Monday, December 6, 2010


A great and pestilential scourge is on us. Fleas. They invaded sometime last week, laid eggs and then three days ago the... eggs... hatched......

And the leaping, climbing, hopping infestation began.

It's disgusting. I haven't really slept in two nights. Itchy, jumpy fleas. Apparently it's the humid summer that's making them bad. Today I burst into tears at my desk. I'm not very resilient to insomnia.

Tea with cinnamon is good, she said, changing the subject and ignoring the jumping things climbing up her legs. You can put cinnamon into almost any tea, and if you leave it to steep for half an hour (and then reheat the tea), it  goes into another gear, flavour-wise. I never ever use ground cinnamon for this purpose because it's gritty. Always cinnamon quills. There were six months back there when rooibos tea with cinnamon and soy milk was what kept me sane.

Tonight I'm not sure if even cinnamon can do that, as in spite of one flea bomb and a severe carpet spray, the floor still jumps and it's likely to be another night of scratching and starting. Misery.

Sigh, off to bed. Sleep well.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

dandy v expensive dandy

My flatmate and I both love dandelion root tea. This is partly because we have both quit coffee and dandelion root is a little bit coffee-like if you don't concentrate too hard. It's also very expensive at $8 for a small jar. There is another version that is chocolatier and will stand boil after boil without significantly losing flavour, but that one is even more expensive. Then we compound the problem by adding Burdock root to it, which makes it gravelly and fabulous, but costs $11 for a tiny sachet. My flatmate excites the blend by adding an enormous amount of chili, and I add a little less.
We wander onto the back verandah, which winds around and around our block of flats, and sit on the steps and drink chili burdock dandy under the moon before going to bed of an evening. The cat, Morphus, who has been bullied by a neighbouring tomcat, sometimes braves the outside world enough to come and perch on the boards on full alert, scanning the horizon for the great enemy. We watch the clouds pass overhead and sometimes see a bat. The great thing about dandelion root tea is you can drink it just before bed without insomnia, which is not always possible with coffee, depending on your constitution. It also apparently clears out your liver.
We just finished a great bag of normal dandy. We should really get another one. Mmm. Dandy. May your day go well.

Friday, November 12, 2010


we're home on a saturday, kitten on lap, black sabbath on itunes, making chai. My first of the season.

I had an argument about chai during the week. There is a new dude in at work, who is from Delhi, and he says that the drink the westerners call chai is not for sale in India, and that if anything, tea is spiced with a little cardamom and that is all. I said that my friend from Hyderabad said that the spicy version is what they have there. He said 'well I don't know what they do in Hyderabad. But we don't have that stuff. It's not Indian'. It was a happy argument. We both were feeling tetchy and put upon and felt like disagreeing about tea. I offered him some Richer Mountain Blend if he felt like it. He told me about the Indian method for making tea, which is called chai in India but tea in western countries. You boil up the leaves and leave them on a gentle rolling boil for a time, add milk, wait until it's not quite boiling, and serve with sugar.

Anyway people always argue about chai recipes so I'm not going put mine in here. If I'm left alone and there is no one else around I put in so many cloves that it looks like coffee. I think this is wonderful but it's not popular. Oh no. The confest suggested recipe has two cloves per urn. Each to her own I guess.

---pause for tending and serving----

Oh yeah. That's a lovely cup of the drink the westerners call chai. It contains some of my mates' chai blend, and they put the spices in a sack, put a board on the sack and run over the board with a Kingswood. You can't get a whole lot more oz than that.

My recipe is
a whole lot of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves
half a nutmeg
a couple of peppercorns
several slices of ginger
some black tea

I boil it up for ten minutes, add the same amount of milk (soy if you're me) and boil for another ten. Then it boils over and I have to clean the stove. Then I drink it with honey or raw sugar, which you need a fair amount of if you've boiled up black tea, and less of if you've substituted with rooibos.
Then (and here's the clever bit) I sieve it into a teapot. Yes. Doling out the drink the westerners call chai with a cup or ladle creates a huge mess every time.

I think chai is best drunk when watching rock 'n' wrestling, but again, that's just me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

my family's tea

I'm at my desk with six boxes of tea. This happens every now and again - mum and dad run out and I post them more because Tasmania is bereft of it. In the family it's called Green Signal Green Label, and on the box it's called Tetley Robur Green Signal Blended China Pekoe. I'll point out here that I receive no payment from Robur or Tetley, and scorn and spit on the vast majority of their so-called tea.
But Green Label's a great tea, the family have been rusted-on advocates since it was made by a small family-owned company, previous to the two takeovers by Robur and Tetley respectively. It was taken off the shelves a couple of decades ago, and everyone complained, and it came back. Then maybe three years ago it disappeared completely. And then I found a stash at that marvellous emporium, Deniliquin Go-Lo, my favourite shop in the whole world, and all was well for a time. Then we ran out. And Deni Go-Lo ran out. Dad made a blend he thought tasted something like it. Mum disagreed.
A year or so later I was at a community event with an eccentric pianist who said, 'I've just bought ten boxes of tea', and obviously that's the kind of thing a Green Label fan would say, and we established that he was also a Green Label guy and that there was a stash at IGA supermarkets. I looked at my local - Nothing. The tea shelf was bare. But THEN at the supermarket near work - BOOM! An ongoing supply!!! So anyway I post them a couple of boxes now and then. Every six months or so they come to visit and buy their own, just like you would in a sane world. Dad stocks up on Stimorol chewing gum, similarly unavailable.
So yeah. That's my family's tea. I don't drink it. It's nice, don't get me wrong, but it has its place and that is with my family, and then when I go back, the tea tastes like mum and dad's house. It did taste like that at Gran's house, but she is no longer with us. Since September. We had a very special funeral with sponge cake and a giant urn and great silver teapots of Green Label tea, which we all take white with no sugar. It's how we farewell people in our family.
Gran was a sniffer in the army in world war two. She had a very good sense of smell. As Grandad said once, she could tell at five hundred yards whether you were smoking a Woodbine or a Craven-A. Every afternoon she'd do the tea thing with the pot and the tray and the milk jug and the biscuits and I'm going to have to stop writing now because thinking about Gran makes me so sad. I miss her.

Did I mention I've got an iphone?

Aaand.... I don't have to think any more. It does it all for me.

Thought I was a luddite. Thought wrong. I don't hate technology. I just hate everything except my iphone. I cursed through two years of owning a Samsung phone. Was perplexed and baffled by LG. Coped with a couple of Nokias, but never really, you know, bonded with them. And wider technology - I spend all day at work swearing at Microsoft and have long held the view that technology was created by inconsiderate nerds to torture the rest of us with. A delusional spell designed to keep us locked up inside, away from the sun and our friends. But the iphone... it helps with the life I live beyond the office, when I close the lid of the computer.

I recorded my friend playing didge at a festival last weekend. I recorded choir practice on Tuesday and can now listen over it on the tram, usually thinking 'whatever that note was, I must never ever sing it again'. Useful. Enhancing.

Now it's a tea blog so I think it's important to move on because the people who are in love with their iphones already know how it feels, and the people who aren't can't possibly want to know.

Work tea.

The most important tea of all. The tea I turn to:

  • When someone says 'do you want a spreadsheet or a database?' and I say 'they're not the same thing?' 
  • When I get emails that I can't just ping into the 'ignore' folder. 
  • When someone from headquarters mistakenly has 30 boxes of purchase order books delivered and then can't be found to take them away again. 

It's time for work tea. Oh yes.

I lean towards strong black work tea. At the moment I'm working with Robur Richer Mountain Blend, which is almost obsolete but can be found sometimes, and isn't boutiquey, and costs $4 per packet instead of $12.

That's what I go with. And I make two big cups in my superlarge lime green teapot and take one in to Amy, who's Welsh and says it's a 'right nice cup of tea'. Can there be higher praise? No there can't.

I take my cup in to my desk, where there's a special tea coaster and a special rag behind the computer for wiping up tea pouring spills, and suddenly things seem dealable with again. Not easy. Not always fun. But less overwhelming.

And that's what work tea does. It's the workhorse of the tea spectrum.

Today, however, I'm not at work, and am going to the gym. I bet there's an iphone app for that that will make it somehow richer, fuller. Maybe I like Richer Mountain blend because it blends with my fantasy that I am richer, and live on a mountain. Hmmm.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

green with lemongrass

Today i bought an iphone. Yes. A number 4, which are barely available except at extortionate telstra prices. What happened was I got the number of the shop, who get limited numbers at various intervals, and called them every half a day. 'Have you got any iphones?' 'Have you got any iphones?' For a whole day they had none. But this morning they had fresh stock so I leaped on the tram and vibrated my way into the city.

It seemed too good to be true. I kept reassuring my low self esteem that yes, I am allowed a new piece of expensive technology. No, it's not just for other people. I was too scared to open the box for a few hours. Ran some errands. Kept checking that I still had the iphone bag, and that the phone was still in it. Then sitting at the tram stop to go home I slit the cellophane wrapper open with a fingernail and pulled out the delicate white box. The writing shone in the afternoon sunlight. Sliding the top off the box, there she was, nestled serenely in a white plastic cocoon.
'Don't drop the phone. Don't drop it. I can't afford another one,' I whispered to myself, hoping nobody else could hear. I slid the lid back on and placed it gently in its bag.

At home I finally disinterred my new magical piece of self-belief and self-worth and pulled out the super strong case I also got for it, to reduce the chances of ruin. Both black. Both new. Both confusing. I became very busy locating the phone's sim card holder and working out how to plug it in, how to disassemble the sturdy case, that the touch screen still worked with the phone in there. There was a need for tea - oh yes, there was a need for tea. But distracted as I was, there was no focus for any creation. I flirted briefly with the idea of one of Djulz and my dandelion specials, but opted for a green tea and lemongrass teabag in a lemongrass and green tea coloured mug.

The lemongrass and green tea took me to another place while I dealt with my techno-high, and then took me back and deposited me on a calmer surface than I had previously inhabited. Morphus, the cat who chooses to enrich our lives with her love, tried to climb on my lap when the lap was containing the iphone. I shooed her away, but on reflection decided that I don't need to be the sort of person who values technology over life. I welcomed the cat back on and showed her the phone, and we progressed together. Cat and tea and I assembled and synched and downloaded and sorted. Afterward, I took my iphone for a walk in the sunset. We took photos of the lights and the sky. On the grassy hillocks by the beach there were pairs of lovers canoodling. I sat down with my iphone and downloaded apps - one where you can pop bubble wrap and one called Art of Glow, which I think is from Japan and would entrance you if you were on acid, or if you weren't on acid but had been hanging out with people who were.

There is no need for a lover of a friend or someone you aimlessly fondle while you both wait impatiently for someone else. Not when you have an iphone. Not when your friends are in your pocket on facebook and twitter and you can look at their photos and read about their lives.
a palm tree made more beautiful
by my favourite shade of blue

the pier under clouds.
city lights from the beach.
And a single star.

a lamp post and its lampdog,
which is like a sundog
only without the sun.
I got the gps to take me home, but refused to follow its directions when it wanted to go the long way. It recalibrated and saw the wisdom of the short way after I crossed the road and shook it. The relationship deepens. Little spats are resolved. Now I would like to upload photos to this entry, however it is synching 107 songs and therefore will be a little while. Give and take.