26 February 2012

My cup of tea

About two years ago I discovered, to my horror, that a even single cup of tea or coffee was elevating my blood pressure substantially for several days. As well as monitoring my blood pressure, I checked out my experience on the internet, discovering that although the condition is not especially common, it is well-recorded. Sadly, decaffeination does not resolve the issue: I know this because I tried switching to decaffeinated tea and coffee. I think that the problem is, in part, that decaffeination does not remove all the caffeine, and in part because teas and coffees contain a cocktail of potent chemicals, some or many of which are unaffected by the decaffeination process. On reflection, I now recall that if I drank tea on an empty stomach, such as before breakfast, I would feel extremely nauseous until I ate something substantial. Further, drinking cheap green tea was likely to make me feel nauseous regardless of the repleteness of my stomach.

I still hanker after a nice cup of both tea and coffee. I would give much once again to be able to sip a delicate sencha (Japanese), a smoky lapsang souchong (Chinese), a light darjeeling (Indian), a malty assam (Indian), an aromatic Earl Grey (Imperial British), or even just a fruity flavoured tea, such as lemon or peach. There is a type of Chinese tea, puer tea, the name of which I frequently forget, that costs the earth because it gets buried in the ground for a year or something, that I never knew about until after I stopped drinking tea. Many years ago I was given a pack of russian caravan tea, but I did not rate it especially highly. Likewise the cannonball tea, the leaves of which were rolled into small pellets. The mountains of the moon tea I drank at Betty's in York was remarkable only in name. On the other hand, when I was in Japan, I mostly drank roasted tea. Now I can no longer drink tea, I am limited to tisannes. For a reason I do not understand, I can only drink a small quantity of chamomile. Every day I make myself an infusion of hawthorn, linden and marshmallow. I struggle to drink a litre of it through the day even though it barely tastes of anything. I find both hibiscus and rosehip too acidic and astringent. Blackcurrant elevates my blood pressure, as does licorice. I can usually drink something that has strawberries in it, so a red berry or fruits of the forest melange can be okay, although the tea bags of this name that I bought in Italy were fairly disgusting. In contrast, the elaborate tisanes avaiilable in Germany, including in the motorway service staations, were extremely pleasant, being made with chunks of dried fruit and visiible slivers of spices: although expensive, they were worth drinking.

My coffee needs are much easier to describe: give me a decently-made (that is, topped with an appopriate espresso 'crema') double espresso made with finely-ground Monsoon(ed) Malabar beans (a richly-flavoured coffee from south west India the flavour of which is deepened and matured in the monsoon winds of Northern Kerala - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsooned_Malabar).