Text 11 (August 15th) – Make a list of your six favourite brews. What made them special and why do you remember them? (and don’t forget to take your mugshot and email it to us).
Drink to life
First brew: chocolate, frothy and thick with marshmallows and cream. Comforting the aching child when granny died.
Next, adult flavours:
“2 sugars in mine,” the guys sitting in my mum’s kitchen till the sun came up.
Bitter, black coffee defined my 20s – mug after mug. Sharp, edgy and with poor discrimination.
In my 30s I drank tea – mostly cold. Skimmed milk for the waistline but too busy to finish.
Graduating to cappuccinos, rich with chocolate. From Starbucks or better. Coffee with style, for ladies who lunch.
And now, my lockdown special, in the room to zoom, Monsoon Malabar, bitter, bracing and very nearly black. Kick start me back to the land of living.
Memorable brews: Always laced with love. Welcoming warmth. Shared with care. Made especially for you.
My mugshot reads “HERSELF” in Emerald Green, with shamrocks threading through the words, and underneath. Basket weave typical to the Bellek Pottery, Co Fermanagh Northern Ireland. A must go-to-treat if you ever cross the sea to Ireland. Perhaps the only place in the whole wide world where “HERSELF” is spoken in common language as “HIMSELF” would be elsewhere. Renown for legendary folk-lore littered with ‘Herself’ fairies.
In Morocco, visitors are welcomed warmly, treated like royalty, seated on extravagantly long, long settees, rich in velvet trimmed with jewelled fringing. Green tea is served in delicate cups, poured from silver tea pots, held high. My Son’s wedding, over three days, to his Moroccan wife was celebrated and cheered with both Green and Lemon teas – so special – so memorable.
In Scotland, of course Whisky their renowned tipple, but Scottish folk also served a welcoming cuppa tea. One we never expected, as we disembarked the Irish ferry to Stranraer, just after New Year celebrations. The night air just above freezing, road unlit but frosty, running parallel to the Auchenrian Loch. There was a stream of cars using the same route through Castle Douglas.
First one, then another, then us. Slid off road, landing in the Loch. Splash splash splash. Lady luck sat on our shoulders that night, we hit a tree, which slowed the force of our impact.
Emergency services swung into action, we were released, other not so lucky. A hotel collected us, took us in for three nights, fed, watered and clothed us. But nothing, absolutely nothing was so gratefully received as their first cup of tea !! (It’s worth mentioning that AA only supply Road-side service!! not recovery from a loch.) The hotel contacted a local farmer who dragged the cars onto the roadside.
Thank you, Scotland, for a life affirming cup of tea.
The snowfall in February 1973 was unrelenting, crispy pavement, icy roads, travel dangerous. The first twitches of Labour came during the middle of night, some twenty miles from Army Military Maternity wing. Hoping against hope I would make it to day light. My Daughter had other ideas! It was now or never!!!
Unceremoniously I was hoisted onto the back of an Army wagon, driven as quickly as possible by an ashen faced young soldier, much more nervous than me. Everything after that was just a blur… I recall being told my Daughter had been born but I needed surgery. Oh how I begged and begged for a cup of tea, that never came.
Waldorf Hotel New York. Take a step back in time to when Butlers waited at your table, dressed immaculately with white gloved hands. Where telephones and décor transport you to unfamiliar space, Art Deco era. Mouth wide open, eyes unable to comprehend its ambiance, splendour, tinged with history from the Silver Screen.
“Tea please” I managed to order. ”Certainly Madam” came his reply; “you must be English; only the English order Tea at the Waldorf”.
“Tea it is then” I ordered with a broad smile.
Still on my bucket list, climbing higher up the ratings, is Afternoon Tea at the Ritz. (Watch this space – I am sure it will be wonderful, refreshing and very expensive!)
The only hot drink which I will ever indulge in drinking is a cup/mug of TEA
1. MUMS HOME-TIME TEA
Childhood teatimes consisted of a cup of tea, loose leaves mashed in a prewarmed pot, for at least 10 mins. Poured, onto milk already in the cup through a metal strainer. I always got first cup because I liked it weakest of us all.
2. WEDDING DAY, (SYNCHRONISED) TEA
At our wedding reception, consisting of wine for toasts, the waiters served pots of tea. Memorable because on the video, my Mum, my husband and I all lift up our cups and drink from them, at the same moment.
3. POST-NATAL TEA
After the traumatic birth, by forceps delivery, of my eldest son, I was given a mug of piping hot sweet tea, with toast, to revive me. It tasted heavenly.
4. EMERGENCY (REVITALIST) TEA
My youngest son needed to get to an after-school activity and I got lost, trying to find the venue. I asked directions from some one but I collapsed after. Paramedics in the ambulance called, diagnosed low blood sugar and the person I had asked for directions, kindly made me a very strong but very sweet cuppa.
5. MY FRIEND JANETS (WEEKLY) TEA
My friend Janet, I see every Thursday lunch time, for a chat and a cup of tea. It is special because, like my Mum, she still uses loose leaves in a teapot and serves it in a china cup. She has sugar lumps, in a bowl with silver tongs.
6. BEREAVEMENT TEA
I would say that drinking tea, after a death, is as much to help the bereaved person making it for well-wishers, as to sustain those it’s made for. The morning we found that my Mum had passed away, in her bed during the previous night, I spent ages, making mugs of tea for her friends, neighbours and our relatives.
Eventually my husband made me a perfect cup of tea-he’s had 34 years practice. This is not be one I remember with fondness but it was reviving and significant.
When it’s found in how many situations in the UK, the answer to any problem is ‘Make a cuppa’ it brings home quite how large a part, tea drinking plays in the life of the British person.
Six of the Best
Brandy Alexander brandy, crème de cacao, cream and nutmeg, and Alex, my son’s favourite!
Port and Brandy sailors cure for sea sickness, three of these and you’re no longer seasick.
Champagne my youngest son Chris, won a bottle of Moet when he was five years old, it’s my annual toast to him.
Vodka Martini who knew?
Poire William ended many a liquid lunch at a favourite aunt’s, as did a cracking headache.
Amarone Hannibal’s choice with liver in Silence of the Lambs, my choice with steak, if I’m feeling flush.
Yeah! Alive! Can stretch my arms out. Shuffle downstairs, put the kettle on to make the Elixir of Life. The pre-breakfast brew. A steaming hot mug of thirst-quenching, refreshing amber topped up with a dash or two of milk. Almost ready to face the day. Little betters the first brew.
‘Welcome Home’ Brew
Get that kettle on! Who’s the first to say it as you cross the threshold? The scent of your own home surprises you once more after being away.
Ooooh a proper cup of English tea, made with your local water (even if it is piped for miles!) with proper milk and none of that UHT rubbish that spurts everywhere when you try to open it!
Oooh that’s niiice. Bless the neighbours for getting milk and a loaf in. Remind me again why we go away?
God, I am gasping. I need coffee! Now, preferably intravenously.
Hurry up Martin we haven’t got all day. Oh, sorry I didn’t realise you were making one for me too. No sugar, I’m sweet enough. Hot and strong! Like my men? I wish… Have you seen Dave lately? Thanks, love.
Jeez that is hot… and there’s the bell. Only half drunk as usual. No not me Sarah, roll on Friday night!
Where the hell did I put my bag?
Look out Year 10…
Martin? Was that bloody Decaf?
Get the Kids to Bed Brew
“Stay in bed and go to sleep!”
Where is the pissing corkscrew? Oh, thank god, it’s a screw top!
At the Hairdressers Brew (Pre-Corona)
You know its an added extra to the bill but you’ve been waiting for about fifteen minutes already and why is it so hot in here, so you feel thirsty or because you have wet hair?
Now, depending on your choice of establishment you can have any derivative of a brew, be warned. Uber trendy young male stylists go for coffee machines (unless its super expensive and keep it out of sight but bang on about how it has changed their life discovering real coffee). Tea? Oh okay.
The Salon usually run by ladies offers a choice of beverage, sometimes presented on a small stainless steel tray with milk jug, sugar sachets and a wrapped biscuit. Very chi-chi.
In the Barbers you could even have a beer. Brilliant way of getting guys through the door eh?
Sadly though, they all have one flaw or maybe many. Added hair.
Winter Hot Chocolate
A walk, in crisp white winter snow crunching underfoot with that tiny, tiny squeal as it compresses should be reward enough with dazzling sunlight and glistening branches but the promise of a hot chocolate, rich and aromatic, swirling velvety, frothy and bubblicious, tempts the slowest dawdlers at the back to head quickly home before the sun drops. Cupping frozen hands around a cosy mug as it is raised to drink, each icy nose is thawed and the scent of chocolate, that luxurious, exotic food wraps around us. Welcome back to the warmth.
Tea: First one at home after any foreign holiday.
Lipton’s tea is not proper tea. Beyond English shores a proper cup of tea is an enigma. The journey home from any holiday is always tense and tiring; you just want to get there. Airport security, endless waiting, children screaming, searching for your car among thousands, drive home in the dark and rain. Unlock the front door, kick off your shoes, slump into the sofa, “do you fancy a cup of tea?” … oh yes!
Glass of red wine on my birthday 2015.
I’d not had any alcohol for about 6 months as I was driving, a lot. Back and forward to my Mum and Dad’s, to my brother’s and to the hospital. My brother was an alcoholic, a week before his birthday, which happens to be two days before mine, he died. Nothing we had been able to do helped him. It was about 9pm on my birthday that I finally got back to my Mum and Dad’s after a day of running death related errands. Dad says, “do you fancy a glass of wine?” … oh yes!
Curry Monsters Manchester Beer.
Every year, on the first weekend of October a group of us get together in Manchester. The common thread is time spent in Manchester in the 1990s, a love of hiking, a love of curry, a love of beer and a deep, but not necessarily close, friendship. Some of the group we see regularly, some only once a year, some can’t make it every year, but we all try. We catch up, we laugh, we have a good time. After consuming too much of Rusholme’s finest we make a toast; “Absent Friends”.
Skiing with a Brew.
I love mountains, summer or winter, but winter has an extra dimension – skiing. Our normal ski day is an early start to catch the first lift in order to get fresh snow. We then ski hard until about 11am, when we stop for coffee. Hopefully, I managed to get up early enough to make a flask. We search out a bench or picnic table by the side of the piste; one that’s got a perfect view of blues skies and snow-capped mountains. The coffee out of a flask is never the best, but the location more than makes up for that.
Macky Ds thick shake.
A guilty pleasure, when suffering with a hangover; an Egg McMuffin accompanied by a banana thick shake. Ordinarily revolting, but when your constitution is delicate nothing beats this combination. I don’t think about what’s in it to make it so thick, I just delight in the fact that it’s cold and creamy and settles the stomach, allowing me to face the day.
Red wine in the Cupboard.
Many moons ago we hosted a ski chalet for the season. 14 beds. We were responsible for cleaning, cooking and hosting, seven days a week. It took its toll, especially as we were trying to ski every day too; the guests just got in the way of our fun. The kitchen was tiny and ill equipped, but it had one redeeming feature, a walk-in pantry. Strategically placed, out of the sight of all guests, we each had a mug of red-wine, when either of us needed anything from the pantry, it was an opportunity for a sneaky sip.
Every morning, spending several minutes, sharing, sitting, side by side, sipping tea til “right then” signals time to slide away, separating from each other, venture out from shower, stairwell, bedroom, hallway, doorway, out into a little known new world that’s out there now and waiting for us.
Early mornings lately you are weary, throaty, clearing out your washing, tight with breathless tension, stress. I am worried, anxious, thinking, asking myself “what’s to do, what’s going on? Asking myself what on earth is going to help us deal with this? What on this earth is going to make things right for us?
for you? I would do anything, to keep you safe, say anything, ok? “A mug” you say, “a travel mug would do it. The silver ones, they make me think I’m someone special.” I get it, I so do. I picture you, sipping, slowly, inside the car and sitting safely in the driving seat. Some special? Yes, you are. “Hey, even better, make it two”
you smile and leave. I leave later; sick with fear; braced, acting like a masked marauder. Back home later, I think about you sitting, every morning, sipping tea, safely, I recover. I give them to you later, almost feeling smug‘. One Brew or Two?’ I say, a token. I smile. You weep. It makes me sad to think you say, about the old ones that were broken.
Every morning, now, as you leave, I stand, mug of steaming tea in hand, a second ready, waiting. You have no idea how I feel just thinking of you, sitting safely as you sip your T and T, stationery, traffic lights on red. You smile. I know, you do. Me too. We both imagine this is over. doubly indulgent, twice the treat, ‘no-spill’ early morning brew, in the Driver’s seat.
Every day, still, we find a way for you to manage; handle everything that’s going on; cope with wondering, just what it is that’s coming next? Dealing with no answers, no need to know just what it is, waiting round each corner. Hell bent we are, the two of us, on keeping things on track. Sometimes, I make a brew for each of us, sometimes two for you. Sometimes “More Tea?” remains
our way of saying to each other every morning, Yes, you matter; Yes, you are special to me. More Tea: remains a comforter when words and ways we value are locked beyond our reach. More tea, reminds us any mask we wear doesn’t hide an inner smile or silence tender, softly spoken words, albeit spoken through the fabric of these times, “Another Tea?” “Yes please for me”.