When I was growing up through my teenage years my mother tried to persuade me to drink tea instead of milk on social occasions. Or if it was in a pub or restaurant a tomato juice instead of milk. I liked milk. Still do.
She failed in both attempts as she did with persuading me to wear makeup. Eventually I did begin. The only way to make it palatable was like her to add sugar! I’m sure milk is healthier.
Mum was a tea drinker to her bones. Not excessive but like many in our country it was the cure of all ills, from fatigue to bereavement. Everything could be made good again with a cuppa.
We had a tea caddy on the wall, on top of which Mum brewed ginger beer. We had various teapots depending on the occasion. We had the matching milk jugs, sugar bowls and because one china set came down from Victorian times we had matching slop bowls. We had tea strainers and a variety of cups and saucer sets. Everyday tea sets, afternoon tea set and of course the impossibly fine, special occasion, tea sets with such twirly delicate handles it was a stress of tremendous proportions for a Dyspraxic child! We had the doilies and matching cake plates, sugar tongs; plain sugar for everyday, cubed sugar for special. We were a British tea drinking family.
I shamed them preferring my milk:)
However, a tea drinker I became - with all the tea making baggage which still splits this country. How to brew an excellent cup of tea?
White or black,
milk or lemon?
Milk in first, milk in last?
Warm pot before boiling water is added.
How many minutes to leave the tea to brew?
What kind of tea leaf to use on what occasion?
I can still rise to the argument even after having abandoned most of that early training, especially on the milk before or after debate, as I drink my tea black now. Why do I bother? Because I know as everyone else with childhood brain washing embedded in their Psyche which is the correct way to make a pot of tea.
I still make a pot of tea occasionally.
I still buy loose tea occasionally.
Not as often as I wold wish.
The first I knew of how tea making was not set in concrete was a school trip I made to France. The convent,I was attending, dipped a cautious toe in the overseas travel idea when I was in the 6th form. They organized a trip to Lourdes via Paris. I was not a Roman Catholic so the pilgrimage aspect was not what appealed, it was Paris and the Pyrenees which led me to sign up.
It started badly with a rough channel crossing (sea and moi do not go together like peaches and cream) a long tediously slow train journey to Paris (French railway workers were on a go-slow) and then at the convent where we were to stay two days, I was confronted with a plate of spinach and egg. I loathed and still do spinach in any form.
I was well trained I ate it.
I was sick.
It was put down to the travel.
Onto the Pyrenees and to Lourdes which is a whole different blog I feel. I was fascinated and puzzled by the whole affair. The only food related memory I have of Lourdes itself was the over whelming odour of garlic. Garlic hadn’t really reached our island shores or our cuisine at the time. Maybe just a little might have been forgotten but we were visiting at the same time as 1200 French girl guides. They sat behind us en mass at mass one day and when they opened their mouths to sing, with beautiful clear melodies, we almost passed out in a collective heap.
Within a few years garlic had begun to take a hold in Britain.
No, the point of this day's blog is still tea. As much a food to us Brits as anything else. Somewhere high in Pyrenees mountains, reached by donkey, we stopped at a tiny cafe of sorts for a rest. We ordered a pot of tea, my friends and I; we were adults surveying the world. The nuns were below in church, we were free even if we still wore school uniform.
We discussed softly whether the French knew how to make tea? The consensus was if they liked garlic so much they probably couldn't taste tea so well. Oh how arrogant and stupid are the young.
The pot arrived, we decided the cups were more suited to coffee, which to be fair was probably the beverage of choice for most Europeans at the time. The china too thick really to my jaundiced eyes.
Truly we had not seen the best? Worst? Inside that pot was a tea bag
None of us had ever seen a tea bag. We didn't even know it was called a tea bag. But we pulled the string and out it came. Tea leaves in a muslin bag.
To say we were flabbergasted was to be rather downbeat. Speechless, shocked, bewildered. What in all that was sure and secure in our worlds was this abomination.
It was one of my dining out stories for ages, until the days arrived when Britain too succumbed to the lure of the tea bag.
Of course we got over the shock soon enough.
Such handy little things.
So quick. so easy.
So cutting edge:)
On future travels the ease with which one could have a quick brew up was a real bonus. As more brands came we learnt to distinguish our preferred bags, learnt how long we liked to leave the bag in water. Some conventions still prevail, there are still arguments over milk first or last, between milk, lemon and/or sugar.
Just enough dispute to ensure all is still well in our tea drinking communities. That the past is still with us in the present.
I do like a bit of continuity.
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