I’ve recently been reading a series of books (for those curious, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon) and without giving away any plot lines the subject of the Boston Tea Party comes up. Now as a child, I had these lovely images of fine china cups and mini cucumber sandwiches being passed. I had a bit of rude awakening when I realized it involved dumping crates of tea into the Boston Harbour as a revolt in the years preceding the American Revolution. Still, even with this new knowledge, I like to think that those calling themselves the Sons of Liberty may have had a sandwich or two while rioting about.
This particular riot in fact was brought about over the tea tax and duty rate over English tea, transported by the East India Trading Company. Many felt that tea was a staple, a necessity of daily life, and the hardship over taxation, not to mention MANY other key factors (a little thing called taxation without representation, anyone?) brought about the boiling point that led to the eventual revolution. This isn’t the first time though that tea has changed and shaped a nation. Just look at the English Empire in general, and the aforementioned East India Trading Company. Countries and wars were fought over trade routes and the right to lay claim to acres upon acres of tea.
But how about a little fun with tea? Y’know, instead of war and bloodshed? Did you know that at the St. Louis World Trade Fair of 1904, a group of tea producers organized a special tea pavilion and offered cups of hot tea to all attendees. However, the hot summer weather prompted the man supervising the deserted booth to pour tea into glasses packed with ice cubes. Customers lined up to try the new invention – iced tea. Today, the U.S. guzzles almost 50-billion glasses of iced tea in a single year, which accounts for more than 80% of all tea consumed stateside.
So, whether you like your tea hot or cold, with a side of cucumber sandwiches or history, I think we can all agree that it tends to hit the spot. Hey, there wouldn’t be the cliché “you’re my cup of tea” if it wasn’t true!
Maybe my colonial roots are showing, but I do find that it is hard to find a proper “cuppa” now a days. For those who don’t know, a “cuppa” refers to a cup of tea, properly brewed, of course. So, to solve this very English problem, here is how to do it:
Step 1: Boil water. In a kettle… not a microwave or an instahot. It should be actually boiling, y’know, with bubbles and everything.
Step 2: Take some of said boiling water and pour it into the vessel that you will be brewing your tea, either a single cup or a pot. This warms the vessel. Return the kettle to the heat source and bring it back up to a boil while your vessel warms (just a minute or two).
Step 3: The tea – Place the loose tea or tea bag in your vessel. If you are using a strainer, then put it in your strainer, duh!
Step 4: Pour your now re-boiling hot water over your tea and let it steep for the prescribed amount of time (it will be written on the package your tea came in).
Step 5: If drinking from a single prepared cup, remove the tea bag/strainer. If drinking from a pot, pour the tea. Either way, sip and enjoy your tea!
Okay, so I can’t solve the world’s problems… I can’t even fix my hair properly, but at least now I have taught you all how to make a cuppa… I think I deserve a treat
I had planned on having this week being all about Indian food, but after spending the end of last week AND the weekend sick with what I’m sure was the plague, I’ve been drinking vats and vats of tea. Don’t get me wrong, I love coffee, and Indian food too, but when you’re sick, you just want tea. Gone are the days of just having a simple Orange Pekoe as well! No no my friend, today’s tea world is a complex trip through different types of teas, flavours and attributes.
Today’s tea consumer no longer just chooses between cream and sugar or honey and lemon. There is first the type of tea leaf that you want, each with their own benefits. The main ones are white, green, oolong, black, pu’erh, mate, rooibos and herbal. White Tea is made from baby tea leaves and is harvested by hand only a few days each spring, and is the rarest and least processed of all tea varietals.
Green Tea comes from leaves that are withered until the leaf becomes flaccid and then immediately steamed or fired to halt the active leaf enzymes that would otherwise react with oxygen. Oolong Tea leaves are are semi-oxidized and express characteristics in-between green and black teas. Black Tea comes from leaves that are fully oxidized. Classic teas like English Breakfast and Earl Grey fall within this category. Pu’erh Tea is made from tea production style in which the black tea leaves undergo microbial fermentation and oxidation after they are dried and rolled.
The remaining three teas: Mate, Rooibos and Herbal teas as we know them are not what some would consider “true” teas. Yes, there are such things as “Tea snobs” out there. They are not “true” because they do not come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Mate is South American in origin and comes from the ground up leaf and stem of the Ilex paraguariensis tree. Rooibos is South African in origin and comes from the Aspalathus linearis bush. Herbal teas as we know them are a wide variety of different blends of flowers, herbs and other edibles brewed together, and often contain no actual “tea” itself.
So there you go, everything you ever wanted to know about the types of tea… but did you know it’s also used for more than drinking? Today’s recipe calls for it in a brine to marinate a turkey breast! Enjoy and keep on sipping!