Friday, November 21, 2008

Pseudostratified Inspiration from a Squamous Soul

The great artists were inspired. Oh, Michelangelo and Rafael and Van Gogh of the swirly starry night, men of so many muddled muses. My ebullient Nietzsche and my cautious Jung, my sardonic Nabokov and my ardent Kundera. Einstein, Rilke, Gaudi, Maynard James Keenan, the guy who invented Nutella Calzones, all artists, all answering a call to be something greater than themselves.  They painted and thought and designed their imaginings on to the world. Robert Browning's Andrea Del Sarto lamented that in the great creator there "burns a truer light of god", something within them that breathes the wandering fire of soul into their works. We can only guess what went on behind their tortured eyes, in the private movements of their minds, in the heavy hearts that conjured up their nightly dreaming that thrust them into the creative impetus. We can never know what it was that threw the rope down from so lofty a height and bade them to climb, but I bet you it sure as hell wasn't their passionate desire to avoid studying for their histology exam next Friday. 

Histology, for those of you who have been fortunately spared, is the study of the microscopic anatomy of cells and tissues. The slides you look at under the microscopes are achingly beautiful embraces between colour and shape, the patterns are startling to look at. The theory, however, is sedative in its effect on a frustrated, antsy Saturday afternoon Amanda, so you are going to have to, pretty please, permit me this sneaky little piece which I had no intention of writing other than as a creative/manipulative exercise in the much cultivated art of procrastination. I kept looking around in my drawers and pantry for something to write about, and, as luck would have it, you guys were simply going to die if i went one more day without espousing the virtues of Penelope Sach Tisanes!!!

Tisanes are not teas, they are herbal 'teas', to be a true tea your brew should contain the camellia sinensis plant. White, green and black teas are all camellia sinensis at different stages of processing, like the difference between you before you go out in the sun, you with a little bit of a springtime glow, and you fully baked. Tisanes are made from herbs that are usually medicinal and/or fragrant, peppermints, licorices, fennels, rosehips, hibiscuses (heh), raspberries, apples, lavenders, chamomiles...they are like little steaming boquets in fragrant pots as big as bellies. Tisanes are good, hydrating additions (because they are caffeine free) to your bladder, they are great for their cooling, warming, energizing or relaxing properties. Indeed, many brands are now being blended by herbalists and are being marketed for the effects of their ingredients and not just their taste. The problem with most tisanes, is that poor quality herbs are used and they are allowed to sit around til whatever life may have originally been in them completely shuffles off the rest of its mortal herb coil.

Lipton peppermint tea is not really an exciting prospect if you have had some proper peppermint. Real peppermint is a sparkly bright punch of a taste, not at all dull, it should feel like hot ice on the tongue and the cooling goes all the way down your bemused alimentary canal, you can actually feel it moving through! I go through stages where I love and need peppermint based tisanes and other stages when I can not stomach them for the life of me. Poor peppermint, I love you and I hate you so, so much. When I do drink herbal tea, Penelope Sach is the tipple of choice.

Penelope is an Australian naturopath based in Woollahra who knows a thing or two about really, really good herbal tea. The Hyatt in Tokyo, and a bunch of hotels throughout Europe and America stock her tisanes on their menus, an impressive feat given how massive the tisane market is, especially in Europe. Penelope wins out because she always uses the most potent, freshest, organic loose leaf herbs available and they come vacuum sealed to keep their nubility intact. The triple E, which is peppermentlicoricefennel is my favourite, a great energy booster and very balancing for the digestive system, as soon as you open the lid of the little black tea tin the aroma of the herbs unleashes a wonderful nose assault. If you look at the infusion in a clear glass, it is as dazzling and bright as good, clear apple juice, poorer quality herbs look more brown than golden when infused.

The range also includes blends of berry, chamomile, petal (with lavender and rose, great for relaxation), lemongrass in the lemon tang etc. I have tried the petal as well and like it every now and then, but the triple E is still the one I brew the most. Tisanes are good to have at night if you are a troubled sleeper, or just want something warm to go into a novel with. Herbal tea can be used as a more interesting way to up your water content, if you're one of those reluctant atchtwooh-ers. Tisanes are delicate and hydrating, and when you buy them from someone who knows how to put them together, they are a nicer way of boosting different systems in your body without recourse to medicine pills vitamins shakes and all those other things that are too much about their contents and not enough about how they draw you into a thoughtful process. They are simple and joyful.

Tisanes don't have to be hot, they can form a great base for Iced 'teas', add honey and fresh mint leaves splice in lemon orange lime etc, go anywhere you like with them.

Get Penelope's tea from David Jones or from from her, herself at: 

Oh, No. It's the end...procrastination, stolen goods and joyous youth, you always have to turn them in reluctantly...

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