Your Tea – English Breakfast Tea

20151208_082112Disclaimer: I was sent the tea to review

Amongst the many things I love drinking, tea has a significant spot in the hierarchy. If I were ever told I had to give up drinking tea, there would, quite possibly, be trouble.

I know that the way I drink it (weak, lots of milk, no sugar) is for many people quite wrong – one of my friends even refers to it as homeopathic strength – but I like to think that my approach strikes a good balance between antioxidants, hydration and caffeine. At least, that’s what I would tell myself if I ever felt that I needed to justify my habits!

So when Your Tea offered to send me one of the new Cafe Teas, I was never going to say no.

There is a huge range of flavours available – everything from English Breakfast (my boring choice!) through to rather novel combinations like chocolate rooibos and strawberry sencha. I’m not big on flavoured teas so I figured I’d stick with something I actually know about.

In addition, I also tried this tea out on a fellow big tea drinking friend (she drinks hers strong, with only a little milk and sugar).

The bags are fine mesh pyramid bags and the tea is strong, developing flavour and colour quickly. Even though I’m a weak tea drinker, I think this is a good thing. The box and bags are also very ‘tea dust’ free – which I believe is the sign of a good quality tea bag. 20151208_082138

Flavour wise the tea is robust. It’s a good, clean tea flavour which both my friend and I enjoyed.

In addition to the cafe range, Your Tea also sells a range of mood teas (yes, they even sell a Hangover Tea!) and body teas, which are based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. Travel mugs, a face cream and gift boxes are also available. The cafe teas are all $13.95 for 25 tea bags, with the mood teas and body teas individually priced. The gift boxes are a good way of trying a mix of teas, if you can’t make a decision.

 

Forage Cereal

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Disclaimer: I was sent the cereal to road test. Check out the full range at foragecereal.com.

Once upon a time I used to make my own cereal. I actually found it a very quick process (I used bran flakes from a health food store as the base) and was able to customise it to my taste exactly. It wasn’t cheap and it obviously took more time than picking up a pack of something but after a good year or so of eating my own cereal it was really noticeable how sweet commercial cereals were.

The upshot of that is that I rarely eat commercial cereals now – the exception being the extremely low sugar offering my small child eats. So when the Forage PR team got in touch I almost turned down the offer of the cereal because I thought it would not be my thing at all. However, when I saw that the cereal was also gluten free I reconsidered my position (regular readers will know that a relative of mine is a coeliac).

Forage was developed by an Australian naturopath and chiropracter and now comes in four formats – the standard cereal, a bircher, a porridge and Forage Paleo. No matter how hippy or faddist that might sound, the products are based on the idea that they should be a good balance of protein, fat (good fat, of course!), fibre and carbohydrates.

The cereal’s ingredients are: almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and puffed brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth and buckwheat. All the grains are organic. There’s no added sugar (perhaps that’s stating the obvious).

I have really enjoyed eating the cereal. I just plonk some standard cows milk on it and off I go – but those with a healthier bent could add an alternative milk, yoghurt or fruit. I like that it’s not overly sweet and I think the fact that it has some texture and you actually have to chew it is a good thing – far too much cereal turns to pap two seconds after you add milk.

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The recommend serve is 40g (see above for how much this is) which I didn’t find was enough to last me through til lunch. I ended up going for a whole cupful (closer to 100g) which did the job – this is obviously something you’ll need to experiment with yourself.

One word of warning though – if you’re not vigilant about ensuring the bag’s ziplock is well closed you’ll find that the cereal does go soft quite quickly. You can solve this by decanting the cereal into an air-tight plastic container when you open it (or by making sure you close it properly). While the cereal tastes fine if you do stuff up like this, it tastes better when it’s crispy!

All the products are widely available (and, of course, you can purchase on line) and while they’re not cheap (a 1kg bag of the cereal is around $30) you’ll be spending a lot less than heading out for a muffin and coffee every morning.

And it’s much better for you.

Four Pillars Gin

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Disclaimer: I was invited to the Adelaide trade launch of Four Pillars Gin.

For me, gin is synonymous with summer – and here in Australia more so even than a Pimms. It’s a common unifying theme amongst many of my friends and we even have our own lime tree. Really, all I need is for our local shops to sell decent tonic water and then I would be set for whatever heat waves summer could throw at me.

I’ve worked my way through a few gins over the years (does that sound bad?) – as a uni student much was at the less glamorous end of the spectrum, but as a proper grown up I’ve been able to dabble in Bombay Saphhire, Tanqueray, other people’s Tanq 10, Hendricks and even the Boudier Saffron Gin – yes, it really is radioactive orange. To me, that list looks a bit anaemic – I’ll have to fix that! And the whole ‘distill your own gin’ experience at the Plymouth Gin Distillery is very much on my to-do list.

So an invitation to the launch of Four Pillars Gin, a new but already award winning gin from Victoria’s Yarra Valley, was accepted greedily.

The launch was held at Mother Vine – somewhere I really need to head back to and investigate in serious detail. For the purposes of today … trust me that, if you drink, it’s somewhere you NEED to go.

Anyway, let’s get back to the important things … and that’s the gin. We started with a gin and tonic – but they were served with either orange or ruby grapefruit. Mine (not the one in the picture) came with ruby grapefruit which worked really well. I know it’s not lime and it’s heresy but … there’s a reason for it working well.

All gin must have as its principal flavour, juniper. I suspect that most people learn to identify the taste and smell of juniper by drinking gin – I know I did. But after juniper, the distiller has free rein. This is what leads to much greater stylistic variation in gins than you will find in many other spirits. The chaps behind Four Pillars (Stuart Gregor, Cameron Mackenzie – the distiller, and Matt Jones) put in some serious research when deciding what to do with their gin. And by serious, I mean they headed to the US to sample the latest in boutique gin production and then they came home, ordered what can almost be considered a one-off German still and got experimenting. They needed to maintain the ‘gin’ character but also wanted to add their own edge. Some of that edge comes in the form of uniquely Australian ingredients, such as Tasmanian pepperberry and lemon myrtle but they also added in some orange. Rather than using dried peel they settled on boiling up whole fresh organic oranges in a ‘botanical basket’ and using this as one of the principal flavour components. So serving a Four Pillars G&T with a slice of orange (or grapefruit) makes sense and, most importantly, works well.

Next up we got to try a martini and we followed this up with a negroni (no, I wasn’t driving) while the staff at Mother Vine brought out some very tasty morsels. By far my favourite (which says something, as some crispy pork belly was on offer) was the braised mushrooms with Taleggio and dill – sadly, my photo of that is too awful even by my low standards!

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The Four Pillars range consists of three gins – the rare dry (which was used in the G&T and martini), the barrel aged (used in the negroni) and the just released Gunpowder Strength, which clocks in at a scary 58.5% abv. Apparently, fearing that it was being dudded with watered down gin, the British Navy devised a test to ensure that the gin was strong enough. If the gin could used to be wet gunpowder and the gunpowder still lit, it was deemed acceptable. In the Gunpowder Strength gin, the orange is still present but reduced to make way for finger lime. What is very impressive in this gin is that you would not know how alcoholic it is: it is super smooth. I tried some just on its own and was stunned by how pleasant and smooth it was to drink.

The Rare Dry gin has already picked up a double gold medal that this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition, outscoring competition such as Hendricks (which came in with a bronze).

There’s limited availability of these gins – you can buy on line through the Four Pillars site (Rare Dry is $70, Gunpowder Proof is $95) but you might also spot them at good bottle shops such as East End Cellars.