Inspiration From The Distant Past

Inspiration From The Distant Past
Found note in an old book... warms the cockles of my bookish heart...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tea for Me

In an effort to settle nights and tummies, neither of which are settled in our house, we have started brewing a pot of chamomile for our girls every evening. The blue pot sits on the table with little Chinese-style handle less cups while we eat, so it is cool enough for little lips after dinner. A generous tablespoon of honey sweetens it, but one daughter has only just now started sipping it rather than gulping whilst holding her nose. They get quite a lot of joy from the adult-ness of the ritual, and considerable placebo effect. They feel bereft if deprived of this treat.

In this respect they are quite Australian. We are a nation of tea lovers and drinkers. The average working or middle-class Aussie family would only have instant coffee at home, but would consume litres of tea (hot!) each week. Continental European immigration and American coffee retailers have influenced a coffee culture, especially in large cities, but for many, brewed coffee is a treat to be enjoyed out of the home.

I will never forget my first offer of a 'cuppa'. I had to ask, 'Cup of what?' Now, I always greet droppers-in or droppers-off of children with, 'Have you got time for a cuppa?' Kids know a 'yes' means more play time. Drinking tea at a friend's house is natural, and I associate certain brews with certain friends. My neighbour, whose husband is Chinese, offers me Buddha's tears, or sometimes popcorn tea. The white roasted rice grains look like little popped kernels, and the taste is slightly salty. My Maltese friend has an amazing, hissing coffee machine, but she and her husband also love to drink Bushels' Tea (a Queensland tradition since 1889), always loose leaves brewed in a Royal Albert bone china teapot, and served in a fine cup and saucer. My true-blue mate offers me Nerada teabags brewed in a hearty mug.

But it is to an English immigrant friend that I owe my love of Lady Grey. The brewed tea has the loveliest colour, and the loose leaves look like potpourri with citrus peel and purple bergamot blossoms. I love to lift the lid on the canister and inhale the fragrance. The bags are easily available, but purchasing the loose leaves means a half-hour drive. Some of my friends keep Lady Grey just for me, and I have been known to stock their favourites, too.

So with all this in mind, my dear mother gave me Gilles Brochard's publication, The Tea Box. It is a beautiful collection of a booklet, cards with gorgeous photos, the history of tea and recipes. Lesa is the adventurous cook, so I have not tried any, but they look divine. Anyone with an interest in cooking or tea drinking would love this. It would make a beautiful gift.

What I found interesting is the link between tea and reading. Author Lu Ting wrote, 'The third bowl (of tea) dissipates the heaviness of my soul, refining the inspiration gained from all the books I have read.' Our Queen Elizabeth reportedly calls for, 'The Times and a cup of tea.' Tea drinking and intellectual pursuits have long gone hand-in-hand, and amazingly, there was an article in the Weekend Australian about tea, books and writing.

Alexander McCall Smith, the author of the charming The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series wrote an article about the role of tea in his life and his books. He writes about his tea drinking childhood in Bulawayo (now in Zimbabwe), the evolution of his taste in tea, and the difficulties in finding a good cuppa in America. He describes how his characters love to drink tea, and how he uses tea drinking in his novels as a pause between scenes. In the article, he marvels at the universal appeal of tea.

They are all right. Reading and tea go hand in hand. I love to sit down to a cup of Lady Grey and a book or newspaper. What do you drink when you read?


  1. I drink tea of course... as is stated in my blog's title.. :)

  2. I had noticed that, Jeanne, and thought how funny it is that an idea seems everywhere at once! Which blend do you drink? Here the difference is important, like Coke vs Pepsi vs Dr Pepper.

  3. Well, my stepmother got me hooked on Barry's Irish Breakfast tea. So, that is one of my faves. When I can't get Barry's, I really like the English Breakfast Tea by Celestial Seasonings for the Keurig. When I can't get THAT, then I go for Tetley's English Breakfast blend, and finally, I go for Red Rose English Breakfast. When ALL ELSE fails, Lipton. :)
    P.S. Coke, all the way.

  4. Right! I remember Celestial Seasonings, I used to love the tea and the boxes, too.

    Never heard of Barry's, must have a look for it.

  5. This sounds lovely! The whole tea experience is so delightful. I'm normally a coffee drinker, but today I was craving tea. All out. So I decided on hot chocolate. All out. And instead of being bummed, I'm thinking YAY! I get to go buy some new kind!
    The rest of the time I am a big ice water drinker, but tonight I have a rum and coke at hand (rough day). LOVE your blog!

  6. Fab post! I need some tea now ;)

    Happy Blog Hoppin' Friday!
    Tales of :)

  7. Growing up in Tx, I only knew iced sweet tea. But I remember my first cuppa-- can you guess who served it? You, DeLynne, at the Covington house-- we must have been 14! It was Bigelow's Constant Comment. I was skeptical but you loaded it with tons of honey. Delicious!

    I don't sweeten now. I prefer loose leaf but can only get teabags at times. I love herbal teas and black and green teas. My favorite is probably Jasmine tea.

    Oolong is a fave too-- I like the nutty flavour. The most unusual tea I've enjoyed is Kukicha twig tea. It is actually twigs/stems of the tea plant. Very nutty and woodsy flavoured.

    My elderly literary linguist friend keeps me supplied with fancy tea. He is very particular and sometimes goes down to Dallas to buy tea. The last tea he gave me was Kalami Assam by the Ahmad Tea Ltd of London.

    The only tea I didn't take to was Earl Grey-- isn't that funny. My palate has changed alot especially in the last five years so I should try it again. How does your Lady Grey compare to Lord Grey? Your description sounds delicious.

    By the way, I still drink Constant Comment... brings back such lovely memories. Thanks friend for that first cuppa!


  8. Aw, how sweet! I'll brew you a pot any time, friend.

    About that time, I remember brewing a pot and being the only person awake in my house to watch Lady Diana wed her Prince.

    Lady Grey, as far as I know, is her husband's tea with citrus added.


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