Calming effect of tea

I’ve not been blogging about my Novel-Tea Advent Calendar, but I have been enjoying it (except for yesterday when I skipped it). It has forced me to slow down at a time when I have been “on the go” far too much.

IMG_3071So I have sat down for 10 minutes, as I brew tea, wait for it to cool and drink and enjoy. I have lit candles (and carefully guarded them against cats) and taken time to be quiet and reflect.

IMG_3076Today’s advent “tea” was a cherry and cinnamon infusion, which appropriately enough has on the front of it “A moment of calm” (thank you to my Aunty Cathy for giving it to me!).

While I did enjoy a moment of calm, it’s not the most calming tea drink I have had today. The most calming was first thing this morning.

Just to give you a picture, I have had a bit of a crazy time recently. I spent much of the weekend doing church things, which while enjoyable didn’t give me much rest. On Monday I had hoped to have a calm day, but such plans went a bit pear shaped when I was informed of a job interview I had on Wednesday, which required preparation, which took up much of my spare time on Monday and Tuesday. That has been in addition to rushing around singing with a Christmas Choir, going to work, meeting up with friends etc. So I was feeling a bit stressy when I got up this morning, and was generally feeling a bit not great.

I’m not quite sure what caused me to make the decision to make a cup of tea this morning. I was feeling a bit unwell and a bit cold and while still waking up I made a cup of tea – this isn’t something I usually do. Just normal Sainsbury’s Red label tea, yet by the time I finished the cup I felt much better. I found something very comforting about the warm drink. It helped me relax for a few minutes before rushing into what has been a busy day (work, interview, tasks, carol singing).

As time passes, I am enjoying tea more. I have gone from actively disliking it, to tolerating it to starting to enjoy it (sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes it’s just okay). And it’s not just about taste – I can enjoy tea for it’s comfort and social qualities. It’s a pretty good drink.

In case you’re wondering, I did get the job (science teaching), which I will be doing in addition to my current job (both are part time).

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My Novel-Tea Advent Calendar

Advent is here! The year has marched on, and many of us have bemoaned how fast time is passing, but that doesn’t change the fact it is December once more and Christmas will be with us soon.

I don’t know about you, but for me advent becomes this blur where I rush around. If I’ve not got something scheduled to do with work/Church, I’m probably due to do something voluntary. If I’m not due anywhere, then I’m either planning things for when I am, keeping up with emails, housework, sleep, wasting time online. Oh, and of course Christmas shopping. I use advent as a time to pack stuff in to prepare or celebrate Christmas. I don’t think I’ve bothered with an advent calendar for the last couple of years.

This year I was thinking how to mark advent in a way that would encourage me to slow down for a few minutes to take the time to contemplate the coming of Christ. That combined with my renewed interest in tea led me to connect the two. An advent calendar of tea (my Novel-Tea Advent Calendar) where I take the time in the brewing, cooling and consuming of tea to slow down and think about what it’s all for. To keep the tea side interesting, I’ve got a selection of 24 different teas to have 1 a day.

IMG_3060 (2)I really did come up with this idea myself, although I did google it and found I was not the first.

So today’s tea: normal Sainsbury’s red label teabag. As I waited for the tea to brew, I reflected on the time spent waiting for this special person that would bring salvation to God’s people. The normal, humble teabag reminded of how humble Jesus’ beginnings were. He wasn’t born into wealth or power and in many ways was not the messiah people expected.

So come back tomorrow (or later today – time has slipped away as I’ve been typing) to hear what tomorrow’s tea is.

And maybe try my idea. Anyone can take the time to contemplate the coming celebrations and their significance, whether from a Christian perspective or not (I’m rather biased though – the Christian perspective of Christmas makes it amazing).

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Green Tea Take 2!

Whoops – this should have been posted to the blog on Friday evening. I started writing it, got distracted and never finished. So here it is:

This evening I am having another attempt at drinking green tea. I want to like green tea, but when I’ve tried it so far I have never enjoyed it. I’ve previously described it as bitter.

On that post, someone very helpfully suggested that brewing the green tea at a lower temperature would improve the flavour, so this evening I’m trying just that.

The red mug contained the green tea brewed at a higher temperature. The picture doesn't show the colour difference well.

The red mug contained the green tea brewed at a higher temperature. The picture doesn’t show the colour difference well.

As I sit now I am waiting for 2 cups of green tea to cool. In one I have brewed a green tea bag for 2 minutes in water freshly boiling. In the other I brewed a green tea bag for 2 minutes in water that was poured into a cup and left to cool for a minute, which means it would be around 85°C.

On initial inspection, the green tea made with the hotter water has a stronger colour and more of a smell (not surprising given the increased heat). The taste of the 2 teas is similar and neither are as bitter as I remember from my previous experience of green tea. The tea brewed at a lower temperature tastes a little better, but they are similar.

My opinion of green tea has improved. I think it helped brewing the tea for a shorter period, and reducing the brewing temperature helped further. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite flavour, but it’s okay.

I’m still unimpressed at the colour. The phrasing of green seems rather misleading. Then again, who would drink urine tea?

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Black Tea is Actually Okay!

Yesterday I went to a café and had a pot of tea. Check me out, sounding like a normal person!

To explain, I was meeting someone at Caffe Nero to organise an event. It was cold when I got there, so I found myself in a rare situation where I wanted a drink, and thought tea would be a healthier choice than hot chocolate. So for £1.90 I ordered a pot of tea. In retrospect, I probably should have just got one of the cups of tea, but they all seemed like special sorts of tea. I just wanted normal tea.

pot of teaSo my pot of tea came (English Breakfast Tea, according to the label on the tea bag). I’ve not got much to say about it really. It’s tea like. It maybe seemed a little weak, but was nice enough (as tea goes.

20131126_161458Since the little pot contained 2 and a half cups of tea, after having a normal cup and becoming aware the pot was getting colder, I found myself wondering what it would be like black. So I did just that.

And yeah, black tea is okay! Maybe it’s their tea, maybe my mood or maybe I’m okay with black tea now. I think I slightly preferred it with a bit of milk, but not by much. Not that the tea was very black. More brown, really.

You know what’s really not okay though? The title of this blog was nearly “black is actually okay”, but I read it back and got horrified at the thought it sounded too potentially racist. Racism really isn’t okay.

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Welcome, New Kettle!

IMG_3048As you may have read, on Sunday, our kettle sadly heated its last water. I’m sure it’s gone to a better place, where there’s no more limescale and there in an everlasting stream of the world’s freshest water. However, this left a vacancy in our kitchen for water boiling. What with that, the new fridge and freezer (to replace the old fridge freezer that lived in the “utility room”) and the microwave then giving up this morning, it’s been a traumatic week for the kitchen.

So we have a new kettle. Welcome, new kettle! May you boil many cups and panfuls of water!

The new kettle is Cookworks from Argos and cost £11.96. Inside it has a concealed element, which makes it easy cleaning. There are also 2 little lights that make it glow blue when the kettle is being boiled! It is a 3kW kettle (1 kW more than our recently deceased), so it boils quicker.

Disco Kettle

Look at the pretty lights!

So why this kettle? Well we didn’t want to spend stupid amounts on a kettle (I don’t know why anyone would spend nearly £200 on a kettle, even if you can control the temperature precisely), but we wanted to get something that was reasonably powerful. Given the choice in power seems to be 2.2kW or 3kW, I knew I wanted a 3kW kettle, assuming it wasn’t too expensive. It’s not – prices for 3kW kettles seems to start at about £11-£12. Since I wasn’t fussy about appearance or colour (white, silver or red would be fine), or wanted any other features, the cheapest of the 3kW kettles suited just fine. Of the ones I saw, they were very similar. The Argos Cookworks one won due to having the smallest minimum water level (good for just making 1 drink) and having excellent reviews on their website.

I have 2 questions for the new kettle: how quickly do you boil a cup of water and how hot is the water? And how does it compare to the old kettle (as tested in this article)

Boil time: 50 seconds (one mug of water. The previous kettle boiled a cup in 64 seconds. Given the difference in power, I would expect this kettle to boil a cup of water in 43 seconds so it’s not quite as efficient)

Temperature: 85°C (once poured into a room temperature cup. This is about the same as the previous kettle).

So the new kettle boils water faster to the same temperature as the previous one (albeit not as efficiently).

I can’t help but feel that calling the kettle new kettle is not so welcoming. Any suggestions of names would be most welcome. I initially thought this could be insensitive to the old kettle, but of course that kettle would  then be “the kettle”, which I think honours its memory.

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A cup of weird

Today, I write this post as I await the cooling of my tea, but I’ll talk about that more in a moment.

If you’re reading this article after yesterday’s sad announcement, expecting an update on the new kettle, then you will be disappointed. I felt it was still too soon, but I will talk about it in the next few days.

So today’s cup of tea. Here’s a picture. Looks pretty normal, huh?

IMAG0298

It may look normal, but smell normal? Certainly not! Today’s tea is something a little different that I picked up soon after my month of tea, but has been left unopened in the cupboard ever since (as evidence, the best before date is July 2013). I’ve never quite had the nerve to try it, but today I have: Tesco Finest Chocolate Tea.

It was sold for a while, but it seems you can’t buy it now. Sold in packs of 50 bags, it’s still on Tesco’s website and listed as unavailable, and I couldn’t see it when I was in store earlier today. It describes itself as “infused with the rich smooth flavours of chocolate and vanilla for an aromatic blend” and lists the ingredients as black tea, Flavouring (10%), Cocoa (5%). There is no clarification on the nature of the flavourings, besides a reassurance that the recipe is nut free (although they cannot guarantee the other ingredients are nut free).

I have seen it being promoted as a low calorie way to enjoy a chocolate drink. That said, the packet has no indication of the calorie level from the tea, but I would imagine it would be fairly low, assuming you don’t brew the teabag in boiling milk and add umpteen spoons of sugar.

IMAG0297

So, when I got the tea out of the box, I gave it a sniff. It didn’t seem to smell of much, besides an faint aroma of oddness. On the addition of boiling water, it most definitely smelled really quite weird. It was so weird that, while half way through a conversation with Neil about dinner, I exclaimed the bizarre smell. It’s oddly sweet with something I can’t quite put my finger on. I think it smells a bit chocolatey, but that could be because I know it’s chocolate tea. That said, there’s a degree of artificial smell going on there.

This doesn’t bode well. I’ve demonstrated to myself before that I prefer my tea without sugar. So will I like this? Well, I like hot chocolate, so it’s worth a try.

So, after brewing for a few minutes and adding milk, it was ready. So, taste verdict: it’s weird. It tastes how it smells. Of weird. I can taste the tea but it’s not especially sweet. There seems to be a peculiar artificial taste thing going on that leaves a reasonably unpleasant after-taste. But then again, this is coming from someone who still isn’t overly fond of tea, although I sort of like it now. I guess it maybe a bit chocolatey. I didn’t really get vanilla. It was just weird.

I’ve never had tea that tastes of weird before, so that was a new experience. I’m not surprised Tesco don’t sell it any more as I don’t think it’s nice. Then again, there’s likely to be people out there that like it, although I don’t believe Tesco would have pulled a product that was selling well.

I now have 49 tea bags, flavoured with “weird” (allegedly chocolate). If anyone would like to try some, just ask.

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Sad news

An old picture of the kettle in useI regret to inform the readers of my blog of news of a highly unfortunate nature.

Life deals to us a number of blows, and we don’t get used to them coming. Sometimes they are predictable, sometimes they seem to come out of the blue. Sometimes they catch us completely by surprise, although we realise later that the warning signs were there. This particular piece was sudden and completely unexpected.

I regret to inform you that on Sunday, our kettle broke.

I had some 5 minutes previously put the kettle on to boil, in anticipation of its use in cooking dinner. I went to reboil the kettle so the water would be as hot as possible before going into a pan and nothing happened. No boiling sounds. No apparent increase in temperature. The lack of noise quickly alerted me to issue, so I used what hot water I had for cooking and turned my attentions back to the kettle.

I attempted to empty and refill it, tried turning it off and on at the wall. There was a light on the kettle which is normally only on when it’s heating, which was on. I suspect this means there was a problem.

We didn’t want to prolong the kettle’s suffering, so after taking measures to revive it, we pulled the plug. Goodbye ,Kettle. You has given us many a pan-ful of water, thousands of cups of coffee (for Neil) and a few cups of tea. You did so without complaint, just boiling sounds and the odd bit of limescale. Having found you in our house when we moved in, we don’t know your full story, but I hope you have enjoyed your life, both with us and before.

Neil and I will get a new kettle as not having one is inconvenient, but out of respect for our recently deceased kettle, no further details will be given at this time.

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