Adventures in Tea

You may have seen me mention that in February I went on a bit of a trip around Europe with some friends.  I decided to collect tea from all the different countries I visited while I was there.  That proved to be quite an interesting journey of discovery through various supermarkets and corner stores all over the place.  Over the last couple of years my tastes have changed a little bit.  I’m not sure exactly how it happened; I used to be a firm drinker of English Breakfast, but have graduated on to Earl Grey, and even at times Lady Grey.  I now think English Breakfast tastes like nothing in comparison to Earl Grey so only drink it if there’s no other option.  Trying to find Earl Grey in the various stores in the different countries yielded varying results.  I didn’t want to be stuck with the same tea I can buy anywhere at home, so it took a bit of looking.  The trip started in London, but only being there for one day, and knowing I would be returning before flying home, I didn’t bother to start straight off.  Once we arrived in Paris, though, it was on.

I heart tea

The first one I bought was Russian Earl Grey in Paris.  Once I got this one home and tried it out my initial response was not great.  I don’t remember now exactly what it tasted like, but I think it had a more “grassy” taste than the Earl Grey I’m used to.  I found the Regent’s Park in another store in Paris and bought it as well because I liked the picture on the box.  I haven’t gotten around to sampling it yet.

In Barcelona I didn’t manage to find anything I wanted to buy and was only there for about a day and a half, so didn’t waste too much of that searching around.

Typically, Italy is a coffee culture so tea was a bit harder to track down.  Florence didn’t have much to offer, although I did buy a packet of coffee that had Michaelangelo’s David as branding.  I’m a bit of a coffee addict, so that didn’t last long after I returned home.  Similarly I didn’t pick up anything in Rome, but in Venice I had found the Infré.  I’m guessing from the writing on the box that it was decaffeinated.  I don’t think I liked it too much at first, but I got used to it.

In Basel, Switzerland I bought the Coop branded tea because Coop was the first supermarket I went into.  I bought the Simon Lévelt tea at another supermarket later.  I think its actually a Dutch brand, but I wasn’t planning on visiting Holland this trip, so no worries.

In Berlin I decided to get it out of the way quickly so I wouldn’t have to search around the entire time we were there.  I went to this odd supermarket called Norma right near where we were staying.  When I say it was odd, it was really strange.  As in it didn’t look like there was any particular order to where goods were placed in relation to each other or even what goods they had to sell.  I would almost have thought I was in some kind of East German communal-type store.  The place we were staying in gave off a similar East German vibe.  I did eventually figure out that the neighbourhood was part of the old West Berlin, so it all was pretty strange.  After a couple of tries walking around and around the store I found the Finest English Breakfast tea; the only one I could see amongst all the random stuff.  The fact that it also said on the box “mit feinster Bergamotte Note” made me hopeful that it was actually Earl Grey in some odd disguise.  To go with the odd store.  It certainly doesn’t taste like any regular English Breakfast in any case.  I did find other tea in other stores in Berlin, but nothing too interesting so I didn’t buy any more.  I did buy this pretty good fairtrade hot chocolate from a café called Espresso Ambulanz next to Tacheles.  I have to say at this point that as a coffee addict (ie. I need it to make it through the morning, let alone the day) and a bit of a connoisseur, Europe’s coffee is disappointingly average.  Below average even.  I even resorted to Starbucks and McCafe to find something half decent, which I never do at home.  Espresso Ambulanz was the exception.  It was so fantastic that I had to compliment the barista immediately, and I went back the next day and took my friends with me.  If you’re ever in Berlin I suggest you look it up and go there.

From Berlin it was back to London, where I picked up the two Jackson’s teas.  I decided to buy two because: a) they were fairtrade, and b) the Earl Grey has the grey leaf on the box but I liked the red leaf on the Darjeeling box better.  And the whole idea was kind of more about the interesting packaging than the tea itself, anyway.  I had wanted to buy tea from Fortnum and Mason but could either never remember what it was called, or just couldn’t find it.  Now looking on Google Earth I find it is almost right on Piccadilly Circus, which I went to more than once.  Annoying!  The Tea mug I found in TopShop where I spent a considerably longer period of time in than I would have preferred.  The problem there being the two female travelling companions wanting to browse across the several different levels of the store and try on multiple items.  I didn’t want to stay with them and I really liked TopMan, but I didn’t have a cellphone, so spent a lot of time wandering around the store trying to find the others.  Not that I’m complaining about finding the mug. I’m enjoying a cup of Finest English Breakfast from it right at this very moment.

The tea journey ends in Dubai on the way home.  While browsing the duty-free stores during a stop I found this wooden-boxed tea and couldn’t resist making one final purchase.  Considering it is now October and I have only made it through nearly four of these boxes, I will probably not need to buy tea again in the forseeable future.  In saying that, I did purchase the Twinings and Harney and Sons since returning home.  Go figure…

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