March 2, 2013
I Know Why the Englishman Drinks Tea
I have never been so cold as the winter I moved to Vancouver to go to University. I grew up in the Kootenay Mountains in south eastern British Columbia where it snows in winter, rains some in every season, and is pleasantly hot in the summertime. As long as I wore a coat, hat, scarf and gloves I was warm enough in winter, unless we had a rare cold snap of -15 for a few days. Then, I wore long underwear under my jeans. After a beautifully warm fall in Vancouver, the winter rain set in. It rained, and it rained, and it rained. My hair loved the moisture, and I had waves in it for the first time. My limbs, not so much; I wore my long underwear and wool sweaters all winter long. Some days, when I was walking to my bus stop on Broadway and Commercial I was chilled to the bone by the damp, and it wasn't even very cold outside if the thermometer was any indication. When I arrived at my class, I looked forward to a break in the arts lounge where I could buy a cup of tea and begin the day's bodily thaw.
We were tea drinkers in my family. My mom always served tea after supper. I would have a cup and then head upstairs to my room to do my homework. I drank tea at breakfast when I was an older teenager - I wasn't allowed coffee until I was in college - but I'm not sure I appreciated it as much as I do now. I have a cup or two of tea every afternoon. I use it as a break in the day and a lift of both my spirits and energy which often begin to flag after lunch. After supper, in the fall, winter, and early spring I can usually be found with my hands wrapped around a cup of herbal tea as my work is generally done, and I need to keep warm while I sit with a book or in front of the TV to wind down the day. The hardworking furnace can only do so much for me.
Last night was another dark and rainy one. I drove with my son the twenty minutes into Chilliwack for his music lessons. Well, he did all the driving. I just sat and directed him from the passenger's seat. Before I left home I had filled a thermal mug with Bengal Spice tea (sort of an herbal chai in a teabag) to take with me. After dropping my son at his first lesson I went off to do errands. When I returned to wait for him outside his teacher's house, I took a few sips of my still hot tea. The spicy, milky sweet liquid warmed me as it went down my esophagus and I could feel my shoulders relaxing. I had been chilled all day, and I so appreciated the radiating comfort that tea gave me. I dropped my son off at his next lesson and went to sit in the waiting room. I made myself comfortable in one of the wooden armchairs and proceeded to enjoy my tea as the rain hammered the roofs outside. I grew warmer and sleepier by the minute. I managed to stay awake talking about books and movies to another person in the room, but it was hard to keep my eyes open. I needed Mr. Bean's toothpicks.
Or perhaps I needed some Yorkshire tea. An old friend of mine had immigrated from Yorkshire, England with his family. The first time I went to his house his mother asked me if I drank tea. I assured her I was a 'big tea drinker'. She made the tea in a small metal pot, the proportion of tea to hot water most likely equal, for the tea was the colour of mahogany. I added sugar and a lot of milk and drank a mugful. My friend's mother offered me another cup and I, already vibrating from caffeine but too proud to admit it, had another cup. I had to admit defeat after that second cup, however, and my friend and I went out for a very. long. walk. Recently, I discovered a tea called Yorkshire Gold, which has a lovely, slightly exotic flavour and reminds me of the tea I once drank with my friend's family. The tea was part of a gift basket of international foods our friends gave us for Christmas, and they informed us laughingly that Yorkshire Gold, a tasty blend of Assam and East African teas, is 'what the commoners drink' in England (where it also rains an awful lot). The 'commoners' in this part of the world are now drinking it, too, and enjoying it very much, although we use only one tea bag per mug, or two for a pot.
Do you like a good cuppa? What's your favourite kind or brand these days? Over at my other blog Stella is sharing her easy recipe for a homemade Chai latte. It's delicious and oh, so warming on a bone chilling early spring 'Wet Coast' afternoon. Cheerio, and happy weekend!
Above image: unknown