Tea Writings

A blog about tea from the desk of Cecilia Tan


December 19, 2009 By: ctan Category: Tea Musings

When I was eleven years old, my family took a month-long trip to the Philippines to visit our many relatives there on my father’s side of the family. One of the revelations of that trip was how incredibly good the fruit was there. At the Silahis Hotel in Manila my father ordered a half of a papaya for breakfast one day, and it was easily the size of a large watermelon, longer than his forearm! (For my part, I discovered the hot rice, ginger, and chicken porridge known as arroz caldo, traditionally served for breakfast, and insisted on having it every day.)

Better even than the papaya was the mango. After spending some time in Manila, we traveled to Cebu City (on the island of Cebu) and in ‘the provinces’ could buy perfectly ripe, huge yellow mangoes every day in the market. We ate them every day for breakfast or for ‘siesta’–the light afternoon meal or snack that came right before naptime. My mother loved them so much that after we came home, one day we were walking down the street in midtown Manhattan when we were stopped by a TV news crew polling people about what they thought the sexiest food was. Nearly everyone else said pizza, but my mother immediately said the mango. They aired her comment and we were all thrilled to see her on TV!

By now you are wondering what this has to do with tea, since this is a tea blog. I’m getting to that. Let it steep. I promise I’ll eventually make some point about food and drink being a cultural connection between people and their families and society at large. Or something.

But back to the mangoes. My father to this day still buys the dried mango snacks in asian markets from time to time and mails them to me, even though I probably live closer to one of those markets than he does, and even though neither he nor I should eat too much that sugary these days. (But they are high in fiber!)

Today while digging around in some tea cans on the shelf, I unearthed a white can with blue lettering that read “Le Cordon Bleu.” And “Tea/Thé, Mango/Mangue.” This can of tea arrived in my collection more than ten years ago at a tea party I had for a local women’s group at my house. I cannot remember the name of the woman who brought the tea, though I can picture her face perfectly. Curly, sandy hair and no chin to speak of, I remember liking her and talking with her quite a bit, but her name has not stayed in my head.

Her tea, though, stayed on my shelf. I think I mainly remember her as the source of the tea because I felt quite guilty that she had left it. We had even spoken a few times during the event about how she didn’t want to leave it. I can’t recall now if she had brought it from France, or just purchased it in an import shop, but it was from the famous cooking school in Paris, which has a gourmet food shop associated with it and they blend their own teas.

At the time I liked tea but had not yet become a tea snob, or at least I just didn’t know that much about it. I did really like the tea, though, and I did even remind her not to forget it when people were starting to leave.

But somehow, she left it behind.

I believe some follow up phone calls and emails about the tea were even made, but she never did come to pick it up. I eventually shelved it with the rest of the tea, but didn’t use it, thinking that some day she would be back for it.

Oh my goodness, I just remembered her name. Catherine. Which is good, so that now I can apologize properly. Catherine, I’m sorry, but I gave in, and I’m drinking your tea.

The can sat unopened for ten years, and I figure it must count as mine now. When I opened it the other day to investigate, I assumed it might not even be that good.

I was wrong. It’s wonderful. A strong black tea with good flavor, and the mango flavor is still quite bright and sweet without being overpowering. It stands up to four steepings quite well, the fourth pot being still quite tasty, though losing its character. Outside my window tonight we are hitting the single digits again in wind chill factor, but the flavor on my tongue is reminiscent of a heat and humidity so strong it feels like a bear hug the moment you step off the plane, a hug that doesn’t let go until you leave the island.

Fill in your own conclusion here about Magellan, European conquest of tropical places, shipping and trade in exotic ingredients including tea, French orientalism, and the odd ways that we all connect to people, past, present and future, through food and drink. I’m just going to enjoy the tea.

P.S. The tea still exists and is still sold by Le Cordon Bleu, so Catherine, if you’re reading this, please let me know and I’ll gladly purchase a tin for you.

Incredibly, it’s a mere $5 for 125 gram tin. They suggest on the to let it steep for ten minutes. I am only steeping it for TWO minutes and it’s amazing.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Mango | Tea Writings -- Topsy.com 19 12 09
  2. A Rose In Winter | Tea Writings 23 01 10

Leave a Reply