Debra Prinzing

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A gentle plea for an excellent cup of tea

November 13th, 2009

Author’s note. You know those “contributor pages” that many magazines include at the front of their books? I recently received a request from one of my 805 Living editors to write about “the little things that make life grand” to be included in the November issue’s “Behind the Scenes” section.

I wrote the following tea-drinker’s manifesto (about 500 words) before I re-read Anthony’s email in which he asked for only 50 words! Yikes! Anyway, he used one entire sentence and the rest would have been filed away or deleted had I not decided to go public here, with my personal confession. I don’t think I’m alone, either. While staying our our villa in Italy a few weeks ago, I woke up every morning with a chubby packet — a bag of Peet’s English Breakfast tea — slid under the door of my room (thanks, Paula!). Someone was looking out for me.

iStock_000009079416Small I am a tea drinker.

In the world of double-tall lattes and cappuccinos, I realize I am a minority.

So I am grateful for a decent, HOT mug of English Breakfast tea (or two). Honestly, I wake up each morning excited to start my day. But mostly I wake up excited to fill the electric kettle with water and hit the “on” button so I can brew a pot of tea, pour myself a mug and add a splash of milk (not half-and-half or cream). I always drink from my French Apilco porcelain mugs from Williams Sonoma.

I’ve taken to carrying around spare tea bags with me, just in case. Places like Starbucks stock Tazo’s “Awake” and the Tully’s at the Burbank Airport has canisters of “British Breakfast.” I love these teas, too.

Unfortunately, though, at least one time out of 10, these coffee joints are “out” of my tea. You would never, ever find these places running out of coffee. That would be unthinkable. At least I can order a Grande cup of piping hot water and make my own on the fly.

The problem with restaurants and hotels (as well as airplanes) is that you often have to beg for real milk. I’ll take it any way you have it – whole, two percent or non-fat (I especially love steamed milk, which doesn’t cool down my tea). Just please give me milk instead of cream or half-and-half. I am one-quarter English, and I always tell the waitress that the English people use milk with their tea.

And don’t get me started about the stupid carafes of hot water you get at conferences. I’m talking about the vessels previously used to dispense the dreaded coffee beverage. As a result, the entire pot of hot water is infused with that bad coffee flavor. It really shouldn’t be difficult to segregate your carafes so a few are dedicated to only hot water for tea drinkers.

I realize this little meditation on the merits of a good cup of tea sounds more like a rant than a rave. So I will end on a positive, thankful note.

I could not function with out my delicious, satisfying mug of morning tea. It really is the fuel that runs my engine. I love that there are places in the world where tea is grown, processed and packaged for export to the U.S. I love that a few retailers still exist where I can purchase excellent, loose tea in bulk. And I love the moment of calm that drinking tea gives me in the midst of my chaotic, deadline-driven life.

To many more sips!

P.S., A great tea resource is the Teacup in Seattle. You can go online and order loose tea (Malty Assam is my favorite), OR if you are ever visiting Seattle, be sure to go in person for their very excellent tea latte. My friend Jean introduced me to this beverage more than a decade ago. It is a big secret how they make it, but Jean’s theory is that the brewers make a “shot” of a very dense, strong Indian tea and then infuse steamed milk, just like the coffee lattes are made. It is heavenly.

12 Responses to “A gentle plea for an excellent cup of tea”

  1. Molly Says:

    We recently were at a new, swanky hotel in New York, and asked for extra tea bags, milk and hot water every morning. The first morning all was well, with a couple of extra but small hot-water pots on the side. We needed more hot water than that, though, so asked for carafes. And every time, our nice “T” brand tea tasted like coffee. Ugh.

    BTW, when you need traveling bags, Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast is great! And another lovely place in Seattle is Teahouse Kuan Yin.

  2. admin Says:

    Thanks for understanding, Molly. I love that you “get” it!

    And I agree about Trader Joe’s Irish B’fast tea (also TJs has English B’fast). And what about PG Tips, available at World Market? Inexpensive and decent as tea bags go.

  3. Michelle D Says:

    One of my favorite excursions to make into The City ( San Francisco of course) is to visit a small family run tea house, Aroma Tea Shop, www. aromateashop.com . They import tea from China and other Asian countries.
    Their tea house is not fancy like Teance in Berkeley – http://www.teance.com/ , another teahouse that I enjoy, but it has its charm and the tastings are free, which allows me to explore varieties that I would not normally try and then purchase. ( smart business people !)

    I still wake up to a hot cup of Mighty Leaf Tea Jasime and Orange or Earl Grey in the morning and savor a cup of an ‘exotic’ Asian tea in the afternoon.
    .-= Michelle D´s last blog ..Crayola colors =-.

  4. Dhiraj D'Souza Says:

    It’s nice to read a post regarding Tea. My wife and I drink a lot of the brew and one of the things that we were most thankful for when we made the move to Canada was the availability of our favorite tea, Lipton’s Yellow Label. We only buy one brand of milk and that get’s a good laugh from the rest of the family. But it’s Tea. And for us it’s almost religious!!!

    I’ve built two sheds in the two summers that we’ve lived in Canada (both builds are detailed in my blog) and next year I will be building a Cabana at the end of the garden for the sole purpose of relaxing with a book and a great cup of tea ‘away’ from the house.

    When travelling, we usually carry a stock of our tea bags and call ahead to check if the hotel will provide a kettle in the room….. If not, we just take our own!!!!

  5. liz Says:

    It’s very interesting to see someone so enthusiastic about something that, to us on this side of the pond is such a normal part of everyday life! 😀

    I think here if any cafe was out of tea, there’d be a huge outcry as you described with the coffee… I personally drink my tea with only a tiny splash of milk (here we call it skimmed milk, it’s basically like water with only around 1% fat) as I’ve discovered as i get older that I don’t like overly milky tea – only when I’m ill and it helps make you feel that little bit better 🙂

    I’d be very surprised if there’s a single house here that doesn’t have tea in it… They’re definitely in a minority.
    .-= liz´s last blog ..5th November – Bonfire Night =-.

  6. Lori Says:

    I always carry tea bags around in my purse….

  7. Dee/reddirtramblings Says:

    A big high five from a fellow tea drinker, only I drink mine straight since I can’t have dairy. I do like a little hemp milk now and then. Try getting that anywhere. 🙂 We have an English tea shop in Oklahoma City. Come visit me sometime, and I’ll take you there.~~Dee
    .-= Dee/reddirtramblings´s last blog ..If you show me yours, I’ll show you mine . . . =-.

  8. Living in the Garden Says:

    I am a newly converted tea drinker. I adore Earl Grey with milk and (although not a true tea) Yerba Mate with steamed milk & foam.
    I found a wonderful tool, Aerolatte’s battery operated milk frother. Which is small for travel and creates the best foam for my Mate Latte.
    Tea in the Garden…..too good to miss.

  9. Shirley Bovshow Says:

    I love tea…Persian tea, Indian tea, all of them. I’ve had great tea that was brewed in a “samovar” (forgive the spelling) an ancient middle eastern pot for brewing tea.
    Shirley

  10. commonweeder Says:

    My husband can barely get through an hour without a cup of tea. NO CREAM! We know better. Milk is only possible accompaniment. Tea is the brew whether I need refreshment and revivifying – or comfort.
    .-= commonweeder´s last blog ..Gifts that Fit Like a Glove =-.

  11. Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening Says:

    Huh. Facebook just sent me here today. I am astounded to see this post is a month old. It really hits home because my favorite tea, Celestial Seasonings English Breakfast, is no longer being produced, and I am looking for a new fave.
    .-= Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening´s last blog ..Snowfall Records =-.

  12. lizzie Says:

    One of my client forwarded link to your Post Debra Prinzing » Blog Archive » A gentle plea for an excellent cup of tea on Saturday.Your post is a nice one.Please Keep it up .I Love reading on where to buy loose tea.

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