Friday, November 22, 2013

tea and a newborn, tea and Australia

A recurring theme in this blog seems to be things that don't necessarily go together.  I just had a baby, and just visited Australia for work, so I'll cover how all that did or didn't relate to tea.

tea and a newborn

The day after my daughter was born I came close to not drinking tea.  You would think tea might be a great way to freshen up a bit since newborn babies keep strange hours, waking every 2 to 3 hours to eat, but it didn't work out that way for me.  I was too busy, and always hoping to catch a nap between all the feeding and oohing and aahing, but in the end I just didn't sleep much.

At one point I actually did drink a really sweet lemon iced tea from an Au Bon Pan (coffee-shop in the hospital), but that sort of doesn't count as tea since it might as well have been lemonade.  I'm not good about carrying tea-ware everywhere I go so I ended up brewing some ti kuan yin in paper cups, and never did actually miss a day of drinking tea.

my little angel
Before she was born I was picturing how hectic everything would be later and how I'd be trying to brew tea with one hand while holding a baby.  I'm not sure what I was thinking, especially since she is my second child.  Newborns take a lot of work but they sleep more than half the time, and of course my wife covers a lot of the work anyway.  It never was easy before to set aside an hour just for brewing and drinking cup after cup of tea, and that's tightened up a bit, but it's not so bad.  I drink even more tea at work now because I'm a zombie from not sleeping regularly.

tea and Australia

I visited Sydney for a convention the first week my baby was born--just awful timing, but it was important to go--and of course my experience of the tea scene was very limited.  I stopped by a T2 (a standard commercial slightly overpriced tea shop there), so I'll start with that.

It was nice seeing all the teas presented in a visually interesting way, lots of dark wood shelves filled with tea and tea-ware, with samples set out so you could also see the teas.  Of course I was going to buy some, just a matter of which and how much.  The staff was helpful and relatively knowledgeable, only really having no clue what pu'er was all about, but then that's as good a place as any to fall short.  People that don't know anything about pu'er don't absolutely need to be drinking it anyway, as well to stick to oolong until you really must venture out, and that probably isn't the place to buy it anyway.  They sold only one pu'er that wasn't flavored, and it was a loose version (non-pressed), both not such good signs.

I stocked up on white tea, something I'd been meaning to try more of, and one relatively oxidized oolong that matched some flavors I was craving.  The salesperson did a great job of describing the different teas, especially given that he didn't seem to be as obsessed with tea as might seem normal to me.  Later the tea he recommended was nice and malty with fruit elements and a bit of vague spice under that, like Christmas might taste if it was a tea, just the thing.  That's not exactly how it sounds on the T2 website description but close enough (T2 grand china oolong).

Convention travel is never set up with lots of free time, but better it wrapped up so quickly in this case since I had somewhere else to be.   I squeezed in some shopping since some things are hard to find or more expensive in South East Asia, even basics, like decent chocolate. I stayed relatively near the Sydney Chinatown and did some shopping so close by I walked past the edge of it, without straying even steps to look for tea. In this one case the parental instincts helped steel my resolve; I needed all sorts of first-world baby stuff my wife had kindly written out a shopping list to buy, and basic essentials like Leggos for my 5 year old.   It was like my own personal Christmas rush; odd going through that before Thanksgiving, in nearly empty stores.

At the convention itself I had my first experience with decent tea in tea bags.  When you think of it putting tea in a bag wouldn't need to make it taste that much worse, just not so likely the best tea would ever end up there.  A shop here in Bangkok was selling Dong Ding tea that looked ok in tea bags, and I might have bought that except the pricing wasn't so favorable and they botched brewing it for a sample--should've used a timer, I guess--so I didn't know what it really tasted like.  It looked too green anyway; not the page I'm on just now. 

The tea-bag tea in the 5-star conference hotel included darjeeling and earl grey that weren't too bad, which really came in handy since I was jet-lagged after days prior without sleep.  I drank tea after tea between the sessions, and even mixed in some cups of coffee, which just about never comes up.

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