Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Campaign for Real Tea

Christopher Hitchens has written a fine piece about one of the greatest cultural and geopolitical matters of our time: how to make a decent cup of tea (via Norm).

He covers sugar policy and milk tactics – and, while I think he’s a little too prescriptive on the former (personally I’m a sucrophile but I’m happy to be libertarian about this), he’s absolutely right that the only way to ensure you add the right amount of milk is to add it, i.e. after the tea.

And, as Norm rightly identifies, the most important issue is this:

ground [coffee] beans are heavier and denser [than tea leaves], and in any case many good coffees require water that is just fractionally off the boil. Whereas tea is a herb (or an herb if you insist) that has been thoroughly dried. In order for it to release its innate qualities, it requires to be infused. And an infusion, by definition, needs the water to be boiling when it hits the tea. Grasp only this, and you hold the root of the matter.

Hitchens bemoans how little this is known in the USA.

Tea, like modesty, irony and imperialism, is something that we Brits understand far better than Americans do (indeed, we have our imperialism to thank for our tea expertise). Perhaps the USA would benefit from the establishment of a Campaign for Real Tea, to promote this simple, vital but apparently not self-evident truth.

It sounds stupid? Well, yes, it does. But I think you’ll find it’d be the least stupid American political movement with ‘tea’ in its name.


chris said...

Although I sympathise with you, this is a dangerous subject for the left. As Proudhon said, proper tea is theft.

CS Clark said...

There's certainly something very British about referencing a list of rules by George Orwell, acknowledging that, today at least, half those rules are bunk, and then continuing to insist on the inviolability of the other half.

No, I'm sure this is all fine and dandy when you're in the mood for warming the pot and turning it round three times clockwise rather than stirring and burying a mouse under a toadstool at midnight, and indeed I've enjoyed suchlike. But sometimes you want, or rather need, something of which its main property is being neither Assam nor Darjeeling but simply brown, that's been abandoned by the kettle with the bag in, stewed beyond belief, rezapped, forgotten again and lukewarmly gulped down in three seconds while getting your socks on. Lesser drinks are good or bad according to their merits, but only tea is so excellent at being both at the same time. What an insult to the noble leaf to circumscribe it so.