Lord Devotea's Tea Spouts

"In which life's eternal questions are ignored in favour of a cup of tea."

Category: Tea and Food (Page 1 of 7)

1465559040663

I said “Kapitan”.

I have a passport that says I have never been to India.

However, standing in a confusion of sounds and sights that suggested otherwise, we soaked up music, dialects, scents, the sound of blaring car horns and parping motorbike horns, rows of saree shops and grocers with spices piled high.

Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam all combine to outgun Bahasa Malay here, as we sauntered though Georgetown’s “Little India” district, firstly strolling through the late afternoon heat while sipping coconut water and seeking a bank machine, then seeking a meal from the row of food stalls that spring up along Lebuh Queen.

It was the Hindi temple on Lebuh Queen we had originally come to see, and as we approached from the outside, it was superb: a riot of devotional colour. Unfortunately, the colour orange is most thoroughly represented by the bunting that criss-crosses it. Through the sectioned off doors, we can see the inside has been gutted and is being rebuilt. A sign on the wall says that the temple will be finished when it’s finished, and donations gratefully received.

But regardless of getting less temple time than we thought, our breakfast was a long-faded memory and so our thoughts turned to our evening meal.

We circumnavigated the block, checking out where the chairs and tables were free, and they seemed to be communal. First we approached a chicken-seller – the chicken legs with black bean, date and honey glaze looked incredible and I asked for two, forgetting the golden rule of asking the price first, and so probably got taken advantage of. The legs were provided in plastic bags.

Next, some biryani, so we found the best biryani seller – at least that’s what was written on the stall. Again, I forgot to ask the price first.

So, at this point we have a bag of black bean chicken, two rolled-up packages of rice, two plastic bags of sauce, two plastic bags of raita It was a substantial pile of food for RM31 (AUD 11, USD7.5), and left us just to find a table. And also with no cutlery, which is pretty traditional.

A considerable bounty of comestibles.

A considerable bounty of comestibles.

We found a table, and started to unwrap our bounty, but were ejected from it. We don’t really understand why, but the sun was going down which meant those who fast all day during Ramadan were flooding in and seemed have priority. You can’t really draw much of a conclusion, despite the fact that 100% of Westerners (i.e. us) suddenly had no seat.

We cruised a while in search of a seat, or even some cutlery, and in the end, we accepted an offer to enter a restaurant on the fringes of Little India – Restoren Kapitan.

We were to hungry to take a photo of the place, so here's one from their website. At night, the verandas and surround streets are full of chairs and tables.

We were too hungry to take a photo of the place, so here’s one from their website. At night, the verandas and surrounding streets are full of chairs and tables.

In the early days of Penang, Sir Francis Light selected a “Kapitan” for each ethnicity – Chinese, Malay and Indian – to dispense justice and make decisions for their communities, referring bigger issues to him. And clearly, thereby inspiring a restaurant name a couple of centuries later.

It’s pretty basic looking, and it was packed to the rafters. It offers every kind of local food.

Lady Devotea ordered Fish Biriyani In A Claypot and I the Black Pepper Chicken, vessel unspecified. We added some Mango Lassi each, and two breads – Cheese Naan and Onion Malay-style Roti.

Cheese naan and black pepper chicken.

Cheese Naan and Black Pepper Chicken.

When the naan arrived, first I started to rip it in half, pausing just to take a photo.

I often order black pepper anything, as I can’t tolerate chilli and it’s my fix of heat. I’ve found in Malaysia they take no prisoners with the black pepper, Even the pepper sauce offered with western food, such as a steak, is rather blam-blam on the palate. While scoffing the Black Pepper Chicken, I note the naan we had split was also as good as it looked. Both were short-lived and seemed to just evaporate.

1465559016709Lady Devotea’s Fish Biriyani arrived next, and she was moved to quote Masterchef judge Gary Mehigin’s phrase “party in my mouth”. I think we can be clear it wasn’t a tupperware party, children’s birthday party or even a political party, but more a “teenage-boy-left-alone-for-a-week-with-a-house-full-of-booze” kind of party.

1465559040663

You know you want this: exceptional Onion Roti

Not being a fish eater or chilli, I can’t comment, but this little baby was sensational: a flaky malay-style roti. I watched the way they do these in Malaysia, they are different to Indian Rotis. Without going into the technique, they end up more like a paratha in terms of crisp flakiness. And this was, I have no doubt, one of the most delicious breads we have consumed over our 32 years and 3 day together. It’s a bread that will turn up in our “remember when…” conversations for years.

While slurping some lassi, I recklessly ordered more breads: a Kashmiri Naan and an Egg Roti.

1465559087808

Mango lassi. I may have had seconds.

The egg in the roti was delicious, but textually it took away a lot of the flakiness, and the Kashmiri naan had an unwelcome surprise: candied orange peel, which meant I could not indulge due to allergies.

I wandered off to use the bathroom ( I won’t go into it, but not Kapitan’s finest feature), and on the way I passed an elderly Chinese woman who can be reasonably deduced as being very poor, homeless and visually impaired. She had moved onto a table as someone left with half a cup of tea undrunk, and she was remedying that.

Despite being stuffed to the gills, I also ordered a “Masala Tea” from the board from a passing waiter.

Shortly after I returned to the table, the elderly homeless woman swung by, looking for a few coins, and Lady Devotea did something that would have infuriated more than a few cafe/restaurant owners in Australia: she sat the lady down at the next table to ours, and furnished her with our uneaten Kashmiri Naan, some dahl and accompaniments.

This pleased the lady greatly. I guess reading this, you might wonder how the staff felt.

I saw the waiter approaching us with two cups of tea. My first thought was that there had been a mix-up, and although Lady Devotea had not ordered one, we were getting one each.

But no, the second cup was for the homeless woman, Our waiter had bought one for her himself. A great act of kindness and community spirit, and unlikely to be a one-off event.

1465561033903

I stopped slurping this Masala Tea just long enough to take a photo.

And what sort of masala tea do you get from an inexpensive cafe in Georgetown? A damn sight better than you might have guessed. It was loaded with milk and sugar of course, but it also had an excellent spice blend. Again, black pepper was almost overplayed, with nice cinnamon tones, over top of a robust Assam tea.

The total bill was RM50 (AUD16, USD12) and having had a wonderful time, we tipped 40% on top. This led to a really comical scene, as our main waiter then ran about the restaurant with the proceeds, being chased by his co-workers demanding a share. I got the impression this was a regular occurrence, and something they all enjoy.

Our cold, uneaten street was still in the plastic bag, and it was 90 minutes after purchase, so we regretfully slipped in into a nearby bin as we felt it might not be hygienically sound.

Having had the best meal of our time in Penang, we found our way back to Lebuh Queen, purchasing some Indian sweets for later from the only stall still selling.

While reluctant to call a halt to our last night in Penang, the streets were emptying, so we wandered toward the bigger streets and found a taxi.

We certainly found the right taxi, but more on that next time.

IMAG0427

Eastern, Western and Oriental

It is obligatory, when travelling, to enjoy an afternoon tea. Admittedly, it’s not always easy. If you’re in London, it’s easy to find. The Australian Antarctic Territory, not so. Most places are somewhere in between, and Penang certainly is.

The afternoon tea to be had in Georgetown is that at the ‘1885’ tea room at the Eastern and Oriental Hotel, and so we booked.

Before I get going, some people will refer to this as ” a high tea”. That’s fine. It’s not technically correct, but it’s a bit like the phrase “chai tea latte” – maddeningly inaccurate, but I’d rather drink a cup of tea in the time I could spend debating it, and I recommend that approach to all.

Built in 1885, it's rather grand.

Built in 1885, it’s rather grand.

So, we arrived, and the door was opened by a concierge in pith helmet and safari suit. I kid you not.

IMAG0426

Nosh par excellence!

As you can see, the crisp white linen, superbly crafted food – both in terms of taste and aesthetics – and the decor is just what you expect from a quality afternoon tea.

I guess the question many of you will ask is: what is the tea like?

I’d have to say the selection of 14 teas was pretty good. Lady Devotea started with an Assam (Mokalbari) and I with a Darjeeling (Jungpana).

Unfortunately, the making of the tea was the weak link. It was made with water that had a chlorinated taste, so they are either not using filtered water or they need to change/clean their filters. Whilst it was not as apparent with Lady D’s strong Assam with milk and sugar, it was very obvious in my delicate Darjeeling.

So, in a change of pace, I asked for a Tarry Souchong – no matter how bad the water, this is going to taste good – and Lady D plumped for a Vanilla Rooibos, (they spell it ‘Roibosh’, which I think is a much better transliteration.)

Unlike other afternoon teas, the tea is not unlimited here, and you have to pay for the further pots. They are large pots, so a better strategy might have been to have one to share and then another.

At a total cost for both of us, including the extra teas, of about RM170 (AUD56, USD41) including the compulsory tip and a rounding up, this is great value.

Much of the food was of a par with the very best: The Dorchester or Browns in London, The Mandarin in Vegas. In particular, the bread/sandwich course had a lot of variety and was very intelligent in terms of the range of shapes, sizes, construction and taste. The scones were scones, which is not always the case. The service was pretty good, although the staff did not know much about the tea.
Alcohol played no part, which to me is always good to see. I hate stale fizzy grape juice being elevated above tea.

Dollar for dollar, it’s probably the best hotel afternoon tea we’ve ever had. Even taking out the fact that it’s a quarter the price of some we’ve had, it’s still top 5.

It’s cool in the middle of a hot sultry day. The staff are painstaking, the view of the water is excellent. It’s a shame we had it late on our visit: I don’t think having it every day would be a bad strategy!

Afternoon tea is the best tea ceremony in the world; sharing it with the one you love, or a group of good friends  is surely the point. Once you’ve got that right, it’s over to the venue, and the Eastern and Oriental’s quite Western Afternoon Tea is very good indeed.

IMAG0370

Sweet Teadom

Well, here we are in Penang, Malaysia, and I spent yesterday drinking plenty of tea.

My Lady and I had decided to get a good night’s sleep (you can translate that as ‘arrived near comatose’ if you like) and so my first tea -a Finbarr’s Revenge from our own supply- got things cracking for me about 3.30am, which is 5am Adelaide time. Of course, that’s what happens when you travel, even if the hungry cat that normally wakes you up is 6000 kilometres away.

After penning yesterday’s blog and reading some Chesterton, I accompanied Lady Devotea as we descended into the madness that is the buffet breakfast at any large resort. While the buffet tables were chaotic, our table overlooking the Malacca Strait is one of the more memorable breakfast spots.

I discovered a percolator-style pot marked “teh telak” and asked a passing waiter to explain. “Tea from India” he said. “With milk”.

I’m game.

Imagine some low grade Assam. Imagine stewing  it waaaay too long, then mixing it with a whole heap of sweetened condensed milk. Yes, indeed, it was incredibly delicious. More like a dessert. I’ll be having that most days, I think. It’s either that or a yellow teab*g, and I think we all know where that ends.

So, a history lesson – Penang was settled by Europeans (as opposed to others who had been here for quite some time) a generation before Adelaide. Literally. The founder of Adelaide, Colonel William Light, was the son of Sir Francis Light, who founded Georgetown and was the first Superintendent of Penang. Georgetown and Adelaide are sister cities which  basically means that our taxes pay for city officials to visit Penang, which wouldn’t be so bad if they stopped coming back.

So, first stop Fort Cornwallis, the original seat of British power, right in the heart of Georgetown.

It’s interestingish, but a bit rubbish. It cost RM20 each to get in (AU$7) and once you do, you find a few old structures, a paragraph about each on a stick, and a concrete amphitheatre in the middle where they are setting up for a concert.

So, it’s late morning, hot and the attractions so far are a bit naff.

We then found the Penang State Museum.  To compare it to the SA museum, it’s a tenth the size and whereas back home the museum is free, here it costs 1 ringgit. Yes, about AU30c. Worth it to spend an hour in air-conditioning.

Also worth it because it’s good. Sir Francis Light’s Last Will and Testament, some great artwork, a good background on the various main cultures (Chinese, Malay, Indian) and a cart pulled by dogs. What more could you want?

IMAG0357

Chinese wedding section at Penang State Museum”

Here’s what we could want: tea! Lady D suggested a place she had read about. Google suggested two great ones were closer. It’s hot, closer wins.

A fifteen minute walk through narrow streets and sweltering heat, and we are almost there when we spot an unexpected  tea shop.

It’s a pu’er specialist. They have huge quantities of it, but nothing else. Undaunted, we move on, although we start to notice that most of the shops are shut. As indeed, is the first of the tea shops, despite Google saying otherwise. Instead of a well respected Chinese purveyor of tea, we have a roller door.

Why? Well, we didn’t know it at the time, but it’s a surrogate public holiday. The main holiday is on Monday, but many locals take a long weekend at this time.

We are staring to flag, and press onto the second option, a French patisserie and tea shop. We arrive, and see it full of Harney and Sons tea. That will do nicely.

But there’s a problem. Whilst Lady Devotea looks as elegant as ever, the heat and the walk have reduced me to looking like a jazz trumpeter’s second-best polishing cloth. As soon as I walk in, they decide they are full.

Are they full? They have maybe a dozen tables, of which two are occupied. Despite there being no ‘reserved’ signs, they tell us as we don’t have a reservation and are out of luck. I angrily walk out – well, walk into a glass door, which is similar – whilst Lady Devotea helpfully explains to them that while they might have the same tins as Harney and Sons off Broadway in NYC, they might like to consider having the same welcome for weary travellers. Meanwhile I stumble into the street.

We are done in, and there, in front of us, is a mall and a Starbucks. We circumnavigate the lower floor of the mall; hoping against hope, but there is nothing for it: Starbucks it is.

We both have an iced tea of some sort. Lady D’s is based on syrup and arrives immediately. Mine needs to be brewed and takes about 15 minutes longer than it should.

Ahhh, Starbucks. Not content with making low quality undrinkable coffee, they continue to push the boundaries of how low tea can go. No matter where you go in the world, you can rely on them to be uniformly revolting in every beverage they offer.

IMAG0359

Yes, Tea Blog

It was shameful. I seriously considered leaving it out of my narrative, but it makes a great contrast to our next option, a mall-ensconced hour later: TEA BLOG!

IMAG0361

Red Tea & Lychee: It’s delish!

Hang on, isn’t this a tea blog? No… that’s a tea blog!

IMAG0363

Tea Blog tea is “Available in various taste!’

Iced red tea, genuine lychee juice syrup, lychee jelly. Incredibly refreshing, well made. Very moreish.

IMAG0368

The local tea

Suitably refreshed, we head back, with a little grocery shopping to pick up some milk. Hang on, what’s this?

We are 3.5 hour away by car from the Cameron Highlands, and here’s the local product. I must get some.

Back in the room, I brew some. It’s very dusty – totally unsuitable for the “lobster” infusers I have bought along, and it’s rather earthy, almost salty.

After a short rest, it’s time to head down to the beach for dinner. I know, it’s a hard life.

IMAG0371

“Iced Green tea with Honey”, glass number one.

People who remember our Thai adventure of exactly 5 years ago will remember that I drank an iced sweetened Japanese Sencha out of desperation and actually enjoyed it, So here, “Ice Green tea with Honey” was likely to be similar.

And it was, refreshing, a nicely brewed sencha with not quite enough honey.

Later, at cocktail hour in the lounge bar in front of some live entertainment, I ordered it again, and got an elegant version with lots more honey and a dash of cream, Took it from acceptable to sensational.

So our first full day was done, and in sharp contrast to the day before, there was no horrific scene, and plenty of tea.

About two and a half litres of it, I think. Sure, most of it was sweet, which is not my usual habit.

But as I sit here at 5.39 am, in the warm, with the call to prayer for the faithful echoing across the pre-dawn tropical sea, I don’t think anyone, apart from Weight Watchers and my dentist could argue that it was a very good day; with the promise of more to come.

Memory Of A Free Festival

I’ve pinched the title of today’s blog from a favourite David Bowie track. But only the title – the festival we attended yesterday wasn’t free. Not in money terms, although it was free from many of the things in Mr Bowie’s song, such as flocks of hippies and rampant LSD use, but then it’s not the 1960s any more.

So, yesterday, we attended the “Beachside Food and Wine Festival” for the first time since the inaugural one a few years back.

This is an idea from our local council, the City of Onkaparinga. Unlike many of their ideas, such as spending a fortune on the world’s worst logo, it’s not a bad one.

The inaugural event happened alongside the beach – quite fittingly – and we were there. It was a very hot and glorious November day on one of the finest beaches in South Australia: Christies Beach.

We were actually working. For some reason it was, and perhaps still is, an invitation-only event for stall holders. A couple who were great friends of ours, who owned our biggest tea shop outlet and who also were our partners in promoting our tea beer range were invited, and so we went along as part of their setup.

They handled the food and wine, I was in charge of the hot beverages and Lady Devotea had the beer covered.

Lady Devotea was perhaps the busiest person in the world that day. She went through hundreds of bottles of Tea Beer to great acclaim.

There were tens of thousands of people there. As we were serving alcohol, we were in a roped off section with all the wineries and breweries, which is to do with Australian Liquor licencing laws.

The Council rigorously enforced those laws, which is symptomatic of their approach: rigorous enforcement of rules and regulations teamed with a hopeless inability to deploy common sense.

The festival on that occasion was slated to go until 11pm. The council had huge temporary lighting, which they turned off at 9pm for a fireworks display… and never managed to turn back on. With just the street lights, most stalls were plunged into darkness and could no longer trade, the crowd thinned and we all packed up about 10pm, in the dark.

But nevertheless, it was a great day out.

So, how did the Council respond to actually running a rather successful event? Well, they moved it to April, to reduce the chance of it being a nice day.

Then, they split it over two sites, separated by a one- or two-kilometre walk over the biggest hill in the district. Perfect at a festival where people are, by definition, full of food and wine.

You have to ask, what more could they do to sabotage it?

Let me take a sidebar here to say I’m not surprised. This is the same council to whom we went a few years ago for support with a community service project to help the unemployed and the disabled.  After sensible talks with the Deputy Mayor about using a barely used Council-owned location at the local transport hub,  we were referred to various council minions, who offered a building in a country town with no public transport available: perfect for the unemployed and disabled if you are totally committed to failure, as the City of Onkaparinga often is. In fact, that building was available as it was built to house another of their good ideas done badly.

Anyway, since then, they’ve abandoned the “two sites” idea, cancelled one year entirely due to bad weather and yesterday presented it, not along the beach, but on one block and a small park at the beach end of Beach Road.

We parked where we parked for the first one, and then hiked a kilometre before finding ourselves approaching the public face of the event, which was the back of four portable lavatories and a temporary security fence with a gap in it.

There were some people involved in a conversation with someone with “volunteer” on  a name badge, whom we breezed past, and an orange-vested security guard, who we nodded to as we went past.

He stopped us and asked if we had a stamp, then indicated the volunteer and told us we had to speak to him. And the volunteer informed us that the cost of entry was a gold coin donation.

If you’re not Australian, let me take a moment to explain that gold coins have not been used in Australia since the 1850s, so we were completely out of them, Also, we had inexplicably  failed to fill our pockets with Spanish doubloons prior to popping down to the festival. Luckily, the 92% copper/6% aluminium/2% nickel $1 and $2 coins that currently circulate are often referred to as “gold coins”.

Asking for donations to a charity or community group, such as the Country Fire Service, is not unusual at community events. So I asked the volunteer who the donation was for, and he told me: “The Council”.

Yes. the Council. So basically they are asking for a ‘donation’, it’s collected by a volunteer and you can’t get in without it.

They could, perhaps, just be honest, and say “we are holding a community event,  paid for by the community who are source of all our funding, and we’d like to further charge you a dollar, because orange vests don’t come cheap. That way, we can save our funds for doing our actual work, such as collecting your rubbish bins, which admittedly we failed to do last week without explanation or corrective action”.

This infuriated by Lady Devotea and I. We walked wound the tiny, badly laid out event in a huff.

It was predominantly wine event, which I have mixed feelings about – the pride of living on the doorstep of one of the world’s great wine regions is tinged with that fact that I cannot understand why anyone would bother drinking unpleasant, old grape juice when a cup of tea might be had.

So, there was only one chance for solace: a cup of tea. There was none obvious from first glance, but then we saw Agatha’s had a stall. Agatha’s is a favourite spot in Port Noarlunga and they have a small selection of loose leaf tea. We popped in there, but alas, they had not bought the good tea to a culinary festival, they only had teabags. I ended up having a Coke Zero.

The entertainment consisted of a young lady singing in that choking Sarah Blasko- style at the time. Masterchef runner up Callum Hann (incorrectly billed by the City of Onkaparinga as “Masterchef Winner” on their event page) was not due on for a while, so we simply left, after getting a star printed on our wrists should be wish to return.

We had a lovely wander up the street, and thanks to the star inked on our wrists, we were able to cut back though the festival after making fists and waving them at security.

20160402_150445 (3)As we approached the entry/exit where we had first entered, we noticed that the entry – and the four magnificent portable toilets – were now under the watchful eye of FOUR security guards, who were cunningly pretending to do nothing but stand around discussing the football, but were actually keenly scrutinising the throng lined up for entry for troublemakers and coin-donation-dodgers.

Of course, maybe we were being cynical. Perhaps they’d heard that a boatload of ISIS terrorists were planning a surprise invasion at Christies Beach that day, but that the presence of four portly gentlemen in orange hi-vis was enough to send them scuttling back towards softer targets.

We’ll never know, but highly visible security is the price we pay to enjoy our way of life and the joy of attending free festivals.

Well, that and a dollar.

tea ceremony

Met My Matcha

A weekend in Sydney is often fun, particularly if you mix business with pleasure. And in the tea business, business IS pleasure.

We flew to Sydney last week to catch up with our friend Julia.

At World Tea Expo 2013, we met Julia, and it’s fair to say that Lady Devotea and Julia hit it off right away. I left them chatting – about ten minutes after we had met – and I managed to tour the whole exhibition before either of them drew breath.

So, when we heard that Julia was going to be giving a series of talks about tea to various Jane Austen Society chapters in Australia, we knew we had to get there.

And we love Sydney, so that seemed the obvious choice.

Not without incident – the plane was jacked up while we were in it and a tyre changed, and then a passenger seemed to be missing – we got to Sydney on the Friday evening and went out for a meal with Lady D’s Sydney-based cousin Tony and his (vastly) better half Nicole.

We usually stay in Darling Harbour or the City, but this time it was Kings Cross, which is a little… different.

Anyway, Saturday involved an excellent breakfast with good tea, shopping, the excellent talk by Julia which was inexplicably accompanied by Twinning’s teab*g tea (because the organisers just don’t think), a historical walking tour, getting caught in a storm and a bit more tea, and then Saturday was done.

Lady Devotea had seen a newspaper article about tea ceremonies in the Chinese Friendship Garden in Darling Harbour, and we had invited Julia to join us for a basinful of that on Sunday Morning, ahead of a planned Sunday afternoon tea, as described in a previous post.

Having stashed our luggage and borrowed an umbrella, we headed to the venue, and after meeting up with Julia, we managed to find our way in. Some gifts were exchanged, which resulted in Lady D and I having our own beautiful cups for the ceremony.

The Garden is quite spectacular. Koi the size of sharks flash though serene waters. Oriental buildings abound. Lush foliage sprouts from the landscape. And thankfully, none of those Japanese-style bits where some one sticks a rock or two in some gravel or sand and pointlessly rakes wavy lines around it.

Anyway, we found the tea ceremony, which was sort of a mix of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and any other tea ceremony that is based around drinking tiny amounts of tea and keeping quiet, which are exactly not what I want from a tea ‘ceremony’. I want volume of tea and volume of chatter.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it, and the tea, which we got to taste, was great. I particularly remember a lovely buttery Taiwanese Oolong.

One can only watch silk-clad ladies dispensing tea for so long, and so we moved on to… the tea shop. In the centre of the garden. this is great, but of course it’s all about great company. Several pots of tea followed as the three of us discussed life, the universe and everything.

Another stroll around the gardens, and we were ready for our next event which was… more tea.

We taxied to T Totaller, in Newtown. Arriving a little early, some second-hand stores and bottle shops were perused, but then it was time for the main event.

We were joined once again by Tony and Nicole, and also by our great friends ‘Fancy A Cuppa Now’ blogger/author  Simon Duffin and his lovely wife Anita. They now live south of Sydney and we try to catch up whenever we are in the same general area.

By selecting T Totaller, we had chosen an experience outside of the comfort zones of all concerned. Very much the hipster tea bar, with an industrial chemist decor, this is not the usual tea-and-scones-and-how-about-some-cake  venue we prefer.

Very hip industrial chemistry look, executed flawlessly

Very hip industrial chemistry look, executed flawlessly

From the moment we arrived, Paul made us welcome. It’s not every day seven people, most of them highly knowledgeable about tea, all talking at the same time and with much laughter, occupy a tea shop for over two and a half hours.

We also ate ALL the cake. Literally all of it.

T Totaller does not have many black teas, and to be honest, their black teas are the only thing they do not do well, at least to my palate. It’s more than made up for by the way they do everything else. They have many cool and funky offerings, but my favourite was ice-cold, carbonated, jasmine white tea in a flute glass. It was nothing short of spectacular.

Another iced drink that Lady D and several others enjoyed was a vibrant red-orange drink called Negroni, it looked to have the flavours and colours of a Campari and soda, circa 1975.

My needs for volume of tea and volume of chatter were well and truly met, if not exceeded.

And then, it happened.

Emboldened by the fact that Paul knew what he was doing, I ordered a matcha.

What?

Yes, I did. Despite never, ever having enjoyed a cup of any Japanese tea prior to this (ok, once in 2011) , I thought “This might be the time” .

I tried making my own matcha once, and it was horrible. Twice I have tried samples at events in little plastic cups, and they were horrible.

I explained to Paul that he could not lose here. If he made a cup of matcha I enjoyed, he’d be a hero. If I didn’t like it, it was just because I don’t like matcha.

It arrived, and it was green and foamy. I won’t hearken back to my gall bladder troubles..oh wait, I just did.

Anyway, it was a revelation to me.

I sipped it.

It was salty and brackish. It had vegetal tones. For those foolish enough to eat seaweed and claim to like it, it had those sort of overtones. And inexplicably, it had a vague poultry-like thing, like when a chicken soup has so many vegetables in it that the chicken is just a distant hint.

I’ve struggled to define the taste, and then it hit me. Al-baaaa-trossss!

On ‘Monty Python Live at Drury-Lane’, John Cleese comes on and walks among the crowd as a snack vendor, but instead of selling ice-creams, he’s selling seabirds. And my favourite is “Stormy Petrel On a Stick”. If you’ve ever wondered what that must taste like, matcha is it. It’s like biting a seabird, probably around the area the stick goes in.

There were two matcha aficionados at the table: Julia and Anita, and they both pronounced it excellent. So I could happily say to Paul, “it’s not you, it’s me”.

I consoled myself with an excellent white tea with rose petals.

Too soon, the afternoon finished, and with sad farewells we were headed to the airport.

More will come from that wonderful weekend, but Lady D and I are never disappointed by Sydney, will always enjoy a good cup of tea, never tire of exploring places away from home and have never regretted having a small circle of truly great friends.

So, it was very, very memorable.

And now I giggle every time someone mentions matcha.

Stormy Petrel On A Stick, indeed.

 

 

The Restive Season

Some random person on Facebook said the other day in my direction: “I guess Christmas Day gives you a break from drinking all that tea”.

What? That’s the most inaccurate thing since Keanu Reeves had “actor” put on his passport!

Christmas Day is about having those people you are closest to around you. It’s not about less tea, it’s about as much tea as you can reasonably consume and still function.

So, for your education and entertainment, here’s my Christmas Day tea audit.

Prior to Christmas Day, we decided to only give actual tea to four people, but another ten got some home-made shortbread which had a Rose Blush flavour profile, and we made some teapot-shaped gingerbreads, so there was a bit of tea-themed giftery.

So, Christmas Day meal tea starts two days out. During that day, we made 4 litres of Fleurs de Provence and iced it down. Due to something happening (which will be detailed in a post in another 4 weeks) we had missed a market we were planning on having our iced tea at, and in the freezer we had significant quantities of frozen Fleurs de Provence. We use that to keep the iced tea cool in the Australian heat – if you use regular ice, it dilutes it.

Given that the forecast was for over 38 degrees (let’s just add that means over 100 if your country happens to use that temperature scale that was popular when Queen Victoria was on the UK throne), iced tea was an essential.

We also believe that when it comes to Christmas, traditional meals are best. So whilst some of my weak, lily-livered, cowardly, spineless countrymen and countrywomen opt for feeble substitutes like salad and seafood, we were committed to doing things properly.

Whilst Lady Devotea is our resident expert in desserts, the pudding is often my responsibility. Usually I make up the pudding well in advance but again due to circumstances I found myself needing to make one on December 23rd. So, first step: dried fruit gets a soaking in some 1910. Then, the recipe calls for some milk, so instead, I made some Aussie Ginger Chai. I followed the golden rule of make twice as much tea as you need and drink the rest.

On Christmas Eve there was a call from one of our guests with a request. In fact is was Devotea Jnr, informing us that he had been bragging about how good our FIZZY Fleurs de Provence iced tea is, and that it was sure to be offered at the table. Great! We have 4 litres of it iced and still, and suddenly it needs to be iced and fizzy. We set about making up some syrup. Luckily we also have a soda maker.

So, with tea already inserted in advance for Christmas Day, let’s move the day itself.

A Lord Petersham was enjoyed upon arising, and an hour later, we opted for a repeat of that whilst exchanging gifts.

Time to glaze the ham. Into the mixture goes apple juice, maple syrup, brown sugar and some left over Lord Petersham. I can say without fear of contradiction that it turned out very well indeed.

The vegetable were par cooked, and then cooled down. After that, they were shaken in a bag with The Devotea Gunpowder and Rosemary Saltea Tea Rub, one of our lesser know products. More of the salt tea rub went into the cornflour mixture that would form the basis of the gravy, once chicken stock and roast turkey juices were added.

So the meal came out, and was duly scoffed, along with copious quantities of iced tea – both still and fizzy.

It would be remiss of me to mention at this point that coffee also made an appearance.

It’s not exactly a secret, it’s just something that hardly ever gets a mention, but we have our own range of coffee blends as well. We do not sell them on line or at markets, instead we use them ourselves if we cater an event, or sell them to the organisers of certain events.

Anyway, Christmas Eve, Lady D created something that was layered like a trifle. It had sponges soaked in a mix she made of our Velvet Kilimanjaro coffee with Kalhua. It had creamy, cream cheese based layers. It had ginger biscuit layers. It had caramel sauce layers. And just before serving, it had fresh peaches dipped in sugar and then grilled added to the top.

It was quite spectacular. By the time it made its appearance, we were virtually comatose, and yet room was found by everyone to pile some onto our suffering digestive systems.

After all that, there was nothing for it but a hot cup of tea, We chose Amba, with its mix of Christmassy spices, dried cherries, black tea and rooibos to finish off.

And yet, after all that, there was still time, between lunch and bed, as a fiery hot day turned into a soothing cool change and bought welcome rain, so steep a few more cups, drink a little more iced tea and try to move as little as possible.

I can’t imagine how much poorer Christmas would have been without tea.

We had only people we wanted at our meal this year as opposed to a cast of thousands, but we could not have everyone we wanted, sadly. So on Boxing Day, we found ourselves inserted Skype-wise into a Canadian Christmas Day, Rose Blush in hand, keeping the Christmas spirit alive.

(Oh, and before you ask, here’s the pudding:)

 

Pudding 700

 

 

Danger Will Robinson

Hidden Dangers: The 10 Side Effects of Green Tea

I get asked a fair few questions on Quora along the lines of: What are the side effects of Green Tea?

To save wasting my valuable time, I’ve decided to offer one comprehensive answer to the question, and hopefully this means that all those people who apparently can ask questions on Quora but can’t actually just Google something can move on to using their time more productively playing Xbox.

So here it is:

Side Effect 1: You will no longer be thirsty.

Yes, as unlikely as it seems, the water content of the tea will virtually strip away that thirst you’ve been working up. So, if you are truly committed to maintaining a level of thirst, you need to avoid green tea and move to say, a delightful glass of popcorn.

Side Effect 2: You may drink less beer, coffee or water.

This is clearly serious. If you’ve been swilling beer, coffee or water for their respective well-known effects of making you look and act stupid, jittery or boring, then drinking green tea may make you lose some of that hard earned reputation. If vomiting in gutters, talking at 1.5 times normal speed or single-handedly supporting the industry that charges you $2 for 0.00001c worth of water is important to you, step away from that gaiwan.

Side Effect 3: You may enjoy a mild boost in productivity.

You know what it’s like. It’s 3pm, and you feel sleepy at work. Of course, you want to go and lay down on one of the comfortable day beds your workplace has provided so that staff can snooze away the afternoon, but be warned: a cup of green tea may make you alert and function more adroitly.

Side Effect 4: You may spend less money

You’ll no longer be able to boast about the money you waste on cappuccinos or Harvey Wallbangers when you are getting four steeps out of a decent teaspoonful of a good green tea, worth pennies. Oh no, what will people think?

Side Effect 5: You might not care about being a hipster

There’s nothing like a three-quarter roast Mongolian Rumpty-Tumpty bean Peaberry semi-soy half-caf to inflame your desire to grow a beard, wear an ironic teeshirt and ride a bicycle, but green tea can instead place you in a meditative state where you don’t give a tinker’s cuss about what you or the people around you are wearing. You have been warned!

Side Effect 6: You may develop annoyingly good taste buds.

Drink too much good quality green tea, and you might find you can no longer tolerate that dreadful crap that comes in teab*gs. You may find yourself insulting a perfectly respectable restaurant that’s just charged you $4 to slop some chlorine-tasting lukewarm tap water into a coffee cup containing a 2c teab*g they’ve bought from a supermarket. This may embarrass your friends.

Side Effect 7: You may have to get new friends.

See side effect 6 above and work it out for yourself. No doubt you can, you smarty-pants green-tea-swiller!

Side Effect 8: You might be mistaken for a super-villain

We all know from movies that the darkest hearted, most ruthless super-villains are always sipping tea just before pressing the button on their world-destroying ray gun, right? So it’s only natural that law enforcement, in the absence of any actual evidence, will just arrest anyone found with a quarter kilo bag of Long Jing. Makes sense, and it’s nice to know they are keeping us safe.

Side Effect 9: Unwelcome prattle

Following several decades of research that shows that many ingredients in green tea have mild therapeutic benefits, as a regular green tea drinker you will be deluged by comments from half-wits who have read articles written by half-wits, who will be keen to remind you that just one cup of green tea cures cancer, herpes, haemorrhoids, death and the hole in the ozone layer.

Side Effect 10: You might suddenly become a communist

Drinking Green tea means you might learn phrases like “Bi Lo Chun”, “Pai Mu Tan” and “Dong Ding”. Before you know it, you’re translating these for your friends. And who speaks Chinese? Commies do, that’s who! Best to stick to good, wholesome English words like “cappuccino”, “lager” and “sauvignon blanc”

That all makes you think, eh?

I hope you appreciate this article on the dangers of green tea. It’s not too late to share it and get the word out. I’m sure the Big Tea conspiracy will shut me down, but in the meanwhile, let’s share, share, share and try to educate the poor, ignorant masses.

Oh, and one final point: like virtually every other article you’ve ever read on green tea, all of the above actually applies to black, oolong and white teas as well. Sorry if that’s confusing, but blame the aforementioned half-wits.

Danger Will Robinson

No High Coffee

“High Coffee”? Highly Stupid!

Something has got up my nose.

Not exactly a new thing, really: Over the years, I’ve endlessly ranted about various things, and this is just the latest. Not the least, not the greatest, just one more way the world has failed to meet my expectations.

I’m talking about “High Coffee”.

Yes, in case you hadn’t noticed, some ignorant numpties have started promoting “High Coffee”, a concept that needs to be stamped out.

I shouldn’t have to explain this, but I do. That’s because those folk who are behind this are probably not your earnest, beardy, hemp wearing single origin organic fair trade peaberry straight up espresso crowd, but more the marketing departments of big hotels, such as the Intercontinental chain.

Of course, getting a marketing degree is sometimes seen as a substitute for actually knowing anything about anything, so I’m going to spell out my two main objections.

One, and this is the biggie: “High Tea” historically refers to the meal, not the beverage. At a high tea, champagne, juice, soft drink and dare I say it… coffee… are all acceptable beverages.

I bet the Intercontinental are already feeling like a bunch of ignorant hicks, hey?

So, as much as a lot of the food and culture of a “High Tea” – which is actually usually being used somewhat incorrectly as a synonym for “Afternoon Tea” – is based around tea, it’s not a given. I’d go so far as to say many, many “High Teas” are characterised by the availability of good champagne, reasonable coffee and pretty rubbish tea. (Not ones I’d care to attend, obviously)

So, at this point, the “High Coffee” crowd should pack up and go home, but I’m not going to leave it there. No, I’m going to ramp it up.

Regardless of the above, here’s my message to the “High Coffee” promoters: Why don’t you all just get stuffed?

I mean, really, you’ve got a substantial part of the markets in Australia, the USA, in Europe. You’ve got a beverage with its own folklore, legends and beliefs (such as cappuccinos should be served at a temperature to suit a four-year-old). You’ve got hipsters falling over themselves to pay top dollar for slow dripped Limu and Fair Trade El Salvador Double Roast, and you’ve got great culinary penetration: consider Tiramisu or Coffee and Walnut cake.

But oh, wait: you’ve got to jump on the tea bandwagon. “This High Tea thing looks lucrative, why don’t we just bastardise it? It doesn’t matter if it’s half-arsed, it’s bound to pay.”

For those of you who were alive in the 80s, the music coming out of the UK was incredible. From The Cure, Tears for Fears and Spandau Ballet to Queen, everything was gold. It was the golden age. Then  Stock, Aitken and Waterman turned up with their cookie-cutter production, and music took the biggest hit since Buddy Holly et al went down.

We could have refused to buy SAW productions as a society, but we didn’t, and this soon lead to the biggest album of 1987 being by Jason Donovan. Think about that, because High Coffee is basically “I should be So Lucky” in gastronomic form. It’s nasty. It needs to be buried in a ditch and forgotten.

This is that moment. Let’s not waste it, let’s use it to give the bad ship “High Coffee” and all who sail in her a swift kick up the backside. Let’s make sure they crawl back under the rock from whence they came.

Look I’m not calling for revolution. I’m not calling for the promulgators of this insulting and tacky rubbish to be put against the wall and shot.

But only because I’ve calmed myself with a nice Silver Needle and some sultana cake. Next time, I might not be so forgiving.

No High Coffee

LP 5

The 9-Sentence Guide To Hosting an Afternoon Tea

When deciding on your guest list, the only two criteria are people you like, and people who will like each other, which often reduces the number of family members getting an invitation.

Unless you are holding out because you will receive a knighthood or Nobel prize, NOW is the occasion to use the best china, either your own or borrowed.

Your day will be perfect because you have a  checklist of everything that needs to be done, in order, and you use it.

No one gets to be a helper unless they are committed to quality as you need to be.

A selection of 2-6 good quality loose leaf teas in pots is the only acceptable hot beverage offering.

Ribbon sandwiches with lush filling and without crusts are an essential item.

Little cakes should have big flavours.

Scones– sweet and savoury – should be generous bite-sized and made British-style.

If there is entertainment, it needs to be classy and sparing in either intrusion or time.

 

FR 4

The Jesus Mouse

My long-time online friend Finbarr O’Brien, most notable to most of our readers as the namesake of our Finbarr’s Revenge Irish Breakfast Tea, sent me a link to a story from an Irish Journal.

It concerns a spat that has gone viral in that fair country over poor quality tea.

The vendor in this case in Marks and Spencer, the UK grocery chain. When we spent a month in London in 2012, there were four major supermarkets within a few minutes walk, M&S was the furthest away but also the best.

But of course, I wouldn’t be caught dead using their teab*gs – or anyone else’s.

So, in their cafeterias in Ireland and elsewhere, they serve teab*gs, and the story unfolds when someone wrote a complaint on the M&S facebook page.

irish

M&S replied promptly, and they really had a bob each way:

irish 2

On the face of it, a polite reply, but what does it actually mean? It means “yes, this is the instruction we give to our staff, but however, we expect them to somehow intuitively bend the rules sometimes. And we’ll let them know you are unhappy.”

Putting my HR hat on, I’m appalled. What if the staff are now getting abuse from other customers? There’s no protection for them here. M&S have hung them out to dry. And what about the next customer that says: I want extra jam and cream on my scone, and a chocolate frog, or I’m going  to slam you on Facebook?

Putting my tea hat on, I’m further appalled. Not just because of the issue of blatantly, criminally, unethically, lazily serving teab*gs in any establishment, but because of the public response.

There was a smattering of ” They are 80, give them what they want”, but those people really avoid the issue. I’m more interested in the  bunch of respondents who basically said ” I always ask for a second b*g, and usually get one with no fuss” and the other bunch said “It’s only tea, hardly worth getting worked up about.”

Let’s handle the latter first. “It’s only tea” is a really stupid attitude. How many of us don’t have unlimited wealth? Most of us, I’d guess. Check your bank account: Can you have the perfect house, the best car, all the travel you want? Even those of us who are happy with what we have are probably not possessed of unlimited funds.

Yes, tea is a luxury item we can have. The difference between the cost of preparing a decent pot of tea and the cost to M&S (or anyone else) of preparing the most revolting teab*g swill is mere Eurocents in this case. How plainly STUPID of M&S. They could add 30% to the sale price of the pot by adding a few Eurocents to the cost. I don’t know why these guy don’t get that. “They are useless tossers” is the usual theory.

But the Irish customer needs to take control here. LISTEN UP! You should not be asking for a second teab*g, you should be throwing that disgusting filth up the wall, climbing on the counter and screaming “I WILL NOT TAKE THIS FILTH ANYMORE” until the constabulary arrive.

A country with a long history of rebellion is merely taking this crap the multi-nationals are dishing out. Did you guys not invent a whole form of dance just to annoy the British? Have you not demanded control of your destiny since Viking times?

Stand up for your destiny Ireland! One of the “second teab*g” brigade venting on Facebook says  “I love the tea when you can trot a mouse on it” which seems to be a colourful expression for strong tea.

Take that expression, Ireland. Make banners with teapots, loose leaf and mice having a Jesus moment. March in the streets! Be the country that leads the charge, consigning the teab*g to being a shameful blip in the proud history of tea.

Or are you just another European backwater? UK-lite?

I’m waiting, Ireland. And my loose leaf tea is getting cold.


The original article Finbarr linked me to is here.

 

 

Page 1 of 7

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skysa App Bar
Skip to toolbar