Whether we like it or not, and I do like it, Christmas is closing in. I'm not all that keen on the commercialness of Christmas however the one thing I love the most about this time of year is the food and all its accompaniments. I know I could go and buy a big turkey and roast it up any time of the year, and sometimes I do, but there's something special about cracking open an overpriced cardboard bonbon and wearing the daggy paper crown that makes the turkey taste just that little bit better. There is however one special Christmas treat that tastes just as great and makes you feel just as special all year round, it is my friends Spiced Tea.
It was Christmas eve a few years ago and I was in Singapore Airport with my probably better half. One thing you should know about this airport is that you could literally have your holiday there, it's huge and incredible. All the other times we had travelled through this airport we had been on a different airline in a different terminal. Today we were in a new terminal, well new to us anyway. As we wandered along killing time before our flight suddenly I saw something incredible. My superb distance vision had honed in on a green signature like logo and a six foot bear in a green vest and cap. To you this might not mean anything but to me it meant one thing, Harrods. Much to my my delight, there in the middle of Singapore airport was a Harrods, it might have been the size of my bedroom but it was still Harrods. It stocked your general souvenir type goods and a decent range of teas. As I was being ushered away from inevitable credit card blowout I noticed a red tin, it had Father Christmas on it in his sleigh and he was flying over the iconic Harrods' building. It is fair to say it had my attention. I picked it up, read the ingredients of this 'spiced tea' and before my husband could say 'your tea cupboard is bursting at the hinges', it was purchased and placed inside a green shopping bag that dangled from my hand.
The thing that enticed me about this tea was the blend of flavours. It starts with a black tea base and builds on it with spices reminiscent of chai such as cinnamon, cardamon, clove, ginger and vanilla. It then adds to them with some blackberry leaves, red thistle and orange blossom. It combined a lot of the flavours I love, especially during the cooler months.
After a decent 7+ hour flight we landed safe and sound back in Australia. I don't know if you have ever traversed Australian borders, it's a pretty daunting thing, even when you haven't done anything wrong! I guess nobody wants to end up being the silly person on the television show Border Security. It was around 7am on Christmas morning and we were keen to get home, have a quick nap and head out to Christmas lunch which would be followed by a cup of my new Christmas tea, or so I thought.
As we opened our suitcases to be searched we declared we had food, which we did, I had a stash full of Percy Pigs and Fudgy Bars - don't judge me. Then I remember I had my tea so I put that out on the counter too. Like a hawk the quarantine officer snatched up the tin and read through the ingredients. 'I have to open this' she said. 'That's ok' I replied. As she opened the tin the aroma hit me, it was divine, it was tea heaven. And then my dreams were shattered. 'This has orange peel in it, I have to confiscate it'. 'What, no', I thought to myself as I reluctantly let her pry the pretty tin from my fingers. I was devastated that I wouldn't be able to drink the tea. She mistook my sadness for some kind of border protest and forced some brochures into my hand and told me to read the laminated piece of paper on the counter about border protection. I put the pamphlets back down and kindly told her that I was fully aware of the reason why it was being confiscated and I agree with protecting our country and blah blah but I was just a little upset that after smelling that incredible tea I would never be able to have a cup.
As we walked through the doors out into the airport terminal my head hung low with a certain sadness. I was pretty sure those customs people would be enjoying themselves a lovely cup of Christmas tea.
Fast forward another year and my wonderful husband happened to be passing through Singapore on a business trip. He picked up another tin of Spiced Tea and decided to try again. This time he was successful and they didn't have a problem with the spicy blend. We looked at the tea, there was no orange peel, just flakes of cinnamon curl. We wondered if they had changed the recipe. Regardless, I settled in for my first very long awaited cup of this tea. I was not disappointed. Where does this tea take me?
Imagine that gorgeous English cottage from the Cameron Diaz film 'The Holiday'. I'm sitting in front of the fireplace on a comfy lounge drinking a large mug of this spicy but sweet warming tea. In a perfect world there would also be a little bit of snow outside. I love a cup of this tea in the evening, especially after a long difficult day.
So, regardless of the weather where you are this Christmas, if you can get your hands on this tea, you wont regret it. It also comes in white spiced tea and green spiced tea.
Tea: Spiced Tea (black)
Comment: A delicious blend of black tea and chai flavours with a slight natural sweetness. Brew this for 4-5 minutes at 100 degrees celsius and serve with milk.