Today, it was a lovely, drizzly morning, with an unsually-large gathering of eerily-quiet seagulls (where’s Hitchcock when you need him?). The forecast said “Rain” with a picture of a cuddly cloud weeing out a few drops, so naturally I expected something a bit more like this:
Surprisingly, it really was just a bit of drizzle, which understandably made me a bit homesick. So I stopped by the Dunkin’ Donuts on my way to work (the only coffeehouse that’s actually on my way to the train station) and ordered a “hot tea”. It really doesn’t mean anything special – but otherwise they’ll think you want an iced black tea with a lemon wedge shoved in there. So yes, you do have to ask for milk and sugar. Like a nonce.
The tea bag actually says “regular tea”, which is about as useful as a bottle of white wine called “White Wine”. It’s incredibly weak (and this is coming from a non Lapsang-souchong person), so by the time I’ve walked to the station, waited 10 minutes for my train, then finished my 27-minute train journey, it’s reached a somewhat kind of discernible…flavour. Unfortunately, it’s also lukewarm.
So, in the absence of tea-rooms, where does one go locally to get good tea for the commute?
While there’s nowhere with a mostly-tea menu, not even in downtown Boston (not after Cambridge-based Tealuxe closed up shop on Newbury St), you can find some decent offerings if you’re willing to try and test a few places. Like any fusspot knows, it’s not just about the types of tea they carry, but it’s also how they brew it.
From Le Richoux to Costa Coffee, any place in England either already has a kettle on, or will serve you up a full pot of tea with a teeny tiny teacup. Over here, you are getting one cup and one cup only (with the exception of Gulu-Gulu, who will give you an adorable little stainless steel teapot), and your barista will most likely either make you wait for it to steep (which they even do in a British Starbucks), or plonk the teabag in there and leave it for you to decide.
Based on the range of teas, Front Street Coffeehouse (20 Front St), is probably the best bet, because their teas are fresh and loose-leaf, and their baristas are fairly knowledgeable and creative when mixing different varieties and flavours. One Autumn they tried out a “London Fog” – Earl Grey, vanilla syrup and steamed milk. I liked it, and you can still order it, but it’s not a chalkboard-featured item anymore.
Coven (281 Essex St) (update 2012 – closed 😦 :() is a close second because they make an effort to get in unusual varieties, as opposed to the other cafes that will just order in mass stock of Mighty Leaf Tea (not that that’s bad, but you may as well buy it from the supermarket to make at home). Their chocolate flavouring is also made in-house, which goes perfect with a strong, malty black tea like the Bolivian Black or English Breakfast. I usually order it iced – just black tea (no milk or sugar), chocolate and ice. Simple, but brilliant.
My favourite tea, however, is the maltiest one of all – the Assam. But sadly, there is nowhere decent to get a cup. And that leaves me with the choice of either bringing in little baggies of Assam (either Twinings brought from abroad or a different brand they sell at Milk and Honey – 32 Church St), so that I look like a druggie, or staying home and making my own cuppa.
And I guess, at the end of a long, cold, gull-infested day like today, that’s probably exactly what I’m looking forward to. Tea is so much better for you in many ways – it’s more hydrating, has less caffeine (per cup), and makes you happy (just look at the difference between the adorable, “tea drinking” candids and the miserable/forced-smiles “coffee drinking” bastards on Google Images). Even the SAS drink it!
A cuppa also just tastes and feels different after a long, dreary, drizzly day (maybe because it’s not being served in a paper cup – or worse – a styrofoam cup). A proper cup of tea in mug is like a great big warm hug 🙂
Especially when it’s in a mug like this: