I arrived in Granada, Spain, 10 days ago. I think I’m falling in love. The city is charming and vibrant with warm, friendly people. Although my Spanish language skills are nearly non-existent, my husband gets by quite well. Once we got the lay of the land, my agenda was clear: what’s the tea scene like in this coffee-centric country?
I was fortunate to have booked an apartment rental in the Arabic area known as the Albaicin. This steep mountain enclave is a series of cobblestoned, winding streets, too narrow for cars to pass. which made me feel like I was traveling in another century. Albaicin, a white-washed village with cafes and homes, overlooks a 1000 year old fortress called The Alhambra. The white-capped Sierra Nevada mountains form a breathtaking landscape behind the fortress. Every turn in the road opens to another stunning view and yet another public square filled with people enjoying the sun and having wine/beer/coffee. Granada boasts 320 days of sun each year.
Getting back to tea, there are countless cafes which often have the word TE in their signage but definitely are not tea shops. They serve poor quality bagged tea, boiling water, and the ubiquitous lemon and sugar. To my delight, I did discover a genuine tea shop in the Albaicin district, namedAbaco, which didn’t disappoint. In keeping with the nature of the houses in the village, the shop was spread over four floors with a terrace off the top level. Again, the visitor is presented with the spectacular view of the Alhambra. Truth is, the tea menu was long – including medicinals. The basic teas; black, green and white, were served in medium-sized pots without strainers. Unfortunately, the tea became bitter before too long due to oversteeping.
The customary way of managing this was to provide copious amounts of sugar – along with small espresso spoons sticking out of a small glass filled with a curious red liquid. Tentatively, we tasted the liquid in the glass but couldn’t place it. At first we thought perhaps it was a simple sugar syrup, but it wasn’t sweet. Upon inquiry, we were told it was a hibiscus tea which is used to clean and sanitize the sugar spoons.
The people of Granada have a lot to learn about tea and it would be a fabulous city to set something up. Granada is a university town with over 80,000 international students. A marketing study would find the population ripe for a place to buy and drink high quality tea. If only I were 20 years younger, I might take the leap.
We’re off to the Costa Del Sol – which is loaded with British Ex-pats – and we’re expecting to find a lot more tea related cafes. Stay tuned!
MAIN: Image 1 and 2 provided by our intrepid tea traveler and editor-in-chief.