Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Running out of tea bags in America


Northerners put milk in first, Southerners second.


Two hundred and eighty five Earl Grey tea bags, twelve sachets of Lemsip (Lemon flavor), two jars of Marmite and half a bottle of "London Pub" malt vinegar -- it's tough to be a Brit in the God made State of Georgia. 


British soldiers drinking tea


Tea is the drink that built the British Empire.  It is the aphrodisiac for every class and it accompanies every ritual from breakfast to the breaking of bad news. Tea and sympathy, where would we Brits be without that


Angela Merkel: Fuhrer of the EU


Quite possibly in the doldrums like Johnny Foreigner over there drinking beer with breakfast (Russia), wine with lunch (the French and Italians) and "lager" with tapas (Spain and Portugal). Thank God for tea: it keeps us alert and ready for crisis whilst the rest of the continent is run by Germany and subverted by Russia. Europe can go to Hell, we Brits will always have our tea (and property portfolios).  


"Take some more tea," the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

"I've had nothing yet," Alice replied in an offended tone, "so I can't take more."

"You mean you can't take less," said the Hatter: "it's very easy to take more than nothing."

"Nobody asked your opinion," said Alice.”


I have been living overseas for 10 years now and know better than to make a drama out of a crisis.  A Brit abroad can not do without tea (it restores our normality) and it is essential to stock up on the good stuff. This does not mean tea from Fortnum and Masons, no, just Earl Grey supermarket tea by the bag load will do just fine, thank you very much.  



I have been a fan of Earl Grey since I was a teen.  Earl Grey overseas never matches the domestic brands of faraway Albion. And even though I have been to China, and lived in the South East Asia region for 9 years, I still had to have my tea sent from London via the local supermarkets of Notting Hill Gate and Kensington High Street. This is not extravagance, this is merely stocking up on what we English see as a holy necessity (and my tea waits for nobody).


The late Robert Maxwell


I am a snob when it comes to tea. There are other tea snobs. Like a guy from my school (Holland Park) who went on to become a professional "tea taster" (yes, such a job, at one time, did exist) and often returned home with foul tasting samples from Africa (he insisted, with his new found knowledge of tea, that the best brew came from the dark continent). Another snob who springs to mind is the late newspaper baron, Robert Maxwell, who once shouted at his servant, "No bags, I won't be fobbed off." I don't mind bags. But as long as the tea isn't from Africa via the tea tasting firm, Hell, I ain't fussy. UNLESS it is pleb tea like Tetley and PG Tips. Gimme Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong (in bags, I don't mind being fobbed off) any day of the grind.     


I can get Tetley iced tea but not (cue miserable Northern accent) the normal kind.


Getting quality tea in the Yew-nited States can be a bit of a hassle. And iced tea is a no-no as far as I am concerned. Coffee, on the other hand, is fantastic after the chemical warfare that passes for java in South East Asia (like coffee from Lao PDR). But I am running out of tea bags in a foreign country, once again, and can't rely on coffee to get through freakish reality.  


HRH Prince Charles PLC


I go to the cupboard to double check my daily-dwindling stash of English tea. It is not "English," even I know that tea comes from some far flung place we used to run that now runs us (China). There are exactly 235 Earl Grey bags left in the caddy and there is a box of "Duchy Originals from Waitrose" Earl Grey organic from the Gymstess (bought in London when she was visiting her lover). Only 50 bags from the old one, but I will have to make do till I can restock in the UK over Xmas leave.



Life is disagreeable but there are, as Henry James noted, "few hours more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony of afternoon tea." But those hours are getting shorter and shorter in the winter months of 2013. In the old days I would have sent out a Red Cross email to relatives in the UK but none of them would believe that America, the land of plenty, is also the land of crap Earl Grey tea bags.