When I first decided to launch Hopsocff I never imagined that my first travel blog post would be written by a pool in a beach resort in Greece sipping on an ice tea. I kinda always imagined that I would be writing it from some exotic tea room in India or perching upon the Great Wall of China. I have never been one for enclosed, all-inclusive resorts where you just sleep, eat, rave, repeat! (* tune *). The days are filled with buffet breakfast smuggling, sunbed hogging and the constant suncream lathering leaves you exhausted with no choice but to lie, sleep, read and eat, in various combinations. Well into day 2 of our beachy break and I am already noticing many similarities between a backpacking shoestring holiday adventure and the hotel hideout escape.
Wherever I venture to I always without fail take Mr PG tips along with me and the top of my backpack is usually stuffed to the brim with tea bags and various other ‘essentials’. I have had many tea-rrible disasters over the years; Earl Grey with frothy milk, luke warm Lipton tea, milky Green tea, or in the worst case scenario just nada!!! The inexperienced hotel hopper that I am just presumed that Mr Twining would have paid a pre-hols visit and I ignorantly didn’t bring any supplies with me 🙁 Being half Cypriot I presumed that our home-brewed chai with that rich spicy cinnamon flavour would be on the cards for the week. Proven wrong I am now going to have to go cold Turkey! (No political pun intended!)
When abroad asking for ‘a tea please’ without specifying the type is a russian roulette game that can leave you with sweaty palms. This was last night’s result…
…supposedly an ‘Earl Grey’ accompanied by two types of sugars and a biscuit.
Let’s start with the positives before we begin to teabash! A teapot is always a good sign, it is the iconic symbol of drinking tea but it can bring false hope of loose leaf brewing inside 🙁 This time I didn’t let my hopes get too high since I saw the teabag placed on the saucer. This I think is always a nice touch BUT boiling water should be placed directly onto the teabag and once I put the teabag into the glass cup (another controversial aspect of tea-drinking abroad) and poured over the by now not boiling water, the tea ended up being weak and only slightly warm – in other words undrinkable! Fortunately the experience was salvaged slightly by the addition of a chocolate chip cookie – a sweet treat is always the way to my heart! The words Sweet Greece placed on the sugar sachets did also make me giggle. The tea itself was definitely not Earl Grey and was quite frankly unidentifiable! I now can’t help but comment on the many déjà-vu experiences I have had with simply asking for ‘a tea please’.
I first caught the travel bug four years ago when Miriam and I set off on a mini hopscoff adventure travelling around Italy for 11 days covering Torino, Milano, Verona, Venezia and of course Roma! I loved the constant on the go feeling, the sightseeing, holiday snap taking and overall memory making! Above all though, diving into the cuisine is always the best and in Italy there is nothing not to like, pizza, pasta and gelato – the Holy Trinity! Despite being able to satisfy our palates in many ways we soon discovered that we had made the biggest school boy ever and didn’t pack any teabags. Miriam, a fellow avid tea drinker and a woman with very low tolerance levels, began to break down rapidly without our English Breakfast boost.
We quickly learnt that getting our cold mitts on a good cuppa wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t until 4 days into our trip when we were in Milan that we managed to track down some Twinings! You can imagine our excitement! Ironically we slurped this over due cuppa in a place called Romantic Cafe – the most adequate name for a heart-felt moment! We still had to ask for milk though.
Our lucky find went from better to betterer in Milan when we sat and had tea for two over looking il duomo. This was considered a luxury moment for us since in Italy although a good tea was nigh on impossible to find, so was locating somewhere to sit. Surprisingly Italy doesn’t have a sit down and self-indulge in non-problems for hours on end drinking tea and coffee culture like the British do. Instead their espresso really is express and one immediately downs the miniscule amount of coffee at the counter and leaves almost instantly!
In between Milan and Rome, where we also of course stopped by the famous Babington’s Tea Room next to the Spanish Steps, we had to make do with the ever so thick Italian hot chocolate. Despite being on track to win a gold for GB in chocolate munching I have never been a huge fan of hot chocolates, but step one foot in Italy in the winter and you will experience a metamorphosis like no other. Italy undoubtedly wins the prize for the finest hot chocolate, thick and gloopy yet heart warming! It is literally a dessert in a mug!
Our whizz stop tour around Italy gave me a first insight into the different hot beverage customs around the world. Interestingly, Greece, Italy and Spain alike will all undoubtedly offer you an Earl Grey tea (or some makeshift form of a light black tea) with no milk served with sugar when you ask for ‘a tea please’. After living in Madrid for 4 months I quite honestly gave up asking for tea anywhere and surrendered to the coffee and cake culture – a habit that now has a special place in my heart. A collection of the best places to go for merienda in this quaint capital will be coming soon.
Hopping out of Europe and into Vietnam the standard tea brand drunk is Lipton and this will most likely come in a glass cup with honey and lemon. Since this is actually seriously yummy Vietnam gets no complaints! However, this gem is not readily done well and Hebe and I did have to result to asking for a flask of hot water in one hostel so we could make up own PG Tips! I warn you that desperation has gone further in the past and once Miriam and I tried to make a cup of tea using hot water from the shower – not recommendable #teasavages!
In Argentina the standard brand is La Virginia, not as light as Lipton and nowhere near as full-bodied as English Breakfast. If you try to drink this with milk and sugar they look at you like your the crazy one! All I would say is try having an English Breakfast tea in a typically British tearoom with no milk and sugar and an Argentine will soon discover the meaning of the expression if looks could kill!
So like many other places Greece isn’t exactly Tea Central, but this is going to be my mission for the week – can I hunt down a cutsie Greek tavernaesque tearoom replenished with teas galore and cakey bites? I have of course over generalised here and in most places if you search hard enough you can find international brands and oversea influences. However, I am after an authentic Greek Tea experience and although coffee takes the limelight here I am not going to surrender without a fight! Since we are 10km away from the nearest town it’s going to be a tricky one so wish me luck! Time to grab my running shoes I think and set off on my Odyssey 😉
Have a sun-tastic day all!
…as the old saying goes.. wish you were here!