Saturday, August 3, 2013

Tea and stereotypes

If I had a bucket list, a visit to England would be somewhere near the top of the list.  The bookworm in me yearns to see the home country of P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Lewis, Tolkien, Sayers ... need I go on?  So, when our first British guests were due to arrive this summer, I was excited.  Sure, I knew my view of the country was somewhat out of date.  Rosamunde Pilcher is about as modern as I get.  Still, I made sure the tea kettle was clean, the tea supply was replenished, and purchased a carton of milk for the refrigerator. 

Our guests, 2 couples touring America together, pulled up in a white SUV.  The driver leaped out and strode over to shake my hand.  "Julia?  I'm Nick."  I blinked.  Instead of the button-down jacket wearing guy I'd been expecting, the man before me could have taken his place at a Grateful Dead concert.  Gray hair flowed to his shoulders, and he sported a black Hard Rock Café T shirt, baseball cap, and a pair of patchwork pants.  He managed to carry off this look with aplomb. 

By now the second man had climbed out of the car.  He looked like the missing member of ZZ Top.  Grey hair reached to his shoulder blades, and his mustache and beard were impressive.  I began to wonder if we would be hosting a Battle of the Bands in our driveway.  Their wives emerged, also clad in T-shirts and jeans, and we all began to chat, as my stereotypes fell in ruins at my feet.

All four were pleasant and easy to talk to, and we chatted a little about their trip to America.  "I think I'm finally getting the hang of your money." the one said.  "Oh yes," I remarked, trying to show off my knowledge, "The euro is different isn't it?"

"We're not as bad as that yet!" they all exclaimed.  "We still have the pound!"  Oops.  "But, you are part of the European Union, right?"  Groans all around.  "Don't get us started on politics.  We could talk your ear off."  I began to wonder if London was till the capital, or if any impression I'd had of England was true, but kept these thoughts to myself.

By this point we were in the apartment, and I showed them around.  The kitchen was the last stop, and as we walked in, one of the women looked around, then clasped her hands.  "You have a tea kettle!  Wonderful!"  Finally, the universe began to make sense again.  Apparently the English still like tea.  "Yes, and I have some milk in the fridge for you." "Marvelous!"  they all exclaimed.  "There's nothing like a cup of tea."

They were a fun bunch to host, and when they had checked out a few days later, I went over to clean up.  To my delight, they had left a bag of British made Tetley tea.  I went home and brewed a cup, and it was some of the best I'd drunk in years.  Times change, but Brits still know how to make a good cup of tea.  This is what you do:

Start with the best quality black tea you can get.

Wash your tea kettle and fill with fresh cold water.  Bring it to a boil.  Meanwhile, get out your tea, and place it in a china tea cup, or a Hard Rock Café mug.  Pour the boiling water over the tea, and let steep for a few minutes.  Add milk, lemon, or sugar as desired.  Sit down, put your feet up, and enjoy your tea.  Patchwork pants optional.