“There is no problem on earth that can’t be improved upon by a cup of tea.” This well used proverb is accepted wisdom here in England. Hot black tea, which first came to England from China in the 17th century became very popular beginning in the 19th century. From my unscientific observation it remains the most popular beverage of choice in England. Okay, well maybe beer gives it a run for its money, but tea has to be up there! C.S. Lewis once said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” When the character Hagrid is upset in the third Harry Potter book, Ron Weasley responds with, “Er-shall I make a cup of tea?…It’s what my mum does whenever someone’s upset.”
In the past week we have enjoyed tea with English breakfast, tea with bacon sandwiches, and tea with scones and cream. The first thing both of my grandmothers do when we arrive is put the kettle on for a cup of tea. We’ve been invited over by new friends to have a “cuppa” as it is often referred to. But today I discovered a new use for tea that broadens its reach even further.
The weather here has been absolutely magnificent (highs of 65 and bright sun). It is very unusual for this time of year and this part of the world. So I took advantage of a beautiful day to get out on another bike ride. I scoured the maps and chose a 40 mile route up to a lovely little village called Bellingham and back. On my way up I passed through the very English sounding hamlet of Wark and stopped to use the toilet (restroom). [By the way, most villages that have more than one or two homes have public toilets in the center – a very useful touch for cyclists and other travelers!] There I met a group of mostly retired cyclists who were headed towards Bellingham and I was told repeatedly that it is pronounced bell-lin-jum. They invited me to join them. One was a 69-year-old Italian who had raced bikes since he was 12. Another was 78 years old! They weren’t extraordinarily fast, but they were riding a total of 80 miles and they took me up some steep climbs. Many of them ride everyday.
When we arrived in Bellingham we went to a local cafe and sat around a plastic table in the front garden (yard) for a lunch of sandwiches, beans on toast, scones…and tea. The very first thing these guys did at their rest stop on a long, hard ride, was order pots and pots of hot tea. Nobody cracked open a single Gatorade, gel, or Powerbar. But they all had to have their tea. Before I knew it a cup was placed in front of me, tea was poured, and I was drinking my first cup of exercise tea. Apparently there is no problem on earth, including sore muscles, that can’t be addressed by a cup of tea.