When I was growing up we all drank a lot of tea. What my British friends might call builder’s tea. Strong tea is kind of a Maritime thing. And it’s definitely a thing in my family. We drank big mugs of very black, very strong tea. In my case heavily sugared. We drank tea with breakfast, after every meal, sometimes in the evening with a “lunch.” And always when we visited friends or family. I remember my mum or my grandmother remarking that they’d dropped by so and so’s house and “hadn’t even been offered a cup of tea.” For shame. “Dropping by” was also something Maritimers did. For a chat and hopefully for a cup of tea. I still put the kettle on if someone drops in at our house, but it’s not very common here. Back home the dropping by and subsequent tea drinking still rages unabated. Ha.
My mum’s friend Tish who lives down the road always drops in to see Mum on Sundays. She makes the tea herself now since my mum is not very mobile. She pokes her head in the door, says hello, proceeds directly to the sink, fills the kettle, and sits in the rocking chair to chat with my mum until the kettle boils. Then after the tea has steeped, she pours them both a cup, and they settle in for a lengthy talk. Same drill when my niece Tammy comes. Hello, fill the kettle, make the tea, then pour, and sit down for a chat.
I like my tea fresh, strong, and sweet. And made with loose tea leaves, like my grandmother Sullivan always drank. But boiled tea is an anathema. And boiling water in the pot is worse. Boiling water in the pot is lazy tea-making.
My step-father was a lazy tea-maker. When I was young and he came into the house for a mid-morning break, a cup of tea, and a homemade doughnut, he’d just add more water to the breakfast tea, toss in another couple of tea bags, and put it back on the woodstove to boil. I know! His tea was lethal and we all learned to avoid it. Except for Hubby. We still laugh about the summer I brought Hubby home for the first time. “Have a cup of tea, Stuart?” Lloyd would ask. He’d always partake. And it wasn’t until we were back in Ottawa that he realized why he’d been so hyper, and couldn’t sleep for the whole visit. Ha.
On the phone a couple of weeks later, Mum and I laughed about Hubby’s learning experience. And she asked if I’d told Hubby about Lloyd and the pot full of tea bags. When my mother and Lloyd were “dating,” every Sunday, Lloyd would drive down to Marysville and bring my mum and me up to the farm for the day. We would visit, Mum would make dinner, and then Lloyd would drive us home. Mum has never forgotten her first encounter with Lloyd’s tea-making. He used a huge aluminum, straight-sided coffee pot as his tea pot. And when Mum was about to make tea that first Sunday, she could hardly lift the tea pot from the stove. When she dumped it, she found twenty teabags in the bottom. Twenty! We counted. My step-father had many wonderful skills. But tea-making was not one of them.
I was thinking of Lloyd and his tea-making as I reboiled the kettle late this morning, added a few more grounds to my breakfast tea, and topped up the water in the pot. Lazy, I know. But at least I didn’t boil the water in the pot.
I’ve been lapsing in all kinds of other ways lately too. Lingering too long with my morning tea on the deck. Reading with my lunch and then “accidentally” slipping into a nap on the sofa in the sun room. It’s the long months of being mostly at home, I guess. I’ve settled into a rhythm that will be very hard to shake myself out of, I think.
My exercise regime hasn’t lapsed, though. If anything it has ramped up. I’ve started walking with a friend again. Just one friend. We have’t resumed the group walking. We are careful to social distance when we walk, each sticking to our own side of the trail. The first day we walked it felt sooo good. Not the exercise part, the yakking in person part. We laughed that when I texted her the night before to ask if she was interested in a “socially distanced” walk, she replied in the affirmative before I’d even time to put the phone down. We usually turn at a particular part of the trail, and when we walked yesterday, we overshot that by goodness knows how far. At one point, I looked around and said, “Where the heck are we?” We’d been so intent on our conversation that we’d no idea where we were.
Reading hasn’t lapsed either. Although I am more impatient with books that take a bit of perseverance. I’m currently powering through The Runner, the fifth book in Peter May’s China Series. Hubby and I ration these books, so that we don’t finish the series too quickly. For those days when I’m a bit down, I’ve been reading the O. Douglas books recommended by Katherine a few posts ago. The Day of Small Things and The Proper Place. They were lovely, just as she said they would be. Very gentle, a bit dated, and sweet without being saccharine.
I’m also currently reading Margaret Drabble’s 2016 novel The Dark Flood Rises. I haven’t read Margaret Drabble in a while. She is one of my favourite writers. The Dark Flood Rises was drawn to my attention by a Slightly Foxed podcast in which Drabble was the guest. Of course this particular book is about aging; Drabble always writes about characters who are her own age. It is a bit dark by times, but I’d forgotten just how much I love Drabble’s style. Her style alone could make me carry on. If you want to hear Margaret Drabble and one of the SF editors speak about the book you can check out the podcast here.
What a treat those Slightly Foxed podcasts are, especially during the pandemic. The editors are also publishing a weekly e-mail newsletter with their isolation diaries. I’m always excited to see it in my in-box. I immediately put the kettle on and make a pot of tea.
Then I sit back down again to enjoy my read with my mug of freshly brewed, strong, black, sweetened tea. Strong, but not boiled. Never boiled.
I do love a good cup of tea, properly made, and properly steeped. When Hubby and I were in the UK in 2005, I enthused about the pots of tea we were served at breakfast. Regular pots. Not dinky little pots with the bag on the side. We even had one memorable fish and chip meal in Whitby, in Yorkshire, where the fish and chips were served with a plate of buttered bread and a big pot of tea. Very good tea, I might add.
But lately, I’ve been wondering if tea-making in the UK has changed. At least on television and in movies, I’ve noticed that Brits are making tea in their cups. I even saw one show a while ago where the host asked if the guest wanted tea, put the kettle on, and then popped a tea bag into each mug. What’s with that? That’s kind of tea heresy as far as I’m concerned. And very lazy tea-making too. 🙂
Lazy tea-making aside, I’m still very fond of the Brits. But I’ll bet Barbara Pym never made tea in her cup.
What have you been up to lately, my friends? Are you a lazy tea-maker? Or are you lapsing in other ways that you can share with us? Go ahead. We won’t judge.
P.S. My friend Frances has a blog dedicated wholly to her reading. She’s been reading a lot more than I have. There are lots of good book suggestions in her latest post. You can check them out here.
P.P.S. The book links in my post (but not in Frances’ post) are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will make a commission at no extra cost to you.