... 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.

Friday 27 April 2012

A nice cup of tea

It seems that there is one more thing that Jim of Starcross and I agree on - the importance of a nice cup of tea. I am mortified for having offered him teabag tea when he visited, although he was  too polite to mention it. I do therefore confess to frequently succumbing to the convenience of a teabag (to be fair, you can get a decent cup of tea from decent tea bags, it's just that most of them are the sweepings off the floor... of which more later), but aside from that, I am probably as fussy a tea drinker as you could dread meeting.

When asked how I like my tea, I do not say 'as it comes'. How could anyone be so insultingly indiscriminating when someone is offering to go to the trouble of preparing them a hot beverage? I say 'strong, no sugar, medium amount of milk, please, thank you very much, lovely.'

And there are some things I would like to put on record here. Important things.

1. The strength of a cup of tea has nothing to do with the amount of milk in it. Milk does not make tea weaker; it makes it milkier. It is perfectly possible to enjoy strong milky tea, as I believe was fashionable in the Army, in my father's day at least.

2. The strength of a cup of tea has nothing (well, OK, very little) to do with how long it has been brewed. It is perfectly possible (and frequently achieved) to make stewed, weak tea. This is the Devil's piss, and is quite possibly the worst of all possible worlds.

3. The overriding factor in how strong a cup of tea is, is, surprise surprise, how much tea you put in.

4. A frequently overlooked factor is that the tea must have room to move around. This is why those little individual teapots you get in the cafes of trendy art galleries with a sort of inbuilt tea strainer submerged inside, are worse than useless (and worse than teabags, despite the supposed cachet and financial premium attached to using loose tea). They are packed full of tea leaves and trendy bits of twig and only the outer layer even gets wet. When given one of these the only thing to do is to tip the contents of the strainer into the pot, give it a good stir, let it brew, then pour it through the strainer into the cup. And don't forget to demand a jug of hot water to top it up.

Now, what tea to buy? Jim favours Co-op Indian Prince, which is interesting because I nearly bought some of that the other day. We had been managing fine on Asda red label, buying it in 80-bag boxes because it worked out cheapest that way. Then when that offer ended we bought a 160 bag box. Well, it was horrible; a completely different tea. Devil's piss whatever you did with it. So much so that last weekend I gave up on it and started drinking peppermint tea instead. On the Sunday evening I couldn't keep my eyes open, and slept for eleven solid hours. By Monday the nagging headache which I had expected had entrenched itself, and also seemed to have spread to every part of my body. So much so that I was reduced to looking up the incubation period for Weil's disease to see if it could possible be more than the sixteen days since  fell in the canal... Then I looked up the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, and realised that's what the problem was. By then it was too late to go shopping so I had not choice but to swallow three cups of the appalling Asda tea, followed by some black spiced Indian tea that was lurking in the back of the cupboard. The cure was almost instantaneous, although the medicine was nasty.

Thus the next morning found me scanning the relatively well-stocked tea shelf of the otherwise very small Co-op in Brewood, and giving serious consideration to Starcross Jim's favourite Indian Prince, although in the end, as it came in smaller boxes, I plumped for Co-op English Breakfast blend. I have to say even this didn't seem particularly robust (maybe there was a low pressure front affecting the boiling temperature of the water?), so when we went shopping yesterday we threw caution to the winds and splashed out on Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold. And at last, as I write this, I have at my elbow a nice cup of tea.


  1. I cannot agree more on Point 1. Strong, milky tea is one of life's great pleasures in my opinion, especially if it has been made with looseleaf English Breakfast tea in an enamel teapot (preferably on a back cabin range).

    When cruising, we use leaf tea. When at home on a day to day basis I have to admit to teabags. Nice ones though. Co-op's Indian Prince is often in my tea caddy.

  2. Sorry Sarah, you are not as fussy as Neil and me! So much so that we sometimes can't even make it right for ourselves :-) We like our tea medium strength with very little milk.
    Most of our friends just hand us the milk jug, one (Rick) makes it like pink gin, swishing the milk around the mug (china of course) and pouring it out again!
    Also, whatever tea we are using (Taylor's of Harrogate ordinary at the moment) to give it an extra 'lift' we add an amount of Earl Grey tea, lovely. Enjoyed even by people who don't like EG tea normally. It was first given to me many years ago by a very gentile old lady who kept her tea in a real tea caddy and mixed it in the central bowl before making each pot.
    By the way, Neil says his mother used to swear by Indian Prince 40 years ago - and more.
    Kath (nb Herbie)

  3. I must try it then as it has so many boaters' endorsements. Another favourite of mine is Assam, which I always choose if I'm a swanky place that gives you a choice.

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  5. It's not only the beer that is good up north, taylors is the best. Even not too bad in teabags!!

  6. Even better than Indian Prince, and what we have at home is Ridgeways Organic. I presume it's expensive (don't know, don't care) but we save by buying it in bulk through our local "alternative" food shop.

    And yes - I was too polite to mention it but you are forgiven. Our guests often end up with a mouthful of tea leaves as we forget to warn them. We don't use a strainer: as a beer drinker you'll appreciate the importance of secondary fermentation in the cup!

  7. sainsbugs own brand english breakfast fairtrade tea bags are our choice at the moment.Loose tea and a partially sighted pensioner is a recipe for extreme mess.

  8. Lapsang Souchong in an insulated mug when cruising first thing; black coffee at 1100; Earl Grey at 1515; Red Label at other times. But I'll have what I'm given!

  9. Perhaps you should amend your subheading to read "Boats, beer, paraffin and tea".

  10. Oh dear, I'm going to make the marketeers at Victory Tea cream themselves with the virality of my post, but you really must try their tea. Quite, quite delicious. Needs about 1 minute more brew time than Sainers Fair Trade, but rewards with full flavour with not a hint of excess tannin. You have to buy in bulk, but that's no hardship for the keen tea addict. I've had my foil-wrapped tea for about 8 weeks now and noticed no degradation in recently-opened packs.
    Plus they have nice 1940's artwork as their graphic theme!

  11. When i worked at house of Fraser we had the whole range of there loose and tea bag,including one that the queen is reputed to drink i think it was called Russian caravan tea.I also have some teas from a trip to Moscow that are absolutely delicious but they are like a waxy flake which i think need a samovar to brew properly.Lapsing is like drinking a bonfire LOL you need to be really in the mood for that tea.Broken Orange pekoe Tea was quite popular.

    I believe first flush tea is supposed to be the best tea but i think it was wishy washy,drunk mainly in America and very expensive.My vote goes with Yorkshire tea for everyday drinking.

  12. Try Co-0p 99