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14 January, 2007

Down to a tea

Some of the world's worst cups of tea are brewed in Dubai. It's not just the Indian version of builder's tea - stewed Lipton teabags, powdered Rainbow milk and seventeen sugars, served in a plastic cup.

There are the nightmare brews of Dubai International Exhibition Centre, accompanied by foul tiny cartons of "Tastes Like Milk". There are the hotel conference cuppas made from tepid water spurted out of a catering urn seasoned with the burnt coffee that it specialised in for the first decade of its working life.

And there are the "upmarket" (extortionate) hotel lobby teas served in a teapot that stews a witch's brew of thick dark tannin by the second cup. There are the five star restaurants that serve you a cup with a tacky teabag hanging out of it - or worse - a wrapped teabag accompanying a mug of water so lukewarm that it will not even dissolve one nanogranule of sugar.

The only consistently palatable tea is Moroccan tea, partly because the sugar and the fresh mint can disguise a world of bitter evil.

So it is somewhat encouraging to discover that a new high-end tea company, Newby, is muscling its way into the Dubai hospitality scene. And not just by selling tea, but hopefully also training staff how to prepare it properly. Using bottled or filtered water, brewing it at exactly the right temperature for the exact length of time, and using the right amount of tea. With luck, one day sandlanders will be able to buy a drinkable brew rather than dishwater for their hard earned dirhams.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahahaha!! That's pretty funny!

15 January, 2007 01:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the culture of having chemically treated tobaccos with artificial flavors making a gay Banana Sheesha, hamburgers made with the hormone treated animals, waxed shiny fruits that stays in your fridge for weeks without a bit of change, huge eggs that make you feel sorry for the creature hatched them and bottled mineral waters as good as seawater without salt, having fake tea is the last thing I want to worry about.

The first thing you would like to see in a British influenced country is lots of tea, all sorts of tea, tea shops, etc. etc. But when you buy the most famous brand from the supermarket and open it to find it as good as grinded colored dust, you will definitely feel sorry for the coffee lovers here!

15 January, 2007 02:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually like the Indian 'chai'. I wouldn't be able to drink tea or coffee unless it had a fair bit of sugar in it, and I often wonder how people can drink cup after cup of coffee without sugar at all.

15 January, 2007 02:18  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I wouldn't be able to drink tea or coffee unless it had a fair bit of sugar in it

I am that way with coffee - unless it is something like an iced latte, in which case the milk kind of softens it.

I tried many times to get used to tea without sugar. What finally cracked it was a particular diet when I had to give up milk and sugar. When I finally added milk back, I found it compensated for the sugar (there is sugar in milk, though only slight). So now I only tend to have sugar in Moroccan tea, which I like very sweet. Or in lemon tea.

15 January, 2007 03:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Properly made chai is a lovely thing. But you need to have buffalo milk and proper stewing - certainly not tea bags. I also like propah tea with the just amount of light brewing and the spot of milk.

The way to live in both worlds like this is to understand that though both use tea leaves, they are actually two different drinks, not just different ways of making the same drink.

15 January, 2007 04:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's only hope they muscle in and introduce PG Tips in mugs at events! Call me a monkey, but it's the taste....

15 January, 2007 11:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

British influenced? We're stuck with the bloody roundabouts but can't get a decent cuppa. Indian influence is more helpful. There's shedloads of really good cheap tea about, especially at the Union Co-op.

15 January, 2007 11:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Shame! the chineese don't complain.

Now, I could make a comment about those 'awful coffee' shops, Starbucks?, but not so early in the morning, oops! blog, reserve my complaint for the end, by then it should become relevant?

-Debbie Menon-

15 January, 2007 13:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're not the first to complain about the poor quality of Lipton tea in UAE. And the lack of brewing knowledge in the hotel/restaurant trade is a global tea problem. Sadly, Newby won't be able to solve the problem either (nor are they a new company). Things have changed for the worse in Dubai since the govt launched the Dubai Tea Auction (Dubai Tea Trading Centre - DTTC). The largest buyer in the weekly Dubai auction is Unilever (Lipton) just as they are in most every other tea auction on earth, with the exception of Colombo where a few indigenous companies that make a better cuppa push Unilever down to number five in the buyer list because Unilever refuses to buy too much top quality Sri Lanka tea - it's too good for any of their global blends. Check for the Sri Lankan brand Dilmah Tea in Dubai - Dilmah's got the number three world share behind just Lipton and Tetley and their tea is brilliant - they also disallow it from being served improperly in institutional settings without first training the staff.

15 January, 2007 18:37  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most Poms today acknowledge that tea out of a teabag is just as good as "mum" used to make it, and those who do not, have failed numerous taste tests between "properly" brewed tea, preheat the pot, measure exactly, steep to the milli-second, and would you like one or two lumps?" and a Lipton Tea Bag in a cup. Lipton, by the way, still markets the best tea in the world.

The British are probably the worst tea brewers in the world with all their fuss and bother, simply to turn up a drink which must be doctored to taste like syrup in order to be palatable.

Frankly, I would not waste my dirhams on Newby teas.
- Debbie Menon -

15 January, 2007 20:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ever since i moved to the UAE i have been spoilt:
i look forward to Abdul's ('tea-boy') cup of tea which arrives dutifully exactly after a minute i arrive and usually before my computer powers on!
Days when Abdul is on a rare sick leave or vacation are somewhat odd.

Aah the good life :)

15 January, 2007 22:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i disagree, the Americans are the worst tea makers! Living in the US i almost had to give up the idea of tea. Even lipton tasted wierd there.

Anyways, nothing beats tea in the 'malabari cafes' or Eat & Drink.. those styrofone teas are the right hot temperature and have a warm soothing effect on the throat - especially during the chilly winter season.

Although i wish they would stop holding the cups with their fingers inside it!

15 January, 2007 22:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gosh. Tea drink = tea leaves plus hot water. Nothing else, if you do it properly, you don't need anything else.

15 January, 2007 22:34  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I agree about Dilmah - I love their caramel tea. You can drink it on a diet with no sugar, and it is completely smooth and unbitter.

Back to Newby: I made my first cup last night. Only I fked up, and forgot I had made it, so it was brewing for maybe 30+ minutes, and was tepid-to-cool by the time I remembered.

Any normal tea would be thick, tarry and as bitter as hell after such a long brew. I was going to chuck it out, but I sipped it anyway. Wow. There was still no bitterness! I have no clue why, because I have tried one of their green teas heavily overbrewed, and that did go bitter. But this was black tea, and it was still drinkable after half an hour or more of brewing.

15 January, 2007 23:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I recall,my mother kept rows of tea tins in her cabinet which contained dozens of "teas." Most of which were broadly called either green or orange pekoe teas. As I recall the orange pekoe teas came in many tastes, strengths and colors, except pale green which was the green tea. Some of the tea tasted like flowers. Others tasted like fruits, most Ceylonese and Indian fruits, and flowers. Teas made from flowers are not teas. they are flower juices.

Interesting, but none of those were teas, anymore than the coffees served at Starbucks are coffee.
-Debbie Menon-

16 January, 2007 08:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a new wrinkle...Starbuck tea....don't even bother. If I'm desperate an English Breakfast is OK but their tea and Chai's stink!
(I hate to complain about Starbucks 'cause actually own a few shares in the company)
Another vote for Dilmah. I found their tea after trying, and rejecting, all the rest. Problem is here in Abu Dhabi Carrefour isn't carryin it anymore.
Twinnings Green / Jasmine blend isn't too bad.

16 January, 2007 09:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tea sucks, caffine FTW

16 January, 2007 11:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dilmah tea is ok and I like the fact that they operate a fair trade policy as well. But we bring all our tea from home! Every holiday we stuff our suitcases with 200 size boxes of Nambarrie teabags from Belfast and every visitor is instructed to bring us a couple of boxes when they come over. They are the best and once you've tasted them there's no going back!

16 January, 2007 14:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SD, As you imply in describing your own tastes in tea, tea is tea, there are many teas, and all are pleasant and appreciable in their own place, flavor and right... but dressing them up in soldier suits, putting them in pretty wooden boxes (which probably cost more than the tea in them is worth) as so many tea merchants do, or otherwise emphasizing the training of special tea-brewers (will Institutes of Higher Learning begin to award degrees in tea brewing?), is just so much marketing hype, probably by non-tea-drinkers, who are trying to make their client's product seem more unique than it actually is. Tea comes off many bushes.. ... but all the tea from the same bush is pretty much the same, depending on the milk and sugar; but then, full of other stuff, it is not really tea, is it?

I think we have spent as much time and thought on tea as it merits; perhaps a bit more than the subject is worth, so I'll take a break now and go sit with a nice pot of tea, prepared to my particular tastes.

By the way, next time, try half an ounce of Jamaican or Barbados Rum in your teacup, with one lump. Hold the cup, cradled in your hands until your hands are warm, and the tea has cooled enough to drink, Delicious and comfortably warming.
-Debbie Menon-

16 January, 2007 16:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now then, when we've all had our say about which tea is best, which nationality makes the best or worst, etc etc etc, why don't we all just make a nice cup of tea, sit down in front of our screens again, and enjoy this rather splendid little website.

(And don't forget to go right back to Secret Dubai Diary when we've finished there).

Now, aaahhhhhhh, what a lovely cup of tea.

How civilised.

16 January, 2007 18:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True, in around 4 years of stay here, i am still not able to have a nice cup of tea in any restaurant that can match what we prepare in our home!

most of the times, its what we call as hot water which seems to not mix with the milk, sugar and the tea bag you put into it. the issue is, whatever you do, unless and until its cooked on the stove, its not good at all!

17 January, 2007 11:31  
Blogger Ahsan Ali said...

Secret, I don't know where you're from (Britain?) but perhaps real South-Asian tea might be too strong for your taste buds if you're not used to it

South Indian Tea is very strong.

North Indian / Pakistani tea is slightly less strong, with more milk, and variable sugar.

I like Moroccan tea, too.

23 January, 2007 09:18  
Blogger Natasha said...

I am not much of a tea lover myself, unless its lemon tea, mint tea or clove&cinammon tea..but the rest of my family's crazy about a perfect cuppa tea...and our blend comes all the way from our place in Kerala, India - its called the Nilgiri super leaf.

As one of ur Anon commentators said, any time any family member comes this way, its like an unsaid rule to bring 3-4kg of this tea. And its really worth it...Like I said earlier, I just cant appreciate the taste, but any tea-lover who tastes a cup of our tea, (carefully yet easily brewed) simply raves about it.

We use Lipton teabags for those lemon teas and spice teas. Nilgiri tea is much too strong (& expensive :P) for that..

My dad and bro has Bad Tea days and Good Tea crises when we go out of stock (which in itself is a rarity).

04 March, 2007 23:51  

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