I love a good pot of strong tea in the morning, so whenever I travel and will be exchanging homes via homeexhange.com, I bring a good supply of Twinings Earl Grey loose tea. Twinings can always be counted on to perfume their tea with a goodly amount of bergamot; other brands I try don’t seem to manage that.
(I just learned by googling around that the blend was created especially made for Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, Prime Minister of England and has been around since the 1830’s–with good reason: it’s delicious!)
When I’m in America, I’m never surprised to find a kitchen without a kettle for boiling water–though I can’t really imagine how folks manage without one. And I don’t expect to find a China tea pot either, so I usually bring two large insulated mugs and a strainer, then steep the tea in one and pour it through the strainer into the other. (Don’t laugh at me: I also bring a sharp chef’s knife and a knife sharpener. Most people seem to stock a goodly supply of very dull knives.)
But when I was coming to England, I thought my obsession with bringing loose tea was taking things too far and I just bought a small starter ziplock. You can guess what’s coming: in the two weeks I’ve been in the UK, I haven’t been able to find good-quality loose Earl Grey anywhere. The Taylor’s of Harrogate brand which we bought in the shop at a National Trust site was rancid and smelled so strange we tossed it immediately.
This is a sad state of affairs. England has gone the way of the tea bag and in all but the finest restaurants tea is “prepared” by steeping that horrible (but convenient) invention in a small aluminum pot of water. On supermarket shelves and even in tony shops like the farm store at Chatsworth in Derbyshire, you’ll see carefully stocked shelves of boxes containing tea bags.
And what’s the culprit? Please see below. Further corroborated by the appearance of a Starbuck’s within the walled city of York and an abundance of cafes with fancy espresso machines all over the land.
I am currently staying in a lovely home in Oxford that has a very well equipped kitchen. The French press is standing proudly on the counter top in full view. I did find a China tea pot, but there is no strainer in sight.
I wonder if Browns in London is still doing a traditional high tea…