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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Punch

Citrus Punch

I’m on hold. It’s a seriously tedious task to be put on hold and have to wait indefinitely. The music always gets old in about 14 seconds. I don’t care what is playing. Any service that has high volume phone traffic needs to factor music licensing into the budget and play real songs to the people on hold for an age. Because this string quartet medley makes me want to punch something.

So that has me thinking, punch, meaning powerful blow, and punch, the fruity beverage, seem to have very little in common, yet it is the same word. Lucky for me, there is a dictionary on the desk, which I would gladly allow someone to sock me over the head with, if it meant the hold music would stop. I’m listening to the sound of someone having an anxiety attack while pretending nothing is wrong.

Anyway, the dictionary informs me that punch, the beverage, is possibly the shortening of the word ‘puncheon’, a large cask. Well, that would explain how two very different meanings wound up with the same word, and possibly why we associate punch with bowls. It’s rare to put other drinks in bowls to serve guests. I’ve never been to a party that had a bowl of milo (but now that I think about it, it’s not such a bad idea).

What is a bad idea, is drinking Citrus Punch on its own. This is a brilliant tea for blending with another fruity tea (like Packs a Peach), especially to make iced tea, but hot and on its own, it’s a bit of a let down. True to its name, there is a lemony, citrus flavour, with an overall fruitiness and a hint of apple. But for the most part, hibiscus swans around the cup doing its hibiscus thing, and making the whole experience too tart.

Citrus Punch: 2/5
Enjoy with: other tea, or iced, or not at all.

What’s In a Name Pt 2

Grand Yunnan

Things that are mightily improved by adding “Grand” at the start:

Pianos
Fathers
Mothers
Parents
Children
Central
Canyon
Canal
National
Final
Old Duke of York
Yunnan

I’m a pretty big fan of bog standard, run of the mill Yunnan, so it really takes something serious to turn “Yunnan” into “Grand Yunnan” and for that to be meaningful. Grand Yunnan is a dark and musky brew with a bold flavour. The full bodied fermented black tea flavour has the necessary amount of tannin to appreciate the richness of the tea It’s woody, a little bit smokey and has a mild sweet aftertaste. This is the kind of tea I drink because I can’t drink alcohol. It’s one to sip, savour and appreciate the complexity of, like a good whiskey (I imagine).

Grand Yunnan: 5/5
Enjoy with: any moment you want to make grand.

What’s In a Name?

Shimmer Punch

I like making up names for things that are just a little bit wrong, especially if it’s something I have a hard time remembering. Some of the tea names I have come up with are:

Lapstand Shoestring (Lapsang Souchong)
Iron Fist of Fury (Iron Goddess of Mercy)
City Sensate (Citrus Sensastion)
What What? (White White Cocoa)
Sucker Punch (Shimmer Punch)

I have previously mentioned the iced tea concoction of Shimmer Punch and Packs a Peach I am fond of. I call it Packs a Sucker Punch. Because I’m cool like that. Shimmer Punch brewed hot on its own presents a fruity, herbal bouquet. It has elements of citrus, floral, and apple in the body of the sip. The overall effect is sweet and sometimes slightly sherbety. This calming cup with a blueberry aftertaste is like a cool breeze on a summer evening. It’s a great cup, and perfect for iced tea, but generally, it’s not all that memorable. Just a nice standard one to have on hand.

Shimmer Punch: 3/5
Enjoy with: Funky names

Homesick

Liquorice Legs

The first time I left the country, I was 18 years old and decided to work in the US for a year. By this age I wasn’t really interested in international travel by halves. Having not left Australia before, I wondered how homesickness might affect me. I didn’t know what it was like to be immersed in another culture, or what it felt like to be such a sheer distance from the only way of life I had ever known.

One day, about 3 weeks after arriving, I was standing in the supermarket feeling pretty low. My job was not going terribly well. It was always grey, but never snowing. I was living in a super affluent location where classism was rife and it meant few people were friendly. I wanted some comfort food. I wanted lollies.

For those of you that haven’t been to the US, lollies are not a thing there. Sure, they have gummy bears and gummy worms and gummy rings and Swedish fish, but I wanted snakes and teeth and milk bottles. The texture is completely different, and makes up at least 70% of the consumption experience. I gave up on the gummy onslaught and decided to try my luck at chocolate end of the spectrum.

US chocolate is revolting. Honestly, it shouldn’t be called chocolate. There should be ‘chocolate’ and ‘American chocolate’. As I surveyed the sad arrangement of US manufactured disappointment before me, all I wanted was a Cherry Ripe. And that was the moment the reality of homesickness hit me. I could not get a Cherry Ripe without waiting a week for the post, or spending 24 hours on a plane. The sheer distance between me and my next Cherry Ripe was palpable.

I left the supermarket and sat in my car for a while, crying about all the confectionary I couldn’t lay my hands on. Jersey Caramels. Strawberry Clouds. Bananas. Tim Tams. Wagon Wheels. But it was liquorice all sorts that brought on the proper flood of tears. When was the last time I’d eaten a liquorice all sort? Why hadn’t I savoured it? How did I not consider that it might be the last time I could leisurely acquire these squares of culinary genius?

A few months later I changed jobs and everything picked up, but I remember eating a liquorice all sort soon after I arrived in Australia. And I savoured it, and I considered it might be the last time I ever ate one and I would not take it for granted. That was 10 years ago, and I cannot remember eating one since then, so it could well be the last one I have had in a decade.

Clearly, I am one of those people that enjoys liquorice. So why is it I can’t stand T2’s Liquorice Legs? There are some die hard fans out there that swear by this tisane, but I am very much not one of them. I don’t think it’s the liquorice flavour I have a problem with though. The brew also contains fennel and peppermint. When you mix those two together it’s tastes like saccharin to me. There’s a hint of liquorice in the initial sip, but it’s soon replaced by the other competing flavours. I had to steel myself to drink this one.

Liquorice legs: 1/5
Enjoy with: a sense of home.

Look At Me!

Arctic Fire

What it feels like writing a job application:

Tell us a time when you were unequivocally amazing.

Being unequivocally amazing is as much a state of mind as it is an action. Maintaining this state of mind takes years of practice, but in the roles I have held in the past, I have taken the ample opportunities provided to hone this skill. A specific example of a time I utilised this frame of mind, was when I called a team meeting under the guise of actual work. Once I commenced the meeting, taking charge like a good leader, I unleashed a torrent of my unequivocal amazingness on my team. I received stellar feedback, and many of the team commented on how they felt like better people having attended the meeting.

 

What it feels like writing a job application for a Christian organisation:

Tell us about a time when you were unequivocally amazing, but make it sound spiritual.

Only God is unequivocally amazing. But I am a close second. I spend 97 hours a week doing God’s work, even if 50% of that looks like me fiddling on my phone or chatting over coffee. I don’t so much sleep as have extended sessions of deep meditative prayer where I can seem asleep. My family are the most important part of my Christian work. If they weren’t in the background to prop me up, I would just look like a raging workaholic with no soul.

 

What it feels like writing a Government job application:

There exists, in some parts of this role, the need for you to believe in unequivocal amazingness and in your ability to deliver measurable, timely, on budget unequivocal amazingness. Explain the process you would undertake to fulfil this expectation.

Both of us know that ‘on budget’ is a very loose term when it comes to Government initiatives. Similarly, ‘timely’ and ‘measurable’ have a degree of flexibility unseen in the private sector. This said, I would probably just go about the task the best way I know how, delivering the best result I possibly could. But in order to veil that reality, I will now deliver a series of buzzwords so that my application shows higher in whatever computer system screens these applications. Synergy. Efficacy. Narrative. Conversation. Stakeholder. Convergence. Growth. Cross-platform. Adaptability.

 

What it feels like applying for a low-paying job at a company with high profits:

We are unequivocally amazing. We know it. We make money. We make money like you’ve never seen. You wish you could see the amount of money we make, because it would blow your tiny mind. You will only ever be able to hope to see the kind of profit we turn, because if you could see our genius, you would die. Your eyes would explode out of your head and then you would die. We are so important and we do so much stuff and make so much money. SO MUCH MONEY! But none of us want to do any administration, so we want you to. We don’t value your contribution to our company, because we make all the money, no matter how much essential support you provide.

Ok. I can do the administration.

 

What it feels like drinking Arctic Fire:

A bit of a rip off. This tea is such a mongrel to brew correctly. It needs rinsing, it needs second by second observation and adjustment to find the right time to make it palatable. It’s the avocado of teas: underdone, underdone, underdone, 10 seconds of perfection, ruined. If you taste an over brewed cup of this stuff it’s like knocking back a couple of packets of fisherman’s friends at the same time. A wall of menthol charges through you, leaving only despair in its wake. When it’s brewed correctly, it’s genuinely a nice tea. It’s a hearty black with a floral pop. The herbal menthol flavour makes it a perfect winter warmer tea, made specifically for a frosty morning. So Arctic Fire, much like real fire, can be pleasant if handled appropriately, and will destroy you if handled carelessly. (I rinse the leaves under cold tap water, then a 90 second brew with boiling water).

Arctic Fire: 3/5
Enjoy with: meaningful work, wherever you can find it.

It’s My Own Recipe

Creme Brûlée

When I have the energy, I really enjoy cooking. I find it so much fun to get in the kitchen and create something delicious. When I was 7 years old, I insisted I was capable of making pancakes. It turns out I was. I have never looked back.

I also enjoy reading cookbooks for leisure. I have a cookbook full of French desserts that I have never made and that I refuse to part with, mostly because I think it’s a good read. This is the primary way I have ingested the theory of cooking, and in doing so, have become confident in my ability to create a meal from scratch without any instructions.

One of my favourite creations is Creme Bru-Lamb. It’s a layered dish serve in a ramekin with mint yogurt cucumbers, tender diced lamb, creamy garlic blue cheese sauce, topped with fried Turkish bread. It is a decadent masterpiece, if I do say so myself.

Another delicious treat is T2’s Creme Brûlée. This is a black tea with a sweet streak. Hints of caramel, honey and nut dance around the cup with a mild smokey and woody backdrop. It is a superb afternoon tea for when you want something sweet without committing to cake. It screams dessert, but drinking black tea after dinner is not really great for your health (but hey, I’m not your mum, do what you want). Be warned, it’s easy to over brew.

Creme Brûlée: 4/5
Enjoy with: a good (cook)book.