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|Nancy Bea Miller
||Dear Nicey and Wifey;|
Just found out myself that it is National Hot Tea Month here in the U.S., according to the American Food
and Drink Holidays people (whoever they are.) Saw it announced on a very nice site called Morning Coffee
and Afternoon Tea.
Just thought you might like to know. Off to celebrate!
(of Genre Cookshop)
|Nicey replies: Hello Nancy,
Indeed it appears to be. Mind you January is also National Egg, Meat, Soup, Bread, Bread Machine Baking, Candy and Prune Breakfast month. This some what steals Hot Tea's thunder. It's also troubling that the word 'Hot' has to be included to distinguish it from the barbarous business of iced tea.
The full calendar makes very funny and disturbing reading in equal measure. Obviously with Independence day July is a busy month and apart from National Scotch, Tequila, Grand Marnier, Daiquiri and Pina Colada day it also hosts National Fried Chicken, French Fries, Hot Dog, Ice Cream, Ice Cream Soda, Vanilla Ice day and for good measure National Junk Food day.
||Hello Nicey et al.|
Although I come from Blighty I have been living for a year now in an awfully hot place called the Sahel, which is to the South West of the Sahara Desert that Michael Palin so memorably crossed on telly. There isn't much to do here, so rather understandably people have resorted to sitting down and drinking tea to pass the time. However, the tea-drinking customs here are so radically different to our own I thought people might appreciate an in-depth report of the process, so here goes...
First, there are no chairs to sit on, so we sit on the floor usually with some cushions to make it a bit more comfy. Then a fire is lit in the charcoal brazier on which the tea will be made. For the tea itself (which in Arabic is called ataaya) we use a small metal teapot that could hold one mug full of water, however tea is drunk in small glasses, like you might drink shooters from on a wild night out in Tunbridge Wells. We put three glasses of water and one glass of tea (dark Chinese green tea) in the teapot and place it on the fire. Once it has boiled and stewed for a couple of minutes, the pot is removed from the fire, then a glass full of sugar is added along with a sprig of mint if you've got some. The tea is then poured into two glasses, then back into the pot several times to mix in the sugar, then back on the fire for a couple of minutes to stew the mint. You then take three glasses, fill one with tea, and then pour that tea into the second glass, then from the second glass to the third, and back and forth to produce foam in each glass. The tea is then reheated before serving up and drinking with satisfyingly loud slurping noises. Once everyone has drunk, the mint is removed from the pot, another glass full of sugar and another sprig of mint are placed in with three more glasses of water and the same tea leaves and the whole process is repeated. It is then repeated a third time, again with the same tea leaves, meaning the final glass is very weak and sweet. The whole process usually takes around an hour so that's plenty of sitting down.
I've attached a small photo of some ataaya.
We don't have biscuits with tea, but we sometimes enjoy a piece of freshly-baked bread which is almost as good. Biscuits are available here, although they're mostly iffy French-style imports. The most promising are called Biscrem, which are dry and hard and flavourless outside but fillied with a sort of chocolatey flavoured somethingortheother that melts in the desert heat. Chocolate on the outside of things is unfortunately a bad idea in these parts.
None of the other foreigners here seem to understand why anyone would be interested in a website about sitting down and drinking tea and eating biscuits. Can you imagine? Might I suggest encouraging others from around the world to write and tell about their sitting down and drinking tea customs? Let it never be said that we Brits are not cosmopolitan.
|Nicey replies: Ben,
Thanks so much for that very useful account of Saharan tea drinking. I bought some of that Green Tea a month or two back just because I thought I should give it a go but found it utterly grim. Bunging in loads of sugar and mint couldn't hurt. Next time we fire up the BBQ maybe I'll try knocking up some desert style tea on it, I'm always looking for something useful to do with the BBQ after all the cooking has died down. Mind you I'll have to keep a look out for a nice second hand metal teapot now.
Khong Guan creamy chocolate biscuits Review
|Enticed by the name, ingredient list, and appealing package, I bought the so-called Creamy Chocolate Biscuits at our local Asian store in Denver, Colorado, Your review is absolutely correct. The biscuits were barely recognizable as a food substance. We tried them and threw them out. Thank goodness we have had better luck with other unknown products.|
I found your website when looking for Anna's ginger thins online, and I'm absolutely hooked. Do keep up the good work.
|Nicey replies: Yes the best thing about the biscuits was the box that Jonathan constructed to send them in. The younger members of staff are using it to keep pencils in. Other than that I've yet to taste a nice biscuit from China, and as I've tasted quite few now this is not a veiled invitation for people to send us more.|
||Dearest and most esteemed Nicey,|
Having recently returned from a year under the tyranny of the Lu controlled french biscuit market, i hastened to click upon your tricoleur icon and read all manner of french related biscuitaries. I would like to point out that, while we may pity our gallic cousins for their ignorance of the ginger nut and other such delights, they are positively a fully developed nation compared to the Italians. One fellow Erasmus student we met, from Rome - a cosmopolitan centre of cultural exchange you may think - didn't even know what a kettle was. And when we poured the steaming water from stylish yet practical mouth, he simply refused to believe that the water could have been boiled in such a short space of time. What kind of nation doesnt even know what kettles are? The french might heat their water in the microwave, before adding a teabag and a splodge of UHT milk in attempt to make us feel at home, but at least they'd recognize a kettle were it placed before their eyes. Needless to say, the italian later returned to Italy bearing gifts of kettles for all his relations, along with copious amounts of Tetley's breakfast tea. A poor introduction to english tea perhaps, but when it's either that or lipton yellow, the sacrifice must be made. Incidentally, he will shortly be coming over to visit us, and we are desperately keen to get him onto higher strength cuppas such as PG, and maybe even a Yorkshire 'hard water' brew. I'm already planning the accompanying biscuit menus in my head. He only has three days to sample to full wealth and diversity of the UK biscuit - any suggestions?
|Nicey replies: It's difficult to know where to begin but obviously you'll need to give him some Garibaldis. |
Iced Gems Review
|Dear Nicey --|
I am thoroughly enjoying your book! Yes, I am writing you from the USA; and no, the book was not a gift, I bought it on my own. I am somewhat one of those foodies (however, I only enjoy 'food' books if they're well written). FYI -- I discovered your book thru a catalog I get called A Common Reader.
I am nearly finished with the book and have just gotten thru with the 'Icing' chapter. I have indulged in some biscuits, mostly the Marie/Maria type. But after just reading about Iced Gems, I realized I also ate these as a child here in the States (Los Angeles), but I called them Belly Button Cookies.
I am of Chinese descent & oddly enough there are always a fair number of British-type cookies & crackers that are sold in the Chinese market (I don't know if this has to do with the British occupation of Hong Kong for so many years). My non-English speaking paternal grandmother often bought us 'cookies' while we took her on her weekly shopping expeditions to the market in Chinatown.
I was actually looking for these Belly Button Cookies recently in a Chinese market due more for nostalgia than anything else. However, I was unable to find them. I had no idea the cookies were originally from England.
However, my best friend's husband has been traveling often to London lately & I haven't been able to think of anything for him to bring back for me. Guess I now know what to ask for. To make his search easier, will he be able to find the Iced Gems at a Safeway? Or would he be better off at a Sainsbury? Or do you have a better suggestion? (I've been to London twice (& the first time I was sent on a mad hunt for a particular type of mustard for a friend that I found in a Safeway of all places)).
Thanks much for your time! Keep up the great website & I hope there's another book from you soon!
|Nicey replies: Hi Anita,
Glad to hear that we have put you in touch with the icing of your youth. Your friends husband will have no problem tracking down a sack of Iced Gems for you all the big supermarkets have them. They are available in fruit flavours or lately chocolate so probably best if he gets the fruity ones.