Across Continents

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Westerly brewing

March 10th, 2012

My choice of words conveyed my distain. Rather well I thought. Brief and to the point. I’d almost laughed but instead had chosen to be abrupt. Purchased not a cup of tea, but rather a cup of tepid water and a separate tea bag I’d have to unwrap and dunk myself. A good brew this could never be. Self-assembly I’d said to the woman behind the buffet car’s overly tall counter.

A man had appeared from the galley. They were not, he explained, allowed to touch the tea bags lest they spread disease amongst the passengers. Now I laughed. Conveying a sense of ridicule I hoped. This, I said loudly, was ’ealth and Safety gone quite mad. He seemed surprised by my assertion.

Back at my seat a young woman stared and tutted as I clambered back in. Her boyfriend was sprawled out in the seat opposite, fast asleep. She woke him and muttered something about it being a Quiet carriage. He soon dozed off once more. I supped my tea loudly. Must definitely stick with the buses.

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Afternoon tea

November 30th, 2011

Ken stops for afternoon tea with Marcia, Ivor, Butch and fellow cyclists Aevind (pronounced ’Avon’) and Brian

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Tea stop

December 30th, 2010

Tea stop from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

A late morning stop for photos results in an impromptu cup of tea – yet another example of Chinese hospitality.

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A few answers…

November 22nd, 2010

A little while ago, with a degree of trepidation, I’d posed a question. Any questions? Here’s my attempts at answering a few of them…

Do you only get green tea in China, or is there black as well… and do they drink it with milk? Sugar? Honey? Yoghurt etc? And how is it for you?

“Green tea is the staple, usually drunk warm without milk or sugar. You also see people going about their business with bottles of cold tea. For all its purported health giving properties, I’m not a huge fan, much preferring black tea with a little milk. Powdered milk is widely available, being very popular for infants, but black tea usually necessitates finding a decent sized supermarket.

Coffee can - web

Coffee is making beginning to make in-roads, normally in the form of small ring-pull ready-to-drink tins, milk already added. Surprisingly refreshing when drunk cold, despite my normally strong preference for hot black coffee. Jars of instant coffee are much less common, sachets the norm, but with powdered milk and sugar already added.

In the bigger cities you’ll also find plenty of Western style coffee bars, offering decent selection, but at a price. Comparable with what you’d pay in the UK, but expensive for China. Some local chains, and familiar international ones like Starbucks.”

Giardia – have you suffered from this illness in China?

“Fortunately not! Just prolonged and persistent bouts of travellers diarrhoea, in all probability the product of antibiotic resistant bugs and ineffective counterfeit medications. But, legs fingers crossed, that’s in the past now….”

[With thanks to Jon B for the above questions]

What’s surprised you the most about China?

“Three things really. Firstly, the sheer scale – and pace – of development, vast infrastructure projects – towering suspension bridges, pristine new carriageways, pipelines. Alongside the tangible, a real sense of huge social change. Migration to the cities reminiscent of our own Industrial Revolution. Greater freedoms of expression. The latter some way behind our own, but, given the repressive, brutal nature of the so-called Cultural Revolution just three decades ago, impressive nevertheless.

Secondly, the stark contrast between the relative wealth and prosperity of the urban dweller, and the often grinding poverty to be found in many rural communities. Just one of many challenges China faces, and one it is trying to address as best, and as quickly, as it can.

And finally, as a Western visitor, the relatively high standard of living in towns and cities, and yet remarkably cheap. Decent meal out for a few pounds, a three star hotel for ten to twelve.”

[With thanks to Barbara S for the above questions]

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Taking tea

November 18th, 2010

Tea bags, she explained, weren’t popular. Could only be used once, whereas a quality loose tea might make a few cups. I suggested some of my Northern relatives might disagree. The humour was lost. On everyone. Not even a grimace from my fellow travellers. Seemed best not to elaborate on the rituals surrounding “builders” tea.

Tea ceremony - web

We were visiting a Chinese tea room. Little touristy, but tastefully done nevertheless. Sort of “Whittards” with tables. Here to experience a traditional tea ceremony. Sampling various blends. Sweeter varieties like lychee black tea, popular for the Western palate. Green teas such as Ku Ding, popular for its purported medicinal properties, or Chrysanthemum tea. Good for the throat apparently.

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