Posts filed under Tea

Tea Chronicles Pt.14 - Jerome K. Jerome

Three Men in a Boat

Three Men in a Boat

One of my favorite Victorian novels would have to be "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K. Jerome. Jerome was a great comedic writer, his prose are still laugh out loud funny. The book follows Jerome and his two friends, to say nothing of the dog, as they take a boat trip out of London on the Thames. One of my favorite parts outlines their approach to making tea, this is a top-tip still relevant today.

We put the kettle on to boil, up in the nose of the boat, and went down to the stern and pretended to take no notice of it, but set to work to get the other things out.

That is the only way to get a kettle to boil up the river. If it sees that you are waiting for it and are anxious, it will never even sing. You have to go away and begin your meal, as if you were not going to have any tea at all. You must not even look round at it. Then you will soon hear it sputtering away, mad to be made into tea.

It is a good plan, too, if you are in a great hurry, to talk very loudly to each other about how you don’t need any tea, and are not going to have any. You get near the kettle, so that it can overhear you, and then you shout out,“I don’t want any tea; do you, George?” to which George shouts back, “Oh, no, I don’t like tea; we’ll have lemonade instead—tea’s so indigestible.” Upon which the kettle boils over, and puts the stove out.

We adopted this harmless bit of trickery, and the result was that, by the time everything else was ready, the tea was waiting.

Posted on September 24, 2015 and filed under Tea.

Tea Chronicles Pt.13 – Jordanian Tea

Jordanian Tea - Dana Reserve

Jordanian Tea - Dana Reserve

Like many places in the Arab world, tea and coffee are Jordan's social lubricants of choice, and while their tea has many variants it is nearly always served strong and black in small glass tumblers, sweetened with sugar and with some kind of herb or spice for flavoring. This recipe comes from our guide, Salim, at the Dana Reserve in south-central Jordan. He was a quiet, thoughtful man who had quit the military life to pursue a career as an artist and guide. His family had lived in the area for many generations and he knew every inch of the expansive reserve - he cherished his special part of the world and was eager to share it and his knowledge of it with others from around the world.

Jordanian Tea - Dana Reserve

Jordanian Tea - Dana Reserve

Half way through our hike, Salim took us to his 'coffee shop' - a protected shelf in a mountain, overlooking a deep valley, and instructed us on the art of Jordanian tea.

Firstly the water has to be warmed over an open fire as the wood smoke adds important flavor to the tea. I'm not sure if the wood type is important but in this area there were pistachio trees; tiny, squat oak trees; and juniper trees.

The kettle he used to boil the water held about a litre and was put directly on the fire.

Once the water had begun to heat, Salim added a palmful of cinnamon bark and white sugar. Jordanians like very sweet tea, and while the sugar is an important ingredient, I don't have that much of a sweet tooth. As a compromise, Salim added about 4 tablespoons to the kettle.

Jordanian Tea - Dana Reserve

Jordanian Tea - Dana Reserve

Once the water came to a boil two teabags were added. The tea he used was called Alghazaleen Tea but Salim also said Lipton Yellow Label was acceptable.

The kettle stayed on the fire for a little longer until it came to a solid boil and was then set aside to steep for a few more minutes.

Jordanian Tea - Dana Reserve

Jordanian Tea - Dana Reserve

Salim served it in small glass tumblers and we drank it as soon as we could, the hotter the better.

Traditionally, when it comes to tea I am strictly a milk and no sugar man, but there was something magic in the marriage of these flavors; the bitter tannic tea, the rich earthy tang of the cinnamon and the sweetness of the sugar. It was unexpectedly harmonious and worked perfectly.

I  have drunk countless cups of tea in my life but this was one of the most memorable. The planets aligned with the stunning scenery, the great company and this delicious, freshly brewed elixir.

Posted on March 5, 2014 and filed under Tea.

Tea Chronicles Pt.12 – Charles Dudley Warner

Charles Dudley Warner - In the Wilderness, 1878

Charles Dudley Warner - In the Wilderness, 1878

A charming piece about food and tea in the outdoors, taken from "In the Wilderness" written by  Charles Dudley Warner in 1878. It is a collection of his essays about living in the mountains.

By the time, twilight falls, the cook has prepared supper. Everything has been cooked in a tin pail and a skillet,—potatoes, tea, pork, mutton, slapjacks. You wonder how everything could have been prepared in so few utensils. When you eat, the wonder ceases: everything might have been cooked in one pail. It is a noble meal; and nobly is it disposed of by these amateur savages, sitting about upon logs and roots of trees. Never were there such potatoes, never beans that seemed to have more of the bean in them, never such curly pork, never trout with more Indian-meal on them, never mutton more distinctly sheepy; and the tea, drunk out of a tin cup, with a lump of maple-sugar dissolved in it,—it is the sort of tea that takes hold, lifts the hair, and disposes the drinker to anecdote and hilariousness. There is no deception about it: it tastes of tannin and spruce and creosote. Everything, in short, has the flavor of the wilderness and a free life. It is idyllic.
— Charles Dudley Warner - In the Wilderness, 1878

This is one of those scenes that I wish I could jump into. Sitting down after a hard days slog and feasting on what, at the time, is the greatest meal you ever had. "In The Wilderness" is still in print and is also in the public domain for download.

Posted on June 14, 2013 and filed under Tea.

Tea Chronicles Pt.11 – Alan Hall

Alan Hall -  Wild Food Trailguide, 1973

Alan Hall - Wild Food Trailguide, 1973

This may sound stupid to some more experienced foragers, but I've been hunting wintergreen for some time now - I'm not sure how it eluded me so readily but I never seemed to track any down. I have found a lot of reference to wintergreen in many books but I think "The Wild Food Trailguide" by Alan Hall was one of the best. The book was written in 1973 and is one of the classic guides for the North American forager. I particularly, and understandably, like the expansive wild teas section.

WINTERGREEN Gaultheria procumbens

IDENTIFYING CHARACTERISTICS: This tiny plant is actually a shrub with stems that creep along the surface of the ground or just below it. At interval along the stem, leaf-bearing branches that look like individual plants thrust upward. They are 3 - 6 in. high and have a distinct woody character. The shiny evergreen leaves are clustered at the top of the branches. The leaves are fleshy and tender, pale yellow-green with tinges of red or sometimes almost all red, and smell strongly of wintergreen when crushed; the older leaves are shiny, dark green with lighter undersides, have a tough leathery texture, and are less frangrent.
— Alan Hall - Wild Food Trailguide, 1973
Wintergreen Tea

Wintergreen Tea

The really great thing is that wintergreen grows all year round, due to this I figured now would be as good a time as any to look for it as, there is little else in leaf in its size range right now. Doing a little hiking last weekend I made a point of hunting wintergreen and almost immediately I came across a little patch by the trail head. After that it seemed to be everywhere, maybe I got dialed in. The main thing I checked for was that the leaves actually smelt of wintergreen - the easiest way to make a clear identification.

Wintergreen Tea

Wintergreen Tea

So with the Trangia cranked and the water boiled I threw in a small handful of wintergreen leaves and steeped them for about ten minutes. The resulting brew was great; it had a pleasant but mild minty flavor with a foresty, leafy tang. Very refreshing. Next time I think I'll add a BIG handful and try and eek out some more flavor, but it was an impressive start.

The leaves can be dried but some of the flavor is lost so it's best to use them freshly picked. Hall also goes onto to describe a root beer like concoction which can be made similarly to tea. If I get a big harvest next time, I might give it a try.

"The Wild Food Trailguide" is an excellent book worth hunting out. Hall mentions 16 wild teas in its pages, so you may hear more from this very interesting read.

Posted on March 5, 2013 and filed under Tea.

Tea Chronicles Pt.10 – Calvin Rutstrum

The New Way of the Wilderness

The New Way of the Wilderness

This tea quotation comes from the "The New Way of the Wilderness" written by Calvin Rutstrum in 1958. Rutstrum is a "wilderness voyager" - a man who spent most of his life in the wilderness. Like lots of outdoorsmen Rustrum is a coffee fan but in the wilderness tea wins out...

Despite the fact that I am a coffee drinker, in the woods I prefer tea. This is common with many coffee drinkers. Tea is easier on the digestion and is a quick bracer. Coffee, of course, has no equal for breakfast. Caffeine-free coffees have been much improved in flavor, and come in all forms. Both regular coffee and the “instant” should be carried in air-tight or friction top cans.

Tea can be had in “instant” and tablet form, and in tea bags, but my choice is bulk tea.
— Calvin Rutstrum - The New Way of the Wilderness, 1958

He then goes on to pragmatically describe how he makes his tea in the bush.

Into a pail of boiling water add tea according to strength desired; one level teaspoon of tea to one quart of boiling water makes mild tea. Do not boil tea. remove it from the fire at once. Let it steep 5 minutes.

Drop tea bag into a cup pour on boiling water and take out the tea bag when the color tells you the tea is the desired strength if lemon is desired in tea, add a pinch of lemon powder.
— Calvin Rutstrum

"The New Way of the Wilderness" is a classic read; there will be more to come from within its pages.

Posted on December 16, 2012 and filed under Tea.

Tea Chronicles Pt.9 – Chris Yates

Chris Yates making the perfect bankside cup of tea

Chris Yates is one of the UK's most beloved anglers, he is a prolific writer, contributing to many fishing journals as well as publishing his own books. He is a major proponent of vintage gear and old fishing methods. His love for fishing, nature and the outdoors is infectious and his calm, level manner and slightly eccentric style have made him a real fishing character.

I always loved Chris the angler, but recently I found he was a tea lover as well, this puts him in the REAL hero category for me. Shown here is a little piece he did for about how to make the best riverside tea. He favors the Kelly Kettle an item he's championed for years. In "A Passion for Angling" it gets called out by name multiple times. He also chooses a loose leaf Ceylon blend  from Miles.

If you have not seen "A Passion for Angling" you are really missing out. For me, there is no other fishing program that capture the magic of fishing so vividly. There is no pretension or machismo it is just about the pure love of angling.

Posted on October 26, 2012 and filed under Tea.

Tea Chronicles Pt.8 – Berry-Leaf Tea

Berry-Leaf Tea

Berry-Leaf Tea

This tea comes from one of the most celebrated foraging books of all time, Euell Gibbons' "Stalking Wild Asparagus"This classic book first printed in 1962 is far, far more than an edible plants field guide. It is a witty, insightful book that teaches the reader about foraging through Gibbons' stories and exploits. Essential reading. Gibbons has dedicated a whole section to what he calls "Wildwood Teas" (lots of rich Tea Chronicles picking here) which is where we find his recipe for blackberry, raspberry and strawberry leaf tea .

The leaves of these three familiar fruits have long been dried and used for tea and in home remedies. Gather the leaves while the plant is in flower and dry them as directed with other tea materials. One word of warning: be sure the leaves are thoroughly dry before you use them as tea for, as they wilt,they develop a poison which is driven off or altered in composition as the get thoroughly dry. There have been cases of livestock being poisoned by wilted berry leaves, but when these leaves are contained in fully dry, cured hay they cause no ill effects.

Berry-leaf Tea is probably the most effective home remedy for diarrhea but, aside from its medicinal uses, it is also a pleasant beverage and wholesome in reasonable quantities.It contains tannin (as does Oriental tea) and has a pleasant aroma; the flavor differs slightly according to which species is used but all of them make an acceptable substitute for tea.
— Euell Gibbons - Stalking Wild Asparagus, 1962

I had only just read this chapter when I was invited to a friends house who's garden was overflowing with raspberry bushes. I tried to pick the greenest and freshest looking leaves. Once home I laid them out, on newspaper, in the sun on the kitchen table.

Raspberry Leaves Drying

Raspberry Leaves Drying

I left them for a full two weeks to make sure they were completely dry (Gibbons' word of warning concerned me a little.) The colour was still really impressive even on the dried leaves. I steeped a half dozen crushed leaves in boiling water for about 10 minutes and gave it a try. I then added another 6 leaves and left it for 5 minutes more.

The tea was light, even after leaving to mash (steep) for a considerable time and adding additional leaves. I couldn't eek much flavor from it at all. The taste that I did get was a vegetal and slightly herbal flavor. There were some tannins. Not unpleasant, just not much of anything. I have read so much about berry leaf tea I can't help thinking I've done something wrong. I shall persevere with this one, so there may be an update to this post as soon as I can get hold of larger quantities or leaves. Does anyone have any tips for berry leaf tea?

Gibbons' book is, in my opinion, essential reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in foraging, botany, the outdoors or even for anyone that likes a good book. It is still in print and easy to find. I hope to be trying more of his recipes in soon.

Posted on August 30, 2012 and filed under Tea.

Tea Chronicles Pt.7 – Hemlock Tea

Berndt Berglund and Clare E. Bolsby -   The Edible Wild, 1971

Berndt Berglund and Clare E. Bolsby - The Edible Wild, 1971

This is a recipe from "The Edible Wild" a fantastic book written by Berndt Berglund and Clare E. Bolsby.

Hemlock (Tsuga cadanensis)

As Tea: A very good tea can be made out of young hemlock needles by steeping them in a pot of hot water for about 10 minutes. This tea is a favorite drink among lumbermen.
— Berndt Berglund and Clare E. Bolsby - The Edible Wild, 1971

This is my kind of recipe. Hemlock trees are pretty easy to find in Maine. They easliy identifiable with rough grey/red bark. Their needles grow in two neat rows on either side of the branch. The needles have a distinct groove on top and two white stripes on the underside.

Brewing up

Brewing up

I headed to a small wooded trail near Freeport with my soda can stove and came across some young Hemlock trees. I cranked the stove and steeped a palm full of needles for ten minutes and gave it a crack.

Hemlock Tea

Hemlock Tea

The tea was quite pleasant. The taste was subtle, the flavour fragrant and piney. Like walking through a dense pine forest. I'd be happy to have this as an alternate to my regular brew and I'm glad I have experimented with it, if nothing else to increase my tea options when hiking. "The Edible Wild" is such a good book and it's given me a ton more ideas for projects. I already started my dandelion wine, more to come on that soon.

Posted on June 15, 2012 and filed under Tea.

Tea Chronicles Pt.6 - Billy Tea

Mt. French, Frog Buttress, climbers' camp - 1973

Mt. French, Frog Buttress, climbers' camp - 1973

Billy tea is a legendary Australian outback brew favored by bushmen. Ted Cais who contributed some of his vintage bushwalking and climbing photography has also been kind enough to pen some of his early memories of billy tea.

The “Smoke-O” was a staple of outback life around Kajabbi station where I spent my childhood years and never was a finer tea prepared than on an open bush fire.

First, you converted a used jam tin into a billy by threading fencing-wire through holes punched near the top for a handle. The water had to be from a local creek or billabong already steeped in subtle flavours from extracts of plants and wildlife.

Gum trees were plentiful and provided excellent firewood that would be roaring in no time at all. The blackened billy was suspended in the flames without a lid so the water would absorb sparks and ashes whilst coming to a roiling boil. Green eucalyptus leaves were essential on the fire for smoke and distilled oils to imparted a heady signature smoky flavor and complexity.

Brands like “Billy Tea” or “Ty.Phoo Tea” were common in the era and came in coarse leaf form to be measured by eye in a cupped hand and added the instant the boiling water was removed from the fire. Then the billy would be given a few raps with a stick to disperse the leaves and allowed to stew for five minutes or so to achieve a bitter potency saturated with tannins.

The final touch was to swing the billy around your head so centrifugal force would settle the leaves, after which the tea could be decanted into a chipped enamel pannikin. Some might add sugar or even a touch of sweetened condensed milk but the tea was best straight and scalding.

The bushmen would squat around the fire sipping this divine tea while rolling a smoke in Zig-Zag (or Tally-Ho) papers from ready-rubbed flake tobacco with their free hand. A glowing coal from the fire provided the best light so as not to spoil the cigarette with sulphur fumes from a match.

The only tea to compete in aroma is Lapsang Souchong but its flavour is always lacking compared to the classic bush cuppa described above.
— Ted Cais

A huge thanks, as ever, to Ted. You can see all of his photography here.

Posted on May 6, 2012 and filed under Tea.

Tea Chronicles Pt. 5 – Nessmuk



Nessmuck was the pen name of George W. Sears, born in Massachusetts in 1821 he became recognised as a contributor to "Forest and Stream" magazine where he helped popularize canoeing, canoe camping and the use of ultralight single person canoes. Not a large man he kept his kit to the bare minimum advising his reader to "Go light; the lighter the better, so that you have the simplest material for health, comfort and enjoyment.” He was also one of America's first conservationists, he actively protested against the Pennsylvania's lumber companies for their destruction of the pine forests.

In 1881 Sears authored the indispensable "Woodcraft and Camping" and it is in here that we find about his respect for tea.

Often, when too utterly tiered and beaten for further travel, I have often tried coffee, whisky or brandy, and a long experience convinces me that there is nothing so restful and refreshing as green tea. To make it as it should be made, bring the water to a high boil, and let it continue to boil for a further minute. Set it off the fire and it will cease boiling; put in a handful of tea, and it will simmer for a few minutes, when it will be ready for use. Buy the best green tea you can find, and use it freely on a hard tramp. Black, or Oolong tea, is excellent in camp. It should be put in the pot with cold water and brought to the boiling point.
— Nessmuk - Woodcraft and Camping, 1881

There are some great sites about  Sears and "Woodcraft and Camping" is still in print and available on amazon. You can find masses of information about his life here including transcripts of his "Forest and Stream" letters and also an excellent more detailed biography here.

Posted on February 21, 2012 and filed under Tea.