a good cup of tea

I used to be a low-maintenance tea drinker.  I was satisfied with any bag of tea.  But my husband has wrecked me.  It started last Christmas.  We decided that we would give each other one small Christmas gift so that we could start saving to finish our basement.  And let me interject here that hubby has many endearing qualities and natural talents, but gift-giving isn’t one of them. (Remember that saying of coal in your stocking? G once presented me with a velvet ring box filled with an actual lump of coal that he had sought out at a mineral and rock store.  He still smiles remembering how I threw it across the room.)  However, over the last 18 years, he has stepped up to the challenge of surprising me from time-to-time, and last year was one of those occasions.  He visited a tea purveyor (Simpson & Vail) in the next town and bought me three types of loose tea, one green and two black teas.  I thought it a very creative and thoughtful gift.  And then I tasted it.  My favorite was the Kenya Black Tea, which was strong and bold but not the least bitter.

I have traveled to England, and even had tea at Fortnum & Mason, London’s tea mecca (there’s a great video of the store on the website), but I’ve never appreciated a fine cup of tea until recently.  There is no comparison between the chopped up bits of tea in the store-bought bags and the loose leaves sold in tins.  Another relatively local tea company is Harney & Sons.  My friend Andrea turned me on to their flavored teas, particularly Hot Cinnamon Spice.  This tea is perfect for a blustery fall day.  It smells wonderful and has an intensely cinnamon flavor, sort of like a melted red hot candy.  Only the sachets were available where I bought the tea, but it’s cheaper to buy the bag of loose tea.

Hubby is a purist and doesn’t go for the flavored teas (or coffees, for that matter).  So when we went on our 24-hour journey last month, we stumbled upon a store that sold EVERY tea from Harney & Sons.  And you could taste test any of them.  G bought a tea called Eight at the Fort.  This tea has quite a history:  the blend was served at dinner at The Fort in Colorado when eight world leaders (including President Clinton, Tony Blair, Boris Yeltsin, and Helmut Kohl) met in 1997.  It took us only 2 weeks to go through a tin, so next time we’re buying in bulk.  With this tea, we purchased this tea filter and laid to rest our annoying tea ball, which was difficult to measure and clean.

Christmas is a great time to restock on delicious teas, so tell me your favorites!  Happy sipping.

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