Coffee vs. Tea…

My boss made the most brilliant comment regarding these two caffeinated beverages.

So a while ago I’m at work, about to head off on my usual, post 9:30am coffee walk with colleagues. I ask her if she wants us to get her a coffee – she stops and pauses, and after some to-ing and fro-ing in her mind, she makes it up.

“No, I think I’ll have some tea.”

Fair enough, I respond to her. I can’t contest – after all, it was only some years ago that I never drank coffee, like NEVER, and only drank tea. Blacks, whites, herbals… as long as this letter was in it  – T – I happily tried them all.

We start talking about how sometimes, you just need a tea. Coffee is great, sure, hell yeah… but there are some Sunday mornings where I wake up groggy from a big night, and immediately think ‘tea.’ I need the hot quench of the liquid to satisfy my dry throat. Coffee can be too milky and often not hot enough, and I’m not going into the business of burning my beans or milk just to get the coffee hotter. No, I repeat to them. Sometimes you need tea, and only tea can touch your soul.

You know that first sip? Ahh. I wrote about it in-depth in my review on a magical little Tea house in Carlton North called Travelling Samovar. That first sip can literally, send chills through your body.

And then the clincher. All this talk, and boss comes out with an almost perfect caffeine-to-life comparison.

“Tea is like love… and coffee is like sex.”

We all pause, wanting to say something, cheeky grins on our faces, yet not sure if opening our mouths at this point will exact to a good idea.

“Well yes,” I begin. “They’re both important.”

I almost said more, but stopped myself. Enough. Enough had been said, and enough of a picture was made in our heads as we headed off to our sex/I mean coffee walk.

You can’t deny the soul-touching elements of tea. But coffee is extremely vital. Every so often/ 3 times a week you just need to knock one back and feel the buzz rush through your body.

I think the argument should be that there isn’t a caffeinated beverage that’s better than the other. Tea and coffee are both important for so many reasons, and without each other, the other becomes bland, and empty. Monotonous. Incomplete.

You need balance.

I think this is the perfect metaphor 🙂

 

 

 

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Bill in the hand, Bird in the Sand

Birdie Num Nums
745 Nicholson Street Carlton North

The annual KK Christmas catch-up, originally girly but now inundated with littlies, was the reason for our get together at this Nicholson Street eatery one cool yet sunny Saturday morning.

Knowing it was in Carlton North, and the street it was on, parking was always going to be an issue. Fortunately, there were loads of car spaces (not so much available ones) in the block behind Birdie Num Nums, so after a bit of concerted driving we found ourselves a 2-hour park.

It’s a funky, airy café upon entry. High ceilings, quite spacious, with a kind of minimalist industrial feel. And some birdcages hanging from the ceilings thrown in too, of course. I wasn’t too concerned with the interior – the courtyard was what I was finding myself terrified about, and it had even been mentioned on a sign at the front of the café, heightening my sense of trepidation even more.

We walked through the indoor section, past the kitchen and toilets, to the tables surrounding the –

DUM DA DUM DUM.

Sandpit.

This bloody sandpit had been the primary motivator in our decision for going there. There were five of us girls, and between us, 4 kiddies. KK wasn’t what it used to be anymore: there was no more gossip about who did what and when by then; we didn’t all sit hunched over the table in deep discussion and D&Ms about life and our reason’s for being on this earth; and we didn’t stay seated at the table for the full duration with only a toilet break to freshen and reapply some gloss.

No. Now our banter about random events and everyday life was often interrupted with “baby girl! Stop that! – What were you saying about that colleague?” The topic of kids heavily dominated our conversation, even those of us who had none spoke of their nieces/nephews/kids in the fam and just about everything relating to kids possible. “How do you get your girl to brush her teeth?” “Have you heard him saying fuck? He says fuck now.” “Baby girl blow a kiss – good girl!” And it was impossible to stay seated for more than 15 minutes at a time, as we got up to clean our kids/assist them/stop them crying/starting a fighting/losing their shit at a toy, even those without kids were often reeled in and made to follow them around (ahem, my daughter). There was no rest for ANYBODY.

But, it was as we had always dreamed. This was the stuff we had spoken about in high school – catching up, and our kids playing together. It was awesome that it was now reality.

So, naturally, having so many kiddies to reign in, one of the girls mentioned this sandpit place she had been to. Their website even says the sandpit is great to keep the kids amused while the parents can sit back and have a break.

You know, that’s fine and all… it just occurred to me days before the actual KK catch-up: ‘How do you consider cleaning sand off of kids after-the-fact, a break?’

Cleaning sand? Is this most annoying and irritating of cleaning tasks, off of kids out of all things, considered a break? Are you kidding me? The mere thought of getting rid of all that crap, even if you had the most blissful uninterrupted two hours of your life while your child ground down sand into every crevice of their body, rubbing it deep into their hair and rolling around in it like a pig in mud, that my friends would surely diminish any happiness I had previously felt. No, knowing that after your amazing coffee-time, you had to scrub and clean and rinse, and still find sand in your child days and many baths later, no, there could be NO happiness there.

This was the dread I was feeling as we ventured into the outdoor area.

Back to Birdie’s. There were quite a few outdoor tables and options in the large yard, some with umbrellas, and this was good since we had failed to remember to reserve a table for our large lot. Fortunately we sat down straight away, within easy access right next to the sandpit (yay).

Soon we ordered, and the kids meals arrived first.

Baby girl got the Pikelets, maple syrup (on the side) & fruit

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The meal didn’t look spectacular, but she did love the pikelets, in particular the seasonal watermelon that was present, so kudos for that. Soon after the rest of us received our meals, and we fit it in in amongst the ripped paper and cards and new-found goodies from our Christmas exchange, to the background sound of baby girl’s squeals of delight at the sight of MORE food arriving for us.

I ordered the Portobello Caps – baked Portobello mushrooms, wilted spinach, poached eggs, cheeses and a drizzle of truffle oil, served on sourdough toast

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With a cappuccino.

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Lucky I actually took a photo of the menu, because I was sure I was getting many mushrooms, rather than the singular large one that was on my plate. Despite the menu saying Portobello mushrooms, I didn’t mind, I realise it may have been a seasonal thing where they didn’t have a particular menu item available. All in all it was a good meal, the eggs were poached well with a lovely runny yolk, but nothing was really wow. I guess with the garlic flavour atop the mushroom, that was strong in itself and the rest of the meal was fairly bland in flavour to compensate. I still ate it all as I was really hungry, but it just wasn’t spectacular.

To top it off, I had mistakenly ordered my cappuccino at the same time – my bad. It was just easier doing it all at once rather than later. However when I did sip my coffee, a tad after receiving it, it was unusually lukewarm, which makes me think it wasn’t hot at all on arrival. This was a bit disappointing because with the (lack of) speed at which I drink coffee with baby girl besides me, it ends up being quite cool. This day, my cappuccino was had cold. Damn.

Nothing was that ordinary though that a bad time was had, and again, we had the best company to compensate for any shortcomings brought on by food, drink or otherwise. The service was great and we had one lovely lady take a photo of the group of us – lovely until she denied us to pay separately up at the counter when we were paying our bill. We had first been told by another waitress that they usually don’t split bills on the weekends, but that it may be possible if they weren’t busy. Considering the entire courtyard area had emptied out in the last 20 minutes prior to our departure, bar one other group, we thought we could definitely get by with a split bill. However when the photo-taking lady told one of us she couldn’t put our bills through individually, we then had to stand there at the front counter, with prams and bags and kids milling around, and take up one end of an empty table as we tried to work out what we owed, in doing so heavily inhabiting the front part of the shop for the next 5 minutes. Lady, I realise it’s against policy to split bills on weekends. But 1) you weren’t busy, 2) instead of getting us out quicker we turned the interior into a fiasco as we tried to work out what we each had to pay, and 3) we left with bad feelings. Tsk tsk tsk. I don’t think it’s worth it from an owner’s perspective, don’t you?

However, I did leave feeling rather accomplished. Right after our arrival there, baby girl had touched a toy near the sandpit, and had immediately come to me with hand outstretched – she didn’t like the sand on her hands. Bless. Thank you Lord. She is most definitely my daughter. She didn’t go into the sandpit the entire time, nor did she play with overly sandy toys (tee hee hee).

Food: 6.5/10. Okay, but I expected more.

Coffee: 6.5/10. It wasn’t delivered hot, and it wasn’t my preferred coffee bean flavour.

Ambience: It was very cas in the courtyard, what with the colourful chairs and sandpit and toys occupying all spaces.

People: Lots and lots of families out back. Inside they seemed quieter, and there were much fewer kids. The courtyard is THE family hang out.

Staff: They were lovely, and we were happy right up until bill time…

Price: My orders tallied up to just under $30, which I think is spot on for this kind of eatery in Carlton North.

Advice: You might need to search for parking behind the café. Give yourself extra time to do this especially on weekends. Bring money too, because like one friend of mine, you’ll be shitty when you realise you can’t pay by card in your denied split bill. The courtyard is the place to go for families and kid playdates, but as my friend well acquainted with sandpits says – “the less layers the better!” Just beware.

In a nutshell: If you don’t mind your child getting covered in filth as you sip your lukewarm coffee, then this is the place for you. I didn’t mind it, and seeing as baby girl didn’t bathe herself in the grainy stuff, I feel okay about going back. However there were a few downers, and so with that in mind it may take me a while to forget these Birdies – I mean boo boos – and consciously decide to venture back.

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Birdie Num Nums Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Worshipping the Samovar

Travelling Samovar Tea House
412 Rathdowne Street Carlton North

I had no idea where Hubbie was taking me for the final part of our birthday experience. We had already had a very forgettable lunch at the Farm Café, followed by a quick tour through the Collingwood Children’s Farm… he had hinted at some ‘drinks’ that we might have, and all I could think of was boutique coffees and elaborate cocktails.

But no. He had taken me to my very first love.

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Tea. At The Travelling Samovar Tea House in Carlton North.

I was amazed when first entering the small store. The front room was highly decorated with beautiful ornaments, tea accessories, and of course teas that you could take home with you, alongside tables that you could sit and discover the many varieties of their tea.

The room we sat at was the second one in, and again, was just so full of character and interesting finds that it was hard to rest my eyes on any one piece.

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From intricate tapestries and pieces of art draped on walls and set up against cupboards and dressers that you would find in an eclectic shop at a getaway retreat, as well as cute little bowls and candles, vases and decorative pieces, alongside a warm fireplace and stunning chandelier, there was so much to see and yet it all had a purpose, there was a reason for its being.

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After going through the huge menu of tea selections, browsing through teas from pretty much every part of the world, from black teas to herbals, oolongs to greens, and so many more, I decided on an Indian chai, because I’d recently gotten right into the spicy earthy flavours of the drink, while Hubbie went basic and got a chamomile.

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Baby girl even got involved and we got her a tea from the children’s menu, which was a Turkish Apple tea.

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I loved the presentation. We had entered some kind of portal into this magical mysterious tea universe where the ‘real stuff’ was on offer, and now even the act of observing, and preparing, and drinking the tea was an adventure in itself.

With my chai I had the option of adding more sugar if required, however it had almost the perfect amount of sweetness as it was, and was so deliciously spicy and comforting. I loved it.

We both also loved the little hourglasses that came with Hubbie’s chamomile. Mine had been prepared already, but his chamomile needed steeping, so it was great to have such control over it and decide for ourselves how strong it was to be! It was perhaps a bit on the gimmicky side, but still, I loved it.

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Baby girl still hasn’t gotten into the tea thing yet. But she tried a bit of her Turkish Apple nonetheless. And instead, devoured some of the biscuits we had gotten on the side, as well as nibbling into our cake.

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We felt a bit bad that she got to taste it. How could we deny her when she was pointing and grunting for us to give her some? It was a white chocolate, walnut and vodka cake, and yes, you could still kind of taste the vodka. Whoops. But having said that, it was baked, and so most of the alcohol would have cooked itself out. Anyway she had mostly the crust, the heavily baked part. It was deliciously warm, sweet and very comforting alongside the tea.

The service was welcoming and genuine, especially for us Samovar newbies, and was especially gracious when Hubbie told the woman (who we assumed was the boss/owner) after we paid that he had been recommended the Tea House by a work colleague.

There is space in the first two rooms to sit as well as an outdoor area which I didn’t see but was told that it was an especially special and serene place to sip at your tea, especially on a sunny day.

It’s the kind of place you can easily miss while walking by, and it has the real sense of a special find or a hidden secret, although it shouldn’t be. Everyone should be privy to this secret world of proper tea, something that is definitely missing in our generation.

Yes, it’s all about the coffee movement at the moment. Even I’ve been swept up in the force of coffee for the past 3 years or so, and I don’t think I’ll allow it to unclench its grip on me anytime soon.

The ‘Samovar’ is traditionally a kind of tea urn which would be used for boiling water, which in Russian culture became a symbol of coming together in the home. And that’s just what we need. This city, this world needs a good injection of good old-fashioned, properly prepared tea in a comforting experience, where you can share your happiness, your woes, your hopes, your fears, and most importantly, your dreams.

As I always say “I love coffee… but tea is the only one that can soothe my soul.”

That first hot sip, when you’re in dire need first thing in the morning… ahhh. Nothing satisfies as much as that.

I will be going back.

Travelling Samovar Tea House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato