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Tea should be hot.
July 29, 2012 5:10 PM   Subscribe

A Guide to Writing Sherlockian-Tea Habits. In which EnigmaticPenguin (of death) schools fanfiction authors in correct English tea theory and practice. Follow up: Biscuits.
posted by The Whelk (158 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
A properly written piece of Victoriana wouldn't even mention the drinking of tea, in the same way that most books don't tell you that the main character is breathing, and only really mention it when they have stopped breathing for some reason.
posted by dng at 5:22 PM on July 29, 2012 [21 favorites]


34% of the UK doesn't drink tea every day? Shocking.
posted by octothorpe at 5:37 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the photos, it looks like this is a modern-day update of Sherlock Holmes (not Victorian) so it's reasonable to talk about current brands and trends. I was confused at first too.

I suspect much of that 34% are immigrants -- but such is the awesome power of TEA that within a generation or two they'll be drinking it and insisting that they've always done it this way.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 5:44 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tea would be mentioned if it was a Nice Cup of Tea after A Shock. Or if it was Something Almost Exactly Not Like Tea served after the destruction of the planet Earth.
posted by Artw at 5:47 PM on July 29, 2012 [12 favorites]


Harvey - most immigration into the UK is from places with Tea though, even if it is occasionally weird tea (ie not black with milk). The 34% remains a mystery.
posted by Artw at 5:49 PM on July 29, 2012


Not a single mention of Yorkshire Gold? Hmmph!
posted by maudlin at 5:58 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


For canon Holmes, I believe there are actually more mentions of him partaking in coffee (6) than tea (3), with cocoa (1) a distant last place. The Ocular Helmsman has that and other mentions of beverages covered.

For more on the proper cup, please see Tea with Sherlock Holmes:
Following are all the tea references in the canon (the complete collection of Holmes stories). The quotations are taken from The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with a preface by Christopher Morley; published by Doubleday & Company, Inc. They may vary somewhat in other versions.

posted by zamboni at 6:02 PM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Versus ingesting vast amounts of opium and cocaine, which happens a lot.
posted by Artw at 6:03 PM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


A properly written piece of Victoriana wouldn't even mention the drinking of tea, in the same way that most books don't tell you that the main character is breathing, and only really mention it when they have stopped breathing for some reason.

In this case it could be used to color dialogue a bit, though, in the same way breath can be: taking a deep breath before saying something hard, stuff like that. I mean, I don't really do Victoriana, but I can think of a few points in books where people drink a fair amount of hot beverages and it's mentioned occasionally: the way Hagrid messes around with the teacups when he's avoiding looking at the trio, books where cups clatter awkwardly on saucers in silences, stuff like that. It's especially good if you're doing the avoiding saying "said" thing but don't want to be one of those authors that keeps looking at the list of words to replace "said" on the wall and makes everyone giggle whenever they use "ejaculate".
posted by NoraReed at 6:20 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess we've fought wars trying to force both tea AND opium on people, if you count that American business. No Beer War though.
posted by Artw at 6:34 PM on July 29, 2012


Does anyone know about these "squashed flies" cookies. Or biscuits? They look exactly like a favorite cookie of mine, which I can only find in Asian grocery stores: Khong Guan Sultana cream crackers/biscuits/cookies/whatever. I assumed they were Chinese. Are they British?
posted by Houstonian at 6:34 PM on July 29, 2012


This is relevant to my interests.

Thanks!
posted by blurker at 6:34 PM on July 29, 2012


Houstonian - Garibaldi biscuits - they are disgusting, avoid.
posted by Artw at 6:41 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


from article: “If I were to open the kitchen cupboard above the swish glowing kettle in 221B Baker Street (and be lucky enough not to come across eyeballs or fingers) then I would expect to find a jar or Tupperware box of...”

Yes, damn it all! These ignorant Yankees and their confounded anachronistic fanfiction. Holmes obviously brewed Twinings from bags he kept in a Tupperware container, and he did it with one of those handy little electric kettles, just like Chaucer and Shakespeare and every other true Englishman.
posted by koeselitz at 6:44 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Artw, I love them, if they are in fact like Sultanas! Kinda plain (like graham crackers without the graham) and with raisins? But what's the UK-British connection with this cookie?
posted by Houstonian at 6:45 PM on July 29, 2012


(er, UK-China connection)
posted by Houstonian at 6:46 PM on July 29, 2012


YANK HOLMES TO DRINK DIET COKE - UNCONFIRMED.
posted by Artw at 6:46 PM on July 29, 2012


YANK HOLMES TO DRINK DIET COKE - UNCONFIRMED.

Nonsense. Yank Holmes will drink a seven-percent solution of Red Bull and Monster. And Watson will lecture him on the dangers of excess caffeine.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:50 PM on July 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


(I'd actually like very much to read a discussion of how tea was taken historically in Holmes' time, but this is not it – it's another lecture about how the English are supposed to take tea; and of course the English method is all right, but there are certainly better ways.)
posted by koeselitz at 6:50 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess we've fought wars trying to force both tea AND opium on people, if you count that American business.

The opium was sold to get the silver to buy more tea.

The American switch from tea to coffee as a default drink was a deliberate post-Revolutionary fashion to express cultural distinctiveness ( whatever happened to tea in Canada , one wonders )
posted by Bwithh at 6:51 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The 34% remains a mystery.

Robots, American expats, and the very basest of criminals, I am sure.
posted by elizardbits at 6:53 PM on July 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


Garibaldis are OK. Eccles cakes are delish however
posted by Bwithh at 6:55 PM on July 29, 2012


Oh dear lord, the US version of the Garibaldi was one of my favorites as a child and I just thought that maybe I wasn't looking in the right places for them, and now it turns out they got discontinued entirely. Alas.

My Scottish family has a lot of tea drinkers even now, but immigrated before this whole electric kettle thing hit. BBC Sherlock does include the use of an electric kettle, which is basically the first time I ever paid attention to things in a UK-import show enough to have noticed it, and I now thing mine is about the best thing since sliced bread.

I do mostly use it to make coffee in my AeroPress, though. Because, seriously, who needs tradition? I think Sherlock ought to take his caffeine sublingually in 200mg tablets. That gets the brain going!
posted by gracedissolved at 7:01 PM on July 29, 2012


Between cases Yank Holmes resorts to home brew 4-Loco.
posted by Artw at 7:02 PM on July 29, 2012


Holmes obviously brewed Twinings from bags he kept in a Tupperware container, and he did it with one of those handy little electric kettles, just like Chaucer and Shakespeare and every other true Englishman.

Wrong Holmes We're talking about this one.
posted by muddgirl at 7:03 PM on July 29, 2012


Who's "we?"
posted by koeselitz at 7:04 PM on July 29, 2012


The post. The subject of the thread.
posted by kmz at 7:05 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was an electric kettle shunner for years and years, because I had super limey well water, and kettles lasted about a month before becoming impenetrably encrusted. But I got my first new kettle in over a decade about a month ago and I often cuddle it to my bosom and shed a single perfect tear for all those wasted years.
posted by elizardbits at 7:05 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


And please, Benny Crumbles heats his kettle using only his smouldering gaze.
posted by elizardbits at 7:06 PM on July 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


Maybe I'm just too steeped in fandom but honestly the Moffat/Cumberbatch Sherlock is my default when I think of Holmes these days. Especially when "Sherlock" is the key word, not "Holmes".
posted by kmz at 7:10 PM on July 29, 2012


Surprising that there is not Extreem-Tea or Mega-Chai or pill form like would have been invented in the U.S. Not even a crystalised version like a tea version of Sanka or Folgers, you guys are certainly purists, brewing the stuff up from dried leaves. The US invented stuff like Ovaltine, Tang and even turned to coffee substitutes like Chickory, and indeed Diet Coke has probably surpassed coffee in popularity. With advances such as Red Bull and Monster I wonder how long it will be before daily Diet Coke will be seen as seen as gentle, perhaps too traditional, ritual. I can imagine entreating my grandchildren to come inside for their Diet Coke only to have them demand MegaMonster-XXl or the latest energy drink.

whatever happened to tea in Canada I'm second generation Canadian American so I am uniquely suited to address this. My grandmother brewed pot after pot of tea each day, and even used an electric kettle bought specially in Canada. Some people found this affectation endearing, some people sipped it nervously while secretly wishing it were coffee.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:10 PM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ginger snaps FTW.
posted by arcticseal at 7:10 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yep, wow. Sorry. Sigh.
posted by koeselitz at 7:13 PM on July 29, 2012


When I was growing up in the UK The only coffee available was instant. Dark times...
posted by Artw at 7:13 PM on July 29, 2012


That was the only kind my gradparents ever had in the house, they served it with canned milk whenever anyone demanded coffee.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:16 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


In a suprise twist the yank Holmes is actually Belfast musician David Holmes, recreating the making of his album Lets Get Killed. Him and Lucy Liu get fucked up on all kinds of shit.
posted by Artw at 7:17 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ad hominem: "The US invented stuff like Ovaltine ..."

I'm pretty sure international misunderstandings like this are exactly why the Swiss keep their own well-regulated militia…
posted by Pinback at 7:18 PM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd consider canned milk an abomination, but Vietnamese Coffee is one of the best things in the world.
posted by Artw at 7:18 PM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm drinking Yorkshire right now out of a Keep Calm and Drink Tea mug that I bought while wandering around downtown drunk. The fourth tea mug I'd bought in as many weeks. No regrets!

Also blech to dunking.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:19 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ad hominem, this Canadian actually remembers powdered instant tea, though it was cheap, dreadful and utterly pointless stuff and I haven't looked for it anywhere in decades.

But you can get ersatz chai in powdered form for any number of those awful instant hot drink devices, and some people are trying to sell instant powdered black tea for ridiculous prices. From a site called "Enjoying Tea"(!):
This is great for people who want to enjoy tea but do not have time to brew the tea. This instant tea is very convenient and easy to prepare. Just place three 1/8 tsp of instant tea powder into a regular 16 ounce bottle of water, then shake and drink. You get all the health benefits, aroma, and taste of loose leave black tea in an instant. It is great for all occasions. Each canister contains 30g of tea powder.

Mixing Instructions:

Measure 1/8 tsp of tea for every 200ml of water.
Add warm or hot water.
Mix and serve. Add ice if desire.
I think I'll go lie down now.
posted by maudlin at 7:19 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would never write Sherlock fic with anybody eating Jammy Dodgers, as they are now inextricably associated in my mind with Doctor Who (along with Jelly Babies).
posted by immlass at 7:20 PM on July 29, 2012


now i really want some golden monkey but it is far too late for caffeine

*sobs*
posted by elizardbits at 7:22 PM on July 29, 2012


I would never write Sherlock fic with anybody eating Jammy Dodgers, as they are now inextricably associated in my mind with Doctor Who (along with Jelly Babies).

Eddie Izzard Voice: chocolate biscuits
posted by The Whelk at 7:26 PM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ad hominem, this Canadian actually remembers powdered instant tea, though it was cheap, dreadful and utterly pointless stuff and I haven't looked for it anywhere in decades.

I can't help but think that was due to American influence. "You mean I gotta wait while you boil the water and let it steep? time is money, gimme some of that instant "
posted by Ad hominem at 7:27 PM on July 29, 2012


My favorite tea is spiced tea, which I found the recipe to while making a certain African sweet bread dish. It's a black, grey or orange pekoe tea, with milk, sugar and clove (but I use cinnamon instead).

Yes, I'm an American who drinks iced tea. I'll drink it with sugar OR Sweet & Low. *GASP* For shame!
posted by Malice at 7:35 PM on July 29, 2012


Canonical Holmes drinks coffee when at hom, but tea when out. I presume it's because he found it hard to get decent coffee outside his lodgings, but it's hard to ruin tea if you're not a barbarian. See: The Naval Treaty, in which Mrs Hudson brings in tea and coffee, and Holmes chooses the coffee,
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:40 PM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


For some reason I always imagine canonical Watson to be the kind of fellow who'd carry a used teabag around in his pocket and keep reusing it until it was completely steeped, a la Dennis Kucinich. But maybe this is another American abomination of tea.
posted by muddgirl at 7:42 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


and keep reusing it until it was completely steeped, a la Dennis Kucinich.

wait what this is a thing people do?

What the hell people?
posted by The Whelk at 7:44 PM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Reuse a teabag?! Thanks for the nightmare fuel.
posted by axiom at 7:45 PM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Versus ingesting vast amounts of opium and cocaine, which happens a lot.

According to Searching for Sherlock, there are mentions of cocaine (9), morphine (2), morphia (3), opium (22).

The cocaine is all references to Holmes' recreational use, morphine is 50%/50%, morphia is all medicinal. Eighteen of the opium references come from two stories - The Man with the Twisted Lip, which features an opium addict, and The Adventure of Silver Blaze, which has an opium poisoning. Holmes never uses opium, despite impersonating a smoker in Twisted Lip.
posted by zamboni at 7:51 PM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


A properly written piece of Victoriana wouldn't even mention the drinking of tea, in the same way that most books don't tell you that the main character is breathing, and only really mention it when they have stopped breathing for some reason.

Oh no, no, no and - most emphatically - no. Par exemple,


~~~~~~~~~
EXHIBIT A) "North & South" by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Here Mr Thornton (the Northern mill-owner who seeks an education) takes an interest in Miss Margaret Hale, when he really ought to be paying attention to his Latin lessons. AND HIS TEA.

"It appeared to Mr. Thornton that all these graceful cares were habitual to the family; and especially of a piece with Margaret. She stood by the tea-table in a light-coloured muslin gown, which had a good deal of pink about it. She looked as if she was not attending to the conversation, but solely busy with the tea-cups, among which her round ivory hands moved with pretty, noiseless, daintiness. She had a bracelet on one taper arm, which would fall down over her round wrist. Mr. Thornton watched the replacing of this troublesome ornament with far more attention than he listened to her father. It seemed as if it fascinated him to see her push it up impatiently, until it tightened her soft flesh; and then to mark the loosening — the fall. He could almost have exclaimed — "There it goes, again!""

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
EXHIBIT B) "The Importance of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde.

The ladies joust over tea.

Cecily. Ah! This is what the newspapers call agricultural depression, is it not? I believe the aristocracy are suffering very much from it just at present. It is almost an epidemic amongst them, I have been told. May I offer you some tea, Miss Fairfax?

Gwendolen. [With elaborate politeness.] Thank you. [Aside.] Detestable girl! But I require tea!

Cecily. [Sweetly.] Sugar?

Gwendolen. [Superciliously.] No, thank you. Sugar is not fashionable any more. [Cecily looks angrily at her, takes up the tongs and puts four lumps of sugar into the cup.]

Cecily. [Severely.] Cake or bread and butter?

Gwendolen. [In a bored manner.] Bread and butter, please. Cake is rarely seen at the best houses nowadays.

Cecily. [Cuts a very large slice of cake, and puts it on the tray.] Hand that to Miss Fairfax.

[Merriman does so, and goes out with footman. Gwendolen drinks the tea and makes a grimace. Puts down cup at once, reaches out her hand to the bread and butter, looks at it, and finds it is cake. Rises in indignation.]

Gwendolen. You have filled my tea with lumps of sugar, and though I asked most distinctly for bread and butter, you have given me cake. I am known for the gentleness of my disposition, and the extraordinary sweetness of my nature, but I warn you, Miss Cardew, you may go too far.

Cecily. [Rising.] To save my poor, innocent, trusting boy from the machinations of any other girl there are no lengths to which I would not go.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
And finally...

EXHIBIT C) "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K. Jerome

The gentlemen and Montmorency deliberate on the joys of tea

"It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon it says, "Work!" After beefsteak and porter, it says, "Sleep!" After a cup of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup, and don't let it stand for more than three minutes), it says to the brain, "Now rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature, and into life: spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!""

~~~~~~~~~~~~

THE DEFENSE RESTS YOUR HONOUR.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 8:04 PM on July 29, 2012 [18 favorites]


Ad hominem: "The US invented stuff like Ovaltine ..."

Invented nothing. Like all things in the US, it's a badly done remake of a British original.

(Of Horlicks.)

((Mostly said tongue-in-cheek.))
posted by elsietheeel at 8:06 PM on July 29, 2012


And now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to make a cuppa and save the empire...
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 8:07 PM on July 29, 2012


The sort of person who reuses a teabag - and I know two such people quite well - is also the sort of person who is quite proud of themselves for doing it. It's as if they have discovered a secret trick, while the rest of us foolishly throw our money away, insisting on fresh tea leaves for every cup like the profligate wastrels that we are.

It's best to smile and nod and make a mental note to get a properly caffeinated beverage later. Reused tea bags may taste more or less the same (only weaker) but they are essentially brewing decaf tea after the first use.
posted by ErikaB at 8:07 PM on July 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also students.
posted by Artw at 8:09 PM on July 29, 2012


Oh man, we didn't invent Ovaltine. Sorry I tried to steal your thunder Switzerland.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:11 PM on July 29, 2012


Reuse a teabag?! Thanks for the nightmare fuel.

I had a roommate that did this. She bragged about getting four cups out of one teabag. She would also, on occasion, attempt a similar feat with coffee in a French press. She always expressed surprise that I could detect a difference in flavor. It was a tragic sort of situation, because she was very sweet and the kind of person who would greet me at the moments I most needed it with what appeared to be a steaming cup of delicious. But then I'd take a sip, choke down some tepid colored water and she'd say, "It's amazing, these teabags. Such a bargain. I've already had three cups off that tea bag and you can't even taste the difference." A little piece of me just withers whenever I think abou it.
posted by thivaia at 8:12 PM on July 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


... just returned from emergency trip to corner store, just before close. Have acquired Cadbury's Oat & Choc digestives.

I hope y'all are proud of yourselves.
posted by feckless at 8:13 PM on July 29, 2012


I had a roommate that did this. She bragged about getting four cups out of one teabag. She would also, on occasion, attempt a similar feat with coffee in a French press. She always expressed surprise that I could detect a difference in flavor.
The funny thing is that you absolutely infuse high quality tea multiple times. And you do it specifically because the brew evolves and changes from infusion to infusion. But if there is a bag involved, you are pretty far from high end tea. The thing you want is a gaiwan.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:16 PM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


But then this is about british tea, which is like american beer.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:18 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would drink more tea but fire and boiling water scare me first thing in the morning. I'm sure that I would set my shirt on fire or pour scalding hot water on my foot so I have to stick with my coffee maker which seems much safer for someone in a pre-caffeinated state. After thirty-five years of coffee drinking, my lizard brain can work the coffee maker without needing any higher brain function.
posted by octothorpe at 8:23 PM on July 29, 2012


A gaiwan is used almost exclusively for green and white teas. British tea is almost exclusively black tea, and another beast entirely.

But then this is about british tea, which is like american beer.


Pistols at dawn, sir. Name your seconds.
posted by ninazer0 at 8:23 PM on July 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


> > The 34% remains a mystery.
> Robots, American expats, and the very basest of criminals, I am sure.

Nonwithstanding, the substantial overlap amongst the three sets.
posted by sourcequench at 8:24 PM on July 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Leaves from India or Ceylon for preference.
posted by Artw at 8:26 PM on July 29, 2012


Artw, I love them, if they are in fact like Sultanas! Kinda plain (like graham crackers without the graham) and with raisins? But what's the UK-British connection with this cookie?
posted by Houstonian at 20:45 on 7/29
[+] [!]


I don't have a proper answer, but sultanas were an entry in the catalogue of Things Much Better in England that my mother recited at length throughout my childhood. Although an oral epic, I believe that a written copy would run some twelve to fourteen thousand pages and would contain as entries every noun in the English language.
posted by samofidelis at 8:28 PM on July 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


Holmes never uses opium

Though the mentions of his cocaine habit always made it sound to me like Conan Doyle was really thinking of opium after all, and just didn't want all the Orientalist associations it would have had. It's all peaceful dreamy lethargy and sitting in his armchair not moving a muscle and okay dude cocaine does not actually really work that way.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:32 PM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would drink more tea but fire and boiling water scare me first thing in the morning.

Is the 110-volt system in the US, which makes electric kettles inefficient, to blame for American insistence on drinking coffee, not tea?
posted by Jimbob at 8:33 PM on July 29, 2012


I dunno — most Americans use electric coffeemakers, which are heating the water by basically the same process, right?
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:36 PM on July 29, 2012


Tea is serious business.
posted by arcticseal at 8:39 PM on July 29, 2012


American electric kettles do seem to take an age to heat the water conpared with UK ones though.
posted by Artw at 8:41 PM on July 29, 2012


> > The 34% remains a mystery.
> Robots, American expats, and the very basest of criminals, I am sure.

Nonwithstanding, the substantial overlap amongst the three sets.


Roberto?
posted by ian1977 at 8:47 PM on July 29, 2012


Americans, you can get one of these to heat your tea water to boiling really fast. Also can be used to make an entire suite of dorm-food-boiled-in-container, such as ramen cups and lipton instant soups. Not that I would know from firsthand experience.

I went on an archaeological dig in the U.K. and it took all of two days to become totally addicted to the idea of tea breaks, and to start obsessing about when our first tea break would be after an hour of work, and start immediately obsessing about the next one as soon as the first one was over. The tea was objectively terrible, but it was SOOOOO wonderful to drink. Tea breaks are just terrifically civilized, though I went back to my beloved Diet Coke as soon as I returned to the States.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:52 PM on July 29, 2012


I knew someone who confessed to me once that she had formerly had what I (even I) would class as a Serious Tea Habit. After making tea, with teabags, she would eat the teabags. In sandwiches.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:52 PM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nonwithstanding, the substantial overlap amongst the three sets.

Somewhat less now that I've moved back to NYC, yes.
posted by elizardbits at 9:10 PM on July 29, 2012


Real
Talk:

Before 1834, the Boson Tea Party was simply referred to as The Destruction of the Tea.
posted by samofidelis at 9:14 PM on July 29, 2012


Boston, even.
posted by samofidelis at 9:15 PM on July 29, 2012


Spreadable biscuits - WTH Lotus!
posted by unliteral at 9:18 PM on July 29, 2012


axiom: "Reuse a teabag?! Thanks for the nightmare fuel."

It won't come in a bag, generally, but really good tea should be steeped quickly and the water thrown away at least three times before the correct savor comes out of the leaves; if it's good tea, it should hold its flavor through five steepings.
posted by koeselitz at 9:31 PM on July 29, 2012


Bozo tea party more like - THAT IS NOT HOW YOU MAKE TEA.
posted by Artw at 9:43 PM on July 29, 2012


The Boson Tea Party: "No mass equation without Higgs representation!"



ok that was a stretch
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 9:48 PM on July 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


Though the mentions of his cocaine habit always made it sound to me like Conan Doyle was really thinking of opium after all, and just didn't want all the Orientalist associations it would have had

Sherlock Holmes appeared in print in 1887, the same year Freud wrote most of his articles advocating cocaine use. Holmes says he uses his 7% solution of cucaine to escape lethargy and boredom while between cases. I supposed what Holmes used was not full of de-worming drugs.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:02 PM on July 29, 2012


ok that was a stretch

I thought really hard about that one for a couple minutes, and I didn't come up with anything better.

In fact, knowing Metafilter, like two or three hundred of us all thought really hard about it for the same couple minutes. And none of us came up with anything better! I don't know whether that's reassuring or depressing, but there you go.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:07 PM on July 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Tea should be whatever the hell temperature you want to drink it.

Tea is a hot beverage, the clue is there in that you make it with boiling water.

Yeah, this is dumb.

You make a lot of things with boiling water but don't necessarily eat/drink them hot. For example, the best bread is made in a 400°+ oven but it routinely eaten cold. Ice cream is often begun by boiling milk, sugar, and eggs together. It's later cooled to freezing.

Also, plenty of iced tea is cold-brewed. I'm betting a good chunk of the commercial stuff is, because you can make more tea with less tea leaves and it comes out less bitter as well.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:59 PM on July 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ad hominem: "Surprising that there is not Extreem-Tea or Mega-Chai or pill form like would have been invented in the U.S. Not even a crystalised version like a tea version of Sanka or Folgers, you guys are certainly purists, brewing the stuff up from dried leaves."

You've clearly never made the mistake of ordering a cup of coffee with in a standard "English breakfast" cafe without specifying "brewed."*

People look down their noses at the US for some reason when it comes to coffee (we brew it, okay? We don't smoosh it through a machine. Although some of us like espressos and lattes from time to time, sometimes we want to savor a nice flavorful cup of it in a size greater than a thimblefull, and we don't want to have to water it down or drown it in milk to do so). Truth is UK is the worst place in the developed world to get a cup of coffee. My poor dad. You should have seen his face when he found out how much a ordinary, garden-variety brewed coffee costed in the UK, and their reaction when he asked for a "refill."

*Also, if you think about it, there's really no time or money savings from using crystalized tea to make hot tea. It takes the same amount of time and tea to make. It's only recently that people have figured out how to make something like an effective coffee "tea bag". I'm pretty sure that's why instant coffee caught on; it saved the need for brewing coffee with a coffee maker.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:10 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Koeselitz wrote: really good tea should be steeped quickly and the water thrown away at least three times before the correct savor comes out of the leaves

Every sort of tea has its own characteristics, and that method wouldn't suit most English tea.

Incidentally, is it possible that Doyle was describing someone with Asperger's syndrome? High intelligence, monomaniacal focus on things most of us would disregard, self-medication with stimulants, poorish social skills ... it all seems to fit.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:21 PM on July 29, 2012


Truth is UK is the worst place in the developed world to get a cup of coffee.

RIGHT ON BROTHER! RIGHT ON! While I do enjoy espresso, there is nothing like sucking down 3-4 cups of filter coffee.

Luckily, you can get machines and filters over here. My office has one that we picked up at the charity shop.
posted by jonbro at 11:27 PM on July 29, 2012


Houstonian: "Does anyone know about these "squashed flies" cookies. Or biscuits? They look exactly like a favorite cookie of mine, which I can only find in Asian grocery stores: Khong Guan Sultana cream crackers/biscuits/cookies/whatever. I assumed they were Chinese. Are they British?"

Houstonian, I used to have cookies like that when I was a kid in SoCal and loved them. Quite a few years ago, as an adult, I found some again and tried them. Oh, such a disappointment. They weren't nearly as edible as they used to be. I think I threw the rest of the package out.
posted by deborah at 11:53 PM on July 29, 2012


People look down their noses at the US for some reason when it comes to coffee

To be fair, American coffee was generally horrible up to the point when Starbucks became big outside of Seattle. For all its faults it managed to teach the average to drink proper coffee, rather than stewed, bitter filter coffee.

Truth is UK is the worst place in the developed world to get a cup of coffee.

It's better than it was, but yes, if you're in a greasy spoon or a pub, you won't be likely to get good coffee. It's no coincidence that the standard British coffee is white, with lots of milk and sugar, all to hide the taste of the coffee itself.

Luckily, you can get machines and filters over here.

Ever since I learned to brew coffee using a water cooker and french press, filter coffee tastes horribly.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:10 AM on July 30, 2012


Artw: American electric kettles do seem to take an age to heat the water conpared with UK ones though.

That's the difference between 220V and 120V. I don't know what the fuse/breaker sizes are on a UK circuit, but most American outlets are wired for 15 amps, meaning they can only officially deliver 1800 watts sustained. More modern outlets can do 20 amps, and of course you can get 220V outlets without a problem. But an appliance can't pull more than 15 amps on a 120V outlet unless it has a special plug with one of the blades turned sideways -- the sideways blade on an outlet is a guarantee that the circuit can provide 20 amps. You NEVER see consumer appliances with 20A plugs, it just doesn't happen. I'm sure it's legal, but nobody ever makes them. It's rare even in professional equipment, like high-end UPSes.

220V here is on a special round plug with three blades around the circumference, and it shrieks 'danger, danger!' to American sensibilities. We only use 220 when it's absolutely required, typically with electric stoves/ranges, dryers, and air conditioning, and we often have electricians install those. By and large, 220 scares us, and that's actually a fairly intelligent stance, because 110 is rarely lethal, but 220 can hurt you very, very badly.

If you want to boil water really fast in an American house, use a ferrous (iron/steel) kettle on an induction range or cooktop. They'll usually run off 220V, and they can put almost their entire power draw straight into the kettle, and thus straight into the water. This is far more efficient than radiant heat underneath, probably about the same as immersing the heating elements directly in the water, and you'll get an extremely quick boil. I suspect it'll probably keep up with any English electric kettle.

But anything you plug into a standard wall outlet will be slow, because our plugs have about half the juice that yours do.
posted by Malor at 12:19 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oooh Sherlock and tea, what a lovely combination of obsessions.

I presume it's because he found it hard to get decent coffee outside his lodgings, but it's hard to ruin tea if you're not a barbarian.

In Britain (or Ireland), yeah. You can count on a decent tea even in the most remote only-cafe-in-the-village on the most isolated of the Hebrides island. Alas! tragedy! in the rest of Europe it's the opposite - if you are the kind of honest unfussy tea drinker who loves nothing more than "a teabag in a mug, boiling water and a splash of milk, fish out the bag when it looks the right colour and job’s a good ‘un", do not order tea in a café in continental Europe expecting your simple needs to be satisfied, especially not black tea because a lot of the time, and in the most unpredictable of places, including very fancy ones, you will get a very weak blend of tea, and horror horror they will bring you a cup or teapot filled with hot water that's obviously not boiling but gone still, and the teabag to the side. Like, you're supposed to be making your tea yourself! Then why am I even paying for it? At least let me get behind the counter myself and actually put the teabag in the mug or pot and pour the boiling water on it, because that's the basics of making any tea. It's not that difficult is it? But even pointing this out in a friendly manner to the locals will make you sound like a fussy alien.

Oh and the milk -- a lot of the time you will have to ask for milk because they won't even think of bringing it to you. This also can instantly get you classified as fussy alien.

This, even in countries like Germany or Denmark where it's perfectly fine and accepted to order a triple espresso latte macchiato with soya milk and caramel or whatnot. You're the fussy one for wanting a simple mug of proper hot tea and not just a cup of warm water where you can soak a poor teabag. I really don't get what's up with that thing of bringing you the water and the teabag separately. So weird.

But even when they do that part right and actually make the tea before bringing it to you, most brands of black tea marketed outside the UK and Ireland are too weak anyway, especially in ordinary cafés. They love coffee too much to care about tea. So, when in cafés and restaurants, switch to coffee or stick to roiboos or herbal teas, for some weird reason they seem to know how to make those.

(Funny how even British brands like Twinings market different teas under the very same name in different countries - the English Breakfast teabags in the UK are the stronger bigger teabags to be fished out when the colour is right, the English Breakfast teabags sold on the continent are smaller and weaker and even if you use two of those it still won't taste the same. Possibly related to the habit of putting lemon instead of milk in tea, or just drinking black tea with sugar and no milk.)

(I know I know there are more important things in life than proper tea but really, no. This may as well be filed under "shit expats say" for all the times I've heard and shared this complaint.)
posted by bitteschoen at 1:07 AM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Bitteschoen: Yes, I marveled at the "glass of warm water and adjacent teabag" technique myself. I used to ascribe it to malice, but now I think it's the perverse consequence of having been told that the English (or Australians in my case) get strangely morose when confronted by European cups of tea. They don't want to be responsible for upsetting us, so they bring us what they think are all the bits and pieces to assemble a perfect cup of tea. Thus, they imagine, we will be satisfied with our nastiness-in-a-cup; or at least unable to blame them for our dissatisfaction.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:32 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia: heh that's an interesting theory. But they do it to the locals too! So I think maybe yes it has something to do with not taking responsibility for how nasty the tea can be, but also based on the other perverse belief that you will indeed prefer to put the teabag in yourself because that way you can know exactly how long it's been steeping, and not have tea that's too strong for the weak-tea drinkers. Which makes me wonder how long exactly it takes from the moment they pour the boiling water to the moment they bring you the damn thing...

(btw sorry for not including Australians as proper tea drinkers, was only thinking of places I'd lived in!)
posted by bitteschoen at 1:50 AM on July 30, 2012


When in Poland, I was aching desperately for American-style, Mr. Coffee-brewed filter coffee. I could budget for a Starbucks only about once a month. A french press was close, but didn't cut it.

Not long after my birthday, a ludicrously large package came in the mail. My blessed parents had packed up a Mr. Coffee and sent it to me in Poland, paying waaaaaay too much for shipping. My blessed parents also weren't aware that American appliances aren't compatible with European voltages.

Furthermore, a coffee machine can't automatically adjust to 220 the way, for example, a laptop power brick can. A simple adapter is not enough. A transformer is needed, a "transformator" in the local lingo. No electronics store in Krakow had one in a high-enough wattage (700W), and the ones that were close were very very expensive.

Polish ingenuity came to the rescue. A friend of mine, a mining engineer, figured out that he had a "transformator" from a continuous miner that had taps which would convert 220 to something pretty close to 110. It weighed 40 lbs.

I brought it home on a series of Polish buses, my backpack straining under the wieght of the shoebox-sized gadget. I stripped the American plug from the Mr. Coffee, tore the europlug from a disused floor lamp, mounted the transformer on a (literal) breadboard, and wired the whole thing up with screw terminals.

I made American coffee. It tasted wonderful. I made two or three pots a day for a week, when I had to disassemble the whole apparatus and return the transformer to service as part of a hulking coal mining machine.
posted by LiteOpera at 2:29 AM on July 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think this is missing one important point for Americans - we use an electric kettle. If we microwave tea, it's because it's gone cold.
posted by mippy at 3:16 AM on July 30, 2012


Ah, we covered that. Should I point out then that the correct British use is 'Cadbury's' not 'Cadbury'?

I really wish we sat down and drank tea from a teapot. Mugs are too convenient. Also, I got into the habit of leaving the teabag in at university - a friend's boyfriend made tea in pint glasses, leaving the bag in, and it stuck. No pint glasses, though. That's just wrong./
posted by mippy at 3:21 AM on July 30, 2012


@dmg: A properly written piece of Victoriana wouldn't even mention the drinking of tea

Reduce that to "A properly written piece". It's a very common writing fault of beginners, and even many experienced writers, to fall into what my wife (who writes) calls Cup of Tea Syndrome: padding out trivial dialogue with overblown description, such as making a cup of tea, along these lines.
"You'd best sit down," she said.

Charles sat in the hard-backed chair as his mother prepared a tray, setting out white china cups, a bowl of sugar lumps, a carton of semi-skimmed milk, and a porcelain teapot. She rinsed the pot then spooned in three large portions of Earl Grey tea, pouring the boiling water over the leaves.

"How are you?" Charles said.

His mother gently stirred the tea in the pot. She set out a cup and saucer for Charles and one for herself, then poured a little milk into each cup.

"Well enough," she said, picking up the strainer. She poured accurately, the amber stream gently splashing as the aromatic bergamot-scented steam rose in a plume. Holding the tongs carefully in bony arthritic fingers, she dropped two lumps of sugar into her cup, and stirred it. "So why are you here, Charles?"
posted by raygirvan at 4:05 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


From Wikipedia, "what have the Romans done for us"/postcolonial oneupmanship:

Tea consumption:
#3 Ireland 3.22 kg/person/year
#7 United Kingdom 1.89 kg/person/year

Milk consumption:
#3 Ireland 129.8 litres/person/year
#8 United Kingdom 111.2 litres/person/year
posted by kersplunk at 4:08 AM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh goodie, a post about tea where I can submit two things:

First this book, A Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down. Hilarious and informative, it's been indispensible during my introduction to British culture.

Peter Kay on biscuits. One of the first standups I saw on DVD with my now husband. I didn't understand 75% of what he was saying but I almost pissed myself laughing over this bit.
posted by like_neon at 5:34 AM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The 34% remains a mystery.
Robots, American expats, and the very basest of criminals, I am sure.
Out of me and my four siblings, only one drinks tea regularly. I swear our parents are normal, but they've raised a mini-clan of non tea drinkers. I've had some damn funny looks though when I've told folks. And the classic, "You don't drink tea? Are you sure? None whatsoever?", as though I might have lost my mind or forgotten.
posted by Jehan at 5:52 AM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


do not order tea in a café in continental Europe

Same problem in the US, especially in restaurants. Even very nice ones with knowledgeable people working there will bring you a lukewarm glass of water and a teabag on the side. My recommendation: drink green tea when you're out. At least you can make it in the barely-steaming water you're likely to get.
posted by echo target at 6:37 AM on July 30, 2012


Oooo what a fun post!

But that's enough about tea, let's talk about biscuits.

Though as a child I was raised on soft, chewy home-made cookies such as the Tollhouse Chocolate Chip, somewhere in my teens I became enamored of hard, dry, bland packaged cookies which is what English biscuits are really. 35 years on and my favorite sweet snack is still the biscuit, but a proper biscuit must be imported from GB so they are a little expensive compared to packaged US cookies. I'm not sure why I love them so but packaged shortbread from Scotland is so much better than shortbread I make myself and I have given up trying to find the perfect recipe. It must be the butter.

About a year ago I discovered Ritter Sport's chocolate covered biscuit and not only are they heavenly they are widely available (you can get them at Target). I introduced them to my daughter and now she is addicted as well. We also both love the Biscoff cookie which recently made its way onto our grocery store shelves and into our hearts.

So we are pretty much set biscuit-wise as far as consumption but I did enjoy the link to Biscuit of the Week because it solved a lot of questions for this anglophile and her husband. For example on The Royle Family they eat a lot of Wagon Wheels and I wasn't sure what they are, but now I know.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:07 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


me: “... really good tea should be steeped quickly and the water thrown away at least three times before the correct savor comes out of the leaves”

Joe in Australia: “Every sort of tea has its own characteristics, and that method wouldn't suit most English tea.”

Most "English" tea isn't actually English, of course – I mean that it's not actually made in England – they're Chinese, and this is the old Chinese method. And it works quite well with, for instance, Twinings. It's worth trying: 3 second of stepping, toss the water; 6 seconds of steeping, toss the water; then, 60 seconds of steeping on final brew. (Although lots of people find that too complicated, I know.)
posted by koeselitz at 7:18 AM on July 30, 2012


1. Warm the pot (usually with hot water from the kettle before it's boiled, because it's quicker).

2. Add a teaspoon of tea for each person, plus one spoonful "for the pot".

3. Add boiling water. Actually boiling as you pour it, if you can.

4. Stir, and leave for a few minutes. Three minutes, in our case. We even have a timer for it.

5. Stir again and pour. There may be tea in the mug already, there may not. It's up to you. (Actually, people are very firm on this point, as you'll see in the next few posts, but it doesn't concern me as much as others.)

I find loose leaf tea to be much nicer than tea bags. Also, you can't do fortune-telling with a tea bag.
posted by Grangousier at 7:30 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


There may be MILK in the mug already

Oopsie.
posted by Grangousier at 7:31 AM on July 30, 2012


Also, you can't do fortune-telling with a tea bag.

I PREDICT YOU WILL BE ENCAPSULATED IN A LITTLE FILTER PAPER ENVELOPE AND TIED TO A LONG STRING AND HANGED IN BOILING WATER UNTIL DEAD WITH A LITTLE PAPER FLAG AS A COUNTERWEIGHT see, wrong, I told you I could do it.
posted by samofidelis at 8:05 AM on July 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


There may be milk in the mug already

And according to SCIENCE!, it tastes way better this way than if you put the milk in second [pdf].

Not being a proper tea snob, I've always assumed that nobody can really taste the difference and that the lady in the story was cheating somehow — but whatever, we got modern frequentist hypothesis testing out of it, so I can't really complain.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:27 AM on July 30, 2012


Milk firsting does have a (to me, at least) noticeably different and more pleasing taste.
posted by elizardbits at 8:31 AM on July 30, 2012


Milk in second is what animals do. I am prepared to double blind test this tonight and I will report my results in this thread (PG Tips, skim milk).
posted by samofidelis at 8:35 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Weirdly enough, one of my romance novels had instruction on the proper way of English tea making with placing milk in the cup before the tea as something that people with a lack of fortitude did. It was amusing and something so domestic in a genre that is all about heaving bosoms and people allergic to top clothing.

But seriously the US has a paucity of proper thermostatic controlled kettles. The market has improved but seriously why do all the kettles have to have BPA laden plastics with my hot boiling water?
posted by jadepearl at 8:41 AM on July 30, 2012


James Bond presumably has some pedantic special way to make tea which he tells everybody about, like an asshole.
posted by Artw at 8:45 AM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I assume it involves 01) a high-tech gadget concealed within his watch, 02) an improbably attired beautiful woman, and 03) his penis.
posted by elizardbits at 8:52 AM on July 30, 2012


Well, that would be movie Bond. Book Bond probably goes off on a tirade about how foreign people use the wrong kind of spoon.
posted by Artw at 8:54 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


02) an improbably attired beautiful woman, and 03) his penis

WHAT THIS PRODUCES IS NOT TEA.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:00 AM on July 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Book Bond knows is this heart of hearts that using the wrong spoon is what makes the savages unfit to rule their own country.
posted by The Whelk at 9:04 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


When he rattles off a ridiculous cocktail recipe or an opinion that caviar should always be served in solid silver turbines or what the fuck ever I always suspect that in his heart of hearts he knows IT DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER, IT'S ALL FUCKIBG BULLSHIT, OH GOD OH GOD THE EMPTINESS. And then he kills a hooker.
posted by Artw at 9:13 AM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


When he’s not enjoying alcohol, 007’s favorite drink is coffee. He drinks tea (which he normally abhors) in You Only Live Twice.
posted by zamboni at 9:21 AM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have no idea how milk firsters function; you put it in second so you can tell by the color if you've put in enough.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:21 AM on July 30, 2012


Or maybe after nearly 2 decades of drinking tea I already know the correct amount of milk to use. I use my milk deducing powers.

beep boop deductions
posted by elizardbits at 9:23 AM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I sometimes wonder whether things like Bonds three-page lecture of (I think) Domino in (I think) Thunderball about the right, most socially acceptable cigarettes to smoke as well as all the other brand fetishism that litter the Bond books was a joke that Bret Easton Ellis thought he made up forty years later.
posted by Grangousier at 9:26 AM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


James Bond stood at the open window of the seventh-floor office of the tall building in Regent’s Park that is the headquarters of the Secret Service. London lay asleep under a full moon that rode swiftly over the town through a shoal of herring-bone clouds. Big Ben sounded three.
Bond was half way through his first week of night duty and so far it had just been a question of common sense or passing routine problems on down to the sections. He rather liked the peaceful room and knowing everybody’s secrets and being occassionaly fed coffee and sandwiches by one of the pretty girls of the canteen. On the first night the girl had brought him tea. Bond had looked at her severely.
“I don’t drink tea. I hate it. It’s mud. Moreover, it’s one of the main reasons for the downfall of the British Empire. Be a good girl and make me some coffee.”
From then on he had got his coffee. The expression ‘a cup of mud’ was seeping through the building.

Ian Fleming, Goldfinger
posted by zamboni at 9:27 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always knew he was an asshole, but I never suspected he was a traitor.
posted by Artw at 9:30 AM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nonsense. Tea isn't a science, it's an art. You can't just dictate the amount of tea that will do the job and expect reality to conform to your pronouncements like some kind of Rumsfeld of the teapot.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:33 AM on July 30, 2012


pu-erh is human, to forgive is divine.
posted by zamboni at 9:38 AM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


And according to SCIENCE!, it tastes way better this way than if you put the milk in second [pdf].

Not being a proper tea snob, I've always assumed that nobody can really taste the difference and that the lady in the story was cheating somehow


You, sir, would be mistaken in that assumption. Milk first, tea second, by god.
posted by jokeefe at 9:42 AM on July 30, 2012


Rumsfeld of the teapot.

tespot.
posted by elizardbits at 9:49 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suspect much of that 34% are immigrants -- but such is the awesome power of TEA that within a generation or two they'll be drinking it and insisting that they've always done it this way.

While many immigrants to the UK come from tea-drinking countries, this could be true. Within a generation or two, they'll all be drinking tea. As a related point of anecdata, I'll point to a former workplace of mine where many of the employees were of Asian decent: all of those who were immigrants drank tea; all of those who were Canadian-born drank coffee (which tends to be more popular than tea over here). So, if that 34% really is immigrants (which is suspect), it may very well be a generational thing.
posted by asnider at 9:49 AM on July 30, 2012


Oh god, the milk first or tea first debate rears its ugly head. Budding relationship have been broken, families divided, countries crumbled like a digestive biscuit in the same room as a cup of tea over this contentious issue.

I don't know why as it's obviously tea first, same as you put on socks before pants. Just think about it dudes, it makes sense.

And it's pronounced meh-fee! Hrumph!
posted by like_neon at 10:00 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


same as you put on socks before pants.

.... where are you putting your socks that they need to go on before pants, though
posted by elizardbits at 10:06 AM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am too lazy to look it up, but my understanding is that the tea-/milk-first issue is about class. Of course, in England, it would be.

Smart/posh people have proper china cups. These will take hot tea when you pour it in.

Common/working-class people have cheap cups. These will crack if you pour in hot tea. You need to put the milk in first to stop this.

So it's all about snobbery. Smart people do milk second, just because they can. Common people do milk first, because they have to. But again, this is probably apocryphal.
posted by alasdair at 10:07 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sounds a bit dubious.
posted by Artw at 10:09 AM on July 30, 2012


I am too lazy to look it up, but my understanding is that the tea-/milk-first issue is about class

I'm not surprised. Like Proudhon says, proper tea is theft.
posted by zamboni at 10:14 AM on July 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Schooling Continues: A Guide To Pubs.
posted by The Whelk at 10:16 AM on July 30, 2012


>>same as you put on socks before pants.

>... where are you putting your socks that they need to go on before pants, though


I thought that obvious, until I realized it was plural.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:13 AM on July 30, 2012


Reused tea bags may taste more or less the same (only weaker) but they are essentially brewing decaf tea after the first use.

...which is a feature late in the day, when I don't want more caffeine.

The sort of person who reuses a teabag - and I know two such people quite well - is also the sort of person who is quite proud of themselves for doing it. It's as if they have discovered a secret trick, while the rest of us foolishly throw our money away, insisting on fresh tea leaves for every cup like the profligate wastrels that we are.

Goodness, how terribly flawed I am.
posted by Zed at 11:42 AM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


My great aunt had a line over her kitchen sink where she hung used tea bags. When she made tea for everyone she'd take a bag down and dunk it for a few seconds in each cup then tie the bag back on the line.

In an attempt to get a fresh tea bag when we visited, my mother would bring boxes of tea as a gift and my aunt would say "thank you dear," put the boxes in the cupboard and get a tea bag off the line.

When she died it turned out she had rather a lot of money. And probably a lot of tea bags.
posted by interplanetjanet at 12:37 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am too lazy to look it up, but my understanding is that the tea-/milk-first issue is about class. Of course, in England, it would be.


I didn't look it up now, I remembered stumbling on it a while ago - a page on the Guardian with reader's responses about that exact issue. Lots of theories including that one about the quality of the cups. Fascinating. There is also something about the tannins interacting with casein, and how the interaction differs in milk first or milk second and how that affects taste, but I have read it like ten times and still don't get it.

And then there's this, which is easier:
Dr Stapley is adamant. "If milk is poured into hot tea, individual drops separate from the bulk of the milk, and come into contact with the high temperatures of the tea for enough time for significant denaturation - degradation - to occur. This is much less likely to happen if hot water is added to the milk."

That's from The Royal Society of Chemistry's definitive recipe for the perfect cup of tea. Serious stuff. They want you to use a thermometer too, apparently:
Drink at 60-65C, to avoid vulgar slurping which results from trying to drink tea at too high a temperature.
posted by bitteschoen at 1:13 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dr Stapley is adamant. "If milk is poured into hot tea, individual drops separate from the bulk of the milk, and come into contact with the high temperatures of the tea for enough time for significant denaturation - degradation - to occur. This is much less likely to happen if hot water is added to the milk."

So it's like tempering the eggs when you're making custard or avgolemono? That seems... almost plausible, actually.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:39 PM on July 30, 2012


Except, wait, no, I've been adding cream straight into shitty too-hot coffee all my life, and I've never had it curdle on me.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:46 PM on July 30, 2012


Cream is different from milk. In fact, that's the whole reason why people use cream instead of milk for coffee – because milk actually curdles when you put it in. Try it sometime – I don't even drink coffee, but I've had that happen with tea.
posted by koeselitz at 1:57 PM on July 30, 2012


because milk actually curdles when you put it in. Try it sometime

What evidence would I see of "curdling"? Lumpy milk in my coffee? Because, coming from a culture where you put milk in coffee, not cream, I've been trying this every day for my life and I've never seen it.
posted by Jimbob at 2:29 PM on July 30, 2012


I found out the hard way in my teens that adding milk AND lemon to my tea definitely a-curdled it. I've tried milk first and tea first in my best mugs (from the dollar store, and perfectly shaped for an optimum drink) and have never really seen or tasted any difference. An independent expert agreed.

However, it is a fact that we can't get proper PG Tips teabags in foil wrapping in Canada. President's Choice went downhill over a year ago, and I'm barely surviving on the imported British Tetley with monolingual packaging that I get from the local Vietnamese market. Yorkshire Gold is lovely, but pricey. *sigh*
posted by maudlin at 2:41 PM on July 30, 2012


I think it's when you get that swirly sort of filmish stuff on the top of the tea? Maybe? IDK that it actually curdles like adding vinegar to warm milk or anything.
posted by elizardbits at 2:54 PM on July 30, 2012


Yeah, lumpiness... isn't that curdling? When there are lumps? I always see that, if the coffee or tea is boiling-hot. Weird.
posted by koeselitz at 2:58 PM on July 30, 2012


Right, come to think of it, I have had cream curdle in my coffee before, if that sort of filmy irregularly-mixed-in thing counts as curdling. I always figured it was a sign that my half-and-half had gone bad, and not a sign that my coffee was too hot.

And now I've gone and given up caffeine, and my wife drinks hers black (LIKE HER SOUL) so I don't really have a good excuse to do the experiment.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:32 PM on July 30, 2012


I just visited my first ever big Canadian supermarket in Toronto. My mind is still reeling.
They have no British biscuits (shortbread doesn't count), not one.
posted by Bwithh at 4:21 PM on July 30, 2012


Eh? Shitty little supermarkets in Calgary have britcstuff and Toronto doesn't?
posted by Artw at 4:34 PM on July 30, 2012


Which one, Bwithh? Metro is shitty, but all sorts of other stores carry British stuff.
posted by maudlin at 4:45 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was a Metro. Canadian supermarkets are an unknown territory for me. Which one should I be visiting instead?
posted by Bwithh at 5:06 PM on July 30, 2012


Bwithh:

Loblaws
posted by syncope at 5:25 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


what up loserface
posted by elizardbits at 5:39 PM on July 30, 2012


no, you

I have expert knowledge of grocery stores in Canada, it's a ninja skill.
posted by syncope at 5:42 PM on July 30, 2012


British biscuits can be found in Canada. They live in my pantry.
posted by arcticseal at 6:55 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


George Orwell, A Nice Cup of Tea.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:49 PM on July 30, 2012


The correct way to do tea with milk is to pour the tea, let it steep until the correct strength is reached, then pour in the milk. This both avoids the problem of milk curdling because it's poured into too hot tea and the problem of having too weak tea as the milk interferes with the steeping (as those barbarians who put their milk in first have to suffer through).

Also, steer clockwise and unsteer counterclockwise.

a lukewarm glass of water and a teabag on the side

Pro-tip: in the Netherlands at least, it's very likely this water has not been properly boiled either and the cafe lacks the proper equipment to make tea. Worst case scenario, you either get hot water from the tap, or very worst, from the coffee machine.

Most of these places also think tea is something you can put herbal essences or fruit flavours into, so you won't get just one sad little teabag, but a whole box full of adulterated teas. With mango.

Forgive them, for they not know what they do.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:46 AM on July 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


The correct way to do tea with milk is to pour the tea, let it steep until the correct strength is reached, then pour in the milk. This both avoids the problem of milk curdling because it's poured into too hot tea and the problem of having too weak tea as the milk interferes with the steeping (as those barbarians who put their milk in first have to suffer through).

Aha! Those of us who like a strong tea with milk (classic builders', righteous Assam, and everything in between) don't run into the alleged curdling problem because we don't pour dairy into water that has just come off boiling. People who use teapots and/or who make their tea weaker have hotter water to deal with and may see some degradation of flavour (assuming that weak tea has any flavour at all, of course).

Forgive them, for they not know what they do.

I'm lapsed. I don't have to forgive anybody.
posted by maudlin at 6:21 AM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Word to those who've written paens to the electric kettle. It's truly one of the greatest inventions of all time.
posted by Sassenach at 1:46 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone's free to reuse their tea bags as often as they like, of course. Knock yourself out.

It's the crowing about it, and the foisting of this "tea" upon others (typically accompanied with the [manifestly untrue] claim that "you can't even tell the difference"), which is the obnoxious bit.
posted by ErikaB at 4:15 PM on July 31, 2012


Worst case scenario, you either get hot water from the tap, or very worst, from the coffee machine.


I have indeed seen them (Them, the enemies!) get the hot water for tea from the coffee machine. It is barbaric yes but why the worst? surely it cannot be worse than hot water from the tap?!
posted by bitteschoen at 5:33 PM on July 31, 2012


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