Tired of stale and bitter supermarket coffee and dusty old tea bags, I began a quest for some proper tea and coffee. Immediately I discovered a fascinating, fanatical online world devoted to coffee and tea connoisseurship. I was astonished how many different types of tea leaves and coffee beans there are. All tea and coffee plants have their own individual terroir, producing amazingly variable and exciting tastes and flavours dependent on soil, geology, geography and climate. With coffee, freshness and how the beans are roasted are key. Tea can keep much longer, and may be deliciously enhanced with all kinds of herbs and spices. The culture of coffee and tea appreciation, together with its rituals and ceremonies, is similar to that of wine. Except that tea and coffee are much better value for money and don't give you a hangover.
On a friend's recommendation I ordered freshly-ground coffee from Monsoon Estates, a small artisan coffee roastery in Stratford-upon-Avon. (Next time I'll order whole beans as I have a grinder.) Service was impeccable, including a free sample of Guatemalan and a hand-written note on the invoice welcoming me as a new customer. All very personal, and reasonably priced too. I forgot to include the cafetière in the photo above, but it's brewing Costa Rican Tarrazu on the side. The unopened pack on the left contains Monsoon Malabar, a pungent and spicy coffee from Southern India — one of the world's great coffees, apparently.
The tea in the centre packet is loose leaf chai from India. Fragrant and aromatic, it's a black Assam tea with added spices: cinnamon, cardamom, aniseed, ginger, black pepper, cloves and chicory roots. This is a wonderful and incredibly calming infusion, best drunk with creamy milk (traditionally also with sugar, though I don't like sugared tea as a rule) and incredibly good for you. It smells divine even before you've poured the hot water. I love it! I bought this tea from Amazon, though it's likely in future I'll be buying loose leaf tea from Imperial Teas. Their shop is at 47, Steep Hill, Lincoln, and lies not far from here.