... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Tea ceremony

If you look at Mike's photos of Chertsey's trip to Braunston, you will note that there are a great many of me pouring tea from my big brown enamel teapot. This £4.50 antique shop (the same place we got Warrior's old can) buy has proven the unexpected hit of the whole enterprise. Purchased primarily for decoration, as it matched the kettle, it has actually proven to be incredibly useful, and very popular.

Before we left I had become increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of the cups of tea I was making at home, using the (now standard) method of putting a teabag in a mug and pouring boiling water over it, stirring it about a bit, leaving it a bit, adding some milk, stirring it some more and finally squeezing it out. I concluded that the quality of teabags must be diminishing, like that of so many other things. The tea they put in teabags isn't the same as the stuff you buy loose anyway; apparently it wouldn't work if it were (but as it doesn't work anyway...); it's much finer. Two grades of tea are apparently named 'fannings' and 'dust'. Isn't that lovely. They may even be the same thing, and are what is used in teabags. Anyway, I decided to buy some proper tea - which for me means Assam - and make it in a proper pot. This requires a bit of forethought, a bit of trouble, and hence a bit more attention. It's no longer an instant, throwaway drink, but a bit of an occasion. And when you think of the importance of tea ceremonies in various cultures over the millennia, that's the way it should be.

On the boat I was still using bags (though I have bought a new strainer, so once the bags have run out...), but the pot came into its own for another reason. Lighting the Primus is a bit of a palaver, and boiling the kettle takes a long time, so it doesn't seem worth it for two quick mugs of tea, and you can't just flick the switch again when you want another one ten minutes later. So it made sense to make a pot, and have a couple of mugs each out of it. I found six teabags for four cups to give the required strength! And when there were guests to entertain, we could easily get six or eight cups out of it, especially with the five pint kettle. Nothing says sociability like a big teapot on the cabin slide.

As for milk, well, I bought some cartons of UHT semi-skimmed, but I only had to open one once. Even in the heat that we experienced in June, I found that a pint of fresh milk bought one morning would last through to the next. The only refrigeration I used was to put in in a big jug with a little water in the bottom and a damp teatowel draped over it, trailing in the water. This made enough difference (it did go off the one time I omitted to do this). I reckon that if I managed without a fridge that week, I can manage any time.


  1. Hello Sarah

    six bags for four cups of tea sounds just my type of cuppa! So many people drink tea thats not so much weak but helpless! Yuk No point in drinking hot milky water.
    Keep up the good work.


  2. That is the first thing that attracted me, good strong tea and good strong beer.............what more can a man ask?


  3. Try changing one of those 6 bags for an Earl Grey one, really 'lifts' the tea without tasting of EG. I've been doing it for years and often have comments on how nice our tea is.
    Kath (nb Herbie)