Since arriving in Scotland on August 27, J and I have drunk over 100 bags of Early Grey tea, 50 bags of Lady Grey, 1 bag of Chai, almost 125 g of loose-leaf Genmaicha green tea (mostly J), over 125 g of loose-leaf Scottish Blend, and many bags of decaffeinated black tea (I am drinking some right now).
This accounts only for our own teas.
We have also had tea after church pretty much every Sunday. We have had tea with friends. We went to E-Teaket once, and J went with friends twice (I think). We have had Masala Chai at “In Delhi.” Every Tuesday morning for six weeks, our lecturer provided tea for our 9:00 AM class. I have had a few cups of tea at the refectory.
Tea is kind of a big deal.
One reason for tea being a big deal is the fact that people’s homes — ours included — aren’t necessarily warm here. Many of them lack double glazing. Electricity and gas are expensive, so people like us are slow to turn the heat on. Some times I’m sure there’s a draft through the living room window. It’s also windy outside and often rainy, although right now the snowy streets and pavement (sidewalks) remain unploughed. So it’s cold in Scotland. Often. Tea, on the other hand, is warm.
Tea, however, also has ritual to it. I like tea. I like boiling the water, putting the tea in the mug or pot — either in bag form or in an infuser (we have both a tea ball and one of those sieve-like cup-shaped ones), and then pouring the boiling water straight over the tea leaves. The clear, steaming liquid turns brown instantly. Four minutes or so later (depending on if I’m paying attention to what I’m doing) I have drinkable tea. If it’s in the pot, I pour it into a mug or a tea cup.
And then I put (in the words of Father Ted‘s Mrs. Doyle) “an optional Jaffa Cake on the side.” Or a dark chocolate digestive. Or a dark chocolate Hobnob. Or a caramel digestive. Or a ginger nut (gingersnap). Or a cream biscuit. Or any combination of the above.
Part of the tea ritual is the tea biscuit. If you go into a Scottish supermarket, you will find a vast array of cookies you never knew existed. A good many of them have been designed specifically with tea in mind — dip the biscuit into the tea. Let it soak for a bit. Eat the sodden, tasty bit that has been soaking. This is a great thing.
And with my tea, I like best of all a good book. So far in Scotland, I’ve read The Poetic Edda, portions of Chesterton’s The Thing and of Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism, as well as Lewis’ The Discarded Image and Ong’s Orality and Literacy whilst enjoying a cup of tea. I’ve also read books for my studies with tea, books about Pope Leo, about Christology, about early Christian doctrine. The book and the tea go well together.
Mind you, I also like watching Corner Gas or Father Ted whilst drinking my tea. This is an indisputable fact.
So go boils some water. Prepare your favourite tea (if it’s green, remember to wait 1 1/2 min before adding the tea to the water). Get some tea biscuits. Pull a good book or DVD off the shelf. Then sit down and enjoy your tea. It will warm you and not just physically.