Sunday, September 9, 2012

sailing the terrible teas

Anyone who's ever lived in England has undoubtedly developing a knack for stomaching very foul cups of tea -- not because most tea in England is foul (it's not), but because you will inevitably find yourself in one of those unfortunate situations where some nice old lady with a great, big smile is offering you a lovely cup of tea in a lovely teacup with a lovely saucer and there is absolutely no way to fix the absolute mess she's made of the tea short of faking a grave sort of injury or fire or robbery or something, which unfortunately would tend to produce even greater problems to deal with than a disgustingly lukewarm cup of entirely underbrewed tea.

No, really, you'd be amazed how many times that happened to me.

The other thing that's happened to me was actually in America when I was at a friend's baby's christening and was a bit younger and a bit less exposed to tea in general (pre-Britain days).  For some reason, I got it into my head that that was the perfect situation in which to be adventurous with my tea and try all those funny things people did with it that I never quite understood.  Why precisely this desire took hold of me at this time I'm a bit hard pressed to say.  I suspect it may have had something to do with the fact that all the ingredients were sitting out and I had easy access to them and thought, well, gosh, Kim, it's now or never.

I honestly don't remember which order I experimented in -- or possibly even all of what I thought to throw in that particularly unfortunate cup of tea -- but I do know that at whichever point I added whichever came second of the the milk or the lemon juice, catastrophe on a scale you have rarely seen in a teacup ensued.

Being a guest, though, I determined it must be rude to throw out the new concoction, upsetting as it did taste, and set about drinking it slowly in as small of sips as I could manage and still be seen to be drinking it.  This went on for some time until the hostess' mother happened to catch a glimpse in my cup, nearly went into hysterics, the unfortunate tea got very firmly disposed of down the drain and I believe I was given another cup, along with an admonition never -- never -- to drink something that looked like that ever again.

And I haven't.  Really.  But moving on, all that's to say that, generally speaking, I have a pretty high tolerance for bad tea.

Let me tell you about what happened last night.

I was at church and it was tea break time, which, incidentally, is really up there in terms of my favorite elements of the service.  This particular tea break, though, did not go according to plan.

It started out well in that there weren't too many people at the tea table and I was very quickly poured a very generous cup of tea.  The only problem was, there was no room left at the top of the cup for milk.  I debated a bit with myself, but decided that on this particular occasion I was very much wanting milk in my tea and, since it was early on still, there'd be no trouble getting rid of the spare tea later.  So, I asked for a less full cup, which was very quickly, very obligingly made.  I steeped it for a bit, thinking it wasn't get quite as dark as the previous cup, but chalking that up to the amount of time the teabag had had or the dim lighting or both.  I poured milk, doused it all with sugar and went merrily along my way only to realize that --

Have you ever tasted milky peppermint tea with a kick of sugar?

I hadn't till last night, and I can assure you, you're not missing out.  In fact, you're doing much better than me.

Now one's immediate reaction might be to dump the tea and make another cup; however, remember that one has already requested a second cup, having found the first unsatisfactory, and, gosh, this is church, not an overpriced coffeeshop.  So what would one do?  One would keep one's milky, kicky peppermint tea and use the skills one has already mastered of slowly sipping until ... frankly, by this age one is old enough to give up halfway through and simply scrounge in one's bag for a water bottle.  Perhaps someday one will be old enough to throw it down and demand a third, but not yet.

Thank goodness I don't plan to move back to England.


Mom said...

Although wasn't it in England that you really perfected the art of tea-making and drinking? I know you have said Americans don't come up to standard with their tea compared to England. Is Australian tea even better than that of England?

KIM said...

Yes, I learned what I was doing in England ... I think British and Australian tea is pretty comparable, or at least the capability for me to make some I really like. I still don't know what it is about American tea, but I think it has something to do with the electric kettles everyone uses here.

Mom said...

Are any of the tea brands you use the same in Australia as in England?

Laetitia :-) said...

We have Twinings (an English brand) as one of the brands here and I suspect Dilmah might be international.

As for sugary, milky peppermint tea, on the rare occasions that I had it as a child (when visiting particular friends) I may have had it with sugar (because I drank all tea with sugar at the time) and definitely had it with milk. Of course, now I'd spit such a travesty down the sink. Oh, and when I want a herbal tea, peppermint is normally my 'go to'.

Laetitia :-) said...

Oh, and our current kettle is a steel one that goes on a gas stove, rather than a plastic, electric version (or even a metal, electric version).

When our last kettle died I specifically got one that goes on our gas stove because it whistles when it's boiled. With the non-whistling, auto-shut-off variety I kept forgetting that I had put the jug on to boil unless I was still in the kitchen when it finished and clicked off [yes, I'm easily distracted at home by all the other things I have to comment on blogs :-) ].