Sunday, March 10, 2013

THE COMPANY OF TEA....



Anyone for tea?

This is a completely self-indulgent look at my favourite tipple. And below is why I am indulging myself. If you like tea as much as I do, I hope you enjoy it!

When I returned home after having two different forms of surgery late last year - one with a spinal and many high-power drugs for pain - and another procedure under a general anaesthetic - a bizarre and worrying thing happened. I completely lost my taste and desire for tea. 

Cups of tea throughout the day have always been one of the pleasures of my life. My sisters, my daughter and I, (and friends who visit) often set tea trays with china tea cups and saucers - and serve black tea along with lemon loaves, fancy sweet biscuits like imperial cookies, butter tarts, and yes, scones. But during a working day, I look forward to my solitary cuppas.

After three weeks at home, I still could not drink tea with any pleasure - and I grew worried that I would never get back my taste for it. But, thank Lu Yu, the Saint Of Tea, it slowly returned!

Besides the people in my life, I have just a few things in my day that give me happiness and contentment : my writing; knowing I have a pile of great books ready to read beside my favourite chair; a long hot bath at the end of the day (with my Kindle set up on the metal tray across the tub); good food  - and cups of my favourite tea.

So below is my homage to black tea, and a celebration for once again being able to enjoy it.

I don't pretend to be an expert on tea, but I have tried many kinds over the years and have narrowed my favourites down. I'll put that list on the bottom of this post for those of you who get that far...


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The painting below, called "The Hour of Tea" by Frederick Frieseke is, I think, my favourite one showing the "taking of tea". The form, the lightness and the colours create a aura of serenity that reflects the best of moments sitting with friends and sharing the hour of tea. 


The Hour of Tea by Frederick Frieseke, 1874-1939

"Tea does our fancy aid, Repress those vapours that the head invade
And keeps that palace of the soul serene." Edmund Waller


 
The scene below is a painting of a family taking tea during the Jane Austen/Regency period in the early 19th C. I like it because it is a busy, chatty, joyful time at tea, rather than stiff and formal.
 
 A Regency Tea Party, Artist unknown late 18th C.

"In nothing more is the English genius for domesticity more notably declared
than in the institution of this festival - almost one may call it - of afternoon tea...
The mere chink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose." George Gissing





The next painting I like very much because it looks so much like my own tea trays when we are finished. This tray, I feel, served a group of 18th C. artists and writers, who had a lot to say and a lot to eat and drink, and did it all with gusto.


Afternoon Tea Party, Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1702-1789

"Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors." Alice Walker

 
 
 
 This next painting intrigues me. The young woman is stirring her cup of tea, but she is clearly listening to someone -  and keeping her emotions in check, yet her cheeks appear a little flushed. So many secrets are shared during tea time. Perhaps on this occasion, there is finally news about the handsome new neighbour...

"The Cup of Tea I", Marie Cassatt  1844-1926

"Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea." Henry Fielding
 
 


 
When I first looked at the work below, I felt the light was lovely, the colours sprayed with sun and shade. But unlike the Frieseke painting it feels very posed - and I also sense a disconnect between the two women.


Afternoon tea, Richard E miller 1875-1943

"She stood by the tea-table in a light coloured
muslin gown, which had a good deal of pink about
it. She looked as if she was not attending to the conversation, but
solely busy with the teacups, among which her round ivory
hands moved with pretty noiseless daintiness." Elizabeth Gaskell



 Which one will it be, I wonder?
 
Tea, Marie Cassatt 1844-1926
"If two women should pour from the same pot, 
One of them will have a baby in a year." A Tea Proverb.






A simple cottage, sunlight through the dust motes, a gurgling baby -  and tea  - followed by the making of a pot of something savoury for dinner. 

Tea Time ,Tom McEwan 1846-1914
 
"There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much
diminished by a nice cup of tea." Bernard-Paul Heroux




To me, there is nothing quite like the quiet click of a clock, a pot of tea and a good book.
 
Reading Woman, Poul Friis Nybo 1869-1929
"Tea should be taken in Solitude." C.S. Lewis

  

 
This painting below by Renoir has all the lusciousness of apricot jam and tea.

The Cup of Tea, Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1907 
 
"We'll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place." Kenneth Graeme
 
 
 
 
The painting of this young woman certainly reflects something almost sensual about drinking tea; the expectation of the first sip, the soft tip of the saucer and the teacup, the sugar cubes on the table, the steam of the tea wafting past her lips.

 Drinking Tea, Konstantin Makovsky 1839-1915
"Ecstasy is a glass full of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth." Alexander Puskin
"One sip of this will bathe the dropping spirits in delight,
beyond the bliss of dreams." John Milton

 
 
 
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 Past times presented in a small teacup of information so as not to bore too much:

 
Chinese Emperor Shen Nung (Shennong)
 
The story of the first cup of tea comes from a myth surrounding the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung (Shennong) who was known as the "Divine Farmer". He was believed to be very active in the development of agriculture and medicine in ancient China. He showed his people how to grow grains and herbs, and personally tested many of them on himself in his search for medicines that might heal an ailing body. Legend has it that his own body was transparent, and he could actually see how the medicinal herbs were affecting his internal organs.  
 
One fine day in 2737 B.C., Shennong was dozing beneath a Camellia sinensis bush when a few leaves from the tea plant, stirred by the wind, fluttered into a pot of boiling water nearby, which his servant was attending. The servant served the boiled liquid to the emperor and legend has it he was very pleased with it.This, according to tea myth, was the very first cup of tea known to man.
 
 
 

Above is a picture of Shennong bencao jing (Shennong's Root and Herbal Classic) a work presumably written by the emperor on plants and their uses.




Lu Yu he Sage of Tea
 
 
 
 




Above is a statue of Lu Yu, The Sage (some say Saint) of Tea. 733-804 AD
Born in Tianmen, Hubei, China, Lu Yu wrote a book called "The Classic of Tea" - the definitive book on the growing, brewing and drinking of tea.

"The best quality tea must have creases like the leathern boot of Tartar horsemen, curl like the dewlap of a mighty bullock, unfold like the mist rising out a ravine, gleam like a lake touched by a zephyrm and be wet and soft like fine earth newly sweapt by rain."
 
"Tea tempers the spirit and harmonizes the mind,; dispels lassitude and relieves fatigue, awakens thought and prevents drowsiness."

"Its goodness is a decision for the mouth to make."

"Its liquor is the sweetest dew from heaven."
 
For centuries after this and even today, tea was seen by many as a medicinal drink for over all good health as well as a delicious, energizing drink.
 


By the end of the third century AD, most of the Chinese population were drinking tea, and by the eighth century, they were trading tea to the Turks, the Arabs and the Tibetans as well as the nomadic tribes of the Himalayas; and further all along the silk road to India.
 
It so happened that India already tea. Known as "jat," camellia sinensis grew wild in India, and farmers had been cultivating it for centuries. The Indian people believed it had healing powers, and it was an important addition to their daily diet used in a kind of soup and as a vegetable. Eventually it became a beverage with added milk (yak), honey and other flavours. 
 
In the 1600's a European traveler wrote about this drink while in India: "We took only tea which is commonly used all over the Indies, not only among those of the country, but also among the Dutch and the English who take it as a drug".

The British were immediately interested in this information because China had a monopoly on tea by this time. To find camellia sinensis growing wild in India was an exciting discovery. The Brits decided, however, after looking into it, that the Indian tea bush was inferior to the Chinese. But as the tea plant was growing wild in Indian soil, this was surely evidence that India had good enough soil for growing Chinese seedlings; especially in the Assam valley and the mountainous Darjeeling region. After trying to grow Chinese tea plants without much success, the British finally gave up on the Chinese tea bush and settled on improving and growing the native jat.

Tea in Europe

The Dutch brought the first tea to Europe in 1610 when Shakespeare still had six more years to live! It arrived through the Dutch East Trading Company which was formed in 1602.
 
A Yixing Teapot and a Chinese Porcelain Tete-a-Tete.
Pieter Gerrutsz Van Roestraten, Dutch painter 1627-1698

 
Above is beautiful 18th century Chinese Yixing hexagonal teapot with domed cover, decorated with a raised cherry blossom pattern and what appear to be leaves on top, very similar to the one in the painting.
Yixing fired clay teapots were the traditional teapots used in China as early as the 10th Century in an area around Yixing, China which had a clay called "purple clay" used for these pots. They are porous and this allows the pot to become seasoned over time. Apparently an aged and seasoned teapot is capable of brewing a pot of tea without any added tea leaves because of the release of the tea oils from the clay walls of the pot. These pots are coveted by collectors. It was used mostly for black tea or oolong. I don't have one of course ... sigh.
 
 
 
 
And on to the British Isles

 
 
The East East India Company also brought tea to the British shores around 1610, but at ten guineas a pound, it obviously did not sell well. Most of the tea grown and sold to the Brits at the time was green tea.
 
 
The London Exchange C 1657

 
 
Below is a rather poor copy of the broadsheet by Thomas Garway, a thriving London merchant who established a house for selling the prepared beverage "Tea" in the London Exchange District. The broadsheet, prepared around 1657, extolled the many virtues of tea.
 
"An Exact Description of the Growth, Quality and Virtues of the Leaf of Tea".
 
 
 
 
 
This tea handbill of course, the only one I could find, is very blurred, as I say, but I found a list of the benefits cropped from it and here it is with some rather inexplicable highlighting on it:
 
 
 
 
 
Despite it's amazing (and much inflated) properties, tea was still slow to sell to the upper classes. However according to a Mr. Montgomery Martin in his treatise, on the "Past and Present State of the Tea Trade" published in 1832, he says, "In 1662, Charles II married the Princess Caroline of Portugal, who, it was said, was fond of tea, having been accustomed to it in her own country, hence it became fashionable in England." Source: for this and other facts gleaned here and there comes from a fascinating book by Arthur Reade published in 1884 called Tea and Tea Drinking:
 


                    
 
 
 
 
It is clear from Arthur Reade's research that there was a huge surge of interest in tea by the early 1660s.
 
In 1667, the magic of tea with all its "amazing qualities", found its way into the home of Samuel Pepys of the famous Pepys Diaries.
 
"Home", he said, "and there find my wife making of tea, a drink which Mr. Pelling, the potticary, tells her is good for her cold and defluxions."
 
Commenting on this entry, one Charles Knight wrote, "Mrs. Pepys making her first cup of tea is a subject to be painted. How carefully she metes out the grains of the precious drug which Mr. Pelling, had sold her at an enormous price - a crown an ounce at the very least .... if tea should become fashionable, it will cost in their housekeeping as much as their claret. However, Pepys says the price is coming down and he produces the handbill of Thomas Garway, in Exchange  Alley, which the lady peruses with great satisfaction." Source: Arthur Reade's Book: Tea and Tea Drinking, 1884.
                                       
 
Portraits of Samuel and Elizabeth Pepys
 
 





 
                                      
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By the late 18th C. black tea (which is the oxidized green leaves of the tea plant) outsold the green form in Europe. During the Georgian period, black tea became a British obsession. Dr Samuel Johnson, a prominent man of letters, and a popular author and poet, wrote that he had become “a hardened and shameless tea drinker." Rooms in rich and fashionable houses were given over to the "taking of tea".

The middle and poorer classes wanted to have access to this "upper class" drink - so devious, greedy traders hit on the idea of adding additives and "fillers" to the camellia sinensis leaves, by dying them black, with sheep’s dung and clay, and selling it cheap to the working class. Not being stupid, the British workers know they were being duped and complained loudly. The problem became so serious that the government introduced huge fines for traders of illicit ‘smouch’ in an effort to stamp out the practice. 
 
Around 1880, Thomas Lipton, Scottish grocer bought a number of tea plantations in Ceylon, and revolutionised the tea production and  made affordable tea, and things moved on from there. Now tea is grown in many countries, the highest producers being China, India and Kenya.
 
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Tea Ceremonies
 
 
 
A tea ceremony is a ritualized form of making tea. In China the term for it is chayi or chadao; in Japan it is known as as chado or sado. The Japanese form is the better known, but it originated in China. The set of gestures, tools, and rituals in ceremonies is known as "tea culture". The Indian form of preparation of mixed spice (chai) tea could also, arguably, be called a form of tea ritual - often unique to each household. Victorian High Tea is also a form of tea ceremony.
 
The tea ceremony is practiced to create "harmony in humanity, promote harmony with nature, discipline the mind, quiet the heart, and attain the purity of enlightenment, the art of tea becomes teaism." (Wikipedia) The study and use of a tea ceremony is also known as teaism.
 
There are many forms of tea ceremonies throughout the Asian countries, right into Europe, but we generally think of the tea ceremony as the ones practiced in China and especially Japan.
 
Rare Chinese teapot 1662, Kangxi (emperor) 1661-1722





 
 Chinese Tea Bowls, 18th C.
 
 
 
 
 
Drinking tea, Chinese Print



 Ming Dynasty, Scholars Greeting in a Tea Ceremony (China)
 
 


13th C Guan style melon shaped teapot, Japanese 


 
 
 Okita of the Naniwaya Tea House, Kitagawa Utamaro, 1754-1806



 
Japanese Tea Girl, Kitagawa Utamaro, 1754-1806 
 
 
Japanese tea Ceremony, Toshikata mizuno 1866-1908
 
 
 
 
 
 
The British Ritual of Victorian Afternoon Tea
 
 



Lady at the Tea Table, Mary Cassatt

 




 
In the Western world, the so-called English upper-class "high tea" supposedly reached its height in the mid-nineteenth century. Part of that is true - the time that afternoon tea with guests did begin around that time. However, the term "high tea", when referring to the Victorian upper class's form of afternoon tea is incorrect.
 
High Tea: is generally believed to come from the use of a dinner table (which is higher than low tea tables) and was, in fact, a working class meal eaten between five and seven o'clock. Now, it is generally referred now as "having tea". But in the Victorian age, it was called "high tea". This was usually a rather heavy meal with foods like steak and kidney pudding, stews, baked beans, fish, onion cakes and of course, tea.
 
Low Tea: is what we, in North America, normally think of as high tea. But to satisfy we ignorant tourists, the Brits embraced this historically incorrect term, and now serve "high tea" in expensive hotels. Late afternoon tea in the upper classes was, in fact,  initially referred to as "low tea", because it was usually served on low tables - and consisted of finger foods such as tiny sandwiches, bread and butter, fruit cake etc and tea. Often just the family attended.
 
Afternoon Tea: is in fact, the ritualized form of serving tea which people insist on calling, erroneously,"high tea". Afternoon Tea almost always included more elaborate foods than a family tea. 
 
Although in Georgian times, as mentioned above, the drinking of tea became extremely popular, there was few formalized rituals surrounding it. It was served with meals and in tea houses. The idea of a ritualized formal tea service appears to have begun around 1840 with Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who  unwittingly invented "Afternoon Tea"  to help her get past the depressed or "sinking feelings" she suffered from during the long gap between breakfast, a very light lunch and and a late dinner - often not served until nine o'clock or later in the evening. She requested that her kitchen make small cakes and sandwiches for her to nibble on, to offset the dullness and hunger of the late afternoon doldrums. When she began to include her friends in her afternoon tea time, things changed quickly.
 
Before long, the Victorian court and upper classes took an intense interest in the idea (always looking for more ways to socialize), and more and more houses began serving "Afternoon tea." It became an elaborate event, quite different from the bread, buns and cakes that the Duchess of Bedford ate alone in her morning room.
 
Food at afternoon tea became almost as important as the careful serving of the tea by the mistress of the house - including not only simple things things such as thinly sliced bread and butter and tea buns -  but richer items such as tiny and elaborate sandwiches - including the famous cucumber, and cress and creamed egg sandwiches; thinly sliced ham; egg mayonnaise; scones with jam and clotted cream; iced sponge cakes; rich fruits cakes; tarts of various kinds (including Bakewell, custard and curd); English muffins and crumpets. And of course, tea! All served on low tables to make socializing easier.
 
Women began to wear special gowns called tea gowns when serving afternoon tea. Most wore specially designed tea gowns (but respectable in style), while others embraced the more fashionable and revealing "teagie.
 
Naughty note: The "teagie" was designed to be a more relaxed kind of dress for the woman offering afternoon tea, and was based loosely on the idea of the Asian Kimono. In England it became almost like a diaphanous negligee (without the heavy stays and layers of underclothes) and hovered on the edge of respectability. Apparently a lover could drop by for tea and enjoy the mistress as well as the tea without anyone in the household being any the wiser. No maids required to put the mistress back in order!
 
 
 
 
 
What's on the tea tray at our house: 
 
 
Orange sponge cake with orange glaze: Photo by Margaret Buffie
 
 
 

Plum Cake: Photo by Margaret Buffie
 
 
 
 
My grandmother's shortbread recipe: Photo by Margaret Buffie
 
 
 

My daughter's Queen of Hearts Cookies: Photo by Margaret Buffie
 
 
 

Shortbread Lemon Gems: Photo by Margaret Buffie
 
 
 
 
Glazed Fruit Bread (Stollen): Photo by Margaret Buffie
 
 
 

Perfect Pound Cake: Photo by Margaret Buffie
 
 
 

 Custard Creams made with Bird's Eye Custard: Photo by Margaret Buffie


 
 
 
Other stuff about tea:

I love teapots, too. And they are an important part of any tea ritual! One I always think of is the one in Alice in Wonderland with the dormouse being pushed inside a fat teapot by the March Hare and the Mad Hatter. Dormouse tea. Ack! I chose a quote by Dickens to go with this piece of art by Arthur Rackham which seems to suit it perfectly!







My dear, if you give me a cup of tea, to clear
my muddle of a head, I should better
understand your affairs. Charles Dickens.

I have bought a number of teapots and keep my eye out for ones that "speak" to me. Here are some of my own favourite teapots and others I found online from different places and eras. A small potpourri of pots!



This is a smaller one I use just for making tea for myself.
It's well worn with a few chips on the spout, but  I love it.



I found this one online and I would probably trade
all of my teapots for this one! It is called Lotus Blossom.

An unusual Chinese Zodiac Yixing Teapot.
I like this one because I think my character
Cill would have one just like it, from my novel,
The Finder. 


 
Antique Chinese Famille Verte Enamelled 
Puzzle Trick Teapot





One of my own - a beautiful White Romance teapot by Rosenthal. The lid is
tricky and if you don't hold onto it, it could land in someone's teacup!


 

I bought this "old dear" - made in
England - in a shop in York.



An art deco pot. I love this 1930's design....




But I like Clarisse Cliff's Art Deco "Crocus" Design, c. 1930's even more!


 
 This is a 1960's design called Midwinter Triangles.
I would very much like to have this teapot....

 
 This pretty pale teapot with a frog holding onto  the drip sponge is
a vintage retro 1950s teapot called "Winterling." Very satisfying to the eye.




This beauty is from the Regency era. Like a ship ready to put tea in her hold!
 
I could post many many more, but these are my personal favourites. There are some crazy, mad teapots out there to ownfor fun,  I gave my sister a "Mad Hatter One" that I bought in London. owever, I prefer teapots that are not only aesthetically appealing, but also serviceable as well. The "old dear" pot of mine above, while I think it is rather sweet, is not very good at poring tea! There is nothing more frustrating that a teapot that drips. It should be against the law!


Cup versus mug controversy: I drink my afternoon tea from a cup and saucer, and my morning and evening cups of tea with a mug generally as I work on my computer - but sometimes with a cup and saucer if I am sitting beside my fire and reading. It all depends on my mood!


Some of my own favourites from my own teacup collection



 





My favourite teas:

Before I tell you my favourite teas, I have to say two things:

The first is to remind the reader that I am not an expert on tea.

The second is that I take a stand on what is and what is not "tea"- in my opinion, and in the opinion of many black tea drinkers.

Real Teas:

There is only one tea, and it comes from a plant called camellia sinensis - better known to us as the tea plant. Any infusion from this plant is called tea. Nothing else should be called tea unless it is from a form of that tea plant. Tea from the camellia sinensis can be black, green or even white depending on how they are treated after harvesting. Tea can come from its leaves, buds and even its stems. But if you are given tea that does not have the tea plant it in - it is NOT tea.

I prefer black tea.

I often buy loose tea - and prefer the Assam varieties which come from the lowlands of Assam in India. It is the highest produced tea in the world. So far, I prefer the teas from India more than the ones from china.







Above is my glass infusing pot and it contains Tarajulie Assam tea - a large-leafed black tea from India. Assam is considered to be one of the best teas in the world. I like Tarajulie Assam because I like  bold tea - and I also like to add a dash of milk to my tea. When I do that to this tea, the latent bitterness of Tarajulie is mellowed by milk, allowing the wonderful flavour to come through.

Many would argue with me about milk or, heaven forbid sugar, in black tea, but I refuse to go into that. Milk has been used in tea for centuries. It's like arguing about religion. I don't go there! But I like most Assam teas and Tarajulie in particular for its strength and flavour. One of the best  black teas I have ever had.
 
 
I also like Darjeeling, which is "thinner" than Assam and is often mixed with black, green and oolong although it still called a black tea. It is, according to the experts a rather spiced tea - without any added spices. It is a lovely tea and one of the most popular of all black teas.
 
 


 

I do not like black tea with "other flavours " added to it (except lemon in my iced tea when I make it) - which means I do not like the very popular Earl Grey tea. It has bergamot added which makes me feel rather sick when I drink it. To me it hides the taste of the real tea. But it is an extremely popular tea and I understand one of the Queen's favourites. So be it.

I do not like any fruit, herbs, caramel, chocolate, candy, or "apricot cheesecake flavoured" teas (just found that disgusting flavour on an online tea store when looking at various teas....seriously) or any other form of contamination other than blended teas made from actual tea plants.

Herbal Teas
 
"Herbal teas" are tisanes - or infusions from other plants. They call them teas, but they are definitely not tea. Herbal infusions are not inferior to tea. They should just simply not be compared with tea. People like tisanes for their unusual herbal and flower flavours, for low caffeine, for "health reasons"  and for other reasons but generally they are not my cup of tea.

Some tisanes, I will admit, are nicer tasting than others, like rose petal, or chamomile made from the daisy family. I will admit that when I have a cold, I reach for chamomile buds and leaves, pour in boiling water - add lemon and honey and I swear by its healing effects. I also use chamomile tea bags for "pink eye" and for tired eyes. It seems to work very well.
 
I grow many herbs, eat them in everything but I rarely make tisanes from them.
 
Herbal tisanes come from plants and are made from the leaves, roots, barks, stems, seeds and flowers of a variety of plants. But I am not writing this to talk too long about "tea" that is not tea!
 
 
Black tea is created through a process called oxidization. Cut and then exposed to the air, the tea leaf naturally begins to blacken.  I will only say that black tea is a type of tea that is more oxidized than oolong, green and white teas - all from camellia sinensis  - and black tea is generally much stronger in flavour. If you are interested in more information on how tea is harvested and prepared, you can find loads of info in books and online.
 
 
Here are some of my favourite teas sold commercially:


My favourite " bagged and boxed" commercial teas come from British companies.
 
Yorkshire Gold:

On a six week vacation many years ago I bought a box of black tea in Harrogate,Yorkshire. I loved it so much that I went back and bought as many as I could fit into my suitcase to take home. When that ran out, I located a shop that sold it in Toronto and had it mailed to me - and when they closed down, I found a distributor who could get it  for me. By then I had all my friends in love with it, so the orders grew in size. A friend of a friend who had tasted the tea cajoled a local trendy store to get it in, which they did. Now I see our local Italian shop carries it as well and a bit cheaper. You have to rush in and get them before they sell out.
 
 
 
 
The tin above was one I bought in Harrogate and which holds my YG teabags. The cardboard version I just picked up in Winnipeg. YG is an excellent everyday tea. It's only downside its that it can get bitter is steeped for too long. I am not a tea snob and can barely read some of the tea blogs devoted to tea, but I will say that this tea of all the boxed and bagged teas has the most complex flavour. When steeped just right, YG makes a fantastic cup of tea!

 
 
 London Cuppa:
I discovered London Cuppa about three years ago, at the Homesense store I frequent. I really enjoyed the first cup and still enjoy it as a great everyday cup of tea. I told friends about it. Not a smart move. Now it has become a race to see who can get to  the new shipment first after the stores run out of it for awhile. We all have stashes of it. It is a blend of Kenya and Assam tea. It has a great colour with good robust flavour and there is a smooth quality to it that I really like - let it sit and it never gets bitter. I like it with a dash of milk. It makes a great cuppa!


Typhoo Tea
 
My daughter brought me a box of Typhoo teabags when she found it in a local store. She reminded me that the wonderful Miss Read drinks this brand of tea in the Miss Read novels. And it turned out to be a very good tea - but then who would ever argue with Miss Read??!

Typhoo tea is from India and is a blend of different teas. I am drinking it as I write this. Good colour. Good tea scent. Flavour is very nice - with just a hint of citrus like all good natural teas. Again, another great tea for your daily cup of tea! Typhoo boasts on the box that their tea bags are made from wood pulps from sustainable sources.

Important side note re Typhoo:  Generally, I detest decaffeinated teas. But if I had to drink one, it would be this one. It is the first decaff tea I have had that actually has depth and flavour and is not wishy-washy dishwater. It actually tastes like tea!

Others:

I have tried other bagged and boxed tea. PG Tips is very mediocre, but acceptable. Red Rose went really downhill a number of years ago, but seems to have reshaped itself with a better blend - decent tea in a pinch.I like Twining teas generally, but I think the above teas I have highlighted give just as good, and in the case of Yorkshire tea --  and are less costly. I knew that R. Twining and Company had been granted a Royal Warrant by the Royal family, but I looked up warrants today and they have also given Royal Warrants to Darvilles of Windsor and Taylors of Harrogate, Yorkshire Tea. I just looked closely at the box and it's true!




Favourite tea paraphernalia
 
I like to keep my loose
tea in tins. Here are two I especially like.  
 
 
 
 
 I picked up this elephant in London and don't remember if the tea was good or not, but loved the elephant and it now holds my Assam loose tea.
 
 
 
 
My daughter gave me this one. It has different birds on each side.
 
 
I love my tea infuser glass teapot which is shown in the photo above with Assam tea, but I also like three other items that come from one company, Copco.
 
 
 
 
Above is my favourite tool when it comes to handling teabags! It is a teabag squeezer from Copco. It just needs a wipe down and the " tea stains" simply rub off, so it always looks nice.  I bought an extra one for my lake cottage and I am presently on the hunt for these as gifts for friends.
 
One cup basket infuser: Lily pad lid resets on the cup to retain heat while steeping, then inverts to collect excess water to keep tabletop clean and dry. I have ordered this for my birthday! 
 
 
 A lily-pad tea ball infuser: One piece stainless steel steeping basket and silicone lily pad rest. The lily pad collects excess tea to keep your counter or tabletop clean and dry. I like this one as well.

I can't give the above a Royal Warrant, but so far their products have impressed me!


Now ... a final word about the actual making of tea!
 


How to make the perfect cup of tea

I have looked at many online sites claiming to know the way to make the perfect cup of tea and most of us agree. It's very simple - and yet not really.... 

To make a proper pot of black tea: just before a kettle of cold fresh water comes to the boil, warm the teapot with a cup of it, then empty the teapot, and add one teaspoon of tea leaves for every 8 ounces of water. 

Once the kettle comes to a boil, instantly pour the water over the tea leaves. Some people stir the leaves first and then let them settle. Some give it a final stir instead, just before pouring it through a tea strainer. With my tea infuser teapot I don't need to to any of that.  

The time to let tea steep is about five minutes. I also cover the pot with a tea cosy to keep it nice and warm - with the end of the spout free to breathe. 

I usually add have milk with my tea, but never cream. Most of the time I add a bit of sugar as well.

Let's get one tea controversy out of the way here:

Milk first or milk last? It is generally understood, that historically, milk was put into a tea cup first to prevent the delicate china cracking from the surge of hot tea hitting its thin sides.
 
Now it is seen as either a sign of snobbish tea drinking or simply a preference. However, some tea "experts" believe that by adding the milk first, you can temper it slowly adding the hot tea slowly and this stops the milk form being scalded - whereas adding milk to boiling hot tea can actually scald the milk and give it an odd flavour. I have tried both way, and to me the milk added to hot tea, does at time taste off to me.

Note: The term "cream tea" actually comes from the serving of scones with cream and jam with the tea. Any cream in a cream tea is never meant to go into the tea.


George Orwell wrote an essay on how to make a good cup of tea which is quite amusing at http://www.booksatoz.com/witsend/tea/orwell.htm

Like me, he believed that Indian tea (and Ceylon) were better than Chinese teas. He also tackled the cream versus milk issue, as well as the milk in the cup first vs the tea in the cup first controversy. 


Happy tea drinking!



 

 

4 comments:

Deniz Bevan said...

A lovely post! I also like Turkish tea. But I always feel guilty when I say I prefer coffee. Tea is such a miraculous beverage!

Margaret Buffie said...

Thanks, Deniz! It is miraculous beverage!

Parroteyes TEA said...

thanks Deniz lovely piece of writing and so glad you shared it

Margaret Buffie said...

Dear Parroteyes TEA. I am wondering if you meant to put my name, Margaret, in your comment as I am the writer of the blog. Either way, thanks so much for posting how much you enjoyed it!