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Jo Roe teases out the facts about Britain’s favourite brew.

Approximately half the world‘s population drink tea. an astounding statistic when you consider the bare facts. To the uninitiated the practice ofdunking a few dried leaves in hot water to produce faintly flavoured. bog water is as uninv iting as a slice of cotton wool cake. Nevertheless w e persist. and most of us claim the benefits. The best drink of the day has grown from strength to strength.

First enjoyed in China. the earliest record oftea dates back to 3StlB(‘. lt flowed into Japan in the 8th century and by 13th century it had achieved ceremonial status. The act of tea drinking assumed religious proportions. Collecting an abundance ofepithets. the ancient Chinese scholar Lo Yu w rote. ‘tea tempers the spirit and harmonises the mind. dispels lassitude and relieves fatigue. awakens thought and prevents drowsiness. lightens or refreshes the body. and clears the perceptive faculties.‘ 'l’ea drinking became a ceremony which is still practised. Rooted in Buddhist principles. the ritual seeks to concentrate the mind on the beauty in daily routine consider that with your morning cuppa.

Suprisingly it was not until the 16th century that the brew first appeared in Britain. It received a chilly reception at first and it was not until the 19th century that the Duchess of Bedford invented the peculiarly

British phenomenon of afternoon tea. Eventually tea became a national institution. both a hall mark ofgentility and a staple of the working classes.

’I‘ea comes in three forms: black. green and oolong. distinguished by production method. Young shoots known as flushes are hary ested about four times a year. laid out on withering racks and rolled or crushed. Britain is now near the top of the tea—drinking stakes. second only to Ireland. and followed by New Xealand 'l‘he lrish each consume an average of tslbs peryear. that's approximately 1600 cups of tea. Lucky for us there is such a huge selection available. Apart from a massive range of ( 'hinese and Indian there are herbal teas. fruit teas. ' digestive teas and hallucinogenic teas. So raise your pinkie and drink deep.


Comments from a panel of three. Assam From North East India. ('olour -- dark. blackish brown. Warm. cosy odour. slightly sweet. Strong. clean and round flat our. A goodfull-bodied breakfast tea. Regular breakfast tea. Dark in colour though not too strong in taste. Darjeeling From the Himalayan foothills. India. (‘olour— deep amber.

Warm. sweet aroma. Full. straightforwardflai'our.

Pleasant, honest tea.

Bold but without a bitter edge. (food all rounder.

Ginseng From China. Colour

medium pale.

Ginseng is said to have great healing and energi sin g properties.

Sweet. [low ery aroma. Extremely bitter fla vour which leaves an unpleasant alter~ttt.~,‘tt.'.

Sharp. woody and thoroughly unpleasant.

Jasmin From China. Colour pale. with white flowers.

A light fragrant tea which turns bitter tftoo strong. (it’ntle and .s‘mn’hing. Flowery bouquet and flavour, cheerful rich taste.

Smells o/"I-iot-pourri. ('it'ntlcfloral oi'erti )ncs. (arefully understated. Keernun Tea From Anhut. ('hina. ('olour rich. dark brown

Strong round flavour especially for a t" 'hina tea Good all-day brew. Pungent. fruity. reminiscent of rosehip.

Strong. but without character; dusty ((1318.

Lapsang Souchong From China. (.‘olour pale brown.

Flowery aroma. Powerful smoked flavour.

Strong, robust flavour. Very smokey. yet sharp taste.

00long From China. (‘olour very pale.

Pungent, sharp aroma. Faint taste of rotten wood. rather unsatisfving and

l notthirst-quenching.

' Evil smell but bland taste.

Strongflavour. like bark.

Pu Li China Tea. (‘olour medium to light brown.

Soothing ttnd refreshing. ('lean. earthy flavour; a good late night tea. Smooth and uncontroversial. Slightly s weet unforced flavour.

3 which ranges from nettle to wild

' night down the pub. A deli which

Faint aroma ofkippers orsmoked mackerel.

Shou Mal From China. Colour - pale, yellowy.

Clear and earthy, slightly mouldy taste.

Strong, lemony aroma. Slightly sour taste with a bitter edge. A hit?! ofmilk in theflai'oar.

Fungal fla vour, faintly unpleasant.


I here’s Health Foods 73 St Vincent Street.32178()5. Mon—Sat 8.45am-5.20pm. Strong emphasis on the caffeine-free. traditional cures for everything from headaches to phantom pregnancies; rosehip and camomile mingle on the shelves with the more unexpected such as apple and cinnamon. But what makes this shop interesting is that all ofthe stock is actually affordable.

I Arise Awake The Goal Is Your: 123 Douglas Street. 331 2984. Mon—Sat 9am—5.3()pm. And yes. they do answer the phone with that challenging statement. Much skipping in the meadows has been done to bring you this selection


I Peckhams 1(X) Byres Road. 357 1454. Seven days 8.30am—midnight. Just what the students need after a

sells ideologically sound. organically grown teas after the bars have closed. Buy your Lapsang Souchong. put the kettle on and


The List 1— l-Uune 199085