How to find a decent cup of tea on a layover  

by Shaheer Ali

Tip Number One: Do not say “cup of tea” to the barista. This is because they are likely to mishear your swift utterance of a common phrase, and will probably hand you a “cappuccino” instead. Apart from being bewildered as to how a “cup of tea” ever sounded remotely similar to “cappuccino”, you’ll be forced to return to the barista in a semi-awkward second attempt simply to obtain a fuss free cup of tea. Your best bet is to say “Cup. Of. Tea”, one syllable at a time, or, simply say “hot tea” instead.  

 This is just one of the nightmares that tea-loving travellers face when they’re not in the vicinity of their much-loved Costa’s or Starbucks. The painful reality, that not every airport matches good-old Heathrow, is an all too familiar realisation. Because, look, I could hardly blame you for lamenting the shortage of a decent cup of tea when travelling abroad. Every airport outside the British isles, in their drive to serve the Americans their “coffee”, has come woefully short in serving a satisfying cup of tea. At best, the tea they serve is tasteless and dull, with a poor balance of tea and milk. At worst, they don’t serve it at all, or simply hand you a cappuccino.  

 Take note of where you’re off to… 

 So, very fittingly, here is a mini guide on how to never find yourself without a satisfying cuppa during a layover. Whether you’re roaming the Duty Frees at JFK or the souvenir stands at Schiphol this guide has you covered.

 Let’s begin with the basics. If a good cup of tea is as important for you as it is for me, then the first thing to do is to “prepare”. If you’ll be connecting at a major connections hub, like Dubai (DXB) or Singapore Changi, then you can cross your fingers and hope for the best, you probably won’t be disappointed. If, however, you’re connecting in some European capital (the worst offenders) or in one of China’s glossy and newlybuilt terminals, then a pinch of preparation will save you of any disappointment once your tea-alarm goes off.  

So, if the latter ever appears on your itinerary, then here’s what you can do. First, check their website to see if they have a Starbucks branch. In East Asian airports, watch out for “Pacific Coffee”. As large and internationally popular chains, they are far more likely to know what pleases their charming British customers. If, however, that looks doubtful, then pop in to Heathrow’s airside Duty Free. From there, pick up a box of the prized Fortnum and Mason teabags and keep them on-hand throughout your journey. Then, simply request a cup of hot water from any coffee shop, throw it in, let it brew, then… enjoy!  

Airport Lounge Copenhagen Airport

Airport Lounge Copenhagen Airport © SASSo, 

 Have a back-up plan 

 If running a little short on time, and you happen to be flying with a major carrier like BA or Emirates, then you can always request an unopened teabag from their kind flight attendants on-board. Ultimately, no good cuppa comes without the humble teabag smothered with a household brand. So, keep that “rule of thumb” in mind as you travel to uncharted corners of the globe. 

 Finally, if you ever want to carry out a “litmus test” of whether an airside coffee shop offers a good brew of tea, then kindly ask the barista to show you the brand of tea they use. If you see a box of Twinings, a popular choice for foreign chains, then you’re in good hands. If the test result is negative, however, then simply pull out your own teabags from your pocket, and voila.  

 And, whatever you do, say “hot tea… ice tea… gallon of tea… (whatever), but never say “cup of tea”.  

 Happy travels, fellow tea-addicts!

What are the home comforts that you always need, regardless of your location? Let us know in the comments below.

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