In my current work in progress, two of the characters are native Regelans who have been abandoned on a different planet with a lot less technological advancements than Regelence. Needless to say, they miss their tea. One of the first things they do is ask Bannon, whose ship crashed on the planet, if he has any tea. I can certainly understand this because I cut way back on ice tea (I used to drink ice tea all day everyday) and my sugar consumption, which means no more daily chocolate. I’m infamous in my family for being a chocoholic—so infamous as a teen when my sister complained about me stealing her chocolate that she got from Trick or Treating, my mother simply shrugged and said, “Well, it’s your own fault! You know she can’t help herself when it comes to chocolate.” But I’m getting off track. This is a post about tea not chocolate.
Right after Christmas I came down with a cold. YUCK! It was the first I’ve been sick in several years, so I guess I was due. In an effort to relieve congestion I started drinking hot tea again. I specify hot tea because I’m a Texan and we love our ice tea. I am a bit odd though because I loathe sweet iced tea. I like my ice tea plain, no sweetener of any kind and no lemon…just tea. Yes, I’m in the minority when it comes to ice tea. My hot tea, however is a different story altogether. I want plenty of sugar and evaporated milk. Builder’s Brew as they call it in England.
I usually buy my “hot” tea from a little tea company that specializes in tea, but I was in the grocery store and saw a new to me brand called PG Tips and it claimed to be “Britain’s favorite tea,” so I thought why not, I’ll try it. Even though I like my loose flavored tea that I have to use an infuser for, I’m not opposed to a cup of hot Liptons. So how was the PG Tips, you ask? All I can say is wow! I’m not sure if it really is Britain’s favorite, but I’m definitely a new fan. I decided to look online and see what other tea they carried and what made this tea in its oddly shaped tea bag so much better than Lipton.
One thing led to another and I ended up researching teas and tea preparation, which is why I know the term “Builder’s brew.” ☺ Lipton, it would seem, is not looked upon with favor by most British. Actually, that is putting it mildly—they don’t even sell Lipton in the UK— I read comments ranging from the assertion that it is “horse piss” to claims that it tastes like “the rejected tea that is swept off the floor at closing time along with all the dirt.” Personally, I wouldn’t say it’s that bad, but it certainly isn’t as good or as strong as the loose black tea I get or the PG Tips (at least for hot tea, now for cold? Lipton is the absolute best). It sparked my curiosity and I started wondering why we Americans had such different tastes in tea and why we have such different, and fewer, teas available to us. I found several reason, or rather, speculations.
One of the most prevalent was the most obvious. The Boston Tea Party. Because of our issues with Britain in the past, we did not take to tea like the English. Coffee became our hot beverage choice. It’s theorized that since Americans don’t know their tea like the British know their tea, companies give us inferior tea. I even read in several places that the PG Tips we get are no where as good as the PG Tips that the English get. I found PG Tips imported from England on the site where I get my loose tea, so I’m going to test this theory out myself. I’ll let you all know.
Another theory was that tea was once weaker in Britain too. Tea was expensive and there for diluted to last longer, but then trade eventually made it easier to get tea, so the Brits made their brew stronger. So strong that it became the norm to add in sugar and milk. It was even believed that without the milk the tannins in the tea made it too strong to drink safely. Now the claim goes that most British people use milk and sugar in their tea, but most Americans do not, so we get the weaker teas.
During my research, I also learned that while English Breakfast Tea and Earl Grey are both black tea, Earl Grey is not as strong. I’ve had both and I do prefer English Breakfast Tea to Earl Grey but Earl Grey is nice too. I’ve tried Darjeeling, green tea, and several herbal teas. I admit I’m not a fan of herbal tea; however, mixing some of them in with straight black tea is not bad. Lemon Ginseng is particularly good with black tea.
I can definitely identify with the British and their love of stronger tea. Ice tea will always be my first love, but I have to admit to a soft spot for my “builder’s brew.”
One thing is for certain, if I ever get to England, Scotland, or Ireland, one of the first things I’m going to do is order a cup of tea.
What is your favorite tea? Have you had any experience with British tea? Do you think Americans actually get the dregs of tea as opposed to what they get in Great Britain?