Monday, November 28, 2011

"The British are a nation of tea drinkers." Discuss.

I do love a cup of coffee once a day, but tea is my preferred drink
… I find it much more refreshing … and less of a diuretic as far as
my bladder is concerned.

(I’ve reached a certain age, where if I’m travelling any great distance,
I have to restrict the amount I drink, and also to allow at least two
hours before setting off (so I can pee most of the drink out)! But
that’s another story).

I wonder who was the first to say that we are a nation of tea drinkers
… no reference to this popped up on a search when I googled it. (By
the way, I wonder if the verb “to google” now appears in the O.E.D.?).

I did read one Google reference, which said that we import around 144
tons of tea annually. From looking at our supermarket shelves, most
of this ends up in tea bags of variable quality and price … not much
is being sold as loose leaf tea, which is what I prefer for flavour.

At present, Mrs C and I drink a blend of Twinings English Breakfast
tea and Darjeeling tea – which I blend in the ratio of two parts EBT
to one part DT. We like our tea strong … almost as dark as the rich
brown of conkers / medium brown boot polish, to which we add a small
amount of milk but no sugar. No, we don’t add the milk first, in
this household.

I once bought the DT in the form of tea-bags … never to be repeated
as it tasted really bad. I’ve recently made the mistake of buying
loose leaf DT, labelled as Fair Trade, from a well known supermarket.
Taste the difference, the label said. Well unfortunately we can, and
we don’t think it’s as good as the Twinings brand. Why should
different brands of the same tea taste so different, I wonder? The
experts do say that the better quality teas come about by picking
the leaf tips from the tea bushes. I gather that the worst quality
ones come from the sweepings up off the floor.

We’ve been disappointed by the taste of both Fair Trade teas and
coffees, so much so that we stopped buying them, which is a shame.
I know that is a generalisation, and we have come across the occasional
exception. Recently, we both had a cup of FT coffee at the café at
Newstead Abbey (Byron’s former home, north of Nottingham), which was
really lovely. I must ask what the name of the coffee is, when we next
pay a visit.

If we are going abroad, we usually take a supply of tea bags with us
… our favourites are the posh ones sold by Waitrose and M&S, and also
the ones made in Yorkshire, by Taylors. The teas sold abroad are often
our own brands imported there, or tea bags made by Liptons (which is
now owned by Unilever). This reminds me that way back in the 70s we
used to buy our tea from the Liptons home-delivery tea vans, which
was very good at the time. I see that you can still buy tea from
Liptons online, from Amazon and other companies. Perhaps that’s the
way all posh tea sales will go … online.

One of my former patients who loved travelling to countries like India,
gave me this piece of advice as regards avoiding traveller's diarrhoea:
always drink tea when you're abroad ... it's boiled up (which kills off
the germs). I once accepted the offer of a cup of tea from an Indian
postgraduate student, whom I visited at home, when I was a family doctor.
I was given a cup of tea made by boiling the tea up with water and
condensed milk ... it was boiling hot, too hot to drink, and it was
sickly sweet ... definitely not my cup of tea. You'd think the Indians
would have learned something from the years of British rule in India. :)

So, how do you like your tea?


And now for something completely different - an arty photograph
done with mirrors ...

(Click on this image to see a larger version, & Actions > View all sizes)

There are three more "reflections" on my Flickr site.


Anonymous lom said...

bulders tea for me no sugar please oh yes and I like it in a big mug

2:46 PM  
Blogger justin said...

Me too, Helen ... the size of Tony Benn's. :)

2:59 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

My favourite tea? Garden variety Orange Pekoe, any variety will do, though I do like Twining's, strong with milk. Growing up we had the afternoon tea ritual, which was novel for our friends. I have continued it with my own kids who have introduced it to their friends with the same results. We are the family who has tea! I have a cup at my elbow now but, mid morning, I will need that shot of more caffeine and will probably stop into a Tim Hortons (nothing more Canadian than that) or a Starbucks (American but really a Pacific Northwest thing more than that -- it started in Seattle with Vancouver getting the first franchise in the mid '80s) to top myself up.

Way more information than you ever needed to know! :)

3:25 PM  
Blogger LUCEWOMAN said...

I like my tea strong enough for the spoon to stand up in, no sugar.
After reading the comments on this post -
I tried the recommended tea Indian Prince, by the Co-op. It's most palatable - try it! 8 cups a day for me, no less.

9:32 PM  
Blogger justin said...

Andrea: I haven't tried Orange Pekoe ... I must get some. Mrs C and I don't like Starbucks coffee. We prefer the stronger Italian-style coffee served by Costas, & we make similar coffee for ourselves at home. Mrs C also goes for the posh stuff: Kenyan Peabody coffee beans, which she grinds up and brews up in a mini-Gaggia machine.
Lucewoman: thanks very much for visiting my site and for adding your comments. We used to drink a lot of Indian Prince tea in the 1970s & 80s, but stopped when our local Co-ops went over to just selling it in tea-bags. I see that you can still get the loose-leaf tea online, but Twinings teas are more readily available for us.

12:39 AM  
Anonymous keith said...

My favourite tea is Liptons Yellow Label.

The strange thing is that it's not available anywhere in Britain (only from specialist shops, and bloody expensive!)

It's blended and packed by Levers of Liverpool, of which Liptons is a part, and available in practically every country in the world except here! I have to buy my supply from France when I visit relations or friends. [For obvious reasons most of my family and friends have fled to France to live, but that's another story. . . .]

11:45 AM  
Blogger justin said...

Hi Keith ... yes, we liked Liptons tea a lot, but when the van deliveries stopped, we went over to other teas, like the Co-op's Indian Prince and now Twinings teas.

11:41 PM  

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