The other day I went to the store and found Cranberry and Blood Orange tea. I nearly fainted with joy. Blood oranges are lovely, but that’s another post. And about a month ago I got all excited when I found recipes for tea cookies on the web. Think about it, it’s the best of both worlds: tea and a cookie! And it’s good with tea! Sweet!
The love affair goes way way back. When I was a child, my grandmother and I would have tea parties with real tea on real china and minus all the stuffed animals. It was very grown up with conversation and manners and all sorts of dainty pinky holding and such. And then I would go and watch the Mickey Mouse Club.
On my travels I’ve always been drawn to tea:
- Having high tea in London- replete with clotted cream, preserves, scones and crustless cucumber sandwiches- before trotting off to the theater.
- The coiled ropes of Puerh and loose blends at the tea shop next to Man Ho Temple (also famous for the coiled incense they hang from the ceiling) followed by high tea at the Peninsula in Hong Kong.
- The chrysanthemum tea at a shop in Beijing- the dried blossom exploding into colorful life under the touch of hot water.
- Tea ceremony in Kyoto, beating macha powder to a silken froth, serving your guests and drinking it from a bowl clasped in the hands- prayerfully- and eating a sweet that curbs the bitter tea on the palate, making it more rich and full on the tastebuds. And don’t forget green tea ice cream!* Doesn’t Fauchon do an Earl Grey tea ice cream?
The height of riches is not always a well made martini in a swanky bar, but on occasion it can be a well brewed cuppa in a cozy, well-appointed room.
Like coffee, tea is something found in nature that we grind up, pour water through and get addicted to drinking. Except that tea is less if a wake-up pill or open-ended invite to sex (“Wanna come back to my place for a cup of coffee?” Please!) and more of a meditation, a meal, a way of relaxing the body and soul.
Tea is a universal drink. It’s history goes back to China and the creation of the Ch’a Ching in 800AD- the definitive tea tome. Then it spread to Japan, where it evolved into an art. Tea has fingers in so many cultures- Russia, India, England, France, Holland and Scotland- before it even became the object of scorn in 1773 when protesting Yanks dumped bales of the stuff in Boston Harbor.
The meal that is tea includes such delicacies as clotted cream, sandwiches, scones and cakes. The English may boil or fry the heck out of everything (and as a result have the rep for the worst cuisine in the world) but they came up with clotted cream, which goes lovely on a Scottish scone, so we’ve forgiven them.
Have you noticed lately that Starb*cks have picked up the trend with chai and macha lattes? While I applaud them heartily for bringing my macha to me (Panya in NYC is the only other place I know that serves macha lattes, which is a SIN, I tell you!), I have never had authentic chai and can’t imagine how much they are brutalizing the beverage.
Hmmm… Sounds like I may have to do some traveling.
*Note: The Japanese have, by far, the most whimsical approach to tea I’ve seen. I had a glass vial full of little conversation heart-sized lumps of tea and a tin of loose “Valentine’s Day Mix” from Japan. Neither is spectacular, really, but the cute, fun feeling is what they are going for. They love the Brits and their “ceremonial teas” and tea houses abound- there’s even one in the botanical gardens in Mt. Rokko in Kobe.
Yup, that’s an old picture. Pookie is still gone >sniff.<.
NOTE: Braising with tea: Check this out. That clinches it- I love Google. Thanks for the suggestion Shauna!