Why didn’t anybody tell me that tea can be nice?*
I have never liked tea. Ever. And I’ve tried, believe me I’ve tried, but I just can’t stomach tea.
I’ve tried ‘normal tea’, builders tea**, hippie tea***, earl grey tea, Assam tea, Oolong tea, saffron tea and on one memorable occasion Vietnamese green tea with condensed milk, and I just don’t like tea. I don’t even like the smell.
Technically I should like tea. For one thing I’m Scottish and its practically pre-programmed into our genetic base code that we “do like a nice wee cuppa tea”‘.
I grew up surrounded by tea as my family held with base genetics and (with the exception of my mother who can’t abide the stuff) were, and are to this day, tea monsters. I mean they do drink coffee, but they prefer tea. I mean actually would rather drink tea than coffee. It blows my mind.
Some of my friends even drink tea.
Most of my friends drink coffee, but some of them drink tea.
When I was a younger I had a minor operation on my wrist, nothing to write home about, no complications.
Apart from afterwards when the stitches got infected and my wrist swelled up like a balloon. Thankfully my mother was on hand to bring her many years of nursing training into full effect and removed the stitches and the end result is nothing more dramatic than a weird scar on the inside of my left wrist that looks like a squashed bug.
As I was saying, the operation was a complete success and the wonderful nurse was at my bedside waiting for the anesthetic to wear off. As I began to stir she very kindly went to fetch me a hot cup of tea, and wafted it under my nose as a gentle encouragement to wake. It definitely worked, but probably not in quite the manner she had intended. Im not sure which was worse, the smell of the nurses vomit soaked shoes wafting up from under my bed or the smell of the tea that invoked that response.
So you get the picture. I don’t really dig on tea.
But since we have moved here, something rather curious has happened. I’ve started to drink tea. Not milk and sugar biscuit dunking tea, but tea nonetheless and some of it has been less than unpleasant.
You see in a lot of cafés here, you will be served tea, regardless of whether you want it or not. When you order a sit down coffee, it will usually be accompanied by a small glass of tea and a small glass of water for you to drink once you have finished your coffee.
My first coffee-tea was delivered by the loveliest lady who runs a small cafe which is rather conveniently located just across the road from where small person gets dropped off from school and on the very rare occasion that I am early, I will sit and order a coffee. And get a tea. Obviously given my tea loathing status, I was rather dubious, but the twin desires of not wishing to offend and being determined to soak up as much of my new city as I could, I had a sip of the tea. The most surprising thing about it was that I wasn’t instantly sick. The second most surprising thing was that it was actually nice. Really actually nice.
This shock to the system left me reeling it has to be said, and I still regard tea with suspicion, but I have returned many times to this little coffee shop not only for the exceptionally good coffee, but also for the tea ( and occasionally for the delicious watermelon ice lollies that she has in the freezer ) .
Endeavoring to discover where you could buy this magical blend of tea it turns out that it is in fact a Chinese black tea, and to fully enjoy the taste it should be drunk when piping hot. Now this I can get behind as there is nothing more offensive to my palate than a warm drink. I have been known to down an entire mug of coffee before a normal person would consider it safe to pass their lips, and there is little more disappointing that a cup that has been allowed to sit too long and take on tepid qualities. Likewise with a drink that is meant to be cold, just shy of freezing is my preferred temperature. The only acceptable exception to this rule is mulled wine.
But back to the tea.
I decided that I would drink more tea, not go as far as order it you understand, but the range of coffee-teas that are served in Chiang mai is vast. And I have tried all of them. I was actually quite delighted that after a massage I was given a few moments to sit and sip hot tea before entering back into the city scrum.
I still don’t like hippie teas*** and the thought of a builders** brew makes me nauseous, but there really is something quite wonderful about a simple delicate Chinese black tea . Who would have thought??
Jer Gan Mài
* Of course many people have tried to convince me over the years that tea is a good thing. I just simply didn’t believe them.
**builders tea- tea made from bags that have been stewing for so long that when milk is added it looks bright orange. Sometimes known as fake-tan tea.
***hippie tea- any kind of fruity/herbal tea bag concoction that is wafted over a mug of hot water before serving. Let’s be honest here it’s not even tea, its flowers in hot water.