Monthly Archives: August 2016

Theme Day-Object: Dying, Dying…Has it Died Yet?

By Yvonne Blackwood

Not very long ago (or so it seems) if I arrived at the airport from one of my travels and the person designated to pick me up was nowhere in sight, I would scurry over to an impressive line of phone booths, select one, insert a quarter in the thick black phone housed inside, and make a call to find out if my “driver” had already left home.  If I was on the road I could swing over to a phone booth at a gas station and make a call, or I could use a pay-phone in a supermarket. Today, phone booths have become dinosaurs; they are hard to find and hardly anyone uses them. Cell phones are the order of the day, therefore, there is no need to carry quarters and hunt for a booth.

Shopping around in Dunedin—a city of the South Island of New Zealand, and a place with gorgeous Edwardian heritage buildings—a few years ago, I came upon a beautiful sight—a quaint phone booth.

New Zealand, Dunedin Telephone booth (2)

Two thoughts immediately crossed my mind—Dr. Who (T.V. show from the 60s) and, how much longer would the booth be there? I promptly whipped out my camera and took a picture—for posterity!

PS: Do you recall any movies in which phone booths were used?




Some like it hot, some like it cold, and some like it on the go! One of the great things about tea is that you can drink it at a myriad of places, and on countless different occasions.

You can sip tea daintily in the drawing room or while seated in the formal dining room; you can gulp it down unceremoniously at the breakfast nook or on the veranda/balcony/patio, or even while walking around; you can drink it in a restaurant or on board an aeroplane—to name a few places.

A few years ago, I was in Christchurch, the largest city of the South Island of New Zealand—a fascinating place said to be the most English city outside of England—when I signed up for the Punt, Tea and Tram Tour. It was only then I realized that I was the only passionate tea lover among my four travelling buddies; I was the only one who had signed up for the tour! Not deterred by their lack of interest, I headed to the punt dock to join the other tourists who were going on the tour.

One of the key characteristics of people who love to travel is that we make friends easily. While we waited for the punt to arrive Carley from California became my new best friend. Along with a few other tourists, we punted up and down the most tranquil and picturesque Avon River. Frankly, the punting was more enjoyable than riding the gondolas in Venice, and less traffic to contend with.

Punting on the Avon River, Christchurch, New Zealand

After punting was over we made our way to the pick-up-spot for the tram. Little did I envisage how much I would enjoy the thrill of High Tea on board a tram. When the quaint little tram rolled up on the tracks and stopped in front to us, we were greeted enthusiastically by two charming waiters dressed in black and white uniforms, wearing black and white striped aprons. This was no ordinary run-of-the-mill tram. Outfitted with tables spread with white table cloths, and set with red-rose-patterned fine bone China, and silver cutlery, it was specially designed for sightseeing while the passengers gorged themselves on High Tea. Seating was arranged at tables for either two or four persons. I shared a table for two with my new friend.

New Zealand, Dunedin, Tram tea car

As the tram rumbled leisurely along the tracks, the driver announced the different landmarks that came into view, and supplied some historical details about them. The waiters promptly placed at each table, tripple-decker trays chock-full of finger sandwiches, fresh pastries—scones, cakes, cream puffs, biscuits—garnished with chocolate-coated strawberries. Carley and I didn’t hesitate; we immediately sank our teeth into cream puffs. The whipped cream exploded around our mouths, giving us temporary moustaches! We had a good laugh then cleaned our faces with fancy napkins, and attacked more pastries.

High Tea on Tram in New Zealand

Then came the piece de resistance! Our waiter returned with a silver teapot, so shinny you could see your reflection in it, and poured freshly brewed, rich-coloured English-styled tea into our dainty bone China cups. Mmm! Mmm! Is there anything quite like a good cup of tea? For a while I no longer saw the historical landmarks, or heard anything the driver said about them—I was hoisted up in High Tea Heaven!

Later when I rejoined by travelling buddies, I laid a guilt trip on them that they had missed a truly unique and satisfying experience—High Tea on a tram in Christchurch.

Theme Day-Architecture/Landscape

In my introductory blog, posted July 2016, I mentioned that I had traveled to many countries all over the world in a quest to visit every continent (except Antarctica). In the earlier years of my travels digital cameras were not in vogue therefore, photographs taken were stored in print form, or remained languishing in films. Fortunately, for more than a decade all photos have been taken by a digital camera and are therefore easy to share.

Having accumulated thousands of photos, I have decided to incorporate a Theme Day into my blogging. One day each week in between my regular blog posts, I will submit a photograph categorized under themes such as: landscapes; architecture; flowers/trees; people; churches/mosques/temples; animals; waterfalls, and quaint/interesting/unusual objects. On occasions I may even challenge readers to guess the country in which a picture was taken. A novel idea, I believe!

My first Theme Day picture—Architecture/landscape:

Ireland the abbey reflected

Kylemore Abbey and property: located in county Galway, Ireland, has been the monastic home of the Benedictine Nuns since 1920. The property was opened for public tours in the 1970s; it is simply breathtaking.

Ireland grounds of the Abbey



Tea Leaf Drying

In an article published under Let’s Talk About Tea ( I explained that tea is brewed from the tender leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, while herbal teas, also called tisanes, can be steeped from the flowers, berries, roots and leaves of many different plants. I also mentioned that tea leaves have a number of phenol molecules which gives them astringency, and bitterness (this is meant to repel animals from eating the leaves). In this post I will elaborate on how tea leaves are processed.

Tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis bush are versatile; they can produce different types of teas. It is the processing method used that makes a significant difference in the taste and textures of the final brew.


First, Green Tea: The method used to prepare tea leaves that will brew green tea is the shortest and simplest process. The young tea leaves are picked and wilted for a short time to remove moisture. At the same time this allows a small amount of oxidation to take place. The leaves are then heated by placing them in the sun or in a cool airy spot to pull out additional moisture, and to stop any enzyme activity. Finally, the leaves are rolled. Not much to it!


Second, Oolong tea: Tea makers use the same basic process as green tea, but this time the leaves are wilted for a longer period. They are then mixed up to bruise them (tea makers are a little more violent with the leaves!). This additional process initiates enzyme activity. Finally, the leaves are pan-fried, then rolled and dried by heating them at a high temperature.

Third, Black tea: In the making of black tea, the first two processes are followed, but with a slight variation. The tea leaves are withered, then rolled several times. This rolling process breaks up the cells and facilitates more enzyme activity than with Oolong tea. Afterward, the leaves are air-dried at high temperature. The increased enzyme activity in Oolong and black tea causes some of the phenol molecules I mentioned earlier to convert into larger molecules, and this produces more subtle flavours.

Wait! There is more. White Tea is another type of tea that is made from the Camellia sinensis leaves. Note that there is no generally accepted definition and no international agreement as to what qualifies as white tea, therefore the term can mean different things. In this article we refer to the Camellia sinensis leaves which are basically unprocessed. The newest shoots on the tea bush are picked and allowed to wither dry. A small amount of oxidation occurs when air-dried because it can take a day or two. If the weather condition is poor, the leaves are placed in a dryer with very low heat and a mild tumble. Leaves are not rolled, or shaped as in the previous three processes.

The versatility of the tea leaves is obvious when we observe that four teas with entirely different tastes and textures are brewed from the same types of leaves by merely applying different processing methods.

Although I drink all four types of teas mentioned, my favourite is green tea. It has a mild flavour and a lighter colour because it has not undergone any enzymatic action.

In subsequent articles I will explore which of these four types of teas provide the best health benefits.