Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I like coffee and I like tea

Autumn is upon us. With it is the cool weather and I finally am breaking out my good, basic, no nonsense Tetley Tea. No not Tetley USA. Because for some reason, tea made for the US market is not as good as tea made for the UK and Irish markets. Having lived in Manchester, England for 9 months, I came away with an appreciation for the cuppa. It wasn't too hard, considering you would have it with breakfast, mid-morning, lunch time, mid-afternoon and for tea time (supper to us US folks), and even for supper (a late night snack). I like mine piping hot with some milk. I found it was even better on cold Iowa winter mornings, which is what I eventually returned to after having lived in England.

But the worst is not being able to find a tea in the US that tastes like my favorite cuppa over there. I tried Twinings English Breakfast here. NOT the same as over there. I found the above US Tetley. Neither the regular blend nor the British blend was quite right. Had I become a tea snob? When my family traveled overseas to the UK, the best present was getting a box of tea. My friend from the UK has been kind enough to send me boxes of tea when I beg. Fortunately for me, I met MS and she has UK and Irish connections and can get me decent Tetley. Tetley is not even top of the line over there. It's an ordinary everyday tea. I was so desperate, I even was willing to drink PG Tips. For most Americans, who are used to iced Lipton or Nestea, this is way beyond their understanding. Growing up, my parents made instant Nestea, I believe, from the glass jar with the screwtop cap, similar to this. Which is strange, considering my Grandma made iced green tea from bags. She'd pop the bags in a pot of water on the stove, bring it to a boil and then turn off the boil and let it sit. Then she'd put it in the pitcher with ice and water (minus the bags). It had a pale greenish yellow color, which had a strange resemblance to pee (and I am sure my cousins out there all know they were thinking it, but we weren't saying it). But that's what we had at Grandma's. I could never understand why my parents had black tea and Grandma had green.

Well, back to hot tea. So my experience before England was mostly with iced instant or with my grandma's iced green. Then, I discover HOT tea, with milk no less. I've had tea with lemon as well. But under NO circumstances will I EVER, EVER take sugar in my tea. Sugar in hot tea is not necessary and SWEET TEA is an abomination. I'm sorry to any Southerners out there, but I just cannot understand ruining good tea with more sugar than is humanly possible to stand. But my husband loves sweet tea and all the funky flavored ready to drink teas out there. Give me an electric kettle, my stainless steel teapot I got from my English friend for my wedding present and good old bags from Tetley. This thing is 13 years old, so a bit worse for the wear, but it does the job.

Strange thing is, during the hot weather of the summer, here in the midwest, I started brewing coffee. The night before. Then I'd refrigerate it and in the morning create an iced coffee drink with milk, ice cubes and Irish cream flavoring. Very refreshing, probably cheaper than the coffee shop, and the flavoring can also be used in Italian sodas we like to make. My husband always thinks when I use the bottle I'm putting a shot of "something" in my morning coffee.

Still, every once in a while I get a Starbucks craving. Having lived in the "big city" for 7 1/2 years with a Starbucks every few feet and in every grocery store, not hard to get hooked on it. I am a basic gal, I like a vanilla latte or a chai tea. If I'm feeling especially splurgy in the calorie category then a caramel frappacino can hit the spot, with whip and caramel swirled on top. I'm not as picky about my coffee as my tea, because I guess I do the equivalent of what the sweet tea-ers do, put so much damn sugar in it, you can't taste the coffee. However, I will say that coffee is meant to go with sugar, hence serving it with dessert, probably the only time I do not take sugar in my coffee, depending on its strength and bitterness. But I still always take cream or milk.

When it comes to tea, I am a snob. With coffee, I am a woman with simple tastes.

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