180 Tasting Notes

90

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.

Nattie

What’s the tea place called? Thinking of making a trip to Manchester in a couple of weeks and want to bring back some tea (there is no loose leaf in Huddersfield!!)

Sami Kelsh

It’s called Propertea, just next to the cathedral. What’s weird is I think it’s part-owned by the same folks as Teacup Kitchen, where they were really nice. There’s also Sugar Junction, which I intend to test out with Gentleman when he’s back from Japan; their Northern Quarter blend sounds gooood.

Sil

yay for new tea shops…boo on blechy service

Sami Kelsh

Agreed. What’s with places who think indifferent shop assistants is good for business? Maybe I’ve just spent so many years in giving excellent customer service myself that I’m hyperaware of when somebody is plainly just, like, snooty and awful.

Nattie

Wow, that is a lot of tea places! I’ll have to check them out, thanks (: as for the service, I noticed last time I was in Manchester the service in a few places I went wasn’t great, compared to back home (near Newcastle) where I’m used to super friendly American-style service. It may have something to do with the North East in general, or because it’s a small town compared to a city like Manchester. Whatever it is, it saved me a tip!

Sami Kelsh

It’s definitely in part a size thing, as I always notice that people are less open and friendly in London than they are in Manchester! And if you get a little bit out of the city, a random kid on a walking trail will start chatting to you and your friend about whether you like England or Canadia better.

(He called it Canadia. SO cute. Then he shouted ahead to his sister, “Hey Laura, this lady’s Canadian!” and I sort of waved and said hi and it was so cute)

Nattie

Yeah I definitely think that plays a part in it. It makes me miss home when I go somewhere people are cold ):

Haha aww, that’s adorable! ^^ kids can be so cute

Sami Kelsh

I think that’s why I feel so much more isolated a lot of the time in certain big cities: less so Manchester than London or Toronto, mind. Then there’s NYC, which is a whole other kettle of fish that I absolutely adore. And then there’s LA, which is a terrifying, terrifying place that I only go to for professional development (read: getting tipsy with a bunch of friends who write for Doctor Who and probably snogging some people) but I feel more comfortable in mid-sized cities, where it’s not so nuts.

Nattie

Yep, mid-sized in best for me, too, I’ve found (: I rather love London, though! I was taken there for my 13th birthday and fell absolutely in love with the place, whenever I go back it still feels magical. I don’t think I’d like to live and work there, though, and see the big industrial side of it. Manchester is great, too. I went there for the first time only about 6 months back!

Nattie

And I’m sorry, but “friends who write for Doctor Who”??? :O That would be the best job ever.

Sami Kelsh

I think living sort of on the fringes of London might not be so overwhelming – like, but I doubt I’d ever have a high enough income to find out anyway!

I am so sad that I have yet to write for Doctor Who. One of these days…

Nattie

Haha yeah, it is ridiculously expensive down there! Manchester is a great place to be anyway for a writer, what with the BBC and everything (: I’m sure you can do it! It would be so amazing.

Sami Kelsh

I’m going to keep trying to infiltrate the moat until they file a restraining order :p

Nattie

Sounds like a good idea to me! But then again, I may have occasional boundary issues…

Sami Kelsh

Heehee, I try very hard not to!

Mike Turner

Thanks very much for this – it made me smile. Nice to know we’re getting customer service right!

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100

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.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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100

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

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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95

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.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 0 sec
Memily

Ohhhh I want.

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90

Good morning is good!

Started the day with a healthy breakfast of strawberries and whipped cream – hey, it was the light cream, and mostly it was strawberries! And it’s the weekend, dammit.

And then there’s this tea, another silly impulse purchase to celebrate job interview. I’ve been wanting to try something biscuitty for a while now, and when the shop assistant took the jar of this off the shelf for me to smell, I was sold. Smells just like sticking your nose in a packet of those wonderful crumbly, buttery vanilla biscuits. Yes. GET IN.

So I brewed it up this morning, and as they usually do, the scent diminished a bit while brewing and tea smell insinuated its way in, but it’s a tea, so I’m certainly not complaining. The flavour starts with a heady wave of creamy vanilla, with a sweet, nutty-buttery biscuit finish. Not nutty like you’d find in a nut-flavoured tea, but that sort of subtle toasty nuttiness you get from the slightly browned butter and flour in a biscuit. It’s got a hint of sweetness on its own, so doesn’t need fixins if you prefer your teas unadorned, but holds up beautifully under a spoonful of sugar and a splash of milk, making it just that little bit more indulgent.

And it’s still a damn sight better for me than, say, hoovering a packet of Viennese whirls.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Sil

oh man that sounds good..

Sami Kelsh

It is genuinely GORGEOUS.

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100

You know, I tried to do some research as to what types of tea people were drinking during the Victorian period, and man, it’s a challenge. Google “Victorian tea” and you’ll just get the yelp listings for like a million Victorian tea rooms, presumably with delicate china cups and frilly doilies on the tables. And now I really want to go out for an afternoon tea, which is something you’d think I do more often as a dorky tea enthusiast and recent UK resident, but I think I’ve only done once since I got here, and it was only because my friend and I happened to stumble upon a Victorian tea room on a daytrip to Buxton over the summer. I remember my sandwiches were made from Lancashire cheese and caramelised onion chutney. Yum!

So I don’t think they would have had this tea in Victoria Waterfield’s time, but it suits her and her era beautifully. The initial fragrance upon opening the bag is blackberry, fading into floral earl grey. Brewing at a lower temperature, as befits the white peony in the blend, yields a delicately perfumed cup. There’s a definite floral presence in the flavour, balanced by the sweet berry finish, a union of innocence and plucky sweetness. Nothing overwhelms here: it really is such a light, lovely, perfectly balanced combination of flavours, perfect for enjoying over a quiet afternoon with delicate sandwiches and little cakes, or as a treat to yourself after shooting a cybermat point-blank, then putting it in your purse for safe-keeping.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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94

Oh, I like this.

Bought on terrible, terrible impulse to celebrate that I have another job interview lined up! Yippee! The bad news is that the office is in “Oxford,” but technically it’s in a tiny little place outside of Oxford that takes an hour and two buses (rounabout through Abbingon) to get to from Oxford central. Oh well. INTERVIEW. I rock interviews! I am excite. Things just might be looking up for Kelshy! bangs on all the wood within reach

So, milk oolong. The dry leaves are cute and smell of sweet grass. A good start. It’s already streets ahead of the other oolong I have from Whittard, which admittedly is decidedly underwhelming. This tea, on the other hand, yields a pale yellow liquor, and the sweet grass notes are joined by a soft floral, almost honeydew melon flavour, as well as a lightly creamy mouthfeel, with just a delicate hint of that characteristic oolong wholesomeness. Good Gosh, this is so pretty. It tastes of joy.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 45 sec
__Morgana__

Congrats, and good luck!

Sami Kelsh

Thanks so much! :)

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76

Just wasn’t doing it for me today. I probably wanted something greener. Oh well.

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100

Oh, thank Gosh. Remember my panic flap earlier? I emailed HR to see about how to do the things without it getting all bad and it looks like we’ll actually be able to sort everything with a minimum of fuss and without me having to do anything scary. Phew!

That was a stress rollercoaster, though – I need comfort tea. That’s where Charley Pollard comes in. Charley, Charley, Charley. I’m so pleased she’s getting a spinoff! Charley’s the best.

Charley Pollard is magnificent. Straight out of the bag, the scent is bold, comforting, and warm: clove and cinnamon dominate, with just a background note of soft fruit. When brewed with a little milk and sugar, the dried-fruit notes of the currant and assam are brought forward to balance the gentle spice, giving the blend an incredible depth of flavour. It really does taste like drinking a warm winter pudding, the clove prominent alongside notes of currant and fig, finishing on a gently spicy note of cinnamon and ginger. This blend has become one of my go-to teas when I need something really warm and comforting. It is made of love.

Oh, and my diet (and cheap) plan of drinking a cup of sweetened tea every time I’m craving sweets seems to be working as well. I’m no smaller than I was just yet, but I’ll get there.

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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90
drank Rhubarb Green by Adagio Teas
180 tasting notes

Hello new job anxiety, my old friend!

Apparently, in order to start at my new (extremely part-time, temporary, seasonal, decidedly doesn’t even begin to cover my rent) job, I have to send some ID and proof of address and my original qualification certificates and a bunch of forms to head office in London. I’m wary enough about the idea of being without my passport for however long it would take them to receive it and post it back, as it’s my primary form of ID and I just KNOW I’m going to need it as soon as it’s gone, and my visa’s in there and I don’t know how replaceable those things are and I need it to be able to keep living here. And my degree certificate’s in storage back in Canada, and even if I can get my folks to unearth it and send it to me, that’s going to take a while. No no no, I don’t like any of this. Now I’m having an anxiety flap and trying not to cry and there’s nobody here to talk me down. YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

I’m just going to funnel rhubarb tea into myself until I can move from this spot where I’m sat, petrified with fear.

Rhubarb tea is good. I’m sad it’s being discontinued. It’s sweet and tastes like rhubarb and rhubarb is my favourite thing. It’s refreshing and lovely and green. Nothing about it is overbearing. It’s softening my headache. I’ll miss this tea when it’s gone.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec
Rosehips

Ah! Breathing! Can you photocopy your passport and give it to them? I hope that the anxiety passes quickly!

TheTeaFairy

That really sucks…you should ask maybe if they’d accept a photocopy like Rosehips was mentioning. I work at a Bank, and deal with International clients sometimes, we would NEVER require an original passeport, but we ask for copies to be authenticated by the consulate, maybe you should adk if that could work? Whatever happens, I hope you can calm down and find a solution :-)

Sami Kelsh

Thanks guys, tea’s helping too! I’ve sent an email to HR to see what we can do. Deep breaths. Always new hassles, but almost always a solution. Deeeeep breaths.

yyz

Hopefully copies or certified copies would be acceptable. You could also ask if an official transcript from your university would be okay. In that case the university can send it directly to your employer. I’ve worked jobs with high security clearances and all they required was copies not the original. I was required to present my passport for view but they never held it. Good thing, as my passport was a requirement for that job.

Sami Kelsh

I’ll say! Yeah, while I have to submit a criminal records check, that’s pretty par for the course these days. Looks like it’s going to be sorted all right – good to know about transcripts, that makes sense. You know, it hasn’t happened to me, but my brother’s been asked to produce his university AND high school transcripts for jobs – and this is when he was also writing his PhD dissertation. You’d think that “hey guys, I’m working towards a PhD from an Ivy League school” would preclude you needing to track down your high school transcripts for a job, but who knows.

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Bio

My Time Lord name is the Brewmaster. Currently working on People Of Who, an exhibition of portraits of the people who made Doctor Who happen. Professional dilettante. Literary enthusiast, frustrated sometime writer. Knitter of things.

Location

The Mancunian Wilderness

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http://samikelsh.com

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