Thursday, 8 November 2012

Tea or coffee?

I've lived in the UK for almost ten years now, but I have not yet become a tea drinker. Or more precisely, I have not become a British tea drinker.

Being American, my brew of choice is coffee. Instant coffee is more common in the UK (Americans are more likely to have coffee machines), so I got into the habit of drinking it when I first moved here, but lately, like British coffee drinkers in recent years, I have moved away from convenience to a cafetière (or French Press in American English).

I drink tea occasionally as well. I learned to drink tea in Taiwan, and still enjoy sipping a fragrant brew of Oolong or jasmine tea, steeped from loose tea leaves in a traditional teacup with no handle. I buy my tea from Mariages Freres in Paris, and usually pick up a new floral melange each time I visit.

But I have not embraced British tea. The most commonly drunk tea is from tea bags which contain inferior quality tea, consisting of the dust that is left over from higher grades. This creates a quick, harsh brew. So, like instant coffee, this tea is convenient but not particularly tasty.

Many people have bemoaned the taste of American tea to me. Presumably they are referring to Lipton, a British product which is not widely available in the UK, but relatively common in the US and Europe. Personally, I doubt there is much of a difference in flavour, unless it is between bad and marginally worse. I only ever used Lipton tea for iced sun tea, something we don't have the weather for here.

However, I might just have to change my ways, now that I have procured a proper teapot. It's from le Creuset (as always, there has to be a French connection), but it is a proper British-style teapot all the same.

Teapot (and new cosy Rowan felted tweed pullover)

And I'm going to knit myself a proper British-style teapot cosy to go with it. It will have to be Kate Davies' Sheep Carousel, knit from proper Shetland wool.

But I don't think I'm going to put British tea in it. Rather, I'll stock up on a tea-bag tea I like, from my favourite American tea company, Celestial Seasonings.

Appropriately for an American, Morning Thunder contains mate, the South American caffeinated drink of choice. A nice compromise between tea and coffee.