Ever since I was introduced to flavored coffee, at the age of eighteen, I’ve been a coffee drinker. At that time, I found both regular coffee and tea to be dull. But remembering how much I enjoyed the different FLAVORS of coffee, I would try out different flavors of tea, like Bigelow’s Raspberry or Constant Comment. Eventually, I discovered that I loved the different flavors of tea, especially the spicy teas and chai.
Then, I went to Australia, and found that what I termed “regular tea” could be pretty good, too. Don’t ask me what lapsong souchong and such are, but I started to learn my way around. You’ve heard some of this before, but the Aussies (like the British) are tea drinkers. I couldn’t help but learn about tea! Sure, they drink coffee (mostly instant), but that’s only a side note to all the tea that they drink at tea time (and every other time). I learned quickly to refer to that time as “smoko”, but I can’t say for certain whether that was what all Aussies called it, or just Queenslanders.
Since moving home again, I have created a tea & coffee drawer for myself, in our family’s kitchen. As the person who drinks the most variety of coffees and teas, it was necessary to have a spot for them all. The flavors of coffee come and go, but the tea types always stay the same. Not just because they last longer, but because once I’ve settled on a flavor of tea that I enjoy, I stick with it. I thought I’d take the time to share with you about it.
Returning to the U.S., I found out swiftly that my newest favorite tea, Russian Caravan, is not generally sold in the United States. Twinings has all sorts of flavors in the U.S., and I keep Earl Grey and Lady Grey in the drawer at all times (flavors I came to enjoy, in Australia)… but not Russian Caravan. Eventually, I ordered some from the UK, two good-sized bags of the tea leaves. Having tea leaves on hand, I had to make sure I had a way to brew it properly, too.
Some time ago, I bought my little blue tea pot from a specialty store in Pennsylvania. It holds about two mugs worth of tea. However, since we don’t have a tea kettle, at present, I cheat a little when I’m making it. After heating several cups of water to the boiling point, in the microwave, I pour it into the tea pot with the leaves, and leave it to steep. Some of you tea drinkers will be shocked, but I work with what I have.
At first, I would pour my tea (full of tea leaves) through a small basket sieve into my tea cup, but then I made a visit to the Charleston Tea Plantation, last May. Instead of spending money on the actual tea, knowing how much of it I already had in my drawer, I bought several accoutrements to go with the tea.
One is the scissors-like tea ball that you insert into the bag of leaves, scoop out however much you want, and then leave the entire thing in your cup to steep. But I always end up with more leaves in my tea cup, because it’s hard to close the “tea ball” part of it, without getting tea leaves trapped in the cracks.
So, I brought out my other purchase, the fancily decorated tea strainer, complete with butterflies and flowers on the handle. You pour your tea (and leaves) through the slotted ladle, into your mug, and then put the strainer into its pewter “cradle” that it came with. This one really reminded me of how we made and poured tea in Emerald, though their tea strainer wasn’t as fancy.
My tea drawer also includes some green tea that my brother likes to drink, so he experiments with all my tea-making gear, as well. A few days ago, we also added to the collection of tea, when a Greek friend sent us a bag of what he called “mountain tea”. I haven’t actually tried it yet, because it smells a bit like rosemary, but I’ve been meaning to.
Per the pictures, you’ll notice that my favorite chai tea is of the Tazo brand. I don’t know why, but the best chais always include black pepper and cardamom. If you get any general brand of cinnamon or spicy tea, it won’t have a big enough variety of spices included. I don’t understand how black pepper contributes to the flavor of a tea, seeing as I don’t particularly like pepper in my food… but it works.
For years, another favorite was a flavor that I bought at Barnes & Noble or Books-a-Million, called Hot Cinnamon Sunset, which tasted like you were drinking liquid fireball candy. I never liked fireballs, because they were too spicy for me, but when it’s turned into a tea, that changes the game completely.