December 17, 2020

Tea Advent Day 17

This is an exciting tea. Dambusters 617 Blend has a story connected to the Lancaster bomber, and is described as “heroic, yet workman-like.” It is mainly an assam leaf, but with this extra funny little teaball, a thing I have never encountered before, and ironically after yesterday, is impossible to google because all results relate to infusers. I’ll show you a photo of the teaball:

I crushed it in the mortar that wasn’t washed after I crushed coriander seeds in it last night, but I don’t think it has much of a coriander taint; and I added it to the rest of the leaves. The brew is a satisfying chestnut brown, and for once I completely agree with the description: a touch of honey, sweet tobacco and malt. Probably the best tea so far, and I need it after a frustrating two-hour meeting in which the person leading a certain project seems determined to keep the plan secret, which mystery is spiced up no end by the fact that today is her last day with us. I was gasping for this tea and it has been worth the wait.

Furthermore, and you will like this bit, the third of yesterday’s online Christmas Parties had a Secret Santa element, and guess what I got? A new mug! Just when we were all worried that I don’t have enough mugs to take us to the 24th. It’s a very nice mug with a cat on it, though bottom-heavy making it slightly awkward to hold. I now have to relegate another of the kitchen mugs to the box in the garage; let me know which one you think doesn’t earn its space.

  • Comments: 3
  • I've not even had that one out yet, but you could be right. - Karen
  • Maybe we just need to get a bigger kitchen - Pete
  • That big one that's the size of a soup bowl seems surplus to requirements. - Pete
December 16, 2020

Tea Advent Day 16

It’s another green tea, and as has been established, I don’t like green tea. This is Japan Benifuuki Green Tea, which leaves me wondering how you would pronounce that, but not wondering it enough to google it. The box is back to form, with details of the laborious oxidisation process that apparently gives this tea allergy and eczema-fighting properties. Again, not engaged enough with the matter to search for a peer-reviewed study on that; feel free.

I don’t like green tea, and yet… like the last one and the white tea before it, this is a pleasant drink that I would go back for more of, so maybe I’m wrong about green tea, or I’ve been drinking the wrong green tea. I am almost at the point where I would consider keeping a caddy of this stuff. There is one more in the box, and then perhaps we can pick a favourite.

You will note from the photograph (with apologies for the lack of crispness, among the things I can’t be arsed to do this morning is switch the light on to get a better picture), that the tea does not look green but brown. So, erm, there’s that.

I picked another of Bernard’s mugs today, for some reason under the impression that Moshi Monsters was a Japanese thing. And I did bother to check this for you, which is perhaps why I’m so drained now, and it turns out Moshi Monsters is a British thing, so this mug has no rhyme or reason and he never uses it anyway so I might go and add it to the box in the garage when I’ve washed it.

December 15, 2020

Tea Advent Day 15

This tea is billed as a real tea of the people: Milk & Two Builder’s Brew is the tea that built the empire. The box tells us precisely nothing about the composition of the tea; no soft feathery tips selected by virgins at the top of Mount Olympus this time, it just says “contains tea.” It also strongly advocates for drinking it with full fat milk and two sugars, which naturally I have not.

This is far and away the tea-iest tea of the box so far, and for once I feel no shame in telling you that it is brown and it tastes of tea. Having swilled a mug of it, I couild probably now go and build the kitchen extension myself, but I still have all these draft essays to comment on, so perhaps not today. In fact I’m naturally opposed to such lazy labelling and stereotyping, which is why I’ve selected the Brain Surgeon mug to drink it from. I think this mug was acquired at Sevitz’ braai back in, erm, 200andlet’ssay4? There was some sort of random gift exchange and I’m pretty sure this was the item donated by Anna Pickard, now of the San Francisco Pickards, and is also famous for being the event where we first encounter Lori and Topper. What a bloggy mug.

December 14, 2020

Tea Advent Day 14

On this occasion I’m feeling like I should have saved the advent calendar for this afternoon, as I try to only work until 12:30, and today being deadline day for essay drafts, I have a lot of feedback to write, and can’t afford to take time out to write blogposts about tea.

Nonetheless. The interesting thing about Honey Hon Cha is that it gets its flavour from the goo secreted by the leaves after being bitten by insects. This occurs during a very short timeframe, making t quite a rare and special tea. We are anticipating floral and fruit notes, as well as dark chocolate and of course honey.

Even after pouring through the filter four times, it remains pale, and an interesting smell emerges from the steeping leaves. The taste is something I can only describe as drainsy, with a hint of rose, and yet it’s not completely undrinkable. I probably wouldn’t go back for another cup of it; something that is happily facilitated by there only ever being one shot of each tea.

I have now depleted the kitchen cupboard of mugs, and had to go into the extraordinarily cold garage to find the box where I keep the B mugs. Back in the old days when I used to leave the house to run antenatal sessions, I occasionally needed to provide mugs because the venue didn’t. Venues are usually church halls, sometimes theatres and sports centres, they all have different arrangements. I’ve run a few sessions in school halls on an evening or weekend, and those are usually awful, and don’t provide any mugs; of if they’re letting you use the staffroom, don’t want you to use their mugs. And it’s not unusual for the mugs to be so filthy you wouldn’t expect paying clients to use them anyway. So that’s why we keep enough mugs in the house to take us all the way to Christmas Eve. Today’s mug arrived last year in the Grasmere Gingerbread hamper that I have mentioned before, and this is the first time it’s ever been used, as there were only a handful of antenatal sessions between its arrival and all our courses moving online in March. It’s a large and chunky mug with a very comfortable handle, and I’m considering promoting it to the cupboard.

December 13, 2020

Tea Advent Day 13

This weekend is weird. After months of doing virtually nothing at all at the weekend, Pete is out recording with his new band, I’m glued to Robin Ince’s Nine Lessons & Carols for Socially Distanced People, and we’re going to Aylesbury this afternoon to see Christmas Lights and drink mulled wine with Pete’s sister. It’s an exhausting social whirl is what it is.

Furthermore, despite my attempts at a pre-christmas preventative diet, my mother has arranged for the delivery of a huge chocolate cake, supposedly for my birthday which was two weeks ago. I am ungratefully trying to give it away in large chunks, but it’s very hard not to eat a bit of it every time I go into the kitchen. So I’ve been for a run in the drizzle and now I’m sitting down with today’s tea, which is the other Earl Grey in the box, and lives up to its name, Earl Grey Citrus, in spectacular fashion.

The leaves are very pretty.

Even before adding water, the scent of lemon was almost overpowering. This is Ceylon tea with bergamot, as you would expect from an Earl Grey; but in addition we have lemon oil, lemon grass, orange peel, cornflowers, cactus and jasmine blossoms. I’m happy to see the jasmine in there, because I often throw a little jasmine tea in with the Raspberry Ruffle, and worry that this is a terrible sacrilegeous thing to do. I’m still not confident I can identify the flavours of cornflower or cactus, so these are wasted on me, but the citrus is powerful, and more so when hot water is added in.

The lemon scent and flavour is far stronger than the bergamot, though the bergamot is discernible, and the result is outlandish but not unpleasant. I would say this is Earl Grey for the Open Minded. It is a little odd to taste lemon in a drink that contains milk, and I know everything I eat for the rest of the day is going to have a citrus tang.

You’ll notice what a very nice mug I’m drinking it out of, and particularly that the sunburst colouring is particularly suited to a tea made of oranges and lemons. What you don’t know is that Pete has expressly forbidden me to use his special mug. But he’s not here.

December 12, 2020

Tea Advent: Day 12

It’s 8:45am on a Saturday and today’s tea is the Superior English Breakfast, so there is no time to lose. It turns out that yesterday’s tea things haven’t been washed up yet, and there’s no way a quick rinse will rid the pot of that overpowering aniseed flavour, so I’ve located the back-up teapot. This is a cute red fellow that I picked up in Oxfam, along with his handspun, handknitted cosy.

There are a lot of words on the box, but what it basically comes down to is, this is what tea is supposed to taste like. So golden tips of Assam blah blah blah, all I want at this time of day is something to wake me up and enhance my mood, hence also the mug.

Photo by Pete

This mug was acquired through a strange but compelling competitive raffle game one New Year at Mike & Susan’s. We miss New Year at Mike & Susan’s, it was always a blast. We provided prizes for this game, and I think we had Mike in mind for the mug, whose caption in full is A bad brew makes me grumpy, a sentiment to which I am sure we can all relate. All of us but Pete, who is never rendered grumpy by such trivia as poorly made tea, and anyway only drinks herbal/fruit teas these days so his opinion frankly, well, he can stick to beer. Naturally Pete won the mug.

  • Comments: 1
  • Oh, what's the tea like? Nice. Tastes like tea is supposed to taste. - Karen
December 11, 2020

Tea Advent Day 11

I have very low expectations of the Spicy Chai Flavoured Black Tea. Pete and I have the day off today, and have been for a six mile hike that ended with posh sausage rolls and a trip to Aldi, where, amongst other things we didn’t need, we picked up their salted caramel crumble topped mince pies and a pair of tumblers that Pete really, really took a fancy to. This always happens when we go to Aldi. I had a small skimmed milk latte with my posh sausage roll, and cannot find the words to describe how much of a treat that was, because that’s how fun my life is now.

So the next hot drink of the day has a lot to live up to, and it’s another of the flavoured teas. I do like a chai, and I even have a tub of instant chai powder, which is probably illegal in tea snob circles. In appearance and smell, this seems suspiciously similar to the Farrers Spiced Christmas Tea that came in a Grasmere Gingerbread hamper from my mum last year. That’s the one with the whole cloves, and I haven’t made much of a dent in it. If you’re ever stuck for a gift for me, send me Grasmere Gingerbread, but don’t bother with the tea. Instead of whole cloves, this one has whole peppercorns, which piqued my interest somewhat. I know that authentic chai should be boiled up in the milk, but for the sake of consistency and also out of laziness, I’ve gone with the conventional teapot method. I did however give the milk a quick blast in the microwavĂ©.

Both the aroma and flavour of the tea are utterly annihilated by aniseed, to the extent that there’s even a little aniseed burn on the tongue after drinking it. This, my friends, is aniseed tea. You would only drink it if absolutely all the other teas in your cupboard had been stolen by some bastard, who was such a bastard that they had actually left this one behind, the bastard.

The chai is polluting my newest mug, a birthday gift from Bernard which arrived yesterday. But wait, I hear you cry, that mug says “coffee” on it, you can’t drink tea out of it, it’s quite clearly a coffee mug! And I reply to you that you are completely missing the point, this was a birthday gift from my darling boy, who bought it for me because we have spent so much of the last few months playing Stardew Valley together, and in Stardew Valley my character did get a bit obsessed with being a coffee farmer, so his train of thought is, she’d like a Stardew Valley mug; obviously it would be a coffee one. Also I don’t know if you can tell, but if you compare today’s photo with previous days you will see, this mug is enormous. You can get a lot of tea in there. I’m looking forward to doing that when the tea is actually nice to drink.

Cocktails will be served out of inappropriate vessels at 5.

December 10, 2020

Tea Advent Day 10

Today I’m at university where I’m studying a PG Cert in Teaching & Learning in Higher Education, sounds fun doesn’t it? My expectations of online learning are high, and my uni days this semester have never failed to disappoint me. I could write you an entire post on why and how this learning environment could be used so much more effectively, but all you need to know is that I signed on at 9:15 and I’m already writing a post about tea.

On the upside, this tea is wonderful. It’s called Jenny’s Blend as a tribute to a member of staff at Imperial Teas of Lincoln, and is Jenny’s personal combination of Keemun Hao Ya B and Assam. This reminds me that Keemun was once my tea of choice, when you could get it in Whittards; but I haven’t had it for years and don’t know where to get it from these days.

Brewed for 5 minutes and very definitely taken with milk, this is described as A blend of great fortitude and complex character to keep you going all day, which is precisely what one needs when one is obliged to tune in to other people talking about their research projects and the tutor making suggestions that are clearly derailing everyone’s plans, potentially until half past three with no information shared about what breaks we can anticipate, which is one of the things I would mention in the above-mentioned post that I’m not writing. The tea is satisfyingly dark and definitely hits the notes promised on the box, most particularly the malt and chocolate. I’m not sure I’m getting the rose, but I’m happy to know it is there, deep in the mix.

My mug today is the other one in my Aunty Kathy‘s Artwork collection. I could have gone for beetles or paint splatters, but I chose beach huts because it seemed like something you wouldn’t normally see on a mug. Aunty Kathy has Parkinson’s and moved into digital art after a lifetime of watercolour and other creativity, and these days I don’t think she can manage anything much at all, so I’m raising her mug full of Jenny’s Blend in tribute to her.

  • Comments: 4
  • No, no you can't, can you. - Karen
  • See, and now I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not. :-) - Lyle
  • I massively appreciate your willingness to google things for me. - Karen
  • As just a couple of examples for getting Keemun tea... Loose Leaf Tea Co - https://theu... - Lyle