TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

December 4, 2014

Profiles in Tea: Queen Marie of Romania

Filed under: food,history,royalty,Russian tea,tea — by JanisB @ 2:57 pm
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Marie, admired as the most beautiful princess in Europe

 

The story of how a British princess brought tea to Romania begins in 1874 when Queen Victoria’s son Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, married the daughter of Russia’s Tsar Alexander. The duke and duchess’ eldest daughter, Marie, was born a year later. A bright, free-spirited girl, Marie was blessed with exceptional beauty and was gifted with talents for writing and art.

Admired as the most beautiful princess in Europe, Marie had many suitors. Her mother was determined to see her eldest daughter on a European throne, and so Marie was married off at age seventeen to Prince Ferdinand, nephew and heir to King Carol of the far-away country of Romania.

The transition to a new country, language, husband, and family was difficult and lonely at first for the young princess. She found solace in solitary tea times in a private corner of the palace.

By the early 1900s Princess Marie had entered the royal social scene, hosting English-style afternoon teas at the royal palaces. Knowing her fondness for both the beverage and the ceremony, Marie’s wide circle of friends and admirers would often arrange teas in her honour, and afternoon tea became popular amongst Romania’s upper classes.

Marie’s children grew up with tea just as their mother had done, with a blending of English and Russian tea customs. Each day Marie would set aside time for tea with one or more of the young princes and princesses, with either the teapot or the samovar.

Ferdinand and Marie became King and Queen when Carol died in 1914 on the eve of The Great War (WWI). During the war Marie distinguished herself as a nurse, establishing a hospital and visiting the most seriously wounded and gravely ill soldiers of the Romanian army. She taught her youngest daughter Ileana the English custom of bringing tea to the troops.

When the war ended, Marie was sent to help represent Romania’s interests at the Versailles peace conference in 1919. From Paris, Marie went to London to plead Romania’s case directly with her cousin, King George.

Marie had another reason for visiting London. “I was especially very much in need of tea!” she wrote in her memoirs. “Romania had quite run out of tea since there was no more communication with Russia, whence it was formerly imported.” Marie met with Mr. Twining, “the best man for tea,” and explained to him that she wanted a tea that tasted “neither of smoke, scent, nor hay.” To this Mr. Twining replied, “It is Darjeeling tea Your Majesty wants.” After tasting several samples, Marie agreed that “I found the mixture of which I dreamed!”

Of the many Romanian royal palaces, Marie’s favourite was Bran. This imposing medieval fortress sits atop a hillside overlooking a pastoral village surrounded by a sprawling park. (Bran is passed off to tourists as Dracula’s Castle.) In an area nearest the castle she built a teahouse where she regularly had tea with family or visitors, gazing out on the park’s gardens and small pond.

Marie, Queen of Romania, died in 1938. In many ways she was the Princess Diana of her day. Even today, Romanians hold a place in their hearts for the memory of this extraordinary queen for her beauty, talent, and tireless service to those in need in her adopted country.

The Queen’s teahouse at Bran Castle in Romania

 

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June 7, 2013

Ramblings: Recent travels with tea

It’s been a while since this blog has seen a new post, and yes, I missed keeping up with it. There was a good reason, tho’: I’ve been traveling without a dedicated computer.

I didn’t start out computerless. When I first arrived in Bucuresti, Romania for my annual visit, I had my trusty netbook with me. Unfortunately, while browsing the web at a neighbourhood restaurant with wifi, my Vipre security software failed me. When I got back to our apartment and turned on the netbook to recharge the battery I discovered that the operating system was fried, most of my files were corrupted, and I was getting some really scary error messages. That must have been some big bad nasty that attacked my poor little ‘puter. And from that point on I had only intermittent ‘net access at friends’ homes.

Now here I am back home in the USA, very annoyed that we’ve been paying for the Vipre software and and it failed me when I really needed it. Oh well. Maybe it’s time to get a new netbook — or upgrade to some other ‘net appliance.

Other than that, the trip started out well … and not so well. The good news? I met up with a friend for tea my first full day there — tho’ sort of half asleep from jet lag. And then the bad news: I discovered that I had forgotten my camera. So I don’t have any photos of the first tea room I visited in Bucuresti. Bummer, but I still enjoyed going there — and I do have a couple of shots taken by my friend.

la-un-ceai1

At La un ceai in Bucuresti, Romania. Photo courtesy of Andreea Heroiu.

La un ceai — To a Tea — like many other tea rooms in Bucuresti is housed in a former villa.  I met my friend at beautiful Gradina Cismigiu, and then it was a short walk through winding side streets of old apartments and houses to get to the tea room. There we found several charming, peaceful rooms, along with an outdoor terrace, and chose a table in the main salon.

The tea menu was pretty much what it is in most Romanian tea rooms: lots of flavoured teas and tisanes with a few unadulterated teas sprinkled in. Romanians definitely prefer teas with added flavours, so it’s really no surprise. I did find a tea that I don’t see very often, a Darjeeling from the Gielle garden. I’m guessing it was a second flush. It certainly had that distinctive muscat taste and aroma, just not as fresh as I would have liked it. Still it was quite pleasant.

I should explain that Romanian tea rooms generally serve their teas in tea-for-one pots, with the loose leaves tucked into a disposable tea sac. The pot part of the T-F-O is already filled with hot water when it arrives at the table, so I’ve learned to order green or white tea as the water isn’t hot enough to properly infuse an oolong much less a black tea. I thought I’d at least try the Darjeeling, which normally requires lower-temperature water than most black teas. It was a relatively successful choice given the options — ‘tho I would have preferred the water to be hotter.

Tea was served with small gingery cookies. The room was comfortable and cool on this warm day. The company was delightful. And then … We had each ordered a glass of citronada to complement the tea. This is a beverage I very much like when I’m in Romania: it’s a combination of lemonade and orange juice, tho’ occasionally some lime juice or grapefruit juice is mixed in. It’s a terrific thirst quencher. But apparently somebody forgot the sweetener … and when I took my first sip, it was so tart that I nearly choked. Seriously. I think I scared my poor friend with my red-faced coughing fit. Fortunately it finally passed, although I could barely speak for several minutes. Well, maybe that’s a good thing ;-).

Oh, and it led me to discover that the bathroom is nice and clean :-).

Altogether La un ceai is a pleasant place to spend time with a friend, which is a large part of what going out for tea is all about. So I will very likely visit them again during my next year’s trip to Bucuresti. I’ll just be sure not to order the citronada …

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May 30, 2012

Travels with Tea: Tea at “Home” in Bucuresti

Filed under: Darjeeling tea,food,friends,tea,tea journals,tea rooms,travel — by JanisB @ 9:51 am
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One of the benefits of my travels to Romania is our lovely apartment, which is located in a commercial area with easy access to transportation and is just a short walk from downtown. Aside from the cost savings and privacy, staying in an apartment rather than a hotel means the convenience of a washing machine and a full kitchen, and most importantly being able to collect things with the knowledge that they’ll be there for the next visit.

Read the entire post at English Tea Store blog.

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