Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tea Time

My family are big coffee drinkers.  When I was growing up, I remember Dad taking out the big air tight can of coffee in the morning, opening the lid and letting us kids smell the coffee grounds.  I still love that smell - I love the smell of coffee.. I just hate the taste of it.  Isn't that odd?  To love the smell but dislike the taste?

Once in a while at large family dinners or when Mom had guests over, tea would be served.  I never remember her using a teapot - only a microwave and the pedestal tea cups that went with her Corelle dishes.  For some reason seeing them drink tea meant the occasion was something special - and in our house - having any company over was special (especially since Mom would go nuts cleaning in anticipation of a visit).

I tried tea when I was a kid but never cared for that either.  It was less bitter than coffee, so I think after giving it a try over and over again I became accustomed to it. When I was in college, I always sat at my desk or on campus with a cup of hot tea at my finger tips as I poured over the course work.  The subtle flavors were always soothing and had a calming and refining feel.

Since college, I found myself drinking gallons of tea a day.  Okay.. maybe not GALLONS, but a lot!  I have an electric kettle that always seems to be on - and I'm the only one who drinks the tea.  I imagine I average about 12 cups (8 oz cups) a day - perhaps more on my day off from work.

Just before Christmas I went with my mother to a local antique shop.  One thing my mother has come to appreciate about having a gay son is that she has someone to go antiquing with!  Anywho... there is a little "restaurant" next to the shop we go to called "The White Linen Tea Room".  They serve high tea there, run a catering business and make the best scones I've ever had.  Usually I never pay attention to the place as I don't know many people who would enjoy high tea - and I never saw the pull of loose tea.  Why get loose tea when I can get the tea bag stuff at the grocery store for a few bucks less?

We ventured in to pick up a present for a friend of ours (they sell some interesting little gifts in addition to tea) - and of course to have a free scone they always give to customers.  I decided to pick up a box of loose tea and give it a chance.

The sales lady was very friendly and started telling me all about how to make tea properly.  I kept thinking, "umm.. you boil the water, drop the tea bag in (or infuser in this case) and PRESTO - tea!".  I never knew that keeping the tea bag or tea infuser in the water too long will spoil the taste of the tea.  Some teas are only meant to steep for three minutes, some six minutes.  After that, they can become bitter and the taste change drastically.

Who would have thunk it?  All this time I was making tea the wrong way?

So I went home, followed the directions and brewed my new loose tea in my teapot (I like the formality that can go with the tea culture so I always used a teapot and cups and saucers).  I let the tea steep for the five minutes it called for.  MMMmm!  So good!  If you're a fan of tea, I highly recommend treating yourself to some loose tea!  The flavors are better than anything I've had from a box off the shelf from Tops.

Tonight for the first time, I even noticed there are directions for making the tea properly on the box of a brand I do buy from the stores (I can't afford to be a total tea snob).  It's only supposed to steep for five minutes versus just leaving the tea bags in the pot like I always have.  So.. I tried it tonight (yes, I'm drinking some now).  Again - what a difference!  It does taste so much better!

I'd share my findings with my Mom, but she now only serves coffee to company.  Shame.