Corrugated City

Wednesday 29 August 2007

How to Make a Good Cuppa in Chile

While other foreign bloggers in Chile write about inanities such as poverty, human trafficking, racism and the joy of Talca, i'm keeping focused on the serious issues. Just what do you do when your supply of PG Tips Pyramids runs out?

When i was living in Argentina, i had all my visitors from back home bring me boxes of tea. I amassed a fair few tea bags over the course of a year or so-something in the region of 1500 actually. Why did i need to have tea smuggled into the country, i can hear you ask. Because tea in Argentina was rotten. It was all locally produced, weak and foul. The only half decent tea i found was Lipton but it was horribly expensive and i'm not a great fan of it to be honest.

This was an issue that started to worry me a couple of months ago here in Chile. I was running low on PG Tips and decided to start experimenting with locally available teas. First attempts weren't altogether successful. A lot of tea in Chile is imported from Argentina. However, after rummaging around the supermarket shelves, i came across two or three that were made from tea imported from Sri Lanka. That's proper tea.

So here's my guide about how to make a god cuppa tea in Chile.

First, choose your tea. After much trial and error i've found Té Club to be the best. Be careful to only buy the blue box as this is the only variety of theirs that is made from Ceylon tea.

Next, use a big mug. None of these nancy tea cups. Use two tea bags per mug-it's not very strong and one bag gives you grey water. Pour in boiling water that´s not quite boiling. Stir the tea bags and then let stand for a minute or two.

Now use a tea spoon and wrap the strings from the tea bag around the spoon until you can squash all the lovely tea out of the bag with your thumb.

Finally, add milk* and enjoy. Do not add sugar. If you have to add sugar to your tea, it means you don´t like tea.

As a final note, you should be really aware that if you order té con leche (tea with milk) in Chile, what you'll get is a lukewarm cup of milk and a tea bag. Ask for té con un poco de leche aparte and you should get a tea bag, some lukewarm water and a bit of milk on the side. Ask for the agua that comes with the tea bag to be bien caliente por favor and you might just be lucky enough to get really hot water. Best to just not order tea when you're out and about. Save it for when you get home.

*You can't get real milk in Chile. It's all UHT stuff that tastes nasty. The least revolting tasting milk i've found is the semi-skimmed Lonco Leche brand. It's the only one that doesn't separate when it's added to hot drinks.


Paul Norwood said...

Actually, if you put sugar in your tea it means your cup is over-brewed, and if you put milk in your tea it means you're trying to mask the flavor. And you know, there's really good tea available online for not that much money - so why castigate yourself like that?

Hey, all in fun - I have been quietly enjoying your blog.

Matt said...

hehe, i'm english...must have milk in my tea. sugar's a sign of a philistine.

Anonymous said...

wow matt,

I reside in singapore, an ex british colony. never know valpa of chile has s strong british influence, I wonder if that city has a strong billingual heritage, English & spanish?

Matt said...

hi al,

yep, the british had a strong influence over Valparaiso and Chile as a whole. I've really got to finish a post about the british influence in chile...i started it months ago and never finished. maybe this week...maybe...

Matt said...

oops, didn't answer your question...

there's no english-spanish bi-lingual culture in valpo or chile as a whole except for a few upper-class families and a few british-chilean schools. There's a far larger german-spanish bilingual culture, especially in the south.

chile actually wants to become a bilingual country by 2015 or something like that. absolutely no chance but it's a nice idea.

Anonymous said...

Do you buy properties in chile the same way as in argentina?
No mortage,,pay in full?

Matt said...

al, no-chile has a pretty effective mortgage system which is open to most young professionals of around my age (i'm 29) and anyone with a half decent job. Many of our friends (28-34) have been able to buy their first home with up to 80% on credit and some have also bought holiday homes. We have a friend who is thinking of studying in England for an MBA and is able to take a loan to pay for it. Interest rates in Chile are around 5.5% at the moment.

There are also government subsidies of around us10,000 for a limited amount of people who buy a new apartment in a renovated old building (which is the line of work we're moving into-loft renovations). This is to help revive traditional neighourhoods by providing affordable housing and not knocking down Chile's architectural heritage.

Argentina is a crazy place-the entire market is built on cash purchases. Some people (mainly foreigners with a lot to lose) seem to think that this is a reason why the market won't crash, because there's no credit and no one to default on mortgages.

My view is the opposite-the market is unsustainable because at some point (and quite soon i think) the cash that's flowing around will stop flowing. There simply won't be any more people with us$100,000 under their mattresses and everything will stall. And when you think that a very decent salary for a young professional in Argentina is us$900/month, inflation is running at 15-30% a year and there's no chance of accessible mortgages ( (saving for a deposit is impossible) it doesn't take a genius to see that it can't last.

It's like a pyramid scheme-it's a perfect economy until there's no one else who can join.

It's part of the reason for the boom in new car sales in Argentina. No one can afford to buy a house or apartment, so they buy the next best status symbol: a car. Cars are 50% more expensive in Argentina than in Chile, so most new cars sold are cheap models such as VW Gols and Fiat Palios which don't do much in safety terms when they crash, part of the reason for 700 dead and thousands maimed a month on the roads in Argentina.

Absolutely brilliant place for a holiday though.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice,I realize rhat there're many expat bloggers in argentina promoting the place for tourism and even retirement for foreigners,but I can find only a few bloggers that really promote chile, you're one of them, Is chile a safe but bland country?

Matt said...

"Safe but bland".

Al, i think you've hit the nail on the head. Compared to Argentina, Chile is just that. Economically stable, socially stable (ish), honest police force etc. Chile doesn't offer the roller coaster thrills of Argentina, but as i mentioned in a previous post (about inflation and the UF), roller coasters are great fun until they make you dizzy and throw up!

Anonymous said...


Is chile a place only for rich expats?
The living costs seems pretty high

Matt said...

al-no, not really. I mean, most people who come to live in Chile and who are not permanently semi-broke english teachers tend to have some financial resources behind them but i wouldn't say Chile's a place just for rich expats.

Cost of living is reasonably high but not inaccessible. You can live quite well on us$2000/month, for example. When i first arrived in Argentina in 2003, it was around 40-50% cheaper than Chile. Now, due to high inflation and absurdly inept economic management, Argentina is probably around 10% cheaper than Chile and the gap is closing quickly.

Also, major purchases in Chile, such as a car, fridge, tv, washing machine, are all around 40-50% cheaper than in Argentina, where high import duties make foreign made goods much more expensive. Actually, it's not just foreign goods-in Argentina most cars and electrical goods are made in duty-free zones. This means you can get Argentine made Peugeot 206s or Phillips TVs for 40% less in Chile than in Argentina...!

Real estate in Chile is around the same value now as in Argentina and often cheaper. My view is that the time to invest in Argentina is over and Chile is a safer bet. That's why we moved back over here.- a year or so too early but i believe it's better to leave a market on the up than worry about it when it starts to level off.

Anonymous said...

Chileno cited that 100usd is middle class in chile.
People can't even breed a pack of siberian husky with 100usd a month nowadays.
Chile and the rest of this planet need to work out sustainable development.With oil coming to 90usd a barrel soon, we are becoming cliffhangers

Matt said...

Nah, us$100 isn't anywhere near middle class in chile. us$100 is official poverty line. Minimum wage on a contract here is around us$360 plus benefits (health).

The us$2000 i mentioned was for a foreigner living here and wanting to live to a pretty high standard. Middle class chileans can get along fine on us$1000 which is a low starting salary for a young professional.

Put it this way-my girlfriend and i live on under us$2000 a month and we have a pretty good life here.

Rook said...

on the beverage theme of this post but on a side tangent, have you found any pubs with a good pint of Guinness? I lived/worked in Chile in 2003 and have returned in 2004 and the beginning of 2005 and while I love the Valpo/Vina/Reneca/Con Con area, I didn't find a bar with Guinness. I remember being in Vina in summer of 2005, girls on the streets giving out flyers for a new Irish pub in Vina, how excited I was until I walked in the front door and saw the bar....Budweiser mirrors with Irish crests and family names is not exactly an Irish pub and musicians playing Ricardo Arjona's music (Guatemalan music)..........anyway, I should be back in Chile this summer and was curious if you have found a good pint of Guinness...thanks

Matt said...

hi Brendan, Short I haven't seen guinness on tap anywhere in chile. there's an irish bar in Valpo that has cans and bottles of the stuff but at ridiculous prices (o so i've been told, i haven't been). What i miss most is a good pint of London Pride. Not a chance of getting that out here...Irish theme pubs should be banned unless they can prove they're owned by a genuine irishman. These fakes with 'real' signs and 'artefacts' made in china really are not right and must be stopped from taking over the world.

Mamacita Chilena said...

I go more crazy over the fact that the tea cups are TINY. And so are the coffee cups. The "cups" of coffee that you get served here at restaurants or people's homes are like a shot of espresso for me...c'mon!

Matt said...

And it's invariably served tepid at best...i do like small coffees though, as long as it's real coffee.