“Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one”

The ancient Chinese proverb above encapsulates the sentiment I felt in lockdown last year on a ship heading for Italy at the height of the pandemic. Without warning, the Captain sent us to our cabins, and we did not come out for more than a week.

Apart from the fear of the unknown situation and health implications, another awful aspect of being locked up was not drinking tea (or wine). The crew were under strict orders to not interact with us and left trays of food on the floor by our cabin door and hurried away after banging on the door and shouting at each occupied cabin. It was always no when it came to requests for tea. Why is it still a mystery? As an avid tea drinker, suddenly the simple pleasure of a cup of tea, something one takes for granted not being available was a low point

“A home without tea is just a house” Mighty Tea Leaf

As per normal protocol kettles and tea-making facilities are not provided onboard ships although, several friends had bought small portable ones with them. Once the pandemic eases, and if we resume travelling, I will never go away without one again. Oddly I came across an advertisement for MSC ships dated 2018, that states all cabins have tea making facilities! Far from the truth in this case.

The experience reinforced what I have said many times before that sipping hot tea is restorative and calming in stressful situations. Tea soothes the nerves and allows one to think clearly and at the same time, relax. Yes, I would much rather have gone without food than missing my cups of tea. Being an early riser I had quite regularly onboard the ship, sipped tea early in the morning at a small sunny cafe that opened first. The tea was Assam -strong, malty and invigorating.

The spirit of the tea beverage is one of peace,comfort and refinement.” Arthur Gray

Assam tea is grown in the Assam region of India,. Assam is in Brahmaputra Valley in northeast India and borders Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Assam tea is full-bodied, and strong with a malty flavour due to the terrain and climate where the tea leaves are grown-at sea level, in a warm, wet climate. This brings about a unique taste. It is said that Assam is the largest tea growing region in the world.

Time went slowly in the cabin for the week of lockdown with only two books we had both read, Tv was poor and in Italian. Still, I was grateful for the window and my laptop despite weak internet service. The rituals of tea making, offering a tea and the small gestures of being asked if I’d like a Tea was what I missed as well as actually drinking tea?

” There is little in life a good cup of tea cannot cure.”

Before our lockdown, we enjoyed High Tea in several places overseas. One that stood out was in the bistro of three Michelin star chef, Pierre Gagnaire in Dubai. A beautiful setting for a french style afternoon tea- sublime.

First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.”

George Orwell

Now we can enjoy tea whenever we want, including a cream or Devonshire tea on occasions as we did this week. I made Lemonade Scones this time instead of my typical buttermilk ones, and they were soft, light and crisp on the outside-delicious!

Recipe for Lemonade Scones

3 cups self-raising flour

A can or glass of lemonade approx. 330 mls

1 cup cream or a dob of butter, not both.

Raspberry or strawberry jam, to serve

Fresh whipped cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 220˚C

Line the oven tray with baking paper

Add the flour to a large bowl and aerate with your fingers for 2-3 minutes( if using butter rub into the flour lightly until the mix resembles breadcrumbs). Add lemonade and cream and lightly stir with a large knife. Be gentle. Place on a floured surface and with floured hands bring the mixture together and form into a mound ( gently) Cut into even pieces and place on the tray close together. Lightly brush the tops with milk and cook for 10-12 minutes until golden on the edges and sound hollow when tapped. Serve with jam and cream.

 “There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.” Bernard Paul Heroux

With so much more time spent these days at home why not enjoy a leisurely afternoon tea and scones? They are so easy to make and only take 5 minutes to prep, and 10 minutes to cook. My tip is to be light-fingered whilst making them, and they will be light and inviting. Bon appétit!

All images and content Di Baker 2021 all rights reserved.