As a novice tea drinker in 2005 I had the pleasure of visiting Kuwait, on a business trip. Kuwait city is officially a ‘dry’ country’, where alcohol is prohibited, so what better drink to refresh than with tea, whilst waiting for colleagues in the evening.
I was staying in Kuwait City and came across a small teashop, within the reception or lobby area selling exclusively Ronnefeldt branded tea. I tried the Morgen Tau, which was delicious & have never looked back.
A subsequent visit to Sri Lanka in 2011 and the obligatory Tea plantation tour for Jacqueline (I was still largely one of the uninitiated by this time in 2011, hence the tone of ‘reluctant resignation’). We visited Handunugoda Tea factory, Tittagalla, Ahangama, off the western coast road 30 minutes north of Galle. I found this fascinating from both a cultural & technical perspective. I also found another favourite tea, allegedly so pure the young leaves are cut when still unfurled, by virgins, with gold scissors. A lovely story for their signature ‘Virgin White’ tea. It is a very delicate tea and admittedly one of my favourites.
Incidentally, the owner, Herman Gunaratne, wrote a very interesting book on his life, ‘The Suicide Club: A Virgin Tea Planter’s Story’ about the changes experienced as the Country moved from Ceylon to Sri Lanka. He has a website, albeit incomplete, explaining the process: http://hermanteas.com/virgin-white-tea/#. However, I tend to drink this for a special occasion, as it is expensive, regardless where it’s from due to it’s scarcity.
As a daily tea, I like Darjeeling, but made wrong can taste burnt & bitter: It needs to be poured with approx 90°C (200 F) water (or a few seconds off the boil), and brewed for 3 minutes, not left to stew or guaranteed it’s too bitter. Good quality ingredients are a must, Darjeeling is the one tea I find differs the most by manufacturer or brand. My favourite whilst in the UAE is the small 20 pack boxes from Carrefour. Strangely enough, it’s the one tea I find no-one ever tends to stock in hotels & restaurants.
[Update Jan 17: We learn as we go along: Darjeeling has been given Special Geographical Indication SGI Status to protect its rare tea from copy-cat producers. Only 87 designated gardens produce this naturally distinctive flavour unable to be replicated elsewhere]