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.

The Best Parenting Advice Ever

Spring

I am not a big fan of mummy blogs. They are numerous, they come across as overwrought, and most of them read as the smug catharsis of privileged housewives. In my own, subjective opinion, it’s not a true ‘mummy blog’ if there isn’t that air of smugness. Good ideas, activities, recipes, and book recommendations by mothers are great. Keep blogging, you’re terrific! If you’re just telling me all about how Dewdrop and Xavianitus are the beaming light of your life and today you drank a coffee on yak milk and did yoga while suspended from a skyscraper, spare us.

Maybe I’m being unfair, but I’d really prefer parenting advice to come from people with some kind of education to back up their experience. One mummy blogger I once read gave a long recount of the conversation she had with her 8-year-old about some lost chess pieces. We got the full details of why the chess set was so important, and where it had come from, and why it was so devastating that some pieces were missing. She recalled the full dialogue between them, where she basically put all the responsibility on him for the game now being ruined because some pieces were lost. The comments were full of showers of admiration for how she ‘taught her child responsibility’, when all I could see was an adult thrusting guilt upon their child. The child, I might add, when alerted to the missing pieces, began to search for them frantically, until the mother told him to stop because, “They were lost.” How is that teaching responsibility? Unless you’ve been taking this precious chess board with it’s hand carved marble pieces on a variety of excursions, the pieces should be in the house somewhere. Keep looking!

Another mummy blogger I read a couple of posts from (thankfully they were shorter), kept using the phrase, “Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect.” It drove me nuts. I didn’t expect she was saying she was perfect, until she pointed out she wasn’t, at which point I now found the rest of what she had to say extraordinarily smug. Of course you’re not perfect, and neither is your advice, because you’re a parent who is making this up along with the rest of us!

So, here is the best parenting advice I have to offer, because, I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I’ve been doing this a couple of years now, so I’ve pretty much got it figured out.

Here it comes: get to know your kid/s, then do what works for your family.

I know, it’s earth shattering. But seriously, I don’t read that kind of advice often enough. (And it is possible I have oversold this advice in the title). My parenting is not going to work for another parent because we are different and we’re rearing different offspring. This is why I’m a fan of experts who can give some context to the psychological, educational, and social dynamics at play when we do and say different things. Give me some options to choose from, all with healthy outcomes, then let me go from there.

So what does any of this have to do with tea?

Well, I would say that Spring is the ‘mummy blog’ of teas. It’s overworked, obtuse, and smug, if teas can be such a thing. It draws you in with it’s seemingly pleasant name: Spring. I think, hooray, fruity and maybe a bit floral. Oh no, Hibiscus is in charge like the Mega Mummy Bloggers who have OPINIONS about APPROPRIATE activities, food, and entertainment for their DARLING CHERUBS (sometimes referred to a sanctimummies). Behind the hibiscus cowers some non-descript fruity flavours, with a hint of citrus, parading as ‘Spring’ (just as a mummy blog parades as sound advice) without having any substance whatsoever. Some people go nuts for it, I’m just not a big fan.

Spring: 2/5
Enjoy with: a good, un-smug read.

Snore

Black Rose

Occasionally, I get really bad insomnia. I haven’t had it in a while, but tonight it is making a comeback. Or should I say, this morning? It’s 4:30 am. I have not slept a wink. I am not able to fall asleep no matter what I try right now. Relaxing music? No. Read a book? No. Lie very, very still. No. It’s humid, which isn’t helping.

The thing with being up now, having had no other sleep tonight means things are logistically a bit complicated. I can continue to try and sleep now, but then I probably won’t be able to wake up until late in the day, making it difficult to sleep again tomorrow night. I could try to stay awake, but since I have been up for about 21 hours already, I’ll probably crash out around 11am and then sleep until 8pm and then I’m living a reverse acceptable waking hours life, and that benefits nobody, least of all me. The dilemma a bout of insomnia puts you in makes simple decisions fairly complex.

Black rose is also complex (sorry, subtle segues aren’t my forte on almost no sleep), even though I’d expected it would just be black tea and rose. White Rose is white tea and rose. Green Rose is green tea and rose. But Black Rose is just more complicated than that. It’s still black, it’s still rose, but it’s a medley of fruity flavours too. It’s sweet and fruity on the fore with obvious mango and guava flavours. The composition includes a smooth black and light rose notes that underpin the fruitiness. This is an exceptional introductory tea if you want to try out flavoured black for the first time. It’s also a winner if you’re a fan of French Earl Grey.

Black Rose: 5/5
Enjoy with: sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep