A Tea-cap.

So, those of you who have followed me from the very beginning will know that this blog all started with a tea everyday, and usually a little something was said about the teas.  This hasn’t really been happening in a while, but I just want you to know that I have not abandoned tea, far from it in fact.  This is a little round up, a tea-cap if you will, of all the teas currently doing the rounds in my cup.  Some have been with me a long time, some are much newer, some are good, some less so. But here you go!

The Golden Chariot tea above is not very good quality tea at all, hence it costing so little, but I bought it because I really love the packaging!

I think that I am a bit obsessed with Yunnan Teas.  This one from 5 o’clock, a smallish shop in Warsaw is a good everyday Green tea, but is nothing out of the ordinary.

I bought this Mate in Berlin for 1Euro.  It is a roasted variety and is quite pleasant, being much smoother and less bitter on the palate than a normal Mate, but it lacks the magic punch and stimulation of the unroasted variety.

This tea, which is not strictly ‘mine’, is delicate and sweet, with the smoothness of the Sencha balanced well with flower blossoms.

A good quality and clear variety of Sencha tea from China.

Definitely just for night-time!

I’ve not tried this yet, and it is again not strictly mine, but I will let you know when / if I get my hands on it!

A standard Green Tea, but in a Cape Verde packet.

This is probably my most coveted tea, from Estonia I have been carrying this around since February.  It is excellent, you can steep the leaves several times and it is delicate yet nourishing. If you happen to leave it a little long the Ginseng, in which the Oolong has been rolled, will start to create an odd, but not unpleasant, sweetness.

I love Mate, ever since I found it tucked away in a little farm shop in the middle of nowhere in England  when i was about 16.  This one is good, actually quite delicate in flavour, but it definitely does the job!

Last, but by no means least, is my Yunnan Green Oolong.  I brought this with me when I started my trip and it has been perfect every time.  I am running extremely low on it now so will only drink it occasionally.  It is perfect for lifting the spirits and refreshing the soul.  This tea is a life saver!

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China pops in on Chopin

Park Lazienki, the Royal Park is currently hosting a little bit of China along one of it’s avenues.  Two long rows of beautiful red Chinese lanterns line the path way and cross a little bridge where some (rather stylized) Chinese characters sit.  The lanterns are really beautiful, with so many different designs it’s impossible to count.  During June they were lit up between 9 and 11 every night, but now we are in July they are just being lit up on a Friday Saturday and Sunday night, but it is worth a visit, and to wander around the whole park at night is quite beautiful experience.  There are pretty much no other lights in the park apart from the lanterns, so it is very very dark if you are still there by 11.  It does make for a really nice evening out though.  The second to last image is probably the best for demonstrating how beautiful some of these lanterns are.


Day 59, Krakow, March 8th 2012

Tea 59, Long Jing “Tiger Springs”, Czajovnia, Krakow

So, the unavailability of internet has wreaked havoc on my postings, a terrible, terrible neglect and I must apologise, but sometimes that’s how things go…

So, I think my last post was on the 7th of march, it is now the 13th!!  :.S  oops!

So, going back into my memory banks to the 8th… This day started slowly, I stayed in the apartment / dorm of my hosts for most of the morning.  Malgorzata stayed home too and we spent most of the time talking and I also helped her with a script she is writing at the minute.  She wants the film she intends to make to be in English and so I helped her with word order and the usual things, such as expressions and the simple way of how to say things, or how not to say things….one notable example being the English expression of being ‘pissed off’ with someone, this had become to ‘piss on’ someone!  This provided a lot of laughter!  She also showed me a few films she is into, and we watched bits and bobs of all of them.  In the afternoon I had organised to meet another traveller and to go to this tea house called Czajownia.  This is a very similar name to a place in Glasgow called ChaiOvna.

We met at about 3 and went straight in.  This place is really amazing, it is divided into different loose themes, Japan, India, China (I think) and with different decoration and furniture in each.  We were in a more Chinese styled area.  The menu is really massive, a comprehensive list of teas from all over!  I was in tea Nirvana!  We were given the menus and a little bell to ring when we were ready to be served, a neat touch, though we both felt a little rude about ringing for attention!

I initially chose a really exciting sounding Putuo Fo Cha, a rare and exclusive tea from the island of Putuo Shan.  To my disappointment this tea was so rare they had run out of it!  I was a little upset, but then asked what would be a good alternative.  I was recommended Long Jing “Tiger Springs”, and I took this.

It was a good tea, delicate, light in colour and flavour.  Extreme clarity came with the tea, both in appearance and in flavour.  The guy who prepares the tea does so with extreme care and consideration, he really knows what he is doing and he has turned his preparation into something of a show (albeit unintentionally), timing, pouring, heating, all the proper processes to make each and every tea according to each and every teas requirements.  This is really a great, great place, unfortunately I never made it back there before I left Krakow, but the next time I’m there I will make that my first stop.

After this tea we were both still chatting about life and travel, and tea of course.  So we ordered another.  This time it was not strictly a tea, but a traditional Turkish drink called Sahlep.  This is a milky warm spiced tea that is only served in the winter in Turkey apparently.  Isabel (the woman I had gone for tea with) had had it before, during her various trips to Istanbul, her favourite place in the world it would seem.  She was very excited about trying such a drink outside of Turkey.  She assured me it was quite a good one, so I’m confident I had a decent Sahlep experience.

EVENTUALLY we left the tea house and I went to meet my host.  We were meeting around the corner in Kazimierz, near the famous Zapiekanka stall on Plac Nowy.  We then went to a little bar, the name of which I have forgotten.  We ordered a beer each and waited for Malgorzata’s friend to arrive.  She had organised that we meet so I could talk to her about Glasgow School of Art, she was hoping to go there on her Erasmus exchange, and wanted to find out more about it (I studied there).  She arrived a while later with a friend, and we spoke for a while about it and about travel and all those things.  Then they both had to leave and so we all went.  Malgorzata and I went back home via the Zapiekanka stall, this was my first experience of it.  Put very simply it’s a bit like a Polish version of Pizza.  Bread, cheese and a mushroom sauce base on which you can have different toppings.  I had spinach and onions, and it was a very good choice.  They taste great!  And the serving is MASSIVE!  Really, really great!  Especially so when it’s 11pm and you still haven’t had dinner!


Day 13, Helsinki / Vantaa / Seurasaari, January 22nd 2012

Tea 13: Vihreä Tee (Green Tea) with Goji, Tyrni (Buckthorn) and Karpalo (Cranberry), Caffi, Helsinki.

First things first, last night.  My first experience of a proper Finnish Sauna!  In fact my first experience of a sauna of any kind!  There is one in the house I am staying in and it is apparently tradition that a sauna is had every Saturday.  And blimey, it was an experience.  Eeero apparently has saunas HOT, I was warned of this before, but having never had one at all I had basically no inkling of what that really meant.  But what it did mean was 90’C!  Initially I didn’t really know what to think of it, I couldn’t really understand the whole thing, but I think I do now.  After the first bout of heat I went out an took a cool shower then went back in, this time I still didn’t quite get it.  I got out again and this time let myself cool down properly with a cool shower and a sit down to catch my breath again.  Then, once I’d psyched myself up again I went back in.  This time and then the next was when I realised that the sensation is actually quite enjoyable, I think probably as your body starts to defend itself and you get a bit euphoric, I even had a strange shiver at some point that felt pretty good.  That and a couple of beers followed by a nice helping of Eeero’s homemade liquorice vodka and the night was a good one, full of chatter and laughs, think I got to bed at about 2a.m.

Today I headed, once again, into Helsinki and from there took a tram north-west to Meilahdentie, I got off the tram and made my way through a little patch of snow smothered park land to Meilahti, one of the bases for the Helsinki art museum, Helsingin taidemuseo.  They are currently showing a collection of new work acquisitions.  For the past 6 years or so the Museum has been buying contemporary works from young Finnish artists and this was a mere 50 or so of the 400 they have so far acquired.  There was some interesting stuff; a reasonably immersive set of three videos by the artist Jani Ruscica, as well as some interesting and amusing photographic pieces by Antti Keitila.

After my visit I headed onto the island of Seurasaari, this tiny island is best know for being an open air museum of buildings and structures, reminiscent of the Skansen Open-Air Museum in Stockholm.  The building have all been brought to the densely wooded island from elsewhere in Finland and they act as representation of the older, simpler days of life in Finland.  The oldest building, the Karuna Church, dates back to 1686!  The island was quiet and peaceful and very beautiful, with views out across the water back towards the city centre and another island, Vattuniemi.  Red berries and green pine needles stood out against the perfect white sheets of snow that cover the ground whilst birds chitter away in the trees, feeding from bird feeders dotted throughout the island.  I also encountered the islands tallest Spruce, at a whopping 30metres!

After that long, lovely walk in the fresh crisp cold air I headed back to the tram stop, luckily managed to jump straight onto a tram and back into the city centre.  I was now on the hunt for tea.  After two failed attempts, one being shut, the other where I almost got my nose taken off by the woman slamming the door in my face (it would seem I had inadvertently interrupted some sort of tea event, and despite my apologies she didn’t seem best pleased, ‘No, no, no’ were the only words uttered), I thought I had failed in my mission for the day so I went and got something to eat, a satisfying Thai dish of rice noodles, coconut and red thai paste with tofu and shrimp.  I then headed back towards the station but my attention was quickly drawn to the chinese new year event being held behind the Lasipalatsi (glass palace) shopping / restaurant arcade.  I had a meander amongst the stalls on the hopes of finding tea, there was some but alas over-priced and uninspired options.  I then noticed a little cafe in the Lasipalatsi complex that looked promising.  They had a fairly large wall of teas.  I asked the waitress what she would recommend and after a disappointing few sniffs of some overly flavoured and floral mixes I settled on the Green Tea with Goji berries, Cranberries and Buckthorn.  The tea was a little disappointing.  The water was too hot and this had burned the tea immediately, making it bitter and heavy.  And I felt that the taste had been compromised in some way, it may have been the combination of flavours, but I think it may have been flavoured rather than mixed, there were definitely Goji berries in it, but as for the others I’m not so sure, there was just a distinct flavouring taste in there that reminded me of the weird fake ‘fruit tea’ you can buy.  But anyway, it was ok, but I won’t rush back for more, and next time I’ll pick a tea that can hack boiling water.  They seemed to have a large Rooibos selection….

Tonight Finland gets a new President!