Tea and Life

Nerd? Geek? Or Maybe Just Better Than You?

When was it that ‘nerd’ became a pejorative term for someone who does things properly? If you take the time to use punctuation correctly, all of a sudden you’re a “grammar nerd”.
Yet it isn’t applied universally. Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t called a “soccer nerd”. Win a chess tournament, you’re a chess nerd, but bowl a perfect 300 game in tenpin bowling and no-one calls you a “bowling nerd”.
What is disturbing is the rush to own the term. Why should we celebrate this? People proudly “outing” themselves as grammar or punctuation or political or word or tea nerds.

Of course, let’s take the last one.

But first, a side journey into “geek”. Geek is a related word, for those of us nerdy or geeky enough to care.

The Free dictionary defines “nerd” as:

1. A foolish, inept, or unattractive person.
2. A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.

And defines “geek” as:

a. A person regarded as foolish, inept, or clumsy.
b. A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.
2. A carnival performer whose show consists of bizarre acts, such as biting the head off a live chicken.
So, not much difference, except that nerds are uglier than geeks and less prone to bite the heads off chickens.
Anyway, tea nerds. tea geeks. What was I saying?
Oh yes, the pejorative aspects.
It doesn’t matter whether we are defined by others, or choose to label ourselves as either. What is wrong is the underlying assumption that there is something wrong with us.
There is a blog called Tea Nerd, although it appears inactive over the last three years, and the exceptional and ironically named Michael J. Coffey has a store/blog/wiki thing called Tea Geek. Good luck to both of them. The latter even has the tagline “A Socially Unacceptable Level of Tea Knowledge” or something similar, from memory.
But the very labelling makes assumptions.
When the side blogging project the Beasts of Brewdom was set up, I wrote the “about”section to address a similar and just as objectionable theme, that drinking tea is somehow not masculine. Here it is:

Men! : Specifically, tea-drinking Men!

Are you fed up with being stereotyped, just because you drink tea?

If they don’t think you’re some foppish panty-waist with a peerage, they think you’re a beanie-clad navvy with a Thermos of Liptons.

Well, it’s time to tell ‘em to stick it. We’re LOUD, PROUD and REEKING of TANNINS.

The Beasts of Brewdom are a collective of tea bloggers that aren’t afraid to thumb their nose at convention; to swear, to rant, to muse, to wonder and to drink an insanely manly amount of tea. None of your effeminate macchiato-sipping poseurs here.

If you eschew cola for a brew; if you can take down a bison with one arm whilst filling a teapot; if you can skull a mug of hot Lapsang Souchong and shout “Please Sir, Can I have another other”, then welcome to the Beasts of Brewdom!

It may be a different topic, but in many ways it’s the same, and that is that the preference for tea is not an indicator for a bunch of other personality or lifestyle factors.

Evil geniuses drink tea. Opera lovers drink tea. Incredibly wealthy individuals drink tea. Chinese peasants drink tea. Dr. Oz drinks tea. Royalty drinks tea. I am none of these.*

I drink tea. That’s doesn’t mean I’m socially inept**. It doesn’t mean I can quote π to 10 decimal places***. It doesn’t mean I bite the heads off of live chickens****. It doesn’t mean I believe it will make me live to 150 years old and guard me from ever getting sick*****.

It means I like drinking tea.

And because I like it, I like to make it well, with quality tea and all the care and attention I can muster. And when I’m thinking about making tea, I’m really not wasting any brainpower on what anyone else might think.

After all, there’s cake to think about as well.


 

*I'll take a job as an Evil Genius, if the pay is good, I get sufficient holiday time and I like the white cat that comes with the job.
**It doesn't mean I'm not.
*** I can.
**** I don't.
***** Don't get me started.
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Tea and Food, Tea and Life, Tea Retail

I’m stupid? No, YOU’RE Stupid!

All thoughts of that lovely, historical, whimsical post that I had planned for this week (after delaying it from last week) were swept away as a red mist descended across my eyes.

Who are YOU calling Stupid?

It started with a news item about the latest weapon in the War. War with a capital ‘W’, of course.

But which War? The War on Terror? The War on Drugs? The War on Poverty? The War on Crime? The War on Morris Dancing? The War on Climate Change? The War on Teab*gs? The War on Poverty?

Everything’s a war these days. If Isaac Newton was publishing Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica these days, The Laws of Gravity would be called  “The War on Stuff Not Floating Away”.

But in this case, it’s the War on Obesity.

I really, really dislike the War on Obesity. Not because it’s not worthy, but because of the incredibly earnest types that form the front line troops.

They front up to news conferences with alarming statistics about heart attacks and diabetes, whilst conveniently leaving the statistics of the cost of repairing people who take to the streets with just shiny lycra and insurmountable smugness as their defence against cars, and never breathe a word about the legions of people treated for organic free-trade locavore kale overdoses every day in our major hospitals.

The biggest problem I have, though, is the reason they held this press conference: They are calling me stupid.

You see, these thinocrats have discovered the underlying cause of obesity: it’s stupidity. Fat people are stupid.

You see, we can’t read a label. We don’t understand. We don’t know that butter is actually just fat. We have no idea that there is more sugar in a glass of cola than there is in a lettuce. If we only knew that a hamburger, fries and coke were nutritionally inferior to a kale and lentil burger on spelt flatbread with beansprouts and a celery mousse, we’d all be heading for the nearest hipster eating houses quicker than you can say “Quinoa and Spiroulina Roulade, my good man!” .

So the Australian Government, in its wisdom*, is introducing a star rating system. We all know how that works, right? Like a movie review, except that a movie review lets you know how much you might enjoy something; whereas a five star rating for an absence of sugar and fat is actually letting you know how much you might not.

But what if they are wrong? What if many fat people actually do know this? What if obesity is a complex issue with a range of physical, physiological, mental, hormonal and social factors?

The War on Obesity is actually the most extreme of all the Wars. In contrast to merely pointing at the lack of intelligence demonstrated by being overweight, there are medical people lined up to excuse drug use: If you are lying in a gutter using a dirty needle to inject heroin paid for by prostitution, you’ll get more sympathy, an acknowledgment of the complexity of your problems and absolutely no-one calling you stupid. Even terrorists get to see foreign affairs specialists pop up on TV with tales of underlying contributory facts and how they are simply misguided when they decide to blow themselves up in a crowded market. The drug user has an illness; the terrorist is responding to socio-ethnic imperialist oppression and the fat guy is just a moron. Get on a bike and munch on some spinach, Fatty, and your troubles will be over!

But perhaps I just don’t understand all this, being overweight and therefore having less firepower in my head that a sustainably-grown savoy cabbage does.

Let’s find out.

I went to the official government site and downloaded the official calculator, all officially, and after absolutely promising that I would treat the macros with as much care as a hydrogen bomb, the spreadsheet begrudgingly agreed to answer my questions.

I picked one of our teas: Lord Petersham.

  1. It has no fat. So, there’s a 0 in that column.
  2. Black tea has a tiny amount of natural sugar. Let’s call it 2 grams per 100, though that’s most likely an exaggeration.
  3. Tea leaves naturally can contain a small amount of sodium, let’s use a massively exaggerated 4 %. That’s less than a tenth of the sodium in some fresh tuna, which is the sort of comestible that has nutrition groupies gasping with desire.
  4. There are traces of protein in tea, let’s call it 1%.
  5. Fibre’s a tricky one. You could always eat the leaves, but that’s not really standard. Call it 0.
  6. It’s generally considered that a cup of unsweetened tea has between 0 and 1 calorie, so we will add the whole 1.

So, how many stars does it get? I was hoping for 4.5. I think you get points for fibre, so 5 is probably out of the question.

After all, this is a beverage almost universally recommended by nutritionists and dieticians. It is the world’s most popular beverage. It helps people maintain a healthy lifestyle. And in my case, it’s the healthiest regular product in my diet. Much as I love yoghurt, fruit, lean meat and celery**, I don’t have them virtually every meal, and between meals, as I do tea.

So I pressed the button.

««

 Yes, TWO stars. Not five, or four, or even three and a half.

So, why are all these lovely earnest health wonks, who earnestly work for the government and earnestly have my welfare at heart, advising me against tea?

I don’t get it.

Perhaps I’m too stupid.


 

*We all know what “in it’s wisdom” means, right? 

**Ok, not celery

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Tea and Life, Tea Retail

The Tea Break That Never Came

My original blog of this week will become my blog of next week, and this week has been rather trying.

Not for me, apart from minor issues of earache, toothache and headache, it’s been a good week otherwise. It’s been far worse for many others.

In Ferguson, Missouri, USA, a Grand Jury listened to a bunch of witnesses telling contradictory stories, then decided not to go ahead with a trial to work out who was telling the truth. I thought that odd. Thousands of Americans and others protested this decision, peacefully, online or in person. Sadly, thousands also decided that robbing a shop-owner of their livelihood or torching a family car could make things OK.

The “Black Friday” sales in the US & UK have also provided uncomfortable footage of greed and people acting like wild animals.

Wild storms in Brisbane have damaged incredible amounts of property and thankfully not claimed any lives.

But in Australia this week, there is only one news story:Phil Hughes.

As regular readers realise, I can never mention the greatest sport in the world- cricket- without a few humorous remarks about other, inferior sports. But not this week.

On Tuesday, my state’s team, The South Australian Redbacks, was playing the New South Wales State team. Our opening batsman, Phil Hughes, knew that a good performance was likely to earn him a spot in the Australian team to play India next week.

He grew up in, and started playing cricket in NSW. He was batting well against many of his former teammates, when a good friend of his, Sean Abbott, bowled an excellent delivery.  Phil misread it, and ended up out of position. He turned his head, and the ball somehow struck him just outside of the grille of his helmet, on the neck.

The ball split an artery. A moment later, he collapsed.

The usual outcome of such an outcome is instant death, but thanks to on-ground medical staff and a trauma specialist who was in the crowd, he was revived and taken to St Vincent’s Hospital. After surgery and two days, he passed away, at age 25.

The injury was so unusual, St Vincent’s – a major Sydney hospital – had never seen one before.

The collective outpouring in Australia and elsewhere has been incredible. I could list the hundreds of tributes to show this, but it is exemplified by the 2 minutes and 7 seconds it took Australian Cricket Captain Michael Clarke to read a prepared statement – it seemed like 10 minutes – or the footage from the Pakistan vs New Zealand match in Dubai, where a whole day’s play was conducted in virtual silence, with no loud appealing, no celebrating of wickets or great scores.

The most notable emotion in Australia, and everywhere from Buckingham Palace to an Elton John gig in Germany, has been quiet respect.

And so, on what would have been Phillip Joel Hughes’ 26th Birthday, I find myself sitting quietly with an early morning cup of simple Keemun, pondering the Tea Break that never came.

 

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Tea and Life, Tea Retail, Tea Stories

Oops. You Did It Again.

I remember watching an episode of Man About The House as a kid in the 1970s. If you’ve never heard of this show, it possibly means you are either young or American, neither of which are probably your fault. (There was an American version of the show called “Three’s Company” that starred the late actor John Ritter, but it was terrible).You have one teahole and two ears. The more tea you drink, the more you can listen and the smarter you will become.

Anyway, in the episode I remember, Robin, who is a student chef, is convinced to cook a meal that Jo (that’s the dumb sex bomb) can pass off as her own to impress her new beau. Having cooked a superb meal of pork, Robin discovers too late that the young man in question is a certain young Mr Cohen, from an orthodox Jewish family. As I recall it, the poor dinner guest is too polite to complain, but ends up stashing the meal somewhere – in a light fitting, I think.

The point is, it wouldn’t have happened if Robin had asked a few basic questions.

In another pertinent memory (which assumes that last anecdote was also pertinent, and it is), a guy demonstrating that he could make a cup of tea in 90 seconds with a new machine (it took him 20 minutes to demonstrate this, bizarrely) assured me that I would be impressed with the taste of the tea he had selected for me to try: green tea with hibiscus and orange peel. If he’d asked me what tea he could make for me, I personally would not have picked the only one from the six next to him that had a substance I am massively allergic to in it.

If he’d shut his teahole for just a few seconds, I could have made a suggestion: “Ask questions, don’t assume”.

A few weeks ago, I got a nice message from a very polite tea merchant, asking if I would accept a sample of tea to review. At the time our own tea store was inactive in Australia, and so I agreed. (I didn’t realise he was actually in the US, where our store was and is active throughout the temporary closure in Australia).

A few days later I got an email, advising me that a sample was to be shipped, and naming the sample. Since I was curious about the name, I sought out the website concerned, and immediately noticed the presence of citrus peels in the blend.

Perhaps there are more self-obsessed people on the internet than me, but really, I doubt that anyone who has ever read more than six of my 250+ blogs has not become aware of my all-consuming citrus allergy.

Duh!

I sent him an email, hoping to forestall the shipment, but it was too late. However, he was delighted to respond, and voila!: he has immediately shipped me something else to try- yerba mate.

I have only mentioned this hideous substance a few times on my blog, the last about two months ago when I suggested that instead of colour coding it, David’s Tea should have flung it in the bin.

Given the experience that people have suffered when sending me tea I actually like, this is pretty dumb. I’m known for biting the hand that feeds me tea anyway.

When we send tea off to a reviewer, it’s after carefully reading at least a few dozen of their reviews, selecting a tea we believe they will love and creating a personal chain of correspondence that will let them know about our ethos and what the tea represents.

We’re also lucky enough to have a slew of great reviews on Steepster, where the first we hear about it is when it is posted, but even so, I take the time to engage with the reviewer and tell them a little about the tea.

So, when this stuff arrives, I’m in a quandary. I ethically want to fulfil an obligation to review.

I’m not sure what to do, but time will tell.

 

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Tea and Life

Margin For Error

My tea consumption has changed a bit lately.

As I am now working in an office for some of the week, I find I am a bit restricted:

  • I have about 500mls of tea when I get up, of course.
  • I have about 500mls of tea when I arrive in the office.
  • I have about 500mls of tea mid afternoon.
  • I have one or two 150-300ml cups of tea each evening.

The key here is that my consumption is about 2 litres or so, which is about right, but it is being made up of bigger, less frequent cups. In previous times, I mighty have 12 150-250ml cups of tea.

This has two side effects:

  1. I have fewer varieties of tea in a day
  2. If I get a cup wrong, I pretty well just have to drink it anyway.

Too strong? Too weak? Wrong temperature? Tough, it’s drink it or miss out.

It has led me to the conclusion than some teas work better in large cups than others.

Why? I have no idea.

For come reason, I cannot get Craigmore (Nilgiri) right in a large cup. Doke Silver Needle is better the bigger the cup. Of the two go-to Darjeelings that we keep next to our tea making station, Margaret’s Hope is consistent at any volume whereas Giddephar is much better in a tiny cup. Jasmine tea demands a small, handle-less cup.

It’s the same with our own blends. There are some obvious differences. If we brew up 1910, Lord Petersham or Queen Adelaide, they work great in a huge cup. But 1001 Nights is always in a  small cup – I serve it in Moroccan-style the glass which is a fixed, small size.

I love delicate china cups, glass cups, tall tea glasses, off-the-shelf mugs and my whopper 600ml ” I love Tea” mug. It’s not that I’m not fussy: I am. I hate thick walled, boring coffee cups. I hate polystyrene and melamine.

What is it that makes some teas brilliant in small doses but found wanting in a large mug? Why do some just work in a huge mug?

I don’t really know. That’s why I’m asking.

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Tea and Life, Tea Retail, Tea Stories

Some You Win…

Each of us has a set of personal rules and standards that govern what we do with regards to the teas we will drink: the when and why.Never be too timid to try a new tea. You should be more afraid of missing out on what might become your new favourite tea.

For example; I do not drink tea made from teab*gs. A quick summation of why:

  1. On average, tea in teab*gs is of vastly inferior quality
  2. Operations growing this inferior tea tend to have far more exploitative work practices
  3. Paper teab*gs adversely affect the taste of tea
  4. Teab*gs sold as “silky” or “silken” are a con

Another common dislike amongst the tea drinking fraternity is a hatred of ready-to-drink iced teas, often called RTDs. These tend to have little actual tea in them, but a whole lot of sugar and various chemicals you would not necessarily choose to add to your cuppa.

When out and about, my preference is for a cup of fresh brewed loose leaf tea. Or possibly freshly brewed iced tea.

If I find a place that has neither, the usual response is to go elsewhere. If I find a place that has loose leaf tea, I will tend to order a cuppa even of I actually want a cold drink, because loose leaf needs to be encouraged everywhere.

But sometimes it gets tricky.

Yesterday we visited a little hipster deli/lunch bar we have visited before. The place has about 20 large jars, each with a capacity of about a kilo of tea. They are clearly sourced from multiple vendors.

I was a little uncomfortable. In the year or more that has elapsed, I don’t think the tea jars had appreciably declined in contents. In such a coffee-centred culture that’s not a huge surprise.

As it was warm and we had been strolling for hours, I had a look at the cold drinks fridge. There was a new kind of RTD, one of the more “authentic” iced tea products made with brewed tea. Rather than risk the stale jars, I could try this.

But no!  A check of ingredients shows lemon juice in all flavours. I was foiled by my allergy.

So I reverted to plan ‘A’ and ordered a silver needle. It was very poor. Not enough tea was used, and the tea was indeed quite stale.

I could have had a teab*g at any of a dozen other venues on that street. Or a Coke. Or a hot chocolate.

But no, I let principle guide me, and I did not enjoy it.

It might sound like I lost out.

But on the other hand, three hours earlier we lunched at a bakery that offered 10 loose leaf teas. I chose “Scottish Caramel Tea” at random, because it was such an unlikely combination of words. Turned out to be a pu-er infused with vanilla and caramel.

And it was delicious.

You win some, you lose some, and whilst I’d prefer to win, you have to be prepared to lose sometimes.

 

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Tea and Life, Tea Stories

Fusion

Our personal circumstances changed rapidly over the last few months.Life changes. Needs change. That is why there are different teas, to match your every circumstance.

We didn’t like what we were doing in the UK for all sorts of reasons, and we wrestled with whether to stay on in the UK and do something else, or leave and come back to Australia.

The decision was made in the middle of a Wednesday; we flew to Calgary on that Sunday. We spent two weeks in Calgary; then flew back to our hometown of Adelaide. We stayed in a serviced apartment for just over a week and have now moved into a house.

Phew!

As we were packing all our stuff in the UK, it was obvious we had way too much. We were allowed the usual meagre amount of baggage, and we budgeted for an additional giant suitcase as excess baggage, However, we were told that the airline could not carry a second excess baggage item, and that item was a duffel bag stuffed full of tea.

I realised I could only get a few kilos of tea in amongst our luggage; and so I had to think: what to take, and what to leave.

There was no point taking our own blends. We can create them again.

I threw in five kilos, all from Lochan teas who we are pleased to represent in Australia and the US.

  • A kilo of Rolling Thunder as our Canada-based son loves it – we actually forgot to give to to him.
  • Three kilos of Doke Black Fusion, as I knew we had no stocks of it in Australia
  • And a kilo of Margaret’s Hope, because… it’s Margaret’s Hope.

I had a small quantity of Persian Princess for the flight to Canada, duly consumed.

We arrived in Calgary at the home of Devotea Junior The Elder and his lovely partner, and we were immediately pleased with the fact there was a teapot, but less pleased as there was no tea.

One kilo of Doke Black Fusion to the rescue.

Over the next two weeks, there were a few other teas here and there, but we drank Black Fusion morning, noon and night. When we opened the packet, we filled a glass jar from the bag. The glass jar was filled again during our visit, and again with the remainder of the bag not long before we left. I’m therefore quite sure we drank about 5/6ths of a kilo of Black Fusion between us. I was most likely the biggest contributor to that consumption.

When Lady D and I arrived back in Australia and spent a week or so in self-contained accommodation, we opened another one kilo bag of Doke Black Fusion and apart from a couple of excellent teas whilst out and about, it was all I drank. The first night here in our new home we had a bed, a kettle and a toaster: and our bag of Black Fusion.

Over the past week or so, we have filled our new home will all the stuff you need to live and cook and sit on and wash clothes and entertain and watch. Over that time: Lots of Doke Black Fusion.

Yesterday, we picked up about 40 kilos of tea we had in storage. Now we have a huge selection to choose from, which is our usual state of affairs. As I write this, it’s now 6.30 a.m. and I’ve had my 650ml mega-mug filed twice: once with 1910 and once with Craigmore Estate.

But for just over a month, day in, day out, we drank Black Fusion.

This leads me to two observations.

One: I really like this tea.

Two: There is value on exploring a tea in such a deep way.

There’s no doubting it’s a lovely, deep, fresh tasting black. It’s got a vague Darjeeling thing going on, but to me is for more aligned to a good quality Keemun with a nod to Assam. It’s rich and vibrant.

The truly great thing about drinking the same tea all day every day for a month is that I never make it the same way twice, and of course it is sometimes made by others. So it tastes a little different every time.

I’ve gone on single tea benders before. A day or two, here and there. Sikkim Temi. Doke Silver Needle. Lord Petersham. Various others.

It really does not compare.

The only thing I can compare it to, sadly, is people who buy the same brand of tea for years on end, because ‘they like it’. I have previously found this a bit of a cop out – a bit lazy – and a pointer to sadly missed opportunities to explore the world of tea.

Now, I get it a bit more. There is validity in drinking the same tea all the time – if it is good tea – and enjoying the nuanced variations.

After oversteeping Black Fusion a few times, I’ve actually started making it a bit stronger to enjoy some of the tones I found accidentally. If I make it too light, I just enjoy its nod to traditional Darjeelings.

More than anything, the feeling of knowing one tea so intimately is a little new.

So, as all these teas come back into easy reach, Doke Black Fusion is sure to remain a favourite.

I’ll have to have a little Doke Silver Needle next to avoid sibling rivalry.

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Tea and Life, Tea Retail

Of Calgary

Two weeks and two days in Calgary.

Snow!

Snow!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the abovementioned R’s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

**Well, that’s it apart from poutine.

 

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Tea and Life, Tea Retail

Goodbye, David

A mini-blog today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Service, Tea and Life, Tea Retail, Tea Stories

Tea, Unexpectedly Naked.

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

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

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

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

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

Into The Naked Leaf.

The first thing I saw was the wall.

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The Wall

 

Well, it was kinda hard to miss.

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

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

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

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

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

Nice descriptions and great sniffer cans.

Nice descriptions and great sniffer cans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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