I have enjoyed Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency book series for several years, and just finished reading the latest installment, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive.
Smith's love of his characters and his deep affection for Botswana are palpable in each installment of the series. His characters respect and love each other deeply, and strive to lead lives of purpose and decency. To build an entire series of books based on these values while at the same time bringing humor and insightful commentary on the human condition and holding his readers' hearts is a remarkable accomplishment, yet, he succeeds again and again.
In The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, the traditionally-built Mma Ramotswe, her excellent husband Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, and their clients struggle to find the truth about a possible series of murders, and about a difficult marriage. At the same time, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's apprentice Charlie, and Mma Makutsi, Mma Ramotswe's right-hand woman, travel down different paths.
Mma Makutsi, who wears glasses and is as fond of shoes as I am, has a moment of insight (page 104),
She looked down at the broken shoe on her lap. It was such a sad thing, that shoe, like a body from which the life had gone. She stared at it. Almost challenging it to reproach her. But it did not, and all she heard, she thought, was a strangled voice which said, Narrow escape, Boss. You were walking in the wrong direction, you know. We shoes understand these things..And now, for the tea
Mma Makutsi's fond of Indian tea, while Mma Ramotswe loves bush tea.
I like coffee in the morning, but tea in the afternoon.
The owner of the b&B where I stayed the first time I went to England taught me how to make tea:
In a teakettle, boil the water. Use freshly drawn water. When water is re-boiled, or stands for a while, it loses oxygen which prevents the full flavor of the tea being released.
Once the water boils, warm the teapot by swirling some of the boiling water in it. Pour out that water, and add 1 teaspoon of loose tea for each person, and one for the pot (I prefer to use a large tea ball so I can remove all the tea after it steeps. If you use a tea ball, make sure it remains less than half-full). Add boiling water.
Let the loose tea steep for 3-5 minutes. Stir and serve. I like my tea "black", with no milk, and no sugar. Sometimes a slice of fresh lemon is nice.
Here's where you can get the materials:
You can find a selection of fine loose teas basically everywhere.
The Chef's Choice teakettle turns itself off once the water boils, is cordless (the heating plate remains puggled), and keeps the water warm for cocoa:
We have had nearly every brand of teakettle by now and this one is worth it.
The Brown Betty teapot is the traditional English teapot:
Here's a nice tea ball:
and a mesh one:
While serving the tea in a porcelain cup and matching saucer is nice, ceramic mugs and hot tea glasses are good, too. Remember to pour the tea on a silver spoon in the tea glass to absorb some of the heat in order to avoid cracking the glass (the tea glasses also should not feel cold to the touch). I don't like drinking tea out of plastic.
I like buttered toast with my tea, and maybe a Pepperidge Farm sugar-free Milano cookie. Serve some for a friend, or sit on the porch and enjoy some of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels.