WELCOME TO Val's Alentejo -I write about my region of Alentejo. My art ,painting, my cottages, Family life, my animals -Travels And my love for Roses- and rural country life.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

A sunday story

An aquired taste.
Tea has always fascinated me.    Principally the bush and the process of how it arrives on our shelves, and the very very hard work and labour that is put into the processing.
I became taken with tea, on my first visit to the Island of Ceylon-  with my parents. 
Ceilao was was given its name by the Portuguese who arrived there in 1505.

 High up above on the hills of Candy and its surroundings.   I saw, my first magnificent sight of a tea plantation.  The memories of those days stayed with me. Of Ceylon, visiting  twice their after on our travels.  
 I learnt much about tea throughout the years.
High tea at my parents house was a tradition .      They were wonderfully exciting sundays.  My mother would always have a variety of cakes ..and little petit sandwiches for sunday tea. It was when we caught up with all our news of the week, and became together as a family. 
  During the 32 years  of my married life.  Tea  became an integral part of my life too.    So much so, that at one point, in the late Mr. M's life and mine.  I started to collect teapots.

There was also was a purpose behind the buying and collecting of my tea pots.!
Together with another couple of good friends.  I decided one fine Sunday to ask good friends to tea.
And so started our weekly sunday get together's at 4.
We called it our " Tea tasting Sundays" -

 My mother being a tea freak and addict.  She knew just about every tea that was on the markets.Often going to the Indian market or the Chinese food store to buy.  

 I had a good background on tea buying it.  I do like to think so.
I love tea- but only black tea. (no milk -served as is).  
The ritual behind our ceremony, was to indulge ourselves in the tasting of various teas , experiencing the full scent and flavor of it.    Our discussions would take us to all parts of the globe.

 We went on until the evening. And so  went our sundays  for some years.  Sometimes introducing other friends to our sunday afternoon ceremony.
We took our tea the eastern and asian way.  No milk or sugar.  Milk and sugar was introduced much later onto the tea drinking scene.  The milk looses the actual flavors and aromas of the tea.

They were wonderful sundays that are  remember so well.     Not only did we drink the tea.. It was made:-(must be with boiling water,straight onto the tea leaves) left to stand and stew-timing is critical. , It has  to settle before you drink, so that you get the best .  This is how you get the quality of taste and aroma from your tea leaves.    Using a warmer tray so as not to let it get cold.   There is nothing more comforting , than sipping a hot cup of steaming tea.
For each tea ceremony. I would use a different tea pot.  (tea pots should never be totally washed clean inside) Some of the flavor of that particular tea will remain in that particular pot . Use a different tea pot for different teas.- You can note the difference.
  As soon as we took the lid of a pot we found  out that the aromas in the pots were different, and would fake the taste of a particular tea .
 I never use the same tea pot for different varieties of tea. Always a different pot.
Not so much now, as I have grown older and my family have flown the nest.  
I cheat a little too now and again.  I use a good blend of Assam tea bags. ( can you smell it!)

   My collection of tea pots started to grow. They were not and are still not just a collection.  On some Sundays, I still have a tea ritual with my children.
 Today being one of those days - at 4pm-  Today I am using hand picked fine tea leaves from Kenya.  Bought at a farm growing it now on the high hills not far from where I used to live.  Given to me by my close cousin  who lives  not far also from this same area in S.A. Its a deliciously flavored and aromatic.

 The top photo is of a small collection of my tea pots , I just picked for this post. I possibly have around 25 tea pots .(all in my china cupboard)
More often than not, I would serve  and still do -chinese tea, along with Indian tea - our ceremonies we used both.
  Tea from southern and northern China- Jlangbel . jlangnan - tea plantations reaching south to the Yangtze river. This tea is excellent.
 Tea has been with us for more than 5000 years.   China is still the top producer of tea today. Pu'er from the Yunnan province being the most famous. I like its very deep rich black flavor.
 Our Tea ceremony sundays ,were just simply great times that we had.   After about 4 or 5 months into it.  We decided to add a cake into the ritual.    Here is where it became even more interesting.
 The husbands had to bake a cake.   They were not allowed ,( by wives vote) ,to bake just ordinary cakes.  They had to produce something exotic , aromatic , moist and fruity.     It really was so much fun.
The 4 of us being good friends.  The "Tea Ceremony" brought us all closer together.   Wonderful days to remember of my years in Africa.
      Picking tea from the bushes in China.  Tea bushes are grown on the slopes  in a semi tropical areas with mist and special climates.
 Fresh   new tea buds.  The little tiny buds are the ones that make the finest tea.
 Catarina of Bragança - Born 25th november 1638- In Vila Viçosa   Alentejo.
                            Catherine's marriage to Charles the ll of England is well known to us all.  She was a good and gracious Queen. She married at the age of 23.

The duke of Bragança Dom Duarte of Bragança- is a direct descendent and cousin to the Royal house of England.

The Jesuit priests , who were trading merchants in China. Bringing silks and ceramics back home . It was these priests who  most probably introduced tea into Portugal.
It was used as a medicinal drink.    "Cha´) is for tea in Chinese.  In Portuguse Tea is Cha´.

Catherine of Bragança is also famous for not only being the Queen of England,Scotland and Ireland- but is also known for introducing tea into England- It was her preferred drink .

This imposing painting above (courtesy) is of Catherine - painted by -Benedetto Gennari.

My father always used to say " A cup of tea or two a day, indeed keeps the doctor away"-  He lived until he was 89- My mother until she was 84- They both drank around 4 cups of tea a day.

In some medical circles, it is said that tea is not good for you.  This I have heard often.
I do so wish that knowing and learning the benefits of tea.. One would know that drinking tea is the healthiest drink after water.

My preferred tea is Chinese tea .     Although I enjoy to  drink Indian tea - my favorite of the indian teas being Assam.    The fine tea tips are full of rich goodness , with a captivating smell and aroma.
Tea was introduced to India much later . It became a very lucrative trade. The Chinese holding the monopoly over the trade.  
  The British east india company imported it into India, later in large quantities.

The seeds had been imported from China.    There are earlier recollections of drinking tea in India before the colonization.  The plant was known as Sanjeevani..also used for medicinal purposes.

Today in our 21st century.  All types of tea are grown.   Many names are given.  Some good some not so good.  The new teas with aromas, of many different tastes are now offered on the shelves.

For me .  There is only one tea.   That is the black fine tea from China and India.

 Wishing you all a wonderful Sunday.      Enjoy your afternoon tea - Savour each sip.  Its medicinal happiness in a cup.



  1. Dear Val, what a lovely and informative post. Your Sunday afternoon teas sound like lots of fun and you have developed a great idea, saving a different pot for each type of tea. Like you, I drink tea without milk or sugar and enjoy its pure taste. Every morning I make myself a pot of Bushells tea, an Australian brand of black tea. I also enjoy Earl Grey and Lady Grey tea. Happy Sunday, Val! xxx from Patricia

    1. Thank you Patricia.
      We did indeed have wonderful days. I love my tea.
      There are many brand names for tea. I like the black tea.
      I do enjoy now and again Earl Grey. xx

  2. I did not grow up with tea drinkers they were coffee drinkers. Hubby only drinks cold tea. I love trying all different kinds and so far do not have a favorite. I just got a new one in the mail yesterday and plan on drinking it today. It is called Matcha Green Tea. Heard some good things about it.

    1. Tea of course is a preference. In America iced tea is very popular.
      Thank you for your comments Betty W. Enjoy your Matcha Green ..
      Tea is healthy..

  3. Dear Val - this is my favourite post of yours. It conjures all so many lovely images of both your childhood, the times spent with your friends on Sunday afternoons, and your great love and interest in tea.
    I share your love of Assam and Kenyan tea too, but I must admit that I do like a little drop of milk in mine.
    A lovely history and very informative post Val - thank you.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind encouraging comments Rosemary.
      I so enjoyed writing this post. They were wonderful days. I remember very fondly. I always love my cups of hot tea. Tea now is grown in many parts of the world. I still have my love for the Assam and Kenyan , and chinese.

  4. What a fascinating post! I'm so happy I found your blog, I learned so much this morning! I drink iced tea and it's nothing like your black tea. Your times having tea with friends and family sound so precious.

    1. Thank you Nancy. So nice to read that you like my blog and post.
      Tea is a ritual. Iced tea is a long cool drink..for summer days ..very American
      We do have it here now, made by Tetley's. .. but it's not the tea that i have written about.

  5. That takes me back to a high school class and a test question that I missed. It was where does tea come from and I answered China and it was marked wrong, no amount of explaining could make the teacher understand. I learned a lot about school if nothing about tea that day.

    1. That Teacher, sure didnt know her history. You should have got top marks for that Sunnybrook.
      I am pleased that you like the story of tea. There is nothing better than a fine blend of chinese or Indian black tea..
      Happy days. val

  6. i like your tradition very much. :) i like to drink green tea in the evenings. i have recently read about many of the teas sold in the US are polluted with pesticides and other non-healthy additives. it is sad that something so good for you can be not.

    1. Thank you Tex. One must be very careful when choosing tea.
      Normally good quality fine tea is not sprayed. That would be a crime.
      I would say that the fruit infusion teas probably would be sprayed.. Here in the EU its forbidden.
      When drinking or taking tea. It must be the purest of purest.
      Very sad to read that pesticides are used. I would imagine only in the US

  7. Good morning, Val. You have a pretty tea set. I visited The American Classic Tea Plantation outside Charleston, SC once and found it very interesting how the tea is grown and harvested. I do enjoy a cup of Tea and trying new ones.

    1. Thank you Sylvia.
      I must read up about the american classic tea. I do not know what type it is.
      The photos are of individual tea pots ..
      Enjoy your tea.

  8. Val, I no longer own any teapots. I gave them all away when we moved. You certainly have lovely ones that you enjoy and have all your life...:)JP. P.S. Nice to hear t was a family tradition!!!

    1. You have got to the stage my mother did. I have a couple of teapots from my mum. she just kept a couple later on in her life.
      I do not use all of mine now. Life changes .
      It is a wonderful family tradition. A time for us all to come together.
      Thanks for your comments JP.

  9. Wonderful post Val. Love your memories and stories, imagining those loving rituals. So cool that you visited Ceylon as a child. I have a feeling that you have a very interesting life story!

    1. Thank you Jen, for your kind comments. So pleased you liked it.
      I would love to make another trip to Ceylon.
      Jen..through our blogging and reading through the lines.. we do get to know our friends. its so inspiring when blogging friends enjoy our posts.

  10. How interesting. I'd love to try the tea you like. I never drank hot tea until recently. Now I love it and find it comforting. And how nice that you had a tradition of tea parties. Those are good memories to cherish. Enjoy your day my friend. Hugs, Diane

    1. Thank you Diane. Do try the teas. I think you will really enjoy them.
      I like to take it without milk.. but you can make a lovely cup of black ceylon or indian, or China tea with milk and a little sugar. Hot.
      Enjoy your tea drinking. Ideal with a lovely scone. x

  11. My dear Val , a lovely post today ,so many informations about tea ,the memories that you have from your mother and your childhood !! I am impressed about your collection ,you have 25 !!! I have only six because we don't drink tea ,only we are sick ,we consider that is medicine ....I love the pots and I add in my collection ,when i will find ...
    Have a lovely week and thank you for sharing your knowledges about all !

    1. Dear Olympia.
      Thank you so much for your kind comments.. I have such wonderful memories of my childhood and my years of marriage .. Yes. I have around 25.. I do not use them all.
      Tea is very good for you.
      How wonderful that you will start a collection.. you can look for them on your antique outdoor market.
      so pleased you liked my post.

  12. Oh Val I really enjoyed this post. Your afternoon tea parties sounded like such fun especially when the husbands made the cakes! The tea with the pink and purple flowers looks interesting. I loved hearing stories from your childhood too. I'm off now to make a pot of my own favourite - Earl Grey. Have a lovely week.
    Patricia x

    1. Dear Patricia.
      I am so pleased that you enjoyed this post. I enjoyed writing it.
      Tea, has played a big part in my life. Discussions and decisions made over tea. I too enjoy an earl grey now and again. very difficult to buy here.

  13. Such an informative post, Val! I love tea, but am sure I've never had your tea experience. Sadly, I use bags only, but never use milk, sugar or lemon. I prefer black teas as well, esp. Earl Gray and Lapsang Souchong. Your tea parties sound like the best and your pots pictured are lovely! The idea of husbands baking the cake is just too cute!

    1. Hello Sanda,
      Thank you for your kind comments. I too use bags. Its quick and easy.
      A very hard task to give it to my mother.
      Our tea ceremonies were so interesting, as we travelled around the world and talked about so much.

  14. Uma verdadeira aula, uma riqueza imensa seu post e seu conhecimento sobre a arte de bem saborear um verdadeiro chá! Adorei! Conheço a literatura do chá, mas não o sorvo! No máximo, chá mate com rodelas de laranja bem gelado no verão! Parabéns! Beijos!

    1. Obrigada Maria Luiza.
      Sim, o verdadeiro cha preto.. e muito bom. com lemao.. nunca experimento com lararanja.

  15. Dear Val,i love drinking my tea with milk,a habit a have,living in Australia!I prefare Bushells ,Australian tea and the Early Gray!I really enjoyed your post!(My daughter lives and works in the Netherlands).Wish you a happy week!

  16. I love tea time, Val. This special time for tea goes back many years, and it is comforting and peaceful also. There is nothing quite like it, is there? I wish I could have a cup of tea with you and share our thoughts and conversation. Wouldn't that be nice?

    Have a nice Monday Val.


  17. It was wonderful to read about your experiences with tea. Seeing a tea plantation must be a wonderful sight. Your tea parties sounded fun, were the cakes produced by the husbands well made? I don't drink much tea but was surprised to read how you needed different tea pots! Sarah x

  18. This was such an interesting, informative post, Val and I love hearing about your tea ceremony tradition. I obviously have a lot to learn about the right way to serve tea.I never take sugar in tea, but do prefer it with milk or a slice of lemon.


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