Archive for the ‘Tea’ Category

Not Prophecy So Much as Observation

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Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

73 years ago, George Orwell wrote:

“All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.”

Today I realized how true that is.

My tea cup of choice is a tall, 12-ounce cup from Starbucks. For the past 2 years, I’ve been brewing my tea with either 2 tea bags (PG Tips) or 2 teaspoons of loose tea leaves.

Such was my first cup this morning.

But it wasn’t so satisfying as it was yesterday morning. It didn’t seem strong enough for some reason. Two teaspoons of leaves didn’t quite satisfy me.

Each type of tea has an optimal steeping time, depending on its type and the drinker’s preference. For me, with my strong black Assam tea, it’s 4 and a half minutes.

For a stronger brew, one adds more tea, rather than increasing the steeping time, which only makes the tea more bitter.

For my second cup, I used 3 teaspoons of leaves. The result? Too strong. Finally, the third cup, with 2–1/2 teaspoons of leaves, was perfect.

George was right.

Now my only problem is trying to figure out how to brew a cup of tea with 2–1/2 tea bags. A hopeless task? Perhaps.

But as Arthur Wing Pinero so wisely said, “Where’s there’s tea, there’s hope.”

Today’s Tea

Posted: 25 November, 2018 in Tea
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It’s 10 a.m. My tea has gone cold. Reheating it in the microwave is quick and convenient, but it just doesn’t taste the same as when it was first brewed. I guess that’s the price I have to pay for ignoring it for so long.

My schedule has been off for a couple of weeks. It used to be

– wake up
– check my glucose levels
– take my morning meds
– head down to the kitchen
– brew the first tea of the day
– sit and enjoy it whilst reading the latest posts on Medium

But lately I’ve lost my mojo. Instead of enjoying my tea and Medium, I let myself get distracted. Crossword puzzles. Let the dog out. Feed the cat.

I could tell myself it’s because my roommate’s schedule is to blame, but I’d be lying to myself. Maybe I just needed a break, or I need to come up with a new routine.

I’ve always been my own worst enemy. Yes, I know: it’s a cliché. But let me explain: I am the goddess of procrastination. And the biggest thing I put off every night is going to bed at a decent hour. I’m often up past midnight, and then my alarm wakes me to take my morning medications.

And it’s finally caught up with me.

It’s worse with Daylight Savings Time

No matter if we go on or go off DST: it always screws me up. I realize that at one time it kinda made sense. But let’s face it: farmers no longer operate by daylight hours. Rather, they operate by GPS as they drive huge pieces of machinery with electric lights powerful enough to illuminate entire city blocks.

Meanwhile, their children go to and come home from school in the dark.

Finding the perfect balance

I’m not going to bore you with a long philosophical discussion about work and play; rather, when I talk of “balance” I mean the perfect blend of tea, sweetener, creamer, and spices to replicate the Indian tea served at my favorite Indian restaurant.

Based on this morning’s attempt, I think I’ve finally got it:
– 2 tea bags (I always use PG Tips)


– 16 ounces of water
– 4 packets artificial sweetener (Splenda, etc.)
– 1/2 teaspoon of Tea Masala


– about an ounce or so of milk or your favorite creamer

I steep my tea for a minimum of 5 minutes, as I prefer it strong. Once that’s done, I remove the tea bags and add the spice, sweetener, and creamer.

Finally, I take my first sip. Perfection!

 

Cream or milk?

Posted: 9 August, 2018 in memories, Tea
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The older I get the more I find myself agreeing with George Orwell.

At least, when it comes to tea.

I was raised to enjoy tea the traditional Irish way: brewed strong, and served with milk and sugar. I grew up thinking that was the proper — and therefore — the only way to make tea. This belief stayed with me through most of my life.

I felt the first breath of heresy when I moved into my current home. I rent a room in my landlord/friend’s house. I call my room My Lonely Writer’s Garret™.

Ed (my landlord) is probably the only person I know who drinks as much tea as I do. He tutors private students in French, and whenever he has a student over he makes a pot of green tea.

Which he always serves sans lait.

Even when he’s drinking black or herbal tea, he adds only sugar or honey. He thinks that I am a barbarian for drinking my tea with milk.

I, on the other hand, am of the sure and certain knowledge that truly civilized people adhere to my method.

Nothing lasts forever

Very true. Which is why my method has changed. I’ve finally decided to try my tea without milk or cream.

(An aside: cream is quite possibly the worst thing you can add to tea. The fats in the cream and the tannic acid in the tea do not play well together.)

This is what Orwell had to say about tea:

“[O]ne should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.”

Orwell, crotchety old Irishman that he was, also had this to say:

“Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.” ¹

My new tastes

Over the past several days, I’ve been cutting back on the amount of sweetener I add to my tea. I should be completely free from sweeteners by the end of next week.

The only exception is when I brew a pot of strong Assam tea and add Masala tea spice, thus making what far too many people call “Chai tea.” Chai means “tea,” so “Chai tea” is redundant.

On the other hand, I live in a country that calls the southern California baseball team “The Los Angeles Angels,” which translates to “The the angels angels.”

It’s enough to drive a woman to drink.

Which drink, right now, is a nice cup of Earl Grey. WITHOUT milk or cream!


¹ — The Orwell quotes are from A Nice Cup of Tea, by George Orwell. You can read his essay in its entirety at: A Nice Cup of Tea, Evening Standard, 12 January 1946.

tea quote

For me, there’s no worse way to start my day than coming downstairs and finding the kitchen full of people who all want to talk to me. Out-of-town visitors. Local friends. Complete strangers to me. My roommate knows better.

I’m not a “morning person.” It usually takes means a good 30 minutes to wake up enough to even begin to be sociable.

And a crucial part of my morning routine involves a tea ritual: I empty the tea kettle, fill it with fresh cold water, and put it on the stove to boil. While it heats up, I carefully measure out 2 teaspoons of my choice for the day: either a strong black Assam tea or a spiced version of the same blend. I always use whole-leaf tea.

I add the tea to the pot and wait for the kettle to boil. While waiting, I look out the kitchen window to see how the garden is doing. This week, the lilies are in bloom. In the evening, as the temperature falls, their aroma wafting through the house can be intoxicating.

Finally, the kettle comes to a boil. I pour the water over the tea leaves, set the timer, and wait patiently for the water to work its magic on the leaves.

This morning it’s Cardamom Spiced Assam. It’s a lovely blend from India. In fact, it evokes such memories of other times, other places, that I can almost hear Ravi Shankar performing a morning raga is the leaves steep.

Finally, the tea is ready. It’s a deep brown liqueur, hinting at hidden delights. I pour my cup and add a bit of sweetener and a splash of milk. I still haven’t managed to replicate the tea served by my favorite Indian restaurant, but it’s close. It, too, is intoxicating.

“In Ireland, you go to someone’s house, and she asks you if you want a cup of tea. You say no, thank you, you’re really just fine. She asks if you’re sure. You say of course you’re sure, really, you don’t need a thing. Except they pronounce it ting. You don’t need a ting. Well, she says then, I was going to get myself some anyway, so it would be no trouble. Ah, you say, well, if you were going to get yourself some, I wouldn’t mind a spot of tea, at that, so long as it’s no trouble and I can give you a hand in the kitchen. Then you go through the whole thing all over again until you both end up in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting.

In America, someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, you say no, and then you don’t get any damned tea.

I liked the Irish way better.” ― C.E. Murphy, Urban Shaman

I close my eyes, raise the cup to my lips, and let the first sip perform its magic.

Now  I am awake. Now I am human. Now  you may speak.

If you have to ask…

Posted: 25 May, 2018 in Grammar, Language, Medium, Tea
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(Originally published on Medium)

It’s 7:30, and the temperature has already begun its climb towards its predicted high of 84. That might not be such a big deal to you folks in the South, but here in Rochester, NY, it’s kind of a big deal — after all, we had snow on the ground less than a month ago.

Both the current temperature — 66 — and the predicted high might make some of you wonder: “Why on earth is she drinking a cup of hot tea?” To which I reply, “If you have to ask, you know nothing about tea, and even less about me.”

To say I’m obsessed with tea would be an exaggeration; on the other hand, we are in a committed relationship.

Many people have specific morning routines, rituals if you will. I’m retired, and so I’m in the perfect place to exercise my own morning ritual: tea and Medium. I stumble downstairs to the kitchen, fill the tea kettle, and put it on to boil. Next comes measuring out the proper amount of leaves. This amount may vary, depending on how sleepy I am.

Finally, the water comes to a full boil, and I pour it over the tea leaves (only rarely do I use bagged tea, and even then it’s a premium brand), set the timer, and sit quietly as the minutes and seconds count down. I remove the leaves from the pot, carry my cup to my easy chair, take the first sip, and open Medium on my iPhone.

As I said, I’m not obsessed with tea, and I don’t follow this ritual religiously. Sometimes I’ll be up for more than an hour before I start jonesing for my fix. And it’s almost always for a cup of strong black Assam tea, grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and then packaged and shipped to my favorite local Indian food store.

In Rochester, we’re blessed with several Indian restaurants and food stores; my favorite is The Spice Bazaar, just a short drive from my house. It’s my source for fine teas, Basmati rice, and Tea Masala spice blend.

I’m on my soapbox now…

…so pay attention, class. There is no such thing as Chai tea! Yes, I know the so-called experts call it that (I’m looking at you, Starbucks), but here’s the secret: Chai is Sanskrit for tea. So when you’re ordering your Chai tea, what you’re really saying is “I’d like a cup of tea tea, please.”

What you really want is a cup of Masala spiced tea, Tea Masala being the particular blend of spices used to make that delicious cup of tea.

Okay, enough pontificating

No more soapbox. I agree: I can be a real jerk sometimes. But I’m a writer, so the nuances of language and grammar mean a lot to me — as they should to you if you’re even on Medium in the first place.

That’s not to say that I think you need to be an expert on writing in English if it’s not your first tongue; it is indeed a difficult language to master. So difficult, in fact, that many who speak or write in it as a second or third language do a far better job than a lot of native speakers. And HEY! everyone I’ve encountered on Medium is far better than I am in, say, Mandarin. So I make allowances.

Disclaimer

You can find my standard disclaimer right here.