Adventures with tea

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Tea is one of those beverages that makes everything feel better.

I was introduced to good tea on my first trip to England. At home in the 1980s we didn’t have a lot of tea choices, nor did anyone know much about making a decent cup — I remember bland servings of Red Rose and Salada that didn’t inspire me to drink much of the beverage. All that changed when my husband and I went on a surprise trip to London in 1988.

Friends of ours had invited us to join them on a trip to the gulf coast of Mexico that November. It would likely have been a lovely trip if Hurricane Gilbert hadn’t blown through in September, taking half of our resort in Akumal with it. Our friends decided to postpone substitute travel for their upcoming honeymoon that January, so Mike and I were left to decide what we wanted to do with our time and money.

He surprised me by suggesting that we go to London, England for a week. At first the thought of visiting England in November seemed a daft idea, but this was my first chance to go abroad, so I visited our travel agent to set things up. We packed warm sweaters and trench coats, and off we went.

The weather was damp and overcast the day that we visited Windsor Castle — even the castle’s ladies-in-waiting remarked on it when we stood chatting with them at one of the gates — so afterwards we hunted for someplace to try out afternoon tea. There was a cozy restaurant just a street over from the castle that seemed a likely spot, and we ordered cream tea with anticipation. We were stumped, though, when the waiter asked if we wanted Indian or Chinese tea! I knew we didn’t want Chinese that day, so we hesitantly requested Indian and hoped for the best.

What came to our table was a revelation: rich, amber tea steaming in the pot, with an aroma and taste that haunted me after we returned to Canada. I’d been too embarrassed at the time to ask what the name of the tea was, but I’d picked up a book about tea in one of the bookshops in London, and Assam seemed to fit the memory. Luckily, our local grocery had just brought in a small line of gourmet teas, including Assam, which turned out to be wonderful and which has remained my favourite tea ever since.

Tea has a long and amazing history, and is a fantastic companion for just about any type of food and any style of occasion — to my mind, the more relaxed the better! Watch this page for tea travel information, culture and history, as well as tea & food ideas (with recipes) for you to try out and expand your tea horizons.

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