Okay, so I have a confession, it’s a terrible vice……. I absolutely love tea. It’s my tipple of choice, morning, afternoon and evening. I have even been known to have a ‘cup of tea’ at last orders. I’m not a Tetley or Yorkshire tea girl. Tea, for me must be more subtle and I do have my favourites…Earl Grey (with milk not lemon), Darjeeling, Vanilla Rooibos, Ginger and Lemon, Peppermint and Liquorice to name but a few, but I’m always up for trying a new blend. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing better than sitting down with a nice hot cup of tea (a pot is even better). A wee square of black chocolate goes very nicely, and on special occasions a fruit scone with jam and butter makes for a perfect combination. A cup of tea signals that it’s time for a break, time to stop what I’m doing, time to switch off or sometimes it can help to keep going. It’s strange that although a traveller seeks out new and different experiences, comforting rituals, such as a nice cup of tea, have also become important. However, my quest for this simple creature comfort in the land of café con leche, has been challenging. The coffee and chocolate culture in Spain go back a long way and drinking tea here is not really considered the norm. So, this my chance to practice some of of the lingo. “Te negra con leche, por favour (black tea with milk, please)”, I smile …… a small cup of hot milk with a tea bag floating within (and no tea diffused out) arrives. Okay, so that didn’t work. I try something else “Te negra con leche fria, aparte” (black tea with separate cold milk) …… a cup of tea and a separate glass of milk is placed on the table and when I try the same on another occasion, a cup of tea and a glass with ice (not sure how that one happened) is served. I go back to my Spanish phrase book, and finally during an afternoon in Elche, in one of the city’s quaint little squares, I get it right. The waitress offers Rooibos as a choice, so I go for it “ Té Rooibois en agua caliente y un poco de leche fria en una jarra”( Rooibois tea with hot water and a small jug of cold milk) and lo and behold, a lovely cup of loose-leaf vanilla Rooibos in hot water, in a large mug (most cups of tea in Spain have been tiny) arrives with a small jug of cold milk on the side. And so already I have a soft spot for Elche where I enjoy the best cup of tea in Spain, so far!
We spend the afternoon in Elche (also known as Elx), the third biggest city in the region of Valencia. We later find out that the city has UNESCO World Heritage status for its Misteri d’Elx (an annual mystery musical play sung entirely by men, about the death, assumption and crowning of the Virgin), performed since the 15th century in the Basilica of Saint Mary of Elche. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) it is performed in August, so we don’t get the chance to experience it, but we do visit the extensive palm groves for which the city has also been awarded UNESCO status. The palms are everywhere and you might also spot a pomegranate tree or two, for which this region is also famous for. We visit the Huerto del Cura, a beautiful garden full of date palms, cacti and other local flora. The Imperial palm tree, in the centre of the garden, is 165 years old and is quiet a spectacle with its 8 additional trunks (children) sprouting 2 meters above the ground in a tree-like candelabra. We visit the Museo del Palmarel which houses hundreds of different palm varieties and spend some time in the Museo Arqueológico y Historia de Elche, a fabulous museum, been built on The Alcazar de la Señoríasite, part of the old Islamic road in the city. The museum recounts the history of Elche, through archaeological artefacts, touchscreen information displays (all in English) and animation. Finally, we visit the Basillica de Santa Maria, where a trip up its tower provides a fabulous view of the city. On the way back to the car, we walk through the Municipal Park which is full of…. yes, you guessed it, more palm trees. A lovely city to visit if you are in this area of Spain, and although I can’t promise, it might be your best bet of finding that lovely cup of tea all you tea lovers in Spain have been looking for!