Imagine this: You are in the middle of an amazing European tour. The first several days were spent in Paris, visiting some of the famous tea salons you’ve heard so much about. The tea museum at Mariage Frères was breathtaking.
But now, with a dozen cups of fantastic tea behind you, you’ve entered Italy where there’s plenty of coffee to be found but not a decent cup of tea anywhere.
While most of your trips might not involve traveling on such an epic scale, chances are, if you’re a tea drinker, you often feel a little bit left out in the cold, wanting something hot to drink. Supporting your tea habit, even on a short trip, can often be a little frustrating. Whether it’s a grand European adventure, a long drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, or just another business trip on a busy convention weekend, getting a good cup of tea while on the road is often a do-it-yourself operation.
After spending hours jammed into an airplane, car, bus or train (or for some, perched on the back of a motorcycle), settling in at the hotel after a day of traveling often leaves you wanting for an afternoon cup. There are ways to make it happen, but usually, especially in America, you have to bring it with you.
American tea guru, James Norwood Pratt has said that, for travelers, tea bags are “the first line of self-defense,” used in emergencies and when in dire need. However, while you can certainly get a decent cup of tea from a tea bag, there is a better way.
Even when on the road, you can have your great cup of Ceylon, Darjeeling, or whatever you fancy, brewed up from your own personal stash of tea.
Packing loose tea is easy, but what about that essential task of boiling the water? You’ll need a clean kettle for that. When you find yourself in a strange hotel room, and the coffee maker smells of a long, dirty relationship with that bitter brew, there is little chance of successfully using that contraption for tea. How are you going to boil the water? The solution is your own electric kettle.
It may seem inconvenient to pack a bulky kettle into your suitcase. You could start out with a compact travel-size version small enough for a few cups of water, but after a few trips you might find that you just want to pack your normal kettle from home in your luggage with everything
else. Most standard kettles hold enough water to fill two thermoses, which is handy when you need a lot of tea for a full day of adventuring. It may take up space, but its usefulness cannot really be matched.
If you’re really going to enjoy loose-leaf tea when traveling, you need a thermos with a wide opening at the top. Some thermoses are otherwise very good, but are often too narrow at the opening. With a reusable metal tea filter, this becomes immediately apparent. You can only use such a filter if you have a thermos with a wide enough opening. Paper filters are the easiest to use and the most forgiving with all sorts of thermoses. You might have to manipulate the tea leaves into a cylinder shape to get them all in, but paper filters are by far the most convenient method for letting you brew your tea right there in the thermos. Also, a good thermos will keep your tea warm for several hours – perfectly suitable for adventuring.
The last bit of kit you’ll need are mugs or cups. There is often an evolution on this among tea travelers. Many start out with plastic travel mugs and then later move on to metal ones, but the tea doesn’t always taste the same. A good solution is to do one of two things: pack a few sturdy teacups or mugs from home or purchase a few during the trip. The latter option is nicer because you’ll always have a memento of the trip that you’ll look back to when you pour yourself a cup later when you get home. If you can find them, mugs and cups without handles pack easily.
Once you get used to brewing tea in your hotel room, you’ll spend less time sitting in cafés drinking either coffee or tea from poor quality tea bags, and more time on the balcony or terrace enjoying a cup with your companion and relishing the view of the city. Preparing a thermos in the morning will set you up for the day, giving you the opportunity for spontaneity during a hike, sitting on the edge of a fountain or a respite at that next scenic overlook. The next time you are out traveling, there is no reason not to be able to enjoy a great cup of tea.