Lord Devotea's Tea Spouts

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

Category: Tea and Life (Page 1 of 28)

DSCN1716

Penang: Over and Out

My last blog – before the Pictorial Interlude – ended with Lady Devotea and I in Little India, Georgetown, Penang, hailing a cab to go back to our accommodation.

Over dinner, we’d discussed the idea that we would do something in morning and then head back to take it easy for a few hours before being picked up by our airport shuttle mid-afternoon. My suggestion was a tropical spice farm not far from the resort.

Once in the back of the cab, we continued this discussion, and all a sudden, the driver joined in, asking what we had seen and, as is the way of cab drivers in Asia, suggesting excellent itineraries that he could offer.

Over the 40 minute ride, we spent a lot of time talking about his background: Anglo-Indian/Portuguese. His grandfather was an English guy who arrived in the early 1900s and created five rubber plantations and had some incredible number of children that escapes me now. After all, there was no TV and there are limits to the amusement possibilities in a rubber plantation or five, I guess.

At some point our driver, Jude, suggested that of all the things we should fit into our schedule, Suffolk House, the old residence for the island’s governors, should take priority. And while he was an interesting guy who seemed to know what he was talking about, we politely took his card at the resort and promised to call in the morning if we were suddenly seized with a desire to visit Suffolk House. or anywhere else.

And back in the room, I idly googled Suffolk House. And discovered that we absolutely had to go!

Back in Australia, two weeks before we left home, the ABC had started showing a series we had fallen in love with: Indian Summers. And unbekowst to us, it was filmed not in Simla, India where it was set, but in Penang.

In fact, Lady Devotea had pointed out a bungalow up on Penang Hill a few days earlier, and said “that looks exactly like one of the houses in Indian Summers”. Turns out she was 100% correct!

So in the morning, we rang Jude. We visited Suffolk House, a Hindu Temple, the Botanic Gardens and a batik factory over the next four hours. He proved to be an excellent guide.

Leaving aside the batik factory, which was OK and we bought some stuff, and the Hindu temple, which was great but we were close to melting in the direct sun, the other two were quite excellent adventures. Suffolk House is a great place to have a proper cup of tea and some scones. The Botanic Garden is a great place to look at plants and hand-feed monkeys.

Best of all, though, is that every time we catch an episode of this show we love, we spot little corners where we sat, roads we strolled and trees we looked in wonder at, and it transports us back – a cup of tea in front of the TV in cold, wintry Adelaide becomes a cup of tea on a balcony overlooking a lush tropical garden.

Penang. My verdict: well worth a visit, if you can parley that visit into memories you can share with the person, or people, you love.


Here’s a few photos I pinched from Lady D’s camera.

DSCN1715

A traditional ox drawn wagon in the grounds of Suffolk house.

DSCN1716

Suffolk House. Yes, it’s a displaced Georgian Mansion with some Indian style additions.

DSCN1717

The hall at Suffolk House, if you watch Indian Summers, imagine it full of desks and clerks.

A Pictorial Interlude

My last blog post was a bit of a teaser on our last night in Penang.

Then… nothing for two weeks! I’m sorry about that.

A combination of lack of time and illness and then technical difficulties at my scheduled blogging time meant I missed last week’s entry.

As I work to rectify that, I thought I’d post the pictures I promised of the tea set Lady Devotea presented to me for our 30th anniversary.

So, without further ado, here it is:

The box

The Box

The box opens... there are cups...

The box opens… there are cups…

... the box cantilevers and there is the rest of it...

… the box cantilevers and there is the rest of it…

The pattern

The pattern

The pot...

The pot…

The set

The set

ready to go, full of our 1001 Nights

Ready to go, full of our 1001 Nights

It’s a lovely set to drink from, the Celadon glaze inside the cups is very delicate and it holds memories of a great 30th anniversary. It’s hard to imagine a better gift.

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.

IMAG0421

A Tale of Two Teapots

I bought with me on this trip a tin of “Love of My Life 2016”. Most years around Valentine’s Day, I like to come up with a unique blend. This year, due to using some ingredients from our own garden that were in short supply, I was only able to make 6 small tins, so I made the decision not to give offer them for sale, but to present them all to Lady Devotea.

So, I put one in suitcase for Penang, thinking that it would be perfect for our 30th anniversary dinner,

I realised once here that two infusers was not the way to go, if one wants to have tea over a special dinner, so I needed a teapot or some other device. Of course, I explained this to Lady D as needing a teapot for the hotel room, to not give the game away.

Lady Devotea informed me that, as an anniversary gift, she would like to buy me a special teapot. And so, we were questing for two teapots.

A few days back we had the first serious attempt to fulfil that quest, wandering around Georgetown. Whilst we saw the most amazing things and loved much if it, none of the teapots were what either of us wanted. One Chinese emporium had a cardboard box for a teapot that would have suited my purposes, but the box was empty as they were using the teapot themselves.

Wandering around in the tropical heat has a consequence for the unwary: heat exhaustion, and we ended up curtailing our shopping trip and returned to the hotel. Another day, then!

Next day saw us at a tropical fruit farm, which was excellent (especially the lemongrass tea), and a butterfly farm.

We then caught a cab into Georgetown again, and asked the driver about pots. He took us to a department store.

They had about 100 teapots. Not all displayed together, but scattered over an entire large floor and mixed in with every other imaginable homeware.

I picked up one, then another, then another. In the end, I settled on a tin teapot, with old fashioned design but with a filter. Here it is:IMAG0461

Lady Devotea did not find anything special enough. There were some nice ones, but mostly what you see anywhere. And Lady Devotea does not compromise.

We had to return for our anniversary dinner, a candlelit dinner by the beach. I picked up some new shirts I had tailor-made, then dozed in front of the TV for half an hour. Still a tad dozy, I of course forgot to take the teapot and tea. Never mind, I thought, we’ll have it as a nightcap.

As it was almost certain to rain, the staff tried to persuade us to move our beachfront candlelit dinner indoors. We decided to risk it.

It didn’t rain. It was warm, and the food was good. It was a long leisurely meal. We surreptitiously fed a stray cat under the table with rib-eye steak. As there was hardly anyone else there, we got great service.

The soundtrack was a bit unusual. It’s Ramadan, and the mosque up the road features hours of chanting every night. Not to the faithful who are at the mosque, but shared with everyone, whether you like it or not, via loudspeakers. If you are of that faith, I’m sure it’s great. I can’t help feeling that, despite it being a successful multicultural society, it’s really to remind the Buddhists, Hindus and other large groups here who is actually in charge. The night before we had classics on the PA over dinner, and I’d have to say, the local mullah doesn’t really stack up to Michael Jackson.

Anyway, hours later and quite full of food, we staggered a few kilometres along the road, which is entirely taken over at night by roadside stalls selling, for the most part, fake designer clothing and bags. Lady D bought some nice Indian textiles, but no teapots were on offer.

I’d like to say that when we returned, I made cups of the special tea, but in reality, as we got back, I realised I was rapidly becoming unwell with a migraine.

The next twelve hours were messy, and it was not until the next afternoon that I dragged myself out of bed, unwilling to lose any more precious holiday time. We journeyed to Penang Hill, which was part awesome, part ordinary, but the awesomeness won, We found a new exhibit, basically a path through the jungle, and we were the only ones on the guided tour. It was blissful.

A quiet evening meal at the hotel, and about 9.30 we wandered up to the local mini mart to purchase soft-drinks at non-mini bar prices. When we came out, I noticed a gift shop that was open next door. Very Chinese, very good quality porcelain and the like.

We went in.

And there it was, the anniversary present. A ceremonial tea set that we fell in love with.

So many times, I think, you can’t find what you are looking for, because you don’t really know what it is. I know Bono had a lot to say on the subject, but I think if you are open to everything and take a few chances in life, you will find the people, places and things you need to make you complete.

So it was 32 years ago for me, and so it will continue to be.


Note: the tea set is boxed for transit. I’ll post a picture or two in a few day’s time

Synopsis Of Stuff

Yesterday, I did not blog. This is because for about 14 hours between the very end of Lady Devotea and I’s 30th anniversary day and dragging myself up yesterday afternoon, I was quite unwell.

This also led to a large backlog of work emails and other nonsense, which means that I can’t really share a lot of really interesting things that happened. So instead, here’s some photos I’ll post quickly to give you the gist of it all, before getting to work on my next blog, which I assure you will be tea-filled and meaningful.

IMAG0388

Robusta coffee beans. At the Penang Tropical Fruit Farm, which is brilliant.

IMAG0385

Electric Yixing Teapot. Old meets new.

IMAG0390

A frog designed to confuse our tea friend Gary D. Robson, Grand Master of Poop.

IMAG0410

Just so you know, please don’t take a shower in this room, which contains three urinals. And if you do, we will have  the video evidence.

IMAG0407

Dinner Setting, on the beach, for 30th Anniversary candlelight dinner

A swing at the top of the hill, on the new Habitat walk, which is incomparable.

A swing at the top of the hill, on the new Habitat walk, which is incomparable.

 

DSCN1583

The Sliding Doors Moment

The cup of tea in the image above is the Marrakech Mint at China House, Georgetown, Penang.

It was terrible, but that doesn’t matter. In fact, apart from a revisit to the Tea Blog experience of a couple of days ago (honey and black pearl red tea this time) I didn’t get any good tea on this day, apart from one I made myself . Oh, and more Teh Tarik at breakfast.

Come to think of it… no, I am going off on a tangent here, and despite the fact that that is my blog’s most marked characteristic, I’m not going to do that. I’ll focus.

The key here is the date, which I helpfully wrote on the tablecloth in crayon.

Being June 6th, it has the advantage of being the same in both standard and American date formats, so there’s no confusion, It is also the anniversary of D-Day in 1946, and so is often remembered as an important day in history.

More pertinently, June 6th is one of those rare days that I can tell you what I was doing on in 1984.

Apart from being the subject of one of the best books ever, 1984 started as a bit of a lost year for me. My career as an international recording artist was still being hampered by my lack of any discernible musical talent, I had no job, I had finished study and for some reason I had taken to wearing a faux leather jacket with “Air France” and “Concorde” badges sewn on, which just made French people try to talk to me in the street. I also had the world’s straggliest beard.

I don’t remember much about myself then, but I was definitely not the sort of person to invite a girl I had just met for coffee and a chat. Strangely, I did that on June 6th, 1984.

And the girl? Feisty, talented and definitely not inclined to accept coffee invitations from self-important beardy loudmouths. Strangely, she did that on June 6th, 1984,

I know I’ve told this story before, but there you have it.

The finest Apple Strudel known to mankind, plus sweetened cream.

The finest Apple Strudel known to mankind, plus sweetened cream.

Coffee, a discussion of shared interests, an agreement to get together for a jam session as her band had no bass player. Love blossomed for me over that checked tablecloth there and then; she may have taken  little convincing, and rightly so.

Fast forward thirty two years, two fine children and an incredible shared history, and we find ourselves once sharing a beverage. And cake. The picture above is my cake.

Let’s not dwell on the cappuccino of 32 years past; I know better now. There’s a future to be had, and a thirtieth wedding anniversary to celebrate on June 7th.

I no longer have the beard. The love has proven much longer lasting.

Perfection!

Perfection!

Over the thirty-two years, one running joke has been that she will always select a far better item on a menu that I will. And Anne, AKA Lady Devotea went with a pineapple mint iced tea.

My decision to order the Marrakech Mint was bad, but I have thirty-two years worth of proof that I once made a very good decision to by asking the right person for a chat and a beverage.

As much as I love Orwell’s 1984, I look back on my own 1984 as better: the start of a new life, and one that continues to this day. And the day that has just dawned is our thirtieth wedding anniversary, so I’d best go make the tea.

 

IMAG0374

Drink Tea Like a Boss

The image at the top of this post is a swimming pool we spent some time in and around yesterday, and during the day, a theme for today’s post coalesced in my mind.

Too bad, it will have to wait, because life had other plans.

A day of relaxing and local wandering involved a lot of tea, from the sweet tea at breakfast to ready to drink tea with lychee juice, a pot of Ronnefeldt Darjeeling in a lovely garden coffee shop (tea and service not overly good, but lovely apple pie and surroundings) and some of our own. Of course.

After a rest, we were ready for dinner but it was a little early, so we decided upon a pre-prandial perambulation up the street.

The whole street turns into a succession of stalls in the evening, which means one has to risk life and limb wandering the road’s edge, and put up with some very keen shop keepers. Often we stop to talk to them, as it does enrich your experience, and sometimes the value of the goods plus conversation is a very great bargain indeed.

We were about to turn when I spotted a stall across the busy street. YES! I MUST! I MUST!

Despite this poster featuring coffee beans, it wants me to DRINK TEA LIKE A BOSS.

Despite this poster featuring coffee beans, it wants me to DRINK TEA LIKE A BOSS.

I pointed it out to Lady Devotea. YES! I WANT TO DRINK TEA LIKE A BOSS!

We crossed the street – fortune favours the bold in Malaysia in this regard, as traffic lights, signals, indicators and agreement on side of the road to drive are all merely suggestions here.

IMAG0375

Irresistible! The menu….

And perused the menu. We were at a point where neither of us needed tea, but there was no way I was not going to DRINK TEA LIKE A BOSS.

“Ice Milk Tea” was the selection. Let’s do this.

Before I could get my phone out, our genial host had spooned some milk powder into a shaker and added a good slug of prepared tea.  Then the stretching started:

Start...

Start…

It was very entertaining. While it was going on, Lady Devotea asked how the tea got to be that terracotta colour, and the answer, with a  little linguistic challenge, seemed to be that “his wife made it with a machine”.

...just warming up...

…just warming up…

One of those answers that begs more questions, really.

Anyway, once the tea was fully stretched, it was time for an enormous cup of ice, and the insertion of the tea thereinto**.

...full stretch!

…full stretch!

All the while, we chatted and I kept asking him to slow down while I fumbled with my phone camera.

He showed remarkable patience.

I showed a remarkable ability to take forever to get my camera operational.

And after that, what comes next?

More milk, in the form of a dash of evaporated tinned milk!

Evaporated Milk: It only ever makes things better.

Evaporated Milk: It only ever makes things better.

My "I need this photo for my blog, but I just want to get into this tea" pose.

My “I need this photo for my blog, but I just want to get into this tea” pose.

The perspective in my photo of this stage makes the cup look quite small. It really wasn’t. It was, to use the technical term we use in Australia, “a big bastard”. Huge, even.

It was done, and bagged with a straw. I crossed the side street with my prize, and Lady Devotea pulled me back as I had stepped in front of a scooter occupied  by a couple clearly in a hurry.

Having narrowly escaped a nasty incident. It was time for tea. After an obligatory photo of course.

I tried it, and it was delicious. It was creamy, with a sweetness somewhat less that “instant diabetes” but more than “OMG” and it had a great tea flavour.

Lady Devotea had a few sips but was wisely saving capacity for dinner.

But not me. NO! I did it. I drank it all… LIKE A BOSS.


** I think I totally made up the word “thereinto”. Good, isn’t it?

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.

IMAG0351

Perspective

I had a bad cup of tea on a plane yesterday; the same venue offered that abomination against nature known as “creamer” to Lady Devotea as they offered no milk, and later at an airport, an offshoot one of the “worlds best retailers” – Harrods – served us up teapots containing teab*gs.

So, what you would normally be reading is tales of the start of another adventure; my snarky questing for good tea amongst the tea-ignorant barbarians of yet another country that will probably fail to meet my teaxpectations.

More on all that later, but I’m going to take a moment.

The sun is rising over a tropical paradise (that picture on this post is from our room) and we are alive.

As we neared our hotel after a dozen hours travel yesterday, we inched past an accident. A guy had come off of a motorbike, and as we passed by within a metre or so, it became clear to me that he had died as a result.

Someone lost a son; a husband, a partner, a friend, a father. Makes a bad cup or tea or two fade a bit.

After all, I can have a good cup of tea today.

Page 1 of 28

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skysa App Bar
Skip to toolbar