Tea for three

Today I noticed…the sunlight bouncing delicately off a ridiculously large number of boxes of tea in our kitchen shelves.

I notice this array of tea every day, actually, and weird as it may sound, I quite like the view. The three residents of this house, with our different tastes, have managed to amass a mad array of different teas – surely there must be at least 6 boxes of tea per person on that shelf! Piled together the various boxes make a colorful display (apart from the Liquorice Legs, which is in a very classy black box, usually shoved at the back and not able to be seen.)

I find this shelf of tea a very satisfying example of functionality with a pleasing aesthetic. Where some houses, perhaps those with far more room for benches and sideboards and cunning little shelves placed strategically at eye level, might create a charming display of ceramic shepherdess figurines, vases of dried flowers, or photographs of distant relatives at their graduation ceremonies, we, confined to a very small amount of space, have to make do with displaying our cookbooks and boxes of tea to liven up our surrounds while also – well – performing the practical function of storing them somewhere.


A tidied up version of collection of tea

A tidied up version – untidy boxes removed for photo shoot

Well, you know what, I don’t mind that, to be honest.

Space is like time, my friends: the more of it you’ve got, the more of it you waste.

That is a piece of wisdom I’ve felt very certain of, ever since I thought of it, which was just as I was writing that previous sentence. What’s more, another gem of wisdom has just struck me: space and time are polar opposites, because if you have more space, you simply have more cleaning to do, whereas if you have more time, a graph tracking the amount of cleaning done will probably not show any noticeable increase, because you’ll simply find other things to do.

Of course some people with large houses employ someone to clean the space for them, which then impacts on their time in a different way, because they need to work in order to earn money to pay the cleaner.

In short, space and time have a very complicated relationship which many scientists have attempted to explain, (see Stephen Hawking for more information) although I note that none so far have addressed the issues that I’ve raised here today. But that’s an issue for another post, today we are talking about tea.

Now it strikes me that these days, some people have a theatre room, or an indoor rock climbing wall, but perhaps a shelf of colorful teas is the poor person’s equivalent. (Please don’t attempt to climb our kitchen shelves, as enticing as they may look to the amateur rock-climber, as they are cheaply made and freestanding, and sure to topple down under the weight of a full-grown adult attempting to scale them. You would be at high risk of sustaining a cook-book related injury, and let me tell you, being hit in the face by Stephanie Alexander’s Garden Companion  is sure to result in a deformity for life.)

To be totally honest with you, there was far more tea on this shelf than what is in the photo. When I stopped to admire the shelf in the first place, it looked higgedly-piggedly and rambshackle, (both things at once!) but I took about 8 boxes of tea out for this photo, mainly so that you could actually see the boxes properly and determine the wide variety of types. Similar to the way that people remove all their furniture, clothes and objects from their house when it’s open for inspection, so that the house looks open, spacious and minimal, and you wander through and picture yourself sitting on the one chair in the loungeroom, sipping a glass of champagne, but when you remark afterwards how nice it all was, your practical, sensible partner says, “There was no wardrobe in the bedroom. There was no laundry. There was no fridge in the kitchen.” Oh yeah.

So yes, I admit it, I extracted boxes of tea for this photo shoot – but my goal wasn’t to make it appear tidy and spacious. It was to enable you to see the wide variety of teas on offer. Some of the teas I removed were double ups of teas already represented there – obviously, the ones we are so attached to that we need a back up box ready. Cinnamon tea is on sale this week? Let’s buy two boxes!  

Of course, as I’m sure you can guess, some of these teas were bought on a whim. When shopping in the darkened, slightly luxurious atmosphere of a T2 store for example. Apple Crumble tea? Cinnamon tea?  I had not purchased anything else a 2 hour shopping trip in a  noisy, crowded and brightly lit shopping mall, and then walked in to the exotic-cave-like feel of the T2 store to find they had a buy-2-get-1-free offer! It felt positively restrained of me to come home from the shopping mall with only 3 boxes of strangely flavoured teas!

As for drinking them, why….well, I think I tried the Apple Crumble tea once. Liquorice legs? I believe it was a gift from my daughter to her dad. Lemon and Ginger? Well, that’s a staple, the one I drink with honey, when I have a sore throat (today, for example.) Lady Grey? Delicious accompaniment to any sweet biscuit that is good for dunking.  That floral tin you can see at the front? That’s actually got Cookies and Cream tea in it.

Woah – stop right there. Cookies and Cream tea? Surely the only evidence we need that the world, and the residents at my house, have all gone slightly hyper-crazy about tea. (Can you go slightly hyper? To be discussed another time – Ed.)

Another confession: for the purposes of this photo shoot, I discretely removed any imposters that usually hang out brazenly on the tea shelf, but are not tea! A tin of Chilli-Cocoa and a tin of decaffinated coffee were hastily whisked away – both, strangely enough, items that have proved unpopular and have sat on the shelf for a few years now, trying to fit in with the teas that come and go around them.

Finally, an observant reader may well ask, do we actually drink ordinary black tea? I’m glad you asked! In fact, there is a box of that hidden somewhere in behind the Lemon and Ginger, but I never touch the stuff. It’s mainly there for visitors, like my parents, who, when offered a cup of tea and invited, with a generous sweep of the hand, to choose whatever they like from our shelf full of exotic teas, say:

Have you got any ordinary tea?




Leave a comment


  1. I’m not a tea-drinker, which is punishable by solitary confinement and 40 days of Enya on loop where I come from. BUT, you had me at liquorice legs. I enjoyed this odyssey of your tea-press immensely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Feel free to read it again, because I posted that in a rush, knowing that everyone else was waiting for me to do something about getting Friday night dinner. After eating the pizza that I dialled up and ordered, I went back in a more leisurely way and edited and added to it. Hopefully it’s now new and improved.

      Yes, my sister, now that she lives in Dublin, has tea first thing in the morning, whereas I’m sure that when she lived in Melbourne it would have been coffee she’d be reaching a shaky hand out for. So I won’t mention your crime to her (although I’m sure she has no Enya, not anywhere there) (apologies to A.A.Milne). You must feel very isolated come afternoon tea-time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My naturally disgruntled disposition makes it easier to cope with, and sustain a lifetime’s irritation with the uneven distribution of both tipples. Rare is the establishment that matches a pot of tea with one of coffee. Your guided tour reminded me of the garlic beer I saw advertised in Poland years ago. I often feel it was the one beer that got away. I should’ve given it a sip for research purposes.


  2. Tea is a topic close to my heart. I was brought up on tea and it’s pretty much all I drink, apart from the odd coffee or, in summer, the odd strawberry milkshake.

    When I became vegetarian, many moons ago, I stopped taking milk in tea but it turned out that ordinary tea, fine with milk in it, tastes pretty awful on its own. So I began to explore the tea market, looking for a satisfying brew that I could drink without milk. I ended up with a tea shelf rather like yours. One day, mixing together a number of left-overs, I found I had created the perfect tea blend! I later learnt that I had reinvented the blend called Russian Caravan.

    According to legend, Russian Caravan takes it name from the camel caravans that brought tea from China to Russia. It is a blend of teas and modern tea sellers put just about anything in it, so beware: it’s best to avoid made-up versions. The classic recipe is 2 parts of Formosa Oolong plus 1 part of Keemun plus 1 part of Lapsang Souchong. The latter is what gives Russian Caravan its smokey after-taste. (According to legend the smokey tang of this tea results from the bales of tea being hung in trees over their camp fires when the tea caravanners halted for the night. The legend is charming but untrue.)

    Every so often I call in at the Tea House in Covent Garden or, increasingly, make a virtual shopping trip online, to buy packets of tea whose contents I mix together in a large canister with an air-tight lid. From this I periodically top up my tea caddy. When we travel, the caddy goes with me… 🙂


    • I enjoyed hearing that you managed to reinvent Russian Caravan tea! Astonishing to hear that it can be risky buying it from ill-reputed tea sellers! I’m glad you’ve come across a satisfactory way to make your own. I like the idea of the tea caddy that goes everywhere with you. 🙂



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