Posts Tagged ‘Glasgow’

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.

Radiohead GaGa

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Yup, along with most of Glasgow/Scotland, I was at the wonderful Radiohead concert on Friday night. There’s actually not that much I can say about this - basically, the band were great, it rained but no one really cared, and much fun was had by all. A few thoughts:

  • Rain down, rain down…: Yes, it rained a lot, even for Glasgow. I saw Radiohead 8 years ago at Glasgow Green in this Big-Top style tent thingy, but this time it was outside. So we all got very wet. Including the folk with umbrellas as they got pelted with bottles until they took them down. Or on one occasion it got pulled down and ripped to pieces by an angry mob. Nice one.
  • Where do we go from here?: I found out that I really don’t know Glasgow at all. Despite working about 5 minutes walk from there, I’ve never actually been in the Merchant City before. I had agreed with my mates that if we got separated we would meet in a bar, but I was too embarrased to admit that I had no idea where it was. Luckily by the end I was still with my friend who has an iPhone, so a bit of interneting and we found our way. Very embarrasing (and I really want an iPhone…)
  • And that’s what really hurts: I gave one of my friends a piggy-back a couple of times so she could see better. My arms still hurt. How pathetic is that…
  • This, this is our new song: I have to admit that my favourite Radiohead album is still the Bends, but I do like the others as well (after a number of listens in most cases). It has to be said that on Friday the crowd definitely seemed to enjoy the older stuff more, which I guess is mainly to do with the nature of the music (it’s quite hard to dance along to things in 7/8). If I had to pick three standout moments (which I don’t) I would say  Karma Police, Fake Plastic Trees, and er… probably Paranoid Android. Actually, ignore that - it was all good, I just like these songs. In fact, there were 2 songs that I had never heard before which were outragously good. One was apparently called Bangers and Mash (part of the extended version of In Rainbows apparently). No idea what the other was.
  • Show me the world as I’d love to see it: Finally, my thanks to jimmythejam in the post about my new glasses for his advice that I should take them with me.  I could indeed see far better, and the glasses are no worse for the experience.