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December 7, 2007

Hello all,

As an English guy, I grew up on tea.

We have many sayings about tea - like "the best English tea is Indian". Yes, we are full of contradictions, as many of you learning the language would agree  :-)

When I first came to Spain (nation of coffee drinkers), I was not only surprised by their preparation, but in one case, disgusted. The worst Spanish 'cup of tea' I ever attempted to drink, was served in a long glass full of hot steaming milk with a tea bag. I have even been put in the situation of disposing the contents into a potted plant - shhh, don't tell anyone  :-)

When compared together, coffee & tea could be classified as 'a morning brew' & therefore, can easily be thought of, as similar drinks. Coffee is prepared with the liquid from coffee beans with boiling water & previously heated milk. So, a conclusion can be drawn for the inexperienced tea-maker. Understandable.

When I was first learning the Spanish language, I met a Colombian family who told me that the way I drank tea, was an unusual way. In fact, they said that the only time they drank the tea with milk, was when they were children.

So, a quick lesson in how the English prefer their tea.

The traditional way consists of teacups or mugs, a metal or pottery teapot & a kettle.

The kettle for boiling the water until steam is seen. Water is then put into the teapot while the internal strainer is present (if the teapot has the strainer) & swilled around a bit. This is known as heating up the pot. The water is then emptied out.

The tea leaves are then spooned (teaspoon) in. The amount depends on how many people are going to be drinking at that session. Calculation = 1 tea spoon per person plus 1 for the pot. Then, with the kettle still being heated & still with the steam, the hot water is poured into the teapot. The lid of the teapot put on & the teapot left alone for a few minutes.

As the water moves & slowly comes to a standstill, the flavour starts to come out of the leaves & turns the water brown. This is known as brewing. In fact 'I just made a brew up', means I just made a pot of tea.

Caution - Do not leave the tea to brew for too long, or once poured think to have a second cup long after the first. Reason for this is that the last flavour that is released from the leaf is tannin. This is a toxin & has limited bad effects, but has a rather bitter taste. Best to be avoided. Of course, if you have a teapot with a removable strainer inside & can be removed without burning yourself, then the second serving is possible. Again, depends on how many people were initially served & how big your teapot is.

If no internal strainer is present in the teapot, then a hand held strainer has to be used. To stop the leaves flowing into the cup when poured from the pot. No second serving after 10 minutes.

Another alternative is to use tea-bags & no strainer. The teapot then is optional. This is sometimes frowned upon as the perforated bags that are used are prepared with bleach to give the clean white appearance. Myself, I have not noticed the difference in taste (bleach related), but I prefer to have more control on how weak or strong the brew should be. Depends on my mood, time of day or other food eaten beforehand.

A 'stronger cup of tea' is with more tea leaves used ( ie not a level teaspoon amount, but a mounted teaspoon) & slightly longer time brewing.

Times of brewing - anytime from 2 - 5 minutes, depending on volume & personal taste.

Another tradition with tea drinkers, is dunking. Biscuits &/or the occasional buttered bread will be dipped into the tea & then eaten. Best to practice this before doing in public  :-)  I did explain dunking to some of my Spanish friends & it made for some laughable moments for all of us  :-)   A TV commercial for a particular brand of biscuit in the 1980s said - "Rich Tea Biscuits - a drink's too wet without one".

There are different teas. Some are used just as a refreshing drink. Some are good for the digestion. Some to wake you up, while others make you more relaxed.

Actually, I feel like a cup of char now.

More entries: Remember, remember, the fifth of November (1), Spanish Fiestas & photography . Where did the English go? (1), Meat & 2 veg Vs. the Chippie (1), Spanish Fiestas & photography, The birth of Scammers II - The Virtual (3), A Nation of Tea Drinkers

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