All I want is a nice cup of tea


We’ve been abroad for a few days and forgot to pack the tea bags. Go on, laugh. I did when my parents did the same, along with the Marmite and marmalade.

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” I chortled youthfully but the big flaw in that argument is that the Romans can’t make a good cup of Rosie Lee. Nor can anyone else. There is an awful lot of tea drunk in the world but it is surprising how few cuppas there are outside these shores which would get British approval.

I am sorting through the tea bags in our Lisbon hotel room. The first is labelled ‘English Tea’ but it looks funny when brewed. Close inspection of the packet reveals it to be green tea. That’s fine with a Chinese meal but not first thing in the morning to soothe a parched throat.

There was camomile and lemongrass, rooibus and a tisane or two. Now I am a bit of a tea snob but I would have been glad to see a Tetley tea bag or PG Tips at this moment. It seems foreigners don’t give a monkeys about providing proper British tea. But they don’t really understand it, poor loves.

Downstairs in the breakfast room there are the same tea bags in a little box but one compartment is empty. The waitress brightens, disappears into the kitchen and returns with some bags labelled breakfast tea. A result!

Naturally I snaffle a couple of bags for our room but tea requires milk and I have to make do with those little tubs of UHT milk. You know the sort. They are a bugger to open. Except when you secrete a couple in your pocket, one breaks and milk starts trickling down your leg. But I got a cup of tea in the end.

They drink a lot of tea in India but you can’t get a British one. They insist on spicing things up with ginger and cardamom and goodness knows what else.

Things may have changed but they don’t know what a good cuppa is in America. It is the 1980s and I’m three days into a Press trip across Texas and already missing a proper cuppa. Our party leader promises one when we meet a group of matrons in the next city who are laying on a tea party for us.

It looks promising, served up with great ceremony in nice bone china but, oh dear, they didn’t boil the water, just steeped the bags in cold. The horror of the experience has wiped out my memory of how we got out of that one.

But for my worst ever cup of tea . . . you’ll find the story here