Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Scottish Breakfast (caffeinated)

I had an old box of Taylors of Harrogate tea that I wanted to contrast with my fresh packet from Upton. I brewed both for 4 minutes at 212F and added milk. The main difference was strength; I put the two cups side by side and could tell, even with the same amount of milk, which was the better brew. I tossed out the Harrogate tea and finished the Upton one. At first it was difficult to enjoy, since I'm still in an Oolong frame of mind (tongue?), and black teas seem rather dull, dusty, and one-dimensioned in comparison. But after about three sips, I was hooked. The Upton Scottish Blend tea, a mix of Assam, Ceylon, and Yunnan (Harrogate was pure Assam), had a sort of meatiness to it, aside from the flavor from the milk. Today, October 12, the weather dipped suddenly into a cool damp phase after a longish stretch of truly lovely clear "Indian Summer" weather (I've been told Indian Summer can only happen after the first frost, which hasn't occurred yet in this region). So it was the perfect day for a cup of Scottish tea. The sheep in the picture above are Soay, a primitive small breed that lives only on the outer isles of Scotland. They are remarkable for their stoic qualities  if not their wool or meat, which are as meager as the land they live on. They are about 55 pounds, as big as a medium-sized dog. Primitive breeds like the Soay shed their outer coat once or twice a year, and you can gather it and spin it if you really want to but it's probably not worth the effort. According to this website, the Soay are "aloof, wary, and graceful," and they also sometimes "stott (sprint-jump on all fours) when alarmed or exuberant." If I ever live on such an island I'll get a few and watch them stott while sipping Scottish tea.

Scotch Pancakes, mmm
The perfect accompaniment to my tea would have been a Scotch pancake. This is not really a pancake as Americans know it, but rather a sweeter, less moist variety that is served room temperature and can be eaten on its own or with jam and clotted cream. (Syrup would be disgusting.)

In the absence of Scotch pancakes (one of the things I could not find locally in NYC, at least not yet, unless I made them myself; I have no need to learn how to make another delicious baked goodie), I satisfied myself with just the tea. Caffeine hit was milder than I expected, 5 out of 10, but I drank the cup slowly over an hour, keeping it warm on my coffee-cup warmer at my desk.

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