In François Ozon’s film “8 femmes”, Danielle Darrieux declares most emphatically that her port had been poisoned, “on a drogué mon porto!”, she screams out. Of course, nobody did such a thing, she just needed some kind of excuse for her blatant misconduct in family matters. Now, every time when I have a glass of port, I automatically (and smilingly) think of Danielle Darrieux, that great French actress, that some time later in the film gets hit on the head with a bottle of wine by her daughter, played by none other than Catherine Deneuve. Strangely, I never think of Catherine Deneuve, the even grander French actress, when I have a glass of wine—now why that is, I wonder…
There are many powerful couples in the history of mankind. There’s Caesar and Cleopatra, Bonnie and Clyde, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, Napoleon and Josephine, Miss Marple and Mr Stringer, Norman Bates and his mother, and many more. And then there’s peppermint and lemon (not to be confused with the Peanuts’ Peppermint Patty and that car by Volkswagen), in summer they make the perfect drink, the perfect refreshment, the perfect remedy against heat. Admittedly, they need a little help from their friends mineral water and sugar, but who doesn’t need a little support in life? Together, they quench thirst most wonderfully, and, I must say, quite healthily, too. Cheers! (Writing this, I miss summer even more…)
It’s never been that hot. Never. For the first time ever, we did not find a single place in our garden that would offer some shade for our tea time. We were stranded. Heatstroked. Sunstroked. Roasted. Burnt. All dried out. All in all, we were desperate—until my father discovered a tiny spot under the ivy covered apple tree. Shade! We went nuts and decided to skip tea and prepone happy hour. A bar was improvised. Ice cubes were fetched. Lemonade was made. Shy beginnings, you know. Then gin was poured. Laughter got louder. People started singing. My mother got kissed by my father. It was heaven! And so I come up with one new maxim: summer can be heaven, if shade and drinks can be delivered. Mark my words!
It’s strange that all of my favourite teas are named after some men of nobility, English and Russian aristocrats like Earl Grey and Prince Vladimir, both obviously with a penchant for citrus fruits, agrumes, as the French call them, in fact, bergamot is quite elegant an aroma, especially when compared to the bitter-sweet smoke than infuses your air when brewing a lapsang souchong, no Mediterranean orchards come to mind, you’re rather transported to some opium den in 1920s Shanghai, quite depraved a situation, you wanted nothing but tea and refreshment and suddenly you’re an outcast looking for oblivion, although I’m suddenly remembering a rather smokey blend by Twinings named Prince of Wales, but as there were also opium dens that mirrored the finest to be found in China, with luxurious trappings and female attendants—why not to HRH The Prince of Wales? And then there’s that Frenchman Mirabeau, a count involved in numerous scandals before and after 1789, he rooted for both king and revolution, nobody ever knew whose side he was ever really on—knowing this, it’s amazing he died of natural causes. Liquorice and lychee in Mariage Frères’ Mirabeau blend reflect quite accordingly his ambiguity: a down to earth character as long as the earth is done in chinoiserie.