Getting into hot water—my adventures in the world of tea, part one

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Memories, Personal, Tea time, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The first time I had tea might have been somewhere in Ireland in September, 1974, with a full Irish breakfast at a B&B, but if so, I don’t remember.  I do, however, remember having tea in Leighton Buzzard, England that same month, when my lovely, almost-year-long trip to Europe, which was just beginning, took me and the woman I was traveling with to the home of a guy we’d met on the bus in Ireland.  Steve told us to stop by when we came to England and, not being crazy enough to pass up somewhere to stay free, we did.  His family was amazing:  they put us up, feed us, and his dad even took off work to drive us around!   And they had tea.

I was not an instant convert to tea by any means.  This tea was strong enough to stand up and maintain its shape sans pot and I, tea weenie that I then was, took mine with half the cup occupied by milk.  I don’t recall particularly liking it, though, even that way.  But it was the thing to do.  I learned another useful habit there, though, using both knife and fork together while eating, a habit I still use today.

Somewhere along the way during those months of travel on the continent, I learned to drink tea…but now without milk.  That meant I was still a bit of a tea weirdo when I got back to England at the end of my trip and didn’t add either milk or sugar.  The tea was still strong but now, I was stronger.

I imagine that any tea drinking I did over the next years was through use of a Lipton tea bag.  What else was there in the US at the time?  If there was anything else, I didn’t know about it.  But fast-forward a number of years, move me around from Nebraska to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to grad school in Greeley, Colorado, to teaching in Cleveland, Ohio, meeting my husband and getting married.  That gave me a sister-in-law in Akron, Ohio, home of West Point Market, http://www.westpointmarket.com/site/HomePage.aspx.  (Marriage gave me two other sisters-in-law, too, but they aren’t relevant to the tea part of the story.)

At that time, West Point had a number of times during the year when they had a week featuring foods and other products from a specific company.  Best of all, there were lots of samples!  Nancy and I would meet at West Point and work our way through the samples of the day.  During English week, they always brought in someone to talk about tea during an evening presentation.  Of course, there were also tea samples.  So I learned a bit more about tea.

I learned how tea tasters taste, slurping off a spoon and spitting as do wine tasters. Imagine if you didn’t.  After tasting several hundred teas, you’d be high as a caffeinated kite, unable to hold the tasting spoon for all the shaking, and running constantly to the bathroom.  I learned a bit about the different kinds of tea, green, oolong and black, and that there are teapots that look like all sorts of things other than teapots!

I learned that teabags were filled with the fannings, small, broken pieces left from the production of higher grade teas, the reason tea bags infuse quickly but have a harsher taste. (Tea bags now often contain whole leaves, even with tips.)  I also found that “Lipton” was a word one presenter could barely say; a lot like the Fonz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fonzie) not being able to say the word, “Sorry.”   Not all tea should be prepared with boiling water or steeped for the same amount of time.  Hot water is swirled in the teapot before steeping the tea so that all the heat from the water can go into the steeping of the tea.  And besides all the things I learned about tea; I got to taste lots of teas, helping me develop an appreciation of the different kinds and flavors.

Comments
  1. billgncs says:

    and you vacation at TP

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