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Long time no speak. I've just been on a month long road trip in the States and I have to say that the tea situation is very grave across the pond. I was subject to a near disaster while taking breakfast in Washington DC and this was down to the classification of teas on the menu. I ordered some eggs, home fries and a tea. What could possibly go wrong? I was presented with a glass of Ice Tea. Silly me for not ordering "Hot Tea". The chaos didn't end there. I was then given a list of teas to choose from. "Have you got any normal tea?" I asked. "No".
I had to resort to Earl Grey.
This experience made me resort to going to the supermarket to buy some tea bags. (Yes, I know I should have taken some PG over with me but I forgot). The only normal tea they had was Twinings, drinkable so it had to do. They also had Tetleys but only decaffinated as well as a multitude of different fruit, colour, herb, twig, bark, mud and other "teas" as they call them.
Now i'm back in the UK and spent the first two days back getting my fix of reliable old PG Tips. I've been averaging about 9 cups a day since i've got back (a good 3 or 4 more than before). I'm hoping to cut back slightly as i'm sure it's not good to drink that much.
There are a lot of good things about the States, but tea is not one of them.
|Nicey replies: Hello Jim,
Good to hear from you. There is a certain book with your name in the acknowledgements that opens with a chapter on this self same dire scenario. We'll have an extra cuppa here at NCOTAASD HQ to show our support at what must be a very difficult time for you.
I have been a regular visitor to your site for some time now, and it has, in fact, opened my eyes once more to the merits of biscuits. During my rebellious teenage years I shunned biscuits in favour of chocolate, but have now come back to reliable childhood biscuits (albeit still preferring chocolate biscuits over most others). There is something else I have been mulling over, however, and that is the correct classification of types of tea. In my head, I subdivide tea into a progressive scale of: (1) Real tea (Black, preferably Lyons in pyramid bags); (2) Green tea (acceptable as a supplementary cuppa); (3) Herbal teas (count as medicinal and are acceptable for such use); and (4) Fruit teas (not really tea at all and should belong in the "warm squash" category of drinks). Now, however, I have started drinking Redbush tea, and am unsure where it should go. In with green where it doesn't really belong? With black teas, where it has a claim based on similarity of colour and tea-style? Or does it require a new category?
I would very much appreciate some help in solving this problem, and perhaps in comparing tea-classification methods with other tea-drinkers.
Yours guiltily (I'm cheating on you with a cup of coffee)
|Nicey replies: Jane,
I think your classification system is overly complex. You simply need to divide everything into proper tea (like your number 1), and not proper tea. Now the Redbush stuff simply is classified as 'not proper tea' which seems fair.
||Dear Nicey et al,|
On the subject of more people drinking coffee over tea, I think some blame must be lain on the office environment. Where I work, there isn't a kitchen, only vending machines. I can't get through the day without several hot drinks so I have to make due with this vile abomination - however, and this is my point, that even truely foul vending machine coffee tastes a damn sight better than the utterly disgusting and insipid liquid that tries to pass itself off as tea in these things!!
I have to make up my tea ration when I get home by drinking it out of a HUGE mug!
|Nicey replies: Excellent, I've just blown the dust off the vending machine icon.|
||Dear Nicey, Wifey and the Younger Members of Staff|
It appears that disaster is upon us and tea is now being outsold by coffee as reported by the Guardian. Is there any hope for humanity? Apparently it is due to the rise in herbal tea drinking...
|Nicey replies: That story seems to be laying the blame with the 20-30 year olds for not drinking enough tea, but in these circumstances I blame the parents too. My niece who will soon be 18 up till now hasn't drunk tea, coffee or anything much really (water and squash I suppose). She realised that to make her way in this world she has to drink tea. Therefore she has taught herself how to do this in the last six months. Naturally we are all very pleased and somewhat relieved. Especially my sister who feels she is somewhat off the hook now, re raising a non-tea drinking daughter.
We can all do our bit to help by making sure that everybody who should be drinking tea does so. Gentle persuasion such denial of access to biscuits unless drinking tea can help. Personally I think it's morally just to insist tea drinking is mandatory in all new employees, unless they can produce some medical reason why not. It should be on CVs in the beverages section, just above qualifications. Coffee drinking can just about be tolerated as most coffee drinkers are tea drinkers in waiting. People who just drink fizzy pop should be strongly encouraged to tea, or emigrate to some country where this is acceptable.
People who just drink herbal tea need to sort it out and start drinking proper tea (again medical exceptions will be grudgingly accepted as long as they accompanied by a 'I'd rather drink proper tea if I could').
There that's not too unreasonable is it?
Love your website and sense of humour, and especially the original spelling and grammar together with the Joycian rambling off into thoughts far removed. From what? Oh yes, tea and biscuits.
My parents took us from the UK in 1959, when tea was loose and landed us in in Nova Scotia, Canada. Tea is big here, and the vast consumption of it a bit of a giggle to the rest of the country. By 1959, teabags had already displaced most loose tea, and we couldn't get a decent cuppa anywhere except at home. Then we discovered that all the tea came from Kenya and is called orange pekoe. I therefore became distraught at British colonial policy which obviously meant all the decent Indian tea was intercepted shortly after being picked and sent to the UK, leaving the rest of the world to choke down inferior brews. This, I believe, was as a distinct policy decision to make up for the Boston Tea Party, when nascent Americans invented iced tea by brewing it in the harbour.
Nevertheless, my Mum soon discovered the universal "socials", at which other Mums would gather round to discuss their favourite topic or charity. These events were usually chronicled in the local paper with a description of the gathering, and Always the following note: "Mrs. So and So poured". Some of these ladies poured so much tea that they became very good at it, and championships had evolved by about 1885. Of course, my Mum quickly discovered that the nibblies offered at these socials were called ookies -- argh On the other hand, some of these things had morphed into what is generally known as "squares". Never seen anything like them in Blighty, but they have biscuits beaten by a country mile most of the time, as they are homemade, soft, gooey, quite often have lots of choccy nuts and jam in them and make you burp after the third cuppa. The most popular cookie, oh all right biscuit was then and still is the chocolate chip, which is made in every variety from hard like bourbons to gooey bits of mostly chocolate held together with undercooked dough. Hmm... Oreos are industrial floor sweepings and sugar baked into a hard and not very nice biccy. Don't like 'em at all, but some people are addicted. Rats.
The "cookie" aisle at local supermarkets has well over 200 varieties of biscuits, but most aren't much good, although Dare Marshmallow Puffs aren't bad. These are, I should think, similar to Tunnocks tea cakes, but my brother and I used to put them in the fridge until they were cold and then you could pop the chocolate covering off them with your lips, leaving the white blob of marshmallow quivering on the biscuit, hiding the jam under it. Or you treat it like a boiled egg and smack its crown with a teaspoon, splintering the chocolate just enough to allow its removal from the clinging marshmallow with your fingers. Then while the cold chocolate gradually melted in your mouth, you could keep a close eye on the marshmallow, and decide how you were going to dispatch this particular specimen. You could lift it off the biscuit with your tongue and roll it around your mouth while it quietly dissolved, leaving the jammy biscuit behind, or in a fit of venal hunger bite right into the marshmallow and biscuit and chew it up. Delicious.
As you know Wagon Wheels were an invention of Westons, which was a Canadian outfit. Having been quite unimpressed as a schoolboy in Britain with these things, we were eager to find out what the real thing was like. Just as bad with a faint whiff of decaying straw, which every wagon wheel seems to have. Maybe that's the grain content.
There are many makes of digestives, but none of them taste like McVities. We still have Peek Freans here, but the funny little biscuits with the oven-hardened red jam blob in the middle taste remarkably like sawdust, and the tasteless jam sticks to your teeth for far too long. The bourbons are dreadful as well, being hard and with concrete-like filling and the digestives are merely passable. We had Marks and Sparks here for about 15 years, but despite their best efforts, they were unable to convince Canada that having all their goods arrayed around with snooty sales ladies and no pizazz was the marketing wave of the future. However, while they were here, at least people who had visited the UK and knew about M&S could get decent tea and biscuits, along with tinned cock-a-leekie soup, which I understand was a smash bestseller to expatriate Welshmen. The trouble with M&S stuff is that whilst being of first class quality, it never tastes like the original, does it? Something not quite right.
After ten years of living in the colonies, I returned to London to take postgrad studies, and in my five years there downed so many cuppas and biscuits, it was all a bit of a blur really. Tescos were just starting up and were infested with grim-faced women buying the basics in pretty grimy locations like Lamb's Conduit Way, where one had to pass by the proprietor of an Indian restaurant who would call out the wondrousness of his curries and especially Bombay Duck as we Canadians tried to look the other way hurrying to buy some biscuits and a loaf of bread. By the way, ordinary bread in the UK is the best I've ever found by a long shot. I just can't enjoy a decent boiled egg without a proper slice of bread that's both chewy and heavy. Our loaves here weigh a pound and are the same size, which makes them fluffy enough to blow away in a light breeze, but not suitable as a gustatory complement to a humble egg. On the other hand, Britain invented Batchelors dehyrated peas and Vesta curries so you can't have everything your way can you.
Fast forward to 1993 when I made my last trip to the UK, and managed to visit nearly all the friends I made while living in London, this meant travelling the length and breadth of the Uk including the Isle of Islay and quite a few drams of damn good whisky. Where was I, oh yes -- In Manchester, I had to give up tea-drinking by 6pm one day, as I counted back to the beginning of the day whilst sequestered in the loo and realized I had had 23 cups at six different places and a couple of real Eccles cakes from that place in Eccles which claims to have invented them. Very nice but felt a bit queasy.
So now I read on your website that tea consumption is down a lot due to youngsters drinking too much juice and coke, which is a real pity because it leads to diabetes all that sugar. Plus, there's nothing like a quiet gathering with a nice cuppa and a biscuit or three. Anyway, I now buy Brooke Bond tea packaged in India from a local merchant so as to get the real tea flavour I like and make it properly as it's loose. Not like the leaf tea of my youth to look at, little hard granules that explode in boiling water. Not bad at all. On the other hand, besides biscuits of many varieties that would be instantly recognizable to you, we also get stuff from Poland, Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands which I have endeavoured to try. I should think that anyone from the aforementioned countries who visited the UK and had a decent cuppa and a UK biscuit would not want to return home. Good Lord, what are these things? Dry, crumbly biccies that don't travel well at all. Our Canadian stuff is much more like yours than these continental things. The Dutch try the hardest, but the German ones come in big bags without liners which mean they get crushed just getting here. I mean Britain gave the world hardtack, didn't it, and if that wasn't the beginning of the digestive, I don't know what is. Unbreakable unless dropped on its edge just so.
Funnily enough, the very best tea I've ever been offered anywhere at a commercial place was in the USA, and I can recommend it highly. Visit the Acadia National Park in Maine, and wonder of wonders, the US National Parks Service serves tea in the garden and adjacent meadow at picnic tables in summer during the late afternoon. It is brought by attractive college students working their summer jobs there and arrives in a giant green porcelain teapot with Parks Service logo together with proper cups and saucers and milk and sugar. Just couldn't believe it when it happened, so had to have another pot with my parents. Wow. Who'd have ever believed it, the setting was perfect, the tea divine. So unexpected.
Well I've written far too much and don't understand those icons, so don't know where this fits. But keep up the good work, I laugh my head off reading it and none of my friends understand why when I show them. I think I'll have a nice cup of tea and read some more, because I'm already sitting down.
|Nicey replies: Thanks Bruce for that mammoth message, and all of that useful information on Canada, its biscuits, cakes and its tea. Also thanks for the tip off about a place in America that makes a decent cup of tea, after four years I think we may be edging towards double figures on that. You also managed a fairly respectable icon haul. If you had kept going a bit longer I'm sure you would have most of the others, and I felt particularly that the kettle and toast icons where within your grasp at one point. |