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.