After a touching, personal piece from the Tehran Bureau on the importance of tea in Iranian culture, we asked our readers to tell us about the world’s best brews. You shared your family rituals and divulged your secret recipes, some handed down for generations.
Here’s our pick of the best submissions shared with GuardianWitness. Have a read, vote in our poll and help us settle the question once and for all of who makes the world’s best cuppa (or maybe not).
Is it Moroccan mint tea, with sugar added liberally? Is it Iranian tea served with saffron lollipops, brewed with cardamom, or served with kolucheh? A late night cup of turkish tea? Or Indian, with lots of milk and even more sugar, brewed with cardamom, mint, or the ever popular masala chai?
Supporters of Ireland’s tea – the third biggest consumer of tea per capita – were in full force.
“Barry’s Tea. Builder’s tea. Whatever you want to call it, nothing gives as much comfort as a slow brewed, dark and milky sip of home,” said RheaHalford. steppingrazor described “endless pots… with non-stop stories, chat and banter,” and LiveLondon made the case for Cornwall, “surely the best tea ever tasted.”
Daniela Dimitrova said that her Dad’s Georgian black tea couldn’t be beaten – “a lot of sugar and a little knob of pure butter – “touch of luxury”. Both Anne Alter and Luep28 were supporting Germany’s Frisian tea, developing its own culture in the “land of coffee”.
For TixhiiDon it’s all about the Russian method: “a small pot of extremely strong tea, a kettle of boiling water to dilute it, plenty of sugar or jam to be stirred in or eaten alongside,” the perfect cure for a vodka hangover.
Rotifer told us about a guy running a hot drink stall in Cameroon: “in a large urn he had hot tea. If you wanted coffee or hot chocolate he poured tea from the urn and added powdered coffee, or chocolate”. We’re not sure if this qualifies? PJGT shared a picture of a tea stall in Khartoum, Sudan, where you can “tell the time by the tea being served, with extremely milky tea after sunrise and sunset”.
For many of our readers it’s the rituals, and the memories it evokes that makes tea so special.
For cengizsarikayali‘s family, taking tea is a tradition. “I remember my grandmother took her time to brew a cup of tea with good flavour. It was a ritual for her. My mother was the same. Breakfast and afternoon teas were always brewed and served in porcelain or ceramic pots and cups… we hope to carry this tradition from our generation to the next”. For rotifer, “a transplanted scouser” living in the US, a cup of King Cole tea bags, bought in from Canada, “takes me back to my mother’s kitchen“.
And then on to the most controversial bit of all: how do you make your tea? Ian Bersten, an expert among us, shared his method, previously published in the International Journal of Tea Science (pdf), he argues that surface area is more important than brewing time; “the finer, smaller the tea leaf the stronger the cup”.
Vijay Rana kept it simple, recommending a blend of 40% assam, 40% darjeeling. Ruth Kosminsky says: “always use fresh cold water [for boiling]. Only use the amount that you need. Don’t let the water stand for more than half an hour. Then add the milk. You can always add more milk. Put in a tea bag, and then the hot water. Let it stand until colour is golden brown.”
Sssisskokid warns: “don’t you go trying to use anything but loose tea… two heaping teaspoons per large pot. And boiling water. Leave the leaves ready to enter the cup if they wish. Make it a little sweet or just as is. And for God’s sake don’t put milk or lemon in it.”
Karthika Gopalakrishnan’ husband is a fan of the microwave method, sure to have tea purists baulking at the thought?
Finally spare a thought for the Guardian staff, greeted with this from our vending machines every morning.
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