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 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.
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!
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!
Tea 118, Apple Ginger, Cologne
Tea 119, Lavender & Camomile, Cologne
Day 117, Sunday. Actually managed a trip to The Netherlands! The day was spent with lazing about and walking the dog. We cooked a very good coconut curry, with courgette and peppers and black Soya Bean noodles. Sehr Gut! Then in the late afternoon we headed to a town in The Netherlands (which isn’t actually so far from Cologne) called Nijmegen. The purpose of our trip? To go and see a band that Regina really enjoys and had bought tickets for, called Dry The River. The gig was good, the town very very small, but there was a good atmosphere and we got some good fries with satay sauce for our pre-gig snack. Then at the gig I went for an extremely hardcore drink choice of an Ice-Tea with a nice slice of lemon and a stirring stick! The gig was good fun. The band played well. Then we headed back to Cologne.
Day 118, Monday. A bit of a disastrous day in terms of photos. I walked all the way to the Dom, Cologne’s Cathedral, took my camera out of my bag, switched it on to find the lovely message of ‘No Card’…. BRILLIANT! So absolutely no photos were taken on this day, including on the Agfa because I’d chosen to leave that at the flat instead of carrying it about. Anyway, I obviously walked to the Dom, enjoying the sunshine, then around and to the Rhein. I sat there for a while, mostly to eat a packet of onion rings (mmm a nice nutritious lunch!), and just to sit and contemplate stuff, as you do.
Dinner was mashed potato (white and Sweet varieties), onion gravy and these crazy ‘lupin fillets’. They are made from the seeds/peas of the Lupin plant. They tasted kind of cakey, but worked well with our home made onion gravy.
That evening me and Regina met up with a couple of her friends and we wandered around the town in the evening as the sun was going down, with a bottle of beer in hand and some chat. It was a fun evening.
Day 119, Tuesday, also the official end of WW2, or VE day. A bit more success in terms of carrying my camera with me at least! I visited Melaten, a large, neat and well kept cemetery. I wandered around it for a while, there was a funeral happening in one part. So this made me decide not to be around snapping photos for too long so I left and went back to the area we walked around the night before. We had seen a bike shop there that sells second hand bikes too. I checked a couple out and will head back tomorrow for a test ride of one they were in the middle of fixing up… we’ll see…
I came home for some lunch then headed back into town, though avoiding the demonstration that was meant to be happening at a nearby mosque… (I had been told that there might be some violence, especially from the right wingers) I just explored the quieter areas a little bit using Regina’s bike. It was good to use one again (though the seat is too low for me and so it wasn’t the most comfortable experience!)
The evening has seen me sit on the sofa and drink tea whilst Regina carries on unpacking boxes and sorting out her bookshelves! I also sneakily fed the dog (Lumpi) some peanut butter…
I started to like Riga a little more today. I went into the city centre, by foot once again, and headed straight for Aspara Tea House. This was one of the ones I hadn’t managed to find yesterday, I think it is because the internet seems to think it is in two different places, but today I picked the right one! The Tea House is a circular building, with glass windows all around, almost as though it is built on an old bandstand or something similar. There are two floors, the upper is a full circle with loads of cushions and a view out over the park in which the tea house sits. I chose to sit downstairs though, in a comfy arm chair. I ordered a Milk Oolong tea. This doesn’t involve any milk for any of you who are wondering. The tea leaves come in a pearl form which then unravel with the addition of water. This was served to me in a semi-traditional style, with kettle / thermos, teapot, fair cup and drinking cup. The tea can be steeped between 5 and 7 times, with moderate increases in the steeping time with each new round. The waitress told me to leave the second steep for around 1 minute, which I considered much too long, so I left the second steep for just about 40 seconds, this was still too long, in my opinion. The first steep gave a refreshing, smooth and delicate taste, and yes, sort of milky, creamy sensation. The second steep, which was far too long gave a much deeper, more bitter flavour, with far too many tannins attacking the sides of my tongue. The flavour had become much dirtier, almost alcoholic in it’s sensation, with the flavour flooding the front of my mouth. The third steep was better, this time I gave the tea only 25 seconds. This was still a little long, but the flavour was much better, the smoothness and milky sensation returning though still a slight tang. The flavour of the tea improved a lot as it cooled, becoming sweeter and more fragrant. The fourth steep was for 25 seconds once more, this time the flavour was much more balanced, the dustiness and bitterness was totally gone now and there was much more clarity in the flavour. The tea hadn’t become more delicate, but purer in flavour and fragrance. Steep 5 and the colour had become beautifully golden now, the flavour was deeper, at the base of the tongue and the sweetness had begun to dissipate. Steep 6, the final steep and the tea finished with a flourish, the floral notes in the tea coming out, super refreshing and clear in flavour. The tea had seemed to come alive. That’s why I decided to stop it there, there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing…
A couple of hours had passed now so I got up and went wandering through the lovely, peaceful parks. The city was sleepier today, less people and traffic, the snow was falling again, covering up the brown-grey piles of old snow and ice, making it a little prettier. I wandered past the congress building, various consulates, that line the Kronvalda Parks. People walked their dogs, a guy had his girlfriend filming his snowy Parkour tricks. Ducks splashed around in the few bits of unfrozen river. The city felt a lot more inviting today. I kept wandering like this, around the North-East of the city centre, past museums, official buildings, shopping malls for a good long while. Then I met up with my host for more walking. This time much farther North, along Brivibas Bulvaris. The architecture along this road is pretty amazing, huge Gothic and Baroque style buildings lining the streets. Busts and faces staring out at you from the Facades.
We found ourselves on Miera Street, another one I had failed to find yesterday. There is a nice mixture of traditional wooden houses and the more Baroque styled stone built buildings. Miera apparently means ‘peace’, and we found this small, beautiful cafe there with the same name. At number 9 Miera Street this little cafe is beautiful, with French music playing gently throughout the cafe, handmade hats, candles and teapots in the window. I had a really, really good Chili Latte, with a beautiful syrupy decoration on the top. We sat there and warmed up for a while, the chili doing the perfect job, then we decided it was dark and getting colder so we are both home. More couchsurfers have arrived so the flat is getting full, but it is good to meet some more people.
Today had another gloriously sunshiny morning. But yet again, the coldest day so far, I think -20 was the high today…. I left the apartment around mid-day and made for the old town again. On my way I wandered around some of the side streets, slightly off of the beaten track and was treated to various sights of old tumble-down, but beautiful wooden and brick buildings, literally next door to huge, modern glass structures, such as the Radisson Blu hotel, and the Sokos. The business hotels basically. The sunlight was beautiful in these patches though, glinting off of windows and through the broken windows of the older buildings. I carried on towards the old town, and stopped off in the little Tammsaare park again. Today I noticed there were now quite a few ice sculptures that I am fairly sure were not there yesterday, a hedgehog, a wolf, an eagle, a knife and fork…. All sorts of things, glinting away in the low lying sunshine.
A few photographs later, and I was in the old town. I headed straight for the tea shop I had spied yesterday. What an amazing little tea shop, loads of excellent quality teas from all over the place. I stood and chatted to the shop keeper and her sister for ages about tea and traveling and all things inbetween. They were lovely people, very friendly, warm and inviting, and passionate about tea! It is really an amazing place, called Chado it is situated on Vana-Viru, a right turn directly after the main entrance bit of the old town. I chatted for a while and bought a cup of Qi Pao tea to go, as well as a small packet of Ginseng Oolong and a small sample of a mystery Pu Er tea they had gotten hold of, it is twelve years old, and hopefully will be amazing! I’ve not tasted either of these two yet, but as soon as I do you will be the first to know! I think I need to save the mystery tea for a proper occasion, with all the gear to get a proper idea of it. If you are in this part of town, and let’s face it, who doesn’t go to old town Tallinn, make sure to give this shop a look! There’s also a link to their website at the bottom of this page.
I took my hot cup of Qi Pao into the cold outside and began to drink. It was really good, smooth and refreshing, with a great tannin level to make it just right in the cold air. I’ve kept these leaves too for another few brewings. I wandered around the old cobbled streets a while longer, trying to keep the cold out; the remnants of my tea actually froze in the cup, and the lid also froze to the cardboard! Eventually the cold started to freeze me again and hunger started to creep in, so I decided to try and find the Krug Inn, a place recommended to me by my host Ingrid. After a little search I found it hidden on the corner of the town hall building, a white washed building that looks like a church. Inside is dark and extremely medieval, the only light supplied through the small translucent windows and a few candles dotted about. The waitress was dressed to the nines in a red medieval frock and a service style to match. She is funny and brilliant, but in a completely abrupt, some would say rude, manner. It’s all part of the act though and if you take it in your stride you will only enjoy it! They serve two things, Elk soup and pies, though various types of pie. I had a steaming, hot, rich and delicious bowl of Elk soup, with a sweet, tasty carrot pie. The food is really good, the perfect food for the cold. If you make it there be prepared to drink from the bowl and mop up with your pie, or make sure you have packed your spoon…
After that I decided that I didn’t want to have too much time out in the freezing cold, so I made for the Museum of Occupation. This charts basically the last century when the country of Estonia has changed hands basically three times, first the Soviet Occupation came, followed by the Nazi Germany invasion and occupation, followed once more by the Soviets taking Estonia back from the Germans. The museum is small but has numerous objects from the whole era, as well as a number of documentary videos charting the whole process from initial occupation, through deportations, exploitations, to sovereignty and finally full independence at the fall of the Soviet Union. If you visit here, which you really should to get a true appreciation of what the estonian people have gone through, then give it time and watch through the various documentaries, it is really enlightening and moving. And entrance is only 2 Euros, so well worth it! I then headed home, the snow had started to fall again and it was still bitingly cold. I read it is only going to get worse in the coming days, and my next stop, Tartu, over the weekend, is even colder…
Tea 12: Yunnan Green Oolong, Eeero’s house, Vantaa.
Today, after telling my host that I usually wake up reasonably early I, typically, didn’t wake up until 1130! I still thought it was early, like 8 or something, so it was a shock to look at my watch. It’s so peaceful and quiet here, and I think that the darkness has an impact too. It’s not totally dark or anything, but you certainly notice the difference with the time that the sun comes up and goes down. Days are pretty short. And the snow is continuing to fall.
When I did eventually make it out I headed back into Helsinki on the train. It was just after 2 when I arrived and I attempted to find a few of the galleries I have marked on my map. I made it to the first, G18, and basically wasted €5 on an awfully put together show on the drawings of C.L. Engel. The ‘work’ was just printed in that classical info-display style you get next to actual objects in museums, but without the actual drawings, just badly printed reproductions. In the ballroom on G18 was a collection of Engel’s furniture and apparently his saucepans, drawing tools and the occasional painting, oh and fake bread and cake scattered here and there. It was just simply bad. Sorry.
After that unfortunate stop I headed West towards what I hoped would be a better, and free, exhibition, in Forum Box, which is an old cold storage space and echos the kind of environment you might find in the Gluefactory, Glasgow. It was set up in 1996
‘by sculptor Kain Tapper (1930-2004). Its main purpose is to maintain an art space in Helsinki in order to enrich and support the Finnish cultural life. Currently Forum Box co-op has 50 artist members, all of which are prominent Finnish artists and actors in the field of contemporary art.
The Forum Box building is owned by the city of Helsinki. Formerly a cold storage room, the space was renovated by the artists themselves in 1998-99. The renovation was designed by architect, professor Juhani Pallasmaa. Forum Box was opened in June 1999 with an exhibition by Anthony Caro and Richard Serra, organised together with Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art.’
Currently on show is an exhibition entitled Matkalla tilaan – veistoksia’, by Nora Tapper, a Finnish Sculptor. I really am glad I saw this show, it certainly raised the bar of work after the terrible start to the days ‘cultural’ experiences. Also on show in the gallery’s MediaBox was a brilliant video work by Pilvi Takala called Broad Sense, which basically highlighted the humiliating failings of security within the European Parliament. Brilliant and scarily humorous.
After that I wandered the streets a bit, I had planned to visit a couple more exhibitions, but I’m here for a while so there’s no rush. I did happen upon another a sweet little space. The gallery was called Galleria TILA, and is basically just a small shopfront but it was showing some interesting photographic / slide work by Kastehelmi Korpijaakko, some of the work reminded me of a few pieces by my friend Ida Arentoft (if you are reading this blog Ida, you should check it out).
After that show I headed back towards the centre. My exploration lead me to discover a Valrhona Chocolate Cafe, which I am saving in my head for another day. I almost succumbed to a hot chocolate there and then, but I resisted, I’m going to let the anticipation build up a bit first!
Tea was another helping of the Yunnan Green Oolong. The water seems softer here in Finland so the more delicate nature of the tea can come out and be noticed. It is delicate and refreshing and the perfect tea to quench thirst and soothe the mind.
Tea 1: Yunnan Green Oolong, Tom’s Apartment.
Denmark so far has been a little cold, quite expensive but otherwise a nice relaxed place. I arrived at the airport yesterday and took the Metro to Norregard station. The Metro reminds me a lot of the MRT system trains in singapore, long, open plan trains with little merry-go-rounds in the middle. The biggest difference though, is quite obviously the temperature. And the cleanliness. Not that its dirty, but just not ‘Singapore clean’.
Today i visited Arken, Denmark’s contemporary art gallery, situated near to the Ishoj train station and a stones throw from the coast, beautiful views of the sea from the gallery cafe and a chilly but pleasant wander from the station through marshlands with howling basset hounds and rosy cheeked locals. I managed to catch the last day of the Warhol Basquiat exhibition, a dive into the collaborative practice of the two artists, featuring numerous works and really quite interesting documentary on Warhol’s life.
My first tea was from my own supplies, in Tom’s flat, once I’d figured out what pan would work on an induction hob…..