Knowing me to a tea (or coffee)

I have made no secret, either on this blog or elsewhere, of the fact that I love both tea  and coffee.  However, it seems to be the case that many people, including some who know me quite well (or at least, have known me for a long time) seem to assume that I only drink one or the other.

Most often, I think, people get the impression I’m an exclusive coffee drinker.  Certainly it’s true that I like to start the day with a cup of fairly strong black coffee and that’s also what I’ll often opt for if I’m given the choice when I go to someone’s house for dinner or if I’m meeting someone for a chat at a local café (if it’s not a greasy-spoon venue that charges more for a cup of instant coffee than for tea, in which case I prefer the latter).

In fact, I probably drink more tea than coffee on an average day, as that’s what I’m more likely to brew for myself after my first morning coffee (though if people offer me coffee I’m generally more than happy to accept it).  Although I’m quite content with what would be considered a standard British cup of tea (with milk and, unlike coffee, I don’t dislike it with sugar, though I don’t usually bother) I tend to go more for slightly more delicate teas, generally without milk or other additives.  My tea cupboard at home probably contains on average somewhere between 5 and 10 varieties of tea, both black and green (and sometimes white).  I also drink quite a lot of rooibos and sometimes yerba mate, both of which I tend to think of as types of tea although I know that strictly they aren’t.  I’m not generally a big fan of herbal teas, though I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt from time to time and I do quite enjoy an occasional infusion of rosemary (which I think is supposed to be good for the memory, though I can’t remember for certain).

One group of friends that I regularly used to hang out with included a lot more tea drinkers than coffee drinkers, to the extent that quite often everybody else there would be wanting to drink tea (of the standard British variety with milk) and I was happy to go with the flow for the sake of simplicity.  At one point somebody I’d only known in that context saw me drink a cup of coffee elsewhere and was surprised as she’d assumed that I was a tea-only drinker.  Actually I still hang out with essentially the same group of people although we now seem to have more coffee and rooibos drinkers in our midst so I quite often go for one of those instead.

The reason I bring this up is not just to reassure you that you’re welcome to offer me either coffee (as long as it doesn’t have sugar in it) or tea but due to an incident that occurred yesterday.  I was chatting to someone I’ve known for almost 15 years and happened to mention that I was about to make myself a cup of tea.  This surprised him as he’d assumed it was coffee-or-nothing for me; to be fair, we first knew each other when we worked together in a university maths department and I drank a lot more coffee and somewhat less tea than I now do (click on the picture below for a possible explanation).

Theorem machine

Musing on this encounter, it struck me how easily we can have a very limited and inaccurate perception of someone even if we’ve known them for a long time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it means that getting to know a person well can be a lifelong journey, which helps to keep things interesting, but it means we should be careful about jumping to conclusions (especially on more important issues than which beverage someone prefers).

PS if you were wondering about the title of today’s post, it’s a deliberate mangling of the idiomatic phrase “to a T”, which is used to mean “precisely” or “in great detail”.  I don’t think it’s often used in the context of knowing something to a T but I don’t see any reason why it can’t be.

La Dame Azure

As I write this, I’ve just finished drinking a cup of what is currently one of my favourite types of tea – Blue Lady from The Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Company.

I first came across this company, which has become my favourite online tea merchant, sometime last year while searching, as I recall, for a place to get Russian Caravan tea (one of my perennial favourites – although their blend is a bit more delicate than I’m used to for this one).  Part of the attraction is that they are based in my home county of Kent, not to mention that they sell a wide range of interesting teas, coffees and other infusions (such as a very pleasant Spicy Chilli Rooibos) at quite reasonable prices (and no, I’m not getting paid to write nice things about them!).

The company is based in the village of Pluckley, which (despite having lived in Kent for almost half of my life to date) I don’t recall ever having visited.  It has a reputation as a haunted village and is sometimes claimed to be the most haunted village in the UK (according to Wikipedia, this assertion was backed up by an appearance in the 1989 edition of the Guinness Book of Records, though the article doesn’t mention what happened in subsequent editions).  Supposedly there are at least 12 ghosts which roam Pluckley and one of them is the Blue Lady after whom the tea is named.

Sadly I’ve been unable to discover the story of the Blue Lady, although several web-based lists of Britain’s Most Haunted Places which mention Pluckley (with no reference to a Blue Lady there) also talk about a Blue Lady either at Berry Pomeroy Castle near Totness in Devon (see here – NB Pluckley’s item #2 on the list and the Blue Lady is at #7) or at Temple Newsam in Yorkshire (in this Wikipedia list, which is in alphabetical order per country).  The tea company website is vague on the point, merely referring to “the blue lady spirit who roams our most haunted village” and mentioning that some of the locals call her Lady Blue (so it’s possible that she isn’t officially called The Blue Lady).

In any case, the name seems to have provided the Pluckley-based tea merchants with a good excuse to come up with a fine tea, which they describe as “a is a citrus scented blend of loose leaf black tea with exotic flowers.”  That seems to me to be a good description and in fact the next bit of their description – “A tea to really excite the taste buds. A powerful citrus aroma with a sweet scented taste!” – is also, while subject to a certain amount of marketing hyperbole, a fair enough description.

Incidentally, for those of you who know me as more of a coffee drinker than a tea drinker (which is probably not actually true, although I do retain a strong affection and appetite for the umber nectar, without which I can scarce contemplating starting the day), although I have thus far mostly sampled the teas (including rooibos, though it isn’t strictly tea) of the Kent & Sussex Tea Company, I’ve also recently finished a pack of their Brazilian coffee beans.  I enjoyed this coffee very much and I look forward to tasting a few more of their wares on that side of the fence too.