Monday, December 01, 2008

High Tea

You Stringing Me Along, Mister?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Some kind soul had just refilled the bowl of tea bags at work when I walked past with my camera a couple of days ago. Naturally, I had to take the shot before I got back to my desk.

I grew up in a family where tea leaves were stirred into a teapot of boiling water and tea was poured through a strainer into china teacups. But I have to confess that I have always bought tea bags, simply for convenience.

About fifteen years ago, I interviewed a member of the famous Twinings family, well known for their range of fine tea and the company that was founded three centuries ago. At the start of the interview, I mentioned that I had been to a boarding school in Darjeeling, the Himalayan town famous for its mountain views and its tea gardens.

So at the end of the interview, he said he had a question for me. Fire away, I said.

He asked me how I drank my tea. He said he was confident I drank it black, the way tea is intended to be drunk by connoisseurs.

Er, no, I confessed, I actually stir some condensed milk into my cup of tea. Being British, he was remarkably restrained in his reaction. He just raised one eyebrow. I didn't have the heart to tell him I don't use "real" loose tea leaves either.

(The Odd Shots concept came from Katney. Say "G'day" to her.)

20 comments:

Hilary said...

My favourite it chai made with Darjeeling tea - with a bit of honey and some milk. So no eyebrow-raising here.

Moannie said...

CONDENSED MILK!!!!!?????
Sacre bleu! or better yet, Blimey mate!

Breakfast tea is always in a warmed pot and loose tea. During the day it is a bag in a mug, and always with milk and Two sugars, please.

® ♫ The Brit ♪ ® said...

Growing up in London I was also raised on a lot of tea, especially from my Grandmother who got through the war raising 5 children alone and having her house bombed whilst drinking it.
I continue to drink at least 3 mugs a day (my stock of English teabags sent to me every single month - Thanks Dad!)
But never once have I drunk it black... always with milk and two sugars and I tell my students that this is the "real way" to drink English tea! hehe

DJ Kirkby said...

Before my last pregnancy I used to drink Earl Grey Tea with milk and honey but can no longer drink it. I now drink plain old PG Tips... I expect many of those who drink tea 'properly' are now breathing a sigh of relief!

Carol said...

Brilliant photo! I love tea. Like Hilary...chai. With a bit of sugar and a little milk. Hmmmmmm....

Maggie May said...

Like you, I was brought up to use tea leaves, there was nothing else then. However I use tea bags for convenience..... but condensed milk........ are you kidding? Ugh!
I add a little low fat milk. Just as well we are all different.

Denise said...

A fun photo and a nice gesture from the person who left them. I grew up the same way, and was always told that tea should always be served in fine china. Nowadays I don't care as long as I get a good cup of tea. I enjoyed your story too and thanks for stopping by my blog. If ever I get to Melbourne I will look forward to your lemon pepper chicken on the barbecue. Sounds delicious.

Daryl said...

Green tea for me, please .. and dont let the leaves sit too long or it gets tooo tanic-y ... but when I need comfort I plunk a round bag of Republic of Tea's Ginger Peach

Lipton tea is like instant coffee ... and just not my cuppa!

:-Daryl

Ackworth born said...

err - I've had tea with condensed milk in it and it is horrible - actually I like mine as it comes (Earl Grey preferred). I can drink it with milk in if required provided the milk was fresh and preferably added first.
Teabags are fine but the essential is to have the water boiling when it hits the teabag. Dipping a bag into hot but off the boil water is a real no-no.

Mushy said...

OMG...it's an Auzzie tea party!

Hilary said...

Condensed milk is great. I always thought it was just some thing for little old ladies to have "just in case" but recently a friend turned me on to it.

cheshire wife said...

My father spent part of WWII in India and Ceylon. So I was brought up on Ceylon tea leaves. I still drink mainly Ceylon tea, now in bag form, with milk. My husband drinks his tea black, with sugar.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Neat shot and accompanying story!

I drink my tea plain. I don't drink it frequently, but I'm not much on adding things when I do. I do, however, use tea bags for the ease. I've also switched to herbal tea. The only tea I like to doctor is ice tea, and it has to have sugar, lemon, and mint leaves. That's very Southern. ;-)

Sheila

2sweetnsaxy said...

Funny what we will take pictures of when we have our camera in hand...but so many of those make the best shots. I think it's interesting about the cream in the tea. I thought I remember plenty of movies where tea was served and hearing that English accent ask if they would like cream. Hmmmm....

Lee said...

Interesting that people have expectations on how tea should be drunk. Milk in tea wasn't the way I was brought up but I decided to try it on my own. Guess I was feeling experimental, anyway, I loved it. So now I put milk or creamer of some sort in my tea every chance I get. And yes, I use sugar too.

Great post, David!

Cheers!

Katney said...

I thought milk in the tea WAS a British thing. That's odd in itself. Where in the world did it come from.

Vic Grace said...

I think tea bags are a great invention I always hated the tea leaves in the bottom of the cup getting in my mouth. Condensed milk yuck but regular milk is fine. I can't say I have had a really good cuppa like I remember in UK for years though, even if I make it myself. I think the tea is different here somehow.

RuneE said...

I'm all for Twinings and I drink it "black" (but I must admit to the teabags...)

Merisi said...

*giggle*
Poor Twinings fellow! ;-)

Your picture reminds me of an instance of tea bag abundance I experienced in a bakery cum coffeeshop: I had asked about the what kind of tea they offer, when the waitress opened a wooden drawer, and pointing at a wild variety of loose tea bags, encouraged me to choose amongst them. I bet that those had intermingled way too long in that drawer, and ordered coffee instead.

At home I drink only loose leaf tea (Taylors of Harrowgate, Harrod's or Josiah Wedgwood), mostly Earl Gray, and always with milk, no sugar.

® ♫ The Brit ♪ ® said...

Whittard's of London always sold wonderful varieties of tea too.... I often bought tea there when I lived in Notting Hill!