Monday, November 19, 2012
BOH, the largest producer of black tea in Malaysia, operates this tea plantation in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. Photograph courtesy of our friend Sid M.
When I am not swilling down mug after mug of coffee, I will occasionally mix things up a bit and have a nice cuppa tea.
Tea, as defined by Wikipedia (“It’s on the Internet, so it must be true”) is “an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the tea plant, camellia sinensis.” That definition covers an awful lot of ground, since there are a myriad of ways those leaves may be prepared as well as a myriad of ways the drink may be doctored up for consumption.
When I’m in a Japanese-y frame of mind, I’ll drink green tea - tea brewed from the (mostly) unoxidized and unfermented leaves of the tea plant. Following the Asian model, I generally take this kind of tea au naturel: no sweeteners or other additives. But if I am suffering from a cold, I will sometimes dump in a little ginger in the form of raw ginger slices, crystallized ginger, or even ginger liqueur. No snot-nose can withstand the double punch of ginger-laced green tea and SWMBO’s chicken soup.
Most of the rest of the time, though, I will go for one form or another of oolong or black tea - tea brewed from fermented leaves. A little sweetener is all I need. I will rarely dose my hot tea with lemon, saving that additive for iced tea... and not being British, I typically do not doctor up my tea with milk. (This is not to say I don’t like milk tea - I drank plenty of it in Japan, where it’s a popular canned drink.)
Nobody who lives in the Southern United States can possibly write about tea without mentioning iced tea, one of the best summer thirst-quenchers on the planet. Southerners drink it year-round, generally laced with liberal amounts of sugar or simple syrup - the ubiquitous Sweet Tea. I avoid the caloric wallop by specifying unsweetened tea, to which I add my choice of Fake Sweetener. (If that brands me as a damnyankee, so be it.)
Tea is also a dandy ice cream flavoring agent. I loves me some tea-flavored ice cream, as long-time Esteemed Readers already know.
Tisanes - tea-like infusions made with non-camellia sinensis materials - are generally not on my menu. But if you like your chamomile “tea,” feel free to enjoy it. Just don’t tell Professor Elemental: “When I say ‘herbal,’ you say, ‘No, thanks!’”