Earl Grey tea at Sierra

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If you look closely you can see me in the pot…


It is not often that I feel inspired to blog about tea in a mall,  but is a worthy exception.
The first cup had notes of lavender,  and the second a deep richness reminiscent of a dark roasted oolong with rich caramel notes.

The presentation was also immaculate and really made the experience… especially with the high backed armchairs… I will be coming back here again soon with friends.


Categories: Grey tea, Tastings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

McCallum’s Perfection Blended Scotch Whisky

Not at all misleading or pretentious

Not at all misleading or pretentious

4.5 Litres of lost memories...

4.5 Litres of lost memories…

This is a whisky that is dear to my heart, a family favourite would be a massive understatement if ever there was one. It is used for major life milestones, and any point in time when the family meets in sizable numbers.

We are most definitely obsessed with the stuff.

It is not an easy dram to come by either; most stockists do not carry the line, and fewer still hold it in stock for any particular length of time… but it is always available if you look hard enough.

And for its age and quality it is also one whisky with the smallest of internet footprints… even boutique hipster Ales have at least one (and often more) Instagram accounts these days… even a placeholder twitter account would have been a welcome sight but no… only some speculate comments on reddit, an old forum thread abandoned just after the naughties ended, a small gathering of auctions of old bottlings long expired and drunk… and the scattering of retailers with online shops.


A  (mis)quoted Review from a Jim Murrays Whisky Bible 2006 is often combined with information cross referenced from indeterminate and long dysfunctional websites… this is an under represented, under marketed gem in my view.

 Pretty competent and clean of no great age. Lovely malty sweetness combining with soft smoke for a full bodied start and then finishing with firm grain. Bottled in Australia. 40% alc./vol.”

We drink a substantial amount of whisky, my new Instagram  account is a testament to this fact, and we have been drinking the McCullams Perfection Scots whisky for a very, very long time long time…

A modest selection from the collection

A modest selection from the collection

As you can see the labels have been updated from time to time, with everything from font changes, spelling, bottle shape, and colour used.


it comes in bigger vessels too…

We also have been drinking this stuff in a variety of quantities over the years too…

The contents has also changed, much like any other whisky as malt masters change hands and new trends influence their selections.


After some deliberation, and much sampling My mother and I decided that this Whisky was Hard to profile, due to the complexity, using the standard tasting wheel (it’s right there on the label “Blended”)… the image above is a good starting point of what to expect… a Crème Brulee, a wee bit, on the burnt side but still Silky and creamy around the mouth. It does indeed blend well making an excellent base for cocktails (with the inclusion of Drambuie, a fine rusty nail can be made).

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Yup, that’s my grandfather… and an empty 20 Litre…

More to come…

Categories: Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Twinning’s Honey and Vanilla Tea

While on holiday in Australia I like, as always, to sample the wide variety of beverages available to me. This includes tea, and often while out shopping I will grab a small ten pack of individual bags from the Twining’s range.

Twinings Honey and Vanilla

Such a stunning wee box

This innovative pack size is wonderful for me as it allows for the ability to sample several different types and styles within the range without breaking the bank, or requiring additional storage of the leftovers… Why this has not been rolled out to New Zealand yet, I do not know.

The Honey and Vanilla tea is right on the mark, the balance has been while struck so as not to overpower the tea, but to complement it with honey notes on the tongue and lingering vanilla notes on the back of the palate. But yet it is still not overpoweringly too sweet, but unlike other attempts at a boutique tea, It is not trying to mask, but complement the tea leaf used, and as such you still get the robust English breakfast Assam blend just there in the mix without too much thought

The blue willow pattern is a classic, and an absolute favorite of my mothers, If i could find the Twining’s Honey and Vanilla English Breakfast loose leaf to sample, I’d dust off the whole set. .

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Scotch and Soda (The Hydronator)

Normally I’m a puritan when it comes to whisky, I was raised this way, whisky stones being the preferred method of cooling my spirit of choice, or chilling the damn bottle. Neat is the optimal method of presentation and indeed the preferred method of trying a new dram, or enjoying an old favourite.

But Australian sun is hot… and in Brisbane, Queensland there is the added bonus of humidity… you also need to keep your fluids up and a 40 oz bottle of Grants will not keep you hydrated (and is a wee bit dangerous in this heat to boot).

Meanwhile, this year one of the major changes to the culinary delights from my mother’s kitchen (For Food & Family). Has been the significant reduction in easy carbohydrates in the diet, and as such all those yummy sugary goodness in a can are now somewhat taboo… along with drinkable beer, wine, and soft drinks.


Enter the scotch and soda.

Scotch has near to no carbohydrates in it thus making it an ideal water enhancer for those looking for a low carb option. It’s also easy to prepare to boot.

Simply add 30ml of scotch to a high ball glass with Ice, and top up with soda water.

Scotch, Soda, Scotch and Soda, Scotch and Rocks

Serving suggestion: Try adding the scotch to the soda, so that rather than watering down the scotch, you are improving the water

It’s cool, refreshing, and has a hint of whisky flavour to it. It also makes use of those less than stellar blends, meaning less of a chance of reaching the nights end with nothing but the nasties in the back of the cabinet. Interestingly it can also help to release some previously undiscovered flavours released with the addition of water (and this is done by the pro-tasters too to better explore each dram).

Scotch and Soda

Yup, that’s Grants, but its also our 8th? bottle of scotch this month…

So sit back this summer and sip away guilt free knowing that your tall drink is good for your waist and great for your hydration (like you needed an excuse… right?)

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An update…

Has it really been that long?!

Life got away on me, post graduate studies got so damn expensive I was forced prematurely back into the workforce, where I got a bit down on myself.

It’s taken a heap of self reflection and personal growth, but I am now getting back onto those things that I love, and reaching out to those I burned.

Ive decided to dump a selection of images taken by me over the past couple of years relating to this blog, that I intended to post, but failed to do so… or I did post but failed to document properly.

they can be found HERE.

More to come soon,12196116_10153118893470906_601306996275282753_n


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Three levels of torment in one cup

Sometimes we are inspired to try new things, sometimes we ignore that little voice in the back of your mind telling you to stop. Last Night I ignored this voice.

I have some awesome memories from camping as a child. As a cub-scout, with mum and her rather large troupe of girl guides… with the family on the many road trips around the south island to meet distant kissing cousins. Often rained out there was always one saving grace to warm your bones.

This bad boy was there to warm you up, give you that shot of coffee with a good hit of sugar, and get you motivated to lift all of your gear off the ground and take the sleeping bags into the nearest Laundromat. Nowadays the toothpaste tube of coffee has been replaced by the single serve, just add hot water sachet.

All this semester I have seen these little sticks of doom. First in the O’week goodie bags, then outside the psychology office in a massive box labelled ‘free to a good home’, in the Waikato students’ union reception. These little monstrosities have been unavoidable. Today, I was given another handful by the WSU president in the Level 0 basement. I caved.

Nescafe 3 in 1 appears innocent enough… It is marketed as the penultimate coffee of those with very little time, or very little packing space, the coffee for the travelling salesman. The coffee for the camping man. As it is by far the cheapest (being freely available on campus) and by and large the most accessible hot beverage on campus, I gave the stuff a run.

The Stuff looked sick when made up. No really, a greeny brown colour… smelled kinda earthy too. I added a bit of cold water to make it drinkable and gave it a sip. Sugary would be my first call. Much Like other instant coffee it left my teeth squeaky. I was expecting this, but I was not expecting my teeth to start itching too (WHAT IS IN THIS STUFF?!). Checking the little bag it came in I could see no ingredient list. The Nescafe website lists “Soluble coffee with whitener and sugar”. Yet the image of the bag has what looks like a far larger list of things. However, after a bit more digging…

Sugar (52%), Whitener (38%), (Glucose Syrup, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Skimmed Milk Powder, Acidity Regulators (E340ii, E451i, E452i, E331iii), Milk Proteins, Vegetable Fat, Emulsifiers (E471, E472e), Flavourings, Anti-Caking Agent (E551), Stabiliser (E339), Salt), Instant Coffee (10%).

…What is all this stuff?!

I took another sip habitually while writing the above list out. This stuff was tolerable hot, but the good ol’ swig of the now warm toxic sludge… It reminded me of one of those little Asian power drinks with a ginseng root floating in it, but with a milky white scum layer. Sugary mud comes to mind. I tipped the rest in the sink and sought redemption.

Now I know that some of you out there are not big on the teas but I have become tolerant of your bean grinding ways, let it be said: no man, woman, or child should have to suffer the pain of drinking this 3 in 1 nasty beverage, save those whom have earned a place within the inner circles of Dante’s Inferno.

Sadly, I could not find it in the tube, but they do make it by the can!

This stuff is simple. Three ingredients on the list all up, Condensed milk, Instant Coffee, and Salt. Compared to the above its simplicity is profound, and the taste… amazing, Better than many coffees I’ve received from cafes. You can eat it straight out of the tin; it tastes like coffee hard boiled candy (the good Asian kind).

My recommendation, not that it needs to be said: stick to the simple, tried and true. Avoid the nasty 3 in 1 under all circumstances (Now to go eat the rest of the can with a spoon).

Categories: Coffee, Instant tastings, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Skinny cow better for Tea

For quite some time now It has been brought to my attention that the best milk for with a cup of tea is a trim milk one. So I have decided to put this to the test over the past few months taking note of the kind of milk used when out and about, and the taste of the resulting tea.

Now I’m a big fan of organic everything, and here in New Zealand, at least from what I can tell it is damn near impossible to get a trim organic milk without going to some specialty store. So for the longest time it has been either whole milk, or full cream milk, or something similar to a blue top milk (Standardised, homogenised milk). I discovered that unhomogenised full cream milk (whole milk) to leave a creamy film on the top of the tea. This is fantastic for a coffee, or a hot chocolate… but seems to produce a metallically, icky scum that spoils the tea (Cream in tea by the way, is most foul and unrecommended).

Your standard milk (Dark blue top, standardised and homogenised) is the run-of-the-mill go to milk for most households. And is generally what I get for various reasons: it tastes like milk on its own, a bit creamy (good butterfeel in the mouth), It goes good on cereal and works well in cooking and baking, generally by adding richness to the dish. Yet in comparison to a lite, or trim milk, the flavour of a cup of tea is soured slightly.

Sadly, due to its transparent bottle I have had to dispose of the standard due to the flash degrading the milk.

Today, I have been playing with this bottle of calci-trim on some Kenyan teas (more on that next post). As you can see from the picture, the two teas are different in completion with added milk (I used a two pot method to maintain consistency from this leaf tea, and added a single shot of each milk type for consistency), so too is the flavour with a more robust flavour for the trim, and no dairy aftertaste. This allows for a better appreciation of the tea from start to finish, so for the tea connoisseur, just brilliant!

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Lapsang souchong: Breath of the Dragon

Twining’s have done a loose leaf series called ‘Origins’ and this one, being labelled as 5 out of 5 in their strength scale… seemed like the obvious place to start. It is a pine smoked black tea from Fujian province in china.

When I first saw this tea, I was expecting something extraordinary, the box with its red hues seemed to ooze a fiery expectation. On opening the strong smokey aroma reminded me of the fish smoker and brought back fond memories of the peatiest of peaty scotches.

Lapsang Souchong Tea and my new pot and teawarmer stand

Lapsang Souchong Tea and my new pot and teawarmer stand

The dark amber colour under the new tea pot I received recently made it glow angrily and the aromas released in vapour, threatened to set off the smoke alarms, the teapot clearly sweating under the heat…

The dark fires of mordor reflected in the potstand... signs of the flavour to come

The dark fires of Mordor reflected in the potstand… signs of the flavour to come

Sipping it back brought back fond memories in my childhood of playing with e embers in the fire and staining the ceiling with soot… or sitting downwind of the campfire… it is warming and invigorating. as you can see.

Protip: Rinse the tea first with hot water to ‘release the dragon’, this removes some of the bitterness and also reduces the caffeine content so your not running around like your pants are on fire.

This is a tea well worth the experience, you may not like it, but Id recommend you try it anyway if the option were to present itself… It really is an experience that has proven itself to bring back all sorts of fond memories…

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Humble beginnings…

So I have decided, in my infinite wisdom, to write a blog on social beverages. What the hell is a social beverage you ask? It is a drink that you would sit and socialise over. Tea, is a fine example of this.

As there are many, many different kinds of tea out there, I decided to write about those within my grasp. This includes some of the generic well known blends in New Zealand, to some boutique teas that are incredibly difficult to find, but worth every sip. I also figured I’d comment on the tea served by the numerous cafes here in Hamilton, talking about the range available, the quality of the leaves, presentation and pot.

I was going to call this blog tea-totaller, but as I discovered quite quickly this is an individual who does not drink alcoholic beverages… I like a good nip  or six, so I felt this was poor taste. But that got me to thinking… why not broaden my horizons to more than just tea, but ALL drinks drunk in company!

I am going to start with what I have on hand, bags or loose, spirits and ales… hopefully my writing will improve too, along with my confidence in the written word.


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