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 6)

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.


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.


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.




Quora and Fora

I often get snarky on this blog, it’s fair to say it’s not the only place.

For example, real life. I’m quite snarky there.

Another fine example is when the site Quora.com sends me an email letting me know that someone thinks I should answer a particular question.

As an example, I got this one this week: “Whats the effects of green tea”.

My first thoughts, of course, were uncomplimentary:

Where’s the apostrophe? Maybe you should be asking questions about English, not tea.

What do you mean, “green tea”? You must be one of the ignorant 99.5 or more percent of the population who doesn’t realise that green tea is a category, not a single product.

What do you mean “effects”? Full marks for not being ignorant enough to type “affects”, but the whole question makes it look like you’ve been reading too much in the “tiny columns in mainstream newspapers and outrageous blogs by stupid people” category.


So,. let’s start with my answer:

You drink it, and you aren’t thirsty any more. There’s 99.99997% of the correct answer.
The other bit is, it’s much better for you than sugary drinks, it tastes a damn sight better than water and like all Camellia Sinensis tea, it has virtually insignificant traces of various things are have been shown to be good for you if you concentrate them and take them via a pill or extract, particularly if you are a rat.

So, that just about covers it.

I then wonder “Do I have to explain the “Japanese Research Colour Bias” again?”. You know, the fact that a substantial amount of tea health research comes from Japan, where they overwhelmingly drink green tea, so when they do experiments with tea, they just use a common type. Then when the results are translated from scientific report to popular media, a specifier of ‘green’ is used which implies that blacks, oolongs and the rest are somehow not possessed of whatever fantabulous benefit was detected in 8 out of 10 rats who were lucky enough to get a syringe-full of sencha extract in their rump prior to being euthanised and dissected.

Anyway, where was I?

It should come as no surprise that as a kid, I loved Mad Magazine’s “Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions” cartoons. Looking back on them now, I don’t think they are snarky enough, but it was good foundation.

But then we come to the existential crisis inevitable in these things. Am I doing the right thing with snarky answers? Have I become inured to my self-appointed role as a promoter and educator on tea? Let me quote Roger Waters’ Late Home Tonight

The kid from Cleveland
In the comfort of routine
Scans his dials and smiles
Secure in the beauty of military life
There is no right or wrong

In other words, Waters is describing the way the protagonist, a jet pilot, is trained so repetitively that the acts he must commit in his F-4 fighter/bomber become automatic, with no thought about what he is actually doing.

Have I become so used to snarking at ignorance that I put the snark ahead of the chance to educate?


I was lucky enough to ask my stupid questions pre-internet, where one person might answer in real life, not where I might have displayed to the world the crime of not knowing about a topic that I have gone to a forum to learn about.

I think the key to a good snarky answer is it attacks the reasons for ignorance or the forces of ignorance, or the people who should know better (I’m looking at you, Dr. Oz).

One must take some personal responsibility. For example, if you’ve read the literature on oats – and I can’t see why you shouldn’t have – you’ll see that any cholesterol-lowering properties rely on an intake of at least 600 grams of oats per day – that’s 20 30-gram serves – and that to work the oats must make up over half the calories you take in per day.

Yet porridge companies are happy to put “proven to be cholesterol-lowering” on the packs without the “only if you are a porridge-obsessed hermit” qualifier, and people are willing to buy it and eat it, telling themselves that a good healthy breakfast of porridge will sort out any possible cholesterol effects of the bacon and brie burger and chocolate eclair the are wolfing down at lunch.

Who was it that said “it takes two people to lie, one to lie and one to listen”? I think it was Homer Simpson. But in this case, it’s right.

So as long as I hit the right target, I’m happy to snark. More than happy, really.

This makes me the self-appointed arbiter of whether the questioner is innocently ignorant or ignorant with intent.

I’m comfortable with that.


Latino 1001

Energetic Latino Charm And Quiet Reflection

I used to write a lot about different teas and about different places to enjoy tea, or not enjoy tea. But not so much any more.

There are complex reasons. Firstly, since starting this blog, Lady Devotea and I have become vendors. For the last four years, every time I have thought about reviewing a tea, it’s either one of ours or a competitor, and neither of those situations makes for good or fair reviewing.

Likewise, a tea shop or café may stock our tea, or not, and that causes the same dilemma.

Of course, if travelling away from home, especially in markets we are not in, then I tend to go a little ballistic and get right back into both.

At the moment, we are in Adelaide, my home town for almost all of the last 32 years. In Adelaide, exactly 31 years ago yesterday, I met someone. Exactly 29 years ago today, we married.

31 years after that first meeting, which included me being bossy and egotistical, followed for no apparent reason by a cappuccino and a discussion of a mutual love of Dr Who, we arrived at yesterday, and we had breakfast.

We had breakfast at Café Latino.

Last year, when we had all sorts of ructions, we had quite a few places serving our tea. But with us having to withdraw from one, several changing hands or going broke, that number has dwindled. But one place that has never lost enthusiasm for us and our teas is Café Latino, in Woodville Park.

Here's the breakfast!

Here’s the breakfast!

We had an order mid-week and so decided to deliver it in person yesterday, and avail ourselves of breakfast.

I had the delicious big breakfast, although as I was not feeling so well, I skipped the usual chorizo, which is often the best part. Lady Devotea has a superb Canadian Pancake with caramelised banana and maple syrup, which was the special. Both were flawless.

There were a couple of other people in there as we got there, and a few arrived after we did. The Café is a bit of a hub for the South American community – as you’d expect from the name – but is also quite well loved of locals in the immediate vicinity.

Two guys came in and it was obvious that they had Canadian accents. We struck up a conversation immediately after Lady Devotea recommended the Canadian pancakes to them. and it turns out they are from Calgary where our son lives. When I say “from Calgary”, one has lived in Adelaide for 35 years after marrying an Adelaide lass, and the other, his brother, moved over 10 years ago.

“I did to my parents what your son is doing to you, in reverse”, he explained, and seeing this guy, who was probably about 60, so happy with his decision all those years ago certainly made me think.

I had 1001 nights with my breakfast, and Lady Devotea had some chai. Both well made, of course.

So, that’s it, is it? No, not by a long way. Regular readers will be wondering how I managed to stay on course for so long. Never fear. Diversion imminent.

I could have listed the teas available here: there’s a somewhat random collection of about 15 of ours available (and I recommend them all*). Or, I could have described the menu. But neither would round out my tale.

When you have a wonderful experience when dining out, for the first time, or the hundredth at a particular spot, it’s rarely about the food. Or even the tea, even if it happens to be the finest one can wish for, as it was in this case*.

The lady behind Café Latino is Marguerite, and it is Marguerite that makes this place special. She is always at the counter when you walk in, working at an often frenetic pace to dispense beverages and food. Like many small places, it is at the whim of the customer, so it can be empty one minute, packed the next.

She is obviously beloved by many on the local community, everyone that calls in chats to her, and she chats back, usually whilst her hands are working at a blur. We’ve been there, we know how hard that is. When you are behind a counter, you are at work and almost everyone you meet isn’t!

As well as admiring the way Marguerite runs the place and looks after everybody, the key thing I like is that she gets this beast called “The Devotea”. She understands that it is a partnership; a partnership forged through 31 years of being together, and of drinking tea together over that time. She gets that Lady D and I have both put our stamp on this entity, that like our children in Calgary and Adelaide, it is a mix of each of us.

As a result of a question that came with the order, we created a new blend two days ago. For a while, we’ll just trial it in Café Latino. So far, the results are promising: Lady D, Marguerite, her sister and I all like it. That’s a good start.

I’ve written many times of the bonds of friendship that tea can forge, and this is just one of many. It is special to us, as are all our tea friends.

In writing this post (and its rather dubious prequel) I’ve drunk about a pint each of Lord Petersham, Finbarr’s Revenge and Fleurs de Provence

What this has reminded me of, apart from bladder capacity, is that everything I drink has a story and now Café Latino is woven into our story, The Devotea story, the Anne and Robert story, that all started over a beverage** all those decades ago.

I’m hoping we have many more anniversaries, and many more friends, and many more good breakfasts. And further, I wish it upon all of those who read this and are part of our story. For tea is a preservative; it keeps us all together in mysterious ways.

Delicious, mysterious ways that give us much to be thankful for.

I certainly am.



* you see the problem in reviewing your own teas? Actually, I don’t.

** Okay, the wrong beverage, but I was young and foolish.


LP 5

War and Peace. With Less Peace.

For years, many of us have dedicated ourselves to the war on teab*gs.

One of my tea blogger friends posted the other day about another success in this war, but it perversely made me wonder: is it ever winnable?

And do we want to win?

And what do we want to win?

And who are we?

Phew, the questions are piling up.

Let’s start by defining the war on teab*gs.

To me, teab*gs are an evil. a swear word, which is why I always asterisk out the word. Given that at least six other people now do the same, I like to think of it as my eternal contribution to the war. Perhaps I’ll get a medal or something.

I’m not going to reference the thousands of words I’ve already written on the subject of why, but instead, let’s look at the two main fronts: the eating out front and the home front.

I’ll once again remind you why cafés, restaurants etc – even alleged ‘tea rooms’ on more than one occasion- use teabags: Laziness, stupidity and an incredible desire to cheat their customers.

I’m not even going to waste the time once again refuting the usual claims otherwise.

The key is, are we winning? Do we want to?

One at a time, we are winning. It’s quite simple: there are virtually no instances I’ve ever detected of these places going to teab*gs from loose leaf. But there are sporadic examples going the other way. Therefore, no matter how slowly, we are winning.

But again, do we want to?

Let’s suppose we are in the food district in a city we’ve never been in. There are eight restaurants in a row. How do you know if they are any good?

Start by eliminating any who use teab*gs.

My reasoning is simple: if they don’t trust themselves to make a decent cuppa from loose leaf, if they are not organised enough to demonstrate that a teapot, leaf and hot water is a process they can cope with, if they are not concerned enough about quality to make that happen, then I don’t trust them. I don’t trust them to have staff who know how to wash their hands after they visit the bathroom, who can read a ‘use-by’ date, a thermometer or an ingredient list. I don’t trust them to not serve me roast potatoes that were roasted a year ago in Poland and reheated, or lasagne made of horsemeat that they bought from a huge conglomerate.

In short, it’s a quality marker. Think of a teab*g as being in the same league as litter on the floor, dirty tables and walls and rude or uncaring staff. It tells you that you should eat elsewhere.

So teab*gs have an important function: they help us to define, and therefore support, the quality establishments.

Sometimes, when I’m explaining this, I’ve had restaurateurs say something like “people come from all over the city for my salmon, quinoa and kale quiche* and my chocolate crackle mousse, they don’t care a fig about getting a teab*g at the end. And besides, most of them have coffee.”

The stupidity of this is overwhelming: obviously people might enjoy the salmon whatever, but they are leaving there with the taste of supermarket tea in their mouths. And the idea that people who cannot make a teapot work should be allowed near an espresso machine is an odd one, to say the least.

So, I think at this point, I’m happy if we slowly win over the good places, and let the bad ones fester.

Last week I saw a tea grower talk about how selling his low-grade tea to teab*g companies was “just another revenue stream, a way to keep enough money coming in “, but there’s already a fallacy with that argument: if people weren’t putting it in bags, they could actually brew it loose. There are markets for loose low-grade tea that existed for years before the teb*g industry removed their source product.

So, that aside, how about the home front?

Sometimes, we visit people’s homes, and they have teab*gs. Well, it doesn’t really happen to me anymore, as anywhere I regularly go has a teapot and some loose leaf in their pantry. Often a gift from me.

So, what do we do?

Sometimes, we can introduce them to the leaf. It’s a gift that can last them a lifetime. It has to be handled carefully. I have previously described it in great detail here.

So, if everyone drank loose leaf, where would we find these opportunities to do good and change someone’s life?

On an individual level, a teab*g is a gateway drug to the addictive world of fine loose leaf tea. It is a clear signal, to us, that someone might be receptive to the good stuff.

Let’s do it.

And who are the “we” I keep referring to? It’s everybody who cares about tea. Everybody who wants the world to sigh contentedly every time it lifts it collective teacup. It’s you and me and our friends in tea.

Instead of worrying about the long term,  let’s take the small victories, both eating out and with friends and acquaintances, and enjoy them without any need to finally and completely win the war. Because as long as we haven’t ‘won’, we get to keep on winning.




*obviously they don’t. Ewww.

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