As I pull the large burgundy ceramic mug to my lips, I inhale one of the sweetest aromas possible ... the smell of a fine British tea.
The taste is just as appealing ... not bitter, not sweet -- just smooth and rich and lovely.
I refuse to buy cheap grocery store teas. Nope, not even Twinings, which is British tea but definitely not the finest.
At the far eastern end of the picturesque cobbled main street of downtown La Mesa, California, past used bookshops and antique stores with furniture spilling out of open doors is a battered and worn Tudor-style shop. Above its simple brown walls and several bay windows is a faint name in peeling white paint: "All Things Bright and British".
This is the only place I will buy my tea.
The older ladies who run the shop never fail to greet me and B with "Good morning, dearies," spoken in a soft British accent that falls somewhere between London and Yorkshire -- probably mid-Britain, I'd guess. (I'm obviously no expert on British accents.) We pass by the British newspapers and the treacle tarts wrapped in cellophane to the tea wall, and at eye level are pastel-colored boxes of Taylors of Harrogate (Family of Fine Tea Merchants, est. 1886). I deftly remove two boxes: a pink one with gold leaf: Decaffeinated, and a blue one with gold: Scottish Breakfast.
These teas are smooth, fragrant, and luxurious. I grasp a box in either hand as I peruse the other eatables in the shop: candies and tarts, shortbread and canned goods. I mosey into the back of the shop where outrageously expensive tea sets tempt me. In the past I have purchased here a tea cosy patterned with purple pansies, a tea towel of Devonshire wildflowers, and a wooden tea tray for serving guests. I want to replace my miniature "Brown Betty" pot (I broke the spout when I dropped it last autumn) which was perfect for my daily tea, but frown at the price. Perhaps another day.
I chat about gardening with the British woman who tallies my total, slips B a small piece of shortbread, and sends us on our way with her cheery "Come again, dearies!"
So, if you ever come to my home, I will get out my large blue "Betty" teapot, my blue-and-white patterned Marywood china cups, sugar bowl, and creamer, my silver tea strainer, and my lovely wooden serving tray, and we'll have a warm, cosy cuppa REAL British tea.