Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ah, Blessed Tea: The Elixir That Heals All

On Saturday evenings, I love to tune into our local PBS station to watch an evening of Britcoms (that's British comedies, for the uninitiated). I've been doing it for years. Dh has lost his fervor (we've seen all the episodes of our favorite shows, is his complaint, but this bothers me very little). Last night in an episode of As Time Goes By, one of the characters (Sandy, if you know the show) is somewhat spooked when she realizes someone is following her home after dark. Once she's safely indoors, she relates this to Jean and Lionel (parent figures with whom she lives -- there's more to it, but I'm cramped for space and you for interest), and Lionel rushes out to the street to investigate. Of course, the street is empty. Lionel's remedy: "I'll put on the kettle."

I love it! Stalker following you home from work? Have a cup of tea!

Now, in case you are wondering, let me be absolutely clear: I am not being facetious. Not only do I love tea, but I am also a firm believer in tea's ability to refresh, calm, and, in general, raise one's spirits. I tend to begin the day with a cup of tea. In the winter, I end it with a cup as well, a nice herbal or rooibos that's perfect for cold winter evenings. I also love the ritual of tea: boiling the water in my electric kettle, measuring out the perfect amount, warming the pot, brewing an exact number of minutes, slicing a lemon or pouring some milk into a small cream pitcher, setting out some sugar cubes, and, finally, pouring tea into one of the pretty china teacups from my collection. Then again, sometimes I use a tea bag and a big mug. It depends on my mood. Sometimes, it depends on the weather. Rain and fog call for a mug.

For me, tea has always alluded to Britain. I grew up reading books (often set in that land of my forbears) where the characters' taking of tea was more than a tradition. For me, it was a common thread running through the fabric of a culture. And it seemed so necessary and immutable; no matter the circumstances at the moment, teatime prevailed. How stable and dependable.

So, when Dh and I honeymooned in Scotland (my first trip abroad), I looked forward to joining in the tradition. We often stopped at hotels for lunch. At different establishments, we dined on gorgeous and tasty small sandwiches or hot soup and crusty bread or shepherd's pie, and we washed it all down with a pot or two of tea. I've now been to England three times (and counting) and have drunk vast amounts of tea while there, to my delight and satisfaction. However, once, in London, I bought a coffee at a fancy (read: pricey) coffee shop. It just wasn't the same.

But I always have to leave England and come back home. (Well, my family does live here, after all.)

Until recently, I could not understand why the tea I prepared at home was not in the least like the tea I enjoyed in Britain. I don't mean my fancy teas; I mean my plain hot tea. Then my grocery started to carry several shelves' worth of British goods, and I brought home a box of PG Tips. Eureka! It was the tea itself! Now my morning cuppa tastes like the tea I grew to love on my trips to the U.K. And that will have to do until I can get back to Britain.


  1. Life without PG Tips (or Yorkshire Tea, which is also wonderful) is beyond imagining!
    Even my children drink tea, to the horror of my European friends.
    'Can that be good for them?' they ask.
    'Good for them? They're English. It's like a kind of transfusion!'

  2. We all drink tea, too! Sometimes it's herbal, but other times it's not. In fact, Miss Priss discovered the delights of English Breakfast tea with milk and sugar this past week.

  3. I love the story Ellen! There is a game I play (it's a puzzle game, my fave) and one of the ongoing puzzles is a tea puzzle.. you need to make different teas using different herbs and spices and then serve the tea to soothe whatever ails the people you come across. The protagonist of the game shares the same type of sentiment you do, that tea helps soothe and calm the spirit while refreshing the mind.

    My husband is the true tea connoisseur of teas in our family. I should introduce you to some of his favorites, many of which he grew up on in Hong Kong (being a British settlement did indeed influence the culture).


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