew there was only one way to describe it: the mullet tea.

Anyone who has grown up with even the slightest hint of bogan understanding knows that the 80’s hairstyle ‘the mullet’ was consistently referred to as ‘business up front and party at the back’. What ensued was the one of the most ocularly offensive hairstyle fashions in living memory. But it is distinct and it is memorable. It even enjoyed a brief resurgence about 12 years ago. I couldn’t believe it.

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Anyway, Good Evening relates to this iconic hairstyle because it is a blend of green and black teas and it is so well blended you get a wonderful mouthful of both teas without any competition. It is green on the front and black on the back. You’ll swear you’ve taken a draught of green and by the time the last drop has trickled from your tongue you’ll be certain it was only ever black. It will draw you back for sip after sip until you too have the misfortune of discovering an empty cup.

Rarely have I lived in the total absence of bogans or some kind of equivalent. I can’t say never, because there was one time in my life when I lived in a place that saw virtually everything as beneath them.

When I was 19 I lived in Connecticut for 3 months. I did so voluntarily, but without doubt, naively. The place I lived had no neon signs, no stragglers or homeless people, no bars or nightclubs, and no idea that the big, wide world existed out there as a real place occupied by real people.

As an idealistic youngster, I decided to spend a year overseas as a nanny. I know people think the term ‘au pair’ sounds fancier, but the main distinction between an au pair and a nanny is that nannies have formal training, which I had, and au pairs are largely untrained. I never really got to make that distinction during my time nannying, because I found my work through an au pair agency. So I got lumped in with all the other au pairs who had come to the USA with varying degrees of nobility in their intentions.

I accepted a placement with a family in Connecticut with 3 children. Children is a generous term, they were aged 15, 14, and 11. Once the youngest reached their 12th birthday, the family would no longer be eligible for another au pair through this agency. This is the usual overseas worker nightmare story, where the family was unkind and the terms of my employment were constantly shifting, and never in my favour. Rather than relay the whole sordid affair in narrative terms, I’ll present you with an accurate job description of my brief time with this family.

Would you like to work with children? Have you invested time and funds in growing your understanding of child development and would now like to apply your knowledge and skills in a personalised setting? Do you crave the adventure of working abroad in an exciting, new location?

Great!

Here in the Black family, we have 3 precocious brats that have been handed everything they have ever wanted their entire lives. Mr Black works on Wall Street and is almost never home, though when he is, he will treat you like the working class citizen he assumes you are. Mrs Black is a stay at home mother who never has time to stay at home. She is insistent that she volunteers constantly with both snooty schools that the children attend, but you will never see any evidence of this. Her nails are always done though. She can make snide remarks about people’s weight (including yours) at half a moment’s notice.

We will grossly overstate the amount of time off you have, and generously understate precisely what is expected of you. We will communicate in vague terms like, “Can you do me a favour?” Meaning you are not on the clock, you aren’t obligated to do what we’re asking you to do, but we are exploiting your young age and willingness to please the people that keep you housed and employed.

When a point of difference occurs between us, we will lean heavily on our religious and ethnic background that is almost useless to us at any other time, potentially insinuating that you have some kind of prejudice against us.

We teach our children solid values. Like making money and getting into college, even at the expense of other people’s very lives.

You will look after our dogs while we go on vacations, even though it’s a violation of your employment terms.

Furthermore, where we live is in the middle of absolutely no where. You will drive in excess of 1000 kilometres per week between school drop offs and the 13 after-school activities our precious snots are involved in, in the hopes of getting some kind of college scholarship.

We expect you to pick up the phone IMMEDIATELY when we call. Bear in mind you spend the majority of your time driving, so what we are asking you to do is blatantly illegal. We don’t care. Do as we say. No, we will not purchase you a hands-free device.

Enjoy the endless sprawl of McMansions, and have no viable form of entertainment within an hour’s drive of our snowy, soulless home.

We can’t wait for you to join our family (payroll).

Never in my life have I so desperately longed for Tim-Tams to greet me in the mail and remind me that life exists outside the frozen wasteland I found myself in.

It wasn’t all bad. I spectacularly totalled their car before being transferred to another family. That worked out much better.

Good Evening: 5/5

Enjoy with: a decent haircut and a perusal of the classifieds.

My ‘Favourite’ Tea

Milky Oolong

The Sydney Readers’ and Writers’ Festival has long been prohibitive for me to attend. Getting into Ciruclar Quay can be such a hassle. Many of the session are general admission, so you have to arrive stupidly early. And the tickets are expensive. Consider my joy, friends, when I discovered that some of the best sessions of the festival are live streamed around the country! Consider my further joy when I drove to the centre of town 10 minutes before scheduled start time, strolled into the theatre 3 minutes to, and still had my pick of seat.

Thank you for your consideration. It was a lot of joy.

It’s hard to imagine that I would have appreciated more Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb’s session on their favourite books had I been in the same room as them. The journey into Sydney, dodging tourists around the Opera House, and jostling for a seat almost outstrips any advantage of seeing them in the flesh. Granted, had I walked into the room in Sydney, I probably wouldn’t have lowered the average age quite as much as I did at home. But for the extra elbow room and the leisurely afternoon, I’ll take it.

What I did not have time for upon arrival was securing a cup of tea to take into the theatre. I know I’ve said before I’m not a fan of paying for a sad bag of semi-leaves dropped into a forlorn styrofoam cup, but in this instance, I was prepared to make an exception. Chatting books without a cup of tea in hand is counter intuitive.

While my pleasant afternoon entertainment didn’t make me miss the city, the cup of tea I had just prior to going out did a little. I had Milky Oolong. While I don’t have one favourite tea, this is my go-to, run of the mill, everyday tea. I love it to pieces and don’t get sick of it. It’s savoury, it’s creamy, it’s rich, it hints at both green and black without being either and I have always been able to brew it by sight. It was recommended by my ‘tea guy’, Frankie, who is a bit of a celebrity in the T2 employee world. He loves Milky Oolong too, and he has never steered me wrong before.

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The trick is rinsing the leaves. If you pour the warm water over the leaves and count to 5, then dump out all the water and brew from there, the leaves have had a chance to open up before brewing. Leave the leaves to steep until the brew is almost the colour of honey and you can smell the hints of sweet milkiness wafting through the savoury notes. It’s a bit of an art, but one I was only too happy to patiently learn.

I had a tin of Milky Oolong at my desk at work, and if ever someone asked me for a recommendation for a brew, I’d whip it out and offer to make a cup of tea right then and there. I converted more than one person to the wonderful world of oolong this way.

One such person was the person who took over my role when I went onto maternity leave. I had a good feeling about her from her interview, and she turned out to be an absolute winner in the role. We got along so well during her training, sharing many traits and interests: we like organising things, we don’t like talking on the phone, keen on precision, like reading, traveling alone, and, of course, a cup of tea. But her best trait, to my mind at least, is her cynicism. It’s a rare find as a cynical person, to find someone else who can walk that fine line between observantly critical and outright cruel.

Being friends with her is like being able to talk to MTV’s Daria. It’s the perfect antidote to a dreary day or tricky work conundrum. Unfortunately, cynical people tend not to be too liberal on the emotional front. While others at work would send an email along the lines of, “We’re going to get coffee at 10:15, let us know if you want to join us!”, her’s would read ‘Tea?’ in the subject line. I was fortunate enough to be able to the see the kitchen from my desk. Was it empty? Yes? It was about to become cynicism central!

I miss our chats. I miss our regular teas together, sharing our plans and recent books and our eternal frustrations. But the brilliant memories are never far away. So long as I’m beating the drum for Milky Oolong, I’ll remember to keep in touch.

Milky Oolong: 5/5

Enjoy with: a shot of cynicism, every day.

Bye Bye Bye

Caramel Brownie

Travel mugs are a brilliant invention. It’s a comforting thought that a person can make a hot beverage without enough time to drink it at home, and take it with them wherever they have to head off to. It prevents people purchasing disposable cups of drinks that can be made at home. Personally, I think if you’re purchasing a cup of tea from a coffee shop in anything less than dire circumstances, you need your head checked. Also, if you have found a respectable place to get takeaway tea at a decent price, please share your wisdom. But no one needs to pay $3.50 for a teabag dropped in hot water. Furthermore, the environment is important, it’s the only one we have, and needlessly dumping millions of disposable cups into landfill every year is beyond ridiculous. If drinking coffee is more important that owning a house (because apparently 3 lattes and an avocado toast is all that’s standing between you and a mortgage), that’s your business. But really, get a keep cup. It’s not that hard.

Hopping off my soapbox now.

So, travel mugs and road trips are a match made in heaven. Especially if you have the ultra insulated, perfect for semi-arctic conditions travel mug like I do. I also have a thermos designed for Antarctic exploration teams. Not exactly, but I have consumed a just below magma temperature beverage from it 24 hours after making it. I don’t use that thermos a whole lot.

The beauty of my travel mug is that I can have a tea before leaving home in addition to making one in my travel mug. That means after driving for a few hours, I have a nice hot cup of tea without the hassle of trying to make one while travelling down a freeway at speed. It’s a good deal.

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Recently, my Main Man, Little Lad and I loaded up the car and headed off on a car trip for a couple of hours for an overnight away. Time for travel mugs full of glorious, warming nectar to step up to the plate, insofar as travel mugs can both step and fulfil baseball metaphors. We chose Caramel Brownie for the road because it was a bit of a cool day, and that little orange box of promise was unopened and begging to be used.

Caramel Brownie is a black tea containing chocolate chips and caramel pieces offering the chocolatey, caramel blend the name implies. A black tea with a solid flavour is almost always a sure sign the tea should be consumed straight. But Caramel Brownie is a bit of a dark horse in this arena. The chocolate flavour comes from both cocoa husk and actual chocolate, so milk easily befriends the brew. Normally, this isn’t a problem, you either add or exclude milk according to your own preference. This cannot be the case when the travel mug is in play. Nor when you’re making tea and trying to leave the house at the same time. I don’t know how many of you have tried to leave the house for a night away with a small person, but they seem to require an extraordinary amount of stuff just to survive 24 hours away from your primary dwelling. And if an adult in my house is making tea in travel mugs and the two cups are not identical, something is going to go horribly wrong. That’s the type of brain overload that would have us strapping the stuffed elephant into the car seat and leaving LL behind. You can pity us, we’re parents.

So we had the milk, no milk discussion. I say discussion, it was more disjointed proclamations projected at one another from opposite ends of the house peppered with, “Have you put sunscreen in?” and similar enquiries. Milk means the tea could potentially taste better, but also meant the travel mugs could get a bit gross since we wouldn’t clean them until arriving home the next day. No milk meant sacrificing the flavour to save the travel mugs the fate of a potentially irreversible funk. We went with no milk (long term gains), finally piled ourselves into the car and we were off.

Caramel Brownie came and went from the T2 menu, mostly unnoticed by me. I sampled it in store when it was first released and then it faded into the background of my memory. It disappeared with little more than an acknowledgement from me. Several months (maybe years? I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention) later it resurfaced to the cheers of many. So much so, I came into a store one day to a handwritten sign informing me:

Guess who’s back
Back again
Caramel Brownie’s back
Tell a friend

As I sat staring down highway, finally able to drink my Caramel Brownie from my travel mug, I recalled these events and also recalled why Caramel Brownie had dissolved into obscurity for me before.

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I just wasn’t a huge fan. Kind of like boy bands. I lived through the hype of the 90’s boy band, desperately hoping that the next one would be the band I liked the most. And maybe I could have a crush on one of them and know all the lyrics to every song. But they all came and went, and not one of them held my attention for more than a single. So the Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, 5ive, Westlife, 98 Degrees, Hanson and Caramel Brownie all have the same thing in common: everyone else seems to like them more than I do. The difference is that Caramel Brownie can be improved slightly by adding some milk.

I guess the moral of the story is: Girl Power!

Caramel Brownie: 3/5 (or a different score, you’re free to decide)

Enjoy with: a little nostalgia and your favourite boy band’s hit single.

What’s That Smell?

Gorgeous Geisha

Smell is supposed to be our strongest sense in terms of invoking memories. Anecdotally, it is difficult for me to refute this assertion. Some smells are so irreversibly tied to memories it’s staggering. During my undergrad, there was a lecturer who believed in the power of smell. She would tell people to go to the shops and smell doughnuts in an effort to ward off depression. Or if you were avoiding too many treats, she prescribed smelling doughnuts for that as well. The lecturer even admitted following an unknown woman out of a shopping centre and to said unknown woman’s car, simply following the trail of doughnut aroma.

Some very strange smells stand out to me as I think about it. For instance, cold concrete. This smell is generally reserved for road houses or other public toilets, built outdoors, and used under the most desperate of circumstances in the middle of winter. You’d think these places would reek of the usual toilet smells. But no, in the middle of winter, the smell of cold concrete dominates all. I’m not even sure how the concrete smells cold, I certainly can’t describe anything else that smells cold. But the smell comes from the concrete and vanishes with the warmth.

Another strong smell association I have is shag pile carpet. Old houses had shag pile carpet when I was small, and I shudder to think how disgusting that stuff must have been. Especially since it was in vogue before we had all the whizz bang vacuum cleaning technology we have today. Our house didn’t have any, but I went to playgroup each week and was also babysat frequently in houses laid with arguably the most offensive floor covering fashion imaginable (I will concede that cork floors might be more deserving of this title). This in mind, I spend quite a lot of my ‘close to the floor’ years up close and personal with shag. So when someone mentions shag pile carpet, it conjures up a musty, synthetic odour in my mind’s eye. If indeed, you can conjure a smell in a mind’s eye.

Aroma is the arena in which Gorgeous Geisha excels most. It is complex and delicate and inviting. It is the fragrance that draws you in and lingers unwaveringly after each sip. The undertone of the tea is an undoubted green tea base. Like a stony exterior with a heart of gold, the green holds its ground in the flavour profile, but dances with the other flavours in a demonstration of goodwill. This brew is fruity, sweet, smooth and is crowned with a hint of vanilla.

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My Main Man and I disagree on the dominant fragrance. He says it’s a fruity bouquet, I say it’s vanilla. When I say vanilla, what I mean is vanilla wafer biscuits. Anyone who has eaten vanilla wafer biscuits knows that the smell varies from actual vanilla, but nonetheless, must be described as essentially, ‘vanilla’. This is an aroma that also casts me far back into my youth.

You could count on three things at party during my preschool and early primary school years: cocktail frankfurters (known as cheerios where I’m from), Cheezels, and wafer biscuits. The wafer biscuit priority order directly mirrors that of neapolitan ice-cream: chocolate and vanilla at the top, with individual preference determining which is truly king, and strawberry for losers. I remember avoiding the strawberry ones like overcooked vegetables. I remember pouncing on the vanilla ones as soon as I could. I remember taking painstaking care to remove each layer of the biscuit, desperate to draw out the experience as long as possible.

Vanilla wafers came into their own once again when I first moved out of home to be a student. A packet cost 55 cents when I was studying (which must have meant they cost about 4 cents when I was a child). When you first move out of home to be a student, everyone is forced into an initiation stage known as being a ‘broke student’. Somewhere along the way you work the money thing out, but at the beginning you stretch every dollar as far as it possibly will stretch. This means treats are in short supply, and vanilla wafers are free to swoop in in a 55 cent flurry of sugary glory. And once again I took painstaking care to eat them layer by layer, drawing out the experience as long as possible.

That particular vanilla aroma was my conditioning. I ate vanilla wafers after a long day. I ate them after I finished an assessment. I ate them when I was alone and had freed myself from the madness of my overstuffed share houses. To me, it’s the smell of a personal pat on the back. And because of this, I always face of a cup of Gorgeous Geisha in a good mood.

Gorgeous Geisha: 4/5

Best enjoyed: often, to create good memories.