The Ekka

Brisbane Breakfast

Any self-respecting individual that has spent some time living in Brisbane knows that once a year, in August, the Brisbane Showgrounds on Gregory Terrace come into their own when the Ekka arrives. Officially ‘The Royal Queensland Show’, those from Brisbane know the only real names for it are “The Ekka” or “The Show”. If you’re my Grandma you can get away with calling it, “The Exhibition”, but anyone who is not my Grandma should not take that risk.

In Brisbane, there is a public holiday to go to The Show. It is very originally called, “Show Day” or, “The Ekka Holiday”. It is better than Melbourne, who take a whole day off for one 40 second horse race that promotes gambling and a somewhat liberal concern for animal welfare. It is also better than the Northern Territory that take a day off for picnics. While I applaud the concept, the fact it has to be taken in the middle of winter to prevent everyone from sizzling to a crisp is somewhat telling. Show Day is, without doubt, the best localised public holiday in the country. (Ok, it’s subjective. Proclamation Day marks a massive advance in society, so it’s pretty good too).

The real beauty of the Ekka is the way it has maintained its essence as an agricultural show, despite being plonked in the middle of a city. A part of this success is due the enduring favourite foods that show up year after year. Grabbing a strawberry sundae before heading in to the arena for the fireworks, eating a pile of fairy floss the size of your head before 10am, the CWA scones that are equally fantastic year after year, and the risk of eating a dagwood dog on a stick because everyone knows someone who became violently ill eating one, but there’s also the risk you didn’t really go to the Ekka if you didn’t eat one.

Largely, I’m pretty down on Brisbane, but the Ekka is a real saving grace of the place. And somehow, T2’s Brisbane Breakfast manages to remind me of all the nice parts of Brisbane, without the humid, disappointing aspects. It’s a blend based on a smooth black, with a light fruity flavour, but not a bold fruitiness. The mango notes make the cup fresh and sunshiney, like a morning in early spring, when the air is still cool, provided you stay out of the sun that already has serious bite to it. This brew is a pleasure to remember Brissy by.

Brisbane Breakfast: 4/5
Enjoy with: a strawberry sundae and the sheepdog trial.

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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.

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

Crunch

Go Go Goa

I’ve only seen a goanna in the wild a handful of times, but I tell you what, those vicious, leg snakes are formidable. Everything about them screams evil: long clicking claws on the ground; shiny, scaly skin; forked tongue that flicks the air around it; and the calculating movement of a cold-blooded killer. These things break into birds nests and crunch up unhatched eggs. Yes, it is as gross as it sounds.

Goannas don’t have much to do with anything, I just think of them when I say Go Go Goa. I feel like the logical progression is Go Go Goa Goan Goanna.

Something I like about Go Go Goa is the tiny little red berries it has in it. They look exactly like the berries on those weeds that grew everywhere while I was growing up, and though no one really knew what they were, everyone knew those were poison berries and if you ate them you would be violently ill. Then you would go to hospital and you would die. In the early 90s we were taught to fear these berries like we were taught to fear strangers. And now here I am, drinking little red berries and living in the age of Uber.

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Go Go Goa is probably my favourite type of chai. I’m partial to a masala chai, and a regular chai, but the full cardamon pods and orange zest make Go Go Goa such a delicious brew. There’s a hint of vanilla to give it a smooth flavour and the black tea is the right base for a mingling of spices. Perfect on its own, Go Go Goa is also improved by vanilla soy milk (or other milk, if you like, but vanilla soy is a queen of milk for tea, so why would you bother with too much else?). An absolute must, year round: warming in winter and refreshing when iced in warm weather.

Go Go Goa: 5/5
Enjoy with: Vanilla soy milk and…

Devotion

Monk Pear

High above the Plain of Thessaly, beside the Pindos Mountains in central Greece, towers a rock formation known as Meteora. Built into this unusual piece of nature is a series of monasteries that have a central role in the Eastern Orthodox religion. The geology of the place is difficult to explain, and the reasoning for building here is more difficult again. But it is a beautiful place to behold.

The largest of these monasteries is The Monastery of Great Meteoron. Most of it serves as a museum now, and the icons that cover the walls are testament to the devotion of the people who decorated the monastery. The smallest of all the monasteries is The Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas. During my visit a few years ago, only one monk lived there.

The devout life is one that has intrigued me since I first watched ‘Sister Act’ in the early ’90s. I didn’t really have much other exposure to nuns, other than watching ‘The Sound of Music’. I couldn’t reconcile that Maria in the Abbey was somehow pursuing a life similar to Maggie Smith’s in Sister Act, because Maggie Smith was (and still is) so much cooler than Julie Andrews. Julie Andrews has that amazing voice going for her though. I digress. I couldn’t understand why people were intent on locking themselves away in draughty churches, tending to small gardens for the entire lives. But, spending time in Meteora, I came to appreciate the attraction of a life of devotion. The paintings in the monasteries were painstakingly accurate icons demonstrating the extent to which faith mattered to these devotees. And for some reason, the painting and the maintenance of the icons was something that spoke to me. The outward demonstration of devotion to their faith was something meaningful.

So, what to say of Monk Pear, then? It’s definitely a contemplative brew. One for sipping slowly, it helped through both undergrad and postgrad. It’s a strong black base with fruity notes. I find this one easy to brew badly, and an over brewed version is the pits. I’m a fan of giving the leaves a cold rinse before brewing, and a short brew time of around 2 minutes. Monk Pear is a very agreeable black blend. Almost anyone who likes French Earl Grey likes Monk Pear as well. Milk is a definite no-no, the flavour is way to delicate, and as a sweet taste to start with, sweetener is unnecessary. This is a brilliant tea for afternoons, especially that 3:30pm slump at work.

Monk Pear: 5/5
Enjoy with: a sense of devotion.

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…