Following on from Sean’s thesis on women I thought that I would say a quick word about tea. Sean rightly said that tea is like a cuddle in a cup, however what Sean didn’t mention is that some teas are a lot cuddlier than others.
Up until last summer the cuddliest tea that I knew was milky sugary black tea. It is what you give people who are sick or in shock. It’s what you want when it’s cold and rainy outside and it is of course a whole hell of a lot cuddlier than black tea all on its own.
Then however I went to India. We may think that we like tea over here but in India people are seriously mental for tea. They drink tea all the time and in various different forms and it turns out that some of these forms are even cuddlier than the traditional Irish cup of tea. Chai means tea in Hindi and the most popular and basic form of chai is made using black tea leaves which are boiled with fresh chopped ginger and green cardamom and then milk and sugar is added and it all boils up together and then the tea is ready. The addition of these two ingredients to our milky sugary favourite makes it somehow amazingly more delicious and also more cuddly, it’s a lot more fragrant too which helps.
There are a lot of things that can be added to this version of chai tea, most commonly cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper but these things do tend to give the tea a slightly spicy aftertaste and this isn’t all that cuddly. These variations on chai tea were available all over Northern India where we were travelling. We were offered chai in shops, from street vendors in the school that we worked and in every home that we went visited.
Then as we travelled further north into the Himalayan mountains and as the climate got colder we found what could possibly be the cuddliest form of tea. This tea is made using very similar ingredients to the chai that I described earlier but instead of boiling water, boiling milk is used. This makes it a lot like a tea version of hot chocolate. A really easy way to make this tea is to use a masala chai tea bag which usually has black tea and a combination of other spices. Really nice fairtrade masala chai tea bags are available in Oxfam. Just boil the milk in a saucepan and then pour the hot milk into a mug and throw in the tea bag. Leave it to brew for a few minutes and then add sugar to taste. And there you go, possibly the most cuddly tea in the world.
There is however a limit to the amount of caffeine that one person can handle in one day. So if you have reached your jitteriest but still want a cup full of cuddle herbal and fruit teas are probably the way to go. Matchabar in the Powerscourt centre do delicious fruit and herbal teas, the shop has a brilliant old pharmacy feel to it with all the different tea containers and the owners are very friendly and helpful. (As an aside they also do lovely tea cups and saucers, as well as tea containers which are great presents for tea and coffee lovers.) Another great herbal source is the brand clement and pekoe. Their fruit tissane tea is great and is a brilliant pink colour to boot. Add a slice of lemon and some honey to a nice cup of fruit tea and it will rival its other leafy counterparts in cuddliness no bother.
So there you have it, a brief guide to getting the most cuddles out of your tea.
April 13, 2010
My grandmother wore brown, a lot. From the lightest beige to the deepest mahogany. For the twenty two years that I knew her she was almost entirely faithful to that one colour. She always said that her love of brown made it easy to get dressed in the morning because everything went together. There was the odd anomaly, a green jumper or some cream blouses, but even still the colours tended toward a forest theme. In all the pictures that I knew of her she wore her unofficial uniform of brown. Even in the older photos she did look stylish but in decidedly black and white sort of way. There was one single exception. In my parents wedding photo she stands in the back amid all the familiar faces wearing a bright pink turban. This picture was a small glimpse into her former self, the person that she was before five children and dozens of grandchildren.
When I was sorting through the boxes that my grandmother left me I thought that I would be the proud owner of a wardrobe of brown with one pink exception. But instead I found that the one pink hat had dozens of colourful counterparts. I found ivory lace gloves and burgundy hats and turquoise bread bins and embroidered bags and along with all these beautiful and slightly dusty things I found the grandmother I almost never knew.
It’s funny to think of clothes as a form of biography but that’s what they became for me as I read my grandmother’s life through the things that she chose to wear and then chose to keep. So now I think a bit more carefully about the things that I keep and the things that I throw away because even my matching leggings/t-shirt/hair-band combos from the 90s say something about the person I was then and might become part of a story that someone else is interested in learning.