Some thoughts about drinking tea and reading books


Family Matters

When it comes to pastimes, my husband shares the same sentiment as C.S. Lewis: "You can never get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me."

Doug spent the better half of last year reading J.R.R. Tolkien's 1,400-page "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy aloud to the family and Karl Knausgaard's six-volume, 3,800-page autobiographical "My Struggle" silently to himself. (The latter is a bestseller in Norway, whence my husband's family originally hails.)

Moreover, he did the bulk of that reading with an enormous, 32-ounce cup of hot tea sitting beside him.

As is his thoughtful habit, Doug frequently prepares the same size cup for me, although the books I read are typically much shorter and the tea I sip much cooler by the time I drain the last drop from the cup.

Given my husband's fondness for new books and hot tea, when I spotted a slim volume titled "Tea Is Always a Good Idea" (edited by Elizabeth Gilbert) in the hidden corner of a bookshop shortly before Christmas, I knew we had to have it in our library.

And since January is National Hot Tea Month, I thought this would be a great time to share what we discovered by reading this book, in the form of a short quiz:

1. According to legend, tea was first discovered by whom?

a. by Tutankhamun, Pharaoh of Egypt

b. by Shennong, Emperor of China

c. by Charles Grey, Earl of Bergamot

d. by Fiacre, patron saint of medicinal herbs

2. Herbal, spice and floral "teas" are more accurately known as tisanes, infusions and decoctions. All true teas come from the plant Camellia sinensis. They include black, green, white and all but which of the following?

a. yellow

b. Chamomile

c. Oolong

d. Pu-erh

3. In 1773, a group of American patriots dressed as Native Americans threw 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor. Why?

a. to protest the poor quality of tea

b. to celebrate God's bountiful blessings

c. to protest the British tea tax

d. to counteract an algae bloom in the bay

4. American Thomas Sullivan invented the tea bag in 1908. Of what were those original tea bags made?

a. rice paper

b. cotton muslin

c. waxed parchment

d. hand-sewn silk

5. In 1930, William McKerchor introduced the CTC manufacturing method, which made tea more affordable by speeding up the production process. What does CTC refer to?

a. Crush, Tear, Curl

b. Controlled Toasting Conveyer

c. Cold Tea Compress

d. Cut, Trim, Crate

6. Tea is the second most consumed beverage on earth. What's the first?

a. milk

b. beer

c. Coca Cola

d. water

7. China is the top tea growing country by weight. What is the top tea exporting country by value?

a. United Kingdom

b. India

c. Kenya

d. Sri Lanka

8. On average, U.S. citizens use one-half pound of tea annually as opposed to the 7 pounds of tea a year consumed by natives of this country with the highest per capita consumption rate:

a. Turkey

b. United Kingdom

c. Morocco

d. Russia

9. In Morocco, it is customary to offer guests at least three cups of tea per visit. What do these three cups symbolize?

a. life, love and death

b. laughter, luxury and longevity

c. eating, drinking and merrymaking

d. sun, moon and stars

10. In Tibet, black tea is traditionally served with what mixed into it?

a. cinnamon and sugar

b. yak butter and salt

c. turmeric and lemon

d. sweetened condensed milk

11. Pu-erh tea is grown in the Yunnan province of China and sold in brick-like cakes. Ounce for ounce, some pu-erh is even more expensive than gold. Why?

a. it's wrapped in 24-karat gold foil

b. its scarcity drives the price up

c. aging/fermenting process takes so long

d. all of the above

You'll find the answer key for this quiz at the bottom of the column — but no peeking until you've given it the old college try!

If you'd like to learn even more about this popular beverage, I'd recommend visiting a tea plantation. We toured the one in Charleston, South Carolina, a few years back and were fascinated by both the growing and manufacturing processes.

Our children were especially excited to find out tea comes from the same kind of shrubs we had growing in our backyard at the time. That gave a whole new meaning to the term Home Brew!

Jennifer Flanders loves making (and taking!) trivia tests. The answers to the above test are as follows: 1-b, 2-b, 3-c, 4-d, 5-a, 6-d, 7-d, 8-a, 9-a, 10-b, 11-c. For a printable version of this and similar quizzes, please visit https://www.flandersfamily. info.

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