An Ode to Tea Leaves
I lost track of how many gallons of tea were downed in a recent film I watched, Ladies in Lavender—the 2004 flick featuring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.
Now that I have BritBox on my TV, I can watch such old favorites as Keeping Up Appearances and other English comedies. These English performers are a tea-drinking lot. They take the pastime seriously.
Periwinkles on Your Tea Cup
When Hyacinth (the star of Keeping Up Appearances) asks her clumsy, nervous neighbor, Elizabeth, if she wants to drink from a beaker or her “Royal Doulton with the hand painted periwinkles,” Elizabeth wisely selects the beaker. Even so, you always know she’s going to spill, or break, whichever she chooses.
Yes, literature and films are replete with tea settings. Even the Mad Hatter enjoyed the sprightly flavor of tea, as did Pooh, the beloved little bear of our childhood.
But my favorite tea drinker was Uncle Wiggily, a gentleman rabbit and herbalist, who nursed his rheumatism with great quantities of tea brewed from leaves grown in his garden. If it worked for Uncle Wiggily, it just might work for me.
A Family Affair
My affinity for hot teas comes from my grandmother. She was what you might call a TEA-totaler—tea was her total drink. It wasn’t fancy tea, just hot water poured over a Lipton bag (the bag always used more than once).
Tea started the day, ended it, and helped ease whatever burdens occurred in between. Like the British writer Samuel Johnson—allegedly a 40-cup-a-day guy—she “swallowed her tea in oceans.”
Apparently, the habit did her no harm; she lived to be 93.
My New Favorite is Naturally Caffeine Free
In recent years, I’ve taken to drinking African Solstice tea, one of the fastest growing herbals in popularity among the nation’s tea drinkers. I order it on line from Tea Forte, where it comes in leaf-capped, pyramid wrappers or in a tin of loose tea.
More Than You Want to Know About Decaffeinated Tea
African Solstice is also known as Bush Tea or Red Bush Tea. It comes from a plant called rooibos, pronounced (“roy-boss”), that’s grown in South Africa and used traditionally for its medicinal properties. Preliminary studies of rooibos teas indicate they may help strengthen bones and reduce heart disease.
The leaves of the rooibos plant are naturally decaffeinated with a pleasing wisp of vanilla. What’s more, the tea is low in tannins and rich in antioxidants. Tea Forte further ups the taste with a blend of berries and blossoms.
Who Drinks the Most Tea—It Ain’t the Brits
The most widely consumed beverage in the world is not coffee, beer, wine; not even Coke. It’s tea! Around the globe, it’s the Turks who imbibe most heavily, weighing in at 7 pounds per person annually. The Irish follow with nearly 5 pounds a piece, and the UK about 4 pounds.
Americans rank way down the scale with no more than an annual intake of one-half pound per person.
Which Tea Does Queen Elizabeth Drink?
Trivia Bit to Toss into Your Next Zoom Call: Which of the many blends in the United Kingdom does the Queen prefer? That would be Twining’s Earl Grey tea with a splash of milk and no sugar.
Tea Time with My Daughter
My daughter, who lived in England for a year, remains a purist. When we’re at the farm, she brews loose tea each morning—usually a green variety in a porcelain pot to get us started for the day.
I’m thinking that between the influences of Granny, the Queen, Uncle Wiggily, and my daughter—in one way or another—my hot tea drinking it here to stay.
“You can’t buy happiness, but you can brew tea, and that’s kinda the same thing.”