186 Tasting Notes
Is there anything funner than wrestling with your wifi in the morning? I don’t think there is. Like wow, so when I run out of bandwidth and go to the Three website to top up for another month, it all works fine until it goes to process my card payment, which has to be redirected through the verified by visa page, which won’t load if you’re out of bandwidth. Well played, Three. I think I spent a good hour refreshing the top-up page before caving and buying a day’s worth of BT Wifi just to get the stupid payment page to load so I can have internet this month. facepalm
I am not a happy camper. Cheering myself with an old episode of Bake Off on iplayer and drinking a cuppa while I decide what to make for lunch out of my diminishing pantry.
Brax is smooth, lively, and comforting. The warm scent of clove and ginger is prominent on the nose, with a sweet undercurrent from the almond. The irish breakfast provides a solid base for the spices and almond, which shift between buzzy, energetic spice and light sweetness. A few sips in, the slight earthy-sweet of the oolong makes its presence felt for a moment. This is a complex tea. the longer you sit with it, the more delicious secrets it reveals to you. If only it would reveal the secret of how to renew my wifi data plan without the website being a little monster…
What a delightful day. Went to our favourite market in Altrincham and found loads of lovely things. Met a lady who was spinning wool and it turns out she’s originally from Toronto! Yay, Canada!
Oh yeah, and there was tea. I couldn’t possibly pass a table full of tea without investing in something or some things. I don’t normally go for rooibos as a first choice, but a) this smelled lovely; and b) my friend absolutely HATES black tea, like just can’t abide the taste of it at all, but reckoned that this smelled lovely too. So I decided I had to at least get it for her, brew us up a cuppa, and see if it was a tea she could enjoy.
And she did! It’s got a good, well-established caramel flavour that works well with the rooibos and a nice smooth, sweet texture. I took mine with a dash of milk, she took hers without, both were scrummy. So I sent her home with half the bag, and I hope she enjoys it! Yay, I found a way to share the love of tea!
Know where I was this afternoon? A cake expo. It’s pretty much my wonderland. And I got in for free, and there were free samples everywhere of all the things (salted caramel marshmallow, oh you sexy beast!) and enough free samples of booze that I admittedly had a bit of a buzz on by the time we left the building. Whoop.
And I emerged with only one purchase: a very sensible giant doughnut with pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles. Its name is the Pink Princess. I can see why.
So I’m kind of down with a somewhat cleansing tea, though the name of this suggests more toxins rather than less, admittedly. I can tell you exactly why I love this even though the thought of an actual mojito turns my stomach a bit, and it’s basically because this isn’t ruined with icky booze. I’m not a big drinker at the best of times, but if it tastes of rum or tequila, I will be making embarrassing yuck faces long after it’s passed my taste buds. This, however, is just a lovely festival of mint and lime that I like with a squizzle of honey or a packet of organic sugar for balance, and feels really cleansing after an afternoon of various bits of frosting and cake and fudge and marshmallows and jams and sloe gin.
(Gosh I do love a good sloe gin. If I weren’t virtually teetotal I could easily ruin myself on that stuff.)
This is a sad brew, as I drink it in tribute to the amazing, perennially fabulous Kate O’Mara, who passed away a few days ago. Just a few months ago she had said in an interview that she’d happily reprise her role as the Rani on Doctor Who, and I’d have loved to see that. She was a truly fabulous, glamourous, and warm lady.
It really does smell like BOOM! cherries, sweet-tart and candylike, a little undercurrent of vanilla drifting in and out occasionally. But don’t let that frighten you – remember, the Rani’s not evil, just amoral. Like the Rani, this tea is a master of disguise: beneath the leaves’ potent fragrance lies a more nuanced, interesting brew. Cherry remains the predominant flavour, while the vanilla adds depth, and the hibiscus lends a tart edge. It becomes deep and sweet and tart, mostly cherry, but with something else lurking in the background. A friend of mine made a cup of this when she heard the news, and described it as having an almost spicy mouthfeel, and I get a bit of that. It’s subtle but dark, and powerful, but it keeps you guessing. Definitely a science experiment gone right.
Yes yes yes.
Today’s been weirdly productive by nobody’s standards but my own – finished a painting and managed to get a second steep of this in before the sun went down. Mmmm, ‘sgood. Steep two’s every bit as lovely as steep one, letting more of that lovely, creamy sweet floral-melon goodness emerge from those giant leaves – who’d have thought that what looked like such a concise spoonful would unfurl into a festival of greenery so fluffy it’s practically spilling out the top of my strainer? I’m noticing a refreshing green note around the edges of the second steep, that I can especially taste in my cheeks – not grassy, but more of a fresh, mineral green, if that makes sense. It’s SO good. I can’t wait to see what wonders steep three has to reveal to me. I’m so in love.
I’m finding myself suddenly craving green teas in the evenings, which I think must have something to do with it finally feeling like springtime out there, and in here: after shivering through a winter without using central heating once, it’s now a cozy 19 degrees in here and I’m finding I need to have the windows open or it’s too darn hot! Yeah, definitely time for refreshing teas, all right. Also, decided to pop along to apply to work at a well-established coffee shop chain today (because GOOD GOD Y’ALL I CAN’T AFFORD TO BE CHOOSY ANYMORE) and they interviewed me on the spot. Seemed to like me, so who knows, maybe I’ll at least be able to earn a teensy bit of a living while continuing to look for, you know, actual work. Blerg.
Also, apparently Bonnie Langford was in town last week with the dancing on ice show that’s touring right now, and I MISSED HER. Would have been great to maybe sweet-talk her into a portrait for People Of Who in a moment of downtime before a show, but never mind.
(I’m still kicking myself for not batting my photographic eyelashes at Bill Bailey when he was in town. Grumpties!)
At least there’s Mel tea, if not a series of interesting and good portraits of the lady who makes Mel come to life. At least Mel remains as bright and cheerful as ever in tea form. Opening the bag, I am greeted with the sweet scent of strawberries, with just a whisper of peach – more reminiscent of dried fruit than sweets, mind you. When brewed, the strawberry is lightened by grassy notes from the green tea, the light sweetness giving way to a sharp, sweet-tart finish. This is a tea that tastes good for you in the most agreeable way possible, light and joyful like a Pease Pottage garden in early summer. Sigh.
I still feel like a muppet for not knowing about Bonnie’s show until afterwards!
There’s this tea place in town that’s fairly new – it seems to have an impressive selection on hand and I’d love to sit down and pick the brain of the person who does their baking. The trouble is, they’re cool. And by cool I mean that the staff are attractive and thin and act like your presence is a major imposition on their time and they’d rather do anything other than make you a cup of tea. A friend of mine chalks this up to the fact that North American style customer service is a relatively recent import into the UK, but I’ve seen this in North America. It’s that shitty snobby attitude some cool shops have that they think makes them cool.
Which is crap, because I’m cool and I’m also really friendly. And you know what? Bluebird are cool and they’re really friendly, too. There’s something really lovely about people who are clearly passionate about what they produce and are enthusiastic about sharing it, especially when it’s really, really good.
I wanted something grounding and smooth this morning, and this fits the bill perfectly. Unlike coffee, which tastes weird to me with anything lighter than half and half cream (which is all too rare in Manchester supermarkets) this is so creamy and good with milk, and I don’t know how the farm flavour of pu-erh works with coffee, but it does so well. Mmmmmmm. Good.
I’m totally stoked about Adagio’s new smellovision feature. Mmm, you can smell new teas from the comfort of home before ordering them! (Pay no attention to today’s date, achem).
In other news, MAN, I am burnt out of this whole job application thing. I’ve been looking for work for so long that I almost fear I forget how to have a full time job! Plus, it’s left me horribly creatively uninspired too, and it turns out that being profoundly stressed about money doesn’t make for the creative outpouring that you’d hope being a legitimately starving artist would. Plus, the tendons in my drawing arm are all inflamed again. Let’s see if I can chase down some anti-inflammatories I must have laying about somewhere.
Oh, but last night, I baked these teeny-tiny two-bite buttermilk scones filled with a strawberry and rose jam, and they’re so lovely! This jam is a winning combination, for sure. I’ll be revisiting the concept when we’ve got a bumper crop of British strawberries, I hope. I’d love to take some of my preserves out onto the market circuit eventually. (Plus, I do enough interesting flavour combinations that fancy middle-class folk like to pay through the nose for teeny jars of them, yippee)
And then there’s Alpha Centauri. Alpha is such a lovely creature. Back home in Canada, somewhere in my parents’ house, is a very large wood panel portrait of lovely Alpha that I did for an exhibition in 2012. I hope they’re displaying it, but wouldn’t hold my breath. The honeyed sweet scent of chamomile floats from the bag like a pillowy cloud of comfort, wrapped in a sweet vanilla lining, warmed by the faintest trace of spice. The leaves yield a delicately fragrant cup, and the flavour is peaceful and warm with lovely depth, reminiscent of fresh apples and honey, with a lightly spiced finish. It’s wonderfully soft and soothing, and has become a favourite of mine to enjoy late at night, or sometimes when things get too frazzled for my delicate nerves. Which is often. It’s the perfect blend for lovely Alpha Centauri.
Backlog from yesterday, because I accidentally napped this afternoon.
Also, paid (I hope) my council tax bill last night, though I’ve a sinking feeling they’re trying to make me pay upfront for the next year, which I’m not comfortable doing because a) I AM TERRIFYINGLY BROKE; and b) I doubt I’ll still be living in this flat by summertime, either because I’m working in another city or because I’ve run out of money and have been forced to leave. So yeah, no. Salford City Council scares me more than anything else in my life, if I’m honest. It’s a Kafkaesque nightmare.
So, you know, a brave heart tea seemed kind of fitting, yes?
There’s certainly nothing quiet about Tegan Jovanka. Opening the bag, the scent is strong and bright, sharp grapefruit cutting through sweet orange. Indeed, orange is the dominant flavour, but made complex and aromatic by the other citrus, the grapefruit and background notes of bergamot. It’s tart and robust, refreshing and juicy, but not too bitter. It tastes like the recipe for a brave heart. But somebody hug me anyway.
ADDENDUM: This one time in Los Angeles I was asked to sign a sample of this tea for former Doctor Who BBC Books guru and current children’s author and now very dear friend Steve Cole. I’d never been asked to sign anything before. Steve made my day. I like Steve. :3
Whoops – bit of a backlog going now, as I was a busy bumbly bee over the weekend, and didn’t get to do a lot of internetting. Spent Saturday in a fancy crazy Victorian park, then had a picnic outside a garden centre, then visited the garden centre (even though neither my friend nor I have gardens because we live on the third and fourth floors, respectively) and then went for a ramble on a nice footpath past the disconcertingly named, yet actually quite pretty Crime Lake. And THEN we went to the giant mall which was overwhelming and awful so we calmed ourselves with a visit to Marks and Spencer’s food department, which is an island of middle-class tranquility (and if that ginger Turkish delight hadn’t been 5 quid I expect it’d have made its way into my friend’s basket) and then we drove out to a family pub in Wigan that genuinely does exceptionally good food for how inexpensive it is. And then Sunday the clocks changed and I basically napped all day because I’d had too much sun and pasta. Oh, but the pasta was worth it.
This was Saturday night’s brew, as I fancied something cozy and spicy and good.
If it’s possible for a tea to taste clever, Liz Shaw’s blend does. The fragrance is subtle, but rich: dark caramel notes are offset by a fresh ginger kick. The flavour is decidedly academic, but definitely intrepid: ginger and spicy warmth floats over a lush base of caramel, a little cocoa depth, and lightened by the oolong, all grounded by the malty, strong base of assam tea. A warm, complex, robust blend that lends itself well to a liberal application of milk and sugar. Tastes like sassy genius.