Tag Archive | England

Of England and Tea

I’ve been remiss in writing about my recent trip to Great Britain. Gone for three weeks, we visited England, Scotland, and Wales. This was our fourth European trip in two years and for me, it was by far the most enjoyable. I will write more posts about what we saw and my thoughts, but this post is about tea!

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I’ve never been a coffee drinker. I just never acquired the taste for coffee, although the smell is certainly warm and welcoming. But for taste…ugh. I grew up in Southern California where the need for a hot drink to warm you up just wasn’t necessary. But when I moved to the eastern US and the cold winters, I soon learned that I wanted something to warm me up besides hot chocolate.

So I learned to drink tea. Weak tea. That is where you drop the tea bag in hot water and immediately pull it out again. Barely any color in the water. In fact, sometimes, I would just drink hot water.

A few years ago, a friend introduced me to Chai Tea Lattes at Starbucks. From the first taste, I was hooked. This was no barely colored, weak tea. This was tea with many flavors including peppercorn, cardamom, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and star anise. These spices balance with the milk and a sweetener like sugar, honey or brown sugar, and then strengthened with a strong black tea. It is absolutely delicious and very addictive. Not to mention high in calories.

And so it has been for me for quite awhile. Either the weak tea with a barely dunked tea bag, or the very flavorful chai tea (often made at home with a pre-made syrup).

But that’s all changed. Now I know better.

While in England, we had high tea at a place in York called Betty’s Tea Room. This is how tea is meant to be! A stainless steel teapot for the tea and a second teapot for hot water only, sugar lumps with silver tongs, milk in a cute little pitcher, small cups and saucers, and a tiered plate stand with various scones and clotted cream. I learned how to make tea properly. Just for effect, I stuck my little finger out when I held the small teacup. Ah, yes, this is TEA!

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I collected teabags and loose tea from various stops during our travels in Great Britain. I bought tea bag tongs and a strainer. I bought cute little dishes to put the used tea bags in. I brought home all my goodies and spread them all out in satisfaction. Then I realized that I did not own a TEAPOT! I had gotten rid of it when we moved back to California because it was never used.

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Well, things are different now! I purchased not one, but TWO teapots over the past couple of weeks. One is larger to make several cups, and one is small, just enough for two cups of tea. I have learned to make my tea strong and I brew it in my teapot, using the strainer for the loose tea. I take my tea now with a bit of honey or sugar and I pour my milk from a small pitcher (certainly NOT from the huge milk carton anymore. I’m much too refined for that nowadays!)

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Once I had tea pots, I realized I needed a tea cozy to put over them to help keep the tea nice and hot. I love to sew and so I made one out of some quilted fabric. Actually, I made it out of a quilt that I never quite finished. But don’t tell anyone…if they knew I cut up that quilt to make a tea cozy, they might think I need my head examined.

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It is truly amazing the amount of STUFF you need to make proper tea. But I’ve got it all now. Including some of Oprah’s Chai Tea from Teavana, which is a loose tea. (And by the way, that tea is WAY better than Starbucks!)

Now I go through the morning ritual of boiling a pot of water and then brewing the tea in one of my teapots. I pour it into my cup and flavor it appropriately. I take a sip and say “Ahhh, this is how a cuppa tea is MEANT to be.” And I smile.

Maybe I should invite some people over for a tea party. Mad Hatter, anyone?

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Mind the Gap

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If you have ever been to London, you might recognize that phrase. It’s the painted sign warning you to not step in the empty space between the subway train door and the platform. In the hotel where I am staying, a female voice admonishes me to “please mind the door”. I enjoy that one and wonder what the elevator door is trying to instruct me to do. And what will happen if I disobey?

We visited Hampton Court Palace today outside of London. It seems that Henry VIII expected folks to obey him, too. Here’s a sign that was posted in his quarters…

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Here’s another sign that was posted there by more contemporary authorities. This one is even more scary. I sure won’t be disobeying it!

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And finally, here is a welcome sign I was happy to see. In the States we would call this an exit sign, but I rather like the English for giving me a way out.

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All in all, I am really loving my visit to Great Britain. And I think the English sayings and signs are well said. After all, they did invent the language.

A Journal about a Journey to England

a fine romance

This time next week I will be on my way from California to London. I’ll be on a three week vacation, traveling with a tour group around England, Scotland, and Wales. To say I am excited about this trip is an understatement!!

Ever since I was a young girl, I have dreamed about visiting the English countryside. I have always been an avid reader, and it seems that a good percentage of the novels I’ve read over my lifetime have taken place somewhere in the UK. Some of the descriptions were so vivid, I really felt I was there. Of course, I have seen pictures and plenty of momentos from there too. After all, isn’t Great Britain the mother country?  😉

In preparation for the upcoming trip, one of the books I have been reading is by Susan Branch called “A Fine Romance…Falling in Love with the English Countryside.” And wow….this is a book that makes me feel as though I am on her own journey to England right beside her.

Susan is a popular watercolorist, author, and designer. She has a way with words that makes you feel as if you are her best friend and she is writing directly to you. “A Fine Romance” is Susan’s love letter to England. She and her long-time partner Joe, traveled the English countryside, staying in B&B’s, and visiting the most beautiful and romantic places you can imagine.

The book is her journal and is filled with quotes, photographs, and illustrations. It is also hand-written in her own script…no it is not type-faced. She includes some background material on the places she visited and describes what she sees in a very endearing way.

Even if you never had a desire to visit England, I think you would after reading this book. Page after page is filled with delights, including her own love story about Joe.

If you will be traveling to England, I highly recommend this book. Even if you are not planning a trip there, you will enjoy this book if you are partial to cottages, gardens, quaint settings and cooking.

So go get a cup of tea, put your feet up, grab the book and start reading.