Getting a cuppa in Europe

I mentioned in a post recently that I used my own teabag in a cafe in Berlin. Perhaps that needs a little explanation. It’s darn near impossible to get a good quality plain ornery cuppa in this part of the world, even in London, but certainly in Europe proper.

Kusmi contaminates everything. Typical teas:

Euphoria A tasty blend of maté, chocolate and orange, Euphoria is the perfect drink for a wellness-inspired teatime. Chocolate lovers can now indulge without feeling guilty.

Sweet Love A true invitation to awaken your senses, Sweet Love offers smooth, sensory delights. Its blend of spices, guarana, liquorice and pink peppercorn has a naturally sweet taste. No one can resist its enticing flavour.

I realised how bad things had got when I went to Boreal one day and this happened. Of the 28 varieties of Kusmi flavoured teas, they used to stock one that was just tea flavoured. If you wanted a cup of tea that didn’t taste like liquorice or peppercorns or guano (sic), you could order that one tea. But one day I walked in and even this had disappeared to make room for Prince Vladimir or detox or booster or something equally untea-like.

I wrote and complained. I asked wasn’t it enough to have 27 weirdshit varieties of tea, did they really REALLY need that 28th one? Couldn’t they squeeze in one plain tea? The management responded that they might consider it the following winter, that is to say, in many months’ time. I replied with a threat that they could not have cared less about: well, in that case, I will consider coming back to your establishment in winter. In contrast, see what happened when my local French cafe Cacao in Melbourne tried doing this to me here.

In fact I didn’t. I realised that I was much better off saving my tea money for trips elsewhere. I have tea at home. I carry around teabags for emergencies. I sometimes carry my own milk too. In Geneva, like much of Europe, almost no cafes have fresh milk. You get UHT milk, or that coffee creamer plastic tub that passes for good taste over here. Particularly mysterious, this, in a country in which the population is largely cows.

Fortunately, as is the case in Australia, where even if, like me, you don’t drink coffee, you can nonetheless reliably suppose that with good coffee comes good food and good tea, the same holds for Berlin. Go to one of those terribly earnest nothing-in-the-world-is-more-important-than-the-right-attitude-to-coffee cafes and you will get commensurate standards with what they consider to be the incidentals, that is to say, tea and food. I didn’t have a bad cup of tea in Berlin.

In fact, it was the first time since I’ve left Australia where I really felt like saying Aaaaah. Robur.

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Istanbul (1) Tea

I’m talking English tea here, since I do not have the stomach for the local brew.

We had a cup of tea at two posh local haunts.

Pera Palace is famous for being the when-in-Istanbul-residence of Agatha Christie. High tea – that is, the common tea of poor folk until it was appropriated by rich people – is, of course, served. We were there in the evening and ordered English breakfast tea for two.

Lovely silver tea service. Nice china, but badly designed so you can’t put a finger in the handle. I’m always scared I’m going to drop cups that force me to grip the handle instead. And from there it is absolutely downhill. This was as bad a cup of tea as either of us has had. Horribly strong and bitter, but without any sweetness of taste. Making it weaker did not help in the least. Not that this was easy, since we were not given separate hot water and had to ask for it. BIG black mark, serving tea is not rocket science, Pera Palace.

Then there was the audacity of charging us for two full tea orders. If you are sharing, even if it is an extra large pot, you shouldn’t be charged double, but in this case we were given a pot for one to share between two and then charged for two. 14TL each, 28TL: about 15 CHF or USD. Outrageous.

That was the bad…the good, the sublimely always impeccably good, as usual was The Four Seasons. They have a couple of hotels in Istanbul. We tried out the Sultanahmet.

Narumi plain white bone china, a pot of hot water came with a pot of tea – why oh why do tea drinkers have to be relieved or grateful when a place knows how to serve it? It tasted good and came with a little tray of biscuits. It was at least the equal of The Four Seasons in Geneva, which is high praise indeed.

We ordered the Turkish coffee as well as the tea and it got the thumbs up as the best he had tasted in town. Presentation was beautiful and came with superior Turkish delight.

All this for less than the price of the dreadful stuff we had at the Pera and in surroundings which were far more attractive.

Would YOU drink The Bard’s Quest?

A little multiple choice for you. If offered The Bard’s Quest would you

(a) pop it into the DVD player to watch
(b) read it
(c) drink it

My local coffee shop, Cafe Cacao has lost the plot. I went in a couple of weeks ago to order my usual English Breakfast, only to be told that they didn’t serve English Breakfast any more. I could get tea with various flavourings like liquorice or pumpkin, but if I wanted English breakfast, well, I’d have to order The Bard’s Quest.

Note they didn’t just tell me this, they told it to me with great pride. They were actually proud to be selling neither English breakfast tea nor Earl Grey. I was gobsmacked. I felt like saying to them, ‘Well, that’s fine with me as long as you have stopped selling Cafe Latte and Long Black too.’

In fear and trepidation I did order The Bard’s Quest. Honestly, though, it isn’t something you should get in a coffee shop. It is a DVD, or volume 48 of some never ending fantasy series. Would, I wondered as I started to pour, a little Hobbit jump out of the spout? Bottom line, having tried it twice, is that the tea’s no good. Not if you want English Breakfast.

Order has been restored. The manager has brought back the very same English Breakfast leaf tea they used before specially for me…and for anybody else who can’t bear to order The Bard’s Quest.