Tea! If I am ever feeling unattractive and grouchy, a nice cup of tea makes me feel leagues better. The cozy warmth, the cuteness, the daintiness… what could be more stereotypically feminine? Seriously though, the benefits of tea have been known for thousands of years, especially if you drink it without the caloric addition of sugar or cream. Tea is full of cancer-defeating antioxidants. Its small level of caffeine will give you that slight wakeup without jolting you into the stratosphere. It can even clear out your arteries. And it’s delicious as fuck. So, I mean, really, you have no excuse not to drink it. After water, it is the most consumed beverage in the world! So hop on the tea bandwagon.
There are tons of different types of tea out there. Here is a brief guide to some tea vocabulary you might encounter:
Green tea: tea that has gone through very little oxidation, retaining its fresh, verdant color. Originating in the East, its antioxidant properties have long been known. Its delicate flavor means it is usually drunk plain or with the addition of honey, and is a delicious accompaniment to Chinese or Japanese foods. It can also be ground into a powder called matcha, which makes a mean ice cream.
Black tea: tea that goes through more oxidation than green tea, leaving it with a dark blackish-brown color. Popular black tea blends include Earl Grey, English Breakfast, and Irish Breakfast. Most black teas have a somewhat robust, rich flavor, and can stand up to the addition of sugar and milk or cream. My personal fave.
Oolong tea: tea that has undergone a process of drying and withering in the sun. It can have a variety of flavors ranging from sweet to bitter to astringent. Most oolong is strong enough that one teabag can go through several uses. Very popular in China and usually drunk plain so as to more accurately discern all the nuanced flavors.
White tea: tea from a very young tea plant whose buds have not yet opened or oxidized, and which have withered in the sun while still on the plant. It has a lighter color than most teas, ranging from a dark beige to a very pale yellow. It also has a mild flavor, which might require a high tea to water ratio to coax out.
Chai tea: this is actually just plain ol’ black tea that has had Indian spices and herbs added. Common additions include cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and pepper. It is often brewed using milk instead of water for a rich creaminess. Try coconut milk and it will change your life, I promise.
Rooibos tea: an herb often brewed like tea that comes from the leaves of a type of legume plant that grows in South Africa. Rooibos has an interesting reddish-brown color, and carries a slight tang as well as earthy undertones in its flavor. Can be served just about any way, but often complements the addition of flavors such as vanilla or lemon. Supposedly, it also assists digestion.
Now that you’re a tea expert, I am sure you are just itching to impress all your lady friends by throwing a tea party! OK, so maybe you’re actually craving nachos or a good dump. But eventually, perhaps the urge to host a party based around the consumption of a pot or two of tea will grasp you, and woe betide you should you be unprepared for such an adventure.
Let’s operate under the assumption that it is a tradition English-style tea you wish to hold. This doesn’t mean you are restricted to black teas, but black tea is a great place to start. It tastes great many ways: plain, with sugar, with stevia, with honey and lemon, with cream, with soy or almond milk, etc. The possibilities are endless. But what to serve with your freshly brewed tea?
At an official English tea, there are usually three-tiered cake stands with a different “course” on each tier. It is likely that you are not the proud owner of a three-tiered fucking cake stand. Don’t feel inadequate! Plates will do just as well, as long as you serve the three courses that make English tea completely mind-blowing.
The first involves tiny sandwiches. You know the ones. The kind that always, no matter what happens, have the crusts cut off. You can even do this with a shaped cookie cutter so you have cute sandwiches shaped like stars or hearts or penises or another Lucky Charms marshmallow! (The penises were a special edition, I believe.) These are also called “finger sandwiches,” a name clearly invented for the purpose of conjuring up gruesome images of severed digits between two slices of whole wheat. You could go with a classic, like a nice smoked salmon on rye or a fresh veggie option with herbed sandwich spread. But don’t be afraid to branch out with something like these breakfast-oriented bacon and egg sandwiches, or this creative strawberry sandwich.
The middle tier usually contains scones and spreads. My preferred kind are called cream scones, made with (surprise) heavy cream and cold butter, rather like making biscuits. The fat content sounds excessive, but it really is necessary for a scone that is tender and moist, unlike the dry, crumbly sons of bitches you can buy at any shitty supermarket. Cream scones usually contain some sort of dried fruit like raisins or cranberries. You can sweeten your scones using a nice glaze, or go the savory route and add some cheese. Whatever you do, don’t forget the jam, preferably at least three kinds. An even more heavenly topping for scones is clotted cream. It sounds like a medical problem but it is actually like whipped cream and butter and cream cheese all had a baby and it is making love to your mouth. You can make it yourself, but it requires unpasteurized cream, which can be difficult to find. But you can also order it on the Internet, or if you have a Wegman’s near you, they often carry it in the International section.
The last and arguably most important tier contains dessert, motherfuckers. Dessert can be anything from digestive biscuits (perfect for soaking up tea) to Battenberg cake (layered with jam and covered with marzipan or fondant) to Bakewell tart (really more of a nutty pie than a tart). It should always be small, no more than a bite or two. If it is close to the holidays, some nice mince pies would be just the ticket. Don’t worry, mincemeat isn’t meat – it’s a mixture of dried fruit, citrus zest, sugar, and blessed, blessed alcohol. If you want to emulate our good friend Harry Potter, try some treacle tart. Or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, try your hand at some homemade Jaffa cakes, a spongey little cookie with orange jelly and a chocolate coating.
Don’t forget to serve your tea in your prettiest china. It will make your ovaries twitter like little birds, I promise. This is my favorite cup to drink tea out of:
Isn’t it nice? It brings me to my happy place. All is right with the world when I have a cup of tea and a scone. So have some friends over, wear sundresses with no panties, and enjoy some fine tea and sandwiches. Ain’t nothin’ like it on God’s green earth.