It has been said, in many memes and in many stereotypes that the Brits are never far from a cup of tea. While our American cousins and French, Spanish, Italian and indeed the rest of Europe seem way more into coffee, tea (hot tea, served with milk or lemon or straight up as it comes) is something that is quintessentially British. I specify hot tea because iced tea and the various flavourings thereof isn’t something that has particularly caught on here. Again, our American cousins seem to have the market share in iced tea…and while I’ve occasionally bought a bottle of the yellow labelled Lipton peach flavour iced tea, it really didn’t fulfil my desire for tea. I won’t even begin to discuss “bubble tea”. If I wanted to eat frogspawn, I’d be a fish…or something else that eats it. Tapioca in “tea” is just wrong.
Despite my French ways of napkins etc, I’ve been drinking tea ever since I was a baby. I say a baby because I’ve been told I’ve been drinking tea in one form or other since I could hold my own bottle. It won’t have been a surprise that tea is still my go to drink. I’m not anti-coffee or indeed, anti any other drinks. I drink the occasional coffee and I’m a bit partial to a caramel latte when the mood strikes but for a multitude of reasons, tea is my favourite and my best (apologies for the Charlie and Lola paraphrasing).
Whether the British stereotype is true or not, for me, there isn’t an occasion where tea is inappropriate; it welcomes, soothes, revives, calms and, improves most situations. I have been in floods of tears over the years for many reasons and the act of drinking tea has helped every single time. Maybe the act of having to allow it cool and then sipping slowly so as not to burn your mouth (although I’m more of a gulper) is enough to calm to sadness. Or maybe, tea has magical properties. There are also times when friends and family come to stay and one of the first things we do after saying hello, is put the kettle on, make a cup of tea and catch up. It pairs brilliantly with cake, with biscuits (for dunking, obviously) and also with that other classic British meal, fish and chips. My coffee addicted husband will only drink tea when eating fish and chips.
Heading to a lengthy meeting at work, making tea beforehand bolsters the attendants and gives a welcome distraction and lubricant to the voice that may be working hard over the course of an hour or more. First thing in the morning, whether at home or at work, a cup of tea eases you into the day, waking you up gently. The well-known refrain of Mrs Doyle in Father Ted has often been mimicked – the delightfully scatty, batty dishevelled housekeeper foists tea on the priests with such frequency and confidence that they just accept the millionth cup that day, no matter what the occasion.
The reason for my tea soliloquy isn’t just because I’m a tea addict (there, I said it) but because I found my new favourite shop across from my new office. Tucked into the Leeds Victoria Gate development and next door to the coffee giant of Nespresso, is T2, an Australian export of tea heaven. First opened in 1996 in Melbourne, they are dedicated to the perfect cup of tea, whether it’s black, green, fruit, herb or flowers. One of my new colleagues told me about the shop and today I ventured out for half an hour to get away from spreadsheets – as soon as I walked in, I could feel my face split into an enormous grin. Tea is stacked in neat cubby slots along 3 walls of the unit with a tasting station and a gorgeous selection of pots, cups, gift selections in the centre. I spent 20 minutes reading the labels before asking the very lovely Marie, whether she could help me pick out some tea.
Marie of the T knows her tea – she showed me the variety on offer, recommended me some punchy Irish Breakfast to get me going in the morning and also gave me a couple of samples of Turkish apple tea and a rare green jasmine tea to try out. I couldn’t leave without buying a gorgeous new mug and tea infuser for my desk and like any self-respecting tea
addict drinker, joined the delightfully named, Tea Society. Free tea on your birthday, offers, samples, news about new tea…there’s an email circular I’ll not be deleting!
I’d absolutely recommend spending some time there if you are a tea fan and happen to be in Leeds – just make sure you have the willpower not to buy all the tea on one day!