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Tea Time

Evening Tea @ Sheen Falls Lodge

Danes consume the most coffee and for good reason; coffee coats your belly to help keep you warm during winter months but it also provides a great after-dinner fix. My mother always seemed to be making coffee and everyone always seemed to be drinking it yet I could never take to it became the sole tea drinker of the family.

Tea is about slowing down, savouring the moment, drinking for health or to satisfy a sweet craving. It’s about ceremony; of taking the time to choose your favourite kind, of knowing your mood and tastes (caffeine, no caffeine, herbal? Sweet?), picking out your favourite cup and going through the process of brewing. Tea is refined, elegant and oh so cosy. Curling up with a magazine and tea, well, that’s heaven for me. I usually work with a latte but I relax with tea.

For many people, the art of tea is a mystery, seeming terribly complicated (which tea? how do you brew? what pot to use?). That’s only true if you’re not in on the secret of it all. So let me share a few of mine with you:

The outcome depends on the process, as with all things. One should never rush tea, skimp on the quality of the leaves or water or saturate it with things such as fake sugar and skim milk. Tea will soothe you if you let it – you just have to give it all it’s due first.

There are many teas on the market and quality counts for a lot. One of my favourite brands for bagged tea is Mighty Leaf because they use whole leaves in specially handmade pouches, allowing for more fragrance and taste. Also, the tea pouch does not have a staple in it (who wants to be drinking a staple?) and is always packed fresh. My favourite flavour is African Nectar, which is a Rooibos tea (also known as read leaf or red bush). Roobois, which happens to be my favourite tea, is naturally decaffeinated, full of flavour and has more anti-oxidants than green tea. It also is excellent for tooth enamel.

For tea leaves, the amazing tea store in Vancouver, Canada, Blue Teapot, is where I order most of my tea from. Their teas are the most fragrant I’ve ever had; Strawberry Vanilla Roobois is like dessert and Green Lemon is the perfect afternoon pick me up (and is even good cold). Their staff always knows the latest blends and can make suggestions so if you’re new to tea, give them a call.

My other favourite tea, Mango Mate Energiser, comes from Elixir on Melrose. It’s loose tin that comes in a tin and does exactly what it sounds like it’d do without a jolt and with a great taste. The tins are great for travelling with, too.

Tea pots vary and this is always a personal decision. I have three. My favourite is the Serenity Green Tea 2 Cup Teapot with its beautiful Asian design, no drip spout and built-in stainless steel infuser. For two people (or one very thirsty one), this is a good, basic pot. For single servings I like to use a simple, elegant two-cup tea press. I also have a glass tea pot which I picked up from Palais des Thes in Paris which shows off some of the beautiful flowering teas as well as home made variations (such as wrapping mint leaves around and pouring in hot water). Incidentally, Palais des Thes makes a wonderful tea guide to teas around the world and their Fleur de Geisha and The des Amants Red tea are my favourites!

The process of brewing tea is quiet simple.

1. Fill a kettle with fresh water (filtered if possible). I use an old fashioned stove kettle (Le Creuset with whistle) so that I’m not drinking gunk that has latched onto electrical heating elements, like in those electrical kettles.

2. While the water is boiling, fill the tea pot with hot water.

3. For best results you want to use water just before it reaches boil. However, if your water does boil, just wait a minute for it to cool down before pouring.

4. Put the tea bag or leaves into your pot and pour water on top. Brew according to tea (green teas generally 2 minutes while a dark more robust tea can take up to 7)

5. Once the tea is brewed, either stir it a little in the pot or give the pot a good swirl.

6. In your tea cup, place a small amount of milk if brewing dark teas (for green or white teas, they are best to drink as is). Pour the tea into the glass and add either a little honey or a sugar. I prefer a good organic whipping cream in my tea (regular cream is hard to find in the U.S.). Skim milk will make it too watery and oily and soy, though has to be used for those who are lactose intolerant, changes the flavour of the tea too much. It’s best if you can’t take cream to drink without any other flavour. Remember, it’s about the tea. If it’s an herbal and I feel like I need a little somethin’ somethin’ extra, I use raw honey (great for digestive health) or Agave Nectar (sweet without the calories).

7. Sit back and relax if alone, or dish the day away if with a friend.

A lot of brands actually make large tea bags for ice tea and there’s special pitchers designed to help you brew loose leaf tea as iced. I’m not a huge lover of ice tea (defeats the purpose for me) but when I do want a little somethin’ somethin’ iced, I turn to Honest Tea. Black Berry Forrest is my favourite (decaffeinated to boot!) but they make wonderful green teas to. With few calories and no artificial ingredients, it really is drinking to your health. And without their quotes under their bottle caps, I never would have known that it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that tea replaced beer as England’s breakfast drink!


1 Comment

  1. StephNo Gravatar
    November 20, 2006 / 2:31 PM

    I love tea – but then I am British 😀 Nice post, but you know, I would have to disagree with you about putting the milk in first – any serious English tea drinker always puts the milk in last! This allows the tea to cool slightly as it is poured from the pot so your milk doesn’t curdle and lets you add just the perfect amount because you can see the colour. 🙂

    Hygge House Responds:

    Actually, milk last isn’t a typical “English” way to drink tea and is a fairly “new” way to drink tea (after refridgeration was invented). If you use old china, it is still best to do milk first but it’s really all about preference:

    From Wikipedia: When taking milk with tea, some add the tea to the milk rather than the other way around when using chilled milk; this avoids scalding the milk, leading to a better emulsion and nicer taste. The socially ‘correct’ order is tea, sugar, milk, but this convention was established before the invention of the refrigerator. It is worth noting that this convention was only universally established in the 20th century – prior to this, the common earthenware mugs used were unable to withstand the temperature of the tea, and so the convention was to add the tea to the milk. This was not the case with bone china.

    Adding the milk first also makes a milkier cup of tea with sugar harder to dissolve as there will be no hot liquid in the cup. In addition, the amount of milk used is normally determined by the colour of the tea, therefore milk is added until the correct colour is obtained. If the milk is added first, more guesswork is involved. If the tea is being brewed in a mug, the milk is generally added after the tea bag is removed (however, it is arguably better to add milk before removing the tea bag than it is to remove the tea bag too soon: the tea will continue to brew even with milk added).

    Steph Responds:

    Hi Alex,

    I love the Hygge House blog and the whole concept of hygge 🙂

    The tea info is fascinating! The earthenware cup explains why you are sometimes told as a child that to do the milk first might crack the cup. It never made any sense because china is so strong 🙂