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How to make a decent cup of tea.
January 4, 2011 12:44 AM   Subscribe

How to make a decent cup of tea. by Christopher Hitchens. Single Link Slate Post. But it's all true, dammit.
posted by Grangousier (214 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

 
Posted just in time for the UK to weigh in. Let the flame war begin.

I prefer to add milk before the water, but I'm a northern heathen.
posted by seanyboy at 1:00 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, well, then to share: loose-leaf tea (though only supermarket own-brand - currently nursing a mug of Sainsbury's Red-Label; sometimes mix with something aromatic from Postcard Teas), which we moved to around the time my wife came home with a Kaikado tea caddy. Milk in first, though - I don't mind the occasional misestimate on quantity, it does seem to make for a richer taste.

Recently got a coffee bean caddy from Kaikado, too, which has shifted me to coffee beans and... wow.

Relatively small shifts in preparation of tea and coffee yield tremendous benefits in taste and general loveliness.
posted by Grangousier at 1:19 AM on January 4, 2011


Water first lad, we have decent ceramics these days!
posted by gallagho at 1:20 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Grasp only this, and you hold the root of the matter.

Insert teabagging joke here.
posted by chavenet at 1:22 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tea is awful. At least coffee has a purpose in this world. Tea just hangs out, tastes terrible, and hurts my stomach.
posted by item at 1:23 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


You're doing it wrong.
posted by Grangousier at 1:25 AM on January 4, 2011 [25 favorites]


Next time you are in a Starbucks or its equivalent and want some tea, don't be afraid to decline that hasty cup of hot water with added bag. It's not what you asked for. Insist on seeing the tea put in first, and on making sure that the water is boiling. If there are murmurs or sighs from behind you, take the opportunity to spread the word.

No. No, don't do that.
posted by Avelwood at 1:25 AM on January 4, 2011 [43 favorites]


I was ready to get my haterade on - people are ridiculous pedantic about tea - a substance people have been drinking for thousands of years in hundreds of different ways, all fine - but actually, that was refreshingly sensible. Prosaic, yet pleasurable. Like a cup of tea.
posted by smoke at 1:29 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you automatically assume that all tea needs to be attacked with boiling water, you don't know as much about tea as you think you do.

Mind you, I'll take scalded tea over the luke warm water and a tea bag option the writer refers to.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 1:35 AM on January 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


sodium lights the horizon: "If you automatically assume that all tea needs to be attacked with boiling water, you don't know as much about tea as you think you do."

Yeah seriously. It's as if white people think they invented the stuff. I mean, milk? Sugar? My god.
posted by danny the boy at 1:39 AM on January 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


I propose that the important thing is that you have a ritual for preparing tea, not the precise contents of the ritual itself.
posted by Harald74 at 1:56 AM on January 4, 2011 [20 favorites]


And do not put the milk in the cup first—family feuds have lasted generations over this—because you will almost certainly put in too much.

It's true. Tensions between my father and I reach breaking point as I watch him fill the cup half-way with milk, then add tea from a teapot which has had a bag added for all of .5 seconds so that what he's really drinking is water with some brown in. I have drunk this stuff. It is his remedy for waking up, nausea, a lunchtime draft, and any kind of emotional upset, but it is hot devil piss.

My entire tea-drinking life has been a campaign against this. I have made the man expensively bought hipster teas, loose leaf English Breakfasts, Earl Greys where the teabag is made out of fabric and you sort of feel bad for putting it in the humble mug, and I have seen his barely-contained wince as he tells me it is "nice." All I can glean from this is that a decent cup of tea is what makes you feel better, because tea's a comfort drink; order of ingredients has nothing to do with it. It is about having a mug of something warm. It is the ritual of preparation.

All the same, if you're drinking a mug of hot sepia water-milk, I and my French Earl Grey will see you in hell.
posted by monster truck weekend at 1:58 AM on January 4, 2011 [55 favorites]


I refuse to be drawn into this fight. Too many fine cups of jasmine have been ruined by boiling water rushing from on-high, just as too many smoky delicious cups of russian caravan have dwindled all twiggy and tepid, trapped in a bag. I like my darjeeling with milk and sugar and also with black pepper and honey.

But at the same time, how would you like to be the waiter informed that they must carry boiling water out onto the floor of the bustling restaurant? Do the three seconds between filling your paper cup full and dunking a tea bag make a difference, or are you comparing it to loose leaf steeped in a large pot? Fetishing tea and coffee is a fine way to pass the time when at one's leisure, but getting all gung-ho about it in public just feels unseemly.
posted by Mizu at 1:59 AM on January 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


Foodist prescriptivism is guaranteed to start a squabble because some people like things this way, or that way (or this way today, that way tomorrow). When someone tells you how to canonically prepare something ingestible, lots of people instinctively (even irritably) say "but hey, I do it some other way, and I like it that way, so get out of my kitchen you fascist agitator." Of course, you might learn something from other peoples' processes (and the irritable responses), even if what you learn is that you don't like it that way, or this way. Even Hitchens rejects some of Orwell's rules for teamaking.

Recipes: they're what you make of 'em.
posted by chavenet at 2:12 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Didn't the Japanese already perfect this into an Art ... about 1000 years ago?

The East then taught it to the Portuguese who in turn taught it to the Brits.
posted by vacapinta at 2:14 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you make a lot of cups of tea, you'll learn how much milk is just right. And even if you get it wrong, just add more tea or milk to adjust. No harm, no foul. Just a cuppa made right.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:14 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read that as "get out of my kitchen you fascist alligator."

I like it better my way.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:15 AM on January 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


I only drink tea that mom makes. The rest of time its coffee. Instant ;p nya nya
posted by infini at 2:21 AM on January 4, 2011


No milk. No sugar.

Fuck tea.
posted by awfurby at 2:23 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tea is the best possible MetaFilter topic.

Has anyone tried Yorkshire Tea for hard water? I used to drink only regular Yorkshire Tea (Yorkshire Gold if I was feeling flush) but I tried the hard water version (being in London) and it's awesome. My friend from the north said that is how Yorkshire Tea tastes up there.

I've been working on a paper for school lately and drinking tons of tea. I normally have 4-5 cups a day but I just drink it constantly when I need to get shit done -- it just puts me in work mode or something. I have no idea how I lived without tea before I came to this country.
posted by Put the kettle on at 2:30 AM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Tea should be the orange of American Tan tights (PRESSSSSS the teabag against the side of the cup) and so sugary you could reboil it and get syrup. Also, tepid. I just leave mine till is lukewarm, my grandparents stand their freshly made brews in a washing-up bowl of hot water, a colleague from Blackpool tops her cup up with cold water from the tap. This might be just a Lancashire thing though.
posted by runincircles at 2:33 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tea is properly made if, when drunk, the world feels a little warmer, a little better, and a little less immediately threatening. It is well made if you involuntarily sigh after taking a sip. The steps and methods needed to achieve this transcendence, are, like all religious experiences, widely varied, of intense personal significance and more than slightly barbaric to one initiated in a different tradition.
posted by Grimgrin at 2:34 AM on January 4, 2011 [159 favorites]


bowl of cold! water
posted by runincircles at 2:34 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just want to say that Grimgrin's comment is completely brilliant.
posted by Put the kettle on at 2:44 AM on January 4, 2011


Tea in first if you want to show off that your porcelain is of good enough quality to take the heat. Milk in first if you want to enjoy drinking the beverage. Come on, people, it's not hard.
posted by nowonmai at 2:45 AM on January 4, 2011


Obviously I have developed the one true method of making this beverage, drawing from the wisdom of the ancients and the latest in scientific research, resulting in a brew which bears only passing resemblance to anything else in this world. It is fine beyond measure, and our words simply have no way to describe the pure joy that is consuming it.

Sadly, you appear to just throw whatever's at hand in a pot, pour it into your chasm of a gullet, and call it a day before returning to the flotsam of experience that is your sad and inconsequential life. Had you a single refined particle in your body, you would see the error of your ways, forsake the unprincipled order in which you mix the constituents of this most revered liquid, and surrender to the one true way.

I don't think you understand what's at stake here. This is tea. There are rules.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:46 AM on January 4, 2011 [37 favorites]


The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours." This isn't hard to do, even if you are using electricity rather than gas, once you have brought all the makings to the same scene of operations right next to the kettle.

Goddamned atheists.

The main thing to remember is to not use boiling water for Green or White teas. They will burn and create bitter flavors.
posted by three blind mice at 2:55 AM on January 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


> Yeah seriously. It's as if white people think they invented the stuff. I mean, milk? Sugar? My god.

White people? That's a bit inclusive. British my dear boy, British. If we include all white people then we have to include the nice American lady I know who insists you can microwave water to make tea with.

There's only the Turks who drink more. And they're foreign too so it's bound to be wrong.
posted by vbfg at 2:56 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think you understand what's at stake here. This is tea. There are rules.

I used to put condensed milk in, but this was a decision made by an incorrect life I have since discarded.

"For lo, whosoever was found adding sugar was cast into the lake of fire."
posted by monster truck weekend at 3:00 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I usually just do the teabag in a mug, pour on hot water thing. But today this post has inspired me to take some time, use a teapot, get out a little milk jug, etc. It's been lovely. Plus, I haven't had to get back out of bed to make a second cup because my teapot appears to hold exactly 2.5. Bonus.

(P.S. Seriously, the cup of hot water with a teabag on the side is an affront to an Englishman. Perhaps other cultures find that acceptable, but we have our ways. That is all.)
posted by Lleyam at 3:01 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


It took me a long time to figure out that the teabag-next-to-the-cup-of-boiling-water presumably connotes, to an American, freedom of choice as to exactly how long you want your tea to brew for. To me it always seemed like laziness — a weird anomaly in a land where you're generally served with far more attentiveness than in the UK.
posted by oliverburkeman at 3:14 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Years ago, Penn and Teller were performing here in Seattle. My friend Jan and I took Teller around Seattle for a tour. We ended up at a dedicated tea shop in Wallingford.

Tea for Teller, man.
posted by Tube at 3:15 AM on January 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


Tampon surrogate? I thought the point of a tampon was to absorb something, where the point of a teabag is to release something.

I make tea thusly: boil water. Put teabag in cup. Pour on water that has just boiled. Stor clockwise. Wait about 30 seconds (time to grab the milk and sugar). Pour in milk to colour. Stir teabag again, remove and squeeze. Add sugar, stir.

Copious cups of tea get me overtime at my place of work. I seem to be doing something right.
posted by Solomon at 3:18 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a Brit living in the US who has recently had to give up coffee, I have become a stickler for correct tea-making technique (as expounded so well by Mr. Hitchens). This is despite the fact that I have never been a tea drinker. I am now convinced that tea-making is hardwired into British genetics -there is no other possible explanation. I find this conclusion somewhat unsettling.
posted by ob at 3:18 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Has anyone tried Yorkshire Tea for hard water? I used to drink only regular Yorkshire Tea (Yorkshire Gold if I was feeling flush) but I tried the hard water version (being in London) and it's awesome.

Yep, that's the kind I drink as well. Never been to Yorkshire so I can't comment on whether or not it tastes the same, but I do like it.
posted by dubold at 3:23 AM on January 4, 2011


Tea, Earl Grey, Hot.
posted by bwg at 3:28 AM on January 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I do enjoy the odd Mefi tea thread. It's just so weird to think that there are all these people baffled by tea. Surely, the places in the world unfamiliar with tea must be vanishingly small to the converse, thanks to the Mongol and British empires.

Here's a thing: the Poms didn't invent it, but their take on tea is as valid as the next bloke's (and I'll read anything Orwell wrote, because I love his voice. Hitchens, less so).

Personally, I make tea different ways depending upon what I'm after. I'll even drink NATO standard if there's nothing else available.
posted by pompomtom at 3:32 AM on January 4, 2011


I drink lots of different kinds of tea, all made with water from a boiler at 96C, and they all come out just fine.

I have better things to do than stand by the kettle to pour water while it's boiling, like posting this comment, for instance.
posted by bwg at 3:32 AM on January 4, 2011


pompomtom: "Here's a thing: the Poms didn't invent it ..."

Epomysterical!
posted by bwg at 3:35 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Has anyone tried Yorkshire Tea for hard water?

No need when you drink tea made with the delicious contents of Lake Vrynwy
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:40 AM on January 4, 2011


I thought Douglas Adams already settled this.
posted by Maaik at 3:43 AM on January 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


For a bracing cup of tea, pour boiling water into the pot or cup, swirl it around for a couple of seconds until it's dizzy, dump it into the sink, add tea to the pot or cup, pour in more boiling water, add sugar if you like sugar, add milk if you like milk, and then drink it while it's quite hot. If you're in a hurry -- must have tea now! -- skip that shit about scalding the pot first, but make sure you are adding boiling (steaming, bubbling, dangerous) water to the dry tea. Then drink it. Don't wait around all day for it to cool. If you aren't a little afraid of it, your tea isn't hot enough. I'm usually done with my first cup and pouring another before others have started their first cup because they claim it's still too hot for them.

Ordering a cup of tea and getting a warmish cup of water with a wrapped tea bag lying in the saucer is a sign that you aren't in a good place. You start frantically dunking the tea bag as soon as the cup lands on the table, but it's too late, it's failed CPR, there's nothing happening in the cup, but you drink it because you need a bad cup of tea more than you need to sit there without a cup of tea.
posted by pracowity at 3:48 AM on January 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


He's quite right. It's one of the perpetually annoying things about America that so few people seem to get even the basic essentials of how tea should be prepared, and what a huge difference it makes if you just make that tiny effort to get it right.

I never order tea in the States any more. I just got too tired and angry about seeing that stupid little cup of barely-hot water with that sad little teabag beside it. All bars and restaurant owners who do that ought to be rounded up and publicly shot; perhaps then a breakthrough might be made. For God's sake, this is not rocket science. Boiling the water brings out the full flavour in a way that even very hot water does not. You have to have crippled taste buds not to be able to tell the difference.

You yanks used to rightly berate us for over-use of the abomination that is instant coffee. You need to understand that the way most places over there serve tea is at least as heinous a crime against taste as that. And don't even get me started on "Chai tea". Really. Don't go there.
posted by Decani at 3:57 AM on January 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


But at the same time, how would you like to be the waiter informed that they must carry boiling water out onto the floor of the bustling restaurant?
posted by Mizu at 9:59 AM on January 4


Err, you don't do it like that. Do you not realise that in Britain and most parts of the tea-civilised world we manage to serve properly prepared tea in restaurants? You make the tea before you bring it to the table, whether in mug or pot. As I said, this is not rocket science.
posted by Decani at 4:01 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


All ritual is, by its very nature, stupid and unnecessary. How do you like your tea? Make it that way.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 4:10 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think I've ever been as baffled as when I ordered a cup of tea in NYC and was brought a mug of lukewarm water, a teabag and a little pot of milk, as if I'd ordered a self-assembly tea hobby kit. If I'd ordered a cup of coffee they wouldn't have given me a cup of water and a pile of ground coffee beans, so wtf is that about?
posted by influx at 4:12 AM on January 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Many of the Slate commenters point out that Hitch's instructions don't work for other-than-red-or-black teas. I shall do the same here, reminding folks that one man's tea is another's FourLoco. I pity the fool who thinks otherwise.
posted by SenorJaime at 4:14 AM on January 4, 2011


for the record:

tea = tea
green tea, white tea, herbal tea, fruit tea, etc. = not tea


Hopefullt that can avoid some confusion.
posted by influx at 4:15 AM on January 4, 2011 [23 favorites]


Tea is properly made if, when drunk, the world feels a little warmer, a little better, and a little less immediately threatening.

A cup of tea is lovely when I'm drunk, but I doubt I'm in the best capacity to judge how properly the tea's been made in that state.
posted by explosion at 4:19 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Smoke it.

Seriously, tea snobs are as obnoxious as coffee or wine snobs.

I once had a friend order green tea at a snooty Seattle tea shop. When she asked for milk, they refused to sell her anything.

It all ends up as piss and caffeine.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:23 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Err, you don't do it like that.

Right, exactly. So why then, at the bottom of the linked article, does the author implore his readers to put up a fuss and then "spread the word" to nearby grumblers in our corner Starbucks when tea isn't being done properly? The next step in that attitude is the person who, upon ordering a cup of tea in a sit down restaurant, sends the warm water back and demands it boiling hot. I fear for the short-lived unscalded state of patrons' laps.

Anyway. There are, thank god, some places that do the tea right in the USA. I think it all has something to do with the reluctance in removing choice from the consumer. It's not rocket science, no, but it does involve a change from coffee ways. And in the places that do British tea right, if you order a gen ma cha, you're screwed.
posted by Mizu at 4:23 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


You folks are hilarious. Tea. Pfffffffttt.
posted by Splunge at 4:32 AM on January 4, 2011


Mizu: "The next step in that attitude is the person who, upon ordering a cup of tea in a sit down restaurant, sends the warm water back and demands it boiling hot."

No, you send it back & demand that at the very least they put the tea bag in the cup & pour the boiling water directly onto it. Then it can steep on the way to the customer. Ideally, you'd get a tea pot of course. The customer can choose how strong they get their tea by how long they leave the tea steeping in the pot. It's not rocket science.

Black tea needs boiling water to extract the flavour. Anything less just results in a horribly weak approximation of something not entirely unlike tea.
posted by pharm at 4:35 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


All ritual is, by its very nature, stupid and unnecessary.

Not counting the obvious incorrectness in this comment, I'd argue: to each their own.

Please don't call people I like, or the things they do, stupid because they enjoy re-iterating a set of steps that make them feel comfortable (one use of ritual) or aids recollection (another).
posted by pompomtom at 4:36 AM on January 4, 2011


Here is my never-fail method of making a quick, refreshing cup of tea. This refers, of course, to black tea *only* -- the methods for making green, white, or red teas vary in every particular.

1) First, buy a plot of land 1,000 meters up the windward, shady side of a mountain in a country where the temperature at that elevation never drops below 18 degrees Centigrade or rises above 22 degrees Centigrade. The soil should be volcanic, with a pH of 5.6, and the yearly rainfall should be between 190 and 210 centimeters. Move into a yurt on the property -- your tea plant will require daily tending. If variance in temperature or rainfall causes them to be too high or too low at any point, however, give up for that year. You don't want to drink the swill that will result.

2) Obviously, given the conditions laid out above, you are growing C. sinensis assamica of the Nilgiri variety. Plant one. You are now only three years away from a piping hot cup of tea!

3) When the plant is ready (and not a moment before OR AFTER), pick the bud and the first 2-3 leaves. Spread them out to wither and lose some moisture. Then roll them so that the leaves become coated with whatever juices remain. Spread out the leaves again in the coolest, dampest part of your yurt to oxidize. If they do not turn a pretty coppery color, throw them away and give up for the year. Obviously, the length of time you let them oxidize this is *crucially* important. Once that length of time has passed, dry your leaves individually with hot, dry air. If they do not turn a deep, rich black, throw them away and give up for the year. Assuming success, you're now almost ready for that delicious cup!

4) Over an open eucalyptus wood fire, heat a pot of water that comes from an under-the-ocean lava-tunnel filtered source off the coast of Maui. If you are *desperate*, you may substitute Nepalese snowmelt as long as it comes from a height of greater than 4,000 feet. Heat the water to exactly 200 degrees Fahrenheit. One degree more or less means you have wasted your time.

5) You may, if you wish, delicately rub the inside of your cup with a wisp of cheesecloth lightly soaked in milk, sugar, and/or lemon. If you're a barbarian.

6) Place the cup, water, and tea leave *next* to each other on a clean marble-topped table. Almost there!

7)
posted by kyrademon at 4:50 AM on January 4, 2011 [47 favorites]


All ritual is, by its very nature, stupid and unnecessary.

We are talking about recipes for making a cup of tea. If it's only ritual, then so are all cookbooks. Do you scoff at people who worry about how hot to make the oven and how long to leave the lasagna in it?
posted by pracowity at 4:55 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've taken the trouble recently to make tea this way using an actual tea pot and PG Tips that I bought in the "exotic" food section of the Giant Eagle. It does yield a nice cup of tea but it's way too much work and too dangerous for early mornings. Sleep deprivation and 212 degree water seems like a recipe for the emergency room. I'll stick with a nice dark roast brewed automatically through my Zojirushi coffee maker for mornings and reserve tea for weekend afternoons when I have the time and concentration to make it correctly (and safely).

Oh and yea, I'm not taking criticism from a country that willingly drinks instant coffee. If it was a choice between instant and no coffee, I'd drink Dr. Pepper for breakfast.
posted by octothorpe at 4:56 AM on January 4, 2011


Fun supermarket hobby:

1) Place hands on entire display of Lancashire Tea.

2) Push

3a) Find cheap supermarket home brand tea.

3b) Stack in front of retreating Lancashire Tea.
posted by vbfg at 5:20 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just put the pod in the coffee machine at and hit the 'tea' button. Am I doing it wrong?
posted by empath at 5:23 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


(at work)
posted by empath at 5:23 AM on January 4, 2011


British people generally put too much milk in their tea and they don't leave the tea bag in for long enough (let's face it, 99% of self-brewed British tea is from a bag in a cup). Everywhere I go it's another process of re-education. Still, I'm setting this world right kitchen by kitchen, office by office.
posted by Summer at 5:28 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the things I miss most about London is the very civilized little teapot that comes with an order of tea at a restaurant or museum cafe. I rarely ordered tea in the US before I spent time in London because I never did cotton to the barely-warm water and Lipton teabags* that would invariably be offered, but now I never order tea here.

*Lipton tea has its uses, most especially for iced tea. It is an abomination, however, for hot tea.
posted by cooker girl at 5:34 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I say "herbal," you say "no thank you."
posted by jbickers at 5:34 AM on January 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Tea-drinking has led to two bits of ritual-ish things I do around making tea at home. First, I keep a little corner of the top shelf on the door of the fridge clear so I can set my cup of tea there and pour milk into it while the door is open (energy-foolish but convenient). The other is that I tend to keep a mug and a spoon in the freezer so that when I make a big pot of tea the first cup is drinkable faster.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:40 AM on January 4, 2011


Being from the southern U.S. I suppose I should chime in and defend my local traditions.
'Round these parts if you order tea it comes sweet and iced. Which, generally speaking is made following the prescribed boiling-water-over-black-tea-leaves. So it's not too bad.
Sweeter and colder than my preference, however. I drink a lot of tea. I spend my whole day at my desk with a constantly replenished cup of hot tea. I leave the bag in so it is strong.
At restaurants I get "unsweet" and always tip well, because I keep them coming back with that pitcher.

I read Yoko in the Times, and she must be mistaken about John's Aunt, that can't be right.
posted by bitslayer at 5:49 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


British people generally put too much milk in their tea and they don't leave the tea bag in for long enough

Well, apart from the notable exception of British builders. Tannic mud ain't called "builder's tea" for nothing.
posted by ob at 5:50 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favourite tea is Jack Daniel's.

What? You can sip it.
posted by bwg at 5:59 AM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


We went camping in the mountains last summer. I forgot about the lower boiling point of water at altitude and couldn't figure out why my tea tasted of nothing at all. By the end of the trip I was putting teabags into boiling water, leaving it on a high flame for at least five minutes, and still getting something that was barely brown.
posted by echo target at 6:01 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


tea = tea
green tea, white tea, herbal tea, fruit tea, etc. = not tea


The people of Japan would like to strongly disagree with you.

At the same time, when I want tea, I usually go to the vending machine or the convenience store and get a PET bottle of it. I'm not the biggest tea drinker, though I'm trying to move away from cola and tea seems like a safe bet. But here's a question: Why, in the name of al that's holy, can't I find green tea in America when I visit? Last time I was home, it was the middle of summer, and while I figured I couldn't get mugi-cha, at least green tea would be refreshing. Every single variety of green tea, from the Arizona crap to the generic labels, had honey, or ginseng, or some other unnecessary crap. Green tea. Plain green tea. Does it exist in purchaseable form in America?
posted by Ghidorah at 6:13 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I forgot about the lower boiling point of water at altitude and couldn't figure out why my tea tasted of nothing at all. By the end of the trip I was putting teabags into boiling water, leaving it on a high flame for at least five minutes, and still getting something that was barely brown.

Maybe that explains the preparation of Tibetan butter tea, where the tea leaves are boiled for many hours.
posted by aught at 6:17 AM on January 4, 2011


Green tea. Plain green tea. Does it exist in purchaseable form in America?

Honest Tea makes a plain green tea, your more hippy-fied grocers will carry it.
posted by device55 at 6:18 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a cup of coffee in front of me and I'm still getting up to make some tea.
posted by theredpen at 6:21 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Green tea. Plain green tea. Does it exist in purchaseable form in America?

Sure. Admittedly I live in a college town in the Northeast U.S., but I have no trouble at all finding loose or bagged green tea in supermarkets. (Now, it might be Lipton, but usually you can also find better brands as well. And of course in the food co-op you can get it loose and in bulk.)
posted by aught at 6:21 AM on January 4, 2011


Milk? In tea? What is it, coffee?

Secondly, the whole "boiling" thing is just gwailo laziness. The proper temperature is around 80ºC, but historically it's been much easier to identify when water was at a boil.

Steep to taste. Your sense of smell will aid you.

And above all, have fun with it. It's supposed to be relaxing, you fucks.
posted by Eideteker at 6:25 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hitchens says: It is already virtually impossible in the United States, unless you undertake the job yourself, to get a cup or pot of tea that tastes remotely as it ought to.

He doesn't go to any of the right Chinese restaurants. There are many of them. Also, expecting to get a good cup of tea at Starbucks is even more foolish than expecting to get a good cup of coffee at Starbucks.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:26 AM on January 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Bitslayer, as a northerner, the mystery of southern sweet tea is something I always seem to forget about until my first meal in the south, when the glass of iced sweet tea is placed before me and I take the first sip. It is such a different and distinctly southern creature that I am both surprised and then sink deeply into a special kind of heaven that also includes your versions of hush puppies and slow smoked bbq.

When I was in graduate school I read a statistic that my current city is among the highest in daily coffee consumption in the States, so being a tea drinker puts me in the minority. But damn it, there's just something civil about the daily ritual of a good cup of tea. I love the scene in the movie version of Hitchhiker's Guide where Arthur gets his first cup of tea at the 'dinner party' - the actor conveys a true pleasure in the first sip. If I can recreate that every morning, why wouldn't I?
posted by librarianamy at 6:26 AM on January 4, 2011


The knowledge of tea-making is very fairly distributed, since few think their share is deficient.
posted by Segundus at 6:36 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sorry, I was asking more about the availability of a ready-to-drink variety, sold in supermarkets/convenience stores. Brewing my own on a hot summer day was just not in the cards.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:38 AM on January 4, 2011


Well, apart from the notable exception of British builders

Well that's what I say: "Imagine I'm a 15 stone builder from Essex called Steve who, surprisingly enough, doesn't have a sweet tooth. Now go and make me some tea. Yes, two bags if you have to. And don't forget the digestives."
posted by Summer at 6:40 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ghidorah --

Ito-en green tea is sometimes available in Asian supermarkets in the U.S., with how common this is depending on where you live. (I lived in Honolulu, which is an outlier in terms of availability for that kind of product, but when I lived in Tucson there were also places that sold it if you knew where to look.)
posted by kyrademon at 6:43 AM on January 4, 2011


He does a good job of nailing the basics: the water should be boiling or not far of boiling as the tealeavrs go into it. If you don't do that then all else is lost.
posted by Artw at 6:44 AM on January 4, 2011


Yes, Ghidorah, it exists. Of course, it's just repackaged Ito-En, but it's the best stuff on the shelves. No cloying sweeteners, reasonably brewed, flavorful, and available in most fancyshmancy to normal supermarkets.
posted by Mizu at 6:44 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Restaurants in the US do not know how to make tea. I did not know this until I started going to the UK. Whereupon, of course, I found out that restaurants in the UK simple do not know how to make a decent cup of coffee.
posted by eriko at 6:44 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is nothing more refreshing on a hot day than a tall glass of iced tea.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:46 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fancy Man Enjoys Tea
Baumer's beverage is made with the use of a tea bag, a prissy little package of delicately scented, finely shredded leaves wrapped in a thin gauze and festooned with a bright yellow label tied to a string so that the user need not scald her tender digits in the hot water. Baumer, like all the other hens and dandies known to enjoy tea, must "steep" the drink, which is a term for gently lowering the bag into a teacup holding the hot water.

On this occasion, Baumer removed the tea bag from the dainty brew and added one dollop of honey made by his friends the honeybees and a splash of milk straight from his mama's precious teat. But even with these additions, the tea was still too hot for Princess Jason's sensitive mouth, causing him to softly blow on the beverage with his lips pursed together like a little rosebud.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:46 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Tea is properly made if, when drunk, the world feels a little warmer, a little better, and a little less immediately threatening.

This would suggest that Christopher Hitchens has never made tea properly since he was always drunk and has always been threatened.
posted by srboisvert at 6:47 AM on January 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ghidorah, unsweetened green tea can be had. Look for Teas’ Tea, which is made by Ito En, whom you’ll recognize.Oi Ocha can also be found in the states, but probably not in most cities – I live in New York, and have seen it places I haven’t expected to.
posted by SirNovember at 6:48 AM on January 4, 2011


I was all set to make some pithy comment about tea and pedantry. But after I read the Hitchens article, I followed the link to the Orwell one. And now, I'm overcome by the extent to which Hitchens is overmatched. "China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. " Oh my. Hitchens, who (it should be said) has his virtues as a writer, just seems fussy by comparison.
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:51 AM on January 4, 2011


First, create the universe...
posted by kmz at 6:54 AM on January 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


a mug of hot sepia water-milk

This is the perfect description of what my mother makes. It is horrifying.
posted by aclevername at 6:55 AM on January 4, 2011


http://i.imgur.com/Rw3Ij.jpg
posted by vbfg at 6:56 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


As with anything, tea can be taken to dizzying levels of pedantic snobbery. But the basic tenets described in this article (warm the pot or cup first, use seriously hot water, pour it over the tea) will serve you well.

For a long time I drank tea the way it's usually served in the US; cup of hottish water with the bag beside it, and had no strong opinion about it. Then a British acquaintance gave me the three basic rules above. It really does make a much better cup of tea; pre-warming the vessel keeps the tea hot longer, and using boiling (or just under boiling) water extracts so much more flavor than water from the "hot" urn. Pouring the water over the tea ensures maximum saturation and extraction. It's not snobbery, it simply results in better tea.

Would I demand that a waiter or coffee shop employee jump through hoops to prepare my tea this way? No... but don't roll your eyes at me if I decline a cup of tepid restaurant tea because I don't like it prepared that way.

Just ask Ginger Baker.
posted by usonian at 6:59 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


for the record:

tea = tea
green tea, white tea, herbal tea, fruit tea, etc. = not tea


This was one of my major tea-related grievances in America. I'd ask for a cup of tea somewhere and get a blank look back. It's not 'English Breakfast,' it's just tea.

In England, they know. I like it here.
posted by Put the kettle on at 7:00 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Have you people no standards?!
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 7:00 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Man, Hitchens really must not be doing well.
posted by electroboy at 7:01 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


In 1984 I was working as a waitress in San Francisco. The restaurant was on Columbus Avenue in North Beach and adjoined one of Bill Graham's many venues, Wolfgang's (since deceased, same as Bill). Anyway, whoever played the club would usually come in for a late lunch/early dinner or tea, perhaps? I had just graduated from a fairly good school back east and had seen my share of international snobberies, not to mention various royalties, but nothing prepared me for the withering disdain of Marianne Faithfull when I dutifully served her a glass mug of boiling-ish water on a saucer with the tea of her choice in bag on the side. (One of the owners of the restaurant was an ex-flight attendant with very specific ideas about these things; she disdained my ratty nails and wrinkled shirts, but that's another story.) Miss Faithfull abruptly broke off the conversation she'd been seemingly absorbed in with her companion, looked me straight in the eye, and said, "What on earth is this? Are you trying to tell me, young lady, that this is what passes for tea these days in America? Now I've seen everything!" I was so mortified I can't really remember what happened next. Make your own ending. Now I will go drink some coffee, no milk.
posted by emhutchinson at 7:02 AM on January 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Hm, emhutchinson, that reminds me of the Dave Barry statement that people who are nice to you, but not nice to the waiter, are not nice people. Not that we had any doubt about certain people already. Also, I would have been embarrassed in that situation, too, but seeing it from afar, she is the one who should be embarrassed. I'll have to think about whether that's the case the next time I'm mortified over something.
posted by theredpen at 7:08 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


FWIW whenever I've ordered a "tea" product at Starbucks (including "wild sweet orange" and other not-very-teaish fruity things) they've made it using boiling water from a spigot on the side of the espresso machine, so temperature is really not their problem - their problem is that they don't have much in the way of decent black teas. The Earl grey is the one I'd go for, but really that's largely because the flavouribg covers up the problem.

Oh, and they make a thing called a chai latte. I have no idea what that is and refuse to investigate, so someone else will have to report back on that one.
posted by Artw at 7:09 AM on January 4, 2011


Next time you are in a Starbucks or its equivalent and want some tea, don't be afraid to decline that hasty cup of hot water with added bag. It's not what you asked for. Insist on seeing the tea put in first, and on making sure that the water is boiling.

Absolutely. Unless I'm the guy behind you in line, in which case fuck you.
posted by The Bellman at 7:11 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


How can no-one have linked to the MyCuppa tea mug yet? It's a tea mug with handy colour swatches for "milky", "british", "builders" and "black".

It needs more colours though...
* Sepia water-milk
* Baby tea
* Yes, really, I'd like milky Earl Grey
* Milky
* British
* Just a drop of milk
* Builders'
* Road Navvy (like builders', but left on a simmering pot for an hour)
* Black
* Wasn't the curdling a sign that you don't put milk in lemon tea?
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 7:13 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


About
He doesn't go to any of the right Chinese restaurants.
and
Secondly, the whole "boiling" thing is just gwailo laziness.
and so on:

It should be pretty clear that he's a very British guy (the pages in his US passport must still be crisp) talking about how to make a decent British-style cup of tea (usually black, often with milk and sugar, etc.), not how to make a decent cup of Chinese-style tea (green/white/yellow/?, definitely no milk and sugar, etc.).
posted by pracowity at 7:14 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Cool, just keep your rituals at home though.

Every time I go to the deli to get coffee there are 8 or 10 people screwing around with tea bags, sad little wedges of lemon, sugar, various types of milk. They then stand there stirring while I wait to get at the little hot beverage prep area.

If you take sugar in your coffee, please put the sugar in the cup before you pour the coffee, this eliminates the need for you to stir your coffee for 45 minute while I stand there waiting. Your best bet is to eliminate milk and sugar all together as to speed up turnover. If you want hazelnut flavored soy milk why are you at the deli, take it down the street to Starbucks.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:14 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and they make a thing called a chai latte. I have no idea what that is and refuse to investigate, so someone else will have to report back on that one.

Whatever you do, do not investigate the "green tea latte." I'm pretty sure it's a heady mix of radioactivity and lime-green finger paint.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:19 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I once had a green tea frappucino. It looked like I was drinking Kermit.
posted by kmz at 7:21 AM on January 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


I've worked as a barista for a Corporate CoffeeProduct Chain and tea drinkers were far, far more obnoxious than people who wanted large skim mocha lattes with whipped cream.

I'm a tea drinker myself. Drink the stuff every day. Yes, I take it with milk and sugar and if you think tea needs to be black, we don't need to talk to each other. But I do make it properly - boiling water, add milk later, etc.

And we made our tea properly in-store*. But try telling anyone that. They were up on their high horse about how this was America and a Corporate CoffeeProduct Chain and we MUST be DOING IT RONG.

So, I got orders for EXTRA HOT tea. All the time. Constantly. And I would politely explain that the water comes out of the tap at 202F, I can't make it hotter than that.

"Oh, but that's not boiling."

No, not quite. 10F off, but it's damn close. It's the temperature our coffee brews at. And no, no I can't make it hotter by "turning it up." There's no up to turn. The heater only heats so hot. And 202F is that hot.

The best, the absolute best, was the couple who ordered two cups of tea and asked me if I could *steam* the water hotter than that. With the steamer. And I explained that no, I couldn't, because at 200F, the water will start to explode and will explode all over my arm and I will experience 2nd degree burns and while I love my job, I don't love ANYTHING that much. I was exceedingly polite, but did indeed indicate that I couldn't do it because doing so would cause BODILY HARM.

To which they responded "So, what you're saying is you don't want to do it - but you COULD do it, right?"

I think they went elsewhere for their precious tea. I have trouble remembering what happened next due to the black cloud of rage that encircled my soul.

* When I say we did it properly: we used looseleaf tea, put the tea in the filter bags ourselves, put the filter bag in the cup first, THEN the water. If using a tea pot "for here," we warmed the pot, added the tea to the infuser, and then the water. We did not use pre-filled tea bags or tepid water or any other horror show that you think of when you think of "America" and "tea." It just so happens that our tea also sucked, but that's just because it was sucky tea.
posted by sonika at 7:32 AM on January 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


This was one of my major tea-related grievances in America. I'd ask for a cup of tea somewhere and get a blank look back. It's not 'English Breakfast,' it's just tea.

I walked into a Subway here in NYC just as two Southern tourists, a father and son, were in the midst of ordering their lunch. The son had just ordered tea, presumably meaning either sweet tea or maybe something like canned Lipton tea, but the sandwich artist had to explain to them that that Subway only had black tea bags.

Cue literally three minutes of the sandwich artist patiently explaining to the son what non-sweet, non-canned tea was, with the father jumping in every so often to point out that while he had never had tea, he had met people who had had tea, and they said it was interesting, so maybe it would be worth a shot.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:35 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I never learned to like coffee or tea. It seems like everyone but me, at some point, worked a job where the only thing to drink was coffee and that's when they developed a taste for it. But I never had that, and as such, forty some years on this planet, and I've completely missed a shared connection with everyone else.

My coworkers smell coffee or tea brewing and get all rapturous, all I get is confused. I'm kind of jealous, actually, but every time I've tried to acclimate myself to it, my whole mouth just reacts with a big "fuck that!.."

Pity. It sounds like something people really enjoy.
posted by quin at 7:38 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and they make a thing called a chai latte. I have no idea what that is and refuse to investigate, so someone else will have to report back on that one.

A chai latte is a mixture of chai tea concentrate and milk that's steamed. No coffee in it, which is a common question we'd get about it at my own Corporate CoffeeProduct Chain.

It's basically "Chai." Why they put "latte" there is just confusing.

Whatever you do, do not investigate the "green tea latte." I'm pretty sure it's a heady mix of radioactivity and lime-green finger paint.

It's green tea concentrate and milk, and actually pretty good, but only if you think of it as "Weird beverage" and not if you're trying to put it in the category of "tea" where it squarely does not belong.
posted by sonika at 7:39 AM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Just chiming in to say, I had the exact same reaction as Hitchens when I first read Yoko Ono's NYT op-ed back in December. And today I feel validated that I wasn't the only one who got so hung up on a small detail (after all, she was writing a memoir for her dead husband, RIP)
posted by baejoseph at 7:39 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


For those who despise Chai, I take it they have never had a properly prepared cup of it. It's not the crap in the bags that's powered. I've only seen it done once, but the result was heavenly. It involved a pot of boiling milky water with tea leaves and many herbs and spices mixed in. It wasn't tea. But then again, even the finest tea isn't ambrosia. (Contrary to popular belief, God is not an Englishman.) But this stuff, you could single handedly tackle a tiger or charm a Moghul after drinking it. It was worthy of a god.

I tend to make my tea in the Russia style- as strong as possible and very sweet. If it hasn't been seeping for over 6 minutes in just boiling water, it's still weak. Ten is preferable. In fact, I tend to take the tea bags out after I finish the cup. I still haven't replicated the stuff that I was served by the nice lady with the samovar on the Red Arrow from Moscow to St. Petersburg, but I keep trying.

Of course, I'm not doing it right. Just like I never have fun right.

(Similarly, the only Europeans who can make a decent cup of coffee are the Greeks. But that's a whole other argument.)
posted by Hactar at 7:46 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and they make a thing called a chai latte. I have no idea what that is and refuse to investigate, so someone else will have to report back on that one.

It's awesome! It's the only thing Starbucks does right as far as I'm concerned, though it's hard to go wrong when the chai part is really just a pre-made mix and the rest is milk and sugar.

Get 'em to drop a shot of espresso in there and you can move mountains.

I don't really have a dog in the tea fight but I do get irritated in general when people get precious about authenticity and "the right way to make" any given thing.
posted by padraigin at 7:47 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Next time you are in a Starbucks or its equivalent and want some tea, don't be afraid to decline that hasty cup of hot water with added bag. It's not what you asked for. Insist on seeing the tea put in first, and on making sure that the water is boiling. If there are murmurs or sighs from behind you, take the opportunity to spread the word.

Spread which word? "Why yes, I *DO* enjoy getting punched in the mouth at every opportunity! Please, strike me now, sirrah!"
posted by FatherDagon at 7:48 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like tea in many different ways. Green tea in sachets with honey. Spice chai blends with milk. Black tea with nothing. Chamomile with a bit of agave. Great. I also like lots of coffee. If it's a good fresh roast, I won't put anything in the coffee, otherwise I'll put some milk and sugar in it.

But, who gives a rats ass?
posted by Burhanistan at 7:51 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's the only thing Starbucks does right as far as I'm concerned, though it's hard to go wrong when the chai part is really just a pre-made mix and the rest is milk and sugar.

[pedantry] The sugar is in the mix. It's just mix and milk. No sugar added. [/pedantry]
posted by sonika at 7:51 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you have never liked tea, and you live in the States, get your hands on Mighty Leaf Tea. They come in these little woven bags that you could swaddle a newborn in. When you first open the pack, just smell the contents. It's the first sign that you are about to have a real cup of tea.

The reason most people put sugar and milk in tea is because they are drinking cheap tea. It's just like a good cup of coffee maybe needs a touch of sugar and creamer to offset the acidity, but if you're drinking Maxwell House, you have to drown it to make it palatable.

And, I'll put my two pence in: no more than a second off the boil I pour the water on the teabag. I let it steep until I feel like it.
posted by notion at 7:52 AM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


[pedantry] The sugar is in the mix. It's just mix and milk. No sugar added. [/pedantry]

Hey, as long as you're not going to get pedantic when I persist in calling it "chai tea", which I admittedly do to make people cringe!

Chai tea chai tea chai tea chai tea!
posted by padraigin at 7:55 AM on January 4, 2011


And I would politely explain that the water comes out of the tap at 202F, I can't make it hotter than that.

The place couldn't spend a couple of bucks to buy a kettle?
posted by pracowity at 7:58 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't really have a dog in the tea fight

Is that like bringing a knife to a gunfight? Or maybe vice versa?
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:58 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I hurl a cup of Starbucks Tea at Christopher Hitchens will someone make a statue? And would the cup just hang there because it is artistically correct?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:58 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The place couldn't spend a couple of bucks to buy a kettle?

You try getting a Corporate FoodProduct Chain to do anything that makes a lick of sense and get back to me.

(And no, we couldn't buy our *own* kettle because everything in every store had to be exactly. the. same. because of STANDARDS. Couldn't accessorize in any way.)
posted by sonika at 8:02 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Being English of heritage, tea for my family is a ritual more than anything else. No matter how bad the day has been, a call to put the kettle on makes it a little brighter. We have seen through some tough times over a pot of Twinings Early Grey. Whenever we get home as a family from anything, the kettle always receives the first bit of attention.

I do, however, second monster truck weekend in having a lifelong feud with my father over putting the milk in first. He puts WAY too much milk in and it turns what is a delicate tea to begin with into a horrible tepid sugar-milk concoction that in no way resembles actual tea. There's usually no way to add more tea, as he also usually fills the tiny little mug right to the brim - forcing one to either transfer to a new, cold mug (therefore making it even colder) or taking a sip of the nastiness and adding more tea and generally ruining the experience from the start. I want a tiny little bit of brown sugar and just enough skim milk to make it opaque, please.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:03 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The 7 Bowls of Tea

The first bowl of tea moistens my throat,
the second breaks my loneliness, and
the third bowl racks my brains, bringing to light the texts of 5,000 volumes.
The fourth induces perspiration whereby all ills evaporate through my pores.
The fifth makes my muscles and bones feel light, and
the sixth links me to celestials.
Be careful when drinking the seventh bowl,
as it makes you feel as if a cool breeze were coming from your armpits.

--Lu Tung
posted by exlotuseater at 8:04 AM on January 4, 2011 [18 favorites]


MetaFilter:it makes you feel as if a cool breeze were coming from your armpits.

I couldn't help myself. No, really, I actually couldn't.

posted by sonika at 8:06 AM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh here's where everyone is instead of reading my post.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:07 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm reading this with my morning coffee and it tastes bad because with every sip i read "tea" and expect tea instead of the coffee in my mug. So I'm coming back later with sn afternoon cup of tea to read the fight so I can enjoy my coffee now.

Inexpensive loose Ceylon or Indian tea from the Lebanese market with water just off
posted by vespabelle at 8:14 AM on January 4, 2011


What?

No mention of Yerba Mate? (The e has a ' over it ok?)

Let it sit out and it oxidizes bright green - best had fresh. To drink it traditionally - a straw and a gourd.

The other Xanthines in it give a different effect than caffeine - for me shorter lasting (or so I think)

A french press or drinking from a stainless steel straw in a stainless steel double walled cup that mal-wart had on discount for $2.50 (so I thusly scoured the State and eventually found a stash of 20 of 'em in one store.)

Last time I bought a kilo is was under $5. The stainless steel straw - a Bombilla - $14.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:15 AM on January 4, 2011


T.U.S.A., the Masters of Reality (featuring Ginger Baker, drums, rap):
One fing in this country that really bothers me
is the inability of yanks to make a good cup of tea. . .

I mean, 'pour boiling water over the tea'
How simple and clear can instructions be?

They bring you a cup / with a lemon slice
And an un-opened teabag beside it / 'ow nice
And a pot of water / and it may be hot
But boilin' it isn't / so tea you 'ave not. . .
posted by Herodios at 8:17 AM on January 4, 2011


What baffles me about the discussions of hitting tea with boiling water on the theory that it will bring out more of the flavor is that it seems to me that all this will do to tea is make it taste more like tea, which is the last thing tea needs.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 8:17 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


monster truck weekend: "I and my French Earl Grey will see you in hell."

I submit that if you're drinking Earl Grey, you're already in hell.
posted by maudlin at 8:20 AM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


> The 7 Bowls of Tea

This also works if you substitute orgasm for tea.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:21 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


As an Englishman living in the US I would like to point out that a little part of me dies every time I hear an American use the word "cuppa".
posted by schwa at 8:21 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, what brought about the coffee revolution in the U.S.?

I'm European and I believe there is at least some truth to the notion that until fairly recently, as Hitchens mentions, coffee in America was a weak and dreary affair, but now you can get a decently strong cup of coffee in the major cities at least.

Was it Starbucks? I kind of imagine it must have been Starbucks. Or is that oversimplifying things? (It totally was Starbucks though, right?)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:23 AM on January 4, 2011


> Actually, what brought about the coffee revolution in the U.S.?

It started with a dream.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:25 AM on January 4, 2011


Was it Starbucks? I kind of imagine it must have been Starbucks.

As part of my unposted FPP - things I learned from podcasts - the claim I'd not verifyed yet is that Starbucks does not have outlets in Italy. And if there is a nation that takes coffee seriously its Italy. Oh and the Turks - they take their coffee seriously. ( Another part of that FPP - Turkey is spending more on lobbying in DC than the Israelis.)
posted by rough ashlar at 8:28 AM on January 4, 2011


No matter how bad the day has been, a call to put the kettle on makes it a little brighter.

Yes! This! This is basically why my username is what it is.
posted by Put the kettle on at 8:30 AM on January 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


As an Englishman living in the US I would like to point out that a little part of me dies every time I hear an American use the word "cuppa".

Does being called a Brit cause you any necrosis?
posted by pracowity at 8:37 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


> As an Englishman living in the US I would like to point out that a little part of me dies every time I hear an American use the word "cuppa". Does being called a Brit cause you any necrosis?

Also, is it like a direct linear thing? If you heard the word "cuppa" enough times would you actually die? Or, is it more like some kind of Zeno's Paradox dying where you always get about halfway dead but there's still more dying to be done?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:40 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is also the stuff you get in greasy caffs - made by forcing boiling (or at least effusively steaming) water through tea leaves, which is, I suppose, what people are actually talking about when they refer to Builders' Tea. Very very strong. I quite like it, though it really needs sugar.

Also, tea and coffee don't combine in any way at all - certainly if someone makes a cup of tea in a mug that has previously had coffee in it (and they don't wash the mug), then the resulting drink is undrinkable. Trace elements of coffee can quite spoil a cup of tea. Very strange.

And, as we're now discussing random hot drinks, I might mention the time I asked, in Starbucks, for a cup of coffee without milk of any kind and got something that, were it cool enough to put in one's mouth without stripping it of all skin, would have been undrinkably disgusting. Which I found out when it had cooled down a bit. I had to go on a budget airline to get a worse cup of coffee, something I would not recommend.
posted by Grangousier at 8:44 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whereas tea is a herb (or an herb if you insist)
I don't get this. Is Hitchens saying that he pronounces "herb" with an audible "h"?

Or that he uses some a/an rule other than "an if preceding a vowel sound, a otherwise"?
posted by Flunkie at 8:45 AM on January 4, 2011


Yes, herb is pronounced with an audible "h", as one would if one were referring to Herb Edelman or Herb Trimpe. Unless one is French, in which case the H is silent.

You aren't French, are you?

(I was given to understand that Herb Trimpe is pronounced to rhyme with "skimpy" but that can't be right, can it?)
posted by Grangousier at 8:48 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


What follows is the finest piece of verse on the consumption of tea ever composed:

We went to the Philly Pizza Company
And ordered some hot tea
The waitress said
"Well no, we only have it iced."
So we jumped up on the table
And shouted "Anarchy!"
And someone played a Beach Boys song
On the juke box
It was California Dreamin'
So we started screamin'
On such a winter's day

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:51 AM on January 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


Does being called a Brit cause you any necrosis

Brit is fine because it puts Yank on the table, which has at least has a 50/50 chance of offending

posted by schwa at 8:54 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I once had a friend order green tea at a snooty Seattle tea shop. When she asked for milk, they refused to sell her anything.

At least she didn't order espresso on ice (though in that instance the threat resulted in a catchy tune).
posted by exogenous at 8:57 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is reading a little like a sports thread, but s/home\ team/tea\ preference/g

Also: Matcha, bitches.
posted by everichon at 9:01 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mostly drink coffee but I recently bought a tin of loose tea and am making it the exact way I make my coffee because I don't know any better. Is this reasonable? Steps:

1. Boil water in a pan.
2. Put two tablespoons of loose tea in a French press (small, holds about 1 mug of liquid).
3. After water boils, remove from heat and count to 10.
4. Pour water into press and cover.
5. Wait exactly 3 minutes.
6. Depress plunger.
7. Pour tea into mug.
8. Add 1/2 tbsp sugar and top off with milk.

Tastes good to me, but I don't really know if this is a good method or is heresy.
posted by freecellwizard at 9:04 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The tea haters can go take a flying leap into a cauldron of boiling re-heated rotgut coffee from last Sunday's church social.
posted by blucevalo at 9:08 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


freecellwizard, great method for black tea, though I'd personally wait for 5 minutes. If it's green tea I'd take the water off the pan well before a rolling boil sets in.

Anyone try the kettles that boil water to the specific temperatures for different teas?
posted by jimmythefish at 9:11 AM on January 4, 2011


I hear ya, quin. I truly do not understand why people think coffee is so yumyumheavenlygood, other than for the caffeine buzz. It smells burnt, people! It TASTES burnt! I can feel my taste buds dying every time I've tried to like the stuff. What is the appeal!?

As for tea, I used to be in a friend group (lotta Celtic-obsessive people) where everyone was constantly drinking tea, and I was always the socially awkward one for not really liking it, or ever finishing a drink when it was thrust upon me. I swear most of the time it just tastes like the water went funny. Or I'd have to dump honey in it to make it taste like an actual beverage instead of something strange. Though recently a friend of mine dragged us all to Lovejoy's in SF for her birthday and wow, they actually had good tea that tasted good right off the bat without having to add anything to it. Go figure, I didn't think that existed.

It is really socially awkward not to like coffee or tea, though. If you can't have booze, those are the two default "adult beverages" in life, and you look like a yutz if you order a Coke.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:13 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is how to make Massa's cup of tea. Cultures that have emerged in tea-growing countries usually prepare it otherwise.
posted by Jode at 9:13 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This was one of my major tea-related grievances in America. I'd ask for a cup of tea somewhere and get a blank look back.

One of the first culture-shock moments I had when I moved to America for a bit was when I went into a cafe and asked for a 'Cup of tea', which of course I naturally pronounce 'Cuppa tea'. It went like this:

Me: I'll have a cuppa tea please.
Lady At Counter: You'll have what?
Me: (a bit louder) A cuppa tea.
LAC: A coffee?
Me: (trying very, very hard to enunciate) A. cup. ov. tea.
LAC: You want Tea?
Me: Yes!
LAC: What kind?
Me: What.. kind?
LAC: Yeah, what kind?
Me: Oh, just a cuppa tea.
LAC: (Giving me a strange look) What kind of tea?
Me: Just ordinary tea.
LAC: (Look of bafflement)
Me: (Thinking very hard. Sudden moment of inspiration) Like, you know, English Breakfast.
LAC: You want black tea?
Me: Oh no.
LAC: (Bafflement returns)
Me: White tea. With milk.
LAC: Black tea with milk.
Me: (dubiously) Ye-es, black tea with milk.
LAC: (Hands me classic American-style tea kit)
Me: (subdued) Where's the - the milk?
LAC: There's a jug of half-and-half on the counter.
Me: (blank smile) Mm-hmm. Well, have a lovely afternoon!
LAC: You too, sweetie!

I took up coffee-drinking pretty quickly.
posted by Acheman at 9:13 AM on January 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


Was it Starbucks? I kind of imagine it must have been Starbucks. Or is that oversimplifying things? (It totally was Starbucks though, right?)

Yes, that is oversimplifying things.

Start with Alfred Peet

Coffee houses (chains, even) in America were serving espresso and arabica style coffees from around the world to the masses from at least the 1950s. Peet's opened in Berkeley in the mid-1960s Starbucks opened their first in Seattle in 1971. Arabica opened in Cleveland Heights in 1976. I'm sure there are many other examples.

Here's Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs. In 1963, he was not singing about a Starbucks.

Starbucks is one of the surfers -- not the wave.
posted by Herodios at 9:21 AM on January 4, 2011


Huh. The average Japanese household uses different shapes of cups for different varieties of teas. I like Japan that way.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:22 AM on January 4, 2011


(I had absolutely no idea what half-and-half might be, but by that point I was long past asking)
posted by Acheman at 9:28 AM on January 4, 2011


So, I got orders for EXTRA HOT tea. All the time. Constantly. And I would politely explain that the water comes out of the tap at 202F, I can't make it hotter than that.

The problem is that some, a lot of people, my parents for two, can taste the difference that 10 F makes. The best temperate for coffee is not the best temperature for black tea, brewed English-style at least. The ratios of the chemicals that get extracted are different at that lower temps than at boiling. It's like having too much salt and not enough vinegar in soup or something. The tea just tastes off, no zing at all.

There's not a lot to be done about it, but the hot water that comes out of commercial coffeemakers makes the exactly sad kind of American tea that ex-pat Brit atheist columnists complain about.
posted by bonehead at 9:33 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suppose you're all going to tell me I'm making ice tea wrong too (boil large pot of water, throw in a dozen tea bags, turn off heat, let cool until I can put in the fridge). Or is making ice tea, regardless of method, regarded as apostasy by you brits?
posted by TheShadowKnows at 9:40 AM on January 4, 2011


Tea seems to suffer from being in a wax paper cup in a way that coffee just doesn't as well. Let's face it, your on-the-go chainstore tea experience is never really going to be optimal.
posted by Artw at 9:43 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyway, this British decrying of American tea habits is like criticizing someone for preparing carrots differently. It's a staple foodstuff that can be prepared and consumed in many different ways. Some may seem more typical and proper than others, but at the end of the day it's a plant product that offers its consumers a wide range of options.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:43 AM on January 4, 2011


Does it taste nice?
posted by Grangousier at 9:43 AM on January 4, 2011


I guess the audible h in "herb" is a British thing? Odd, considering that the situation is reversed with respect to "history".
posted by Flunkie at 9:46 AM on January 4, 2011


for the record:

tea = tea
green tea, white tea, herbal tea, fruit tea, etc. = not tea


I was going to stay out of the "how to make it" debate, but I'll jump in on the "what is it" part.

black, oolong, green, white tea = tea (from the leaves of Camellia sinensis)

red, herbal, fruit tea ≠ tea (not Camellia sinensis). Snobs and pedants are permitted to refer to these as tisanes. And nothing against these, especially red tea, a.k.a. rooibos, which is a delightful drink, just not tea.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:46 AM on January 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


> I suppose you're all going to tell me I'm making ice tea wrong too (boil large pot of water, throw in a dozen tea bags, turn off heat, let cool until I can put in the fridge). Or is making ice tea, regardless of method, regarded as apostasy by you brits

Uh, yeah, there is a much better method. Learned it when I moved to the South--before then I assumed your method was the only way too. Involves making a syrupy tea "concentrate" first, about 2 cups, and then topping the pitcher off with cold water and refrigerating. Oh, and Luzianne all the way.
posted by ifjuly at 9:47 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess the audible h in "herb" is a British thing? Odd, considering that the situation is reversed with respect to "history".

I've never heard anyone pronounce it "istory".
posted by schwa at 9:48 AM on January 4, 2011


So, uniquely among all the words in the dictionary, the United States has decided to model the pronunciation of the word "herb" on Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins?
posted by Grangousier at 9:53 AM on January 4, 2011


Grangousier -- herb, honesty, honor, hour, heir ...

Not exactly "uniquely among all the words in the dictionary".
posted by kyrademon at 10:07 AM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


> I guess the audible h in "herb" is a British thing? Odd, considering that the situation is reversed with respect to "history".

I think Eddie Izzard tackled this very well on Dressed to Kill - in the first minute of this clip, in fact. (Warning, NSFW language!)

And I've never heard it pronounced "istory", either. Herb is one of those funny words - as in, I look at all americans funny when they pronounce it...
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 10:08 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe it was Cypress Hill that first made me aware of this cultral difference.
posted by Artw at 10:17 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


You guys remind me of that guy who sells comic books on The Simpsons.

That being said, this was an amazingly helpful article. Thanks.
posted by anniecat at 10:19 AM on January 4, 2011


Am I a wimp for not understanding how people can stand tea made with actually boiling water? If I did that, it would be at least half an hour before it would be cooled enough that I could drink it without burning my tongue.
posted by dnash at 10:29 AM on January 4, 2011


dnash, that's why you let it steep for a few minutes. It cools down quickly in a pot - it doesn't stay boiling. Once it hits the tea and steeps, it's fine. It's also a great meditative reminder - good coffee and tea take time to make and savor, and in our rushed lives we can always have a moment to just... caffeinate and enjoy.

Now if only Hitch would give recommendations on which loose tea to make, and if there's a support group for those of us who peer into the Loose Tea world and wonder where to start.
posted by rmm at 10:45 AM on January 4, 2011


Hot teapot / cold mug is also an option.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:50 AM on January 4, 2011


freecellwizard: 1. Boil water in a pan.
If you make coffee and/or tea this way frequently, you want an electric kettle, even though you may not realize it yet.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:52 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whenever I've ordered tea at Starbucks (the terrible "awake" black tea), it's always arrived really hot, with the bag in, and well on its way to being steeped to a near-blackness. This is in Canada, though.

The tepid tea offenders are usually restaurants, where you get that mini teapot that holds enough 75-degree water for one cup, an empty cup, and the tea bag on the side. Tea doesn't get any worse than that.

Actually, over-steeped green tea is almost worse than that. The first cup at the wrong Chinese restaurant can be like water, and the last cup is bitter, astringent and green-brown.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:58 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure he's not ordered tea at a Starbucks, as it is bad in a different way than he describes.

Also "Awake" totally sucks.
posted by Artw at 11:03 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The first cup at the wrong Chinese restaurant can be like water, and the last cup is bitter, astringent and green-brown.

This is why you wash your chopsticks with the first pot of tea and keep a pot of hot water around, not only for its own sake, but also to dilute the bitter final rounds of tea.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:03 AM on January 4, 2011


influx, I think it's called tea if it's made from tea leaves, regardless of oxidation level.
posted by Serf at 11:08 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only tea I've had from Starbucks is the "Passion," which I love. I'd actually discovered it in Whole Foods years before Starbucks bought the Tazo brand. I know, I know, it's "herbal" tea, not TEA tea. But it's great stuff when I have a cold or something.
posted by dnash at 11:08 AM on January 4, 2011


I learned to make tea Gong Fu Style(工夫茶) from an old man in Guangzhou. It's a little bit of work, but heating your cups beforehand and not drinking the first pot of tea really does make the tea taste better.

Please note: Contrary to the Wikipedia article, I got no inclination from the old man that incense, flowers, music, or songbirds were necessary to enjoy drinking tea.
posted by Quonab at 11:28 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know exactly how to make the perfect cup of tea. But the last time anyone tried it, the spaceship damn near shut down until the tea was done, so we don't do it that way any more.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:29 AM on January 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


From Online Etymology Dictionary:
Herb
late 13c., erbe, from O.Fr. erbe, from L. herba "grass, herb." Refashioned after Latin since 15c., but the h- was mute until 19c.
posted by Dreamcast at 11:42 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


No-one has mentioned to need for filtered water yet, also there are snazzy electric kettles being sold these days which can give you an exact temperature.
posted by Lanark at 12:00 PM on January 4, 2011


Quonab, thank you for mentioning 工夫茶. To me that's the proper way to enjoy a cup of Yunnan Black Tea (滇红). Not all black teas are created equal either...
posted by of strange foe at 12:04 PM on January 4, 2011


>"...recommendations on which loose tea to make.."

If it isn't single-estate, 2nd flush, SFTGFOP (clonal, etc.), it just isn't drinkable, darling.

[/sarcasm]

If you just want to buy tins locally, Harney & Sons isn't bad. But if you want to take the red pill, here's the help I can offer:

-Blended teas have more consistent quality, but generally can't reach the heights that single-estate teas can. Single estate teas are identified by the estate name. Any names that don't refer to a type of tea — Darjeeling, Assam... — or an estate usually indicate that the tea is blended. English Breakfast, Russian Caravan, and Earl Grey are all blended teas.

-When buying single estate teas, they can vary dramatically by estate, grade, year, flush, and varietal (look for words like "clonal", "china", and "special"). If you can find reviews of a given tea (unlikely), take bad reviews more seriously than good reviews. The first things you should look at for quality are the grade and the flush, anyway.

-The grade and flush stuff above apply to Indian black tea only (and maybe Sri Lankan too). China and Japan use different systems that I don't know anything about.

-Reviews of a specific tea are almost nonexistent online. The ones that do exist are mostly full of precious and subjective bullshit. I trust these two a little bit, since they are willing to actually say they dislike a tea.

-Darjeeling is the most famous, but don't forget Assam and Nilgiri. The fact that those are less well-known can mean much better prices.

-If you drink coffee regularly, start with a stronger tea, like Assam. Don't make your tea in the same equipment that your coffee touches.

- What bothers me about tea these days isn't how fancy it is, but how fancy it's becoming. High-grade-but-nothing-special tea sells for $100 or more per pound in stores that carry the stuff and lots of places online. Those places generally sell a sort of zen- or luxurious image associated with tea. The one seller I've found with good prices is Lochan Tea (you'll have to email them with your order and they'll set up a Paypal transaction).
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 12:26 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's my way called? Stagger up to the break room at work at about 5 a.m. after the most frantic first half hour of my work day is past, toss a round Tetley orange pekoe tea bag into my plastic Thermos travel mug, add hot water out of the hot water spigot on the coffee machine, use a spoon to dunk the tea bag a few times if it's floating, then out with it and in with a few teaspoons of sugar?

Oh, and to many Western Canadians, the best ice tea is made from a powder. Eat that, snobs!
posted by evilcolonel at 12:43 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


So it's "erbivore" too then?
posted by schwa at 1:04 PM on January 4, 2011


"The word herb, which can be pronounced with or without the (h), is one of a number of words borrowed into English from French. The (h) sound had been lost in Latin and was not pronounced in French or the other Romance languages, which are descended from Latin, although it was retained in the spelling of some words. In both Old and Middle English, however, h was generally pronounced, as in the native English words happy and hot. Through the influence of spelling, then, the h came to be pronounced in most words borrowed from French, such as haste and hostel. In a few other words borrowed from French the h has remained silent, as in honor, honest, hour, and heir. And in another small group of French loan words, including herb, humble, human, and humor, the h may or may not be pronounced depending on the dialect of English. In British English, herb and its derivatives, such as herbaceous, herbal, herbicide, and herbivore, are pronounced with h. In American English, herb and herbal are more often pronounced without the h, while the opposite is true of herbaceous, herbicide, and herbivore, which are more often pronounced with the h."

Can we move on now?
posted by kyrademon at 1:23 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


[Hitchens] : And do not put the milk in the cup first—family feuds have lasted generations over this—because you will almost certainly put in too much.


Dammit, I can't remember which British novel it was.

But there was a wonderfully excruciating scene with a schoolboy visiting the superior home of a chum, & the schoolboy already worried about making a good impression socially; his friend's (superior) mother is serving tea and asks the newcomer, with gentle humor, as she raises the milk jug: "Postlactarian or pre?"

(Not understanding her pun - or the question - the lad feels thoroughly humiliated.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:58 PM on January 4, 2011


I guess I've just always assumed that the people who say "an historic" are either British ("an 'istoric") or misunderstanding why British people say "an" in front of "historic" ("an historic").
posted by Flunkie at 3:42 PM on January 4, 2011


All that bluster and not a word of the biscuits. Shame on you, Hitchens.

Thankfully, Nicey and Wifey did not forget this crucial part of the tea ritual.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 4:01 PM on January 4, 2011


Coming from rural Pennsylvania, I didn't know that people drank tea hot(rather than iced tea) until I was in my teens. I've tried hot tea a few times, and I've never liked it. It has always tasted slightly bitter with no redeeming qualities to the taste.
posted by JasonM at 4:13 PM on January 4, 2011


Finally, a decent cylindrical mug will preserve the needful heat and flavor for longer than will a shallow and wide-mouthed—how often those attributes seem to go together—teacup.

It's lines like this that have me almost not hating Hitchens. Almost.
posted by mollymayhem at 4:40 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


>get particle

Taken.

>get no tea

You have no tea.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:15 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Work morning: Earl Grey, two teaspoons per 8 ounces in Ingenuitea. Boiling water, 3-5 minutes. Milk in first, artificial sweetener.

No-work morning: Jasmine Oolong, two teaspoons per 8 ounces in Ingenuitea. Let water rest one minute to cool, 3 minutes. Add honey. 420.

Work night: Rooibos, two teaspoons per 8 ounces in Ingenuitea. Boiling water 5-10 minutes. Milk (in first!) and honey.

Non-work night: Beer, bourbon.

Repeat as necessary.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:57 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Art The Repair Man: Oh that, yeah I'm sorry, Your Honor, I had to use that herb tea to test the coffee maker.

Harry: Art, this wasn't herb tea! This was Herb!

[cut to Dan Fielding just having drained a cup]
posted by bwg at 6:43 PM on January 4, 2011


I am sure that I once read or heard "milk in first" used as a disparaging term for risk-averse, "boring" people… but it doesn't seem to be a commonly used insult.

I almost only drink tea when I'm visiting my parents, where if seems natural and familiar. On my own, I'll have coffee every time. Funny.

(Then of course there are my 4 year-old niece's tea parties, which always feature the delicious - albeit imaginary - "strawberry milk tea").
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:24 PM on January 4, 2011


The one seller I've found with good prices is Lochan Tea

Grimp0teuthis - have you tried uptontea.com? I drink a ton of tea and it all comes from Upton - great selection, quality and very good prices.


Its a ridiculous article from Hitchens. As I'm sure has been pointed out, its impossible to make a decent cup of tea using a tea bag.
posted by Cletis at 8:23 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am sure that I once read or heard "milk in first" used as a disparaging term for risk-averse, "boring" people… but it doesn't seem to be a commonly used insult.

Maybe milquetoast is the one you're looking for?
posted by asperity at 10:28 PM on January 4, 2011


Cletis: Thanks for the link. Some of their tea is cheaper and some of it is noticeably more expensive than Lochan. I'll definitely keep them in mind.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 11:14 PM on January 4, 2011


I don't get this. Is Hitchens saying that he pronounces "herb" with an audible "h"?

Yes. Like normal people do.
posted by vbfg at 2:56 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I apologize for not knowing that normal people pronounce "herb" with an audible "h".
posted by Flunkie at 7:16 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this thread; it's had me off coke and on tea for the last couple days. No, not like that. Anyway i've been drinking Hyson's English Breakfast as it was the Britishest thing in stock at the grocery store in my predominantly-Mexican neighborhood... any other recommendations for something inexpensive and available in Chicago? Some groceries around here have British sections and there's an excellent Korean market up the street...

As for iced tea, the best I ever had was made from $25/lb (in 1996) Darjeeling "Marybong" liberated from a local coffee/tea place. It was ambrosia. It tasted like kisses.
posted by jtron at 8:16 AM on January 5, 2011


any other recommendations for something inexpensive and available in Chicago?

I can get P.G. Tipps at my local supermarket in New England - dunno about Chicago, but it's relatively inexpensive and better than Lipton! (Um. That's not saying much, I know. It's good stuff! At least I think so, but I'm not authentically British, so there's a chance I'm Doing It Rong.)
posted by sonika at 8:58 AM on January 5, 2011


I did some googling and it appears that "milk-in-first" as a disparaging term began with Evelyn Waugh.

From Judith Martin's "Miss Manners Guide to Excrutiatingly Correct Behaviour":
...According to dear Evelyn Waugh, "All nannies and many governesses...put the milk in first," which has given rise to the disparaging remark, "She's rather milk-in-first, darling."

Although it appears that it is meant to be disparaging in a class-marker way, rather than referring to risk tolerance.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:10 AM on January 5, 2011


The best tea I ever had was Fortnum & Mason's loose orange pekoe. To acquire this you will need to visit Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly.
posted by Summer at 9:44 AM on January 5, 2011


To acquire this you will need to visit Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly.

Maybe not.
posted by electroboy at 11:12 AM on January 5, 2011


Neat! I hadn't seen that phrase before.
posted by asperity at 11:13 AM on January 5, 2011


tea = tea
green tea, white tea, herbal tea, fruit tea, etc. = not tea


THIS. God, a thousand times, this. Green tea? Fuck that superfood bollocks. That isn't tea. That's placebo comfort for people who like the idea of preventing cancer by drinking an infusion of trendy cack rather than by actually making significant changes to their lifestyle and attitude. Tea is black leaves of Assam, Darjeeling and Orange Pekoe. You pour boiling water on it and you let it bloom and maybe you add just the merest dash of milk to moonlight the black night. You do not add sugar. If you sugar tea you are the kind of lout who hasn't yet frown out of drinking soda. The whole point of tea is to taste the tea. If you can't drink tea without trashing its leafy, woody taste with sickly sweetness then you are simply not adult enough for tea.

Now, Chai tea.... no, no, I mustn't.
posted by Decani at 12:10 PM on January 5, 2011


Frown out? I frown out regularly, particularly when reading MeTa. But in that last post i believe I meant "grown out".
posted by Decani at 12:11 PM on January 5, 2011


I once had a roommate who made masala chai for us. You boil milk and water, add some type of black tea, add ginger, cardamom, sugar, etc. I cannot remember the entire concoction, but it was pretty awesome. You can sometimes get a decent chai at an Indian restaurant. Don't hate chai.
posted by bleary at 6:03 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have happily avoided work for ages reading this thread.

Until the age of 15 when I went on a school exchange to Germany, I never knew tea came without milk. Ever since it's been black tea, with honey optional. Despite this, whenever I visit my folks or they visit; there's a 50% chance I'll get tea heavily milked (in first mind you, as we're practical people) with 2 sugars. My parents drink about 15 cups of tea a day and the kettle is replaced regularly as they die from overuse.

Green tea is most definitely tea. You are simply sticking your fingers in your ears shouting "lah, lah, I can't hear you" if you refuse to acknowledge this. Everything that was said earlier about the first cup being used to wash chopsticks, and there's a spare pot of water to top up the tea pot is accurate and true. Same as there's a ritual for British tea, there's a ritual for tea in Asia.

National Geographic did a good article on the Tea Horse Road in China in 2010.

In Malaysia I discovered teh tarik, which is simply awesome and gives a real buzz. Also found the yuanyang in the Millionaires Market in Kuala Lumpur, which is Earl Grey with fresh (not instant) coffee. It's oddly addictive and worth trying.

The chai latte in the Starbucks here in China comes with tea bag in a large cup of steamed milk and makes me feel like I'm back in my parent's house with my feet warming on the Aga. Very comforting when coping with culture shock. Not proper tea mind.
Mrs arcticseal likes their green tea latte, but to me it tastes like a cup of warm green tea ice cream; which is not a good thing.

I also love coffee, hot toddies and bovril.
posted by arcticseal at 9:54 PM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


a mug of hot sepia water-milk

This is the perfect description of what my mother makes. It is horrifying.


Mine too. Though she calls hers "coffee".
posted by Sara C. at 11:16 PM on January 5, 2011


My new housemate brought a multi-temp kettle with him, and I thought it was ridiculous (He also bought a toaster with "A little bit more" and "look and see" buttons, which was totally cool, so I didn't mock the kettle too much as it matched) However, after using it for only a few weeks, I did find myself complaining that the cup of camomile (tea) that I'd just made myself with the boiling water dispenser at work was too hot. So yeah, a bit wanky, but if you drink a range of hot drinks, it's pretty awesome.

And just to pile on, I had no idea that it was possible to make a bad cup of tea with a tea bag until I went to Canada. Not only was the tea bag not in the water when I got it, but the mug was huge. At least double a standard cup here in Australia. I dunked for at least ten minutes, but it never got strong enough to be drinkable.
posted by kjs4 at 4:49 AM on January 6, 2011


The best tea I ever had was Fortnum & Mason's loose orange pekoe. To acquire this you will need to visit Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly.
posted by Summer at 5:44 PM on January 5 [+] [!]


Fortnums Darjeeling Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP)

A joke among tea aficionados is that "FTGFOP" stands for "Far Too Good For Ordinary People".
posted by Lanark at 12:56 PM on January 6, 2011


Green tea? Fuck that superfood bollocks. That isn't tea.

Green tea is tea made solely with the leaves of Camellia sinensis that have undergone minimal oxidation during processing.

That's placebo comfort for people who like the idea of preventing cancer by drinking an infusion of trendy cack rather than by actually making significant changes to their lifestyle and attitude.

Because, clearly, there is nothing for a connoisseur to appreciate.
posted by Serf at 3:19 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can't believe no one has linked to Professor Elemental in this thread yet.
posted by pharm at 3:13 AM on January 8, 2011


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