London Calling

London Breakfast

I spent two days in London, and saw everything you can possibly pack into that timeframe. I felt the need for quantity over quality. I will know better next time, and next time, London won’t simply be a stopover.

While on this trip, Main Man and I decided to pick up London Breakfast from a T2 in London, and New York Breakfast from T2 in New York. The gesture was a little ridiculous since both teas were readily available online and in my T2 near home. As I made the purchase in London, I thought, “This would be so much more momentous if you could only get London Breakfast in the UK.”

Well, Unilever must have been reading my mind, because since last year, a number of breakfast teas have now been geographically locked. Not all of them, obviously. Singapore Breakfast, New York Breakfast, and Melbourne Breakfast you can get anywhere in the world. But London Breakfast is stuck in the UK. Scots Breakfast is in Glasgow ONLY. And I’m not 100% certain Auckland Breakfast is even still a thing. Does anyone know?

I am not currently travelling, so this cute idea to limit the teas to their namesake locations is a lot less fun for me. Thankfully, a friend of mine went to London a little while ago and kindly picked me up a box of London Breakfast. You can tell from the photo, the box has taken a long haul flight. I think they’ve altered the blend slightly, but I have no real way of knowing.

This version was a smooth black, and a little bit smokey. It’s like a toned down Russian Caravan. London Breakfast is complex in the same way I imagine certain types of whiskey are complex. You can taste chicory as you draw it into your mouth, but if you let it sit in your mouth a moment, it becomes a fresh pine flavour. When you add milk, the tea retains its smokey smell, but it mutes the smokey flavour, so what you’re left with is like English Breakfast with depth instead of tannin. It’s a big winner in my books.

London Breakfast: 4/5
Enjoy with: Your UK travels, because you aren’t getting it any other way anymore!

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Eurasia

Turkish Apple and Cinnamon

I was so excited to drink tea in Turkey. In the lead up to my trip I was imagining having small, hourglass vessels of tea every spare moment I had on my travels. I was expecting exotic blends I had never imagined, and a new brew waiting for me every time I had a chance to sip. In the cities, I assumed getting a cup of tea would be as easy as finding coffee in Melbourne.

When we arrived at our first hotel in Istanbul, they served complimentary afternoon tea and biscuits twice a week. And our short stay happened to coincide with one of these bound to be delightful occasions, and we were not on tour when it was happening.

So I show up at the foyer at the advertised time, requested afternoon tea, and waited in anticipation. For a beautiful hourglass vessel of…Lipton. Plain old Lipton black tea. Of all the black teas, Lipton! And the biscuits were nothing to write home about either.

Not to worry, it was a free afternoon tea. You get what you pay for, right? so that evening I went to one of the local shops to look for tea and I found the flavoured sugar kind (like T2 has), which is known as ‘tourist tea’, and Lipton. You cannot move in Turkey for all the Lipton on offer.

See, the thing about Turkey is, it is in both Europe and Asia. The Bosphorus River divides Europe and Asia and it runs right through the centre of Istanbul. So in a country I’d hoped would be brimming with tea culture, it was still wrestling coffee for a place on the table. So I drank ‘tourist tea’ and took several boxes home as well.

T2’s Turkish Apple and Cinnamon is one of the better flavoured sugar tisanes, because it has more depth than the varieties without any spices. It is sugary, sweet, fruity, and apple flavoured, but the cinnamon latches on at the end, adding woody and spicy notes. This gives the overall cup some nuance and would be delicious in place of a dessert.

Turkish Apple and Cinnamon: 4/5
Enjoy with: the anticipation of travel.

Regret

Chilli Berry Boom

I’m glad for the adventurous, and those who break the mould,
They bring such great advancements to the tired and the old.
But for this ‘tea’ I am not grateful,
This indictment on my lips,
It worsens and it burns the longer that one sips.
For people who drink gravy or pepper in their brew,
Or for those who munch on chillies,
Then perhaps this tea’s for you.
The berry is veiled,
On this cup I have bailed,
There is no way forward I can see.
Life is too short,
I have to report,
To keep drinking this rancid tea.

Chilli Berry Boom: 1/5
Enjoy with: a sense of immense accomplishment if you actually finish a whole cup.

Borders

Turkish Cherry

I had a blast when I visited Turkey and Greece. While I was in Turkey, I knew I wanted to try and get some Turkish tea glasses, but everywhere I went, I couldn’t find any that came in a set. I felt as though I kept stumbling into the Turkish equivalent of a $2 shop and finding nothing suitable. Many were plastic, which is outrageous. There were lots of individual ‘glasses’ with hideous prints on them, but there were no sets that I was excited about drinking tea out of.

Then, at the Turkish-Greece border crossing, we had the opportunity to check out the obligatory souvenir shops. It gave a new meaning to, “Exit Through the Gift Shop”. We were given 15 minutes before we had to be back on the tour bus. Nearly everyone opted to stay on the bus, but I got out and meandered aimlessly through the abandoned, airport-esque shopping strip.

And there they were, sitting on display. The perfect set of Turkish tea glasses. A set of 4, not covered in the world’s most garish print, not identical so you’d get the glasses mixed up, and actually made out of glass so you could pour hot liquid in. I was so happy, and so short on time, I immediately purchased them without another thought. And the exchange in the shop took longer than I thought because I possess the great weakness of only speaking English. I seem to do ok with picking up a bit of a local language through immersion, but I’m fairly hopeless otherwise.

To this day, those tea glasses are possibly my favourite souvenir from any of my travels.

And I do enjoy drinking Turkish Cherry from them. That said, there is very little to write about Turkish Cherry. It is flavoured sugar. So it tastes like sugar and cherry flavour. That’s what it is. Nothing to add. It’s fun to drink a small glass of, but as with most of T2’s ‘Turkish’ range, they shine best as mixers with other teas, especially iced tea.

Turkish Cherry: 3/5
Enjoy with: a cool souvenir.

Speaking of

White Flowery Pekoe

It is late at night as I’m an writing this, and it is criminally hot. I don’t think the humidity level should be allowed to rise after the sun has gone down. It’s ridiculous. Some days I’m certain I would only be happy if I was living somewhere perpetually frozen in the far north of the Yukon. But if I did live there I’d still gripe about trying to sleep in summer because the sun would never truly set and I’d be just as miserable.

Speaking of miserable, I’m sure that word was created for ear infections. On the rare occasion I do have something wrong with my ear or ears, the only word to sum up how I feel is miserable. It conjures images of persistent discomfort that requires involuntary horizontal positioning until the feeling passes. My deepest sympathies to anyone who suffers from routine ear infections.

Speaking of sympathy, that word always reminds me of soup. Is there such a thing as sympathy soup? I need to look this up… nope, no sympathy soup recipes, just a bunch of websites that will send a sympathy hamper including soup. I guess that’s my association. I like soup, but I know lots of people don’t like soup, and for some people it’s a way of saying, “I know things are not good right now, here is the worst food in the world.” Thankfully, I like soup, I will gladly accept soup during acceptable soup weather (otherwise known as acceptable weather), for sympathetic reasons or just because.

Speaking of hot liquids that bring comfort, White Flowery Pekoe is delicious. If you are knew to white tea, this is a brilliant place to start. It is also a small jump from many green teas, so if you’re looking to branch out from green without going crazy, this is the sip for you.

White Flowery Pekoe is a crisp white, making it a good jump for green tea drinkers, especially as some white teas can be very earthy. It’s a bright and floral brew high, pale woody notes, as opposed to dense and earthy wood notes. It’s a smooth sip with a sweet aftertaste. This is one to sip slowly and savour.

White Flowery Pekoe: 5/5
Enjoy with: soup or sympathy or sleep.

Nightmare

Singapore Breakfast

Dear Ms Tiph,

We, here at the Universe Department for Just Another Weekday would like to acknowledge your request for a weekday by virtue of the fact you woke up. We’re so glad you could join us. You see, we have this truly nightmarish day we’d like you to have. No, no. We promise, it’s right up your alley. What happens first is you’ll need to go to the library to print something, like you’ve done at least half a dozen times before. The thing is, the library has recently undergone a renovation. So it is new computers and new printers, and they are FULL of glitches because the software has been updated and the staff haven’t had a chance to get their head around it yet. We would like to point out that at this juncture you will not be alone in your frustration; we are fielding requests for weekdays just like yours for every library staff member also.

After 4 times as long at the library performing a simple task, it is time to navigate the busiest carpark in town. There will be no spaces available that aren’t next to poorly parked vehicles. Bring your best manoeuvring skills and be glad you aren’t still in the city.

Your trip to the chemist will be acceptable.

Next on the agenda is a visit to a government department. You know how you’ve been sick for a very long time? You know how you have to periodically deal with government departments to ensure your livelihood? You know how it is normally a hassle?  Well, today will be different. We have ramped up the hassle for you. What is going to happen is that you will take the same medical documentation to the department that you have been giving them for a year. Today the condescending individual at the front desk will tell you it is potentially not acceptable. After you explain this has been acceptable documentation for a year and that the convoluted documentation the individual requests has been unavailable to your specialist in the past, the individual will become patronising and insist that it is your responsibility to fix a systemic issue between the government department and the medical centre. You will leave with a small flare of symptoms. You will want the afternoon in bed, even though there are many other things for you to do.

Your return trip to the chemist will be acceptable, but 2 people in the carpark will glare at you for no reason you can decipher. Normally not a problem, but after the previous encounter you will be quite sensitive to these things.

After arriving home, ignore the desire to go to bed to soothe your symptoms and carry on with tasks that have been ignored for long enough you cannot possibly go another afternoon without completing them. You will wind up in bed anyway.

Just before 5pm, the government department will ring you to say your documentation is unacceptable. They will tell you to go to the GP and tell you to get another piece of documentation that has the same information in a new format. Explain to them that this is an absurd request, because they have the information in front of them. They will explain they are not a doctor and therefore cannot ‘make the call’ on a matter that the current documentation addresses. Read to them from your copy. Have them insist you must go to the GP (in the next 2 days) and get the new documentation. Explain that you are unwell and cannot simply go to the GP as though it is no big deal. Explain again that your documentation comes from a specialist who works 1 day a week and is 3 hours away. They will tell you the GP can fill in the new format document based on the information in the unacceptable documentation. Enquire why then, the documentation is unacceptable. They will explain again that they are not a doctor. Ask them to see sense. They will tell you they are ‘simply the bearer of bad news’, and imply you are rorting the system. Hang up and begin suffering full-blown physical PTSD symptoms.

You will then call the medical centre, as time is of the essence, and discover that your GP is no longer working at the centre (although they were there 3 weeks ago and made no mention of resigning), and make an appointment to see a GP who has no idea about your medical history. Get the new format documentation, but not to cover you for the entire period you need it for, because the GP does not know your history.

Fire off a complaint to the government department.

Finally, it will be time to collapse at home, in pain, and have your beautiful progeny beg you to sing an endless medley of songs. The giggles will be worth it. Unfortunately, you will spend 1-3 days in bed after dealing with this day. But on the plus side, we at the Universe Department for Just Another Weekday are unable to make robust plans if you aren’t moving between more than 3 rooms of your house, so you’re safe.

Do call again.

Sincerely,
The Universe Department for Just Another Weekday.

The antidote to days like this is a properly comforting cup of tea, and I have discovered one that fits the bill: Singapore Breakfast. It holds all the deliciousness and comfort of a hot chocolate with no where near the same degree of preparation or refined sugar (as in, none compared to some). Singapore Breakfast is a mellow brew with an overall creamy taste and texture. It has buttery, coconut and popcorn notes that round out the complex flavour profile. The smooth cup feels like a hug from the inside and is a warm and comforting sip for any time of day. Complex and creamy enough on its own, if you don’t take black without milk, on add the tiniest splash. This one stands alone, and should be enjoyed often.

Singapore Breakfast: 5/5
Enjoy with: Good days, bad days, and every in between day.

Ka-Pow

Gunpowder Green

Did you watch Worst Bakers in America? Because if you didn’t, you should. It’s still on SBS On Demand. The premise is that 12 of the worst bakers in America come on television, learn from two expert bakers how to improve their baking skills, and then battle it out to win $25,000. It’s like the Great British Bake Off for people less interested in baking and more interested in colourful characters.

Genuine lines from the series include:
“Your brownies bent the spoon!”
“This is my lemon meringue (mer-in-gew) pie. But I was later told it’s pronounced ‘mer-ang’.”
“I chose to make hammer shaped cookies, because construction workers are hot.”
“This cookie is a french bulldog. These are poker chips for my love of gambling. And this represents my inner rage.”
“When I bake the delicates (desserts/pastry), I listen to them. I have to listen to the delicates.”
“I work in a cemetery. I deal with reality.”
“I hate how the PTA mums are so mean to anyone who can’t bake. I want to be Queen of the PTA.”
“I can’t touch eggs!”
“Brownies at a wedding? Classy.”
“This needs some more bling-bling. Ka-pow!”

The ‘Ka-pow’ contestant was constantly tossing powders, flour, glitter, sprinkles, sugar, and whatever else she could all of the place, while shouting, “Ka-pow!” It’s a contagious catch phrase as it turns out.

And what says “Ka-pow” more than Gunpowder Green? That’s right, nothing. I’ve had Gunpowder Green before, and the balls of leaves were small and tightly wound, leaving a strong astringent tea in its wake. This time I was brewing looser balls of tea and the overall effect was much smoother and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a complex brew that’s a little bit woody, a little bit fruity, a little bit vanilla, and it draws out a smokey flavour as it cools. This cup is a proper kick of green tea and is perfect on a 90 second brew.

Gunpowder Green: 4/5
Enjoy with: an episode of trashy tv. Go on!