Adventures in Tea

Red Steam KettleI’ve always liked tea. Of course I have, I’m British for God’s sake. WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? My parents used to drink it at regular intervals as I was growing up. Back in those nightmarish school-days, I would wolf it down with milk and two sugars. I recall drinking it on Sunday evenings, and I remember how it offered salvation from the dreaded Sunday Bath, The Homework Deadline and The Seemingly Never-Ending Hell of The Antiques Roadshow Followed By Last of the Summer Wine on BBC One.

Something happened when I became a teenager. Something beyond the growing of underarm hair, testicles and a penchant for sweary Fred Durst. I started to like coffee. It became my staple hot beverage. God knows why, it’s generally bloody awful in The UK, usually made from coffee granules that have been frozen and flown halfway across the world. But drink it, I did.

Then, three years ago, I moved from England to Canada. The coffee here is often better. The fact that there is a Tim Hortons, Coffee Time, Starbucks, Country Style or Second Cup every 300 yards would attest to that. It is generally made fresh, from ground coffee (that is probably still frozen, but only shipped a quarter of the way around the world) and it isn’t too expensive. The most unbelievable thing is that McDonald’s coffee is actually really nice. No, really. I don’t know if it has improved in The UK in the last three years, but it used to be compared to drinking mud, without much exaggeration.

So yeah, my homie. I totes did starts with drinkings of the coffees roffle. That was fine for a while. I still drink it occasionally. But I think that, perhaps, I am getting old. For the last year or so, it has started to affect my stomach. I don’t want to go into too much excruciating detail, but it does tend to speed up my metabolism in a way that genuinely both impresses and terrifies me. I get debilitating stomach pains, as adrenaline washes through my bowels. And then I have to run to the nearest plumbing device.

I was reintroduced to tea by my wife’s grandmother who drinks it at intervals that are so precisely scheduled, you could time it with a stopwatch. Tea in the morning with breakfast at 7:30am. Tea with lunch. Tea at 3pm when Days Of Our Lives is on. Tea after ‘supper’ at 6pm. Tea before bed at 10:30pm. I have become one of Pavlov’s dogs, as I salivate uncontrollably at the sound of the old-style metallic steam kettle whistling away on the kitchen stove.

Times have changed a little. I’m down to one sugar in my tea, now. I’m older. A piece of my tooth randomly fell out a couple of months ago. I think my mouth might be trying to tell me something. Something along the lines of, “See a dentist, you twat”. But I decided to hear, “ah, just take a bit less sugar and the tooth will grow back”.

A friend and colleague of mine is also a fan of tea, which has been just the kind of justification required to experiment with different varieties of the beverage without the fear of appearing to be one of the gays. I have a steeper, now. I don’t use it all the time, bags are so much quicker. But I have dipped my toe into the exotic world of tea leaves, and have only chocked on them once or twice.

My wife recommended Maté after it was, in turn, recommended to her by staff at David’s Tea. It gives you a stronger kick – the kind that’s hard to get when you can’t drink coffee and your workplace looks down on amphetamines. When the staff at David’s Tea asked me if I drink my tea through a gourd, I was confused. When I searched on google for ‘gourd’ and saw it was a dried out fruit, I was further perplexed. I understand now, and I kind of want one, just so I can ponce around with it like some kind of post-ironic hipster twat.

I’d never had Chai tea before. On the occasions where I can’t be bothered to put the kettle on, or I am unable to cajole any else into doing it for me, I will visit Tim Hortons and ask for Chai instead of “normal” tea (orange pekoe). Sometimes, they even get the order right for me. Incidentally, McDonald’s tea is not up to the same standard as their coffee. Their tea smells like a mixture of the dust and debris of a long forgotten warehouse and stale coffee. Either they re-use their cups after people have drunk coffee from them, or they have recently re-discovered a warehouse , buried in the middle of The Gobi desert, abandoned since 1874, from which they are shipping the dusty cups by camel.

Vanilla Earl GreyMy current favourite tea is Vanilla Earl Grey from Tetley. With not too much milk, the Vanilla really comes through and it’s quite delightful when you are as pompous as I am. Which I certainly am. Tea isn’t cheap over here, but I have rediscovered it, and for that, I am happy. If I’m feeling particularly flush with cash, a visit to Starbucks might be in order. In which case, how can I turn down a Vanilla Rooibos Tea Latte? (Rooibos is sometimes known as Redbush in The UK). Especially when you add just a little sugar to it. Right, teeth?

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