25 September 2008

Tea for two

Karen has asked me to write about the Australian tea tradition. I'm not sure that tradition continues today but this is my version of what it was like in the old days.

Tea used to be a part of most people's days. In Australia, we had a cup of tea with breakfast, often with toast, another cup was had between 10 and 11am for morning tea. Then another cup at lunchtime with a sandwich, another around 3pm, when the children came home from school. And there would always be a pot of tea sitting on the table to be enjoyed with dinner at night.

When I started drinking tea, and I suspect this was a similar scenario around the country, my mum made a little cup of tea for me that was about 20 percent tea and 80 percent milk. I grew up in a family that took their tea without milk so, of course, eventually I drank black tea with no milk. I still do today - I have my tea black with a teaspoon of honey.

Real tea is made from the plant of the camellia sinensis bush. It produces black, white, green and oolong tea. Herbal teas are not teas at all - they're herbal infusions and don't contain the amount of antioxidants that tea does. I make rosella tea from our rosella bushes, and that is more like a herbal tea than real tea.

I prefer loose leaf tea to teabags. Teabags are generally made with inferior tea and don't taste as good as a freshly brewed pot of tea. Tea bags are over packaged too. They are a one cup unit of a paper bag, string, a cardboard tag and, usually, a staple or glue. The box of tea bags is usually a cardboard box wrapped in plastic or cellophane. Loose tea is just a cardboard box with an internal paper bag. I have written about making tea in a previous post which is here.

One of the reasons I like tea is that there is a ritual that goes with it. Instead of just filling a glass and drinking it, you have to slow down, prepare your cups and pot, and wait. Waiting is part of tea making so it suits a simple life well. Hanno and I have incorporated tea drinking into our lives and we almost always stop whatever we are doing at around 10am and I make a pot of tea. When it's poured we take our tea to the front verandah where we sit and talk, while I knit. It's a lovely part of the day that I look forward to. Hanno does too, because if I'm late making morning tea, he comes in and says: "do you want me to make the tea?" :- ) It's like nothing can continue until tea is taken. Neither of us had the luxury of a regular morning tea when we worked so it's become a ritual that we look forward to, and through it, and our talking on the verandah, we have reconnected and grown together towards our older years.

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