TEA11th March 2020
Forgot to post this Sun Tel col last week. Here we go…
When I was a teenager, I went to a friend’s house for tea. ‘Chinese or Indian?’ her mother asked as I hovered in the kitchen.
I remember thinking this was a bit rum. What sort of dissolute family orders a takeaway at 4pm in the afternoon? Not wishing to be impolite, I blurted ‘Indian’ on the basis I prefer curries and poppadoms to noodles. A few moments later, she presented me with a cup of Darjeeling.
As can happen when one is young and impressionable, I mentally noted this down as an example to follow in the future. Until then, I’d believed that Twinings was the poshest of all the teas, especially Earl Grey and Lady Grey since they were named after actual toffs. ‘Chinese or Indian?’ seemed to offer hitherto unimagined levels of sophistication on the tea-front.
It was only when I started my arduous job touring big houses for Tatler, interviewing their inhabitants about their stuffed polar bears and 17th century mazes, that I realised that the truly posh tend prefer much more basic tea. PG Tips or Yorkshire Tea. Yorkshire Tea! I’d always snottily assumed that this was the sort of tea which people on Heartbeat drank and yet here was a duke handing me a mug of the stuff. Milk of a dubious age came from a jug with an ancient piece of clingfilm stretched over the top of it. No doubt he had a Jamaica Ginger cake in the larder and liked scrambled eggs for supper. Nursery tastes.
This is why the decision of our new chancellor to pose in front of a sack of Yorkshire Tea this week wasn’t quite as ‘man of the people’ as he might have imagined. Sorry, Rishi, it’s makes a great cuppa but I’m afraid the choice also puts you right up there with certain members of the aristocracy. Well, them and Liam Gallagher. This week, our prime minister’s sister Rachel revealed that the former Oasis badman sent her a stern email after she interviewed him and mistakenly wrote that he drank PG Tips instead of Yorkshire Tea. ‘Anyone who is anyone knows that PG Tips are for squares!’ Liam thundered.
These days, alas, you’re more likely to go to a friend’s place where they’ll fling open a cupboard and reveal a bewildering array of expensive herbal teas, all dressed in their own silky sleeping bags. ‘I’ve got lemon and ginger, I’ve got chamomile or I’ve got something with fennel in it,’ they’ll say proudly, as if drinking fennel-flavoured hot water would be a treat. They all taste the same anyway. I am yet to meet a herbal teabag which makes me think ‘Ooh, that was so good I must buy some myself.’ And don’t get me started on green tea, which smacks of fish. You might as well swallow the contents of a goldfish bowl. I’ve also noticed an increased tendency for people to demand ‘fresh mint’ at the end of a dinner party or in a restaurant on the basis it’s ‘good for digestion’. Sure, that’ll help the beef wellington go down.
Stick to Yorkshire, I reckon. Especially in these troubling times. According to my Hong Kong friend, the city’s shops have run out of garlic after a rumour spread that if you boil eight cloves in seven cups of water and somehow manage to drink this, you’ll ward off coronavirus. So if you’re offered ‘Chinese or Indian?’ any time soon, definitely plump for the latter.
I don’t mean to panic anyone but I’ve heard rumours of resurrection in Sussex. Following the news that Harry and Meghan aren’t allowed to use the word ‘Royal’ to flog their novelty keyrings, I’m informed by a mole who lives near Chichester that the good people of Sussex wouldn’t mind if the couple stopped besmirching their county at the same time. When Edward VIII abdicated, his brother granted him the dukedom of Windsor because it was the ‘family name’. I’m not sure what Windsor residents felt at the time but perhaps their emotions ran as high as they appear to be in Sussex right now. What can be done? And are there any readers who can enlighten us on the feelings of those who live in York?
An article about Milan fashion week a few days ago declared that ‘shoulders’ are back. Thank heavens for that, eh? Don’t know what I’d do without mine. My handbag would slip straight to the ground. Perhaps more relevant for us Sunday Telegraph sorts is the news that wellies are back in vogue. In Milan, Prada, Versace and Bottega Veneta all sent models stomping down the catwalk in ‘new-gen wellies’. These are not the sorts you see on Pony Club mothers. The wellies were mostly vibrantly coloured with very thick soles, worn with flippy skirts. Slip on your Le Chameau with a kilt and you might get a similar effect. If someone sends our Prime Minister a pink pair, perhaps he could head to the flood plains for an inspection.