FOOD & DRINK: DAILY BREAD

WHAT THE TEA MERCHANT ATE ONE DAY LAST WEEK
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The Independent Culture
I NORMALLY drink about nine to 15 cups of tea a day. Yesterday, as always, the first was a cup of English Breakfast Tea at around 7.30am. It's a mix of Indian for strength and Ceylon for lightness which gets me firing on all six cylinders. I also ate cornflakes, a poached egg, toast and marmalade.

When I arrived at my office at 8.30 I had a cup of light, bright Ceylon tea, and mid-morning drank a cup of real coffee. I have my teas either black or with a little milk. With Assam, English Breakfast and Darjeeling it's always MIF (milk in first). Delicate teas like jasmine and oolong I have black. I never put sugar in: it numbs the palate and it's bad for you.

Yesterday I visited our offices in London. For lunch: a brown bread sandwich filled with bacon and lettuce, which I ate with a very mild, mellow Darjeeling tea. When I'm tasting I do nothing to disturb the palate. Tea-tasters tend not to smoke, and you don't go out and have garlic for lunch or drink alcohol. I trained as a taster, and still taste from time to time, but I have to run the business as well.

I arrived home at about 5pm, and had some chocolate cake, another sandwich, a home-made bun and chocolate bourbons. I chose a very fine, full-bodied China tea. I choose my teas like wines, according to the weather, my mood and the food. On a hot day I'll have Lapsang Souchong, a lovely smoky tarry tea. If it's cold and miserable, then a malty pungent Assam really brightens me up. On an ordinary English day, I might have an oolong, which has the flavour of ripened peaches.

For supper - cold lamb with fresh peas and potatoes, followed by cheese and biscuits. I washed it down with Jasmine tea which I sipped it until bedtime. Jasmine doesn't keep you awake as it's very light and delicate and low in caffeine, and is a good aid to digestion. If I'm drinking wine, I find an Oolong goes well with white and a Yunnan with red. If I've had one of those classically English, sweet, sticky puddings, then Earl Grey does a superb job of clearing the palate.

As a child, tea was never forced down me, and I didn't have to join the family business. But it's been wonderful to have spent nearly 40 years of my life working with something as clean and good for you as tea.

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