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  • Texas | Columns | "True Confessions and Mild Obsessions"

    Texas Teatime

    by Frances Giles
    Recently I was visited by a friend from junior high days and her young adult granddaughter and was reminded once again what a marvelous bonding agent a pot of hot tea can be. They were here for a bit more than a week which we spent in catching up and filling in gaps of the past five decades. It had been more than twenty years since we had anything like regular contact, other than the occasional lunch at a meeting point between Lake Jackson and Austin a few times in the last two years, so there were more than a few of our conversations which lasted far into the wee hours.

    Roni and I met one week after school started in the Fall of 1962 when her family moved to Beaumont from South Dakota. That alone qualified her as a fascinating "foreigner", and I spent hours and hours pumping her for details of life "up there". The fact that her "Mum" was an English war bride on the Dakota prairie was icing on the cake, as far as I was concerned.

    Over the next few years I spent a lot of time in and out of the Sherman household being educated in the ways of the British middle class, at least, the tea drinking parts. I learned a great deal about tea and its place in a "proper" home, how to brew it, when to serve different varieties and what vessels made the best brews.

    Roni and I prepared and drank countless pots of tea while she was here, Tetley's British Blend that she brought with her and the remains of a tin of P.G. Tips pyramidal bags I had on hand, as we reminisced, not forgetting to "hot the pot" each time, then wrapping my large Brown Betty in a beautiful quilted cozy Roni had given me the year before as a gift. We used mugs rather than more delicate china teacups, an adaptation to our comfortable chats versus entertaining company, but it went down well, nonetheless. It was the tea itself and that small familiar ritual which evoked memories for us both, I think.

    When I left home for the first time to attend the University of Houston, it was Roni's mother, Rose Sherman who supplied me with a sweet little brown glazed teapot, decorated with tiny, colored, raised dots in a simple floral design, a pack of loose tea, a metal tea ball, a tiny silver spoon and my own personal china teacup and saucer. That semester was a difficult one for several reasons, and I cried my way through many pots of tea in my tiny apartment in an old and scary part of Houston, isolated from familiar people and places. The healing power of a cuppa worked its magic time and again in the life of a lonely student, for which I was grateful.

    My lifetime affair with tea, save the occasional mug of Lipton's orange pekoe at home prior to that time, began way back then. I prefer black teas, mainly, served milky and sweetened with sucralose or, on occasion, honey, unless I'm under the weather, in which case lemon and sweetener is my preference. I find that the robust breakfast blends are a good way to kick start the day, English and Irish Breakfast, Ceylon if I have it, any of the assam types, while I enjoy Darjeeling, my favorite afternoon blend, and Prince of Wales. If I've gone a bit wild and laid in a supply of other teas, you might find small tins of Russian Caravan, Lady Londonderry and blackcurrant in my pantry. I steer clear of Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong, though, to which I have very strong aversions, and any of the herbals other than an occasional fruit flavored one. I find that it helps to have some English biscuits, shortbread or some plain cake to round out this civil ritual. It seems to add to the relaxed ebb and flow of conversation with a friend, and I find that it adds a little extra bit of civility to the process, unless one "dunks" their "bikky" or slurps cooling tea from a saucer.


    Frances Giles
    "True Confessions and Mild Obsessions" October 28, 2013 Column
    See Also:
    Tea - Want to know how much a caffeine addict you are?
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