I absolutely love living in Paris. It’s a beautifully compact city and I am still in awe of the architecture from the old to the new. My favourite landmarks are the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Sacre Coeur. I love the river, I love my local park and I am totally thrilled at the pace of life. But living in Paris has a down side. I’m not talking about the dog mess or the reams of red tape and paper work, which seem to stop me from doing the most simple of transactions. No I’m talking about tea.
So when I joked to my friends about how I would be packing PG Tips in my bag – it was actually true. This is not very macrobiotic (as my life gets more complicated out here my failure to follow macrobiotics seems to increase. I believe I need to be totally settled to manage this. But I am afraid I am never going to settle). Anyway back to the tea. Yes I am a typical English girl and when I was at work in England I would usually have around five or six cups of tea over the course of a day. And I was very particular about who made it for me. Some people really make a mess of a very simple drink – some people would not rinse out the mug so you get the scum all round the edge. Why would I want to drink that? Others would leave the tea bag in so long it seemed to disintegrate into dark flaky patches on the surface. Why would I want to drink that? And those who stirred my tea with a sugar spoon. Well I considered spitting in their drink next time I made it. Luckily I’m not interested in coffee – else this rant could be doubly as tragic. But tea, is a great comfort to me and in my view there are four elements to consider when making a good cup of tea.
1. A tea bag you like. Granted PG Tips is not the top of the tea tree but I like it. It reminds me of resting my aching feet or coming in from a cold dark night. I’ve had all the other black teas like Earl Grey, Assam and Darjeeling and I just like the taste of PG. Other brands like Tetley work at a stretch and Yorkshire a close third.
2. The right water. Of course boiling water is essential – but the type of water, hard or soft can dramatically change the taste of the tea.
3. Milk. I like skimmed milk. Anything else is just too milky. I have tried soya milk and rice milk in my tea and for me it is just not going to work – it is like drinking sour milk and there is nothing worse in my mind than sour milk.
4. The right cup. Just like my grandad, I don’t like curved lips on mugs. I like big chunky straight mugs or china mugs which hold in the heat. It matters so much that I won’t give a guest my big mug no matter how bad it looks giving them the smaller one.
So how has Paris failed in the search for a good home-made cup of tea? The tea bag? Well I have the main component so that is a good start. The water? Non! It is either too hard or too soft – some of my Paris friends actually boil bottled mineral water to get the right taste. Evian is apparently the closest one. The milk? Please – where is the skimmed milk? I have to get the demi – and this is not OK. The mug? I like my French mug. A lot.
So we have two out of four elements for the perfect cup of home-made tea. Not good enough. It’s like when you follow a recipe and you just think oh well I’ll swap that ingredient for what I have in the cupboard. You end up with something completely different and you feel stupid because you went to all that effort for a disappointing end product.
So I have actually been forced into being a macrobiotic tea drinker as a result of this dire situation in Paris. I also want to experiment more with the medicinal teas, although I won’t be making the mushroom tea for a while despite its fat burning properties (it is an acquired taste).
For now I have my Rooibos or herbal teas and I have some Bancha twig tea (kukicha) ready and waiting in the cupboard. I do enjoy these teas but just as the Eiffel Tower makes me smile every time I see it, I think the same will always be true for a real English cuppa.