Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know of my passion for tea. It is hardly surprising that I am a tea-lover, having been brought up in England where drinking tea is the next most natural thing to breathing.
Curiously enough, my passion for tea became even stronger when I became vegetarian. Like all new converts, I pursued my new way of life with vigour and rigour and almost became vegan rather than “merely” vegetarian. Among other things, I saw it as an anomaly that I needed to put milk in my tea, so I looked for alternatives.
Nowadays there are several alternatives to cow’s milk, the production of which is considered cruel by many vegetarians. For starters, there is goat’s milk which is acceptable to some as it can be obtained from producers who treat their animals kindly. Then there is rice milk and a number of other “milks” (how long will the EU continue to allow the term “milk” to be used in their labels?) made from non-animal materials. By far the most popular, of course, is soya milk.
There is now a whole range of soya milks, from the basic sort made with soya beans and water and nothing else up the the more complex kinds that include flavourings and additives thought to be helpful to vegans who might not obtain these nutrients from their other food sources. So for me, the new vegetarian, soya milk was the answer. I poured it on my muesli and put a dollop in my tea.
Those of you who have used or still use soya milk probably know what’s coming next. Soya milk is wonderful stuff until you try to use it in hot drinks. Put it in your tea or coffee and it precipitates and sinks to the bottom, calling up memories of the sour milk I endured as a child in a house without a fridge.
I already drank my coffee black so the obvious solution was to drink my tea without milk also. I have done this now for two decades.
Why did we put milk in tea? Was it to stop the thin porcelain cups of the first tea imbibers from cracking from the heat? Or was it to hide the bitter taste of the tannin-charged teas that the English prefer? I don’t know. I soon found that the only reason for taking milk in tea was to hide the disgusting taste of the most common brands of tea.
But I also discovered that there was an enormous range of teas out there that were as varied as fine wines and were truly delicious as well as stimulating and comforting. I dived into this delightful world with enthusiasm. Now, years later, I have many favourite teas but my tolerance has also increased so that at a pinch I can drink even ordinary tea straight from the pot.
I have flirted with green tea but I always felt unsatisfied with it, probably because it is low in caffeine. In the end I gave in and went back to fermented teas and have never looked back. My current favourite is Russian Caravan which includes smoky-tasting Lapsang Souchong to give it a punch. Running low, I ordered some by telephone from The Tea House in Covent Garden and patiently awaited its arrival.
Something must have gone wrong with the order for the tea did not appear. It will not now arrive until after our holiday next week. So today I had to hurry off to Covent Garden to buy some to tide me over.
Having done so, I was able to go home for a nice cup of tea!