Saturday, August 4, 2012

My Cup of Tea

When something is not to one's liking, 
the idiomatic expression used is "not my cup of tea."
But according to the January 2008 article, 
 "Talking Tea: The Origins of Three Tea Phrases" 
written by Brenda [no surname] for,
the original phrase was simply "my cup of tea."
It was used by our friends in the United Kingdom 
when something was to their preference.

Tea drinking is often associated with Britain, 
but taking tea is a lovely, calming ritual in many cultures.
Here in the south, it's all about sweet tea and hospitality.
Recently, I had the opportunity to enjoy some extended conversation
with several people from Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
The topic quickly turned to food, which prompted a lively discussion about tea.

The Saudi Arabian folks recommended tea steeped 
with a thread or two of saffron.
The lady from Morocco recommended 
we try a special Jordanian tea recipe: oregano tea.

So yesterday I decided to try them both using saffron I had on hand
and some oregano I have growing in a pot on the deck.
Being from the school of more-is-better, 
I used several strands of saffron instead of just one.

Here are the items needed; any black tea will do:

I poured the boiling water over the tea bags and flavorings
and steeped them for five minutes.
Since it is very hot in the Shire right now, I made iced tea.
The color was the same for both, 
so I thought maybe I should have bruised the saffron before steeping it.

This is the Jordanian oregano tea on ice:

I have to admit I was a little skeptical about the oregano tea,
but it is delicious, very robust and grassy.
It definitely smells and tastes strongly of oregano.
I can imagine having it with Italian food like spaghetti or maybe a caprese salad.
Or perhaps even with just some hot bread or bread sticks. 
It's very refreshing alone though.

The saffron-flavored tea was very interesting; its flavor was more subtle. 
The saffron's spice came through more as a finish than as a flavor.
A recipe online recommended a pure saffron tea
and advised steeping the saffron threads in boiling water 
for a minimum of twenty minutes.
This time, I bruised the threads in a tiny bit of water first.
The tea was a very happy yellow color, 
and it definitely tasted more like saffron. 
Still, even that version was very delicately flavored.

I've read one can make a tea or tisane from many herbs,
including basil, rosemary, and even parsley
--all of which I have, none of which I plan to try.
I would like to try making some tea from fresh mint leaves though.
Maybe I will. It would make a good summer iced tea
although I'm sure the thought of ice in tea is anathema to some people.

One time I was in an Indian restaurant 
and asked for iced Darjeeling tea, 
which was on the menu,
and received instead an icy stare from the waiter 
who told me tea should never be drunk cold.

Like that waiter, many people have very specific ideas 
about how tea should be prepared and served,
but tea is indubitably one of those things 
that has to remain a matter of individual taste.

Whether strong or weak, with lemon or milk; sugar or none; 
whether served in delicate china tea cups with scones at precisely four o'clock
 or served in a tall plastic cup for sipping through a straw 
as one is zipping down the interstate,
taking tea alone or with friends is one of the best things in life,
and most people wouldn't give it up for "all the tea in China."

No comments: