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||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.
||I seem to remember a childrens tv show featuring Mr and Mrs Spoon (and Tina teaspoon) who went to Button Moon. Happy New Year to you all at NCOTAASD|
|Nicey replies: I wonder if any the big Hollywood studios have bought up the film rights to Button Moon. Given what is possible with today's CGI based technology behind such movies as King Kong maybe we have advanced to the state where a truly lifelike and convincing wooden spoon people being waved around through a hole in a black cloth could be achieved. I would happily watch nearly three hours of that, especially as the younger members of staff have toughend me up to such an extent that I can even cope with back to back episodes of the Tweenies with out visible signs of mental anguish.|
||Happy new year to you nicey,|
i am back at work after the festive break and would very much appreciate your advice on a biscuit related matter. i have been talking to people at work about the existence of a blue wafer biscuit (like the evil pink wafer but blue) and they all look at me like i have two heads does this bisuit actually exist or have i been adamantly banging on incorrectly about said biscuit.
i also received the ncotaasd book for christmas and am very much enjoying it.
thanks in advance
|Nicey replies: Mark,
I fear you may be right. As I think I mention in the book, I once saw green wafers in one of those 'buy anything for a pound' type of shops, which sell such worrying tat. They may well have been next to some blue ones but my brain may have been unable to cope with the full horror of that, and deep regressive hypnotherapy might be required to extract the image.
I've been a regular visitor to your site since before you became famous (I googled the word "digestive" during a quiet period at work and up came nicecupoftea... etc) but this is the first time I've been tempted to put finger to keyboard. To get to the point, I feel I must point out that your north/south bun argument doesn't appear to include people from anywhere truly northern and seems to stop at the Humber. As a good Durham lad (and let's face it, I'm a southern softie compared to people from north of the Tyne) I have known all my life that a bun is a plain bread, er, bun - what you southern types might describe as a "bread roll". We do of course have currant buns and iced buns but they are always described as such to stop any confusion.
Just to throw something else into the bun mix so to speak, we proper northerners also have the "stottie cake" which is actually made from bread. Traditionally it was made with the left over dough from making normal bread and was just stuck in the bottom of the oven to bake. This resulted in a flat, round, stodgy, and very tasty loaf which is perfect for putting roast beef in and having with your flask of tea while hiking along Hadrian's Wall.
Unfortunately in recent years the stottie's reputation has been dented by both southerners and large bakery chains who don't understand the bread's heritage and there are many light, fluffy, tasteless "buns" masquerading as stotties even in the heart of Newcastle. I've also heard a lot of people from Manchester saying that stotties are just the same as barm cakes and nothing to get excited about. Well, I'm afraid my north-western friends, that this is because you have eaten one of these fake, bastardised stotties.
Anyway, rant over. Have a good New Year and long may you keep us all up to date on advances in biscuit knowledge.
|Nicey replies: Yes probably best that you got that off your chest so you can face 2006 with a clear head.
| David Blaxill
||Dear Mr Nicey|
Finally got round to exploring your site properly, and an enjoyable experience it has been too. The "Paleolithic" section brought back many memories, as I worked as a sales rep for McVities between 1967 and 69. I thought you might like to hear some of them.
Many of the paleolithics were familiar to me, particularly Butter Osborne, also Barmouth and Dad's Cookies which were advertised on telly. Butter Osborne was one of H&P's best sellers in those days, so much so that McVits brought out a competitor called Butter Crumble. It was the first major new product launched for eons - others being only for specialist areas of the biscuit market, like milk and plain coffee wafers (addictive), cheese snaps (even more addictive), and the disgusting Captain Scarlet, (later Joe 90), which were chocolate covered Majestic Wafers with fancy foil wrapper and inflated price tag. The Butter Crumble (launched summer 69) did in fact taste very much of butter, although I remember its consistency as being mid-way between Rich Tea and shortbread. The packaging was, er, buttery coloured, with some red, and the packaging was a box of thin card, and - wait for it - octagonal, although the biscuits themselves were round and in a tube. They were easy to sell, can't remember any stores refusing to take them (plenty of independent grocers in those days). I left McVits shortly afterwards, and having eaten so many free samples, lost interest in biscuits for at least a decade, so have no further information on them.
When I joined the company (Oct 67), although it was United Biscuits, the Mc Vities salesforce was separate from MacDonalds, Crawfords & MacFarlane Laing, or MCM. UB had also just bought Meredith & Drew, but they made mostly own label stuff for supermarkets. McVities salesmen thought themselves the cream, and were officially supposed to wear bowler hats, (although no-one did except managers), and were provided with stiff collars and collarless shirts. The company did away with these as part of a cost cutting excercise - they also downgraded the company cars from Cortinas to Escorts. McVities best sellers were Chocolate Digestives (Milk outsold Plain two to one) at 1s11d, Rich Tea, Rich Marie, Digestives, Ginger Nuts, Family Assorted, Lincoln, and Royal Scot - all 1s1d and Jaffa Cakes at 2/-. On my very first day I learned an important fact - the average British housewife was five feet three and a half inches tall, and spent two shillings and ninepence a week on biscuits. I looked out for her on my travels, but we never did meet.
Funnily enough, I worked your neck of the woods - Cambridge - quite a lot. The largest supermarket was called The Dorothy (think it was in Sidney St). It was actually a Co-op, Cambridge was dominated by Co-ops in those days. And you could park.
Anyway, I've rambled enough. Might do it again if the mood takes me and I remember things. Great site, do keep it going.
PS I know what you mean about the foul tasting tap water in Cambridge. My daughter is at Magdalene and whenever we visit, the tea she makes (Taylor's Yorkshire - sod the PG and Tetleys) tastes very reminiscent of what you got at Butlins in the seventies. With such a large population of undergraduates, I think they must put Bromide in it.
Regards David Blaxill
|Nicey replies: David,
Many thanks for taking the time to share those memories with us.
A merry Christmas to you and your Cambridge water afflicted daughter.