Monday, November 5, 2012

Happy Daze: Tea Time!

Since I am a teacher, I am no stranger to the caffeinated sunshine that is coffee. I often begin my (very) early mornings with a milky cup of french roast as I feverishly apply my makeup and dress for the day. All at once. LIKE A BOSS. However, now that we are moving into the wintery months, at least in theory (darn California sunshine!), my taste for coffee has waned in favor of tea.

To be perfectly honest, it feels almost treasonous to admit my love of tea, especially my preference for the beverage over coffee-- I’m a Dutch American, after all! Did the Dutch invent the coffee trade? Did America’s early revolutionaries not dump massive amount of tea into Boston Harbour to protest unrepresented taxation? Alas, dear countrymen my autumnal taste buds remain unmoved!

There is something decidedly sophisticated about a cup of tea, where you feel not only soothed cup of brew but decidedly proper and refined. In today’s fast-paced society, there is something to be said for a cup of tea which, to be brewed properly, takes several minutes to reach the peak of its flavor and cannot be gulped down quickly . . . unless you’re uncivilized or keen on getting a thermal burn.

This sense of sophistication is without question secondary to the calming affects a cuppa can have on your frayed nerves. On a tough day, I often find myself sipping tea to steel myself against the onslaught-- be it professional or personal. A well-steeped cup of tea seems to neutralize even the bitterest of gall.

I've often found myself in situations where I felt powerless to control my circumstances or irate because of a situation's perceived immutability. Having a cup of tea manages to soothe (some of) this aggravation and allows me the precious moments I need to regroup and not rip someone's face off.

Despite my love of the beverage, I do not consider myself an expert or an aficionado; rather, I know which teas I enjoy and how I prefer them served. Tea, it would seem, is one area where my tastes are discerning but (remarkably, for once) hardly pretentious. Here are three of my favorites and how I have them and when I enjoy them:


Twinings Prince Of Wales Tea
This, at the moment is my go-to everyday tea at work. I drink about two cups a day: one in the late morning and one in the afternoon. Prince of Wales is a traditional black tea with a lighter, less bitter flavor than an English or Irish breakfast tea. Earlier in the morning, if I were still trying to wake myself up, I'd opt for one of the more robust brews in lieu of this more mild formulation.

The perfect cup of Prince of Wales should be made with nearly boiling water and steeped for 3-4 minutes. Serve plain or with a slice of lemon; milk or sugar may overpower this light tea.


Twinings Earl Grey Tea
When I had my first cup of Earl Grey as a teenager (a Bigalow formulation), I remember thinking thy it smelled and tasted like my grandfather's hair oil. Certainly, Earl Grey is an acquired taste, but that taste, I believe, is best cultivated by the *best* formulation. Hands down, Twinings makes the best and the official Earl Grey tea, at the pleasure of the Earls Grey (or so says the glowing appraisal on the side of the tea box).

With a strong citrus flavor, and a robust black tea kick, I find myself reaching for Earl Grey when I need a perk up or, most especially, when I feel a bit rummy. You'd be surprised at how effective the brew is at cutting through post-nasal grossness.

Earl Grey is best brewed with nearly boiling water for 2-3 minutes to avoid over brewing and ancillary bitterness. Serve plain or with lemon unless you were raised by hillbilly wolves, in which case anything goes.


Tazo Refresh Tea
While I recognize the health benefits of green tea, I have always been slow to warm to it-- it’s far bit too bitter for my pallet. Unlike most green teas, however, Refresh is a blend of green tea and mint which neutralizes the somewhat bile-like aftertaste that has turned me off in the past.

Refresh tastes great both hot and iced and is best brewed for for 2-4 minutes in nearly boiling water. Make sure to not leave the tea bag in for too long-- over-brewed Refresh can become dreggy and sour. This tea is particularly delightful on a warm day when you want a drink that will cool you down and quench your thirst.

What are some of your favorite teas and what time of year do you enjoy them? Share some of your favorites in the comments below.



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