12 Days of Tea Pairing

As you all know, I am one of the world’s most knowledgeable tea people, and I am also very generous and willing to share my vast brain with less fortunate beings. The same goes with previous generations of Lord Devotea’s. As an example, the third Lord Devotea** assisted a young lady with some tea pairing around Christmas 1895. He obviously helped a great deal, so I thought I’d share it here.

Monday:

Dear Lord Devotea

One of my suitors sent me a partridge, the dear chap. So I had Cook knock it on the head, stuff it with some pears from a small tree that was also included and now it’s been roasted a treat. Which tea do you recommend to accompany it?

Yours sincerely,

Miss Amy.

Dear Miss Amy

My felicitations, what a lovely gift! A nice strong black tea is called for. You might even be so bold as to choose a strong, traditional Earl Grey.

Lord Devotea

Tuesday:

Dear Lord Devotea

Thank you for yesterday’s advice. The dear man has done it again. This time it was two plump turtle doves, with which Cook has gone for more of a simple sauté, with some wilted greens on the side.

Yours faithfully,

Miss Amy.

Dear Miss Amy

Yesterday’s advice would work again, as the birds are no doubt also quite gamey, but you may want to consider a notch lighter. Perhaps a simple golden tipped Yunnan would be the best choice.

Lord Devotea

Wednesday:

Dear Lord Devotea

Once again, I must prevail upon your good wishes. My gentlemen caller has presented three French hens. Our head Gardener has several of his boys knock up a coop, and we now have some lovely fresh eggs. Cook is planning a dish called Akoori that he picked up during his time in India. Sounds a bit foreign to me. What tea would be best?

Yours thankfully,

Miss Amy.

Dear Miss Amy

I am always happy to help. Akoori, you say? I know it well. It’s quite spicy. A plain and refreshing white tea, such as that from Doke in India, will cleanse your palate of the more insistent flavours. It is one of my favourite teas, perhaps we should share a pot sometime.

Lord Devotea.

Thursday:

Dear Lord Devotea

Well, there was quite a racket here today as four calling birds turned up. To be honest, I am a bit fed up with poultry. Nevertheless, Cook quietened the birds down with a few well placed blows and before you know it, has created a calling bird soup, with lovage and celeriac. So far, your recommendations have been spot on, I must say, but I think this one is a bit of a head scratcher.

Yours gratefully,

Miss Amy.

Dear Miss Amy

I think you might head into the realms of green tea today. A simple gunpowder will complement the vegetal tones in that soup. I would be only too happy to assist you in the selection and preparation thereof.

Lord Devotea

Saturday:

Dear Lord Devotea

I suspect you were glad to not get a note from me prevailing upon you yesterday. The fine gentlemen broke with his fowl theme and presented me with five gold rings. Of course I was quite touched, and after I despatched my butler to the jewellers to get them melted down and sold, I had a slap up meal at the Savoy.

However today, I became the proud owner of six geese a-laying. I had the garden lads extend the coop, but one of the French hens must have annoyed the geese who set about it and this led to its demise. Cook has whipped up an excellent goose egg and French hen salmagundi. What are your tea thoughts?

Yours contentedly,

Miss Amy

Dear Miss Amy

You do like to set me a challenge. I usually drink one of my own creations, the excellent 1001 Nights, with salads, particularly salads with mint in them. Salmagundi is, in my opinion, one of the finest salads there are, in that it has more meat, less vegetables than most. I hope you enjoy it. It sounds like the sort of meal one would invite one’s great and helpful friends to.

Lord Devotea

Sunday:

Dear Lord Devotea

I’m pulling my hair out now. Frederic, the dear chap, has gone a bit bonkers and suddenly my small lake is full of swans! Cook did himself a mischief trying to grab one for luncheon, and has been carted off to hospital. Assistant Cook claims to be frightened of swans and has instead simply put some leftover salmagundi from yesterday on white bread sandwiches. Honestly, I don’t know how much more I can take.

Yours frantically,

Miss Amy

Dear Miss Amy

We can take pleasure in the simple things in life from time to time, like plain fare and good company. I suggest you ask for a simple single origin Darjeeling, enjoy your luncheon and then have a nice lie down.

Lord Devotea

Monday:

Dear Lord Devotea

It’s a shame that one cannot send sound instead of words, for I could share with you a mighty confabulation of metallic and wooden thuds, girlish squeals and bovine lowing that is ringing though the grounds. I was all set for a quiet morning with some of my chums, playing a new game called Sphairistiké*** . All of a sudden, in marched eight maids, with stools and buckets; each leading a cow. They arrayed themselves near the folly and began milking. Soon the kitchen was awash with milk. Cook has made pork roasted in milk, something called ‘arroz con leche’ that he learned to make in a Spanish prison – it looks like rice pudding to me – and we’ll be having sour milk cake for afternoon tea for days. 

I can barely keep up. Please advise.

Miss Amy

Dear Miss Amy

It seems you will have cake for many visitors over the coming days. I myself am in the area tomorrow.

The ideal tea with that cake would be a smooth Keemun. This tea would also complement the other dishes you mention, but I think you might also consider a tea blended with a cassis tisane. They are quite popular. I have just sent one to the Millers in Torquay to celebrate the birthday of their young daughter Agatha****. Lovely people, they invited me over for morning tea next week.

Lord Devotea

Tuesday:

Dear Lord Devotea

I had no need to write to you yesterday. Not because this procession of gifts has stopped, but simply that nine ladies danced into the estate and continued to dance for hours. After they started collapsing from exhaustion I had the footmen feed them some sour milk cake, revive them with the Keemun you suggested and billeted them in the old servants wing alongside the milkmaids.

Today, it has taken an even more unusual turn, as I can see from my window that a group of ten men are leaping all over the front gardens. I sent the under-butler out to enquire, and it turns out they are a party of minor Lords from some of the less impressive Northern counties. 

I have never had any Lords to afternoon tea, so I would sincerely welcome your rapid advice as to the best form of tea to sate their noble palates.

Yours worriedly,

Miss Amy

My dear Miss Amy

It’s a shame you have not previously thought to invite a Lord to afternoon tea, or you would know that we Lords, that is Lords such as I, tend to gravitate toward Lord Petersham tea. If you are wanting to rid yourselves of these tiresome Northern Lords, however, there is a Japanese tea substitute called Genmaicha which will cause a sudden urge to vomit in anyone with any taste or refinement whatsoever. In fact if any of them actually drink it, I’d question their peerage.

Meanwhile, I shall avail myself of a Lord Petersham in the peace and quiet of my home and gardens, and consider inviting a treasured friend or two to enjoy the serenity.

Lord Devotea

Wednesday:

Dear Lord Devotea

 I am at my wits end. Two days ago I thought the Lords might be the end of it, but yesterday 11 men in kilts with bagpipes turned up. During the afternoon it was quite fun, by watching the dancing ladies caper gracefully to the pipes I could almost ignore the Lords a-leaping. However, there was some consternation as one errant Lord leapt straight through the confines of the hen house, leading an almighty brawl after a milk cow, bitten by an enraged goose, trampled on another Lord’s hat and pushed over a maid. 

On top of that, the whole place reeks of milk and the money I made from selling the gold rings is being rapidly eroded by the need to feed 38 people and 25 head of livestock.

Frederic has now sent a dozen drummers. The whole thing sounds like a military tattoo. I have absolutely had enough. Frederic is  coming over this afternoon, and I plan to put my foot down.

I am too upset for any tea. However, If it is not too forward, I would like to invite myself to morning tea at your estate tomorrow. Please say yes, I shall go mad here with all this noise.

Yours with great affection

Miss Amy

My dear Miss Amy

You are most welcome. I shall send the carriage for you tomorrow at 10. I look forward to our morning tea.

Yours in anticipation

Lord Devotea

Thursday:

My dear Lord Devotea

Thank you for all of your wonderful advice, and forgive me for sending you this note via the carriage you were kind enough to send for me. I am unable to come for morning tea as I have great news: I have agreed to marry Mr Frederic. I did so on the proviso that all the post-geese gift could be returned to him, and he has accepted.

The future Mrs Amy Austin*****

Saturday:

Dear Lord Devotea

Your Lordship, I understand you have provided some excellent advice on tea to my future wife. Tomorrow, an afternoon tea to celebrate our engagement will be held.

I have asked my fiancée to wear the five heirloom gold rings which I sent her and she is refusing to do so.  They have been in our family for generations and  I rather suspect my mother may raise the matter. Should this innocent enquiry increase in stature to the frisson of a disappointed look, the weight of a frosty silence or even the horror of a sharp word or two, I feel the whole event may be sullied. Could you recommend a tea to soothe the mood?

Frederic Austin

My dear Mr Austin.

I am afraid you are asking too much of a tea. My best suggestion to you is to have your staff prepare an excellent pot of your very favourite tea, find a quiet spot before the party, and drink it in a calm and unhurried manner, as though you have not a care in the world. I understand you are a composer, perhaps let a simple melody works its way into your head instead of thinking of those rings.

Then, Sir, simply let your mind drift to that moment over the coming year, every time tension rears its ugly head.

Yours sincerely

Lord Devotea

 


 

** This dates from when the 3rd Lord Devotea was a young man and prior to his meeting and falling in love with the 3rd Lady Devotea in the aftermath of the 1901 Ritz Cake Scandal. Even if you are a wholly fictitious character, everyone deserves a backstory.

*** Yes, ‘Sphairistiké’ is the name the guy who invented lawn tennis gave it. Amazing the name didn’t catch on but the sport did!

**** Young Agatha Miller went on to grow up, marry a man called Mr Christie, and write a bunch of books. Quite a lot of them featured a Belgian detective who only drank cassis (blackcurrant) tisane. Co-incidence? Surely not!

***** Sometime in the 1800s, Frederic Austin married a lady called Amy. He is a composer most known for “The Beggar’s Opera”, but also the man who added the weird bit around “five gold rings” to the traditional song “The Twelve Days Of Christmas”. Now you know.

Robert Godden

Certified Tea Nutter. Blender. Author of "The Infusiast" and Tea "Stories"

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10 thoughts on “12 Days of Tea Pairing

  1. I don’t think I’ll attempt a holiday blog, since this is THE holiday blog to end all holiday blogs. Brilliantly done.

    And definite points on the genmaicha.

    Methinks this should go in your next book, and that there should be further adventures of the 3rd Lord Devotea. Around other holidays.

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