It is well known that at whatever time of the day you arrive at my home, you are bound to be offered tea. Equally well known is that I seldom offer the same tea twice in a row and will always tell you what tea you are drinking – most visitors can only tell if it is not ‘ordinary’ tea. If you are not partial to it, there are plenty of other varieties to choose from – I will not be offended.
I have been blessed with gifts of tea and generally spy out the shelves of any supermarket away from home. Residents in most other towns enjoy a wider variety of teas to choose from than we do.Thus, I returned from Cape Town armed with vanilla tea and orange pekoe. My supply of lapsang souchong has been topped up; we have tried Twinings Liquorice Allsorts tea; and B brought round a box of really delicious Dragonmoon tea, which we have enjoyed on several occasions.
Today was as good as any to clear the shelves and fill up the recycling bag for the next collection. The boxes that have accumulated over the past few weeks is a small indication of the teas we have consumed of late.
The powdered ginger teas make pleasant cold-weather drinks. These boxes were dipped into during the winter and finished during the long spell of inclement weather leading up to the New Year.
Twinings Earl Grey tea is a staple offering – alongside the Five Roses and Liptons varieties, with Lady Grey a pleasantly fruity alternative. Earl Grey with blue flower is also a pleasant change.
Breakfast tea is always appreciated for its full-bodied flavour and strong colour.
A rather special tea we have enjoyed is Dilmah’s Italian Almond Tea, a gift from C. While it is delicious on its own, for those who find the almond flavour too strong I mix it with a bag of Ceylon tea – also a very pleasant cuppa indeed!
The Ten Virtues of Tea
Tea has the blessing of all deities
Tea promotes filial piety
Tea drives away all evil spirits
Tea banishes drowsiness
Tea keeps the five internal organs in harmony
Tea wards off disease
Tea strengthens friendship
Tea disciplines body and mind
Tea destroys the passions
Tea grants a peaceful death
— Attributed to Japanese Buddhist priest Myôe (1173–1232), who had the words inscribed on a tea kettle.
Source: Fowler Museum at UCLA Curriculum. Steeped in History: The Art of Tea
I grew up drinking Ceylon tea as the only option to coffee. Later I encountered Rooibos tea and then on a trip to England was introduced to Earl Grey – that will have to wait for another day. Suffice it to say I became hooked on tasting and collecting different teas. While my teapot collection has grown by accident, the aromatic collection of teas in my kitchen cupboard has grown by design. I scan every supermarket shelf in different places I visit for teas I have not yet met or have run out of. My recent trip to Cape Town meant I could replenish my stock of loose leaf Lapsang Souchong … sheer heaven. Thank you to friends and family who contribute to this collection of teas!
Prince of Wales is my focus today though for I have just enjoyed a pot of it and savoured every moment of the experience. It is a medium-strength tea with a rich and inviting colour. I find it to be robust with a well-rounded smooth flavour that invites one to sit quietly on one’s own and contemplate (or watch birds) or to share with someone special. It is definitely not a gulp-down-quickly and get-back-to-work kind of tea at all. I find it perfect to enjoy at any time of the day and serve it well steeped with a little milk. The tea has a naturally sweet taste, I think, so requires no sugar.
Delving into its historical connections, I find it is traditionally a blend of Keemun China tea with green tea and a hint of Oolong tea developed to suit the taste of the Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward III. The actual combination of teas will depend on who makes it I suppose. The brand most readily available in my town consists of a blend of Ceylon and African teas. Some sources add that the addition of lemongrass essential oil is important too. Whatever the actual blend, Prince of Wales is a complex tea packed with flavour that can be assured of a lasting place in my tea cupboard!