She Comes Bearing Gifts

Gifts are so great. And that’s what my sister came bearing on Saturday when we met up for lunch.

As I wrote in my Belgrade post, I haven’t been big on birthdays for years. But I have to say I’m still big on gifts. I take meticulous care in picking out presents for people. It’s never that casual an act for me, even when the occasion is a casual one. And I love receiving gifts, especially belated ones. It’s like the celebration has been extended somehow.

Anyway, back to my sister and her gifts.

My younger sister is a dancer and choreographer based here in Bangkok. She was in a Thai-German co-production that got to perform in Bern, Switzerland, and in Karlsruhe, a German city about an hour train ride from Frankfurt. She came back with #nofilter photos of breathtaking Swiss mountains where she and her friends frolicked like Maria and the Von Trapp children. That didn’t make me jealous, not at all!

So from Bern, she got me a pair of beautiful hand-painted wooden earrings from an antique shop.

And from Karlsruhe, she got me a jar of organic sour cherry jam—her favorite, she said. According to the label, it’s 70% sour cherry and is only sweetened with agave nectar. I’m not picky about sweetening ingredients, just as long as the end product tastes right. I was afraid of it being sour and unpleasant, as I’ve never had sour cherry before, but it turns out to be lovely and mild—just the right amount of sweet and sour, perfect with salted butter and toasted wheat bread.


A little more digging into the brand, Zwergenwiese, reveals that they source from organic farms within Germany. Their down-to-earth (read: not terribly design-savvy and food porn–free) website includes information on the larger-scale and family-run organic farms they work with (some of the texts in the English-language version of the site is still in German though). Apart from jam, they also make ketchup, mustard, chutney, sauces, and spreads. I must say I’m curious about their curry ketchup, simply because I’m not a big fan of ketchup in general.

Another thing I got was loose-leaf mountain tea (Bergtee in German), aka Greek mountain tea, shepherd’s tea, sideritis, or ironwort. This is perfect timing since I had just finished my sacha inchi tea, which I was introduced to at a farmers’ market in Bangkok hosted by the sadly and recently defunct urban farm called Root Garden.


My sister got this tea from a serious tea and chocolate shop called Zuckerbecker, where she said each tea is contained within a tin can bearing its name and brewing instructions. She bought a bag of this mountain tea and scooped some into a jar that once contained strawberry chia seeds jam (just in case you’re wondering why it’s in a glass jar and not in a tin can or a bag).

When you smell it, there’s a peppery hint to it, pleasant and comforting. The shop recommends 6–10 minutes of steeping time, but I find the flavor to be so mild that you can just let the leaves sit in the pot for much longer than that.