2013 is ostensibly the year of the breakfast and about time too. Is it just me or is everything (about breakfast) shit? From dried flakes of corn sprayed with vitamins for a premium price in an irritatingly bright box to wannabe continental pastries that flop with industrial man-handling to ‘gourmet’ museli (oats with extras in a brown box) to the likes of a grande iced half caf triple mocha latte macchiato with a shot of Christmas gingerbread syrup to go, the British breakfast is in dire need of holding its head high above the seething cesspit of marketing ploys that has become the first meal of the day.
The good news? 2012 has seen coffee pulling away from the multi-barelled, mass-produced and into the small independents. My predictions for 2013? Tea is about to do the same. Bring on the devilled kidneys, kippers and bacon with a cup of the finest brew. It’s time to get fussy about tea.
According to Jonathon Jones, commercial and garden director for the Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall, “As a nation of tea drinkers, we have allowed ourselves to be narrowed down.” He is right: we have essentially accepted the monoculture of golden brews chosen for us and which mostly consists of PG Tips or Tetley with a few subversive Earl Grey drinkers on the side. If, like Shayne House, one of the founders of The Tea Appreciation Society, you accept that: “Tea is like wine,” then the equivalent would be to drink only reds that are Merlot, or whites that are Chardonnay.
It’s a move that will require a bit of investment: time, knowledge and approximately 16 – 17 pence. On average, we pay one or two pence a cup while a premium Cornish brew would cost you up to 18 pence. At Tregothnan, the philosophy is not just to introduce different blends but also to move away from the bag, or as Jonathon delightfully calls it, the ‘stocking’: “We don’t like tea bags and don’t want to be making them. We want the world to drink loose tea but have to be realistic. We sell more tea bags than loose tea but I think the balance will shift in the next 12 months.”
Detoxing yourself from the bag requires a little sieve-like ball for infusing, works just like a tea bag but it’s metal and tastes a whole lot better. Tregothnan have produced their very own limited edition Christmas Manuka Blend (£5 for 20g), perfect to brew in a ball. While the recipe is a closely guarded secret, it is essentially a blend of Manuka (twig, flower, leaf and all) and Tregothnan tea leaves blended with home-grown pepper leaf and cinnamon. The result is a less bitter, more rounded tasting version of the straight Manuka that is refreshing and light, an ideal first cup to ease the day in or indeed, as a post Christmas meal refresher.
Manuka honey is already prized for its antioxidant properties, whereas the health benefits of the tea are less well-known. The bushes themselves were brought to the Tregothnan estate from New Zealand in the 1800s, where the Maoris already valued the antioxidant qualities of infusing the bush in hot water.
At a time of resolutions, however badly kept, a move away from the stocking to the ball may just transform your morning breakfast in 2013. Bin the cereal, get out the lard and fry something that fuels you for the day with a cup of something grown a little closer to home.