Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Red Rose Tea memories

Periodically, I'll hear someone ask how I got into tea.  Or it's a common interview question when tea obsessives are interviewed.  Logical question, isn't it?

Because I've written this blog with the tea newcomer in mind, I'm always looking for things that'd be interesting for just such readers.  

I've mentioned Cara in Cleveland before when I wrote Must one study tea to really appreciate it?, and she's told me a bit about a brand I've not yet tried called Red Rose Tea.

The thing is I can't really call Cara in Cleveland a newcomer to tea, because she's shared tea with her grandmother most of her life.  Part of this blog's mission is to lure people over to the leaf-side.  Although she already associates tea drinking with pleasant memories of loved ones, she's not really convinced on this whole tea drinking lark.

I'm rather certain that if we find the right sort of tea, Cara in Cleveland will gladly come join us on the leaf-side.

More on that at a later time.  What I want to do today is let Cara tell us in her own words what tea drinking means to her.  I asked her to tell me about the tea that reminds her of the times she's had with her grandmother.  Here's what she wrote:

I never slept well away from home and Grandma always seemed to know when I was awake and nervous. We would sit in the front room; in the dim light of a flickering orange bulb meant to simulate a candle. She would bring small crackers covered in butter and mugs of Red Rose Tea.

I didn't like the tea then; it was strange with an earthy smell and tasted like the oak leaves that got in my mouth in the fall when I jumped in large piles my Grandfather raked but slightly sweeter. I drank it because I got listen to Grandma her tell stories. Sometimes she would talk about my mother as a child or me when I was a  baby but if I was very lucky and she had just purchased a new box she would give me the figurine.
Red Rose Tea started in Canada in the late 1800's as a loose leaf tea and came to the States in the 1920's in bags. The company started a promotional give away  in the 1960's; each box of tea included a Wade figurine. These small figurines became highly collectible and my collection lived on Grandma's kitchen windowsill for years. I still get excited now, some 30 years later, when I open a box and find my figurine. My most recent purchase included a miniature Uncle Sam which now sits comfortably in my shadowbox next to a kitten sitting on top of a Jack-o-lantern.
Grandma used Red Rose Tea for her iced tea as well, she would set a large container of water and a handful of floating tea bags on the back steps in the summer to steep in the sun. I remember that large container with yellow daisies painted on it and the bright yellow lid. It was usually a blur as I burst out of the back door and skipped down the steps to make my flamboyant entrance in the pool. My summer lunches included that sun tea (with extra lemon and a heaping tablespoon of sugar) and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

My wonderful adventures with my Grandfather stopped four years ago and tea with my Grandmother is now just a few precious times a year. I have grown accustomed to the taste of Red Rose Tea and drink it more for nostalgic reasons than anything. That strange taste, I've never quite grown to like, on my tongue releases wonderful memories of times I miss.

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