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.

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Read the Signs

Aussie Wattle Breakfast

There is a difference between silver wattle and gold wattle. These are trees that spontaneously burst into bloom multiple times per year like they’re on fire with flowers and send the pollen count skyrocketing. I’m ok with that, because I am fortunate enough not to suffer from hay fever or asthma.

The thing I was told is to look for is gold wattle flowering in August and silver wattle flowering in May. Gold wattle in August is supposed to mean a stinking hot summer is on its way, and you should book an extended period in a snowy northern hemisphere location to avoid it. Silver wattle flowering in May is supposed to signal a mild winter, in which case, you should book a an extended period in a snowy Tasmanian retreat to avoid it.

Aussie Wattle Breakfast signals that a good cup of tea is ahead. You’re in for a bright, woody brew with muted floral notes. It’s a smooth black with an earthy aftertaste. The hint of tannin gives it a hearty boost. You should book an extended period per day enjoying this sip.

Aussie Wattle Breakfast: 4/5
Enjoy with: your own company, especially in a snowy hideaway.

Snap Snap

Daintree

If you haven’t been to Far North Queensland, I can recommend it. I also recommend driving to get there is you live anywhere south of Far North Queensland. Queensland is an ever changing landscape of rolling hills, rocky crags, bulldust swept plains, arid desert, sparkling coast, and scrubby bush. The journey only makes it easier to appreciate the destination. Even for someone who hates the heat like I do, it’s worth the visit.

Something to keep in mind though. It is not safe. Not even remotely. Nearly everything can kill you immediately, or kill you before you get anywhere near adequate medical help. Snakes, spiders, other assorted venomous bugs lurk on and under every conceivable surface. The ants are vicious and the flies are plentiful.

But the scariest thing that can happen is that you realise you are swimming in the same body of water as a crocodile. I stayed exclusively in fresh water sources, meaning the worst I could encounter is a freshwater crocodile. They can still leave you with a nasty bite, but they’re much more docile than saltwater crocodiles. Unless you threaten them, they’ll leave you alone. But when you see that the floating stick further out in the river actually has eyes, you lose the desire to swim, no matter how hot it is.

Still, the top end is worth a visit because it is spectacular and ancient and spiritual.

I’ve not been to the Daintree Forest specifically, but if it’s anything like Daintree tea, it’s a winner. Daintree is a smooth black tea that leans towards savoury in taste. With the right brew time, it can almost taste a tiny bit salty. It has light black tea notes, without any dark and musky flavours. When taken black, it’s a real pick-me-up. But this tea was built for milk. Milk smooths out all the rough edges in the flavour, but somehow the cup still tastes like black tea once you add milk. It’s a magic trick in your mouth.

Daintree: 5/5
Enjoy with: everything good in the world.

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!

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.

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.

Beaming

Southern Sunrise

If you’re raised on Australia’s east coast, the possibility of going to the west coast of any country and watching the sun set over an ocean is a tantalisingly exciting prospect.

So imagine my joy when I moved to Los Angeles, lived by the beach, and had a year’s worth of ocean sunsets to lap up before returning to the east coast of Australia. The thing is, I lived just far away enough from the beach that it was a planned walking expedition and not a leisurely stroll to the sand type affair, so I just kept putting it off. On my final day in LA, a friend asked if there was anything I wanted to do. I said, “Watch the sunset over the ocean.” My friend was a little hesitant, but obliged anyway. The sunset over the ocean was nothing special, because the thing about LA is, it is heavily polluted. So there is a point at which the sun hits the smog line, and all the romance of the idea dies right then and there.

A short while after I got back home, I watched a sunrise on the beach, and it was magnificent. No smog, clear air, the possibility of a new day, a crisp, summery breeze. It was a complete winner. And this is why I am convinced T2 have a ‘Southern Sunrise’ and no ‘Western Sunset’.

Southern Sunrise is a gorgeous summery tisane. It is bursting with tropical punch flavour: sweet pineapple, mango, paw paw, citrus in a balanced harmony. The overall effect is sweet, bright and fruity, making it a good candidate for iced tea. This brew is zingy and sherbety, perfect for summer days or nights when you’re after a refreshing hit.

Southern Sunrise: 4/5
Enjoy with: sunrise, sunset, or any other time of day.