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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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

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

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