December Skies Are Often Grey

It’s been a dreich day. Grey, wet, snowy – but not sticking snow, wet instantly melting snow. The dogs hated going out in it, we weren’t particularly excited about the prospect either.

So this morning’s tea from Germany, a Royal Flush Darjeeling was a welcome treat. Just the thing for wet, wintry weather. We didn’t bother with milk this time, though this was strong enough it probably would have weathered it fine. It made for a heart breakfast blend; robust, hearty, a few floral hints but fewer than the Darjeeling of the other day.

Later we risked a walk, and it wasn’t miserable, but it was definitely wet. Buffy has s trick she pulls wherein she limps if the weather disagrees with her, and she did thar lots today. It was getting dark by then so we called it a day’s early and I made up the DavidsTea blend.

It was North African Mint, and there’s not much to say about this one. It’s very minty…not that you’d guess. That’s really all there is to it. Pure, undiluted mint. Think After Eight in a cup if there was no chocolate and more mint. Now we are mint lovers, which not everyone is, so this was a hit. But we do often wonder whenever a calendar yields up these mint varieties if we aren’t supposed to brew them and serve them iced. We’re pretty sure that’s how Muriel Spark says to do it in The Mandelbaum Gate. But Spark’s book is set in a stifling Israel summer, not dreich, soggy Ontario. Frankly we dare anyone sane to drink iced tea on a day like this. We’ve saved a bit for the summer though, just in case, because cool mint can be lovely.

Here’s a poem for this grey, dark evening, with thanks to the fellow Ffordian (that’s a Jasper Fforde Devotee for those at home) who found it. Little did she realise posting it yesterday that by sheer, happy accident it would be perfect for today.

Banality
by Gregory Djanikian

There’s something to be said for banality,
the way it keeps everything on a level plane,
one cliché blithely following another
like cows heading toward the pasture.

How lovely sometimes not to think
about Russian Futurism, or the second law
of thermodynamics, or how thinking itself
requires some thoughtfulness.

I’d like to ask if Machiavelli
ever owned a dog named “Prince.”
I’d like to imagine Rosalind Franklin
lounging pleasantly by a wood stove.

Let the mind take a holiday,
the body put its slippers on.
It’s a beautiful day, says the banal,
and today, I’m happy to agree
with its genial locutions.

Woof, woof, goes the neighbor’s dog.
The sun is pouring in through the window,
heating up the parlor, the blue sky is so blue,
and the cumulous clouds are looking very cumulous.

I’m all for reading a murder mystery,
something with flair but forgettable.
Or some novelette whose hero’s name
is Hawk or Kestrel, a raptor bird
soaring above his ravished love.

I’m lying on the couch with easy puzzles.
I’m playing a song that has no accidentals.
Life’s but a dream, comme ci, comme ça.
No doubt, tomorrow I’ll be famished
for what’s occult and perilous,
all those knots in the brain,
all the words that are hard to crack.

Today, I’m floating like a feather,
call me Falcon, look me up
in the field guide under Blissful,
Empty-headed, under everything
that loves what it does today,
and requires no explanation.

The Fashion in Dogs

Today was an almond-themed day as both Advent calendars yielded almond-based teas. From DavidsTea there was Chocolate Covered Almond. It’s a rich black tea that no matter how long you steep it tastes primarily of chocolate. The poor almonds never stood a chance, and it’s a shame because we love a good almond-flavoured tea. About 10-15 minutes in we thought the almonds were starting to come through, and perhaps they would have more fully with a bit of milk.

Chocolate teas are funny that way; sometimes the creamier you make them the subtler they become. Regrettably we didn’t think of this until towards the end of our second cup. That said, it stood up quite nicely even without the milk. It’s rich and probably another dessert-type blend, but we had it for elevenses with chocolate shortbread. (This may be partially why we couldn’t taste the almonds.)

From Germany was a herbal or fruit tea, Gebrantne Mandel, which our imperfect German made ‘toasted almonds’ (the internet tried to tell us they were burnt but that seemed unlikely). A brief chat with the calendar-maker revealed the name to be caramelised almonds, which made still more sense. She adds a drop of milk probably wouldn’t hurt this tea either, but we didn’t try it. The flavours were just so delicate, and we were enjoying them so much that we didn’t like to risk it. Also, it pours out a lovely pink colour and we didn’t want to spoil that, either.

You do have to let the Gebrannte Mandel steep quite a while, though; the instructions say 5-10 minutes and we really did give it 5 minutes, but it looked unhappy with life and anaemic. It tasted and smelled fabulous, though. There’s apple and hibiscus (hence the pink) in with the almonds and the result is a gloriously sweet-smelling blend that tastes as good as it smells. And 15 minutes later we got a much more substantial cup. Patience is a virtue with this one, and we just don’t have it in spades when it comes to tea. We’re working on it though. Especially when it gets you results like this.

Also on the roster was a walk with the Dachshunds. They’re currently sure excuse to get out of the house, which is no small thing. They were also beloved of E.B.White, better known to the world for his children’s books. Here’s what he has to say on the magnificent Dachshund…and other dogs. But mostly the dachshund.

The Fashion in Dogs
E.B.White

An Airedale, erect beside the chauffeur of a Rolls-Royce,
Often gives you the impression he’s there from choice.

In town, the Great Dane
Is kept by the insane.

Today the Boxer
Is fashionable and snappy;
But I never saw a Boxer
Who looked thoroughly happy.

The Scotty’s a stoic,
He’s gay and he’s mad;
His pace is a snail trot,
His harness is plaid.
I once had a bitch,
Semi-invalid, crazy:
There ne’er was a Scotch girl
Quite like Daisy.

Pekes
Are biological freaks.
They have no snout
And their eyes come out.
Ladies choose ’m
To clutch to their bosom.
A Pekinese would gladly fight a wolf or a cougar
But is usually owned by a Mrs. Applegate Krueger.
Cockers are perfect for Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
Or to carry home a package from the A&P without clowning.

The wire-haired fox
Is hard on socks
With or without clocks.
The smooth-haired variety
Has practically vanished from nice society,
And it certainly does irk us
That you never see one except when you go to the circus.

The dachshund’s affectionate,
He wants to wed with you:
Lie down to sleep,
And he’s in bed with you.
Sit in a chair,
He’s there.
Depart,
You break his heart.

My Christmas will be a whole lot wetter and merrier
If somebody sends me a six-weeks-old Boston terrier.

Sealyhams have square sterns and cute faces
Like toy dogs you see at Macy’s.
But the Sealyham, while droll in appearance,
Has no clearance.

Chows come in black, and chows come in red;
They could come in bright green, I wouldn’t turn my head.
The roof of their mouth is supposed to be blue,
Which is one of those things that might easily be true.

To us it has never seemed exactly pleasant
To see a beautiful setter on East Fifty-seventh Street looking for a woodcock or a pheasant.

German shepherds are useful for leading the blind,
And for biting burglars and Consolidated Edison men in the behind.

Lots of people have a rug.
Very few have a pug.

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 N.B. The Dachshunds of Dawlish would like it on record that they too would tussle with a burglar if one ever came calling. Honest, they would. And they’d eat the pheasant too. Feathers and all. They’re very economical that way. No wonder E.B. White loved them!

Tea and Whimsy

We opened the German-made calendar this morning to Sommer Darjeeling. Following the directions on the accompanying Christmas card we poured it over a sugar cube and added some milk.

N.B. We haven’t taken sugar in tea since university when we befriended Brits who only put sugar in baking. But tea traditions should be followed at all times, so we followed this one. (For best result we’ve been told to use sugar crystals but suspect those of hiding behind another Advent door. Until then we improvise.)

And okay…we cheated a little. But it was only a little! We took the merest sip of Sommer Darjeeling black just to see what it would taste of. The instructions are there for a reason. The milk gives it a creaminess it doesn’t have on its own, while the sugar helps bring some of the more subtle tea notes to the surface. It’s a bold, bracing tea and it was exactly what we needed to wake up. Darjeeling is always the queen of black teas and this is no exception.

At the complete other end of the spectrum is DavidsTea’s Organic Cinnamon Rooibos Chai. That’s a name that’s a mouthful! But it lives up to it. Because we think of rooibos as warming-up tea, we made it after walking the Dawlish Dachshunds in the ravine.

It still looks like Narnia, as you see. But at least a white Christmas is a good omen. Or, well, we guess it’s a white Advent about which the old grannies say…um…nothing, as it turns out. Ah well.

Anyway, Cinnamon Rooibos Chai is perfect warming-up tea. Rooibos naturally has a kind of inbuilt spice that would lead the proverbial grannies above to say it would stick to your ribs. It dovetails beautifully with the cinnamon for a cup that tastes a bit like mulled wine but without the alcohol or a particularly satisfying musical cadence. But it’s desserty too; you would drink this for breakfast.

Instead, if like the Dawlish Dachshunds you have vowed to stay by the fire until the sun comes back, enjoy this with a nice helping of crumble. And for everything else, there’s Sommer Darjeeling.

To tide you over until then, and in keeping with yesterday’s optimistic note, we move from the sublime to the ridiculous. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve used a parodic bit of hymnody as a poem though, and we miss singing. Besides, this gave us the best laugh we’ve had all year. Enjoy – but don’t read it over tea!

Greetings and Salutations!

Greetings from Narnia!

The snow is here and so is Advent, making it time for tea and poetry again. This year there are two Advent Calendars running; the usual DavidsTea selection and a home-made one from Simone, a friend from Germany who suggested we do a tea-swap this year.

So off we both went to make up home-made calendars, which in turn got Canadian Customs deeply dubious. No one could possibly drink this much tea, said customs, looking at the box.

Customs had clearly never met us. (Except they have. That one time we had to ship goods from Britain. Remember that, Customs?) So Anyway, they open the parcel, have a riffle through, open one of the Advent ‘doors’ to confirm we are actually swapping tea and not, oh, say, marmite or something. Clearly that satisfied them because that was the end of it. And in fairness, I can’t really blame them disbelieving us. It was quite a lot of tea…

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You see what we mean. But doesn’t it look cheerful?

The first of the German teas is an oolong. While out German vocab primarily comes from singing and is, therefore, better suited to telling you variously that all flesh is as grass, some stuff about the moon, some other stuff about lovesick flowers and quite a lot of stuff about the joys of the daughters of Elysium, we’ve somehow turned that into just enough practical German to talk tea. 

Hamburgs Hanseaten Leibe is a mix of black and oolong teas. It’s a lovely blend because the black tea gives it ballast and the oolong stops it getting too bitter, but without the fermented taste oolong sometimes that and that isn’t for everyone. Instead, this is fruity, rich and round. We drank it after trekking through the snow with reluctant dachshunds and it was the perfect cap to the afternoon.

img_4719
The 24 Days of Tea, or what anyone else would call…an Advent Calendar.

Or to take the sting out of 202. It’s had its’ moments, but mostly this year has been one long forward slog. And while it’s true Advent has apocalyptic underpinnings – we bring it up at least once per season – this year the subtext is rapidly becoming text, as they say. So here’s a poem with a glimmer of optimism. It pairs beautifully with both of these and for an encore, reminds us there’s always a glimmer of light, even in the most disconsolate situations.

The Darkling Thrush
Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.
 
The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.
 
At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.
 
So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

 

 

Christmas Greetings

Today’s tea, prosaically, was garden-variety Yorkshire Breakfast, because sometimes we enjoy something straightforward. Also, we’d run out of Advent doors and didn’t get enough of a chance to stop for long enough to faff about with leaves and infusers. Mind, there’s a lot of good to be said for Yorkshire tea. It’s well suited to our hard water, and it steeps quickly, which is nice first thing in the morning.

Also on today’s agenda were various relatives, Dachshund misadventures, and Miss Marschallin’s Christmas Sock, the contents of which was declared a success. Well, it was if you weren’t the unfortunate Valarian Gingerbread Man, who is now in for a lifetime of ritual slaughter. Ah well, she’s delighted.

Here’s a poem as the day wraps up. It’s called Christmas Night, and we suppose tonight qualifies. It’s lovely, and captures something of the flatness that comes after the bustle and rush of the day is winding down. Relatives gone home, paper recycled, gifts put away, all that lot. SO put the kettle on and enjoy.

Christmas Night
Conrad Hilberry

Let midnight gather up the wind
and the cry of tires on bitter snow.
Let midnight call the cold dogs home,
sleet in their fur – last one can blow

the streetlights out. IF children sleep
after the day’s unfolding, the wheel
of gifts and fries, may their breathing
ease the strange hollowness we feel.

Let midnight draw whoever’s left
to the grate where a burnt-out log unrolls
low mutterings of smoke until
a small fire wakes in its crib of coals.


Didn’t we say it was lovely? Here’s hoping it unwinds your day, or holiday a little going forward. Best wishes and a happy Christmas  from us, Miss Marschallin and the misadventures Dawlish Dachshunds!

On Christmas Eve

It’s been a whirlwind of a day. Ravine walks, extracting gremlins from electronic monstrosities, eleventh hour wrapping and shortbread baking…it goes on. The annual watch of The Blue Carbuncle featured somewhere. Christmas Eve is always crammed with stuff, and this year is no exception.

Sneaking in at the end of it is our final blog write up for this year’s calendar. It’s a black tea we know well, called Santa’s Secret. It blends peppermint and black tea, and for our money is the best of these ‘sweet’ teas. It’s sweet, and has a real extravagant, desert-quality feel to it, but it isn’t saccharine, either. The mint sits comfortably with the black tea and they keep each other in check, the perfect balance of strong and long in the mouth. This is how to reinvent tea well.

We also reiterate the other day’s recantation. We stand by the fact that this calendar’s balance is skewered bizarrely, but there do seem to be nearly equal parts herbal and non-herbal teas. It’s just that all the variety came at the beginning and the end, making for a few very unbalanced weeks of tea drinking. It’s good to know the calendar can still do variety.

Here to close out the year is a carol that purports to be by Walter Scott. We say that; there are lines of this that we know for a fact belong in Marmion. There are other lines that we’re fairly sure Shaw added in because he liked them. Oh, the joys of carols, eh? THere’s a reason no one ever seems to be able to agree on both lyrics and tune, and why we each of us think ours is right.

Merry Christmas
Adapted from Walter Scott

On Christmas Eve the bells were run,
On Christmas Eve the mass was sung;
The damsel don’t her kirtle sheen,
The hall was dress’d with holly green;
Forth to the wood the merry men go
To gather in the mistletoe;

Then drink to the holly berry,
With hey down, hey own derry!
The mistletoe we’ll pledge also
And at Christmas all be merry,
At Christmas all be merry!

The fire with well dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
Then come the merry masquers in,
And carols roared with blithesome din.

England is merry England,
When Old Christmas brings his ports again
Then drink to the holly berry, etc

We wanted to find you a vocal arrangement to go with it, but luck was not on our side. And while, theoretically we’re not averse to singing it into this particular monstrosity for you, it’s late and all residents not Miss Marschallin would be objected by the lack of consideration. But if you happen to know of a favourite version, point us towards us or send us a link.

Until then, Happy Christmas from us, Miss Marschallin and the Dawlish Dachshunds!

The Business of Cats

We’re tempted to hand this one over to Miss Marschallin, quite frankly. It’s called Valarian Nights, an not for nothing, but Miss Marschallin adores valerian. More even than catnip, and she loves catnip.

A funny thing about valerian; it puts humans to sleep but it revs cats up like nothing on earth. Valerian Dolphin (the one handmade in Germany that we had to replace after much improbable internet googling) remains her stand-out cat toy by a country mile.

So, Valarian Nights. Presumably intended to wake up your drowsy feline around the same time you drift off to sleep. Possibly simultaneously. Ever tried having milky tea with a cat around? We’re assuming a similar principle is in effect here.

Anyway, we didn’t give it to Miss Marschallin. Her schedule was taken up with murdering the carpet. It’s evil, is our carpet. It’s staging a coupe with the green chairs. They’re conspiring for independence, or maybe a Dawlarture (that’s Dawlish Departure, if you too were wondering) or something. Must be stopped. Anyway. Tea.

It tastes surprisingly of apple, which is good because we’ve never had much love for Camomile, which is mixed in with the valerian root for good measure. Good luck to anyone staying awake and drinking this cup. But it’s a pleasant sleepy-time tea, thus proving anything is indeed possible. Up to and probably including the departure of the furniture in a fit of outrage from the house. Or something. Look, I don’t keep up-to-date with Miss Marschallin’s internal politics. That way madness lies.

Point is, there is a veritable cat parliament out there, and they need valerian to keep on top of the murderous rugs and plotting chairs.

We’d send you pictures but the tablet is throwing a spectacular strop. So here is a poem, with pictures, and credit to Medium-large.com for managing to do with this poem what we cannot.

Poem by Kevin Fang, photo credit medium-large.com

 

Advent IV: Prose and Christmas Cake

This last stint of Advent is sponsored by Spontaneous Congregant Participation, ensuring you never know what you’ll be asked to do next! A special mention to the Wheely Donkey Manufacturers, keeping Sunday Schools everywhere in clean, reliable, portable donkeys for every occasion, forever and ever, world without end, amen.

To start with,we recant. Today’s black tea makes for 9 non-herbal teas out of 24, and even if the next two join the herbal ranks, that’s still a better balance than we were anticipating. There weren’t enough oolongs, but there are never enough oolongs.

Anyway, today’s tea is Satsuma Spice Cake, a foursome name that purports to be packed full of sweet caramelised citrus. Think Christmas Cake in a cup. N.B. There’s some fierce competition here, because Kusmi Tea does a black tea blend that really is Christmas Cake in a cup and it’s a staple of our tea cupboard. It has a very different taste, though. While Kusmi’s tea is a sturdy black blend with cloves, spices and the odd bit of caramelised orange, this is much sweeter.

We happen to quite like it. The satsuma comes through strongly, and it’s probably the use of satsuma rather than garden variety orange that adds an extra burst of sweetness. There is some additive sugar, but it’s largely there to bring out existing flavours. Of course, as we say, it does add a bit of extra sweetness, and Christmas cake puritans will probably prefer Kusmi’s Christmas Tea blend. It’s darker, subtler and without the sweeter.

But sweetness have been the harmonising note throughout this calendar. The tisanes use stevia, this black tea uses sugar. Still others had candy cane or marshmallow outright. With the exception of the marshmallows, we mostly enjoyed it, but we do gently suggest that sometimes tea is allowed to just be tea. Add the orange peel and the caramelised bits and bobs by all means, but it doesn’t have to be sweet. It can be tart, or tannin-heavy, or potently gingery; the variety is partly what brings us tea-drinkers back, especially to Advent Calendars like this. One of our favourite teas remains a daring blend of almond and liquorice root in oolong; it smelled awful but it brewed the loveliest cup of tea. We were sorry when it was discontinued.

Coming back to Satsuma Spice, though, and talking of taste, it’s that rare tea that doesn’t grow bitter with steeping. Anyone who’s ever left a black tea alone too long or not rescued a tea infuser from an oolong or jasmine in time will appreciate this. Here the satsuma sufficiently overwhelms the tannin that it keeps the tea pleasantly citrusy. And the stronger it gets, the more it tastes of Christmas cake and less of additive. Indeed, as we sit here taking our notes, it is shaping up to be a lovely tea. We may yet go tea shopping in the New Year.

Here’s a nice, long poem to read while it steeps. No Christmas Cake, but gingerbread houses get a mention. If you’ve ever attempted one you’ll appreciate the frustration they can generate – more than just cause for begetting poetry.

Advent
Mary Jo Salter

Wind whistling, as it does
in winter, and I think

nothing of it until

it snaps a shutter off
her bedroom window, spins

it over the roof and down

to crash on the deck in back,
like something out of Oz.

We look up, stunned—then glad

to be safe and have a story,
characters in a fable

we only half-believe.

Look, in my surprise
I somehow split a wall,

the last one in the house

we’re making of gingerbread.
We’ll have to improvise:

prop the two halves forward

like an open double door
and with a tube of icing
cement them to the floor.
Five days until Christmas,
and the house cannot be closed.

When she peers into the cold

interior we’ve exposed,
she half-expects to find

three magi in the manger,

a mother and her child.
She half-expects to read

on tablets of gingerbread

a line or two of Scripture,
as she has every morning

inside a dated shutter

on her Advent calendar.
She takes it from the mantel

and coaxes one fingertip

under the perforation,
as if her future hinges
on not tearing off the flap
under which a thumbnail picture
by Raphael or Giorgione,

Hans Memling or David

of apses, niches, archways,
cradles a smaller scene

of a mother and her child,

of the lidded jewel-box
of Mary’s downcast eyes.

Flee into Egypt, cries

the angel of the Lord
to Joseph in a dream,
for Herod will seek the young
child to destroy him. While
she works to tile the roof

with shingled peppermints,

I wash my sugared hands
and step out to the deck

to lug the shutter in,

a page torn from a book
still blank for the two of us,
a mother and her child.

Our Christmas tradition is Christmas cake, not gingerbread houses, and personally, we’re sticking to it. We’ve done both and while the cake dough takes two to mix, it begets far fewer tears. Trust us on this one.

We’ll leave you this Advent IV with the Advent Prose. Somehow our church never gets to them sooner, and coming from a background where we opened the Advent season with them, we’re perplexed by the choice every year. Three times is a tradition etc cetera, ad infinitum.

 

Sleigh Rides and Snow Sprites

Today’s herbal tea is Sleigh Ride. The ingredients rattle off a whole thwack of stuff mixed into the blend, but all we could taste was the hibiscus and cinnamon. It’s a curious, tart combination, but not an unpleasant one. We’re reminded faintly, drinking it, of rhubarb crumbles we used to make. Of course, there’s none of the sweetness the descriptive tag features, but maybe we didn’t let it steep long enough. As established, the art of getting one of these tisanes to steep has eluded us all month. Mind, it had time enough; the pot sat there for a good ten minutes while we did auxiliary kitchen chores.

It doesn’t particularly remind us of sleigh rides, we have to say. We used to ski out west, and you could sign up for sleigh rides of the horse-and-sleigh variety. There was hot apple cider afterwards, and we roasted marshmallows over candles. Nothing about it involved hibiscus, and while there’s apple somewhere in this tea, the hibiscus drowns it. (It drowns the raisins too, because as discussed, raisins don’t really come through in any tea at any strength.)

So we are mostly sipping this tea and thinking how lovely and tangy and tart it is. Warm enough for winter, though, and on that note, here’s a wintery poem to pair with it.

The Snow Fairy
Claude McKay
I
Throughout the afternoon I watched them there,
Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky,
Whirling fantastic in the misty air,
Contending fierce for space supremacy.
And they flew down a mightier force at night,
As though in heaven there was revolt and riot,
And they, frail things had taken panic flight
Down to the calm earth seeking peace and quiet.
I went to bed and rose at early dawn
To see them huddled together in a heap,
Each merged into the other upon the lawn,
Worn out by the sharp struggle, fast asleep.
The sun shone brightly on them half the day,
By night they stealthily had stol’n away.
     II
And suddenly my thoughts then turned to you
Who came to me upon a winter’s night,
When snow-sprites round my attic window flew,
Your hair disheveled, eyes aglow with light.
My heart was like the weather when you came,
The wanton winds were blowing loud and long;
But you, with joy and passion all aflame,
You danced and sang a lilting summer song.
I made room for you in my little bed,
Took covers from the closet fresh and warm,
A downful pillow for your scented head,
And lay down with you resting in my arm.
You went with Dawn. You left me ere the day,

The lonely actor of a dreamy play.

Perhaps our favourite part of poetry, and indeed of hunting down poems for this blog is the discovery of new phrases. You can bet anything you like that snowflakes hereafter are snow-sprites to us. It’s too lovely an image not to nick into everyday parlance, don’t you think?

Hot Chocolate (Tea)

Hot Chocolate today. No, not the drink. Well, sort of a drink. But not the drink; not hot chocolate. Not the kind made up with hot milk, cocoa powder, cream mixed in for extra richness. No, this is a tea and it’s called Hot Chocolate, purely to make this blogging thing we do an exercise in confusion.

It’s a pu’erh tea, which makes it the eighth non-herbal tea in this month’s selection. We’re almost at 33% ! That’s almost balanced! Incidentally, because we weren’t sure last go, we went and dug more into the nature of pu’erh tea, and it turns out that like oolong, the leaves are partially fermented. No wonder we have such a good track record with it. Something about that process has always worked for us with oolongs, too.

It’s smokier than its predecessor, which you’ll recall also featured chocolate. Hot Chocolate (Tea) lacks the spices of S’mores Chai, though, and also unlike that chai, benefits from a dab of milk. It gives the chocolate a creaminess that blends nicely with the smokiness of the tea. It also stops it being overwhelmingly chocolatey, and as we’re still not chocolate in tea types, that’s not bad thing.

We associate it with ski lessons, and winter evenings in Scotland. But we’re in Canada at the moment, writing this off the back of watching the very Canadian Anne with an E. We know, we know, we’re behind by about three years, and we definitely have opinions. We’ll get to them some other night. For now, have on a related note, the equally Canadian L.M. Montgomery on winter.

A Winter Day
L. M. Montgomery

I
The air is silent save where stirs
A bugling breeze among the firs
The virgin world in white array
Waits for the bridegroom kiss of day;
All heaven blooms rarely in the east
Where skies are silvery and fleeced,
And o’er the orient hills made mad
The morning comes in wonder clad;
Oh, ’tis a time most fit to see
How beautiful the dawn can be!
II
Wide, sparkling  fields snow-vestured lie
Beneath a blue, unshadowed sky;
A glistening splendour crowns the woods
A bosky, whistling solitudes;
In hemlock glen and reedy mere
The tang of frost is sharp and clear;
Life hath a jollity and zest,
A poignancy made manifest;
Laughter and courage have their way
At noontide of a winter’s day.
III
Faint music rings in world and dell,
The tinkling of a distant bell,
Where homestead lights with friendly glow
Glimmer across the drifted snow;
Beyond a valley dim and far
Lit by an occidental star,
Tall pines the marge of day beset
Like many a slender minaret,
Whence priest-like winds on crystal air
Summon the reverent world to prayer.

She has a very particular fingerprint, doesn’t she? Anne comes by her rhapsodising honestly.