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Tea and sympathy

“Je dois avoir une tasse de the” is probably the only words in French I felt were necessary. In fact, given I cannot function without said cup of tea in the morning – “must have” is still one of the only methods of getting me out of bed. In this very cold patch of winter, two cups of tea are carefully prepared by my tea-making husband, a ritual that only he can perform. Maybe its a man thing, but there is timing of adding boiled water to tea-bag, steeping time and the correct ratio of milk to be added to produce the perfect brew. I must also have sugar. No I will never get used to tea without it!

My husband is a coffee man. Strong black coffee, no sugar. The French approve especially as they take this with a cigarette and drive like maniacs off to work without my staple breakfast of poached eggs on toast. How they survive to lunchtime I have no idea, but when that magic hour arrives, do not attempt to race a Frenchman or woman home. The hunger and long lunch break will win them the race, while I as usual forget the lunch closures and wonder why I have to spend two hours in my car looking at the ferme sign!!

French tea – now there’s a thing – or in my case – not a thing. Lipton’s Tea is the only tea that seems to be available or that absolutely abominable Earl Grey. Can’t abide it. That smokey aroma and gnats-pee [excuse my French] quality is not tea. The Lipton’s is passable but still weak. My tea is a robust mix of Ceylon, Assam and Kenyan. Not builders tea, where you can stand a spoon up in it, but a little more milk.

Milk first or after? Oh it must be after. If you put milk first and the tea is too week, the tea is ruined. No more room to top it up with more tea. Put it after and you can gauge the depth of colour, plus the tea will be hotter.

Over twenty years ago, you could not find fresh milk in France for love nor money. For some reason, even though cows were a mainstay of animal husbandry, fresh milk wasn’t on the menu – must be that black coffee again – and no cereals. UHT long-life milk was all that you could find and it makes tea undrinkable. A listeria hysteria and EU nonsense affected the sale of fresh milk which also scuppered a many good fromages along the way. Now as I am about to move permanently, luckily in the last few year fresh milk, semi and full fat are in the supermarkets – hurray the French have caught up. Plus and heaven be praised – they also sell my Yorkshire tea. Civilisation does exist across the channel.

Tea in France of any quality can be bought online and in Paris, tea is being served, especially in the evenings, at tea salons. But French tea is not British tea. I am afraid its more like the Earl Grey I am not fond of. In fact the French are keen on heavily scented blends – Dammann in Paris – its their speciality. A lot of Michelin restaurants serve tea and it does go well with cheese. But then again thats the preserve of the wealthy as it was during Napoleons rein. The wealthy drank tea. In good old Blighty everyone drank tea.

I have tried many teas including fanciful Russian caravan teas. All quite lovely for the occasional exploration and to feel a little tea-smug. But I fall rapidly back to my robust beverage of English Breakfast or Yorkshire tea because it reaches my toes, and well solves every problem known to mankind. Not for nothing the phrase Tea and Sympathy. Coffee is good for shock, for very, very bad news, for nerves, but for those little day to day problems tea does the trick, without the caffeine high and the black teeth.

When our terrace is built and I can take my tea out in the morning sunshine – life will be perfect. I think I might even try to convert the neighbours. Thats British tea not French tea – anything less robust just wont cut the mustard!!!

 

25 thoughts on “Tea and sympathy

  1. Personally, first thing in the morning, I go for one cup of freshly roasted organic coffee, preferably with a strong taste, manually ground, prepared in an Italian coffee pot. The rest of the day will be made of Sencha tea.

    1. I think I will be looking into coffee for later in the day. I do like freshly ground and especially after dinner. I think it was instant that scuppered my coffee tastebuds. Time to get back to the real stuff!

  2. I had the same problem when I lived in Denmark – they would serve stewed Earl Grey tea, lukewarm, Disgusting. Put me off Earl Grey for years, but have now rediscovered it thanks to a really good tea shop here in Wellington. In New Zealand, where the water is soft, and where you can always get a good cuppa.

    1. I agree. It’s the making of the tea that makes or breaks it. My dad would just keep topping up the teapot and in the end it was stewed beyond believe. But it was”wet”, so he didn’t care.

  3. We Brits learned about tea in India, Pakistan and Ceylon as they were then. My uncle was a tea planter in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) before moving to New Guinea to grow coffee. The French learned about tea in their own SE Asian territories and China tea is much less gutsy, more fragile and fragrant and tends to be Smokey (Lapsang) or red. Indians typically drink chai which, whether spiced or not is served thick and strong with milk and lots of sugar. I think you would be at home with real chai (not the stuff they market as a twist on latte in coffee shops). Anyway my view is that this accounts for the differences in taste on either side of la manche. As for me, I bring tea back from Britain both to here and the US where Lipton’s rule the black tea market and is not a good choice for someone used to a robust cuppa. I have two cups per day and no more. I drink my coffee strong and black either petit or allongé and I am happy in salon de the taking advice from the passionate people who run them. My favourite so far in this city has been an orange pekoe with dried orange peel added. Gorgeous. Especially with a slice of Galette de roi to nibble alongside …..

    1. Your history is full of surprises!! I would like to taste a few more teas but as I only drink first thing generally, I just can’t risk not having full satisfaction. Will try the pekoe though. Does your uncle give advice on proper tea making?

      1. There are numerous stories I could tell about that uncle … he is my absolute favourite. Lives in Oz now but I used to brag that he lived with natives in New Guinea and wore a bone through his nose (entirely fabricated except that he was living in New Guinea) when I was at school 😂 He used to send a chest full of tea once a year to my grandmother which was then divvied out amongst the family. He doesn’t abide bags to this day, always uses a warm pot and taught me that you should use boiling not boiled water on the leaves. Tea first not milk (big tick there for you) and a dash not a splash he would say. Orange pekoe is lovely. My own history is only such because I come from a colourful gene pool and married colourful men 😉

      2. Marrying the Transylvanian certainly made life more colourful ! Tea-bags….only for speed but once I am living more civilized…it will be loose tea in a brown ancient teapot.

      1. My husband was given chai made with Yak Milk when in the high Himalayas researching a location for an observatory. He said it was the most disgusting thing he has ever drunk because yak milk is extremely thick and fatty but it genuinely helped with the altitude and atmosphere.

  4. I have to have a bucket of tea with my toast in the morning, so know exactly where you’re coming from. And a nice cup of tea is the thing I look forward to if we have been overseas.

  5. It seems I’m 100% French! Strong black coffee in the morning, then earl grey in the afternoon!!! 😉

  6. Oooh I love tea. First thing in the morning whilst still in bed. My husband still doesn’t put quite enough milk and sugar in, but the fact that he makes it for me is such a pleasure that I daren’t complain. The other thing I find is that I much prefer a very thin mug or cup rather than a thick one. I have absolutely no idea why, it just makes me very relaxed and happy! Lovely post ☀️☀️

    1. Now isnt that a coincidence. My husband often has to add more milk and sugar in the mornng. I think its the just wakng up factor and we need a boost of fats and sweets. I also like a thin mug. If i have a fat one I end up dribbling!

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