Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tea and sympathy



In which  Mary Jane Maffini/Victoria Abbott rambles on about a favorite beverage


Cup of tea anyone? Seems so simple and comforting and yet, I can imagine that wars have been fought with less vehemence than the correct way to make a ‘cuppa’.

Up here in Canada, we merely refer to tea and assume it’s hot. If we want ice tea, we’ll ask for that.  The first time I heard the expression ‘hot tea’ in the USA, I asked what other kind there was. Feel free to chuckle.  I can take it.

Tea has a long and occasionally fraught history since back in the Shang Dynasty, about 1500 BC, but who’s counting.  It’s a soothing tradition and one that apparently can build a strong, proud and brave nation.  Think of those Londoners during ‘The Blitz’.  “Never mind. Put on the kettle and we’ll have a nice hot cup of tea." Take that right in the eye, Luftwaffe. 

These were given to me by my daughter, Victoria Maffini the other half of Victoria Abbott

My grandmother taught me to make tea.  She was clear on the way to do it and offered kind and precise instruction.  First you must ‘hot the pot’.  That meant, before you add the tea, warm the teapot, then make sure the water is back on ‘the rolling boil’. 

When my mother got married, brides received tea cups as shower gifts. That’s because married women gave teas as a way to entertain friends, neighbors, allies and enemies and, in our town, to get coverage in the local newspaper.  I never hosted a ‘proper tea’, but I did use my childhood memories of my mother’s teas, to write a murder mystery short story.  But let’s not go there now.
One of my mum's - a fave!
I know that some of you (hello Lorraine!) love teacups. Many of you love the rituals. 
To this day, I enjoy every tea cup, every teapot and every ‘cuppa’.   I let the tea steep for exactly four minutes, before whisking away the tea leaves or bags.  My grandmother’s lovely voice echoes in my head. And also the startled shriek of one of my friendless (I won’t name her!) who thought I’d forgotten the tea in the pot after the crucial four minutes.  

My friend, Audrey's teapot: a memory of happy times

Then we get to the key part: the long-running dispute about what to put in first. Milk or tea?  When I was in college, you could define yourself as a MIF or a TIF.  I am a MIF. Don’t ruin my experience by putting the tea in first.  

Of course, there are also controversy about whether to use loose teas or tea  bags.  Then there’s strong or weak tea.  Feelings run high on this topic.  My hubby used to call the tea served by my relatives Cape Breton Paint Stripper, so you can see where he stands on the strong/weak issue.  I am of the ‘life is short ‘persuasion, so I think everyone gets to make their own decisions here.  Ahem.  
My hubby's teapot. Manly or what? 

Tea shops are springing up in these parts with wonderful exotic and special teas. I like mine bracing and plain.  I’m not that big on the special teas. We’ve discovered Yorkshire Tea (an orange pekoe currently a great deal) and its big brother Yorkshire Gold. My grandmother would approve. 


Although, I love the chance to experience a ‘high tea’ and I love my cups, the most relaxing moments are when the tea is in a capacious mug, enjoyed with feet up, relaxed and happy.  So, sit a while with me and have a cuppa. You can tell me what you like about tea; how you feel it should be made and served and any other secrets you want to share in a warm and happy moment.

33 comments:

Sam said...

So happy to hear you love our tea! Love from all of us here at Yorkshire Tea xx

@samwardpr

Susan L. @ Full Happy Muffin and Mama said...

I only recently discovered "hot" tea as a delicacy. I live in the South: we like our tea sweet, iced, and (for me) strong. When I married the Canadian, he didn't drink tea (except the kind that came in aluminum cans like pop), but his mom and sister (and pretty much the rest of Canada) did. I'm not usually a hot drink drinker, anyway. I don't drink coffee for this purpose. When I drink hot tea, I'm like Captain Picard of the Enterprise: Earl Grey, hot. Come to think of it, Earl Grey made into iced tea would be kind of scary (although I know it's been made into ice cream and sorbet before). With honey. No lemon (something only for iced tea) or milk (dairy for me without carbonation=bad things happening digestion-wise). So, I guess that makes me a TIF.

mary kennedy said...

A wonderful blog!! I can so relate. I'm married to a Brit (from Yorkshire) who is fond of Yorkshire Gold. And what beautiful teapots. Tea pots have a lot of sentimental value for me and I still have one that was given to me as a "parting gift" when we left Nashville. I always think of what Patrick Jane (The Mentalist) says, "Tea is like a hug in a cup."

mary kennedy said...

I forgot to say I love your granite counter and cool backplash in the photo!

Vicki said...

Unfortunately for me, all tea tastes like grass. Sad but true. Turns out one of my sister's has taste buds like I do. My parents both love tea and my dad frequently drinks hot tea when it is cold. Otherwise...cold iced tea for them at dinner (yes...I'm from the south, what other kind of tea is there? Grin.) So my memories of tea are of my parents drinking it. Though we did have a tea tasting one time and it was interesting to see who liked which teas.

Diane LaBrie Leverson said...

I have coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon. I like it hot or iced. I have quite a few tea cups but never use them. Now you and Lorraine have me thinking I should really wash some and use them. I do dust them once in a while. LOL

Erika Chase said...

My childhood memories are of coffee parties. My mom and her friends used to visit once a week and while we kids played outside or in the rec room, they enjoyed perked coffee and multi homemade sweets. In her later years, she enjoyed afternoon tea, which is something I must have every day. Love your tea cups -- I have a box full from my showers.

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Thank you, Sam and all of you at Yorkshire Tea for a great product. We love Yorkshire in tea and TV. Books too! MJ

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Thanks, Susan! I am still reeling for tea in a can, like pop! Earl Grey makes a great cuppa. Keep fighting the good fight. Hugs, MJ

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Love that quote, Mary. I didn't know your hubby was from Yorkshire. Glad you like the teapots. We are very sentimental about them around here. Send me a pic of the one you got as a parting gift when you have a minute. I'd love to see it.

XO

MJ

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Thanks! When we had to move, we were lucky enough to find a house in the final stage of a reno. The granite was in and I found the backsplash on sale. Yippee!

Hugs,

MJ

Mary Jane Maffini said...

I had a chuckle out of 'all tea tastes like grass', Vicki. I can see where it would. A tea tasting sounds like lots of fun though (even if grassy!)

Hugs.

MJ

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Great idea, Diane! I bet it gives you a boost. Nothing is allowed in my home if it doesn't get used. That has me 'putting on the dog' sometimes with old dishes and cups.

Hugs.

MJ

Mary Jane Maffini said...

I love hearing about other traditions, Erika. Hey, aren't you sitting in the same room as me here at Left Coast Crime? Ha!

XO

MJ

Leann Sweeney said...

LOVE the tea cups. I have been collecting tea cups for many many years. We should have a tea party sometime. And where do you find this Yorkshire tea? My favorite is Ceylon as well as a nice green tea but I find Ceylon not that easy to find.

Anonymous said...

LOL -- You're all invited to Teacup Tuesday on my Dazed and Confused blog. I giveaway a bone china teacup and free tea sample every Tuesday. (Okay, this week the prize is a tea for one pot and a teabag holder.) Feel free to visit and comment. And don't forget to enter the giveaway.

http://lornabarrett.blogspot.com/2014/03/teacup-tuesday-all-those-lovely-teas.html

mary kennedy said...

I'll have to figure out how to take a picture of it and load it on here. (can you say "low tech" ) It's cream colored, with violet flowers and has a zillion tiny lines from age, but I adore it!!! Will send it, mary

Aurian said...

Lovely post, I really do like both my hot tea, and my Ice Tea (which I buy in the supermarket, and is not even refrigerated). I like Assam tea if I use loose leaves, and otherwise mostly the fruit tea's by Pickwich (a Dutch brand). I have about 40 cottage shaped teapots, but I don't use them, those are for show in my windowsills.
And please, no milk! I do use sugar in my tea.

Anonymous said...

I'm very sorry to see that the tradition of tea has passed. It's a lovely way to spend time together and a great way to explore teas. Love, love, love your cups. I've never asked for "hot tea" in my life...maybe New England upbringing? LOL

Carol B said...

I love sweet iced tea, but I also love "hot" tea with sugar. I have used "loose" tea in the past, but mostly am lazy and use tea bags now. I like Peppermint (or other mints), and some of the orange spice teas. To me, hot tea is very relaxing!

Carol B said...

Took me three tries to convince the computer I'm not a robot. I keep forgetting this is why I so seldom read blogs, and less seldom respond to them. There is just something about the (usually first) set of letters that I can never seem to read clearly enough to reproduce correctly.

Denise Rodgers said...

Just started making Kukicha tea from the twigs again. Kukicha is, by definition, tea made from the twigs of one of the tea plants. (With some luck, it's cleaned and dried before it makes its way to my kitchen.) I was trying it again with the tea bag, but it is sooooo much better made loose. I was able to do this by buying a mesh strainer that fits atop my glass mug. I like the looks of those dainty tea cups and saucers, but I'm afraid that i like a solid, clear-glass mug. It holds up to a lot of dishwasher action. I had no idea that there were so many people with such strong feelings about tea!

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Thanks, Leann. We find it in our grocery store. I'll try to make sure to get you some one of these days. It is bracing! XO

MJ

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Don't forget everyone!

XO

MJ

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Your teapots sound wonderful! Not to be used up either. Hugs, MJ

Mary Jane Maffini said...

New Englanders and Nova Scotians have a lot in common and I bet that's why! I am going to talk about that in a later post.

Hugs, MJ

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Sorry the computer gave you the runaround. Happens to me too and I ask myself if maybe I am a robot. Hugs. MJ

Mary Jane Maffini said...

I must try this (although it sounds like work!). Yes, tea brings out the warrior princess in many of us. Hugs. MJ

Laurie Fancy said...

Greetings from Beautiful B.C, MJ!! I come from a German background and never drank tea unless we were sick and then it was Pfefferminzetee (peppermint tea!) with lots of sugar!

Then I met my husband (at the tender age of 16) and I was introduced to the world of TEA. My father-in-law would sneak our kids tea into their bottles or spoonfuls from his own cuppa!! All our kids drink tea....... My son was so homesick for his Red Rose tea that I popped a dozen teabags into the mail for him while he was at BMQ (basic training) at CFB Wainwright, AB. His buddies were sooooooooo jealous!!

And YES, I was really taken aback when I ordered tea in the States and ended up with a glass of Iced Tea!!! It took a few minutes to explain what I wanted (a teapot) and ended up with Lipton tea in the end....so much for Earl Grey!!

Right now I have dozens of teapots in my house; some mine, some my daughter's. She's getting married next month and TEA is the theme. We will have a couple dozen at the reception for centerpieces and table decor. She even had a Bridal Shower Tea last month! Part of the wedding favours will include a special wedding blend of Earl Grey tea with Spearmint made especially for Rachel & Justin.

I like quite a few teas: Orange Pekoe, Earl Grey, Chai, Peppermint, English Breakfast. It has to be sweet with cream or lemon, depending on the tea. I also collect teapots and tea cups & saucers... I love to scour thrift stores for beautiful vintage pieces. I'd rather have tea with a bit of history and character, you know? AND a good cozy mystery, of course! Ta-ta, all!

Joan said...

My youngest daughter Susan is a big tea drinker. She also collects teapots. As for me, I prefer herbal teas. When I have regular plain tea with my sister Jane, we always add a little milk and sugar. My Dad always drank tea without sugar, as did grandma as well. Grandma use to say to me, if I put milk in my tea, "it looks like dish water". I always thought that was a silly thing to say, and still do.

vl said...

Reading your post got me wondering why my mother wasn't a tea drinker as her parents/grandparents were Irish and British.

When they were growing up my daughters and I would share a pot of tea now and then and I started doing tea parties for my granddaughter's birthday when she was five. That's something all us "girls" look forward to each January.

I'm from the South so iced tea - lightly sweet with lemon - is a way of life. (Mother didn't drink that either come to think of it.) In hot tea It's honey and lemon for me - the tea probably gets lost in there. ;)

Is there a difference in the flavor of MIF and TIF?

Sheila

Anonymous said...

Just had to tell you that your mum's favorite tea cup is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing such a pretty tea cup.

Marlyn Beebe said...

Yes, living in the US has its disadvantages when it comes to tea. (A cup of tepid water with a generic tea bag on the side? Yikes!)
I take a Ziploc bag full of Yorkshire Gold teabags with me everywhere I go. And sometimes I even bring a kettle.