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A Nice Cup of Tea

sandylc Nov 15, 2012 01:30 PM

In recent years, tea has become more mainstream/popular in the US. Being a daily tea drinker, this sounds like good news to me. Unfortunately, various frou-frou purveyors of tea are taking advantage of the trend to market flavored-up, artfully packaged, pricey, cutesy "teas" to the unwary public; many of these fancy concoctions don't even contain tea. I don't need fancy tea, just a simple black tea - PG Tips is my go-to at home.

Twice lately I was in establishments who had purchased an impressive selection of fancy teas to offer to their customers. I was asked what kind I would like and I told them, "plain black tea, hot, thank you." In both places this caused great confusion. The very nice people at both places ended up bringing their tea tins to the table/counter to allow me to see them and choose.

To the chagrin of all, neither of them actually had a plain black tea to offer to me. They had only berries, blossoms, herbs, zests, etc.

Now, let's say a restaurant DOES happily have a nice, real tea to offer.....seldom is the water a) hot enough to brew the tea, b) free enough of impurities to not adversely affect the taste, and c) free of, yes, COFFEE flavor! which comes from running water through the coffee machine to (semi) heat it.

A nice cup of tea is one of my favorite small pleasures, but it sure is hard to find one!

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  1. Jay F RE: sandylc Nov 15, 2012 01:51 PM

    Hey, Sandy -

    I'm a tea drinker, too. Twinings Ceylon hot, Trader Joe's English Breakfast iced. I pretty much drink one or the other, all day long.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jay F
      sandylc RE: Jay F Nov 15, 2012 02:04 PM

      Wow, cool! I have been slowly convincing the hubby to drink tea, too....what other beverage (excepting water) can be so delicious, healthy, and calorie-free?

      1. re: sandylc
        Jay F RE: sandylc Nov 15, 2012 02:52 PM

        What did it for me was a six-week bout with bronchitis/flu several winters ago. Though I've always drunk iced tea, coffee was my morning beverage of choice since age 25. I started drinking hot tea during that illness, and I've loved it ever since. I can drink coffee still, but I dislike the aftertaste.

        1. re: Jay F
          sandylc RE: Jay F Nov 15, 2012 03:05 PM

          Oh, yeah...that aftertaste....and coffee breath...ugh.

    2. jmcarthur8 RE: sandylc Nov 15, 2012 02:26 PM

      sandy, agreed on all counts.

      After trying scores of ancient teas, trendy teas, English teas, Chinese teas, etc, I, too have found that the plain ol' black tea that I grew up on is what I really like the best. And it is a nightmare to order in a restaurant - lukewarm water, coffee flavor, yep, I know those, too.

      My 22 year old son is also a tea lover, and a bit of a tea snob, but he loves to go to Teavana and other pricey tea shops and try their monkey-balls-gunpowder-hibiscus-aged-smoked whatever you call it. I can take a sip or two, but that's enough for me. I guess I'm getting to an age where I know what I like (finally!).

      1 Reply
      1. re: jmcarthur8
        sandylc RE: jmcarthur8 Nov 15, 2012 02:48 PM

        HA! Thanks for improving a semi-crappy day for me!!! I'd like to go back to one of those restaurants and order monkey-balls, etc. tea......

      2. b
        buzzardbreath RE: sandylc Nov 15, 2012 02:43 PM

        You are so correct, Sandy!

        While I love to drink coffee, now that the cooler weather is here, I instinctively switch to tea. English or Irish Breakfast is my favorite go-to, and Yorkshire Gold is my favorite import to buy when I have a spare dollar or two. Being forced to accept substandard water and flavor when I am at a restaurant does go against my grain, especially as we are paying for it. Coffee drinkers do not accept it, why should tea drinkers? Is there a polite way to protest this treatment? Just curious... :-)

        Tea Drinkers, unite! :-)

        2 Replies
        1. re: buzzardbreath
          sandylc RE: buzzardbreath Nov 15, 2012 02:45 PM

          Business name: Just Plain Tea
          Questions asked at the counter: Black or Green and cold or hot
          Most valued equipment: RO water purifier and OF tea kettles and a good timer

          1. re: sandylc
            buzzardbreath RE: sandylc Nov 15, 2012 05:55 PM

            Perfect and classic!

        2. p
          Puffin3 RE: sandylc Nov 16, 2012 09:15 AM

          Go online to Murchies, unless you can visit Victoria. They have some of the best teas in the world. We visit the store and purchase 1/4 pound packages of their teas. Want a superb black tea?http://www.murchies.com/store/tea.htm...

          5 Replies
          1. re: Puffin3
            sandylc RE: Puffin3 Nov 16, 2012 09:25 AM

            Added to favorites - thanks!

            1. re: Puffin3
              tastesgoodwhatisit RE: Puffin3 Nov 16, 2012 06:53 PM

              And if you do go to Victoria, stop by for a properly made cup of tea and a nice pastry. Do they still have the tea grannies?

              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                Puffin3 RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Nov 19, 2012 05:43 AM

                Nope. Now they have smart pretty young women with good teeth and nice figures. 'Got to like that' LOL

                1. re: Puffin3
                  tastesgoodwhatisit RE: Puffin3 Nov 19, 2012 04:23 PM

                  :-) I was actually thinking of the old cabinet with figures of old ladies having tea in it. When you pressed a button, they moved as if they were drinking. I remember it being really old, like pre-electricity old, and coming from the Black Forest, maybe?

                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                    Puffin3 RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Nov 20, 2012 05:59 AM

                    Yeah I think it's in a front window maybe. I'll have a look next week.

            2. m
              mmalmad RE: sandylc Nov 16, 2012 09:37 AM

              I recommend Upton Tea www.uptontea.com They have a great selection. I too have a hard time getting a decent tea when out, and get particularly annoyed that a "large tea" costs more than a "small" they do not give you more tea just more almost hot water in a slightly larger cup

              6 Replies
              1. re: mmalmad
                soytoy RE: mmalmad Nov 16, 2012 10:08 AM

                Yep... paying more for extra hot water (resulting in weaker tea) is awful!

                1. re: mmalmad
                  Puffin3 RE: mmalmad Nov 16, 2012 10:19 AM

                  My wife takes enough finest quality loose tea for two in a little piece of tin foil. We order a pot of boiling hot water with a few slices of 'lemon on the side". When the waiter looks perplexed I just say we only drink hot lemon water. I say it with that 'look' that if he is a good boy and brings us the hot water his tip is certain. I sort of whisper in a conspiratorial voice: "Oh yeah would you make sure the water doesn't taste like coffee?". When he dutifully brings the pot of hot water then leaves my wife empties our finest quality tea leaves into the water and lets them steep. By the time it's ready to pour the leaves have expanded so few leaves get into our cups. Of course the lemon slices are never used. I could write a book. LOL One tip: The best way to get the best service from the front and back of any restaurant is to get your server on your side. The best way is to imply that you are on 'their side'. Most servers are only 'serving' because of the potential tips. Imply if they 'go above and beyond for you' you will reward them. And for Gods sake make sure you do ! Before we moved we used to frequent a neighborhood family run Italian restaurant that had been around for years. We had just moved to the neighborhood. The week before we went to the restaurant for the first time we dropped some things off at the dry cleaner across the street. My wife: "So that little restaurant looks like it's been around for a while. It must have good food". Dry cleaner: "They have great food but you have to be careful not get 'Peto'. He's the owners cousin and if he doesn't like you watch out!". He hates his cousin". We found out what 'Peto' looked like. We made a reservation. We arrived and my wife asked someone, (who fitted 'Peto's' description) "We would like to have 'Peto' as our server please" She whispered: "we are told he is the "best server". Sure enough she was talking to 'Peto'. For a few years 'Peto' insisted on serving our table. He always went the extra mile for us. We always left him an extra tip. Before we moved away we made sure our friends, who we had had such excellent service from him when we all went to diner took up where we left off.

                  1. re: Puffin3
                    EWSflash RE: Puffin3 Nov 23, 2012 08:49 AM

                    Sounds like you enjoy fooling waiters, as if you don't quite think it's necessary to be honest or up-front with them.
                    Sneaking tea (or other ofod or drink) into a restaurant and asking them to give you a "free pot of and lemons hot water" isn't the way i like to treat restaurants or the waiters in them.

                    1. re: EWSflash
                      Ruth Lafler RE: EWSflash Nov 23, 2012 10:03 AM

                      Yeah, that's really cheating the restaurant -- and a famous "trick" of penny-pinchers. If I wanted to use my own tea, I'd order tea and then just use mine instead of theirs.

                    2. re: Puffin3
                      ziggylu RE: Puffin3 Nov 23, 2012 10:50 AM

                      I had to give up coffee a couple years ago and switched to tea. I'm fussy about my tea and dislike the tea most restaurants offer. I carry my own as well.

                      But I always order a tea(and pay for it) and then use my own instead of the bag they bring.

                      1. re: ziggylu
                        jeanmarieok RE: ziggylu Nov 23, 2012 12:23 PM

                        Ditto here - I always order tea, and tell them to put the tea bag on the side. Then I use my own.

                  2. t
                    tastesgoodwhatisit RE: sandylc Nov 16, 2012 06:55 PM

                    I will admit that I never order hot tea at most North American restaurants, and generally not at coffee/tea shops unless it involves a teapot and loose tea.

                    I've gotten spoiled with tea, though, as I live in a tea producing area.

                    19 Replies
                    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                      sunshine842 RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Nov 17, 2012 02:51 PM

                      yeah, there's that whole lukewarm-water-and-a-Lipton-teabag nonsense. Bleh.

                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                        huiray RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Nov 19, 2012 06:05 AM

                        I have ordered tea at all Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, etc etc restaurants in North America.

                        p.s. There're quite a lot of these restaurants (quite, quite a lot) in North America.

                        1. re: huiray
                          tastesgoodwhatisit RE: huiray Nov 19, 2012 04:23 PM

                          I find that at the Japanese/Chinese etc restaurants, I rarely order tea - it comes, it refillable quantities with the meal.

                          1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                            huiray RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Nov 19, 2012 04:31 PM

                            So you have never specified what kind of tea you wanted at "Japanese/Chinese etc" restaurants?

                            In any case, I was taking a bit of a poke at your assertion of never "ordering" tea at most "North American" restaurants. :-)
                            In my experience most such places *will* require you to actively assent to "hot tea" or to specify *what* you want to drink when you sit down, even if a sizable number will "automatically" bring you tea if you say nothing.

                        2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                          Ruth Lafler RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Nov 19, 2012 10:59 PM

                          I'm a picky tea drinker as well (don't drink coffee at all). I hear all your complaints! I will say, though, that restaurant tea service has improved considerably in the Bay Area in the last ten years. Most place are at least offering good quality tea bags, and more and more are offering loose teas.

                          Since I'm very caffeine sensitive, my daily brew is white tea. It's kind of embarrassing how many kinds of tea I have in my desk drawer at work!

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                            RUK RE: Ruth Lafler Nov 20, 2012 05:43 AM

                            Do you have a special method for brewing the more delicate white tea?
                            (I usually boil the water, set the alarm for 10 min and then brew it. Hopefully by then the water temp has dropped to ca 175 F. )

                            1. re: RUK
                              Ruth Lafler RE: RUK Nov 20, 2012 09:40 AM

                              Yeah, I boil the water in the kitchen at work, and then walk it back to my desk. So it doesn't cool for ten minutes, probably closer to five. Maybe I should get a thermometer!

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                RUK RE: Ruth Lafler Nov 20, 2012 09:50 AM

                                You probably don't need a thermometer - I find that if it is bitter, the temperature was too high.
                                So essentially we do the same.

                                1. re: RUK
                                  Ruth Lafler RE: RUK Nov 20, 2012 12:45 PM

                                  Yup. BTW, I used one of these at work: http://www.republicoftea.com/product.... best $4.95 you'll ever spend.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                    Jay F RE: Ruth Lafler Nov 20, 2012 02:35 PM

                                    Ruth, do you think it would be difficult to clean if you don't have a garbage disposall?

                                    1. re: Jay F
                                      Ruth Lafler RE: Jay F Nov 20, 2012 02:57 PM

                                      It's not hard to clean at all, unless you want to prevent it from discoloring (which the manufacturer says is natural). Among other things, you can turn it inside out to get anything that might be caught in the seams at the bottom.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                        Jay F RE: Ruth Lafler Nov 20, 2012 03:13 PM


                                      2. re: Jay F
                                        mmalmad RE: Jay F Nov 23, 2012 09:44 AM

                                        Upton Tea sells similar metal tea strainers with bamboo handles, comes in 3 sizes, very easy to clean. I also have the republic of tea and use both depending on which size cup I am using

                                        1. re: mmalmad
                                          Jay F RE: mmalmad Nov 23, 2012 10:49 AM

                                          Hmmmm...they have lots of nice straining devices at Upton:


                                          Thank you.

                                          1. re: Jay F
                                            huiray RE: Jay F Nov 23, 2012 10:56 AM


                                            1. re: huiray
                                              Jay F RE: huiray Nov 23, 2012 11:12 AM

                                              Thanks. Those are lovely.

                                      3. re: Ruth Lafler
                                        sandylc RE: Ruth Lafler Nov 20, 2012 02:42 PM

                                        That looks like a really cool thing, Ruth.

                                        1. re: sandylc
                                          Ruth Lafler RE: sandylc Nov 20, 2012 03:54 PM

                                          In the product comments there are a lot of complaints about how it fits in a mug. I use a really wide cup (like a latte cup) so I just set it in the middle and it rests on the bottom. It also fits in my rather narrow mug. So I guess you need a mug that is either wider and shallower or narrow.

                                          I also have a travel infuser similar to this one: http://www.amazon.com/Eight-Cranes-PS... Mine is threaded top and bottom, so when you take the steeper off, you can swap it with a cap that's screwed on to the bottom. Great if you like to make multiple infusions.

                                      4. re: RUK
                                        huiray RE: RUK Nov 20, 2012 04:00 PM

                                        This is a known phenomenon, with both coffee-brewing and tea-brewing. The bitter oils are extracted at about 5-10 degrees higher than the desired flavor components. With coffee, you pour water at just a little under boiling (about 95ÂșC) over your grinds, and let the foamed bubbles (containing the bitter oil constituents) be left behind on the filter cone. There is something similar going on with tea-brewing.

                              2. eclecticsynergy RE: sandylc Nov 17, 2012 02:29 PM

                                I love the Twinings Ceylon Breakfast Tea and have real trouble finding it these days. I'm sure it could be mailordered but I'd be leery of its age.

                                1. RUK RE: sandylc Nov 19, 2012 06:00 AM

                                  About a year and a half ago I switched from my usual coffee in the morning to tea as I was getting increasingly jittery from drinking coffee. Teavana was mentioned here, I find many of their teas perhaps somewhat trendy, but I really like the Javavana Mate and brew myself a pot every morning. Heh, sipping a cup now with just a touch of milk. As satisfying as coffee and no jitters. I still drink some coffee on weekends since my husband starts up a pot, but somehow I am losing my taste for it.

                                  1. huiray RE: sandylc Nov 19, 2012 06:15 AM

                                    I notice that *all* of the posters here (including you) appear to like "tea" such as like Liptons, Earl's Grey, Joe's Breakfast, etc - i.e. processed teas for the Western palate. Not unexpected, I suppose. For myself, I think the last time I had purposely and consciously chosen such a tea (Lipton's) was a few years ago at my former place of employment, with the only type of teabags available from the coffee stations. I suppose some Thai/VN/Korean restaurants might use teabags of these teas sometimes, and I can taste it on occasion at those places when I ask for tea.

                                    At home, I brew myself Oolong, Jasmine, several varieties of green...

                                    At restaurants, I get the "house tea", or Po Lei, or Kuk-Pou (blend of Po Lei and dried chrysanthemum flowers), or Jasmine, or Green. No problems whatsoever with "coffee tastes" or weird tastes. The usual problem, if there is one, is that the tea is too weak because they skimped on the tea leaves.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: huiray
                                      tastesgoodwhatisit RE: huiray Nov 19, 2012 04:27 PM

                                      I like Earl Grey, but other than that I tend to drink mainly, oolong tea (lots of oolong tea), green tea, jasmine, hojicha, genmaicha, loose, and not in bags.

                                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                        EWSflash RE: tastesgoodwhatisit Nov 23, 2012 08:57 AM

                                        +1, and I love it all either hot or iced.

                                      2. re: huiray
                                        Ruth Lafler RE: huiray Nov 19, 2012 11:19 PM

                                        I drink both -- I long strong black teas with milk, and I like white tea and oolongs without. Different teas for different circumstances! Currently the top three are some Russian Caravan I brought back from Murchie's in Vancouver, a Taiwanese milk oolong and a jasmine-scented silver needle.

                                      3. r
                                        rockcreek RE: sandylc Nov 19, 2012 08:00 AM

                                        I know you're content with PG Tips - and that's fine - but I would recommend considering loose leaf tea. The tea in tea bags is almost always comprised of fannings, the small pieces of leaf leftover from the sale of finer quality whole leaf and cut pieces. Fannings brew strong (on account of the exposed surface area) but lack the fuller and more subtle flavors of whole leaf tea. That's not to say you can't enjoy tea brewed from tea bags, but you may be missing out!

                                        Brewing loose leaf tea gives you access to freshly harvested leaves chock full of complex notes and aromas (fruity, malty, citrusy, etc.) that are not typically available in bag form.

                                        In any case, I pretty much stay away from ordering tea at restaurants unless I know they're going to serve me a small pot of it already brewed. I don't care for having to make it myself...

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: rockcreek
                                          sandylc RE: rockcreek Nov 19, 2012 10:13 AM

                                          I have had loose tea many times, in fact, have a small tin of it in the pantry now. I just don't find the flavor difference to be stark enough to compensate for the convenience and speed of the bag! You have reminded me here, though, that I should maybe make the loose tea on the weekend......

                                          1. re: sandylc
                                            stilldontknow RE: sandylc Dec 12, 2012 06:39 AM

                                            Agreed Sandy, a nice pot of loose leaf is good for visitors or special treat but for the 6 or 7 cups the average Scot has a day, tea bags win every time. Tetley or Scottish Blend are my usual favourites.

                                        2. k
                                          kcshigekawa RE: sandylc Nov 19, 2012 04:10 PM

                                          First thing in the morning, it's a large mug of double strength Red Rose, with milk. Sometimes a second mug of the same. Builder's tea, I've heard it called.

                                          In the afternoon, unsweetened iced tea in teh summer, hot green tea in the winter.

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: kcshigekawa
                                            sandylc RE: kcshigekawa Nov 19, 2012 04:26 PM

                                            I know that entire countries drink their tea with milk; I haven't been able to bring myself to try it because, one, I don't care very much for drinking milk, and, two, it just doesn't seem like they go together. One thing that I like about tea is how clean and clear it is; how non-filling....I must be strange.

                                            1. re: sandylc
                                              Jay F RE: sandylc Nov 19, 2012 05:32 PM

                                              Nope. I feel the same way. I don't drink milk. Why would I put it in tea?

                                              1. re: Jay F
                                                sandylc RE: Jay F Nov 19, 2012 05:48 PM

                                                Zackly. Thanks.

                                              2. re: sandylc
                                                sunshine842 RE: sandylc Nov 19, 2012 10:38 PM

                                                it's very similar to coffee with milk. Tea with milk takes on a different flavor profile that's quite nice, particularly with the British blends like PG Tips, Yorkshire, and Typhoo.

                                                I usually don't add milk, but sometimes I enjoy it.

                                                1. re: sunshine842
                                                  Ruth Lafler RE: sunshine842 Nov 19, 2012 11:24 PM

                                                  Except for some of the more delicate scented teas, English teas are designed to be drunk with milk. The milk balances the bitterness and the tannins, and the milkfat helps bring out some of the other more subtle notes.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842
                                                    Harters RE: sunshine842 Nov 23, 2012 11:11 AM

                                                    Tea is now a minority drink in the UK and, almost invariably, it is taken with milk. Personally, I detest the taste of tea and have always been a coffee drinker.

                                                    1. re: Harters
                                                      sunshine842 RE: Harters Nov 23, 2012 11:42 AM

                                                      and I *only* drink tea in the UK (unless I brew it myself) because I've had just one too many cups of Kenco "coffee" (and I use the term loosely).... At least tea was usually drinkable.

                                                      Costa isn't too bad, but Starbucks is a last-resort for me, anywhere.

                                                      1. re: Harters
                                                        Soop RE: Harters Dec 12, 2012 07:45 AM

                                                        No!! I wouldn't say it was a minority drink H...

                                                        As for the milk/no milk, black tea I always have Milk and a sugar (vanilla sugar is great or brown/demarerra), whereas with fruit teas, and Pret a Manger's excellent green tea, there is no place for milk or sugar.

                                                  2. re: kcshigekawa
                                                    jeanmarieok RE: kcshigekawa Nov 23, 2012 12:28 PM

                                                    I love Red Rose - it's exactly what I think of when I want a cup of tea.

                                                  3. p
                                                    Puffin3 RE: sandylc Nov 20, 2012 06:01 AM

                                                    I love the tea they serve at Don Mee's. Dim Sum nirvana if you're ever in Victoria.

                                                    1. q
                                                      Querencia RE: sandylc Nov 20, 2012 02:23 PM

                                                      I had an English stepfather: Heat the pot by pouring boiling water into it and let it sit a while. Empty it and put into it one teaspoonful of tea for each cup and one for the pot. Make sure the water has BOILED. Pour it over the tea, cover the pot with a cozy (or even a clean dishtowel) and let the tea brew for a few minutes. Pour into cups using a strainer (or not, if you prefer). If you are English, pour milk into the cup first before the tea. After you've poured most of the tea, empty the pot and start over because what sits in the pot for half an hour will be "stewed". Tea should be poured by the ranking female present. (Do I heat a mug of water in the microwave and drop in a teabag? Yes. Sorry, Dad.)

                                                      1. Soop RE: sandylc Dec 12, 2012 07:32 AM

                                                        Don't really have that problem in good old blighty, but tea does seem to be best when I make it at home. We still have the occasional problem of nearly-boiling water from coffee machines, but I've found the best way around this, is to do it yourself as much as possible, agitate the tea bag for a little longer, and use less milk.

                                                        At home though, boiling hot water and good old Yorkshire Tea (you should actually import it!) makes for a delicious, warming thirst quenching drink.

                                                        1. h
                                                          HillJ RE: sandylc Dec 12, 2012 03:20 PM

                                                          On my last trip to the Asian market I stumbled upon a large bag of sugar packets containing crystal honey-ginger. Six packets mixed with 4 cups of hot or cold water creates a ginger-honey brew that I'm keeping in the frig to use as a topper for hot tea, added to ginger ale or tonic water and for ginger-honey martini's. $4.00 for 40 packets. Sold in the aisle where the sugars are displayed.

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