The Gospel of Cucumber Water

cuke-water

I don’t remember now who it was who first told me about cucumber water, or even when or where I first read something about it. I am grateful to whoever he/she/it was, as this summer I’ve been enjoying consecutive batches of this amazingly tasty and refreshing beverage.

How could something so refreshing, so tasty, so inexpensive, and – most importantly – so easy to make have escaped my notice for 67 years??? Up until recently, I relied almost exclusively on iced tea to get my often-thirsty self through Atlanta’s summers, with an occasional foray into homemade (or, more often, store-bought) lemonade or limeade.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing superior to a tall glass of perfectly made iced tea. (“Perfectly made” meaning, for me, chemically balanced: exactly the right amount of sugar combined with exactly the optimum number of lemon wedges. Woe be to the restaurant server who thinks I’m kidding when I order that absurdly overpriced $2.00 glass of sweet tea “with extra lemons, please,” or who later oblivously re-fills my glass without bringing me additional lemons.)

My life-long habit of drinking sweet iced tea virtually every day was further strengthened recently when I found out I could successfully replicate the iced tea recipes taught me by my sister Gayle (let the teabags steep in the boiled water for as long as you can – several hours instead of a few minutes) and by my friend Moondragon (who routinely brews his using half Lady Grey teabags, half regular).

Hence my chagrin at finding that, for the first summer ever, I’ve been alternating my habitual swilling of sweet iced tea with tumblers of chilled cucumber water.

The Internet abounds in variations of the basic cucumbers-submerged-in-water recipe. I’ve yet to try adding lemon slices and/or mint leaves, or mixing in some carbonated water along with the tap water. At some point I will probably experiment with each of those ideas.. Thus far, however, I’ve been extremely pleased with how wonderful the simplest ingredients – a third of a cucumber, sliced into a glass pitcher and covered with water, then refrigerated – has worked. And so cheap, too!

Incidentally, some of those numerous recipes on the Internet also trumpet the health benefits of cucumber water. (Example.) So that’s another piece of the Good News.

At any rate, for someone as maniacal about tea as I have always been (a daily early morning consumer, even in summer, of a favorite brand of hot tea as well as, at lunch or dinner, iced tea), this recent addition of chilled cucumber water to my daily beverage repertoire is nothing short of revolutionary. I’m especially glad that zero sugar is involved.

I think I’ve finally found a way to drink almost as much water as I’m always being warned I should consume every day. So, yay!

Another Superior Tea

Cup of hot tea

For many years, I’ve served most visitors sharing a pot of tea with me at my house my favorite British tea, Typhoo. A longtime champion of this excellent tea, I will probably continue to offer it to visitors as the default brew.

However, from now on, returning visitors may be astonished to hear me offering them the chance to try another British brand besides Typhoo: Yorkshire Gold.

This tea isn’t totally new to me, and before I discovered Typhoo on a trip to England, Yorkshire Gold had for several years been my favorite, ever since I first ran across it in a tea shop in (of all places) Akron, Ohio.

Before the Yorkshire Gold era began at my house all those years ago, my tea preferences – we’re talking hot tea here – had bounced around from one tea to another until I’d accumulated quite a hoard of different brands. Here’s what my crowded “tea shrine” looks like today:

Mostly Christmas 2014 073

And there’s a similarly over-stocked wall o’ tea at the cabin.

A few years ago, the extent of my home tea collection had gotten so unwieldy that, for a brief time, I handed visitors a typed-up tea menu to select from. That scheme seemed to annoy rather than delight most of my visitors, however, so I quickly abandoned the menu method of selecting the brew du jour and returned to serving various different types of tea according to my whim or mood at the moment…until that trip to Akron.

Yorkshire Gold then reigned supreme at my house until that fateful trip to England, and it’s been Typhoo, Typhoo, Typhoo for me every morning since, and for everyone else who’s wanted hot tea at my house. (I keep on hand a stash of decaffeinated Typhoo for the tea taken after sundown.)

This past Christmas, however, a friend gave me a box of Yorkshire Gold. It had been many years since I’d purchased a box of YG teabags, but I remembered the way the box looked from having seen it so often in local grocery stores – which for some reason are far more likely to stock YG than Typhoo. And I remembered, too, that I had once preferred YG to all other British brands of tea. So I duly and gratefully re-arranged my already-crowded tea shrine to make room for this gift box of YG tea bags – my stash of Typhoo having its own privileged location on the Lazy Susan atop my microwave oven and next to the electric tea kettle my friend Roger had given me for Christmas in 2013.

When I added the box of YG to the dozens of other teas in my tea shrine, I wasn’t planning to make a cup of it any time soon. One day early this month, however, I impulsively decided to brew myself a morning cup of YG as a sort of New Year experiment, expecting to return the following day to my old standby. But morning after morning, I have found myself reaching for my box of YG instead of Typhoo.

The truth is that Typhoo is stronger than YG – or, to put it another way, YG is “smoother” than Typhoo. A cup of YG has not even a hint of a bitter aftertaste. If I want a rich, full-bodied pot of tea – especially in the afternoon, or along with a proper breakfast with a visiting friend (the only time I eat breakfast at home), it’ll most likely be Typhoo that I’ll choose. But on those breakfast-less mornings when I want to start the day without something quite so strong – but with something still extremely flavorful – I may keep on preferring YG! That’s what’s happened thus far this year, anyway – and it’s already mid-January. (Incidentally, both brands are best with sugar and a splash of half-and-half.)

This recent run of morning YG has gone on so long now, I’ve begun to wonder:

• When the gift box of YG runs low, will I replace it with another box, or will I lazily return to the also-excellent Typhoo?

• If YG ends up occupying a permanent place in my crowded tea shrine, will I end up alternating between Typhoo and YG every morning?

• How many of my visitors will end up preferring the latter to the former, once they’re given the choice?

Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, you might want to give YG a try yourself, next time you espy a box of it at your local grocery. Like Typhoo, YG has an interesting history. And, like Typhoo, you can obtain it online. Finally, you need not take my word for the claim that YG ranks up there in the Top Five British Black Teas: the internet is full of dozens of reviews. Last time I checked, there were over 50 screenfuls of reviews for YG at Amazon.com, and that’s merely one review-laden site.

Yorkshire Gold Tea

A Typhoo Tea Tale

Typhoo tea #2I first learned about Typhoo tea during one of my trips to England. Typhoo’s been around since the early 1900s, but I’d never seen it in the U.S. or even heard of it before that trip. It’s not a specialty tea company, and it’s a widely-stocked brand in England and Ireland, but, compared to other brands (including the also-British-made PG Tips) it’s rather difficult to find in the United States – or, at least, in Atlanta.

Having returned from that England trip hooked on Typhoo, I began searching for it here, and for several years reluctantly schlepped up to Norcross (which I consider the Far Side of the Moon) to buy it from The Taste of Britain shop (shoppe?) there. Then my friend Kris discovered that a couple of Publix supermarkets stocked it in their “British Foods” sections, and I later found that Whole Foods stores (well some of them, not all) also sold it. On one of the days a few years ago that I spent driving around the city to find some Typhoo, none of these places had it and so for awhile I resorted to ordering it through an Internet -basedcompany specializing in British foods.

Like any addict, I get a bit nervous when I notice that my Typhoo stash is beginning to dwindle, and I dread the annoying suspense and trouble involved in trying to find a place where I can replenish my supply. Over the years, friends who have learned how fervently I like this brand of tea will locate some and give it to me as a birthday or Solstice present, which is always wonderful. (I’ve been trying to convince my friends and family that at my great age I’d rather they give me edible presents than more knickknacks, and more of my friends and family members are remembering this.)

At any rate, I’d been assuming that, other than the occasional passing fear that Typhoo might go out of business during my lifetime, that the Perpetual Periodic Search for More Typhoo was going to be the only problem associated with making sure I always had some Typhoo in my larder.

Wrong. Last month, having again run out of Typhoo, I began the Great Search. I finally found a box over at the Publix on Clairemont Road (a store I otherwise seldom set foot in). Much to my surprise and chagrin, however, the tea was packaged in an unfamiliar-looking box, and the box contained not the distinctive round, cordless teabags I’d been using for a decade, but standard rectangular-shaped U.S.-style teabags, complete with annoying tag and microwave-unfriendly staple. Boo! Hiss! Could this mean that – gasp! – Typhoo was phasing out its old-style teabags? Did I now have yet another problem associated with keeping on hand an adequate supply of this kitchen staple?

Completely out of Typhoo at that moment, I reluctantly bought the box of offensively-shaped teabags and began using them, wondering how I might manage buying up all the packages of round-shaped Typhoo teabags that remain in the galaxy.

Before undertaking such a tedious quest, I decided to first email the powers that be at Typhoo and find out the relevant facts. Lo and behold, within 24 hours I heard back from someone at the company (further sealing my loyalty to this brand) and the news was good! Here are excerpts of what one Rahul Kale, Typhoo’s “Director of International Business,” wrote in response to my anxious concerns:

In the US market we sell two different type of Typhoo packs – one is a 80 count tea bag pack and another one is a 100 count tea bag pack. The 80 count pack is round tea bags (strong British blend – 3.125 gram tea per tea bags), while the 100 count tea bag pack has string and tag tea bags (American style tea bag with 2.00 gram tea)….We launched both the formats in the American market as there is a demand for both these packs bearing in mind 80% of Americans drink tea in a string and tag tea bag format and as a company we want to be part of the mainstream tea bag market. The consumption for 3.125 gram round tea bags is mainly with the consumers who shop in the Irish and British sets and drink tea with milk….Let me assure you that the demand for 80 count round tea bag is increasing every day in America and it is in fact our best seller.

Kale also reminded me that both World Market/Cost Plus and BigLots stock Typhoo, which was very helpful to know because, for political reasons, I don’t like to spend money at Publix or Whole Foods.

So, then, yay! No need to scour the planet (or the Internet) for Typhoo round-teabag suppliers, or to worry about the disappearance of those little round teabags!

This may seem a trivial subject to celebrate (or to document), but you’d think otherwise if you knew how much pleasure my daily cups of Typhoo bring me…and bring to the many Typhoo converts who first sampled this brand of tea from my teapot. The good news from Typhoo is just one more pleasant minor surprise that’s been part of the new year.

Another pleasant January 2014 surprise: my friend Randall’s thoughtfully providing (as a belated Solstice present) a huge additional stash of Typhoo for Calvin’s kitchen:

Typhoo

I’m throwing away what’s left of those pesky non-round teabags that the Publix so tackily stocked its shelves with, and am making plans – after the stash Randall gave me runs out (probably around my birthday in July) – to make a run to the CostPlus store up in Buckhead for my next stash…or to the BigLots store at Suburban Plaza (if the Wal-Mart that’s running off everything there now hasn’t ruined that option for me).

If you haven’t yet tried Typhoo yourself, beware! Once you have, it’s going to be difficult to want to drink anything else! (It’s most wonderful with half-and-half, by the way.) Oh, and one can buy the loose-tea version as well as the teabag version, and they sell a de-caf variety as well. (And if you like this brand as much as I do, you’re going to want a stash of de-caf so you can drink a cup of Typhoo on cold winter nights.)

Here’s a bunch of photos of what Typhoo tea looks like, so you can spot it quickly on the shelves.

End of commercial plug.

Typhoo tea #3