NPR has a fabulous series. I assume the name arose because of the alliteration, but dedicating one day of the week to the beverage is fabulous. Here’s my contribution for this week.
I stopped by a friend’s this afternoon, and she served a Tanzanian selection. I’m not sure if the photo is exactly the same. It tasted heavenly, less astringent than rooibos but offering the identical soothing quality. Her son buys it in NYC, so there’s hope that I can procure some.
This past Sunday’s NYTimes Travel section’s lead story featured Sri Lanka. Search for “Deep Into the Hills of Sri Lanka.” The descriptions sounded magical, if still heavy with the touch of the raj. The expert took the old themes to new stratospheres: four cups of tea a day “could indemnify … against indigestion, heart disease and general dysfunction.” That’s about what my mother drank, and she suffered from none of them until the very end of her life, so maybe I should up it from two. He also said optimal brewing time is six minutes, which is the longest I’ve ever seen. Most range from 45 seconds (Jeju) to five minutes (black teas). After reading again about the predations of the Tamil Tigers, I realized why I’ve seen no Ceylon Breakfast in the past few years. Will check with my friend Peggi when next I visit Tea Roses Tea Room.
As for the NPR “Tea Tuesdays,” I’m mentioning yerba mate even though it’s not tea because I included the Tanzanian version, which is also an herbal beverage, not made from camellia sinensis. With jaguars and moon maidens (and Pope Francis), mate offers the best tale of the series. And it has the most important part of tea: the ceremony of the preparation.
If you want some larceny with your afternoon (or morning, or evening beverage), here’s a link to the Scot who ripped off Chinese tea.
To conclude on a family note, which is where tea should always be shared, here’s is TT’s version of brewing the perfect cup English style, with commentary about the way I learned from my mother, whose training in chemistry helped her brew tea and coffee that kept guests coming back for more.
Her process never used anything other than black tea and NEVER in a tea bag. She heated the pot before putting in the leaves and adding the water, which the article neglects to mention.
Favorites, depending on her mood, were the heavy smoky Lapsang Souchong or light and feathery Darjeeling. Guests almost always received the bergamot-laden Earl Grey.
Cups were always bone china. I remember a friend I’d brought to the house to help move some furniture said he was afraid to pick up the cup and when he did, he discovered he could see through it. I gave those cups (there were many, many of them) to some of her dear friends but still enjoy that ethereal thrill when I visit Tea Roses. Mother always checked on the brewing process about three minutes in and poured at five, decanting the remaining tea into another heated pot.
She always added milk, after pouring the tea, but thought lemon suited just as well.
And those tea leaves went into the azalea bed at the back door, along with the coffee grounds. We not only had satisfying afternoon teas but beautiful flowers to go along with them.