Today's post is the 2nd part rant from my friend the Crazy Tea Lady. If you missed part 1, check it out here.
In short, the crazy tea has had enough of being given a second rate cup of tea! I can only concur. Go forth and with your powers for good crazy tea lady- I'm looking forward to going somewhere and ordering a nice pot of black, and being given something other that the Earl Grey and English Breakfast we so despise. No wonder the English are so grumpy, if they are forced to drink English Breakfast of a morning. Just kidding!!
A Decent Cuppa (Part II)
By the Crazy Tea Lady
GG readers will know that my mission in life is to ensure that tea drinkers of Australia no longer have to remain house-bound for fear of going out in the community and being served up lukewarm, stewed tea. Imagine the benefits to the Australian economy if we tea drinkers no longer had to indulge our passion behind closed doors, thanks to the inability of the hospitality industry to serve up a decent cuppa.
Last week I had to leave my house to attend a conference on the Gold Coast. Conferences – the single biggest source of crimes against gastronomy in the known world. Unfortunately I forgot my emergency pack of drinkable tea bags so I was anticipating the event with dread. But maybe things wouldn’t be too bad I optimistically surmised. Since reading Gastronomy Gal surely the global hospitality industry had implemented immediate changes to their tea brewing practices?
Things started off looking promising. There was some seemingly hot water on the side next to the mass percolated coffee offering (sorry coffee lovers – the campaign against conference coffee will have to wait for another day). So, hot water and next to it – my second favourite site behind a T2 or Tea Centre display cabinet. The Twinings of London tea box. The smooth luxurious wooden box offering the promise of delightful tea treats inside. Ahhh, the anticipation! Like opening an unexpected box of expensive chocolates, I peeked inside and did a rapid inventory. Herbal teas – peppermint, camomile and green tea. Black teas – nothing drinkable.
I’d like to be able to say that I enjoy nothing more than a relaxing cup of camomile tea after my steamed spinach and tofu salad but it would be a lie. Give me toxins, preferably in the form of caffeine in my black tea. So why were there no quaffable black teas? I don’t entirely blame Twinings, makers of my absolute favourite tea bags. I religiously substitute their “Traditional Afternoon” blend for tea leaves when time is pressing, a delicious combination of African, Assam and Ceylon teas absolutely yummy at any time of the day. I blame the marketing geniuses who have convinced the world’s hotels that not only are English Breakfast and Earl Grey the most popular tea blends, that they are actually drinkable.
How this travesty gained such popular acceptance I can’t fathom but the consequences have been far-reaching. No matter your destination or where you stay, invariably the main selection of black tea is no selection at all. The bitter tasting English Breakfast, which I refuse to believe actually contains any Kenyan or Assam teas, and the bizarrely orange-flavoured Earl Grey. Earl Grey is wrong on so many levels and explains why tea-drinking is unpopular in Italy, where the Bergamot oranges used to scent Earl Grey tea are grown. The Italians are smart enough to realise that oranges may be used for many purposes but scenting black tea should not be one of them. Apparently Star Trek Enterprise Captain Jean -Luc Picard likes Earl Grey tea but that’s only because he is a fictional character. As for English Breakfast, suffice to say that a tea that has a fragrance with overtones of honeyed toast should be marketed as for breakfast not with breakfast.
I’m a simple person with simple tastes. I like a nice uncomplicated black tea. As a special treat I might indulge in a special blend of Assam, Darjeeling or Ceylon tea mixed with a nice Chinese black tea like Keemun or Dian Hong. But I would rather drink coffee than either English Breakfast or Earl Grey. For tea lovers these blends are like coffee made for you by someone who never drinks coffee (perish the thought). I imagine these teas are only served because they are chosen by people who don’t drink tea, or perhaps they are the cheapest blends imaginable.
So if these two blends are sufficient to turn a tea aficionado off their drink, what can we do about their pervasive influence? Apart from carrying your own stock of tea at all times I’ve also started, I admit, to become a bit of a priss in my old age. Now, when I’m after tea in a restaurant or cafe I don’t wait to be told what teas are on offer, or even read the tea board, I start asking, “So do you have Darjeeling? What about Ceylon? Do you have any black teas apart from English Breakfast or Earl Grey? I would even be happy with Bushells. Actually why not just give me a cup of hot water and I’ll make my tea myself.” I try to deliver my lecture with a suitably disgruntled expression on my face but I have noticed this having little impact on the underpaid wait staff of Brisbane.
But to win this battle we need to generate a grassroots campaign against not only the way our tea is served (see Part I) but also the type of tea. In pursuit of a half decent cuppa I’m going to start writing to every establishment indifferent to the needs of the serious tea drinker to demand better service and some drinkable tea. Enough of this black tea blindness, it’s time for the hospitality industry to open their eyes to the needs of the tea-drinking public. Watch this space.