They brought me tea. The nurse had me sit up against my pillows and placed a tray in front of me. She poured some steaming water into a cup with a little bag in it. Go slow, she said, it burns. What do you mean, slow? I sniffed the cup and detected the odor, I wanted to say, of smoke. I wanted to see what tea was like, so I took the cup and swallowed. Dreadful. A fire, a flame, a slap in the mouth. So this is boiling tea. It is probably the same with coffee, or chamomile, which everyone talks about. Now I know what it means to burn yourself. Everybody knows you are not supposed to touch fire, but I did not know at what point you could touch hot water. I must learn to recognize the threshold, the moment when before you couldn’t and after you can. I blew mechanically on the liquid, then stirred it some more with the spoon, until I decided I could try again. Now the tea was warm and it was good to drink. I was not sure which taste was the tea and which the sugar; one must have been bitter and the other sweet, but which was the sweet and which the bitter? In any case, I liked the combination. I will always drink my tea with sugar. But not boiling.
The tea made me feel peaceful and relaxed, and I went to sleep.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
From Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, translated from the Italian by Geoffrey Brock:
Saturday, November 19, 2011
(+354) 562 3614
Pipar og Salt (lit. Pepper and Salt) is not just a Scandinavian comedy program, it’s also a store in Reykjavik (though the two do not seem to be related in any way). Anyone who has tried to find reasonable tea in Reykjavik knows it’s not easy. The supermarkets don’t carry many brands of tea and what they do carry is not very good. If you are thinking that a country so close to the UK would at least stock some PG Tips on their shelves, you are in for a major disappointment. Fortunately for the discerning tea consumer all is not lost.
Pipar og Salt carries a variety of kitchen items, many of them spreadable. Glass jarred preserves, marmalades, and curds abound as do tea pots, coffee pots, tea cozies, and bird houses. Amongst such odds and ends in this small store is a shelf dedicated to loose leaf tea. The tea comes in blue, 125 gram packages that show little more than the name of the variety (no descriptions, no stories, just a name and the Pipar og Salt logo). I decided to buy a package of Darjeeling mostly because I hadn’t had Darjeeling in years. The decision did not disappoint.
Brewing to a deep amber color, the tea has the light smoky flavor one can expect from a good Darjeeling. Strong, but not knock out strong, it is a worthy choice for a place of such extreme weather as Iceland. If brewed just right, the tea finishes with a touch of sweetness.
Due to the apparent lack of loose leaf tea competition in Reykjavik, Pipar og Salt could probably get away with carrying second rate stuff. If the rest of their tea stock is as good as their Darjeeling, it is safe to say that they do not.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
From Nicholson Baker's novel A Box of Matches
I once saw the earl of Grey on The Merv Griffin Show, an afternoon program hosted by the always cheerful and always tanned Merv Griffin. The earl of Grey had three things to say: one, that you can’t make good tea in a microwave; two, that the water shouldn’t be boiling but just on the verge; and three, that he wished that Twinings had trademarked the phrase Earl Grey, which was used by everyone. The poor man had lost his name.