The simple pleasure of tea

A reader wrote to me recently with these comments:


I just finished another of your books and I really enjoy them……In your stories the women drink a variety of teas…..I’d like to find a good breakfast tea to replace coffee in the morning, is there one that you would recommend? So many choices on the shelves its confusing……

Although I didn’t realize the characters in my novels drink a lot of tea, it really is not surprising, since I am a serious tea drinker. Always have been. When the Englishman entered my life, that particular habit found a cozy spot and settled in for good.  We always drink tea first thing in the morning, and when together mid-afternoon will often indulge another.  It’s easy and comforting and reviving. If you, like the reader above, are overwhelmed when it comes to shopping for and preparing a good cup of tea, I am sharing the advice I sent in reply. Perhaps you’ll find it handy.

Dear Reader:

To replace coffee, the main thing to remember is that you want black tea. Not green or anything else.  And most coffee drinkers prefer to start with something not flavored, so go with straight black tea.

My #1 favorite breakfast tea is PG Tips, but you have to get the kind that is imported from England (the “English” tea sold in the US is made with different parts of the tea leaves and is not as flavorful). Unless you’re just insanely in love with tea, that’s a bit expensive.  Because Christopher Robin is British and must begin his day with a classic cup (two sugars and milk), we have his mother send boxes of it.  I also buy it at the English store (most towns have one).  Again, pretty expensive, but fun to try maybe.

To get started in the US, I’d suggest trying Twining’s English and Irish breakfast teas.  The trick is to get the water boiling and pour it over the teabag as soon as it stops boiling, then let it steep for a full five minutes.  The color is good after 1 minute, but the flavor is not really developed until five minutes.  Also important: don’t put cream in tea, only milk.  Add sugar as desired.
Do not let my beloved hear me say this, but I also think just plain Lipton’s is very good. It was what we drank as children and I still find it very good if the water is hot enough.  (The temperature of the water is what makes having a good cup in US restaurants so difficult. The water is almost never hot enough.)

Those are the best black teas.

For some other great things to try, here are a few:

Constant Comment, by Bigelow, the classic orange flavored tea.  Also try their Lemon Lift and Mint teas.

If you ever see Twining’s Blackberry tea for sale, grab it.  It’s one of the seasonal releases, and it’s absolutely delicious.

Caffeine free:
Celestial Seasonings have many different kinds.  Peppermint is nice after dinner.  I like Sleepytime when I’m having trouble sleeping.  Mandarin Orange Spice is nice, too.  You might choose a box of mixed flavors and see what you like.

One of the best teas in the world to me is Good Earth caffeine-free blend.  It’s strong and sweet without sugar, and has no caffeine, so I can drink it all morning while I’m writing.  It smells wonderful, too!

Now I’m off to put the kettle on. There’s a rain storm bearing down over the mountains and a nice cup of tea sounds like just the thing.  Do you have other favorite teas to recommend?  I know there are readers here who, like me, have to have the English blend. Raise your hands and be counted.
August 30, 2011

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