Saturday, January 23, 2010

My cup of tea

I wasn't always a tea drinker. In fact, there was a time I used to drink nothing but home brewed coffee with milk and sugar. (This was when I was a broke University student living at home and when those big plastic portable cups were all the rage). Then, a new kid came to town - I'll call him Tim...Tim Horton's - and I was all over him like a dirty shirt. For a couple of years I was all about Timmy's "extra large triple triple" and couldn't start the day without a visit to the drive-through to order one. I'd even visit throughout the day to feed this mild addiction. (Rumour had it that there was MSG in each cup.) From there, I found myself being seduced by the next big thing - the competitor who boasted trendy, sophisticated drinks with frothy foams, sugary syrups and fancy names like latte, frappuccino and misto. To boot, I had stopped consuming dairy and found that my new suitor offered lactose-free alternatives like soy. I was hooked. Soon, it was Starbucks and nothing else would do.

I'm not exactly sure when I began scaling back on my decadent coffee beverages...perhaps it had to do more with the fact that to feed this addiction I required deep pockets or the subtle hint of tightness around my waistline and the appearance of ill-fitting pants (these drinks come with a price, you see). Whatever the case, I found myself growing curious about liquid gold and began to develop a deep appreciation for the leaf and all of its varieties. I started off innocently with English Breakfast but soon found myself courted by the exotic black teas and lusting over the flavored pu’erhs. Most recently, I have fallen head over heels with organic Hojicha creme from David's Tea.

Of course, to keep my relationship with tea alive, I make sure not to discriminate and always keep an open mind to new blends and flavours. I've flirted with maté (I love its potency), spent time with oolong and rooibos (both lovely especially when enhanced with flavours) and experienced the smoky varieties of imported European teas (a wonderful surprise!). I'm always trying something new but I definitely have my favorites!

I'll drink several cups of tea a day. My routine (since returning from our recent travels) has been: a cup of Yorkshire tea with breakfast, two cups of caramel tea during the day and a special blend after dinner and perhaps again before bed (preferably Hojicha with soy milk and sugar).

I'm supplementing my tasting by also feeding my brain with books about the history of tea, the harvesting and processing, the traditions all over the world and how tea culture is making an impact these days. I especially love reading blogs about people's passion over the brew, tips about steeping and pairing with food (especially biscuits and sweets!) and reviews of different varieties. A recent comment posted by a Monsieur de la Cour has even inspired me to go on a tea tasting tour around the city. I think this would be fun!

So, whatever your cup of tea is - enjoy! I'll leave you now with this video on Tea Making Tips (circa 1941). Take care and talk soon. xo


Gaylord de la Cour said...

This is the best film I've seen all year.

Have you ever read this? Orwell on tea:

Ima Ventriloquist said...

Again, another excellent recommendation! George certainly brings up some controversial rules that I don't necessarily agree with, specifically the tenth and eleventh rules. It's up for debate but I do appreciate that he took the time to write about such an important subject and one that, as evidenced by his missive, is a classic to be shared for years to come!

[Keep them coming, Gaylord! Thanks again!]

Gaylord de la Cour said...

I disagree with his rule about tea bags, but I think tea bags are much better now than they used to be.

As far as rule 10 goes, it's just a matter of how much you trust your milk pouring skills. I do prefer to put in the milk after to make sure I get the exact right colour. It goes without saying, of course, that one should never put in the milk first if making tea with a tea bag, as this reduces the temperature of the water during the steeping process, which is disastrous. I've seen people do this (if one can call them 'people') and alerted the authorities.

Rule 11, sugar. I used to put sugar in my tea until I read this essay. He's totally right. It is impossible to know how good tea really is if one puts sugar in it. I HIGHLY recommend eliminating sugar. But this can be difficult if attempted cold turkey (like quitting smoking). Just put in a few grains less every day for a few weeks until there is none at all. Temporarily increase the (soy) milk a bit, this will probably help too. I promise you, you will never, ever, go back. Sweet tea will taste like barf to you forever more and you will start pitying those who insist on sweetening their tea.

And yes, I have secretly been adding increasingly lower quantities of sugar to L's tea over the years. She is unable, however, to make that small effort of the will required of her. It is a source of great conflict. Now you know.


Chelsea Boots said...

Today I had a lovely cup of tea and a garabaldi biscuit.

Off to a Chinese tea ceremony on Friday so I'll let you know about it at the weekend.


Ima Ventriloquist said...

Gaylord, thank you for your feedback. I see that you take tea quite seriously which I appreciate. Here are some of my thoughts in response:

1. I don't discriminate when it comes to tea bags vs. loose tea. In fact, there are some very innovative tea bags out there.
2. I tend to agree with Mr. Orwell on rule 10 but have experimented with putting the milk in first as I trust my milk pouring skills (tea bags included).
3. I will never truly know how tea tastes without sugar. The thought of it gives me the shakes and even worse, thinking that sweet tea tastes like barf is blasphemous.

Chelsea Boots: Ohhhh, this sounds exciting! I can't wait to hear all about!

[I had some shortbread biscuits yesterday with my Yorkshire tea at work. Happy day!]