ABOARD THE EURODAM – I’ve been drinking tea for a long time. But I learned on the Holland America ms Eurodam that I’ve been preparing my tea entirely wrong.
That’s one thing my sister Elaine and I enjoyed greatly about our Eurodam cruise – the wealth of programs offered daily were so interesting that it was difficult to choose.
Those daily choices are offered along with the wonderful shore excursions, live entertainment, spa, swimming pool, hot tub, delicious dining and everything else to do aboard the Eurodam. Plus it’s important to save time to watch the ocean roll, the sun set and the stars come out for a fantastic nautical nighttime scene.
For its food and entertainment sessions, the Eurodam has a large comfy Culinary Arts Center. That’s where Elaine and I settled in for the Totally Tea session to learn the history of tea, along with the health benefits and the proper way to brew a cup.
Legend has it that tea was discovered in 2737 B.C. by Chinese Emperor Shenong. The emperor liked to boil his drinking water and one day while he was relaxing in his garden a few leaves from a nearby tea bush blew into the emperor’s boiling water.
The water gave off such a rich alluring aroma that the emperor decided to take a taste. Not only did Shenong like what he drank but he also discovered that this new concoction was refreshing and energizing. Thereupon, the emperor commanded that tea bushes be planted in the gardens of his palace.
The custom of drinking tea quickly caught on in China and spread to other cultures. “It sent ships racing around the world,” said Eurodam lifestylist Lance Phengsearoun. “Tea was used as currency up to the 20th century.”
PREPARING PERFECT CUP OF TEA
So how should the perfect cup of tea be prepared?
First off, never fix tea with tap water, which I have always done. “Chlorine and fluoride have been added to tap water which can greatly affect the taste of tea,” said Eurodam’s Party Planner Anaise Brown. “It’s best to use artisan spring water.”
Using hot tap water to speed up the boiling process is especially undesirable, she added, because then you are adding even more impurities from your home’s water heater. If you want to see the huge difference that water can make, Anaise suggests preparing cups of tea side by side using different sources of water. “You can really taste the difference.”
Never microwave a cup of water for tea. Of course, I always do that. Instead, bring the water to a rolling boil in a kettle and let it cool a bit.
“Tea is very delicate so it cannot be in boiling hot water,” Anaise said.
Measure the tea into a glass container (plastic and metal pick up unwanted flavors, Anaise said) and pour the hot water over the tea. “Don’t let the tea steep very long, no longer than three minutes,” Anaise said. If it is steeped too long, tea can get an acidic taste.
“And never squeeze the tea bag.”
All this time, I had thought that twisting the string of a tea bag around the bag was the proper way to squeeze out any last liquid and taste. In fact, Anaise recommends buying quality loose leaf tea instead of tea bags. “It pays to buy loose leaf tea because it tastes better and you can use the leaves over and over for more cups of tea,” she said.
As for its benefits, tea contains antioxidants that can help protect the body. It also can boost the immune system and can help lower cholesterol. Tea is calorie free and helps keep a body hydrated.
So popular is tea and the relaxing ritual surrounding it that the Eurodam offers special teas every afternoon aboard the ship.
“It’s nice to sit and have a cup of tea and a snack,” said Jane Leach of Punta Gorda, Florida, as she and friends enjoyed an Indonesian tea ceremony.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch