39 Gillies, Kawakawa

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Trains still run down the main street of Kawakawa, right past 39 Gillies.

Time tea right at the 39 Gillies cafe in Kawakawa , and an old-fashioned train will rumble past the door, carrying children waving madly out the windows.

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Busker Murray Sergeant plays classical guitar outside 39 Gillies.

Kawakawa is that kind of town; cheerfully, quintessentially Northland. Harleys revving. Girls singing. Buskers playing. Trucks and trains. And possibly the world’s only tourist-destination toilet, as Kawakawa was the only New Zealand town with the foresight to take advantage of the presence of Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser while he lived here (late to the party, Whangarei is only now building the arts centre Hundertwasser proposed in 1993).

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Kawakawa had the good sense to work with Hundertwasser on a project – creating the world’s most beautiful toilets.

Hundertvasser’s art and buildings are about the joy of life, and Kawakawa – a former coal-mining town on State Highway 1, near the Bay of Islands – has taken his credo to heart, with shops and public spaces picking up on his theme.

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More from the Hundertwasser toilets, just because.

39 Gillies fits right in; it’s a warm, fun and lively place to break a journey, and has become a favourite.

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Street furniture, Kawakawa-style.

My marks out of 10:

Cup Acme 2: I believe it’s the Tulip, which the Acme website says is good for long blacks. Worth one mark more than I usually give Acme because this shape does, at least, hold the heat (if you want to know why I dislike these now ubiquitous cups, see here and here).

Tea Ti Ora breakfast tea with manuka leaf pyramid teabag 9: This tea is too good for the cup. They used to serve Lipton’s, and it was good, but then, because their customers were asking for it, they added Ti Ora and took things to a new level. This tea is blended by the Bell Tea Company but is a world away from the bog- standard Bell Tea you find in the supermarket. Deducting a mark though for serving the teabag separately from the pot, which means the water is off the boil when they come into contact.

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Gratuitous pancake shot.

Setting. It’s probably already clear that I like Kawakawa and that I like this cafe. I stop here quite often. Not only because the tea is good, the staff friendly and the food superb (today I am having buttermilk pancakes with poached pears, maple syrup and creme fraiche even though I’m not hungry) but I also love the music they play. I’m not usually a fan of loud music in cafes, but 39 Gillies has a knack of playing things I really want to hear, even though I don’t know it yet. Today’s playlist includes such gems as Fiji (Sweet Darling) Dave Dobbyn (Magic What She Do) , Al Green (Let’s Stay Together), KC and the Sunshine Band’s That’s The Way I Like It, and Maxi Priest’s reggae twist on Cat’s Steven’s Wild World (it turns out the music is from a Spotify playlist called Maori Shed Party, which I load on to my phone for the trip home).

Dog-friendly? Yes.

Open after 3pm? Sadly, no.

*We’ve met the historic Kawakawa train before, when we reviewed the Railway Station Cafe.

39 Gillies, 39 Gillies St, Kawakawa, Northland.

 

The Matterhorn, Wellington

Genuine sixties string picture.

We get to the Matterhorn just in time time say goodbye.

The cafe closes on February 15, 2018 after serving Wellingtonians for 55 years, falling victim to an earthquake and developers.

The Matterhorn opened as a coffee-house in 1963. It was narrow and dark, reached by a corridor off Cuba St, near the Bucket Fountain and right across from Plum. It was the place where I had my first asparagus roll (circa 1973; my great-aunt thought I would like it, I didn’t).

In 1997 the Matterhorn morphed into a restaurant and bar, expanding sideways into extra spaces, but holding on firmly to its sixties vibe.

My brother is of this generation of Wellingtonians, and can’t quite believe that the scene of so many of his best nights out is about to disappear.

But disappear it will. In November 2016, a 7.8 earthquake hit Wellington, shaking the foundations of the Farmers store next door to the Matterhorn. It’s coming down, and, apparently, the landlord has decided to redevelop the whole site, including the bit the Matterhorn stands on.

The Matterhorn’s owner and staff are off to a new Italian restaurant in Tory St, in the remains of the old Lone Star, but that doesn’t help those who love the Matterhorn for its pastiche, it’s verve and for it’s sheer longevity.

So on Valentine’s Day 2018, the day before its scheduled closure, my brother and I hit the Matterhorn one last time. For tea, of course, and to raise a glass.

My marks out of 10:

Cup 3: Acme. Not a bad shape, but small and heavy. Better suited to short blacks.

Tea 7: T Leaf T loose-leaf. I break a reviewing rule and have Earl Grey Blue Flower, because it’s late and I have already had eight cups of tea. Or is it nine? Matt has Jasmine Dragon Pearl’s Green. I have to ask for milk. The tea is made in fat cast-iron pots which keep it hot. I find it a little weak, then remind myself it’s Earl Grey.

The fact that tea has it’s own section on the menu is heart-warming. So is the complimentary shortbread.

Setting 10: It’s the Matterhorn’s second-to-last night. Need I say more?

The Matterhorn, 106 Cuba St, Wellington. For now.

Dog-friendly? Possibly.

There’s always a tea in Christmas

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Christmas is a summer affair in the Southern Hemisphere.

A merry tea-drinking Christmas from New Zealand to the people of the north.

It’s more sandcastles than snowmen for us in the Southern Hemisphere, but that doesn’t mean we’re not supping plenty of good hot tea.

In Northland, at the very top of New Zealand, it’s warm and humid, and the air is full of the sounds of birds, insects and kids.

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Christmas lunch, NZ-style.

We started the day as we meant to go on – with tea (Dilmah Classic) in bed. Since then we’ve opened presents (mine included a Zealong Tea gift pack and cup and Whittakers Oolong Tea chocolate), eaten platters of tasty things like cake, local cheeses, and cherries from the South Island,  walked the dog, and generally lazed about.

When it gets cooler, we’ll have our traditional Christmas dinner of baked ham, new potatoes and salad, and this year I have been persuaded (somehow!) to make a trifle instead of the usual pavlova.

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Zealong cup and gift pack.

Later, we’ll watch a movie, or maybe go to bed with our new books, but first we’ll have another walk along the beach.

So right about now, if you’re waking up in the Northern Hemisphere to a day that’s cold and dark, have a cup of tea and think of us here in the sun, glad to have survived another year and ready to relax and enjoy ourselves.

And as we say in New Zealand, have a meri Kirihimete,

 

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PS the fabulous cup and saucer in the picture at the top are from the Australian company T2.

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking news….new tea at New Day!

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There’s a new tea in town…

Popped into New Day Cafe at Parua Bay to grab a bite on the run and look what’s on the counter!

Last month I was less-than-complimentary about this otherwise excellent  local cafe serving tea-bag tea, so am very excited to see this and to learn from Frank (the owner) that Kerikeri Tea’s Black Darjeeling is also now on the menu.

No time for a cup now, but will be back asap to give it a try.

 

Wine-biscuit bonanza

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Today’s morning tea – dunking on the deck.

Help! Someone at the New World supermarket chain thought it was a good idea to sell  Griffins wine biscuits at three packets for $5.

I have a problem with wine biscuits.

It’s possible that wine biscuits are responsible for me starting to drink tea; when adults drew the line at we kids dunking yet another biscuit in their tea, we asked for our own.

The rest is history.

These days I don’t eat them often; not having biscuits in the house is the best way to avoid eating them.

But who could resist a three-for-$5 wine-biscuit bargain?

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Vanilla Wines – simply the best.
Obviously, I’ve eaten far too many.

There is an upside, however. For a long time, the issue of which of Griffins’ three wine-biscuit varieties is the best has been a source of contention.

Now, at least, after extensive sampling of them all, we have agreed that the best is not Round Wines (too dry), not Super Wines (too sweet) but Vanilla Wines, like the one disappearing into my grandmother’s Belle Fiore cup in the picture above.

Just as I said.

 

 

 

 

A stolen cup for stolen afternoons

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My favourite modern tea-cup.

‘Naturally, I protested, a bit, but then I took it home…’

The 700th time I admired this cup and saucer, my cousin gave it to me.

I didn’t mean to make him do it, but I couldn’t contain myself every time I saw it in his kitchen cupboard. I mean, look at it! It’s the kind of cup that makes you happy.

Paul is my antiques-fair buddy, and while he doesn’t share my thing with cups, he does understand what it’s like to become obsessed with an object. And so one day he opened the china cabinet door, took it out, and gave it to me.

Naturally, I protested, a bit, but then I took it home and now it’s my favourite modern cup and saucer. It gets everything right – balance, feel, weight, aesthetics – it’s the cup I sit down with in the sunshine in the middle of the afternoon, when no-one else is around, and let the day’s busyness go. It’s my time-out cup, my lovely afternoon cup, my reliable cup.

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It’s made by T2, which is an Australian tea-brewing company (it came with an infuser and a box of tea – more on that another time), and, sadly, doesn’t seem to be available any more.

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And yes, Paul is allowed to use it when he visits.

There’s no place like home

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You can tell it’s my favourite mug by the fact it’s so well-used.

This week I’ve been east, I’ve been west, but the tea at home is best.  Especially as the lads rustled up a sweet treat to go with it.

My marks out of 10?

CUP 9: My favourite tea-drinking mug. Fine bone china, good balance, a nice lip, and my great grandmother’s clan on the front.

TEA 10: Dilmah classic. Classic.

SETTING 10: O the deck, in the sun,  banana trees a-rustling, Whangarei Harbour a-sparkling.

DOG-FRIENDLY? Definitely.

I’m not mad, it’s science

 

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A hydrologist explains why cups matter.

August 16, 2017:  I have been known to get a little tetchy if I’m served tea in coffee cups, especially those thick, heavy, shallow ones designed for drinking flat whites and the like.

Well, I have science on my side. I was sitting at the Freshbites cafe at Wellington airport today with three scientists when my tea arrived – served in a well-shaped, reasonably thin, teacup!

Rudely, I interupted our conversation about serious environmental issues to let out a whoop of pleasure. Earlier in the day, I had had breakfast with my brother at Loretta in Cuba St. It was a superb meal (poached egg on Loretta’s own seeded bread, free-range bacon, tomatoes and basil with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic) but it was seriously let down by the cup the tea was served in.

You can read my complaints here. Suffice to say that it’s not a good idea to mess with my first tea of the day.

But here I was, in an airport of all places, being given a half-decent cup.

I took a photo and started babbling on about cups that make your tea cold. One of the scientists, hydrologist Dugald MacTavish (he knows about water) became interested.

“You’re right,” he said, muttering something about surface-to-volume ratio, so I got him to write it down in my notebook. Now, whenever I’m given tea in an inappropriate cup, I will fling that phrase at the perps, followed by my notebook if they don’t listen.

*You can read my review of the tea at Freshbites here.