I was raised a tea drinker. Neither of my parents drank coffee at home, but my dad drank Lipton tea.
Then I discovered coffee in high school, and it assisted me greatly in maintaining functionality during countless early mornings and late evenings throughout college.
And then I went to England for a semester during my senior year.
I vaguely remember drinking tea with friends, but those times are overshadowed by the times I drank beer with friends at pubs and bars ON CAMPUS. I had already turned 21, but the novelty of having pubs on campus was not lost on me. I kept busy discovering English beer: Bass, Boddingtons, Founders, Newcastle, and Tetley’s. Even Foster’s (“Australian for ‘beer'”).
And then I returned to England on a six-month visa after college graduation.
That is when my tea education began. As the administrative assistant for a group of auditors, one of my main duties was to make coffee and tea multiple times a day. It wasn’t long until I had everyone’s preferences down. About half of my coworkers drank coffee and half drank tea. The tea of choice was Twinings Earl Grey. That’s what I made for myself most of the time.
I came to enjoy the ritual of “firing up the kettle” for our tea breaks. Sometimes I’d deliver the drinks and we’d stop and chat with each other; sometimes we’d just keep on working.
I also had high tea/afternoon tea for the first time during this time period, when my mom and my friend visited me. We had tea at Fortnum and Mason and it was just lovely. We each picked a tea and received our own pot. The savory sandwiches came: smoked salmon, cucumber, egg salad and watercress. Next, the sweets came: scones with clotted cream, fruit tarts, chocolate cake.
Since moving to Boston, I’ve had high tea at Four Seasons, L’Espalier, the Park Plaza Hotel, and Upstairs on the Square (R.I.P.). I’ve decided that my favorite place for tea is the Taj Hotel. Sunlight streams through the tea room’s vast windows while a violinist serenades the patrons and proper and polite waiters bring everyone tea and snacks on exquisite china.
Something about the experience is so relaxing. Time seems to slow to a standstill as you catch up with a friend over tea. The food is dainty but somehow substantial. The tea itself is always delightful and I just about finish the whole pot.
If you’re not a tea drinker, now’s the time to be one. There is nothing like a cup of tea in the fall and winter time!
Some of my favorite brands are:
Twinings (Earl Grey and Nightly Calm)
Harney & Sons (Hot Cinnamon Spice and Diamond Jubilee)
Bigelow (Spiced Chai and Green Tea with Mango)
Have you adopted any customs from another country (or state, or city)?