Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tea and Me

Several years ago the now no-longer published Veggie Life magazine asked its readers what childhood books inspired their imaginations, particularly if there was a connection to food. It seems I was the only reader that responded and they excerpted a large chunk of my letter and created some recipes to go with my remembrances.

I received pride of quasi-authorship and a few copies of the magazine. Not much, but I was out of the closet with my passion for teas.

Earlier today, I was channel surfing when I caught a bit of the 1994 movie version of A Little Princess and it reminded me of my letter to Veggie Life and I thought I would share it with you.

If you have a tea memory (or a recipe using tea or to accompany tea, please feel free to leave a comment below with the info and/or links).

Edited excerpts from my letter:

Thanks to an English cousin, I developed quite a thirst for English literature and tea, both the beverage and the meal. One birthday she gave me copies of Jane Eyre and A Little Princess. The books were different than any others I had read and the people in them different than those in my suburban experience. My fascination began with the simple, nourishing teas of Jane Eyre and the tea and suppers that appeared as if by magic in the attic of Sara, the Little Princess.

The affection for and restorative powers of tea intrigued me and as I read more of English literature and contemporary British novels, I began to be fixate on what the characters had at tea. I felt let down if it was just beans on toast, which, if you ask me, the characters wouldn’t want either, if you could ask them.

I have to admit in the beginning I didn’t quite “get” tea. One memorable teen-age attempt at sophistication ended up with me curdling my own tea after adding both lemon and cream. Unfortunately there were witnesses.

But tea soon became a way of life for me. At college in New York City I discovered “loose” teas and a world of tea flavors other than Lipton’s. With a tea ball, mug and an illegal heating coil to boil the water in my dorm room I felt quite the sophisticate and discovered the delights of Russian caravan, fine oolongs and herbal blends.

My mother and I also began a tradition of having teas wherever we traveled. With her I had some memorable “cream teas” at Harrods and other British institutions as well as throughout America. Tea became another way to bond with my mother and later my mother-in-law.

Return visitors to my house know better than to ask what kind of tea I have. They just go to the cupboard and make their own selection -- caffeinated to the right and herbal to the left.

I’ve also begun to use tea as an ingredient in other recipes. Some favorites: Moroccan Mint sorbet, herbal tea spritzers, tea “gelee” and recipes using an infusion of tea for flavoring.

I even celebrated more than one important birthday with tea at local cafes. I’ve been trying my best to interest my two sons in my passion for the beverage. The older one seems immune, but younger one has on more than one occasion asked me to buy him his own tin of a favorite tea. Now if I can only get him to read Charlotte Bronte and Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Note: To read Jane Eyre or A Little Princess on line for free from the wonderful non-profit Project Gutenberg, please click on the links.

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About the photo: At the last Fancy Food Show in San Francisco I met the owners of TeaSpot, a tea distributor and manufacturer of this nifty tea brewing cup. No bag needed, put your loose tea in the ceramic basket and brew. When the tea is ready, you can rest the basket on top of the upside down lid to prevent a dripping mess. Or use the lid to help keep the tea warm. TeaSpot gave me one on the spot and I use it all the time. The company refers to this product line as "steepware" and also offers covered mugs and teapots. I especially liked their Meditative Mind tea (white tea with rosebuds and green jasmine pearls). The company donates a percentage of its profits to various causes and buyers can select where the money is to be donated.

1 comment:

Nicki said...

I am a commissioning editor at a food magazine in London, UK, and I'd like to commission you to write a piece for me. Could you please email me (whether you are interested or not, I'll need to know that too) on nicki.symington@googlemail.com. Many thanks.