Tuesday, 13 March 2012

I brought you here to bed my son, not throw him a tea party!

Inspired by a blog post by a good friend and tea connoisseur (find it here) and by the general fact that I haven't blogged in a little while (courtesy of my continued lack of a computer since the passing of my laptop), I have decided that the main thrust of today's random babble will be the short (current) chronology of my journey through the wonderful, mystical world of tea drinking. Also, quick poll - is having "Unfinished Symphony" by Massive Attack playing in the background really appropriate right now? I think so.

Anyway, to the matter at hand.


Like many beverages in my life, tea was just...around. It was something my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles drank, but it never seemed to appeal to me. I never really knew what it was and I'm pretty sure the only time I ever made cups as a small child was so I could let them go cold, then use the tea to paint treasure maps I made. This was a brief phase that junior school inspired. At least, I think we used tea. It might have been coffee. It was a beverage. It had milk. It made crumpled up bits of A4 paper look old treasure maps. Pre-teen me was happy with that.

Now we skip ahead to my teenage years. Far ahead. It was sometime after my GCSE year, somewhere around the mysterious ages of sixteen, seventeen or eighteen. My friends were rather distressed to discover that I had never properly sampled tea. They proceeded to make me a cup. I'm presuming it was some kind of PG Tips attempt at English Breakfast tea or something like that. As far as I knew at that time, tea came in one variety.

Oh how wrong I was.

So that cup of tea was distinctly less than impressive. This is not to be construed as an indictment of the tea-making abilities of my friends. As I have learned, English Breakfast is not a tea for me.

My proper tea education came in the early half of 2011. It arose from necessity, as I work at the Boston Tea Party, in their Bath store. As is suggested by the name on the side of the building, we sell tea. Proper, good, wholesome loose leaf tea. Initially I was just a dishwashing scut-monkey, but I rose through the ranks to become a Front of House wench. Part of being a Front of House wench (not an official term I might stress) is a working knowledge (basic or otherwise) of the teas that we sell. Twenty-two varieties.

In the course of my tea-tasting session, I discovered, to my mind, an incredible fact. I found that I like tea. Or at least, five of the twenty-two varieties that we sell. They were Lapsang Souchong (still my favourite to this day), Dragonwell (proper name Lung Ching), Spearmint, Balance (a rather funky herbal tea with various things, like ginger, cinnamon and I think rose petals, or some form of rose) and Boston Berry. But this was just the beginning.

Later, in September 2011, I met up with my friend Noodles and we went to the Teahouse Emporium (where my aforementioned tea connoisseur friend works). By this time, I had made an incredible discovery. See, one of my colleagues had been talking about this fact he discovered on the back of a Twinings tea packet - Earl Grey goes better with orange than with lemon, due to the presence of bergamot oils. This led to an experiment with my favourite Lapsang Souchong. After a couple of tries, I found that orange was a far more beautiful compliment than lemon. And thus began my quest to tell pretty much everyone I know about this. Also, every customer who orders Lapsang with me gets the spiel. Most have been converted. Some have not. Thus is the way of the world.

Anyway, back to the Teahouse and Noodles.

This visit to the Teahouse was the first of many and the beginning of my further education. I learned how to make green tea properly, which led to my affinity for Chinese Gunpowder and its variation, Moroccan Mint (Gunpowder with mint leaves. I should mention, I love mint). My friend Phoenix has since gained employment at the Teahouse and my visits have increased, with new teas being tried and added to my repertoire of favoured teas - Pu-Erh Sweet Chai, Pu-Erh Wellness Guarana, and Mate IQ to name but a few. And as I continue my patronage of the Teahouse, my journey shall continue. I mean, with one hundred and seventeen varieties of tea, I have quite a bit of choice.

But it doesn't stop there. No, I've become a tea drinking fiend at home too. As may be plain to see from a prior blog about my perfect Sunday, I have a teapot. A nice, matte black, four-cup teapot. Which does about three Aperture Laboratories mugs' worth of tea (thank you, Valve Store!). Since that first perfect Sunday, every successive Sunday has involved work in the morning, tea in afternoon, quiz in the evening. Finest kind.

So there it is. My continuing journey through the world of tea. It's a fascinating world, folks. Read my friend's blog (link at the top), he puts it far more eloquently than I can. But rest assured - there is most definitely a tea out there for you, more exotic and exciting than English Breakfast. Trust me, I work in a place with "tea" on the side of the building.

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