Monthly Archives: September 2010

Why coffee shop tea is a sorry affair

Elaborate coffee shops have shaped city streets, yet it seems that it’s increasingly hard to find a decent cup of tea when you’re out and about.  Despite the larger chains’ elaborate, snarling coffee machines, they take precious little care over the tea they serve.  Often dispensed as what looks like a bowl of hot water accompanied by a papered tea-bag, a cup of coffee shop tea is a disappointing affair.  These coffee shops market both the mechanised machismo of the gargantuan gaggias and coffee’s conspicuous consumption.

The magic of these coffees is in the boastful bashing of granules, the swirling steam, the oozing milky froth and the visual effect of carrying around an enormous pseudo-personalised, sugared, syruped, synthetic concoction for all to see.  And so, in contrast, tea is constructed as something humble, something unassuming; something sometimes twee or nostalgic, something mundane and austere.  Yet for its simplicity there is an art to making a cup of tea.

A cup of tea is a cliché, a cup of tea is the stiff upper lip.  Chain coffees are milky, infantalising as they ape our first tastes.  Tea is grown-up comfort.  Making a cup of tea for someone is a personal act, not a mechanical one.  Tea cannot be made to another’s taste from an order over the counter.  A cup of tea doesn’t come from some regulated, branded, faux-authentic name and artificial flavours.  Milk and two sugars is about as complex a request as you’re likely to get, so you make tea the way you learned to, rather than how you were taught.  Making tea for someone can be very personal.  Sometimes a cup of tea is all you can do to help, be it a bad day in the office or something much worse.

In a documentary shown after his death, Roald Dahl said that one of the hardest things about his wife’s illness, was the knowledge that there was nobody at home to offer him a cup of tea at the day’s end.

Of course coffee shops can’t get it right.  Tea needs care and thought, not practice and explosive machines.

el

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Tea Sub

Miss Believer has already spoken about the playful piece of design that is this yellow submarine tea strainer, but we’d been unable to track one down. Or so I thought – Miss B managed to get one for my birthday! Wahey! And in full Splash of Milk honour, here it is in action:

TomA

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The beautiful outdoors

One of my favourite spots to take tea is a small cafe on the Swedish coast. Tables are outside a small summer house, hidden amongst small outcrops in the rock face. Once you’ve navigated (the occasionally treacherous) path down, carefully balancing your tray of tea and goodies, you can escape the rest of the world, stare out to sea and watch swans in the foreground and the boats navigating by lighthouse in the distance.

Where do you like to take tea?

TomA

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Teacup bangles

The problem I have with my many, many tea sets & odd teacups is that nobody really sees them. I don’t have many tea parties (sad, I know) and so they sit, in various places around the house or even (horror of horrors) in the cupboard, dusty and alone. Etsy seller StayGoldMaryRose solves that problem with these beautiful & unusual china teacup bracelets. You can either purchase a ready made bracelet or send in a favorite teacup, which I think is a lovely idea.

Do you make tea themed lovely things? Get in touch!

Miss B x

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Post Bank Holiday Tea Tasting – Fairtrade Green Tea Chai

And finally, we come to the end of a marathon tea tasting session. My last tea is a fairtrade green tea chai. Its good. Very good. There’s something endlessly comforting about chai; this particular chai is less spicy than many and rather lighter, perfect for a Sunday afternoon cuppa.

Do you know of other tea selections we should taste en masse? Are you a tea distributor or enthusiast? Please make suggestions of teas I should hunt out and taste in the comments below.

TomA

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