A personal tale of high seas and high tea
Words by Rasa Jusionyte
From the high seas to high tea, Lithuanian writer Rasa Jusionyte talks about her relationship with a very British brew.
My grandad was a captain and tea connoisseur. His love for tea started when he saved a sinking military ship and got to meet the Queen. Along with a handshake and a thank you, he received a hamper full of tea. It was the good kind, the kind that smelled amazing every time I opened the tin. It was precious and we only made a cup on special occasions. I remember how beautiful it looked with blue flames lunging and leaping in what looked like coal-black and silver mountains. What I smelled was bergamot oil and what looked like blue flames were cornflower petals.
"His love for tea started when he saved a sinking military ship and got to meet the Queen. Along with a handshake and a thank you, he received a hamper full of tea"
Tea was the glue that kept my family together back in Lithuania. Grandad would bring back loose-leaf teas from all the countries he visited. We had rolled-leaf tea from Sri Lanka and bitter black tea from Russia, liquorice tea from Iceland, masala chai from India as well as Assam and Darjeeling varieties. I have vivid memories of Chinese gunpowder tea stacked up in the kitchen – it was his favorite – and when he’d walk through the door after seven months at sea, my grandma immediately put the kettle on. We rarely drank any of it with milk, but added thick slices of lemon, and a little sugar to reduce the bitterness. Tea was our ritual, something we did together, and it kept us that way through good times and bad.
Yet now I live in London, I find myself ordering coffee much more often than tea. I drink flat whites in trendy places and it makes me feel like I belong here. London is also where I discovered tea dust – the watery, milky concoction served equally in greasy spoons and high-end restaurants. It has no name, no region or origin, no year of harvesting, no story. In a city where people drink expensive wine and speciality coffee, nobody seems to care about their daily cup of tea. My foreign friends have kitchen shelves stacked with speciality tea; my English friends, the citizens of this tea drinking nation, won’t touch it. A cup of “normal” tea is their drink of choice.
"I drink flat whites in trendy places and it makes me feel like I belong here"
I think about all of this while queuing up in a cafe in East London. Suddenly, I feel extremely homesick and when my turn comes, I order a cup of tea. I’m served ‘The Earl of Grey’ from Joe’s Tea Co., which I sip while thinking about how my grandad smelled of sea and fog every time he returned home. I like the tea and buy a whole pack. I’ll take it back home to my grandad.
Joe’s Tea Co.
Focusing on organic, sustainable and ethical sourcing, the award-winning Joe’s Tea Co. is bringing tea out of the realm of the old and stuffy and reinventing Britain’s favourite brew. Joe’s commitment to only using Ceylon tea means they go the extra mile (well 5,399 miles to be precise) to source from and support precious plantations that are now a rarity. They only use organic tea, herbs and fruit in their blends, grown using traditional farming methods.
To find out more about Joe’s Tea Co. head to joesteacompany.com