I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Coffee And Tea


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.

16 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

I might try these Robert, although I do find Taylor;s of Harrogate good, particularly their Lazy Sunday coffee.

Ruth Mowry said...

A coffee and tea oficionado! This is quite exciting and reassuring. Long live diversity and mindfulness, down with homogeneity!

Rubye Jack said...

Have you seen the video "...All In This Tea"? It's about the American tea importer David Lee Hoffman. The camera follows him around China as he explains what good tea is all about. What makes good coffee and tea fun is how much there is to learn. And then of course there is the taste and relaxation and socialization.

George said...

Tea, coffee, and wine — great to consume (moderately, of course) and great for the rituals built around them. There's a interesting development occurring here in the U.S., perhaps in Europe as well. Starbucks has purchased a company called Teavana, which markets great teas and accoutrements, and is in the process of opening a series of tea shops throughout the country. There is something unique, however, about buying unique teas and coffees from smaller, niche producers.

pilgrimpace said...

Why do anarchists drink herbal tea?

pilgrimpace said...

because all proper tea is theft

The Solitary Walker said...

I can really recommend Monsoon Estates, Pat.

Absolutely, Ruth. Diversity, and support for smaller, quality producers and importers. Life's too short to do without excellent tea and coffee.

Haven't seen that video, Rubye, but all your sentiments echo my own.

George, I hadn't heard of the Starbucks tea project.

I do like coffees in some of the major chains, as they have all the espresso machines and fancy shiny silver stuff to produce coffees you could not make as easily at home, if at all.

But I do like supporting the smaller outlets, as you say.

The Solitary Walker said...

Nice one, Andy (Pilgrimpace)! For a split second, before I got the joke, I thought you were referring to British imperialism...

pilgrimpace said...

and there is, of course, a lot to say about that, but I'm just about to watch The Bridge and then off to Spain in the morning ...

The Solitary Walker said...

:) Great planning — the trauma and regret that it's the final episode alleviated by the great trek tomorrow… Once more, Buen Camino!

Chris Howard said...

Great to see you entering the world of coffee. As you get more into it there will be no stopping you! Having your own grinder will add to the enjoyment. Whole beans will keep their freshness longer than ground coffee! Thanks for the mention!
Anne and Chris at Monsoon

The Solitary Walker said...

Hi Anne and Chris. Thanks for stopping by. I'll certainly be ordering from you again - whole beans next time. (I like all the coffees you sent, but the Monsoon Malabar is exceptional, I think.)

Goat said...

I'm firmly planted in coffee country here in Upstate NY -- well, let's face it, the whole country is really the U.S. of C. One of the first things we did as a couple here was buy a new Mr Coffee. Those things are so damned CHEAP.

Cynics might suggest that its output matches its price, but I've spent so much time in the States, the ubiquitous brewed variety tastes fine to me. Sad to say, more than one person I know here confesses to buying their beans from Starbucks because the result is so damned good.

The Solitary Walker said...

Goat, I'm becoming more of a tea and coffee fanatic by the day. We drank a Chinese white citrus tea today in a subterranean teashop/bookshop in Lincoln and it was delicious — fresh and zingy, calming yet invigorating at the same time. It was served in a glass teapot complete with infuser accompanied by wide-brimmed tea tasting cups. Lovely!

What would life be without tea and coffee?

litehiker said...

Nice to see someone else who now avoids supermarket coffee! I've recently discovered beans from http://www.hasbean.co.uk/ which I buy from Winebear in Chipping Norton. I'm working my way through the range but it keeps changing. Apart from the obvious quality of the product, I like to see the date of roasting on the packaging.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your comment, Litehiker. Yes, it's good to see that roasting date.