Britishness, Culture

Happy (Belated) International Tea Day!

ICYMI, May 21 was “International Tea Day.”  I celebrate it here:

Gosh.  When I discovered this event, I thought–as so many of my progenitors, particularly those like Auntie Pat and my Granny, might have–How marvelous!  A day celebrating the joys of tea, its restorative effects in the face of calamity, and its propensity for inducing calm and serenity when all else fails.  Elder Sophrony of Essex perfectly expressed the dynamic this way:

Stand at the brink of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little, and have a cup of tea.

As a person who’s spent more of her life than she thinks absolutely necessary “stand[ing] at the brink of despair,” I do believe that–on many occasions–I’ve drawn back and found a cup of tea has sustained me.  So I was glad to see such a recognition of the Queen of Brews.

But. No.

It seems I misread the situation.

According to its United Nations sponsors, “International Tea Day” is intended to :

…promote and foster collective actions to implement activities in favour of the sustainable production and consumption of tea and raise awareness of its importance in fighting hunger and poverty.

Crimenutely.  It seems I can’t even have a cuppa anymore without making an implied political statement with the implication that I need to show that I’m waving the proper flag and virtue signaling to the woke.

As far as I know, tea production was rolling along just fine, regardless (or irregardless at the case may be) of the fact that many of the principal producers have problematic histories on the world stage, until the republic formerly known as Ceylon (world’s fourth largest producer) went broke in 2022.  Years of mismanaged economic policy and increasing debt were exacerbated in 2021 by the government’s banning of imported chemical fertilizers in favor of locally-sourced organic materials and an apparent craze for the greening of the tea leaves.  Crops (read: Tea) failed, and the situation became even worse.  In July 2022, the government declared a state of emergency and defaulted on international loans.  Efforts to regroup and rebuild the country continue.  I wish it well, and that the object lesson might be learned and applied to all.

Meanwhile, I try to find my best tea where I can.  My current everyday fave is from Amazon: Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Orange Pekoe Black Tea (India).  Loose tea (because I never think that what’s in teabags of any sort is anything other than the sweepings off the tearoom floor), strong enough to bend the spoon, if you steep it for five minutes, and even if you add milk, which–like all good Brits–I do.  I don’t, generally, favor flavored and scented teas, so don’t much like Earl Grey.  And tea which reminds me, in either (or both) taste and smell, too much of diesel tractor exhaust–Lapsang Souchong, for example–has always been a non-starter.  (I regard such hyperosmial challenges as suitable only for things like single malt scotch, where–the earthier and more extreme–the better.)

So, on May 21, 2023, which I believe is the eighth “International Tea Day,” I wish you peace, comfort and serenity, no matter what version of the brew you’re drinking, and whether it’s politically correct or not.  Unless it’s “chamomile,” which is utterly foul and a disgrace to the pantheon.  I think Beatrix Potter knew this, which is why she punished Peter Rabbit with a dose after he’d misbehaved:

Of course, “tea” really isn’t complete without the accompaniments.  Herewith, a few:

Happy tea time!

PS:  I find myself agreeing with my Thai friend that one of the loveliest, purest tea flavors comes from the high-mountain Oolong Thai #17 variety. My first experience of it came from a purchase in Chiang Rai’s central market in 2018.  Absolutely gorgeous, sweet, a bit flowery, a clear brew, and–in a concession to its excellence–I didn’t even add milk!  Pleased to have finally found a source where I can purchase it (at considerable expense) stateside.  But if you’re in its native region, I’d seriously suggest stocking up.

PPS:  WRT the mention in the UN statement on the purpose of “International Tea Day” as stated in the OP above, the poster would like to acknowledge that the “importance [of] fighting hunger and poverty” is something we should all be on board with, and get behind.  However, she’d also humbly, and with all due respect, suggest that–in her own region, where “hunger and poverty” are, if not endemic, at least more prevalent than they should be–there are more effective methods to combat such indignities than changing the brand of one’s preferred tea.  Glory be.

2 thoughts on “Happy (Belated) International Tea Day!”

  1. The late Elder Sophrony is now Saint Sophrony. He was canonized by the Orthodox world a couple of years ago. Quite a fascinating life he led too – had to petition the UK government to be allowed to set up a monastery in Blighty, including arguing that his monks weren’t going to be some sort of burden on society. Today the government would not even notice, thought they’d probably still object for other (and worse) reasons. St. Sophrony’s monastery in the UK has grown quite a bit since.

    His saying was a modification of his teacher St. Silouan’s saying “Keep your mind in Hell, and do not despair,” which I’m not sure I can adequately express (I can loan you Sophrony’s book on Silouan, if you like). I think I know what he’s getting at, but it’s difficult to express.

    PG Tips is my everyday, but I love a good Darjeeling myself, courtesy of my mother’s tastes. Jasmine is another. I do like certain flavored teas too – Harney’s Cinnamon Spice is excellent on a cold night as a good black tea with lots of cinnamon and orange peel chunks. Not terribly fond of green teas. Find most herbals terrible (cue the joke about tree leaves in a rain gutter qualifying as “tea”). Recently discovered Jamaican ginger tea though – it’s just ginger powder chucked in hot water with some sugar (or without as I prefer it). Rather nostril clearing.

    1. I didn’t know that (about the canonization), so thanks! Unfortunate that he had to struggle so, to get in country and set himself up, when–as you say–it wouldn’t be an issue today. I’ll look around and see if I can find the book, but if not I’d like to borrow it for a bit.

      I like PG Tips, and I could buy it for a while around here, but it seems to have disappeared. Jasmine tea is one of the few scented teas that I do like, and I was introduced to the Harney’s Cinnamon Spice by my stepdaughter. It’s nice too. Yes, regarding the herbals. Some of them smell wonderful, but somehow, in the making, they convert the wonderful scent to the taste of drain water or worse. I found the ginger powder beverage several decades ago, and have always liked it, although I’m not sure it’s actually “tea.” I do make a ginger/lemon syrup (simple syrup plus ginger and lemon) which I like to add to fizzy water (I have a sodastream) for a refreshing beverage. I’m not one for ‘pop,’ caffeinated or otherwise.

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