Travel responsibly and sustainably

Loose Leaves and Tea Bags

Cup of teaEither as a breakfast must-have or as the proper way to welcome guests in, tea drinking is strongly embedded in the traditions of the Magdalen Islands. No matter if brewed stovetop, in the pot, as the water boils, or rather by squishing the bag at the bottom of the cup, it brings people together with a sense of family and conviviality, and is still a favourite of many an Islander. For my mother—the first great tea drinker I knew—tea is the only way to start the day. "I need to take the time to have breakfast, in the morning," she tells me. Sipping on a hot cup of tea (sometimes two) is an integral part of that cherished moment.

One would be hard-pressed to talk about tea on the Magdalen Islands without mentioning King Cole Orange Pekoe Tea, a true staple in the Islanders' pantry since the 1950s.

Originally from New Brunswick, King Cole black tea was first offered as loose leaves, but the unmistakable orange box is now also sold filled with tea bags. For many Islanders, it's the one true definition of what tea should be, so much so that many of those who now live outside of the Maritimes make sure to stock up with each visit to the region. To tell the truth, King Cole Tea is so beloved that some Magdalen Islanders have been known to pack their own tea bags whenever they travel to the mainland!

Tea was first cultivated and consumed at least 6000 years ago in ancient China, although the custom of infusing the leaves in hot water to get a beverage out of the vegetal is only 1500 years old . The popularity of tea in England has been attributed to Catherine of Braganza, Portuguese noble and wife to King Charles II. It is said she brought to England a few packets of tea imported from China and, enjoying a cup daily, was rapidly imitated by the English Court before the whole population also followed suit.

Cup of teaEven though Magdalen Islanders do not drink tea with the regularity of the English, the beverage is still dear to a large portion of the population and has been for many generations (with or without baking powder biscuits to snack on between sips).

For me, the aroma of tea brings back memories of the family gatherings of my childhood. Tea was a drink enjoyed by the grown-ups around the table, while the kids played in the living room or upstairs. If we dared to ask for a sip to imitate our parents, we were told that it would make us leak up and down!

Valued as an essential commodity by many families on the Islands, tea is more than an ordinary everyday staple—it comes with a lifestyle. The flavours held within a cup of tea get richer as the minutes pass, encouraging shared times and interesting conversations. And since we sip it slowly, a good cup is especially welcomed on colder days...

Sources : 
Shunan Teng, L'histoire du thé, posted online by TED-Ed, YouTube. 
Billie Cohen, The true story behind England's tea obsession, BBC Travel, August 28th, 2017.

Par Nathaël Molaison

I came back on the Islands three years ago, and each day, I (re)discover the little details, the subtleties and — most importantly — the inspiration that this place brings me. In each and every one of my projects, I write a little piece of what makes us different and unique beings.

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