No tea please, I’m British

You know, getting up at 7.30am on a Saturday is no fun. Especially when you’re only doing it to watch an ultimately fruitless match. And even more particularly when you know that your good friends are cooped up at a nice London pub with a nice cold beer to keep them company through the pain. All I had to comfort me in my misery was a steaming hot mug of tea.

Don’t get me wrong though, I love a good cup of char or Rosie Lee. Ever since I first sipped tentatively at a cup of murky brown liquid belonging to She Who Was Born To Worry or Brit Out Of Water Sr, I’ve been hooked on tea and its uniquely restorative powers. When I failed my driving test first time round, it was with a cup of tea that I was comforted. At university, Dr Gentle, Mrs Millmore, Towcester’s Finest and I put the world to rights over enough tea to flood the East Anglian plains. And when The Special One’s a little stressed (and who wouldn’t be, being married to me?), it’s a mug of tea that brings her back down to earth.

The problem with moving to America is that the tea is – and let’s be frank here – a bit rubbish. Actually, a lot rubbish. Standard teabags bought in US supermarkets have all the power of, say, Jennifer Aniston performing one of Ibsen’s darkest plays. In Norwegian.

Recent chemical analysis suggests that the tea content within each bag could theoretically have been derived simply from once being in the same room as some tea leaves. As a result, it takes at least three Lipton (or equivalent) bags to get a brew that tastes anywhere near the kind of thing you’d get in your average greasy spoon back in the UK.

Indeed, your average diners here in New York are categorically among the worst makers of tea in the world. Ask for a cup of tea with your eggs Benedict, and you’ll likely get a cup of vaguely warm water, with a tea bag and a piece of lemon alongside it. Oh, and if there’s not a little pot of six day old cream already on the table, you’ll have to beg for the milk. You’d have as much luck making a good cup of char by bringing along a dustpan and brush to the diner with you, sweeping up the debris under your table, depositing it into the lukewarm water and giving it a quick stir.

The relief is that if you know where to go (or if you can use Amazon) you can get hold of some decent tea bags like PG Tips or Yorkshire Tea, even in a tea desert like America. The resultant brew doesn’t quite taste like it does at home, but even I have to draw the line at importing British water just for the odd cup of tea.

Thankfully, the sun is past the yardarm, and I don’t have to worry about this any further today. Now, where did I put those cans of Boddingtons?

15 thoughts on “No tea please, I’m British

  1. Karen

    SInce leaving Ireland 5 years ago, I have given up on trying to have a proper cup of tea. The cups of tea that were part of my contract in my job in Slough, just about past the test.
    Now it’s either green tea or coffee.

    I’ll just have to wait until I get back to Dublin for that bliss that come from someone asking, “cup o’ tea?” 😀

  2. gloria

    I agree entirely. I carry my own teabags to use in restaurants…usually green, since the water is always tepid. Being a tea drinker in the US is akin to being a second class citizen. Brewing tea at home is the only way I get a decent cupppa. I order loose leaf tea and teabags from online sources and have found I can get just about any brand. Thank God for the internet.

  3. Carole Lanno

    Found your blog through London Calling.
    If you want really bad tea go to the South West.
    You always have to say you want hot tea and even when you do they think you’re strange.
    Once when my plane was grounded I had to stay at a hotel in Texas. I ordered hot tea at the restaurant. The waitress brought me ice tea and said sorry that they didn’t have any tea bags !

    My friend says it’s because Americans are to lazy to make tea properly (he’s American)

  4. gloria

    I don’t think it’s laziness on the part of Americans. I’m not sure most of us know how to make tea properly. It isn’t a priority since most Americans drink coffee. I was born and raised in the US, but being of Scottish decent, we drank only tea (no coffee), brewed properly, at home.

    It’s rare when I’m offered hot tea if I’m invited to dinner at someone’s home. If tea is offered, I get a mug full of warmish water and a Lipton teabag.

    While we are on the subject of tea. When dining out in the US it’s customary for the server to offer a refill if you order coffee. Not so for the tea drinker. IF you are offered a refill you may get more warm water but don’t count on another tea bag.

    Over the years I’ve learned to drink coffee when I dine out. It saves me from being annoyed when the wait staff ignores me while they are topping off my husband’s coffee for the 3rd time.

  5. G

    Apart from a few useful cuss words, the best thing I learned from dating a Brit was how to make tea. Just got home from London with a sizable stock of tea from Harrodd’s and I am seventh heaven right now 🙂

  6. Expat Mum

    One reason Americans don’t measure up in the tea-making department is that we Brits are so bloody fussy. Come on now, everyone knows that some people rinse out the pot first with the scalding hot water, then make a pot. One woman I know won’t have tea with water in a kettle that has already been boiled. My mother has a fit if you don’t let it steep long enough, while my sister likes hers barely brown. Americans don’t stand a chance really!
    The worst cup of tea I’ve ever had in the US was brought to me in a hotel – luke warm, in a long glass with two tea bags! Ugh!

  7. That Girl39

    I don’t think tea ever tastes the same unless you are in the UK so I never bother whilst on holiday – coffee, water or red wine…but mostly red wine!
    I confess to liking what my husband refers to as Builders Tea! This is not to say I drink it with my arse hanging out! It’s just really pale and interesting and has to be made with milk an tea bag in the bottom of the mug first!

  8. Trixie

    Dylan forget the tea. If you’re watching football, drink beer – it’s the law. If you really can’t drink beer at 8am drink an official ‘breakfast cocktail’ – Bloody Mary or Mimosa, derr!

  9. Mom/Mum

    Ah the good old tea discussion. Recently discovered my local Wal Mart has started selling PG Tips (obviously at the pricey sume of $7 for pipsquek sized box) and my local Kroger & Meijer (do you have those where you are?) sell British tea too. But my new favourite old bags are Trader Joe’s English Breakfast Tea for the less expensive $2 a box. With the right amount of brewing I feel almosdt like I’m ‘at home’ when I slurp!

  10. Mike

    Dylan, I think it is the water more than anything. As an aside, I finally purchased a proper electric kettle that works great here in the States. That almost makes it feel like the real thing.

  11. Pingback: A Brit Out Of Water » Blog Archive » The true cost of avoiding homesickness

  12. Siobhan

    I saw the very same discussion on Mom/Mum, funny that. Can I make another suggestion, other than amazon? Search for a British Imports store in your area, there used to be one where I lived before we moved states to Montana. It’s worth a shot.

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