As regular readers know, I don’t need a national day commemorating tea to drink tea. Tea is a staple as much as water and air. Hot tea is good for a cold, a sore throat, a mental health pick me up. There are so many varieties to choose from, not to mention the tisanes (herbal “teas” that don’t use actual tea leaves). In the above photo is my most recent cut of hot tea and two of my favorite flavors. With these two in particular, I add two teaspoons of sugar and a little bit of milk. The PG Tips takes especially good this way. If you want to complete the British tea experience, add a cucumber sandwich with marscapone. However you prefer your tea, drink up, but be careful: it’s hot!
I never miss an opportunity to celebrate the glorious nature of tea. Below is a selection of the variety of United Kingdom teas in my collection. Not pictured is a Scottish afternoon tea, Earl Grey, Lady Grey, and others that I’ve tried and liked.
One of my perennial go-to’s at Starbucks is a London Fog, which is made with classic Earl Grey with steamed milk and hints of lavender, vanilla, and Italian bergamot which lends a citrusy element.
There is no bad time to enjoy a cup of hot British tea.
I have a few go-to teas that I drink regularly or carry with me to conferences, vacations, and other times tea is needed, and honestly when isnt’t it?
They do change over time, so lately my go-to teas are Twinings English Breakfast Tea and Prince of Wales tea, and PG Tips, all with milk and just a little bit of sugar.
Today was a little different, though. I had an appointment at the mechanic’s. Instead of bringing my own tea, I knew that they’d have tea available, and I was very excited by my choice:
At home we don’t have a Keurig, so when I’m here I need to re-learn how to make the tea, but it’s not that difficult.
I’m enjoyng my second cup.
If you are cold, tea will warm you;
if you are too heated, it will cool you;
if you are depressed, it will cheer you;
if you are excited it will calm you.
– William Ewart
I feel this quote. I drink hot tea all year long. It is always good, perfect, soothing, and inspiring.
I also included this picture of green tea mainly because I typically do not like green tea; I’m a black tea drinker. The first Lent that I gave up something, though I chose to give up Diet Coke. I didn’t know how it was going to go. I drink Diet Coke several times throughout the day. A friend recommended the green tea with jasmine, and said that it would stem cravings. I think they were thinking with the caffeine withdrawal, but caffeine doesn’t really affect me. At home, I’m caffeine free with soda. However, it would give me something to drink in the morning when I shouldn’t have been drinking soda anyway, but sometimes was known to.
What teas are your favorites and what would you recommend trying?
January is National Tea Month. Sometimes it’s nice to get a random reminder of the wonderfulness of tea. After the holiday season, I’m ready to get rid of the sweets and sugar-filled drinks like hot chocolate and eggnog, and even hot apple cider. I’m not a coffee drinker, so tea is my real go-to for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is taste.
It’s getting better, but in the past, I have found it somewhat difficult to find the teas I like to drink. I went through a spate of only drinking chai masala or ginger tea. Unfortunately for me most ginger teas come in lemon flavor or green tea, and I prefer black tea as my base. With this first post, I want to share some of the places you can find teas nationally.
1. The Fresh Market has a wide variety of teas from your basic Lipton to imported from the United Kingdom, India, and China. They have nearly every flavor that you might want to try or add to your repertory of tea selections.
2. Adagio is a mail order tea company that has a fandom section. I’ve enjoyed teas from them in themes of Harry Potter, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and more. They also have the opportunity to blend your own although I haven’t made use of that yet. They also offer reasonably priced sample tins so you can try something new.
3. PGTips is quintessentially British tea. Best taken with milk added first in a hot cup. Find Douglas Adams’s guide for making the perfect cup of tea. It is worth the Google.
4. Twinings has a wide variety. My favorites are the British and Irish breakfast and afternoon teas: English breakfast, Irish breakfast, Scottish afternoon, Prince of Wales, Earl Grey, Lady Grey among others. Afternoon teas tend to have less caffeine so less chance to keep you up at night.
5. Stash is the only place that I was able to get my Ginger Black Breakfast Tea that I originally and randomly found one box of in an overstock store.
Check your local directories for small tea shops or tea blenders and sellers. They are more and more popping up in localities around my neighborhood, and also probably yours as well.
Please add your own in the comments.
Tu Hwnt I’r Bont Tearoom, Llanrwst, Wales
Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary.
– Chinese Proverb
I don’t know who decides these things, but rules are rules. January is National Tea Month, not to be confused with National Hot Tea Day (this coming Saturday, January 12) or National Iced Tea Month (June) or the United Kingdom’s National Tea Day (April 21). I’m certain there are more if you choose to look for them. (I don’t.)
Tea has been around forever, longer in fact than Christianity, by about sixty years. Officially discovered in 59 B.C., but more than likely around prior to that, tea has developed into a cross-cultural, multi-faceted sensation, sometimes a curiosity that has its own rituals, not only ethnically but also individually.
It’s been used for medicinal purposes. Still is.
It is offered monthly by my therapist, something to do with my hands, I suppose, although I usually settle on cold water.
It is the morning beverage of choice by a plethora of people, writers at keyboards, spiritual directors at retreats, teachers awaiting their classroom full of eager faces, business people scarfing down toast or filling travel mugs to take with. Many cups of tea grow cold during the daily work of their drinkers. I have the dregs of tea leaves and sugar granules at the bottom of my morning cup right now.
There are formal tea ceremonies, welcoming honored guests or memorializing those who have gone.
There is High Tea and Cream Tea, hot and cold bubble tea, and tea as an afternoon meal.
There are teas that aren’t teas – herbals and infusions, also called tisane that are easier to offer as tea than explain the difference between tea plants and other plants. Actor Benedict Cumberbatch recently went on a rant about chamomile not being tea at all (see my reference to tisane above; chamomile is a flower). On a related note, my friend Tom never removes his tea bag letting it continue to steep as well as teaching me long ago not to squeeze my tea bag (it makes the tea acidic), a practice that I now cringe at when I see others do it.
Tea has been used as protest, albeit a waste of perfectly good tea from Boston to Washington DC to Manchester, England (April, 2018), although in Manchester, he didn’t get rid of it, but serve it in protest to war (make tea, not war).
From its initial popularity in the Chinese Tang Dynasty to the drinking of tea that spread across Asia through Portuguese priests into Europe during the 16th century and soon after becoming part of UK culture beginning in the 17th century continuing through the present day.
It is India’s most popular hot beverage, and Ireland drinks by far the most tea in Britain at four cups per person per day, some as much as six cups a day.
Many people have their own recipe for the perfect cup of tea. I prefer to follow Douglas Adams’ specifications. I did this for a few years and it really was better; perfect, in fact.
Since getting our electric kettle, I drink tea nearly on a daily, sometimes multi-daily basis, and like to try new teas depending on my mood, although overall I prefer black tea as the base. When we went to Ireland and Wales for a family function, my kids brought back bags and bags of British candy; I brought back tea and Welsh cakes, and it still wasn’t enough.
For Christmas gifts this year, I blended my own Masala chai, which was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed doing it, deciding how much of what to put in. I did have a base recipe (that I will share in a future week).
For the next three Wednesdays, I will share a different type of tea that I’ll have drunk during the week past. I’ll share something of a review, a photo perhaps, and links to find those teas plus at then end, possibly the first Wednesday in February, all the tea links I have. Even the grocery shelves have plenty to select from.
In addition to those four Wednesdays (including today), I will also share a few of my other tea posts from years past. If you can’t wait, just check the search box on the left and find some on your own schedule.
Onward to today’s tea:
Twinings Prince of Wales tea. Twinings has been manufacturing tea for over three hundred years, so I’m going to guess that they’ve gotten the hang of it.
The Prince of Wales tea is a bit less strong than the English breakfast tea from the same company that I often drink. It is also less strong (by a mile) than the Welsh tea I brought home from Wales. Part of the strength of the tea I brought home, which I should have read on the box is that it’s made specifically for the Welsh water. When I was there I didn’t notice a strength difference, but when I got home it was more than I’d expected. I’ve adjusted to it, but it took a few tries.
The Prince of Wales tea is a lovely black tea that is mild and a bit woody. It is blended from several provinces in China and was originally created in 1921 for THE Prince of Wales at the time who went on to be crowned King Edward VIII. I like it both with and without milk and always with a bit of sugar. It’s my primary choice for the mornings to go along with eggs and toast, a bagel, or the ever more common for me, healthier oatmeal with craisins and granola. I can drink several cups of this a day and it’s also my go-to for a late afternoon cup. It’s good during the autumn and winter, but I have no prejudice – I’m a hot tea drinker year round.
Our stainless steel tea kettle, which we loved, kept retaining sediment on the bottom as well as the inside flaking off. It was also really difficult to get it properly cleaned. Our municipal water tastes good, but it has crap in it. Once we decided to stop using it, we had been bolling our water in a saucepan for instant coffee and tea. We did this for more than a year. It’s doable, but without a lip for pouring it was sometimes messy. We finally decided this past winter to make the investment in an electric kettle. It’s not terribly expensive, but even thirty dollars just after Christmas is a budgetary stretch. My husband had been eyeing a Hamilton Beach brand; the kids thought I bought it because of my love for Lin-Manuel Miranda, but honestly, my husband picked it.
I liked it.
I mean it worked well.
Fill it to the line with water, press the switch and wait until it flips back. No whistle, but when it was on there was a blue light. It seemed faster than the saucepan and even the stainless steel whistle blowing kettle, and he made his coffee and I steeped my tea. It lived on the counter next to the toaster as it made morning waffles or toast easier. Kind of like a breakfast nook or space like in those shelter magazines for home decor.
One day, a few weeks ago, I had a writing assignment. I knew if I left the house, I’d spend money and if I sat in my office chair, I’d play a game on my kindle, check Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and then fall asleep, so I moved the kettle to the dining room table and turned off my wifi, and in a final act of defiance, set up my keyboard.
The kettle plus, like slow cookers, is very short, so I moved the table closer to the outlet. I make this point to show my determination to accomplish my writing task. I am a professional after all.
I flipped the switch and the blue light glowed. Like an inspirational candle light. My loose tea was already in my strainer of infuser, resting on the rim of my Ireland mug. When the blue light and the switch went off, I poured the boiling water over the tea leaves.
After three minutes (or so, I don’t keep count; I check the color), I removed the strainer, added the sugar, and got down to work.
Soon after, my cup was empty but my writing wasn’t finished.
I didn’t even hesitate or think about; it was pure muscle memory: I pressed the switch. In about two minutes, maybe three I had a second boiling hot cup of tea.
Then I did it again.
And then one more time.
I could not have done this so easily standing at the stove waiting for the saucepan of water to boil.
This could completely change my writing ritual.
Not only that, using half the dining room table kept it from getting cluttered, so it was already half cleaned off for dinner. Win-win.
The point, though, is that tea makes the work possible. I mean, it makes all the things possible, right?
Tea makes the world go round, and should be thanked in every book dedication as far as I’m concerned.
I referred an email today from Twinings North America reminding me to try the summer flavors before summer’s over. They’re highlighting Wild Berries. On the page they also recommended my favorite all year tea: