Our guest blogger this week is Isla Blair, author of "A Tiger's Wedding: my childhood in exile". Raised on a tea plantation, Isla knows quite a lot about Britain's favourite brew...
Tea has many therapeutic uses apart from just drinking it.
If you have a late night and you wake up with suitcases under your eyes, the whites of which look like uncooked egg whites, only bloodshot, lie down for ten minutes with a couple of cold teabags on your eyes. You will get up with your eyes looking and feeling better – really – I’ve tried it. It works!
Uses in the kitchen
Rub a pan that still has the smell of onion or fish (the latter never in my house of course, because I hate fish!) with damp tea leaves and the smell disappears.
You can use it as a cleaning agent. Dip a cloth in cold tea and wipe over mirrors or chrome and it will gleam.
And of course feed houseplants on tea; they love it. Not every day, just as often as you would normally feed your plants.
In theatre companies, the wardrobe mistress often uses a dilution of tea to “dip” shirts or lace, giving it the colour of a soft sepia photograph.
On the other hand if you want to remove those stubborn brown circles of tea from a white table cloth, drop a few drops of lemon juice on the stain, leave it a few minutes and then wash out.
For a very old tea stain – water mixed with glycerine. This does work.
Tips on serving tea
Always heat the pot, but never add “teaspoons – one for the pot”; it makes the tea too strong. Use filtered, cold water to boil up and pour it on the tea as soon as it’s boiled. Leave it for three minutes if it is Indian tea, a little longer if China tea.
If you are not serving it immediately and you think it’s brewed, strain it, to prevent it becoming stewed and bitter, and stir it. If a cup of tea is too strong, poor some water into the cup first and then add the tea – don’t add it to the pot.
Which brings me to the vexed question of milk first or tea first? My father used to get quite animated about this. In posh circles, the etiquette was tea first, followed by milk. Apparently if your porcelain was not of good quality, the boiling tea could crack the cup, hence milk in first. If your porcelain was of excellent quality, it would withstand the hot tea being poured in first.
I’m told that is how it started. Who had the best china – the richest, poshest people. So it became a sort of class snobby thing. Very cucumber sandwiches and Lady Bracknell. My father (and I must say, all his tea planter colleagues) insisted on milk in first and to hell with the snobbishness. It was the same thing as putting hot water into the cup then the tea if you wanted to dilute it. The tea mixed better, swirled around more if it followed the milk into the cup. To this day I am fussy enough to have my tea in porcelain cups instead of chunky pottery or thick china mugs. I just like it in cups; it feels more refreshing and gracious, it is more calming – to me anyway. - Isla Blair
"A Tiger's Wedding - my childhood in exile" is published in eBook, hardback and audiobook.
Photo by Patrick George
Photo by Patrick George