As those of you who hold a small celebration every time I post a blog post will be aware, December 22, 2019 was such a day. In that piece, I announced that the gift of spending some time and having some tea with me has actually been raised to the level of Christmas gift. Or perhaps it’s Christmas itself that has gone up a level.
So, fast-forward to 2020 and COVID-19 stops things in their tracks. For months, the opportunity to enact this event was denied by restrictions, but as they eased, it was scheduled. For yesterday, to be exact.
We booked it a few weeks ago, then got the days mixed up and also accepted an invitation to brunch. Yes, brunch and afternoon tea were our two meals yesterday. And I’d have to say it worked.
When you have an arrangement to have brunch at 11am, it really means noshing at very least at 11:30, and I had arisen at 2.30am for no good reason. So, I was really getting quite hungry by about 7am. I had started the day with hourly Doke Rolling Thunder Oolongs, but by not-having-breafast-but-breakfast-time. I needed more substance. So, I kicked into The Devotea 1910. We haven’t sold that one for a while, but last blending day we made a few hundred grams for ourselves.
I was also baking some fruit loaves so the time passed quickly and before you know it, we were at brunch with an assortment of friends, several of whom we had not seen since pre-COVID times. Nine people in all which is one under the maximum allowed here. Knowing I was destined for afternoon tea, I confined myself to a light brunch of sausage, omelette, savoury muffin, sweet muffin, waffles with dark chocolate custard, homemade muesli with mango yoghurt and some of my own delightful apricot and date fruit loaf. Of course, you cannot consume such fare without an excellent tea, and so I quaffed about half a litre of an excellent Jungpana Spring Delight Second Flush.
I’m pretty sure the paragraph above illustrates what you are missing out on if you’ve not been smart enough to encourage one of your children to become a chef.
Suddenly, it was getting near to the afternoon tea, where not only were they getting me, but Lady Devotea. Two gifts at once!
Onto the event. The guest of honour, Lachie, mainly drinks black teas, so I had prepared two options. One that we spend the afternoon exploring 4 black teas, the other that we just go all out exotic and weird and wonderful.
In the end, we decided to start with something exotic and then adjust the day on the basis of how that went.
So, we got started with this. I pinched this picture from the Tillerman Tea site as this Chingjing Gaoshan You Ji Wulong Cha (Organic Chingjing High Mountain Oolong Tea) was actually a gift to me from David at Tillerman.
It was possibly the first oolong ever for three of the people at the table, although there’s always the chance that a Chinese restaurant had served one up unannounced.
It was a 2017, but sealed and unopened, and it had maintained it’s quality exceptionally well. It was buttery, it was warm. It was a hit. Taiwan at it’s finest.
So, I decided to veer toward the exotics. And indeed, exotic the next one was, a Mississippi Sunshine US-grown yellow tea from The Great Mississippi Tea Company. Also a gift, this time from Jason McDonald.
I do love this tea, and this was close to the last of it.
It’s a bit of an oddball to handle, kind of crispy, but it’s really smooth. I like to think of it as what a green tea would be if green teas weren’t ridiculously self-centred and smug.
It went down well but the sequence was wrong, the first two teas should really have been served the other way around as the aftertaste of the Chingjing was quite pronounced.
And of course, one might normally clear one’s palate with a snack, but being full from brunch, I merely had some ham sandwiches, a scone and there was a “is that a caramel slice?” moment.
So, next up we veered wildly, and introduced one of our own. This was Hobo Lil, which is certainly unique, Dehydrated apples, Australian Cinnamon Myrtle, white tea.
This was certainly a shock after the clarity of the Mississippi Sunshine, this was complex and unorthodox. However, if you find yourself in front of a plate of mini raspberry lamingtons, it’s good combo. I can attest to that.
If you want to read more about Hobo Lil, there’s a whole post on it.
So, after those three definite exotics, we returned closer to our own mainstream and finished with The Devotea Fleurs de Provence.
Recently, vanilla beans have been a little hard to get economically, and our supplier had moved from Madagascan to Timorese. But after a few attempts, we managed to get over the difference by just adding about 10% more vanilla beans.
Of course, Fleur de Provence also has the benefit of being visually appealing, with lovely flowers in it.
Over the course of the afternoon. I shared a fair bit of tea info, not just technical stuff but also some anecdotes, but when all and said is done, an afternoon tea is an afternoon tea.
Friends. Cakes. Nibbles. Excellent tea. Excellent conversation.
Let’s face it, afternoon teas are not just for Christmas. They are for life.