Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Cuppa Tea Anyone?


I was not really a tea drinker. I came from a family where a cup of English tea was the solution for all ailments. Feeling tired? Have a cuppa. Headache? Drink a cup of tea. Stomach problems, a cup of tea is the solution. My aunt managed fifteen cups a day. I think mum and dad drank their way through about six per day. Coffee? Too expensive and just did not belong in the daily life of a working class East End London family. Mum and dad had a problem with me. I did not like tea, never really went for it, but as I got older I got sort of hooked on coffee, if you can call the English dishwater-similar-stuff coffee. This was of course ideal for someone that wandered off to Europe when she was twenty years old and even married a coffee drinking European at the age of 22. Now and again Mr. Swiss would have a cup of tea, but I think mum and dad never really understood him, although mum and dad never really did understand the European way of life. A tea bag in a cup with boiling water and sugar was the tea drink of the Swiss, and most European based natives. Milk and sugar, no: forget it. Another problem I had being English was that when someone gave me a gift of some sort for a birthday, or a holiday present, what could it be? Knowing of my English roots it was ideal to give me a box of genuine English tea, where possible in many various flavours and colours.

This is just a short summary of my tea less life until this year. As you get older various health problems occur and mine were basically in connection with my digestive system. Not wanting to go into too many details, but up to now I have had about five endoscopys and three operations and you have to take care what you eat and drink. No big deal, but I discovered something was wrong somewhere from time to time. I tried everything, but one fine day decided to drink tea after my meals instead of coffee and it worked, so at the age of sixty-five I have now become a tea drinker.

It was then that I realised just drinking tea was not a fulfilment. Tea is not just a drink it is a science. I began to drink all the various teas people had given me over the years and decided that Twinings was for me. Our local supermarket sold Tetleys and in England my family often had PG Tips, but Twinings it was. Luckily the Swiss Co-Op sells Twinings so my problem was solved. The gift box of Twinings I had covered almost all varieties, so I drank my way through them slowly. Starting the day with an English breakfast tea and discovering that a Lady Grey tea had a very good taste with a touch of orange, so that was the evening tea. I even found a booklet amongst the tea collection explaining where the tea comes from, how it is made, and what to expect. You don’t even get one result from a tea plant, but it is known as a flush, and according to what flush you are drinking the taste varies. Naturally all experts know that the first flush is the best, although not being an expert I do not really know whether the tea I am drinking was harvested at the beginning of the plant’s life, or at the end. As you have noticed I don’t actually brew tea from tea leaves. That is because I am too lazy to wash out the pot. What I might do is pick some spearmint or ordinary peppermint from my garden and pour boiling water over it – result: peppermint tea.

I learned that the Chinese mostly drink green tea, which is the tea I like after lunch. Since the beginning of my journey through the tea world I have tried just about everything. My much travelled ex diplomat son was telling me about Lapsang Souchong Tea and that I should not try that one, it has a distinct taste like fried bacon so of course mum bought herself a packet. On the packet it says

“Lapsong souchong tea comes from China’s Fujan Province and Taiwan. The unique flavour of the tea is produced by lying the leaves out on bamboo trays and allowing smoke from pinewood to permeate through them. It is an adventuruous tea with a unique smoked flavour and a dark rich colour.”

The moral to the story is listen to what your son says. I still have a packet with 24 tea bags. One less as I tried one.

I am still experimenting. In the meanwhile have got through a packet of Earl Grey (very tasty), Darjeeling (on the stronger side), Orange Pekoe (nothing special) and have now discovered a Twinings Orange and Cinnamon, which is very good. Am I boring you with my newly acquired knowledge of tea? So I think I will come to an end. If anyone needs advice about what tea to drink when and how, just ask. How do I drink it? English people sit tight. I take a tea bag, put it in a cup and pour boiling water over it. Leave it a couple of minutes, stir and press the tea bag out with a spoon. No sugar (am diabetic) and no sugar substitutes, pure and that is the way I like it. I do not even mind drinking the tea when it gets cold. Yes, my name is Tabbynera and I am a teaholic.

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