Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Best Cup of Tea 最好的那杯茶

The Best Cup of Tea

Wine is surly the national drink of France, who drink more wine than water. And for the English and Irish people, that honour must belong to the English style red tea. I had spent many years in Dublin as an overseas student, and had picked up their habit of having tea every day. Both the English and Irish people make their tea more or less the same way – with boiling hot water, and served with fresh milk and sugar. I must say that it is really great to have a nice cup of hot tea right after finishing battling with the cold wind or chilly rain which appear in the 300 out of the 365 days in a year. Not particularly crazy about it, I just took it as the right kind of drink in the right kind of environment.

I seldom have English tea after I moved back to Hong Kong. It is rather warm here in Hong Kong. Most people prefer cooling drinks like the green tea and ice lemon tea, and I am no exception. We do have Hong Kong style milk tea, but my Irish and English friends refused to accept that as a proper cup of tea, since it is made rather strong with blend of different types of tea leaves, condensed milk is used instead of the creamy fresh one, and is pre-mixed with the tea before it is delivered to your table. I am not surprised by their complains of not being able to find a proper cup of English tea even in the famous restaurants in town. In case if anyone is really craving for the traditional English tea, they do serve the proper kind in many large hotels, but I would prefer making my own at home – they do sell fresh milk and tea bags in the supermarkets.

However, the best cup of English tea I have had so far came from a small local café in the seaside suburb of the northern Japanese town of Wakkanai in Hokkaido. It was raining, windy, cold, with a temperature of 6ºC, and I was freezing. I took refuge in this café to escape the bad weather. As soon as I had spotted “Earl Grey Tea” from the menu, I decided to order one, curious about how a local Japanese café would serve the English tea. A pot of hot tea was delivered to the table with lemon and fresh milk, and I was really satisfied with that, taking the first cup with lemon, and the second one with milk. That was the best cups of English tea I had ever had.

There is an old Chinese saying, one may not appreciate the beauty of a flower when there are plenty of pretty ones blooming around, but would treasure dearly a gift of firewood from a friend delivered in a cold snowy winter day. Surely that cup of tea from the Japanese café would not be the best in the world, but to me it was the best since it came at the right time when I needed one badly.






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