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The Travelling Tea Lover

September 11, 2008

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As a person who likes to drink tea, I find myself unwilling to give up having a pleasurable cup of my favorite beverage just because I am not at my own house. After all, I think, how hard is it to get a decent cup of tea?

Well. The answer it seems, is very. You think that just having the right tea would be enough. I’ve started to make it a regular plan to pack loose tea and a single-cup infuser in my baggage, right there on the list with toothpaste and a toothbrush. Shockingly, I’ve never been accused of bringing leaves of anything else with me – a bit of a relief, really! Still, I’m a bit paranoid and make sure to keep it in something that’s labeled – just in case.

So, you’ve got tea and an infuser. You’re golden, right? No, not yet. If you ask for a cup of hot water in a restaurant, you will rarely get something hot enough to actually brew tea in. Usually you will need to boil your own water. In America, I could count on hotel rooms having coffee makers in them to provide me with boiling water. This is less than ideal, however, as often meant that my tea water would be pre-flavored of coffee, but often times I could manage. (Key element: put cup directly under place where boiling water emerges; do not let the water go through the filter holder.) Microwave ovens will also work to heat up your water, though I find them less than ideal under all circumstances.

However, since I’ve moved to Europe, I don’t even have the luxury of coffee makers or microwave ovens to boil my water. I have now resorted to using a tiny travel kettle. The plug only works in some countries, though, and it boils really slowly, but at least I have it and I’m not left high and dry.

While it is frustrating to get a decent cup of tea while staying in a hotel room, I have had good luck shopping for tea while I’m travelling, with surprisingly good tea shops lurking in the most unexpected locales. I’ve decided am going to do a little series here about the tea adventures I have, as who knows when you, too, might travel in search of tea? Yesterday I went on a day trip to Cambridge and found an atmpspheric but ultimately disappointing stall in the central market – selling “finest Darjeeling blend” – a sure warning of low quality! – but then went around the corner to 3 Peas Hill and found First Class Teas, which had two first flushes and an autumnal flush Darjeeling! Well, well! It was all I could do to not empty my thin wallet then and there, but I was saved because the Nurbong First Flush was sold out (and I already had some Nagri). (I note on their website they have tea club – it sounds so cute!) So may I advise anyone who might visit Cambridge that wonderful tea can be had (and bought loose to take home) only steps away from the tourist office and the central market – it was quite a find!

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