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I shall soon be having to spend 3 or 4 weeks working in Germany. Now, much as I try to be a good European, experience has shown that it's impossible to get a good cuppa on the Continent.
Do you or any of your correspondents have any tips on how a dedicated tea drinker can survive in a tea oasis for several weeks?
Any advice gratefully received.
Desperate of York
|Nicey replies: Gavin,
Start by bringing your own tea bags, thats it really.
Following on from the current flurry of vending machine emails I thought people might be interested to hear the latest in vending machine developments over here in Japan.
As many people know Japan is renowned for people working long hours with unwavering dedication to their company and its leaders. This company culture leads people to work 12 to 15 hour days five or more days a week. The end result of this is that a good 30% of people on the train are asleep at any one time. This is a country in clinical need of caffeine, but with little time to drink it.
The Japanese solution to this? Canned tea and coffee of course! Yes! Walk up to any vending machine in Japan (there are 5 million of them at the last count, one for every 24 people or so!) and you will be presented with a selection of canned hot and cold drinks. Drop in 100 yen, about 60p sterling, and out drops a steaming hot can of "Royal Milk Tea" or "Mountain Roast Coffee" in a can.
'Sacrilege!' some may cry! But when you are standing on the platform at Kita Ickibukruo station waiting for the next train to Shibuya, the freezing winds of Western Russia streaming through your overcoat, the hot can vending machine yards away stops being a object of disgust and transforms into an oasis of comfort and warmth. The products in these machines are usually very sweet and slightly clinical, lacking the character and depth of a good, strong, cup of tea, but when there is little else on offer they do fulfil the need for tea.
So do you think this could ever catch on in the west? If you could be sure of a satisfying drink of tea from a can would you buy it? Or is tea too complex a drink to be mass produced in a factory in the back end of nowhere?
|Nicey replies: It all sounds delightfully cyber-punkesque. Hoorah for the Japanese and their hatstand ideas.
Gratuitous link to Oolong the sadly departed head performance rabbit.
What a comforting web page for an expat. brit! Heard about it on Norwegian radio yesterday and thought I'd take a look.
Norway's a great country, but you can't get a decent cup of tea unless you make it yourself. Norwegians think that an Earl Grey teabag dipped into a cup of hottish water is tea! Biscuits aren't up to British standards either.
Keep up the good work!
|Nicey replies: I just heard from Britt who did the interview that we were on Norwegian radio yesterday, Woo.
I told her that I like A-Ha, especially 'The sun always shines on TV' but she seemed unimpressed, but she has promised to send me some Norwegian biscuits, Yay.
I have been living on the continent for about ten years now and would like to offer a few tips to any British tea-lovers planning a trip to Germany.
I always buy my tea and Jamaica ginger cake in England. This enables me to avoid some of the foul substances parading as tea in German supermarkets and cafes. I would certainly caution anyone visiting Germany to steer well clear of any well-meant invitations to a cup of tea, as you will almost certainly find yourself balancing precariously in a torturously uncomfortable "anatomically correct" position on an "ergonomically-designed bio-degradable spine-friendly" article of furniture. You will then be presented with a semi-transparent greyish brew giving off an odour faintly reminiscent of a fishmonger's socks and served in some kind of designer receptacle made of an innovative heat-conductive material that will sear your fingers and with the kind of handle you can't imagine anyone (except perhaps a small skeleton) getting even a single finger through. A far cry from the lovely saggy old armchair, nice steaming mug of tea and scrumptious biscuits you will have been looking forward to.
Should you find yourself in this position, don't, whatever you do, try adding milk to your cup. It will undoubtedly be either long-life or condensed milk and will instantly turn the entire liquid into a bright off-white mass from which an unnerving luminous glow will begin to emanate. At this point, your German host or hostess will smile confidently at you, make some kind of comment along the lines of "Oh you Pritish, you really loff your tea, do you not?" and possibly offer you some kind of biscuit. Do not make the mistake of thinking that a biscuit may help you force down the odious brew in front of you. The ones on offer in Germany are usually rather spartan affairs, resembling rectangles of yellow cardboard that disintegrate into a highly dangerous lung-clogging dust in your mouth. Some of the more "fancy" two-layer creations consist of two pieces of this ecologically recycled cardboard material filled with a sweetish chocolate-substitute gunk of a claggy, almost clay-like texture. When mixed with the hot grey liquid, a mouthful of these biscuits congeals into something rather like soggy paper that has been chewed up and spat out by a dog.
So heed my advice: you'd be safer just asking for alcohol. If offered tea, try the following technique, which I have developed over many years and frequently found to be highly effective. Look highly affronted for a few seconds - make sure they see this (you may find it helpful to think of Paddington Bear giving someone a very hard stare) - then start, as if you have just noticed how impolite you are being, and deliberately compose your face into an expression of badly-concealed pity. Hesitate, as if searching for the right words, then say very gently: "I'm afraid I couldn't possibly have a cup of tea at this time of day. It just wouldn't be right". They will not think this rude. If anything, they will be delighted and may even break out into a theatrically hearty laugh (at which you must try not to wince). This is because they only offered you tea in order to enjoy the spectacle of seeing you act the stereotype. This reply will satisfy their need quite adequately and you can then move directly on to the alcohol - which you can, of course, enjoy at any time of the day (or at least this is what you must tell them).
|Nicey replies: Amy,
Sounds like you are having splendid fun living in Germany. Hoorah! for you.
I'm excited to say that there is a parcel of German biscuits winging its way to me at this very moment from Hamburg, so expect a few German biscuit reviews soon.
||When at home I've been using very large tea cups, you know the really big wide ones, for years, and I think the tea in said cups cools at just the right pace for sustained tea enjoyment. Infact when I visit my parents or other old people and am offered tea in traditional "tea cups" I sometimes|
defer. (I do note that some older tea cups do have a splayed flange or rim which I believe was an early attempt at what modern day big tea cups are so good at.) I have also noticed that tea served on trains (Great Western/Penzance line)in those tall ribbed plastic cups stand NOT A CHANCE
at proper heat dispersal. (Hot enough to blister your lips for a frustrating 15 minutes then stone cold all of a sudden. Well within 5 minutes anyway.) I might add that Great Western sell a bloody good 4 pack of Fruit Shrewsbury biscuits however, even they're a little delicate for dunking.
The Germans are bloody good at biscuits aren't they.
|Nicey replies: Yes we are hearing good things about the Fruit Shrewsburys on trains.
As for the Germans I find them a bit fixated on Ginger and Spice in their biscuits which is fine just a bit samey. Still I've only been there once so what do I know.