Tea with an attitude.

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.

A Russian in the closet.

I think, actually, I’m pretty sure, I am Russian. How else could you explain all these traces of my Russian, how should we put it, homeland? Mother country? Native land? Everything in my kitchen, and there lives the soul, not in the living room, not in the drawing room (if you have so many rooms to pick a drawing room), no, these are only for showing off your good taste and status, but the soul of one’s home is to be found in the kitchen, there you find the things that define you, in my case, Russian teas. Admittedly, I bought most of the boxes not in Moscow but in Paris at La Grande Épicerie de Paris or, quite a tinier shopping experience, at the little Kusmi shop on rue de Seine, but who cares. The varieties are called St.Petersburg, Prince Vladimir or Russian Morning No. 24. Does it get any more Russian? I think not. Then there’s my Russian tea glass, ancient and hoary, from the time we still had the Czar. And everything’s red, red!, the most Russian colour of them all: the toaster, plain red, my salad cutlery (okay, it’s more to the lobster side of red, but still red), my cheese cleaver, my chopsticks (agreed, these are oxblood, a blue-ish oxblood, but still, they’re red) and even my detergent’s red. Have I given enough evidence? If only I spoke Russian to wish you a nice day in my mother language…