QC Blog: Tea, anyone?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tea, anyone?

I consider myself an avid tea drinker. My mom would give us tea when were were little - when you're sick, a little tea and toast is good for an upset stomach. On a normal day, we would have tea with breakfast in the morning, in the evening we would have tea with our cookie snack, and there was always a cup of tea before bedtime. My mother would drink her cup of tea at breakfast, a cup after work, before dinner, after dinner, with her snack, in the evening, and before bed (and that doesn't count what she may have had at work). She was able to drink tea like water, to quench her thirst. Back then, we were just drinking regular tea, whatever was on sale at the A&P grocery store.

I order tea when I go to a restaurant to have breakfast or sometimes as an after dinner drink with dessert. It's never good. The temperature of a cup of tea has to be hot, or it ruins the taste. There is nothing worse than a tepid cup of tea. I find myself constantly searching for the perfect cup of tea. There are so many factors that go into a good cup of tea.

First, the water has to be the right temperature. My family is driven crazy by my whistling tea kettle, as I won't pour my tea until the cup is ready, and won't turn off the kettle until then. I want it boiling till the last second, so maybe, just maybe, I can have a hot cup of tea.

Second, the tea has to steep for the right amount of time. After I put sweetener and milk in, the tea has to rest - about 3-5 minutes before you can take the tea bag out, then maybe another 2 minutes before you can drink it (because it's too hot to drink). Sometimes, I get it right. Most of the time, though, by the time I start to drink the tea, it's already cooled off too much and I missed the "sweet spot" - where it was not too hot to drink, but hot enough that it tastes wonderful.

Third, you can't over milk it or under milk it (assuming you use creamer or milk). My mom always took milk in her tea, and as a result, so do I. It has to be just the right amount of skim milk, not enough to take the heat out of the tea, but enough to cool it slightly. My sister mentioned the other day that it's hard to put the milk in for someone else. It made me think of making tea for my mom when we were living at home, just the two of us. I prided myself on the fact that I could pour her milk "just right, " to borrow the Goldilocks analogy. Maybe she just always said it was perfect so I wouldn't feel bad.

Fourth, don't forget the sweetener, or you've taken that first sip and it's horrible. Adding it afterwards never really helps the taste, and you've missed having the perfect cup of tea before you even started drinking it.

Fifth, it has to be the right flavor of tea. About 8 years ago, I started drinking green tea for my heart health. In trying to avoid cholesterol drugs, I was looking for herbal solutions. It has a bit of a bitter taste but I've become accustomed to using it. I often get tea as a gift from friends and relatives. Most of these are flavored herbal teas. Some are delicious (Can something be delicious if you're not eating it?) and some just miss the mark. I've discovered that I dislike strawberry teas and anything that is too fruity. I love orange teas and have just recently discovered ginger tea, which is a soothing tea to drink at night. If you're trying a new herbal flavor and take that first sip and it's gross, it's such a waste of all that anticipation for that cup of tea.

Sixth, you have to have the right cup, one that isn't so thin that it burns your hands and one that isn't so big that your tea is cool before you've even started. The cup has to have a lip that isn't either too thin or too thick. (back to the "just right" analogy).

Seventh, and most important, it has to be hot all the way through the cup of tea. If only the first few sips are hot, you've missed the perfect cup of tea, and of course, have to try again next time to achieve it. It only happens every once in a while.

Last night, I had 3 cups of tea in a row, with a new herbal flavor I tried. Chai Pumpkin Spice. They were all perfect. Hot to the very end.

The bottom line is this. My mom's birthday is this week, and I miss her more than ever. But I am grateful that I share her love of tea because every time I drink a cup, I think of her. Happy Birthday, Mom.

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