Sunday, June 30, 2013

The splitter tea

Today was the day I gave in to insomnia and got up at 5am, made tea and bread with honey, turned on the heater and took a bit of time alone. It's been quite delicious, though I'm aware I'll need to get up in 8 minutes and go and have an entire day.
Lapsang souchong is an amazing tea, in my opinion. It's got big leaves, which are traditionally smoked on bamboo racks over smouldering pine logs. Most people either love it, because it reminds them of campfires and being outside and warmth and time with friends, or they loathe it because it's a flavour often associated with savoury food, and they struggle with its place in tea. For me, smoke and tea go together because I've been camping a lot and I like tea out of a billy, not a plastic kettle, and I like to sit round a campfire first thing looking over the river, drinking my tea and listening to the birds, which I can hear now, just waking up.
It's almost 'go and have an entire day' time. I hope you have a wonderful day, whether lapsang souchong seems like a great tea or an abomination to you.
I think flavour balance is a huge thing. I disagree with a lot of the pricier earl grey blenders, because the bergamot overwhelms the tea. I love earl grey, but I'm a fan of restrained bergamot. Similarly, lapsang is best if the flavour of the smoke doesn't drown out the tea flavour.
If you like Twining's Russian Caravan, it's got a little bit of smoke in it. It's pretty weird working in a modern office and wandering round with a cup of lapsang, with other people saying 'I smell bacon or something' and giving them the cup to smell. I've watched some intense reactions, from 'wow' to 'yuk'. Personally, I would never say 'yuk' to someone else's food, but there you go.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Poo err

I'm on a tram, surrounded by conversations. Everyone is on their way to a Friday night thing, and we're plugged into smartphones and tablets and hanging from straps. The man beside me is wearing spats.
Black and green tea are the teas we love, but there is another kind, which is red tea. It's semi fermented, and you can sometimes get it in bing, or compressed disc form. This is where tea gets interesting - they used to compress it into discs, bricks or bird nest shapes so it was easier to transport by camel. You're almost drinking Chinese history.
One of the main red teas is pu erh, which is supposed to be really good for you, but I drink it because its got a wonderful earthy taste. Like all tea, watch out for a sodium hydroxide aftertaste, which would mean you bought the cheap one.
Pu erh is meant to manage cholesterol, but don't let that put you off...
Anyway, here's my stop. Have a productive Friday night!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


There has been a bump in the price of tea. Ok, there has been a bump in the price of everything, but I'll narrow it down to tea.
A couple of years ago, tea was about $3.50 a cup. Which was a bit extortionate, until you realise you're not actually buying tea, you're renting a little bit of space without worries or unpleasant distractions, like loose cupboard doors and loads of unwashed washing, like you have at your house, where you could easily make yourself a cup of tea for about 20c and three minutes' labour.
Now it's always $5.50. And you can tell it's extortionate because the tea people keep using the word 'just'. 'That's just five fifty, they say, staring at you balefully over your cup of tea that you're both aware has cost them $1.20 to make, including three minutes' labour hire and fourteen cents of power and water. And the tea server, you both know, is waiting resignedly for you to say, 'Five fifty for a cup of tea? Are you mad? How can you possibly justify that? How is it that I don't get any change from a five dollar note? How?' And they are trying to head you off early by using the magical 'just' word.
But you don't do that. Like most consumer sheep, you dig deep and find five fifty for a cup of tea. Over and over and over. Just to have a sit down. Just because you're meeting a friend. Just to have someone else do something for you, just for a minute, just when you're tired and have a cold.
Just. Because you know your fifteen dollar a week tea habit adds up to a one-way flight to Bali over a year, $750, for something you could take with you in a thermos for no money at all.
So, well, prices rise. Some people are now on enormous salaries, and they won't notice a 40% price rise/gouge, and they are the consumers, not you.
And they make the rules.
And they are the consumeriest consumers of them all, much more consumery than you are, all alone on your park bench with your thermos of tea.