Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cream Rises To The Top

So, What's Your Cup Of Tea?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


The ritual of the teapot always reminds me of my childhood. Back then, tea leaves were spooned into a real teapot with a grand spout and then the boiling water was poured in before the lid was replaced. The tea was allowed to "sit" for a few minutes before the first cup was poured into fine china.

Tea strainers were used back then, to filter the dark, wet leaves that had originally been picked on the slopes of some lower-Himalayan tea garden. No tea bags. No drink-and-go mugs with large handles. They were genteel times, befitting the use of wonderful cups and saucers.

I can’t remember the first time I tasted tea, but it's always been a part of my life. Later, just after I entered my teens, I went to a boarding school that was to have a great influence on my life – and it was located in Darjeeling, home to some of the most famous tea gardens in the world.

Now that I am an adult and a parent, my mornings still begin with The Great Tea Ritual – but I use tea bags and I make my tea in a handy (large) mug with a handle large enough for a ploughman to grip.

But I don’t think I heard the word "cream" being used in the context of a cup of tea until I became a sports journalist and found myself on my international flights than I can remember.

This shot was taken during my recent Outback trip to the New South Wales town of Temora. I stopped for breakfast in the little town of Glenrowan, where I had a rather generous meal served (naturally) with a pot of tea – but no cream!

This was an interesting logistical exercise, because I first had to set the focal length on my camera, then do everything simultaneously. I poured the tea with my left hand and shot the images with my right.

You think that’s easy? Mate, let me tell you just how difficult it is – you have to be seriously quick, so that the condensation in the cold air doesn’t cloud up the lens of your camera.


Visit TNChick's Photo Hunt. Today's theme: "Creamy''.

41 comments:

catherinette said...

This makes me want some tea...

Louise said...

I salute you. I can barely take a photo with one hand when the other is doing nothing!

immersion said...

It's all in the balance!

Sometimes I feel like I'm missing out on "seeing" what I'm shooting while looking through the lens. Like the time we spotted Orca whales in the not too far distance, I saw them the entire time through the camera. But I did manage to get shots of them!

Oh! I'll have a cuppa!

Craig Glenn said...

David,

I enjoyed this post. It took me back to my childhood and my memories of tea. They are much different as you would expect for a boy growing up in the south (US). My best friends mother made the best sweet tea you ever tasted. She boiled it up and pour it into an (clean) empty milk jug. I remember her putting the lid on and shaking it up so the sugar melted in just right and then poured it over ice. Our mothers always complained that they never got to drink a whole glass of tea by themselves because the kids were always sneaking sips of theirs.

I loved this line in your story. "They were genteel times, befitting the use of wonderful cups and saucers."

I guess our times were a little more country, plastic milk jugs of sweet tea poured over ice into mason jars!

Craig Glenn

Moannie said...

Tea is as much a ritual in our house as a bottle of wine.
Always loose tea-a warmed pot-time to steep the brew and then poured through a strainer [which object turned out to be something of an antique, in that I had too search high and low for it] But cream? Ugh! Milk please, from a pretty little jug.
More and more we Brits are leaving behing the tea bag and reverting to the good old ways.

Barbara Martin said...

Now I need a cup of hot tea. Wonderful job with taking the first photo...I could almost smell the aroma wafting through...

Jazz said...

I'm not from a big tea drinking culture so for the most part, all I was ever exposed to was those nasty Salada tea bags. Then, in my 20s I discovered leaf tea (Twinnings and Jackson). My tea drinking waned until I hit my early 40s and tea shops became quite popular in Montreal. Now I'm hooked. There's nothing like a cup of real good tea in the morning. In a mug.

R.J. said...

What a charming post! Hot tea has become a recent passion for me after a lifetime of being a coffee drinker. I haven't had the courage to attempt the tea leaves ritual, so I take the easy way and use tea bags. I am especially fond of green tea with a touch of jasmine. I'm not a purist so I sometimes use decaf and add sugar substitutes with lemon concentrate. I've heard the Japanese tea ceremony is quite beautiful to observe and is a very precise operation which I would like to experience.I would also like to add a genuine Japanese tea pot to my hodgepodge collection of tea pots. Keep up the good work; I enjoy reading your blog.

Grace Albaugh said...

Beautiful shot! Don't I know about condensation on the lens. try shooting anything on a moist January day in England. Nearly drove me batty!

katherine. said...

unusual take on the theme...smile.

I love tea in the evening, but in the morning I prefer my coffee.

I still have a bit of a routine with my morning coffee at home...

Grace Albaugh said...

Oh, sorry. Got so stuck on the photography I forgot about the tea. On the tea side I always use loose leaves. I bought a small French coffee press that holds just enough for one cup and brew my tea in it. I keep it at work on my desk and partake of a cup at the 11:00 hour. The press works great for tea. No fuss no muss.

Shadow said...

i love my plain black tea... added some cinnamon sugar accidentally the other day, and that was rather nice. may do it again.

Sylvia K said...

Yes, I'm now definitely ready for a cup of tea this morning! Fun shots and you are definitely multi-talented being able to pour and shoot at the same time! Have a great weekend, David!

lakeviewer said...

Such a beautiful trip back in time with just a few lines.

primavera123 said...

Ever try a slice of fresh ginger in your teapot? Yum! And a dollop of clover honey. Heaven!

http://primavera123-inthelifestyle.blogspot.com/

Tranquility said...

I'm more of a coffee person and when I do drink tea, I like it with cream... I know, I'm not an authentic tea drinker. ;)

Maggie May said...

Like you, I was brought up to be a tea drinker & the leaves were always left to *brew* in a tea pot of boiling water, or to *steep* where we live now.
We always used a tea strainer.

You are clever juggling the tea & the camera though!

Deb said...

Both pictures show off your photography talents but I really like the second photo of the tea spouts and the way they are lined up. I am reminded of a jumprope rhyme ~ "I'm a little tea pot, short and stout..."
My favorite tea at this point is Yogi Egyptian Licorice - no cream, no sugar. Must go make a cup on this chilly day in NH. Take care.

Leslie: said...

I'm also a tea lover (we call it "Tea Grannies" here). I really enjoyed your story and the accompanying photos. I see a reflection in the silver pot - looks like a person...is it you taking the photo?

I know what you mean about taking a shot one-handed. Sometimes in order to get a macro of a flower, I have to move a leaf or stem or something out of the way.

Bee said...

Believe me, the technique didn't sound easy! I'm glad that you described it, though, because I tend to just admire the image without thinking about how you "caught" it.

I'm a teabag and mug person too. Two cups in the morning without fail.

Pastor Sharon said...

Oh David. . . iced tea is my absolute favorite, with plenty of sugar of course. I got that from my Southern roots. I actually drank a gallon by myself throughout the day yesterday! After this post, I think I'll go fill my glass!

Angie Ledbetter said...

In answer to your post title question, I guess I'm "Half & Half" then. :)

Coffee all day every day for me.

cheshire wife said...

Wasn't there a waitress around who could have helped? Now if the tea had been served in a mug, you would never have had the opportunity to take those photos.

Unseen Rajasthan said...

This is really a fantastic !! I enjoyed reading it..Great..Unseen Rajasthan

Suldog said...

I do enjoy a good cuppa once in a while, though I'm more a coffee drinker. My favorite is Earl Grey. Love the Bergamot scent.

Madame DeFarge said...

Our tea club at work has many rituals. All vital to the process of team bonding.

Eddie Bluelights said...

Feel like a cuppa right now.

David I have another reason for the visit. I have an award for you and I would be honoured if you would pop over to collect the Premios Dardo Literary Award for literature.
Nibbles & Drinks, cabaret by Eddie, a rough banter with Soldog (God what have I done!), a bit of Sherlock Holmes tracking down a dear friend and you shooting her singing - yes, you were the video camera man for the evening. All will be revealed - as usual it is one of my complicated things ~ Eddie

Thumbelina said...

That's really difficult to do without scalding yourself too! So I take my hat off to you for that one!
I was brought up with tea in a pot and a tea strainer too. But cream with tea? I never heard of that before. Cream with coffee but I would always have milk in tea!

Great first shot. Spot on.

Expat mum said...

I'm going to have a little competition with myself to see how long I can sit here without bolting for the kitchen and putting the kettle on!

Kathleen said...

For a little while, my mother would make tea for me each morning and put cream in it, her last attempt to coax me into consuming dairy. Turns out I'm lactose intolerant, so I had a natural aversion to it. Poor mom -- she did her best.

Crass as is sounds, I drink iced tea (made from powder) every morning (even when it's 30 below) . I think it's my southern belle roots showing.

Great post and impressive shot.

Kathleen said...

For a little while, my mother would make tea for me each morning and put cream in it, her last attempt to coax me into consuming dairy. Turns out I'm lactose intolerant, so I had a natural aversion to it. Poor mom -- she did her best.

Crass as is sounds, I drink iced tea (made from powder) every morning (even when it's 30 below) . I think it's my southern belle roots showing.

Great post and impressive shot.

Regina said...

I love tea as well as coffee.

kaye said...

I love a little cold cream in a mug of hot chocolate, but I mostly like cream frozen in an ice-cream maker. Home-made is the best.

CRIZ LAI said...

I think I'll need a cup of Earl Grey now for my flu.. LOL!

http://crizcats.blogspot.com/

Mar said...

You did like a pro, it's very hard to balance the camera and to focus with just one hand!
I like my tea black, thankyouverymuch :)
No added cream.
Happy hunting!

julie said...

nice work to have a photo like that while holding a teapot :)

Jenny said...

A tea pot and never ending supply of leaf tea would be my desert island luxury, with a bone china cup of course.

Akelamalu said...

You can't beat a lovely cup of tea. It always tastes better out of a china cup too. :)

Mojo said...

Marvelous balancing act! I wouldn't have guessed you were on both sides of the camera for this. I've taken many a shot that way so I can appreciate the challenges involved. Never mind the steam, just holding the camera steady one-handed while pouring with the other would be tough enough. (Me? I'd probably use a tripod and wireless remote -- now anyway. But I know that's not your style!)

I start the day with the jolt I get from coffee, but during the workday I switch to (bag) tea (probably grown in Darjeeling) for several reasons. First, it doesn't give the "yuck mouth" (a term coined by a former colleague that couldn't describe the phenomenon any better) that coffee does. Second, tea -- despite its caffeinating properties -- has a more calming influence than coffee (which has probably saved a co-worker or two from a metaphorical decapitation). And finally, because it doesn't suck when it goes cold, which frequently happens when I get busy.

Momma Miller said...

It's just almost tea time here at the Miller home. We drink tea at least twice a day and love finding new types. Not long ago we tried buying just the leaves from a natural food coop in our area and strained it ourselves. Works great and costs a lot less, interestingly enough.

Also, I have to say that tea always tastes better when served from a piece of china. I bought a tiny used (and neglected) teapot and cup/saucer set (with only three matching cups) recently just for that occasion because our other daily mugs simply didn't do the tea justice!

Love your blog. You're in my google reader, but I just had to pop on your actual site today to leave a message and tell you how I enjoy reading!

~Shaye

srp said...

So, do you use cream with your tea? I do coffee with cream, or rather a little coffee with my cream.. but for tea.. lemon... no cream.
Mine is up here.