Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Useful things to do while you wait for the kettle to boil

#2: Get yourself a piece of cake or some nice biscuits... like HobNobs. Yum!

PS: the chocolate-coated ones are more fun.
PPS: I like that HobNobs have their own Wikipedia entry.
PPPS: If you were super-organised, you could make your own. I recommend this cake, and these biscuits!

Look what I made

I came across this tutorial on the Etsy blog the other week, and thought: teacup painting! Genius! Surely I could give that a try.

So I did, and here are a couple of trial cups and saucers... what do you think?

It makes me happy to drink out of mine (which is the one with the boy and the balloons... ironically, my husband's is the one with the flowers. It just kind of turned out that way, and he didn't want to change).

Should I experiment a bit more, and offer some of them for sale in my shop or at a market stall, perhaps?

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Rainforest Tea Giveaway Winners!

Ok, for their bravery in entering a giveaway for a tea that is evidently too much on the adventurous-sounding side for many people... ;-) I am going to declare that ALL THREE entrants to my giveaway are winners!

Isis, Melanie and Deb, some Rainforest tea will be on its way to you as soon as I can manage it! I'll be in touch to get your postal addresses shortly.

Shop Sabbatical

Just to let you know I am putting my Etsy shop on sabbatical for a week or so. Baby feeding issues are disrupting our family life at present and I need to get this sorted out before I can think about anything else. Wish me luck!

Oh, and I haven't forgotten about the giveaway from last week! I'll get to that a bit later today!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

True Diversi-tea

Ok, I couldn't resist the pun, but take a look at this anyway... four different kinds of black tea, and how different they all are:

Arya Autumnal Darjeeling

Ceylon orange pekoe

Singbulli STFGOP First Flush Darjeeling

Yunnan Golden Tips

Friday, 18 June 2010

The Happiness of a New Teapot

This is my new pride and joy, a Tokoname teapot that I purchased at Taka Tea in the Strand Arcade in Sydney last weekend. I fell in love with the design of maple leaves (there was also a very nice cherry blossom one) and the fact that it has a built in mesh that stretches almost all the way round the inside of the pot - much better than an infuser basket, but I don't have to use my strainer! It pours like a dream - I wasn't sure how easy I would find using the sideways handle, but it's not difficult at all. It will, obviously, be dedicated solely to Japanese green teas.

 (According to, Tokoname is one of the 9 ancient kilns of Japan, and here you can see step by step photos of teapots being made by the throwing method or the slip casting method - how cool!)

The lovely people at Taka Tea were very happy to spend time talking with me about their teas and teapots (you can check out their online shop here). They also kindly brewed up a small pot of gyokuro for me to sample, which was deliciously light and fresh. I came away with a packet of first flush yabukita* which I haven't yet opened; I'll work my way through a few other things first, but I'm looking forward to it.

*this appears to be a clonal variety of tea bush widely grown in Japan, capable of adapting well to wherever it is planted. Handy!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Tuesday's Tea of the Week: Rainforest (and a Giveaway!)

Today I'm inviting you to take a deep breath and step into a beautiful Australian Rainforest. That really is just what this tea smells like. I was totally inspired one day when I received a herb delivery from my supplier... I had ordered a small packet of eucalyptus along with all the other things, just to see what I could do with it, and when I opened the box and smelt it alongside the big bag of lavender that was also in there, I just knew I needed to try making it into a blend.  

And guess what: combined with green tea and some lemon myrtle, it worked. (I was on a big 'lemon myrtle is the best stuff ever' kick that week too.) The incredible freshness of this tea will blow you away. It sounds like a really unusual combination, and I guess it is, but you definitely should try it. It's aromatic, and sweet, and lemony, and just the remedy for city living if you can't schedule yourself a tree change. 

If you live in Australia and would like to try Rainforest, leave a comment on this post - one entry per person only please - because next Monday I will randomly select two winners to receive a free sample size (enough for five cups of tea). Don't forget to leave me a way to contact you if you win! Good luck!

Next week: Vanilla Basic Black

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Battle of the Japanese Greens: Round Two!

The second Ujinotsuyu tea which I bought from Fuji Mart is this one: Ujicha Maroyaka-Jitate. I don't know what the name means, I'm afraid. There's definitely no matcha in this one though. 

The instructions for brewing this tea specify 4g leaf in about 90ml of water at 70C, with a steep time of about one and a half minutes.  

The brewed tea is relatively cloudy and lime-green in colour, but not quite so striking (alarming?) as the Kabuse one. The taste is much less punchy, presumably because of the lack of matcha. There's a little bitterness/astrngency, and a very pleasant mouth-filling, savoury vegetal quality. The stand-out is a rich, round sweetness in the aftertaste that lingers with you nicely. 

The tea lasts two or three infusions although the flavours are definitely getting washed out by the third infusion. The Maroyaka is easier drinking than the Kabuse and doesn't make me reel if I drink it on an empty stomach; in fact I think it shines best on its own, without food. That said, it paired well with the leftover berry and apple crumble that I had for breakfast the other morning.   

If this tea were a giant movie monster it would leave poor stomped-out Tokyo alone and do ikebana or something instead (which would be much to my husband's disappointment I'm sure).

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Tuesday's Tea of the Week: Peppermint Soother

This week's featured tea is Peppermint Soother. It was a runaway hit at my market stall last month and sells well for me online too. 

Peppermint Soother contains peppermint, lemon balm (also known by the first half of its botanical name, melissa) and chamomile. I learned about this combination during my time at naturopathy school, where it was recommended for people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. I could rabbit on about the beautiful synergy between these three herbs for ages. To keep things relatively short and sweet - not only do they each have specific benefits for the digestion (having aromatic and bitter digestive, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties for example) but they also work together to tone and soothe the nervous system. Stress plays a big role in IBS and many other digestive problems so you can see why this particular combination is ideal. 

Enough with the naturopathic lecture already. It's good for you but it also tastes wonderful, with peppermint dominating and then a more subtle lemony-chamomile flavour. For best results in digestive upsets it should be drunk hot, but if you're just drinking it for fun (and why wouldn't you?) it is also lovely cold or at room temperature. 

Next week: Rainforest

Friday, 4 June 2010

Oh, and one more thing...

... that I like about the Ujinotsuyu website:

Nice life with a cup of tea... What more could one ask for?

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Battle of the Japanese Greens: Round One!

I made a trip to the Fuji Mart in Prahran the other weekend - it's at the back of the Prahran Market for those of you who know it, just a little way down from The Essential Ingredient. Fuji Mart is, so far as I can tell, an entirely Japanese grocer, and I was interested (as it will probably not surprise you to know) to see what kinds of tea they might stock.

I cam away with only a couple of kinds, both by the Ujinotsuyu company whose teas are commonly found in Asian supermarkets round here; I hadn't seen these particular ones before, though; I think they are slightly higher end than what you find in a regular Asian grocer. I have had and greatly enjoyed Ujinotsuyu sencha and genmaicha in the past, although I wasn't rapt in their matcha (but I should note that I know very little about preparing matcha properly. For $8 a tin, though, when you can spend up to $50, I think it was probably not a very high grade). 

So, onto the first of my two new teas: Iemon Macchairi Kabuse Ryokucha, which apparently means green tea (ryokucha) that has been shaded for a couple of weeks (kabuse) and combined with matcha (macchairi).

This is powerful stuff. As best I could I brewed it as per the directions - I don't know any Japanese but from looking at the little pictograms and comparing them with pictograms on other packets that also had some English text, I deduced that I should be brewing about a tablespoon of leaf in 50ml of water at 60C, for about 2 minutes. I don't have any teapots that small... (An excuse to buy one perhaps?) ... Anyway, so I brewed 2 tbls in 100ml water in a small drinking glass, figuring that it would be okay at the low temperature specified.

Result was about 75ml of the most radioactive looking tea you ever saw... Godzilla drinks this stuff, I'm positive. It's a cloudy, lurid green:

As for the taste, it's strong and bitter at first, really quite a slap in the face; swallow and you're rewarded with the most astonishing sweetness in the aftertaste. Quite addictive. Don't drink it on an empty stomach though; it's much too strong without something to buffer it.

I'm drinking another small glass of this Tokyo-stomping tea right now, it's cooled quite a bit and there are definite coconut notes... lending yet more support to my theory that coconut and sencha are natural partners. Hmm. If only I had some coconut cake to go with. Never mind, I'd better go and eat some lunch before the tea eats me...

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Tuesday's Tea of the Week: Paintbox

I'm still sick, and I think what I'l be drinking to brighten up my mood this evening is Paintbox.

I wanted to go full-on with a really flowery, and, okay, girly blend, and this is what I came up with. Don't you just adore all the colours? Pink rosebuds, golden chamomile and calendula, green passionflower leaves and lavender... well, lavender... all mixed up with yummy rooibos.

This tea is actually a little similar to the Relax herbal tea from Tea Leaves that my husband and I drank on our wedding night after we arrived at the Candlelight Cottages (gee I'd like to go back there sometime) where we were staying for a couple of days... so it's a bit special to me from that point of view too!

Paintbox is best without any milk and should be sweet enough not to need any honey or sugar. My favourite thing about this tea is the way the delicate floral tastes linger in your mouth after you've finished it. It's caffeine free and extremely relaxing, and definitely one for the sophisticated afternoon tea table.

Next week: Peppermint Soother.


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