Monday, 24 August 2009

A Cup of Tea

This post isn't about a recipe for anything baked, fried or otherwise, however, I was just pondering the wonders of tea and wanted to tell you about the pleasures that I've gotten from drinking this popular beverage in Britain. Pictured above are photos of very important tea mugs which deliver tea to special people morning after morning. It's what goes in these mugs is what I'm here to discuss.

Before I moved here my friend Deanna gave me the best advice. She told me, "When in doubt, drink tea". I think of her telling me this often and always always accept a cup of tea. It's an absolute must. It's one of the small wonders on this island that makes living here pretty amazing.

I'm going to express my gratitude for tea and it's many rituals, but first I'm going to list a few facts that Americans may not know about tea, plus how to make a good cup.

-First, you may refer to a cup of tea as a 'cuppa'. Not, a 'cup-a tea' (by trying to say a 'cup of tea')by just being lazy with your words, but it's acceptable to say or write, 'Would you like a cuppa?' Also, you may refer to your cup of tea in casual conversation as, normal, proper, char, builders or brew, just to name a few. All of these are acceptable and won't get you strange looks. There are some discrepancies though, like 'builders tea' is really strong and made with more milk than usual. But when having casual conversation or when ordering, throwing these terms around is completely appropriate, so just let the lingo flow.

-Also guys, it's not hot tea, it's just tea. The trend of iced tea hasn't really caught on here (the weather is whole heatedly to blame for this) so if you ask for hot tea it's like asking for wet water. Of course your tea is going to be hot. How else would you drink it?

-When lounging around with Brits in your home, it's very appropriate to say, "Shall I put the kettle on?" This means you're going to make tea. Other flavors of tea may be introduced here but that's pretty straight forward and just like how Americans make any other sort of 'hot tea'.

--Americans have somewhat of a reputation for not being able to make a decent cup of tea. So pay attention- I'm about to tell you everything you need to know--

What I've been describing above is just black tea, what American's would recognize as Lipton tea or something similar. And like I said, it's always hot and it's something that everyone has in their house. Probably even if they aren't tea drinkers (an anomaly to say the least....) they have some proper tea in the kitchen. And here's how to make a good cuppa at home:

1. Boil some water, preferably in an electric kettle.

2. Put one tea bag in a mug. Putter around the kitchen or rooms close by until the kettle boils. You know, tidying up or sticking your head out the window to check the weather.

3. Once the water has boiled you may pour the water in the mug until it's about 3/4 full.

4. At this point, you will probably want to add milk. Most people do. A couple of tablespoons does the trick. Apparently the amount of milk is pretty important. I would stick with small amounts first- remember the marmite situation???

5. Leave the tea bag in and putter around some more. After a couple of minutes you are ready to take the tea bag out (with a tea spoon if you have it!). Squeeze the bag with your fingers or against the side of the cup to get all the good bits out.

6. The tea is ready to drink when cooled enough. Slurping and sighing/moaning is completely appropriate when drinking.

There are tea ceremonies and rituals all over the world, but my favorite so far is the morning tea ritual a lot of Brits adhere to. It is not uncommon to wake, make a brew according to the directions above and get back in bed. While your tea is cooling and you begin to slowly sip it, it's nice to listen to the radio, read a newspaper or lightly surf the internet. Books usually aren't introduced and while you may check your email, responses are usually saved for later in the morning. Responses need coffee. The best though, is having someone in bed with you to chat with, or to just stare at the wall with them in silence as you hang onto your warm mug with both hands coping with waking up. I've heard of families enjoying their tea together in bed in the morning and anytime I'm spending the night with a British friend, I always get a cup of tea in the morning. I must say too, it's just as satisfying being the one to wake first and make the tea as it is being the one who gets to lay in bed and have tea served to them. It's less harsh on the stomach than coffee and has a lighter flavor- perfect for gently waking up. Once your cup is empty it is then appropriate to make coffee, respond to emails and contemplate more difficult things like breakfast and showers.

My friend Amanda just visited from the States and I would make her tea every morning. We would sit in bed and discuss the day. But only trivial things like, "Hmmm...should I wash my hair today?" or "Wow, I should really cut my toenails" or "We should make some Yorkshire puddings for dinner". It seems meaningless and trivial, but those were some of my favorite moments of her visit. Spending that luxurious time, if only ten minutes, with a friend or family or lover, can make all the difference in ones day. Of course you can argue that this ritual is possible with any beverage but I have to admit, it's kind of nice to let years of tradition and culture take over my morning- a tried and true recipe for a successful day. And if you get into the day and things aren't going just right, hey, go have a brew and try again!


Chris Ryan said...

Oddly enough this worked. I'm having a cup of tea this morning BEFORE my cup of coffee. Kudos.

James said...

Tea in the morning? I am going to check it out.

Alexena said...

I love it.....indeed, when I was growing up, my sign to wake up in the morning was the sound of my dad stomping gently up the stairs with mugs clanking on a tray to which I would jump out of bed and enthusiastically run into my parents room, jump into the end of the bed with them and we'd all sit, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style in bed together sharing details of dreams and discussing the day ahead while my dad got into his suit and went off to work. Weekends were a little more leisurely and we might even get a biscuit. Morning tea moments are what family is what comfort is made of....x

Kyle said...

Get a new mug.

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