Archive for August, 2008

Scotland the Great (Britain)

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Well, it’s all over. I am indeed writing on my blog tonight (clearly) but there was no exercise biking whatsoever. Shocking…

While we’re talking about moving about (or not) I guess I should throw in my tuppence about the Olympics. So far, I’m actually rather enjoying the whole thing. I’ve watched some swimming, diving, canoing, gymnastic-swinging-like-a-crazed-monkey, and judo. Which is not bad considering I’ve been asleep or at work while most of it has been going on (and no, I’m not watching it on the sly at work - our computers don’t allow us to have such fun).

It’s slightly annoying that we still seem to be hearing more about London 2012 than we are about Beijing 2008, but that’s the British media for you. The usual issue of Scottish people being British when they win has already raised its head too - David Florence was very much being called Florence of Great Britain today. Fairy nough really, that’s who he’s representing, but sometimes it’s rather irksome.

I actually have a slight problem with the whole national thing with The Games anyway. I can’t help but feel that it should be more about individual achievement rather than glory for your country. But this is probably all tied up with my whole hatred of Nationalism, which stems from studying too much 20th century history. But what with Russia and Georgia slogging it out over the past few days, and the general ill-feeling between China and America, it doesn’t seem very healthy to me to make it about the countries. Make it about the individuals and let them all join together in one big harmonious sporting mélange says I.

Is mélange the word I’m looking for? Never mind, moving on…

You don’t make films for your country (well, usually) or TV programmes. So why sport? You only make music for your country if it’s Eurovision, and that never ends well. Unless you’re ABBA or Cheryl Baker. Which you’re not.

I seem to have lost my thread entirely so I’ll end on a true story: One of my friends emailed me about my tea post yesterday, saying “I think tea drinking should included by [2012] - a true British past time. I could be in your “entourage” and be the guy that carries your tea leaves for you.”

I simply responded that he is more than welcome to be my tea caddy.

All too easy…

Tea for one, and one for tea

Monday, August 11th, 2008

I haven’t got round to writing anything in a while, but I’m back now. I’ve not really been away anywhere, it’s just that life got in the way briefly. Sorry faithful reader (and there is one of you). I won’t let it happen again. To make up for this I’m going to try and post something every night this week. I’m also going to try and use my exercise bike every night this week. Bets are on which will last longer…

Anyhoo, today I’ll tell you about one of my new favourite places, where I’ve been spending my time instead of sitting in front of my computer writing this nonsense.

Ladies and Gentle Ben, I give you Tchai Ovna, a pair of tea shops in Glasgow, although I’ve only been to the one in the West End. They serve over 80 types of tea from around the world (without even making the “Around the World in 80 Teas” joke) and have a fantastically detailed menu that describes not just the flavour, but the history and sometimes the effect, contained within the brew. For example,

It’s a really relaxed atmosphere - the first time I was there they had live citar music. Awesome. The West End branch has a lovely wooden porch out front where people smoke shisha pipes (whatever they are). Look at the website for more…

And they know what they’re doing as well. It’s not just a case of stick in some boiling water - different teas need different receptacles, temperatures, and infusing times.

I bought some as a gift for a friend and the waitress gave me some verbal instruction on how each should be prepared; for example the white tea should be made using water at 70 degrees centigrade. To get the water at this temperature, Tchai Ovna’s method is to boil it, then pour it between 2 Perspex jugs 4 times. That’s science kids.

Now I’m fussy about my tea. Very fussy. And it’s my life-blood. There is no other foodstuff that I would find as difficult to give up; this includes chocolate, meat, alcohol, and cheese (in that order, from easiest to give up to hardest). It’s not just the caffeine (although it is largely to do with it…), there’s a comfort factor about tea that I don’t get from anything else.

However, I’d rather drink instant coffee than suffer a cup of tea bag Typhoo, or overly-stewed Tetley. I use loose leaf tea, both at home and at work; in the former I use a pot and no strainer - I grew up with the leaves at the bottom of my cup. At work I have a wee, screw-top tub thing, with grills round the side that you can use to make single cups (or in my case pint mugs) of leaf tea - I guess you would call it a re-useable teabag if you wanted to address by name. I even have 3 types of leaf in my desk, Assam, Earl Gray, and Lapsang Souchong, which I mix according to my mood.

I’ve got to say at this point that while I’m really fussy about how I have my tea, I’m not snobbish or judgmental about how other people like their cuppa.

That said, I’m rather put off by being offered a “cuppa”, or a “brew”, which is about as snobbish as you get.

As I said earlier, for me, tea is about comfort and familiarity. It’s associated with childhood, home, safety, The Mother’s kitchen table. And therefore I usually try to make my cups of tea similar to what I drank as a kid. It’s a comfort factor. However, after I started sharing flats with folk who grew up in er… not in an Enid Blyton novel, I soon realised that some people preferred a tea bag dunked in hot water a few times to carefully measured, loose leaf tea, slowly infused, lovingly prepared, and poured after the milk.

I could write about this for evermore, but bloomin’ George Orwell beat me too it. Git.

Visit this site to see what he said. I’ll take his point one at a time, but you may want to skip to the end:

  1. Different teas for different purposes says I. See the Tchai Ovna website for more. But I guess the available teas were a bit different in 1946. Apparently there’d been a minor skirmish over the past few years.
  2. It depends what he means by small quantities. I do drink it by the pint, but it’s always a fresh pint…
  3. Almost certainly true, but I never usually bother. I blame my Mum, who never did this either.
  4. Indeed. This is one reason why I like having a pot - I can keep adding to the pot in front of my, so the tea in the cup gets stronger and stronger.
  5. Yup.
  6. Aye min. Apart from the bit about putting flames beneath the kettle (if it’s electric)
  7. Hmm… I don’t generally stir, but once again, The Mother never did this so I don’t.
  8. Does he mean a mug over a wee cup? Not sure, but my pint mugs are normal mug shaped, just bigger.
  9. “Pour the cream off the milk”? What? Get in the now Orwell!  Actually, that said, I would always use semi-skimmed as whole milk does what yer man there says and makes the tea taste funny.
  10. This is tricky. With a pot I go milk first as, given what i said above, you can always add more tea to taste. However, I genuinely notice a difference when the milk is poured onto the tea. I once heard that the Royal Family take the piss (extract one’s urine) from us commoners who add the milk first. But hey - I didn’t vote for them either…
  11. Absolutely Georgie-boy, couldn’t agree more. Once again, I’d rather go without tea than drink it with sugar (for the record, I usually put sugar in coffee…)

Aaaaaanyway, the point I am eventually going to get to is that it is indeed an individual preference. Much like most things in life in fact. It’s about what you grew up with, what is familiar, and what seems natural to you. It’s about what you want to get out of it; be that a caffeine fix, a hot drink, the tranquility of the ritual of making tea, or the feeling that you’re better than everyone else because you do things in a fancy way (I’m guilty of all the above of course, but I’ll only admit to the first 3).

Ultimately, my views on tea are the same as my views on religion - I’m probably not right, but I’m certainly more right than you are.