Tea and Life, Tea Retail

Of Calgary

Two weeks and two days in Calgary.

Snow!

Snow!

It’s not like us to visit a country and not hop from place to place. Three days here, five days there: Two weeks and two days would normally be three to five locations.

Not this time. Lady Devotea and I had but two aims: to spend some time with our eldest son and his lovely girlfriend for the first time in over a year, and to not be where we were immediately beforehand.

R&R: Rest. Recreation. Relaxation. Recuperation. Recharging. Obviously I mean R&R&R&R&R. Not so much of the tourist thing. No tea conferences to speak at. No business, no booked tours.

How cold was it? Take a close look at the background.

How cold was it? Take a close look at the background.

We arrived more exhausted than a nine-hour flight should leave us, because we were exhausted when we got on the plane.

It has always struck me that the last place you want to be when you arrive in a country is at an airport.

Calgary Airport is different. The first person we saw was some sort of usher, like you used to get in cinemas, only without a torch and bathed in the bright sunshine coming in from the mainly glass walls. She said “Welcome to Calgary” and pointed us in the right direction.

The second person we saw was a gentlemen who did the same.

How happy were we to be on a day trip to Banff? Judge for yourself!

How happy were we to be on a day trip to Banff? Judge for yourself!

We collected our bags and went through passport control, which was outstandingly friendly. Ditto customs.

We had yet to enter the public part of the terminals when Lady D turned to me and said “Wow, Canadians are sooo friendly”.

That might sound like a snap judgement based on a small sample, but as I write this after leaving Canada, I can say we had nothing but corroborating evidence. The data was amazingly homogenous.

We were duly picked up, there may have been some tears, but soon we were rewriting the record books for amount of luggage you can cram into a small car with four people, and heading off toward the abode of our hosts.

Wall of The Oolong Tea House in Kensington. One of two great tea shops we found.

Wall of The Oolong Tea House in Kensington. One of two great tea shops we found.

The first item of business was to present them with a kilo of Doke Black Fusion and the second was to get stuck into that. When we left, I think there was about 10% of it left. Many wonderful times were had over this tea.

Obviously, we drank a few samples and other teas we picked up along the way. Blacks, rooibos, greens, flavoured and plains. We had tea out at a dozen places; in everything from delicate china to glass tumblers to waxy takeaway cups.

We saw some tourist towns, some tourist attractions. The zoo. We shopped. We ate out and ate in, cooked and were cooked for.

We arrived on a summer’s day: it was 25 degrees Celsius. The next day, it was winter, for it snowed. Then a few days later came the spring thaw, with clear skies and melting snow. Then all the trees turned golden and red. Autumn had arrived by about day nine. A year’s worth of weather in nine days.

Calgarians seem to like "Quick Fixin's" as this supermarket photo shows.

Calgarians seem to like “Quick Fixin’s” as this supermarket photo shows.

All the abovementioned R’s.

It’s maybe unfair to judge a whole country by one city.  And there are many unsettling things about Canada that I could point to, like the parts that deliberately speak French for no good reason* or the fact that they clearly know how to spell but choose not to: I went past places marked “tire center” and others marked “tire centre” and can only assume they have something to do with sleep deprivation. I never once went past a “tyre centre”. And unlike Britain where they spell “doughnut” the way adults should and the USA where they substitute the troublesome “donut”, Canadians seem to accept both.

They also seem light on fresh food and cooking, big on greasy spoons and microwaving prepared meals, but at least most of their supermarkets have a few loose leaf teas, sadly unlike a lot of UK ones and a growing number of Australian ones.

If even "Quick Fixin's" seems like too much trouble, why not just have a huge cake for breakfast, as recommended by Safeways

If even “Quick Fixin’s” seems like too much trouble, why not just have a huge cake for breakfast, as recommended by Safeways

But Calgary, and by extension, all of Canada, is now very close to our hearts. We would have been glad to go there, just to see our son. We would have been glad to go there, just to not be where we were prior to going there. But now, we love Calgary for its own sake.

Sure, we’d change it a bit. Get rid of the notion that Starbucks is drinkable, for example. Make them all drive on the correct side of the road.  Stop adding the tax after a purchase and just include it in the price, like they do in more sane places.

The snow we mentioned was unexpected, it was at the wrong time of the year, and I’m not 100% sure I’d care to be there at the “right” time of the year for snow. This trip, though, would give us impetus to try.

When all is said and done, Calgary is a great place to be.

And who doesn’t want to visit great places, eh?

 

 

* Maybe there IS one good reason to speak French. I’m all for “Coriandre” for “Coriander” instead of “Cilantro”, which sounds like a Marvel Comic villain.  But that’s it*

**Well, that’s it apart from poutine.

 

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Tea and Life, Tea Retail

Goodbye, David

A mini-blog today.

A week or so ago, I blogged about David’s Tea, and basically I said the jury was still out.

After a second visit, it isn’t any more.

We chose between us their Assam (Banaspaty), Oh Canada (Maple Rooibos) and a milky “Pure Chai”.

Pleasant, well meaning staff put the teas into these large paper cups.

Not one was strong enough to take that volume of water/milk.

With smaller, better cups, David’s could be worth visiting. Until then, it isn’t. Best to go elsewhere.

 

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Service, Tea and Life, Tea Retail, Tea Stories

Tea, Unexpectedly Naked.

If you read yesterday’s blog  (and if not, why not. What’s wrong with you?) you’ll know we left the Oolong Tea Shop very impressed. In fact, I left it believing it to be probably Calgary’s finest tea shop, and so, having business nearby, Lady Devotea and I decided to walk a few blocks and revisit the following afternoon.

We had walked for ten minutes and could see it. We were just a minute and a half away when the phone rang.

It wasn’t a dramatic phone call, not UNESCO calling to ask me to solve a tea dilemma or some world leader calling for some one-on-one tea coaching so as to not look ignorant at the G20 meeting, just a family call. But when one takes a call on a busy street, it’s often wise to duck into a quiet alley, doorway or niche in order to hear. As the call was for Lady D, I handed her the phone and we took a sideways step into a little alley that appeared beside us.

I know that diversions into unexpected alleys usually result in transportation to magical lands in fiction, so I had a quick check about for talking lions, lands of eternal winter or shops full of wizarding supplies, but failed to notice at first what Lady D was gesturing at: a large sign saying “TEA”.

I gave her the international hand signal for “I’ll check it out, and if it isn’t any good we can stick to the original plan” and sallied forth to do so.

Into The Naked Leaf.

The first thing I saw was the wall.

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The Wall

 

Well, it was kinda hard to miss.

I popped my head outside, gave Lady D the international hand signal for “We absolutely HAVE to have tea here” and returned inside.

The wall was composed of brightly coloured tins, and those magnetic spice holders that you normally see stuck to people’s refrigerator doors in clusters of 4 or 5. Here were a lot more.

I got talking to Jonathon, who owns the place, and we found we had not dissimilar tastes. In particular, I was drawn to a Taiwanese Black, Red Jade 18, which was redolent of the Ruby Red 18 which was the subject of my favourite ever of my own blog posts.

I had that, and Lady D had a Thurbo Oriental Moon from Darjeeling.

Mine was delicious, Lady D’s even more so. I then ordered a maple-flavoured Pai Mu Tan (Bai Mu Dan) for the hell of it. This is Canada, eh?

Nice descriptions and great sniffer cans.

Nice descriptions and great sniffer cans.

One of Jonathon’s brilliant innovations is he gets local artists to decorate his tins. When a picture is chosen, he prints 100 tins, no more. All the tins you see in the photo are tins that are no longer available. Needless to say, we bought a tin from his current crop and had it filled with his bizarrely titled “Too Good For A Name” blend.

The Naked Leaf does teaware, tea, and hot tea. Nothing else. Rather than sell you food, you get a little plate of biscuits with your tea. No coffee, no cake.

When I look at The Naked Leaf, I realise that it combines elements of all the tea shops we’ve been in over the last few days. It has the uncluttered layout of Communitea, the size of range of David’s tea and the expertise of the Banff Tea Co, the commitment to serving you a fine cup of tea that The Oolong Tea House has. The level of friendliness and service has been pretty universal in Canada, and it’s the same here, but it’s all wrapped up with some quirky individual features, such as the exquisite leaf design tea cups your tea is served in.

As an industry, we need chintzy tea rooms where you get scones and a choice of five teas. We need cafe-style eateries where tea is done well. We need places where you can pay way too much for a shiny china teapot and a bag of forty-seven fruits in a tea-free infusion.

We most definitely need places like Oolong Tea House where earnest young men with earnestly trimmed beards and earnest young ladies inexplicably wearing earnestly crocheted berets can converse earnestly over a cup of earnestly prepared pumpkin and pomegranate green tea.

But I need this. The treasure trove of teas, the familiar names, the intelligent discussion, the joy of new tea friends.

It comes down to two tea shops; a half a block apart. Both of them are class acts who any town should be proud to have. One of them is the best tea shop in Calgary (so far).

Which one is the best? It depends on who you are, and where you are on your tea journey. Our international circle of friends, I suspect, would favour The Naked Leaf. Our kids, who are in their 20s, would favour Oolong Tea House.

It’s tempting to suggest that Oolong Tea House is a Tea High School, and that The Naked Leaf is a Tea College. but that’s not quite the right analogy. Neither is it a schism, like Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader. There is no dark side here -you’ll find that in supermarkets.

Perhaps here’s what’s important: if we only get one more hour to spend in a tea shop before we leave Calgary, my preference would be to spend it in The Naked Leaf.

Unless we have a tea drinking companion in a crochet beret.

 

 

 

 

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Tea with The Black Dragon

After a day in Banff and Canmore, there was an expectation that the next day might be quiet. The plan was a visit to the Downtown area for a look at where our son worked, a spot of lunch and then some river fishing.

Visiting downtown when it’s empty and easy to get around in, on a Sunday morning, was a masterful plan, slightly let down by the the fact that it was choked with cars and about 73 roadworks. This combined with an intriguingly random one-way system to create an impressively recursive gridlock. You could virtually spot your own car five cars back and ten in front.

Lunchtime found us in the Kensington area and eating at a specialty poutinerie. Yes, poutine, the Canadian speciality of french fries, cheese curds and gravy. This place had about 30 variations: I had the peppercorn beef poutine which was the best one of our group, so I declared myself the winner of lunch and we moved on via Shanks’ pony.

Our guide, Devotea Junior The Elder(hereafter DJTE)* then took us to  “Oolong Tea House”

And a fine place it is.

I like to see jars, and they had jars. Lots of jars. Lots of flavours and a few single origins, along one wall of a decidedly hip establishment.

They have a notice on a blackboard thanking customers for 10 years of loyal patronage.

Based on the crowd in there, anyone with ten years patronage had started not long after puberty.The place was entirely packed with 20-somethings. Myself and Lady D were the only over 30s there.

I feel pretty good about that. I’ve been in too many tea rooms where I’m the youngest person in the room, and everyone’s sipping English Breakfast or Earl  Grey. This place is vibrant and alive.

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Dragonfly Kiss!

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Hipster in training: Green Tea, Beard, all the evidence you need.

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Leopard Snow tea in the foreground, Green Jasmine/Lychee to the rear

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Through the windscreen shot as the excitement built

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After some serious perusal, I opted for a Leopard Snow white tea . Lady Devotea chose something called “Dragonfly Kiss”. Brillant name. It’s a silky milky chai-style concoction with mint and I think liquorice in it. Quite lovely. DJTE asked for an iced Green Jasmine & Lychee but received it hot.

All of these teas were excellent. I spent a further $1 on a small sample of blueberry black which was quite good when we had it later. No tea problems at all.

They had lots of nice-looking cakes and snacks, but we were poutine-stuffed. Perhaps next time. They were also very friendly, but so run off their feet I didn’t manage to have a chat with anyone. It was clear that everyone on shift enjoyed working there, and that really showed.

I had a look at their logo, which I have “borrowed” from their website. I assume they won’t mind, but if it’s missing, you can assume I assumed wrongly.

logo oolong

 

 

 

The circular black dragon, and I’m sure they had a version on the wall where it was totally enclosed in a further circle, reminded me of the book “Tea With The Black Dragon”, by RA McAvoy, which I read probably twenty years ago. I am sure my cover had a similar motif, though internet searches have found about 7 different covers, none of them similar. Perhaps there was some graphic elements at the start of each chapter, or some such device.

Anyway, it’s all circular.  A book I read at about the age of the current crop of tea hipsters, oolong means black dragon, black dragon means oolong, and a new generation are drinking tea. Gridlock and roadworks and you can find yourself where you were once and where you can be again.

I left there believing Oolong Tea House to be the finest tea outlet in Calgary, and definitely the best we had been in for many months. And yet within 24 hours, that view was challenged.

 

* go back a couple of blogs for an explanation. Or don’t.

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Tea and Life, Tea Retail, Tea Stories

Mountain Tea

My self imposed rule about not reviewing tea places in countries where our own teas are available has meant not much action in the review arena for some time, and now here’s two at once!

Whilst the title of this post may briefly excite @lahikmajoe, @lazy_literatus and other Greek Mountain Tea enthusiasts, this post is not about GMT at all, so as you were, gentlemen.

Instead, it’s about yesterday’s day out, where we sat in a car, aimed it at the big lumpy things on the horizon, and drove.

They are called the Canadian Rockies and based on my limited experience of actual mountains, (coming from a country that basically doesn’t have them) these are in the class of “quite big ones”.

Of course, I had to remember that Calgary is a kilometre above sea level, so we are already quite high up.

Anyway, a day of mountains, food and tea was promised, so we duly set off at the crack of dawn. Let’s say 8a.m. I guess 9a.m. will be fine, we are in no hurry.

We set off at 10.20. I was already keen on getting some tea in.

We drove through quite a bit of snow by my standards i.e. I am used to none. Plenty of snow covered fields still.

Past some lovely lakes and fir tree covered hills, all the while the mountains got bigger.

Being English, Lady Devotea has some experience of snow and mountains. Being Canadian and pre-Canadian, our hosts have quite a bit as well. I have very little. I dressed for snow once on an excursion up the Pyrenees and it was 26 degrees Celsius. Today I took no chances and donned several layers. First stop: Canmore

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View from a bridge:Banff

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Main Street, Canmore

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French Press of Lavender Cream Earl Grey, Maple Black, Snowflake Black at Comminitea

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Communitea, Canmore

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Clouds through a window is not a new experience, but it is when it’s not an aeroplane.

Canmore is lovely. See!

Nice little alpine village, and a stop at Communitea Cafe.

Our experience at Communitea was patchy. The tea list is extensive, and numbered, Chinese menu style, so they actually want you to order that way: “a 120 and a 106, please”. Sadly, while they have numbers, they have no explanations or description..

Service was patchy, they seemed to have a lot of staff who were all quite busy on what was a fairly quiet service. Neither of the staff I spoke to had much idea of what ingredients were in the tea, and the canisters were inconsistent: some had ingredients listed, some didn’t.

I went for Maple black, and others had a Lavender Earl Grey and a Snowflake black (with milk & sugar). I did not try the Earl Grey (allergies) but it smelt over-lavendered, the other two were quite good, the snowflake (which seemed to have nuts and coconut in it ) was the better of them.

I also bought three little sample bags, enough to do one big pot each, and really quite expensive. So far at home base we’ve had the After 8 Rooibos (an impressive choc-mint blend) and Himalayan Chai (fear of ginger has reduced this blend to quite bland).

Overall, it’s the sort of tea shop where, if you lived nearby, you’d quickly get to grips with the 40 or 50 teas and get on well with the friendly staff, but as a one off, it was a bit lacking. Had I struck a real tea enthusiast behind the counter, all would have been much, much better.

There’s a bit of a pattern developing based on David’s and this one: perhaps Canadians would prefer a bunch of flavourings in most of their teas, as I am seeing very little single gardens or even single region.

Anyway,a quick walk around the lovely town and then off to Banff.

Banff! It’s a bit legendary, isn’t it?

We had a great pizza, and a fantastic stroll. Also something called a “Beaver Tail”, which is basically a fried lump of flat doughnut dough covered in confectionary. It conforms to the general rule of Canadian Traditional Cuisine I’ve seen here, which is fry the hell out of something and then cover it with something even more unhealthy. Needless to say, I’m loving it.

I had in mind the Banff tea Co for a final destination in Banff, but when we got there, it was no tables, no chairs, just a retail store front. I was disappointed in that – not their fault.

And it was stacked with people.

I asked for 100 grams of the tea I had been planning to drink (Moroccan Liquorice) and found an amusing infuser, and headed to the counter. During my purchase, I expressed my disappointment I  couldn’t get a hot cup of tea. “Of course you can” said the server. “What would you like”?

As I already had the tea I wanted dry style, I had to think fast

“Didn’t I see a ‘Canadian Breakfast” on your site?

“Yes”

“What’s in that”?

“I don’t know, this is my second day”

“Can I have a sniff of it”

The canister was duly produced. I had a sniff.

“African, Indian and Chinese tea blend” I pronounced.

“No, that’s not right”, she said, “the ingredients are on the back. It’s tea from China, Tanzania and India”.

Faced with providing a geography lesson or just ordering the tea, I chose the latter.

It turned out to taste like cheap English Breakfast tea.

I think Banff Tea Co are a wonderful tea shop, but one I didn’t get the best out of. If I’d arrived at a quiet moment, I would have had a ball talking tea.

I am yet to try the Moroccan Liquorice.

Anyway, a splendid day out and two tea experiences that  were encouraging, rather than spectacular.

But never fear, because my next post IS about a spectacular tea experience. Stay tuned.

 

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Tea Retail

A Small Brass Band, Surely?

When we head off to try a new tea room in a place we are visiting, the chances are we might never visit that place again.

So, I wonder, should we warn them of our impending visit?

On one hand, it’s a more authentic experience if we don’t.

But really, is that fair?

In Thaxted, UK, two weeks ago, we found a wonderful tea shop. After we asked “What tea do you have” the answer started with an apologetic “Well, we only serve loose leaf tea…” .

That wouldn’t happen if we planned ahead.

Also we have often missed out on meeting the owner who is having a day off/undergoing a quadruple bypass/ being knighted/ fighting a wildfire / addressing Congress etc: i.e. all stuff that they would have put off had they known we were coming.

There is a downside, though, of signalling our intentions.

It’s not the bonfires out the back burning all the teab*gs and the cancellation of all staff leave so the silverware can be extra well polished. Those things are perfectly sensible.

It’s that I don’t like too much of a fuss being made.

So, here’s my list of what I think is a reasonable, low-key reaction to a visit by myself and Lady Devotea, if you have notice.

  • Make sure you have excellent tea in hand, of course, and a selection of pastries and cakes. I’d expect that to be a normal state of affairs anywhere we care to visit.
  • Limit the press to just a couple of hand-picked local journalists
  • Go for a small brass band, not a large one. Let’s not overdo it.
  • A red carpet is not essential, but if you insist…
  • Any plaque you have made to commemorate the occasion should be tasteful, not overly large and showy.
  • Some form of crowd control if the visit is well publicised.

So, just a few simple suggestions, to be helpful. I’m like that.

Is that a brass band I can hear?

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Tea Retail

Hello, David

Whoever the hell David is, David’s Tea, or DAVIDs TEA, to use the clearly incorrect and rather silly mix of upper and lower case they seem to prefer*, has been on my radar for years.

My friend Nicole Martin works for them now, or is about to, or there was something about a fire or whatever. In New York, though, which is too far to drive.

OK, I’m all over the place. This is my first review blog for months, and only my fourth blog in three months, which is a shamefully slow output, but then, I had my reasons.

So, Day 2 in Canada, a shopping mall in Calgary, and it’s snowing. Yes, snowing- something I have never seen before.

After arriving at the mall – with its very civilised heated underground car park – and ingesting some sort of sticky cinnamonish thing, we found a David’s Tea. It was closed as it was about 9.30, which is apparently “too early” for these slackers. So we continued on, and it took ages to get back to it, which is also a description of the first five paragraphs of this blog. Just helping you all to feel like you were there.

In the meantime, we walked past a Teavana, which looked much more inviting to the unwary, but as we all know, is not my cup of tea. Also somewhere called “Second Cup” that was peddling teab*gs at outrageous prices.

So, returning to David’s, it was quite busy.

The first obvious observation was that the tea was expensive, and that the store layout was really, really dull.

Maybe I mean utilitarian? No, I mean dull. Dull walls, dull tins with a simple colour coding system. Actually, the colour coding works. Whitish for white tea, green for green, black for black, red for rooibos, and then an arbitrary blue for oolong, yellow for herbals and purple for matè. As opposed to simply binning that last choice.

I was with Lady Devotea and our eldest son, who is not the one I usually refer to as Devotea Jnr, as he does not drink enough tea to be worthy of the title. When he does drink tea, he tends to prefer Chinese greens and whites or an Earl Grey.

Whilst they lurked, I decided to randomly pick three hot teas, and let them choose which they wanted. Of course, I would have a sly taste of each.

So, I did.

I picked a North African Mint with cardamom and ginger, a Crème Brûlée Rooibos and a “wild” Yunnan.

I looked up the wild Yunnan afterwards, and here’s what they say:

“In Yunnan province in southern China, ancient tea trees still grow wild in the forests. They can be hundreds, even thousands, of years old. Purists rave about the rich brown colour of the steeped tea, the aroma of sweet forest floor, the clean, natural finish. Our wild black Yunnan uses small, new leaves plucked from wild-growing trees, tightly twisted to preserve their natural flavour”.

It raises some questions: Who are these ‘purists’. Why are they so ‘pure’ about this? What’s impure about properly grown and harvested tea?

Anyway, I was served by a very pleasant young lady and shortly had three teas. Lady D went with the Crème Brûlée Rooibos, Devotea Jnr The Elder** plumped for the minty one and I got the Yunnan.

Starting with the Yunnan it was rather, er,  Yunnan. It wasn’t as wild as I would have liked. I didn’t suddenly feel pure. It was just a medium quality Yunnan.

I’m sure it would have been better had it not been in a massive paper cup.  A better takeaway cup would be thicker walled and maybe half the size. It was also dangerously hot for such a container.

The minty one had a lot of cardamon up front, and a lot of mint at the back. The ginger was AWOL. Too many people are wary of ginger and this was underdone. The overall effect was OK but basically, I wanted the ginger I was promised.

The crème brûlée Rooibos was a clear winner. Lady D drank it “black” (do I mean “red”?) but with a little sugar. Really clever blending.

So, overall, I’m finding it hard to judge. Not worthy of either a rating on my positive scale or a fuel can score yet – I think another visit is in order.

Better than Teavana, certainly, but then that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Dammit, I’m just going to have to go back for more. Stay tuned. Feel free to suggest some favourites.

* Canadians! It’s Katherine Dawn Lang all over again.

** Yes, that works.

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Tea and Life, Tea Retail

Short Circuit

Before I surprise all of my readers, let me just say I am quite surprised myself.

Barely three months ago, Lady Devotea & I announced an exciting new adventure: moving our headquarters to the UK and in that time, Lady D has been at the helm of a new tea shop that has presented our blends to the discerning English palate. With the notable exception of one gentlemen who objected not only to the Australianness but also the Americanness of our Lord Petersham, it has been very well received.

It was a great foundation for our next chapter, based in the UK.

So the stunning news is: we are returning to Australia.

The situation is not of our making. Neither of us is ill; we have not fallen foul of The English Tea Council and been run out of town for our stance on teab*gs. Our plans have simply and irrevocably altered.

Over the next few days, I’ll post something about the tea shop.

To our friends in Adelaide, we’ll be seeing you soon.

To the wonderful people we’ve met here, thanks for enriching our journey. It saddens us to go, but we are going.

At this point, we’re not making any further comment, and are heading off for a short holiday.

You’ll have to wait until our story is sold to Hollywood and released as a blockbuster.

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Service, Tea and Life, Tea Retail

Eight Minutes To Normalise

Eight Minutes.

I just set the timer beside me for eight minutes.

In eight minutes, the cake I have carefully made to Lady Devotea’s exacting recipe will be ready to come out of the oven. It’s strawberry and white chocolate. There is no flavouring except actual strawberries and actual white chocolate.

But I digress. I have a rant to get to.

I got up today in order to let three people into the building at 5am. I’m usually up by 5, although that’s not the same being showered and in full “pants-on” mode by 5.

Two of the three people did not arrive on time. One has just arrived 90 minutes late.

The five minute warning just went off. Maybe a quick check on the cake.

So, the guy that I let in at 4.50 is an electrician, and before long, I offered him a cuppa. I was delighted to find he was a tea drinker.

I asked him which of the 30 teas I had at my disposal he might like.

“I just like normal tea” he said.

I recoiled a bit. There’s that word again. “Normal”. “Normal tea”.

It’s an expression I hate.

What’s normal? I could be existential about it and ponder the true meaning of normality, or hazard  a guess about the paradigms that exist with his reality… Is that really eight minutes? Best check the cake.

Looking good, but might give it another four.

Back to “normal tea”.

Unfortunately, exploiting underfed, unwell, unhappy African workers, smashing tea up with machines and then shipping to somewhere else with cheap labour – perhaps Poland – to be encased in cheap bags before stocking UK supermarket shelves with them is ‘normal’.

Well excuuuuuuuse me for saying “NO! THAT’S NOT NORMAL”.

It may be usual. It may be common. It may be prevalent. But it is in no way normal.

To call low grade teab*g tea “normal” is to imply that a proper cup is “abnormal”. It’s suggesting that either the method or the leaves themselves are not the real way of having tea.

Well, get a grip, guys.

Everytime you agree to have a cup of teab*g tea, you are going down the “abnormal” route. Don’t try to pin that on us loose leaf lovers.

WILL SOMEONE SHUT THAT TIMER UP, I’M RANTING.

OK, cake out, scones in!

Someone once said “Cafe owners who use teab*gs are thieves, or stupid, or both“*. Someone once said “Nothing says how indifferent I am about you than a cup of teab*g tea”.**

We must fight, people!

Now that our first branded permanent tea shop has been open a week, I can look at the figures.

For starters, the tea to coffee ratio is really pleasing to see. But I digress.

Slightly over 50% of our tea sales so far are Lord Petersham. And people are coming back for more.

So as far as I’m concerned, that’s what’s normal, A blend of hand picked teas named after an obscure Edwardian Lord, crafted for the daytime palate and served with whatever you want on the side.

Normality has been restored. Thank you for your patience.

Scone, anyone?

* I've checked and that was me
** Once again, turns out that was me

 

 

 

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Tea History, Tea Retail

The Hub

I was going to start by saying “regular readers will know”, but as I have published only three short, simple pieces in five weeks, I probably don’t have any left.

The last four months have been the most demanding of our lives, and this Thursday, the catalyst behind it all will come into being.

I’d like to say “burst” into being but I don’t have the energy.

Every waking moment (and there have been hardly any non-waking ones -four hours continuous sleep is  luxury I don’t remember) has led inexorably to Thursday.

It’s hard to see one’s nearest and dearest actually fall over from exhaustion. To have to physically restrain someone from working any longer or virtually force a drink down their dehydrated throat is a highly emotive situation.  All of which leads to Thursday

We’ve overseen the renovation of a pub and renovated living quarters that were so disgraceful I was surprised we didn’t find a documentary crew from “World’s Filthiest Tenants” who had got lost behind the rolls of smelly carpet on the fourth bedroom.  We’ve bought a car and an overly cheerful SatNav so we can make endless trips to the paint and carpet shops.

All to get us to Thursday.

“Is something happening Thursday?”, I hear you ask.

Yes, something is.

On Thursday, The Devotea At The Oaklands will launch.20140710_091330

It’s a tea room / coffee house / family restaurant. It has its own menu and its own hours which are different to the pub, yet you can visit both at the same time as they are under one roof.

Lady Devotea has done an  amazing job selecting fabrics with which to recover a collection of old chairs which have been bought and refurbished.

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So, from Thursday The Devotea teas will be available in the UK once more, along with a resurrection of some of our coffee blends, cakes, scones of course, muffins and more.

I’d write more about it, but we’ve got menus to finish, teas and coffees to blend. We’ve got a new logo for The Devotea to unveil, and a new logo for The Devotea At The Oaklands. We’ve got a counter to finish off, some painting, some machinery relocation, some plumbing, some baking. Some training to provide for staff. Some teaware and servingware to purchase.

I’ll probably see you on the other side of Thursday. Either online, or at Notley Green, Great Notley, Essex, UK CM77 7US, The Devotea At The Oaklands.

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