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I remember the day I almost choked on my pimento olive when my best friend asked whether we get bonuses at my place of work. We were in the midst of one of those career-related conversations, the kind we found SO dull when we used to giggle over Keanu Reeves posters back in the 90s (yes kids, some of you weren’t born then!) “Bonuses?!”  I tried to levitate my jaw which was virtually sealed down with adhesive to the floor.  I’m a blimming NHS GP and the public sector and health service are stretched to the limit.tea selection

Fortunately, I have never been the sort to have pound signs pinging out of my eyes and I think I speak on behalf of most of my profession when I say we really wouldn’t invest more than a decade of our lives in training if we were driven by the pursuit of fat wallets, not here in the UK anyway. My more financially savvy friends did degrees half the length of mine and earn around twice my salary. So, no – I don’t get a bonus. As far as I’m concerned, they’re an impalpable entity found in unicorn land along with company cars, corporate parties, mermaids and elves 😀

Here’s what we do get though: A reasonable amount of stress and oodles more reward, heart-warming cards, an opportunity to meet and look after people from all walks of life and LOTS AND LOTS OF TEA. I was the lady who had never tasted tea till my mid twenties (I couldn’t see the novelty of brown dilute musty water) but at 4am on a night shift when you finally have two free minutes to pause, nothing rejuvenates you more than a warm cup of tea. Even if it is out of a polystyrene cup from an age-old machine.wpid-img_20150103_231156.jpg

The Benefits of Drinking Tea

And so after a lifetime of not drinking caffeine, I finally realised the healing powers of tea, my simple but vital guilty pleasure and these were some of the benefits it yielded for me personally:

It was sociable. When everyone sat together at meetings with a mug in hand, I no longer looked like the idiot grasping the orange juice.fresh orange juice MarrakechIt (transiently) filled the crater in my stomach during all those lunch hours where I glared jealously at the organised bods who had woken up ten minutes earlier to make their quinoa salads and handcrafted sandwiches.

It warmed the cockles in a country where I felt cold the majority of the time. I could finally walk along the banks of the Thames without shivering and without goose bumps the size of cherries.St Paul's London riverside viewIt was cathartic during moments when I felt flustered or stressed. On these occasions, I would throw in a spoon of sugar for good measure and when the cup emptied, the situation may have been unchanged but I felt calmer for it.tea st james court tajmango green tea St James Court Hotel afternoon teaMy extended family in India no longer thought I was bonkers for not tasting a drink consumed by the masses virtually as soon as they exit the womb. And FYI, there’s nothing quite as aromatic as a traditional cup of Indian Chai made in a family kitchen in a saucepan with bundles of spices, cloves, sugar and milk. It’s the ultimate remedy and nothing I make out of a kettle tastes quite the same.kettle Hospice Museum LilleThere is a tea for every occasion. A peppermint tea to help you digest, chamomile to help you unwind, lemon, ginger and honey to help de-congest those sinuses.

Twinings tea bagsIt is a souvenir I can collect from all over the world, my most recent highlight being a regal and sensual saffron tea in Morocco not to mention the scorching pot of fresh mint tea that helped calm my nerves before that massage.

saffron tea Morocco

Saffron Tea in Marrakech

Marrakech fresh mint tea

Morocco’s famous fresh mint tea

Since discovering my love of tea, I’ve amassed a rather large collection of exotic teas. I don’t venture into the food halls of Fortnum and Mason or Harrods to find these (although they stock a great range if you’re equally enamoured by tea). My particular offerings include teas straight from the hilly plantations of Sri Lanka, the spice farms of Zanzibar, the pandan leaves in Bali and the famous apple tea we found in virtually every cafe in Patagonia.

pandan tea flavour

Balinese Pandan Tea

In fact, during our one night stay at the tea plantations in Sri Lanka, we stayed at The Heritance Tea Factory Hotel, a charming colonial abode housed in a an actual former tea factory where everything was tea themed. Had the weather been less rainy, we would even have had an opportunity to pick our own tea leaves and bring home our finished product.Heritance Tea Factory Hotel tea factory hotel Sri Lanka

And in Vietnam, I found perhaps the quietest tea house in the world, though I confess the  temptation for the Vietnamese drip coffee won out in the end

Reaching Out Tea House Vietnam

Reaching Out Tea House, Hoi An

Vietnamese drip coffee Hoi An

Vietnamese coffee

I have so many packets, powders and loose leaf teas floating around our kitchen in London, that Pumpkin with his slight OCD tendencies, finally buckled under the chaos of my tea stash and bought me a neat little tea chest to store them in. wooden tea caddy chestEvery time friends and family come round and I offer them tea or coffee, I am now able to present them my wooden tea caddy and they always stare in marvel, sifting through the picks rather like I do whenever I go to afternoon tea. And truth be told, my stomach does a little twirly dance when I find others equally intrigued by these world teas.

I like cakes. I love chocolate. I happily remain teetotal. But tea, tea, I think I need.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Part of a monthly travel blog link up hosted by Kelly, Emma and Rebecca