“tisane in the membrane”
November 7, 2018 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Benedict Cumberbatch is ‘sick of camomile tea being called tea’. Is he right? [The Guardian] “When is tea not tea? That is, inarguably, a question. According to the Sherlock actor and exceptionally unlikely sex symbol Benedict Cumberbatch, it’s when it comes in a fey little sachet and smells of newly mown lawn. “Shall I really vent now? I’m sick of camomile tea being called tea,” said Cumberbatch – sounding a little like he had drunk too much coffee – on Absolute Radio’s breakfast show, before delineating at some length the scientific reasons why camomile, and other herbal drinks, shouldn’t be called tea.”
posted by Fizz (203 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Tempest in a tea chamomile pot...
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:47 PM on November 7 [4 favorites]


exceptionally unlikely sex symbol

Praising with faint damns.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:49 PM on November 7 [34 favorites]


They don't mention it in the article, but Cumberbatch's reasoning also means that chai, which is technically made from the tea plant but is not tea, should be called chai and not chai tea.

I am in favour of Cumberbatch's reasoning here.
posted by Merus at 7:50 PM on November 7 [16 favorites]


I agree with him. Feel free to call those herbal drinks anything else, just not tea.
posted by MovableBookLady at 7:51 PM on November 7 [12 favorites]


Okay, so yeah technically we should probably call them tisanes or infusions or whatever, but unfortunately for Benadryl Tennismatch, language evolves over time and the usage of words changes. Culturally, through use, English-speakers have largely agreed that throwing the word "herbal" (or naming the herb specifically) in front of "tea" is good enough to differentiate it from the "tea plant" stuff and communicates the intended meaning.

I'm gonna keep saying "chamomile tea" and "lavender tea" and the like, and Bumblebee Baggageclaim can come over here and fight me.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 7:54 PM on November 7 [121 favorites]


Aren't herbal concoctions like these, that are not steeped with actual tea leaves, called "tisanes"? I know that no one really uses that word, but that's the word for them. I don't know why it's not used.
posted by droplet at 7:54 PM on November 7 [15 favorites]


They should have asked him what the proper term for season four of Sherlock was, which most people simply called "crap" but was more accurately "ludicrous, execrable garbage".
posted by lefty lucky cat at 7:56 PM on November 7 [38 favorites]


too french probably
posted by cendawanita at 7:57 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Infusions.

Tea made with actual tea leave whole or shredded in a little packet is an infusion. But language changes and go with the flow.
posted by sammyo at 7:57 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Count me as another linguist who appreciates and values the technical origins for words and their strictest semantic sense, but also celebrates the wondrously unruly semantic adaptations that occur in a vibrantly living language.
posted by darkstar at 7:58 PM on November 7 [31 favorites]


I see the Brits still think they invented tea.
posted by gc at 7:59 PM on November 7 [91 favorites]


Tisane is a perfectly good word used in Quebec by anglos, francos and allos alike. We aren't uptight experts and most of us don't sport moustaches (Movember not withstanding). He can move here if it'll make him feel better but someone might want to warn him about January, February, March and April.
posted by Cuke at 8:00 PM on November 7 [12 favorites]


I've definitely expressed similar sentiments re: "tea" in the past, but then I'm also really happy to refer to tapioca-containing drinks that haven't gone anywhere near any leafy plant material "bubble tea".
posted by invokeuse at 8:00 PM on November 7


I'm not really opposed to 'herbal tea' but c'mon 'tisane' just sounds cooler.
posted by perplexion at 8:01 PM on November 7 [9 favorites]


I knew he was too good to be true.

Fucker's dead to me.

Dead.

😭
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:01 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


nobody uses the word “tisane”, aside from uptight experts and, very possibly, newly moustachioed actors with films to promote

Dan Kuper has just revealed himself as a philestine unfamiliar with Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Like, my man, at least watch the tv adaptation with David Suchet, it’s utterly delightful.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:01 PM on November 7 [8 favorites]


Isn't this what typically happens, movie star declares something newsworthily ridiculous but entirely benign to promote their new movie? Watching the video, he's clearly joking.

(It's all tea! Everything steeped in water! Coffee is tea! Instant ramen is tea!)
posted by mochapickle at 8:02 PM on November 7 [8 favorites]


*sips hibuscus tea, sighs heavily and goes back to idly restoring a hatchet with a file*
posted by loquacious at 8:02 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Too late. Call whatever the hell infused drink you like “tea” and you’re good with God. Except kombucha tea, because that shit is a practical joke that got out of control.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:03 PM on November 7 [23 favorites]


This is in no way relevant to my interests.

But yeah, season four was certainly an infusion of *something*...
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 8:08 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Thank God someone finally has the guts to speak out on the issues.
posted by Segundus at 8:13 PM on November 7 [9 favorites]


Except kombucha tea, because that shit is a practical joke that got out of control.

I want you to imagine me standing behind you and humming "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic" as you say this because YES
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 PM on November 7 [38 favorites]


yes tisane (because this barista is tired of people calling it decaf tea oh lardy) but also, camomile smells and tastes like rotten apples, so.

why is chai not tea, though it’s made of tea plants?
posted by zinful at 8:16 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Oh would you look at that, I forgot the pedantry and passive aggressive tags.
posted by Fizz at 8:18 PM on November 7 [15 favorites]


sinensis chamomile
Benedict Cumberbatch
opines on matters of
what counts as tea

much as we love bean plate
idiosyncrasy
'tis doubtful most folks care
a whit for his plea
posted by Wretch729 at 8:24 PM on November 7 [20 favorites]


I'm sorry, a man who voluntarily grew that mustache has a judgment that can be trusted for nothing.
posted by praemunire at 8:35 PM on November 7 [9 favorites]


+1 for each ridiculous obfuscation of the fine actor's name.
posted by lhauser at 8:40 PM on November 7 [12 favorites]


Too late. Call whatever the hell infused drink you like “tea” and you’re good with God. Except kombucha tea, because that shit is a practical joke that got out of control.--Burhanistan

Maybe we should call it Cumberbatcha Tea.

I'm assuming the mustache is because he is playing Greville Wynne in the Cold War spy movie Ironbark.
posted by eye of newt at 8:40 PM on November 7


I'm assuming the moustache is because he is playing Greville Wynne in the Cold War spy movie Ironbark.

THERE CAN BE NO EXCUSE
posted by praemunire at 8:42 PM on November 7 [5 favorites]


If he thinks camomile is bad, don't let him find out what delicious thing we in the southeast US do to unsuspecting tea.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:44 PM on November 7 [14 favorites]


I'm going to add Cumberbatch's opinions about tea to my list called 'things that are dumb yet still better than Sherlock S4'. It's a long list.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:49 PM on November 7 [5 favorites]


Even his new pet moustache is better than Sherlock S4.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:50 PM on November 7 [4 favorites]


That mustache is the the daddest mustache. Like he literally looks like my dad now
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:03 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


“tea is a drink made from the tea plant”

See, this is not a genius speaking here. This is someone who believes in plain English. Orwell would be proud. The author's point that language changes over time is pretty much bullshit. I'd like to see them try and get served in Yorkshire. You call rooibas infused infested water tea? You're misrepresenting that drink. Get my lawyer on the phone! And get those beverage companies to stop this fucking stupid marketing ploy of calling everything "tea". Because they are wrong. Starbucks don't put mud in a cup, mixed with hot water and call it mud coffee. Or maybe they do. But it's still not coffee. So don't do that with tea.

They should have asked him what the proper term for season four of Sherlock was, which most people simply called "crap" but was more accurately "ludicrous, execrable garbage".

I agree with the sentiment, but you can hardly blame an actor for the sins of Moffat.

By the way, you don't go around saying "tea tea", so please stop saying chai tea, because chai is the word for tea in many places, therefore you ask for "chai". It's very simple, much like pre-boarding is actually just waiting, PIN number is actually just PIN, and making a proper cup of tea actually involves water actually fucking boiling, you know, that thing that happens when you put it in a kettle and wait till it gets to 100 degrees celsius. The water needs to be fucking boiling, idiots! Hot water is not acceptable, so don't even try to pass that off as tea. Is it really that hard to understand?

I miss George Carlin. And please, if you haven't already done so, kindly do me the small kindness of getting your backside off my lawn. Thank you so much.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 9:09 PM on November 7 [24 favorites]


coffee is better anyway
posted by philip-random at 9:11 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


For a hot-take tea rant from an EXCEPTIONALLY LIKELY sex symbol, there's always Victoria Coren (Mitchell) on the improper naming convention of "English Breakfast Tea".
posted by bartleby at 9:14 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


postum is tea
posted by cortex at 9:26 PM on November 7


Anarchists only drink herbal tea. Proper tea is theft.
posted by cosmologinaut at 9:27 PM on November 7 [64 favorites]


Is he angling for a peerage or does he just want to be knighted?
posted by jamjam at 9:34 PM on November 7


well i am sick of his hideous mayo visage, that of a melted ken doll left in an overheated summer car parked in full noon light, in all earth media
posted by poffin boffin at 9:45 PM on November 7 [6 favorites]


pre-boarding is actually just waiting

Pre-boarding is a subcategory of waiting, just like after boarding into the economy section you are flying, which is an even more uncomfortable subcategory of waiting. These are phases in being transported somewhere, often incorrectly referred to as "travel." Travelling is something else and not nearly so unpleasant.

posted by mark k at 9:50 PM on November 7 [5 favorites]


In my household, we drink "hot bag water," and we like it.
posted by asperity at 10:08 PM on November 7 [12 favorites]


Infusion is the correct term. It's also too many syllables and letters, so tea it is.
posted by MillMan at 10:41 PM on November 7


The author's point that language changes over time is pretty much bullshit.

And yet it moves
posted by IjonTichy at 10:54 PM on November 7 [13 favorites]


well i am sick of his hideous mayo visage, that of a melted ken doll left in an overheated summer car parked in full noon light, in all earth media

Oh, stop beating around the tea bush and tell us what you really think!
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:10 PM on November 7


The funniest thing about this is that all of this pedantry works against itself. The argument that you can't call a hot herbally infused drink tea if it doesn't contain tea as an ingredient misses the point that tea is originally just the name of an ingredient.

By extending the word tea to also refer to the result of a particular method of ingredient preparation - a very precise method which is typically rendered moot almost instantly through the addition of ridiculous amounts of non-tea-based lifeforms such as milk, sugar, honey, and facial hair - the tea terminology for that method of preparation is now fair game.

The more interesting question is whether tea is better described as a variety of soup, or is it just a hot cereal?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:27 PM on November 7 [10 favorites]


Travelling is something else and not nearly so unpleasant.
Something to do with cheating at basket-ball I hear...
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 11:28 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Fizz: Oh would you look at that, I forgot the pedantry and passive aggressive tags.

Also tisane does not rhyme with membrane, but with Anne.

Franchement, si un jour ce serait possible de porter un minimum d'attention aux détails, non mais alors...
/french-style pedantry sarcasm
posted by fraula at 11:42 PM on November 7 [4 favorites]


If it doesn't contain tea, it's just boiled weeds.
posted by groda at 12:03 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


This is like some snooty version of the sandwich debate, isn't it?
posted by rokusan at 12:33 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


I call it tea. Chamomile tea, ginger tea, or just plain herbal tea.

It’s terrible. No one understands me. Literally no one knows what I’m referring to.

“Herbal... tea?” they say weakly, eyes like saucers. “Surely this contains no Camellia sinensis!”

And the truth is, I don’t know either. Does my chamomile tea keep me awake at night? With this confusion (infusion, ha ha) of terms, there’s no way of knowing.

I once served someone peppermint tea, and he wept in confusion and anger.

I see now where I was in error. I was using the wrong word! Tea only means one specific thing, that drink what I have at breakfast sometimes.

I haven’t been this embarrassed since the time a kind stranger had to explain “I think you mean Frankenstein’s monster.”

This has literally been a nightmare.

No wait! I mean figuratively! Of course not literally a nightmare, because I’m not asleep or dreaming, ha ha! Sorry for the confusion there.

I just hope Blender Carhenge’s message reaches people, and quickly. What if — oh, God, what about fruit infusions? Raspberry tea?! Think of the children!
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:47 AM on November 8 [12 favorites]


when I say "herbal"
you say "no thanks"
"herbal"
"no thanks"
"herbal"
"no thanks"
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:54 AM on November 8 [18 favorites]


“There’s nothing I like more on a chilly evening than snuggling up with a good book and a hot cup of chamomile infusion.”
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:02 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Can't wait to hear his opinions on pocket fluff.
posted by ptfe at 1:03 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


That’s not tea, either.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:07 AM on November 8 [25 favorites]


Someone once told me you should pronounce camomile with four syllables because it was a Latin word. God save us from ill-informed pedantry.

I hope Cumberbatch doesn’t say ‘almond milk’ or ‘pencil lead’ or ‘jellyfish’.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:28 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


I'm sick of people calling peanut butter 'butter'. It's not butter, because it doesn't come from the butter tree (Bos taurus).
posted by pipeski at 2:47 AM on November 8 [20 favorites]


I'm sick of people calling peanut butter 'butter'.

Yes, but at least it's half right and actually contains peanuts. Unlike these "teas", which, do not contain tea.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 2:53 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Except kombucha tea, because that shit is a practical joke that got out of control.

One of my weirder encounters in my weird little hippy town involves kombucha, and it goes something like this:

I'm sitting on one of the many docks after a really long day at work, waiting for a coworker. I just finished a fairly large (and obvious) locally brewed beer, but have disposed of the empty bottle.

Twenty minutes later my friend shows up with a bottle of Dr. Brew kombucha, which comes in short, squat brown bottles not at all unlike a bottle of Sessions or Red Stripe.

We're sitting and debriefing after a heavy day at work and an officer walks up and asks if we're drinking beer, we say no, and he says "well, what's that?" and points at my friend's kombucha.

My friend and I share microsecond glances that privately convey "Is this guy for real? How does he even exist in this part of the world and not immediately know what kombucha is? Man, he's going to flip his shit if we say "vaguely, barely alcoholic fermented mushroom tea", isn't he?"

"It's... iced carbonated tea?" my friend says as plainly as possible, raising a heavy eyebrow and leaving it up there, turning the label so the officer can view it.

"Right, have a nice night, sorry to be a bother." says the officer, obviously irritated that he's been called out for this and we're not the usual dock kids or beer bums to harrass.
posted by loquacious at 2:55 AM on November 8 [6 favorites]


I'm sick of people calling peanut butter 'butter'.

Psssh imagine my confusion at Americans and apple butter! I vaguely understand it's somewhat different than jam but why.
posted by cendawanita at 3:03 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


Yes, but at least it's half right and actually contains peanuts. Unlike these "teas", which, do not contain tea.

Hold on... did you think that through?
posted by pipeski at 3:04 AM on November 8 [9 favorites]


I have nothing to back what I'm about to say next, but what if 'tea' was a category of drinks and was used to name the tea plant rather than it being the other way around?

And now slowly backing away, with assertions that I'm as picky about my teas as the next person, and hoping I don't ever find myself bereft of hot water, tea leaves, or an adequate vessel to hold them in...
posted by redrawturtle at 3:29 AM on November 8


And can people stop saying Camma-MEEL? It’s Camö-MILE!
posted by Yellow at 3:40 AM on November 8


what if 'tea' was a category of drinks and was used to name the tea plant rather than it being the other way around?

Then the fact that there is one type of plant called tea would imply that that is the only thing considered "tea" (the drink) when infused in hot water - if putting chamomile in hot water netted a beverage called tea, then the plant would've been as well.
posted by Dysk at 3:52 AM on November 8


I hope we can all at least agree that chamomile tea is not a sandwich.
posted by St. Oops at 3:57 AM on November 8 [15 favorites]


Compost tea ?
posted by waving at 3:58 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


Nobody tell him about cherry wine.
posted by kersplunk at 4:00 AM on November 8


Hi everyone! I'd just like to say that I wrote this article and am honoured that it has made the blue. (For verification of my identity, you can check my very first ever comment here in 2004, in which I made the exact same claim, as at least evidence of persistence)

Its interesting to compare comments here with those on the Guardian. Over there there are more than 1,000 arranged in a recurring fever dream of Hercule Poirot, Proper tea is theft and Dan Kuper is an idiot. But I'm glad to see that MF has a significantly higher proportion of people who understand language is not handed down to us on tablets from some Platonic realm.

FWIW I much prefer Miss Marple
posted by criticalbill at 4:00 AM on November 8 [53 favorites]


But I'm glad to see that MF has a significantly higher proportion of people who understand language is not handed down to us on tablets from some Platonic realm.

Yes, great, thankyou.

But it's still not tea.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 4:06 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


Had Cumberbatch’s rant gone beyond semantics, a more accurate and relatable case against a cup of camomile tea would be the foul aroma and general sense of men’s urinals that goes with it. While camomile “tisane” is supposedly a natural remedy for inflammation, anxiety and insomnia, any potential benefits are hugely outweighed by the whole “Am I actually drinking my own wee?” vibe. In fact, there are websites that will tell you that urine, too, is a natural remedy for inflammation, anxiety and insomnia – you could just skip the middleman, if you were so inclined. Cumberbatch would hopefully approve, so long as you don’t call it “tea”.

What the fuck. I have never drank chamomile tea and thought "I might be drinking my own piss" even a little bit. Is everyone involved in this piece on drugs?
posted by naju at 4:06 AM on November 8 [7 favorites]


Tea is a hell of a drug.
posted by loquacious at 4:08 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


Tea: not even once
posted by naju at 4:09 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


tisane

Ti for short.
posted by rodlymight at 4:15 AM on November 8 [41 favorites]


It's not tea. It's an herbal infusion.

I'm so tired of being somewhere, and someone offers you tea, and it turns out that they don't have any tea, just herbal infusions!
posted by jb at 4:15 AM on November 8 [7 favorites]


or tisane, to use the proper word.
posted by jb at 4:16 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


In honor of ... well ... everything, I propose we name the mustache "Benedict Cumberbatch's tea strainer."
posted by taz at 4:16 AM on November 8 [6 favorites]


Will no one stop this tisanity!?
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:23 AM on November 8 [10 favorites]


Does he think that people eating Hamburgers are cannibals, and does he call something that's really impressive and awe-inspiring awful? No?

Well then.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:26 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


.....I am suddenly recalling that none other than Max Headroom called it by its proper "tisane" name. ("Is that my tisane?....I can't stand tea.")

well i am sick of his hideous mayo visage, that of a melted ken doll left in an overheated summer car parked in full noon light

Does it help to know that Benedict Cumberbatch is basically Bear Grylls with a bee sting?

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:32 AM on November 8 [7 favorites]


Chamomile Tea: "a willing suffusion of disbelief"
posted by taz at 4:33 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


Yes yes, language is descriptive not prescriptive, etc, etc.

Sometimes it's useful to maintain distinctions between different things, in order to preserve the usefulness of language. We could all collectively start to use "tea" to describe all drinks for example, but that would be counterproductive as it would make it harder to talk unambiguously about actual proper tea.

Also, if language is defined by how it's actually used, we can influence or define it by how we use the language. Why give in to those who would excise tisane and infusion in favour of genericising tea? Why must we listen to them, and not vice versa?
posted by Dysk at 4:35 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


I'll have the toad in the hole please, with vegetarian bacon, and a chamomile tea with almond milk and sugar cane honey.
posted by sfenders at 4:46 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


1) The mustache is for a film role.

2) He was clearly overdoing it for humor's sake. Sure, maybe it failed, but come on now.

Sherlock Series 4 remains painfully, nightmarishly awful, though
posted by tzikeh at 4:51 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


sugar cane honey.

Not in the EU it isn't. It's called molasses.
posted by Dysk at 4:57 AM on November 8


Then the fact that there is one type of plant called tea would imply that that is the only thing considered "tea" (the drink) when infused in hot water - if putting chamomile in hot water netted a beverage called tea, then the plant would've been as well.

Well, you got me there. It's a mystery why nothing else seems to be called a 'tea plant'. I had consulted a Chinese dictionary to see if I could come up with anything but I suspect I may be chasing a shadow. Still...

The thing is, the origin of the word 'tea' is probably the Chinese character 茶, which largely serves the same purpose as 'tea' does in English, and may even have a much more expansive definition.

Millet porridge is also a 茶. Various bitter brews that serve as medicine are also 茶. And apparently 'tea eggs' (茶葉蛋), eggs stewed in tea, are a thing. Here I thought I was being exceedingly silly when I had an afternoon to myself with idle hands, some leftover eggs, and a stove nobody was using. Earl Grey and soya sauce tastes ... interesting together, to say the least.

(Note: what I made bore no resemblance to actual tea eggs.)

Getting a bit side-tracked...

At any rate, I've encountered a mention of the first monograph on tea (the 'Classic of Tea' apparently, written by a person named Lu Yu), and now I kind of want to read it.
posted by redrawturtle at 4:59 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Tea eggs are eggs stewed in tea, though, not stewed in whatever infusion you like...
posted by Dysk at 5:00 AM on November 8


a chamomile tea with almond milk and sugar cane honey.

More importantly than the food fraud involved with calling molasses honey, who the hell takes milk in chamomile??
posted by Dysk at 5:01 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


This is all pretty weak tea, you guys.
posted by naju at 5:03 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


Okay, you got me, I'm not really a camomile drinker. I prefer tea.
posted by sfenders at 5:05 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


We drink a lot of tea in our house, tea and herbal teas. I checked, and every one of the many boxes of herbal tea in our tea cupboard (yes, an entire cupboard dedicated to nothing but tea) say “tea” on them. I guess everyone has windmills to tilt at, even clumberblunt.

If someone asks if you want some tea in our house, and you want tea tea, you just ask for “regular”.
posted by fimbulvetr at 5:10 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


On the subject of milk, and milk wannabes, the FDA starts to do the job of what an Académie Anglaise (count the levels of irony) would surely do.

And don't even get me started on white "chocolate".
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 5:14 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


People like Cumberbatch, whose family fortune was made from the slave trade to the extent that his mom didn’t want him to get famous because their former slaves might come knocking for reparations, don’t get to air their snobby opinions about what colonial-era beverage is legitimate or not. This fucking pig needs to stop getting work.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 5:16 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


Why give in to those who would excise tisane and infusion in favour of genericising tea?

I have no intention of excising those words; I’m very happy for other people to keep using them, I just have no intention of using them myself. And no amount of ‘logic’ is going to persuade me that a standard English usage that has been a normal part of my vocabulary for decades is in fact ‘wrong’.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 5:21 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


I'll just as happily poach my eggs in plain water. Given that there's nothing but an egg in there... How about 'egg tea'? Does that sound right?

(Annnnnd chamomile and milk strikes me as an acquired taste.)
posted by redrawturtle at 5:27 AM on November 8


This charlatan is not a batch of anything.
posted by Segundus at 5:29 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Tea is a hell of a drug.

Yeah, just wait until he hears what Jazz musicians in the 1930s and 40s called maijuana.
posted by TedW at 5:38 AM on November 8


(Also, sorry if that seemed like a joke at your expense, Dysk -- if I'm being too oblivious, I'll stop.)
posted by redrawturtle at 5:40 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


This just leaves me a hankering for bubble tea, which is invented by the Taiwanese and has very little tea for a lot of it.

And apparently 'tea eggs' (茶葉蛋), eggs stewed in tea, are a thing.

They're great! Not really brewed in plain tea. Actually tea/cha/teh in Chinese really just means brewed liquid by this understanding because bak kut teh is a thing and that's just pork broth. Which I suppose solves the earlier soup question.

(Maybe I should have just mentioned this earlier...)
posted by cendawanita at 5:40 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


At any rate, no one who speaks English should get all high and mighty about changing language. English is a bastard mishmash of borrow-words and corruptions. Unlike some other languages there are no departments of English language purity. English is a living and dynamic language and is continually evolving and changing. Heck, the UK is full of place names that aren’t pronounced anything like the way they are spelled, or are corruptions of ancient Roman places-names or whatever.
posted by fimbulvetr at 5:46 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


I’m so sentimental about my bastard mishmash, you guys.

Also should we really be taking usage advice from a man who can’t pronounce “penguin”? Really now.
posted by eirias at 5:53 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


(Also, sorry if that seemed like a joke at your expense, Dysk -- if I'm being too oblivious, I'll stop.)

Received in the same tone as my initial statement it was a reply to was offered - tongue firmly in cheek!

posted by Dysk at 5:58 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


And egg tea sounds even worse than chamomile...
posted by Dysk at 6:00 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


I don't think the actual part of the interview was long enough to call it a rant, as in TFA. TFA probably uses more words than Mr Facial Hair. So, bottom line, pay money to the Guardian and get more of this stellar journalism! About things that really matter! Before it's too late!
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 6:04 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


coffee is better anyway

Don't you mean coffee-bean tea?
posted by paper chromatographologist at 6:04 AM on November 8 [14 favorites]


People like Cumberbatch, whose family fortune was made from the slave trade to the extent that his mom didn’t want him to get famous because their former slaves might come knocking for reparations, don’t get to air their snobby opinions about what colonial-era beverage is legitimate or not. This fucking pig.

Since when should we hold people accountable for what their mothers say? Seems she didn't want him to use the family name, not "get famous", but her fearful suggestion was misguided either way. It seems also that it was BC's fifth-great-grandfather who was a Barbados slave-owner, but we all have 64 great-great-great-great-great-grandfathers each—how many of us could confidently claim that none of those 64 was a wrong 'un?

The money left by his ancestor does seem to have bought plenty of privilege for the male line down the years, with BC himself going to Harrow as a boy (not that he would have had much say in that), but what should matter is what he personally does now, and what society does now, because that slave owner will be great-great-great-great-great-grandfather to a lot more people than just BC. I don't know enough about his personal politics and actions to judge if he's doing enough on a personal level to make things better; I know on a societal level that the UK isn't.

I mean, call him a fucking pig if expressing his view that the word "tea" should be reserved for regular tea rather than camomile offends you that much, but I think I'll keep it in reserve for the day he starts spouting support for Farage or Trump. (Which, looking a bit more into his politics, doesn't seem likely.)
posted by rory at 6:09 AM on November 8 [30 favorites]


I’m real sorry I don’t have a funny mangling of Cumberbatch’s name—I’m usually good at that but it’s kind of pre-ridiculed already. However, I applaud his having an opinion about usage and being willing to share it. I know language changes, and I know it is usually because a critical mass of people don’t know the right word and wonderful change living language etc., but jeeze, what does the Guardian think “delineate” means? Do they mean “declaim” or just “some word starting with ‘de’?”

Ima haveta go with Mark Twain on this issue.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:11 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


I just don't see why it needs to be an extended rant. The leaves of the camellia sinensis plant (tea bush) infused in water is the most common beverage classified as tea. As the preparation of infusions made with other plant matter is functionally indistinguishable from the preparation using camellia sinensis, people casually refer to any infusion as "tea".

The short argument for prescriptivism: "Tea" refers specifically to infusions made from a tea bush leaves, and should not be used for other infusions because that dilutes (pun not intended) the meaning. People should learn to use the more precice 'infusion' or 'tisane' for the sake of accuracy.

The short argument against prescriptivism: There is no other word in common use for an infusion of vegetable matter other than leaves of a camellia sinensis bush and everyone understands perfectly well what "herbal tea" is meant to describe.

Any debate is just going to be those two axioms in confluct.

On the point of "chai tea" meaning "tea tea" - It's actually common use to use a non-English word and an English word for the same thing together to mean "this thing served in the style of people who speak that non-English word". Thus "chai tea" means "tea made the way commonly prepared by people from India", the same way "shrimp scampi" means "shrimp cooked the way commonly prepared by people from Italy". English has some funny little constructions like that, because, well, that's English for you.

Also, stale chamomile tea does not taste very good. Neither does that ancient bag of Lipton in the back of the breakroom. Fresh chamomile tea can be quite pleasant, if you're looking for a bright grassy flavor and you don't oversteep. It has neither the slight bitterness or earthiness of black tea (camellia sinensis treated in a long oxidation process), so if that's what you're expecting, of course you won't like chamomile.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:25 AM on November 8 [7 favorites]


His argument boiled down to the proposition that “tea is a drink made from the tea plant”, so drinks made from other plants are not tea, which is fair and makes sense, as long as you agree that the meaning of a word can never change or adapt and must remain the same for all eternity.

This misrepresents his argument, at least as far as he's quoted in the article. There's a difference between "I’m sick of camomile tea being called tea,” and claiming that camomile tea isn't tea.

You can accept that fact that the meanings of words change and adapt and still register your disappointment in the case in specific incidents. And if you explain your disappointment with the argument that the shift has resulted in two things which are superficially similar but different in important respects being referred to with the same word, I think that's a perfectly cromulent position.
posted by layceepee at 6:44 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


On the point of "chai tea" meaning "tea tea" - It's actually common use to use a non-English word and an English word for the same thing together to mean "this thing served in the style of people who speak that non-English word". Thus "chai tea" means "tea made the way commonly prepared by people from India", the same way "shrimp scampi" means "shrimp cooked the way commonly prepared by people from Italy". English has some funny little constructions like that, because, well, that's English for you.

One data point here: I don't know anybody who says "chai tea" instead of chai. In England, it's chai. In Japan, it's chai (チャイ) and the kanji isn't added, because チャイ茶 (chai cha) would sound a lot like you're talking to someone who's hard of hearing, or, perhaps, hard of thinking. Today's the first time I've heard "shrimp scampi" instead of scampi. Really though, the widespread and wildly incorrect usage of "hacker" for cracker annoys me more than all the tea in all the tea-producing countries, despite the fact that tea that really contains proper tea (and not this fake herbal or camomile or smells nice but still makes the water taste of water when infused bullshit) is sacred. Even with milk. And I don't even care if you put it in first or second.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 6:44 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


As the preparation of infusions made with other plant matter is functionally indistinguishable from the preparation using camellia sinensis, people casually refer to any infusion as "tea".

Functionally indistinguishable my ass. Are candy cigarettes functionally indistinguishable from tobacco cigarettes?

Tea—which, yes, comes from one and only one plant—is a delivery mechanism for a psychoactive drug. If I ask for tea and you give me something that does not contain that drug, sorry, but that's a dick move. If I wanted herb water I'd have asked for it.
posted by enn at 6:45 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


USians say "chai tea latte" all the time. Let that burn into your neocortex. Chant it, even!

CHAI TEA LATTE!
CHAI TEA LATTE!
CHAI TEA LATTE!

(One time I made a big batch of chai in a coffee percolator and it was pretty good.)
posted by Burhanistan at 6:47 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


(sorry if my last comment was too harsh but I'm all hopped up on PG Tips right now)
posted by enn at 6:48 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


I just don't see why it needs to be an extended rant.

Hey, we all have our berserk buttons. His happens to be about tisane-vs.-tea. Me, it's about clam chowder.

"Manhattan-style Clam Chowder" is not chowder AND THAT IS JUST THAT
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:51 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


I tried to drink a cup of tea once.. It was very dry and hard to chew. The little twigs and leaves got stuck in my teeth and I had a coughing fit.

Someone explained that one is supposed to add boiling water in order to extract the tea's soluble constituents, discard the herb and drink the resulting tea infused water.

What kind of conspiracy is this to call tea infusions just tea? Who benefits? Is this a leftover from when telegraphs charged by the word?

Anyway, I prefer a coffee infusion in the morning.
posted by Dr. Curare at 6:54 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


It's not complicated. If I offer you a peppermint tea (or, better still, liquorice and peppermint), you can choose whether to hear tea or 'tea'.

Rest assured, if I simply offer you tea, you will in fact get the kind of infusion you expected. If I offer you milk with it, rest assured that it will be neither soy, almond, human or snake milk. The sugar will be white sugar, not palm sugar, Alan Sugar, or Sugar Ray Leonard.

Ask my mother-in-law for tea, and you'll probably get a ham sandwich, though.
posted by pipeski at 6:54 AM on November 8 [10 favorites]


It's not complicated. If I offer you a peppermint tea (or, better still, liquorice and peppermint), you can choose whether to hear tea or 'tea'.

Counter-proposal: how about using the retronym proper tea for proper tea, and fake tea for the rest?
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 6:59 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Watching the video of the interview, it's clear that the focus of his tongue-in-cheek annoyance was a picture in a catalogue of a Bodum press supposedly designed for tea but clearly being shown pressing coffee. That's right: the real bombshell is that he found a layout mistake in the Argos catalogue. (Which both he and the interviewer treated with the gravity it deserves, i.e. little to none.)
posted by rory at 7:02 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Counter-proposal: how about using the retronym proper tea for proper tea, and fake tea for the rest?

Deal, but only if the person requesting a "proper tea" agrees to squeeze their sphincter for the duration of the cup.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:02 AM on November 8 [7 favorites]


Counter-proposal: how about using the retronym proper tea for proper tea, and fake tea for the rest?

Because as any anarchist will tell you, proper tea is theft.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:05 AM on November 8 [12 favorites]


Where does Cummerbund stand on the teabag?

Wait that came out wrong.

What side does Timberland take with the teabag?

Wait. Wait!

Is Tamberlaine for the teabag, or against it?

Wait.
posted by chavenet at 7:10 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


I don’t care what you call it, but if you are a place (office, shop, conference breakfast, hotel, hot drink establishment) with a “selection of teas” and you don’t have just plain tea-flavored tea, no weird additions or spices or orange peel or whatever, I will grumble loudly in my head.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:13 AM on November 8 [7 favorites]


proper tea is theft

Stop the presses on your monograph about the East India Company, we have a new title...
posted by rory at 7:14 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: I’m so sentimental about my bastard mishmash, you guys.

Also, the best excuse for “chai tea” is a “chai tea or tai chi” joke....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:23 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


Counter-proposal: how about using the retronym proper tea for proper tea, and fake tea for the rest?

No! "Fake tea" is fine, but not all actual tea is proper. Proper tea must be actual tea, yes, but that is not sufficient to be proper tea. It also needs to be strong.
posted by Dysk at 7:26 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


When taking a sip and exclaiming "that's a proper tea" one is contrasting the held cup with poorer cups of actual tea, not with herbal bollocks.
posted by Dysk at 7:27 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


I tried to drink a cup of tea once.. It was very dry and hard to chew. The little twigs and leaves got stuck in my teeth and I had a coughing fit.

I tried to drink a cup once, but it turns out porcelain isn't a liquid.
posted by Gordafarin at 7:27 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


No! "Fake tea" is fine, but not all actual tea is proper. Proper tea must be actual tea, yes, but that is not sufficient to be proper tea. It also needs to be strong.

OK. So:

Yorkshire Tea (the real thing)
Fake Tea (everything else)
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 7:28 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


No no, other actual tea is not proper, but not fake either. Except maybe Typhoo.
posted by Dysk at 7:30 AM on November 8


(As in, Typhoo might well be fake, not as in Typhoo is also proper. That should be obvious to any right thinking human, but nevertheless.)
posted by Dysk at 7:32 AM on November 8


So, just to throw a monkey-wrench in the debate, what about "ice tea" made from ice tea drink crystals? At some point in the production of the drink crystals, some industrial process brewed tea from tea leaves. What if the ice tea drink crystals are served piping hot?
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:33 AM on November 8




And what about that powdered or liquid concentrate "instant tea" crap?
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:35 AM on November 8


OK. So:

Yorkshire Tea (the real thing)
Fake Tea (everything else)


*Raucous Asian laughter*
posted by cendawanita at 7:49 AM on November 8 [24 favorites]


TIL how to pronounce "tisane" in the first place. "Where do people call everything tea, including chai, etc." - a safe bet here is the US to all of those. If it isn't coffee or soda|pop|coke, it's probably called tea. I thought everyone knew that *ahem* quirk of ours.

However, since I invite you-have-three-heads looks on the best of days, I probably will continue to not use the word.
posted by cage and aquarium at 8:00 AM on November 8


Canada is tea-agnostic as well.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:03 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


How about everybody call it what they want, and also get over the notion that double dactyls are inherently hilarious a good six or seven years after the guy started getting well-known, I mean this is a toddler level of persistence.
posted by praemunire at 8:19 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


The money left by his ancestor does seem to have bought plenty of privilege for the male line down the years, with BC himself going to Harrow as a boy

Both of his parents were jobbing actors and neither was ever wealthy. They still live in the home that he grew up in, which is not whatever kind of Tudor manse you're imagining. (He now has to duck when going up the stairs to what was his bedroom.) One of his grandmothers helped pay for him to go to Harrow. Yeah, it's likely she inherited from her husband who inherited from blah blah blah going back six generations. But.

If you want to hate on the man because his fifth-great-grandfather had a plantation in Barbados, and whatever money the grandmother offered up for his schooling was likely hers due to that side of the family's history, you're gonna have to sign up to hate on a whole lot more people--probably people you actually know, not just know of. And since we're looking to visit the sins of the great-great-great-great grandfather on the great-great-great-great-grandson, maybe let's hear from the defense?

I used to stan for Cumberbatch. Not so much a complete stan anymore, for various reasons, but when I was in the fandom, it was a never-ending cavalcade of good causes and speaking out against all the ills he could fit into a day. The guy has gone non-stop working for, setting up, donating, and being the public face of a broad collection of charities and leftist movements.

He created a fund to help research for a cure for ALS (he played Stephen Hawking before Redmayne did, and got involved with ALS causes shortly thereafter). He became ordained so that he could officiate the marriage of two of his close friends before gay people could legally marry in England. He stood against the UK government when it went to war with Iraq and protested and spoke out publicly it when it violated civil liberties. He spoke up for women's rights in Afghanistan which pitted him against his government (again). After one of his performances as Hamlet, he addressed the audience about the Syrian humanitarian crisis, once again condemning Parliament and the PM. He organized a funds drive at the theater, and the Hamlet audiences ended up raising 150,000 pounds to help Syrian refugees for Save the Children. He's also co-signed a petition requesting that Parliament pardon all of the men convicted under the Indecency Act (the one that made it illegal to be gay).

If you just hate him, period, well, maybe give this thread a pass? We have enough awfulness in the world. Please feel free to not show up just to piss in everybody's drink of choice.
posted by tzikeh at 8:23 AM on November 8 [32 favorites]


Let's ask Mr. Tisane:

"Give me a tea you bastard."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:25 AM on November 8


Speaking of Yorkshire Tea, I hear that Yorkshire soil is not the secret.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:30 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


FWIW I much prefer Miss Marple

As an infusion in hot water?
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:32 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Canada is tea-agnostic as well.

Canada, known for its diversity and wisdom, has many distinct tea subcultures. In some places, a camomile infusion is called "tea"; in others it's tisane. In some places you can get loose-leaf Yorkshire Gold at any ordinary supermarket; in others, your choices are Red Rose tea bags, or if you want something else whatever they have for six times the price at Ye Olde Tea Shoppe which you can probably find in a nearby town. The phrase "chai tea" has largely lost out to "chai", but can still be heard in late-20th-century-traditionalist enclaves scattered throughout the land. In cities large enough to have a T&T you can get the good stuff straight from China.
posted by sfenders at 8:47 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


You're not wrong, WalterBenedict, you're just an asshole.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:58 AM on November 8


I dunno. I drink tea a lot including the non-tea-type-tea and it's not a problem for me. I'm much more concerned with other misuses of language that people claim are ok, such as the many people at work who are suddenly "reverting" to me via email. That's not even possible!

Actually now I see that this is an India thing. It's confusing as hell though.
posted by freecellwizard at 9:06 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


tzikeh, the quote from my comment at the top of yours implies that the "you" you're taking to task is me, but I wasn't the one attacking Cumberbatch for his family's ancestral fortune, I was rebutting another commenter's attack. Just to make that clear.

I guessed when I read that his parents were both actors that he had a middle-class upbringing, so it's no surprise to hear that the money from Harrow came from his grandparents. I personally don't hate him at all, but I do think it's important to acknowledge just how many generations of privilege the ill-gotten gains of slavery have bought. Not just slavery: it's important to recognise the privileges passed down the generations by British colonialism. I'm one generation removed from it, and reflect on that in my own case. And my colonial ancestors were nothing fancy—but they were white, and in the colonies that meant privileged.

It seems clear to me, the more I learn about Cumberbatch's politics (starting with those links at the end of my comment, and continuing with your further details), that he's given these things plenty of thought too, and is doing the best he can to use his celebrity for good.
posted by rory at 9:10 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


An Indian English thing that's a remnant of colonial administrative English (i can't remember if it's victorian or edwardian) that's now part of international business English, so I think I can still pin this on Brits right, every time I get an email with this?
posted by cendawanita at 9:10 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Canada, known for its diversity and wisdom, has many distinct tea subcultures.

And David's Tea has really taken off in the last little bit. For those unaware, think of an Apple Store and it's employees/pricing only with fancy loose leaf tea.
posted by Fizz at 9:10 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Are candy cigarettes functionally indistinguishable from tobacco cigarettes?

I don't really have strong feelings either way on this issue, but that's not a good analogy. A better one might be comparing a tobacco cigarette to a clove cigarette - if you're smoking a clove cigarette, is it still a "cigarette"? Would it still be considered "smoking"?
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:10 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


people at work who are suddenly "reverting" to me via email

We're going to need a new dictionary. Let's try to get ahead of these developing changes.

tea -> any hot liquid.
revert -> reply, notice, acknowledge
refute -> reject, deny, dislike
posted by sfenders at 9:12 AM on November 8


My snarky comment about David's Tea aside, they actually do have a lot of variety and when it comes to the more herbal/fruit-infused teas, it's a great place. I just wish the prices were a bit cheaper.
posted by Fizz at 9:12 AM on November 8


There's also Labrador tea.
posted by sfenders at 9:24 AM on November 8


An Indian English thing that's a remnant of colonial administrative English (i can't remember if it's victorian or edwardian) that's now part of international business English, so I think I can still pin this on Brits right, every time I get an email with this?

A Chinese thing stolen by the English and transplanted to India and then the rest is right.

For All the Tea in China is a fascinating book on this topic.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:27 AM on November 8 [6 favorites]


An interesting fact worth noting in this context is that the association of tea most strongly with India is a result of colonialism more than anything else. For a century before the 1890s, the most popular hot drink in Britain was coffee, not tea; tea was an also-ran, rather as it is in America today. Part of the reason was that tea, as it was most popularly traded throughout Asia, was preferentially the Chinese varieties which were difficult to grow in India; experiments with Assam and Darjeeling varieties, which were seen as somewhat inferior, were promising, but cultivation was still somewhat difficult. Comparatively, coffee was an easy plant to cultivate, more hardy, particularly since it was based on a single cultivar – really, just constant replantings of each plant, meaning that all coffee plants were really just clones of one coffee plant, and all shared exactly the same DNA. This made cultivation of coffee easier because coffee plants all acted pretty much exactly the same, uniform growth, similar bushes, etc. The dark side of this form of cultivation, however, was the fact that, if every plant had the same DNA, then all had the same vulnerabilities, and they could easily be decimated by disease. Which is exactly what happened: coffee rust swept the colonial coffee plantations, starting in Ceylon in 1897 and spreading everywhere. (The same thing happened a few years later with bananas.)

As a result, the British colonizers turned to tea instead, since most of the kinks had been worked out with it, and anyway it was steadily becoming more popular. And thus the British obsessionwith tea began – largely as a result of factors having to do with colonial plant cultivation.

On preview, DevilsAdvocate beat me to it, but – yes.
posted by koeselitz at 9:31 AM on November 8 [13 favorites]


But how does Blunderbuss Cantaloupe feel about infusions that are made from Camellia sinensis but also other ingredients? Does "tea" have to be made from tea alone?

Because if "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot" is wrong, I don't want to be right.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:32 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


I'm reading that book's summary, and: '...the British East India Company faced the loss of its monopoly on the fantastically lucrative tea trade with China, forcing it to make the drastic decision of sending Scottish botanist Robert Fortune to steal the crop from deep within China and bring it back to British plantations in India'

HIS NAME IS LITERALLY ROB 'ER FORTUNE
posted by cendawanita at 9:33 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


The idea that any drink consumed in the UK can properly be called tea - rather than sugary milk with a little bit of slightly brown color added to distinguish it from baby formula - is hard to take seriously. Except, perhaps, the camomile. That's actually tea. Even if it comes in silly little packets.
posted by eotvos at 9:49 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


But how does Benedirk Cummerbunch feel about infusions that are made from Camellia sinensis but also other ingredients?

I'm sure he'd be fine with your Earl Gray.

Proper tea: tea
Camomile tea: not tea
Earl Grey: tea
Dandelion tea: not tea
Matcha: tea
Lemon zest: not tea
Labrador tea: well it's not technically "tea" tea, but it does have "tea" in the name and they've been calling it that for centuries. There's no other English-language name for it, and that being the language we're concerned with sort of means you have to call it "tea" so maybe it is really tea, but also it's DOES NOT COMPUTE
posted by sfenders at 9:49 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


funny that nobody's talking about Yerba Mate, but that's probably because Yerba Mate is better than "tea" and thus shouldn't be called "tea" anyway
posted by koeselitz at 9:51 AM on November 8


Tea is a drink made from plants steeped in hot water. The end.
posted by GoblinHoney at 9:52 AM on November 8


eotvos, that's fighting talk there.
posted by ambrosen at 10:09 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Both of his parents were jobbing actors and neither was ever wealthy. They still live in the home that he grew up in, which is not whatever kind of Tudor manse you're imagining. (He now has to duck when going up the stairs to what was his bedroom.) One of his grandmothers helped pay for him to go to Harrow. Yeah, it's likely she inherited from her husband who inherited from blah blah blah going back six generations.

It probably is important to remember that Cumberbatch did once declare he was so sick of 'posh-bashing' that he wanted to move to America, in the context of a debate over where the rise of public school educated actors were pushing out working class actors. I don't know if he has ever walked that back, but he has since then put some energy and effort into attempts to get more a more diverse range of actors on UK stages and screens.

I do think it's weird that given that tea was not a thing the English invented or even named that anyone would have an opinion there on what was the acceptable range of uses for it. That's some sort of colonial privilege right there, but not exactly sure how you slot that in, especially as he wasn't writing strong letters to the editors about it. Well, not that I know of anyway.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:13 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Then there's the American south, where you might order tea, unsweet tea, or hot tea.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:17 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


Tea is a drink made from plants steeped in hot water. The end.

TIL vegetable broth is tea.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:24 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


the many people at work who are suddenly "reverting" to me via email.

...this is actually quite an old usage?
posted by praemunire at 10:37 AM on November 8


TIL vegetable broth is tea.

Leaving this here without comment.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:38 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Is pot likker tea?
posted by TedW at 10:41 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


It probably is important to remember that Cumberbatch did once declare he was so sick of 'posh-bashing' that he wanted to move to America, in the context of a debate over where the rise of public school educated actors were pushing out working class actors.

Is it? Is it really?

I really strive to avoid any personal attachment to actors, because they so often turn out to be unsatisfactory people. That includes Cumberbatch (in fact, the more I like a performance, the more I don't want to know, at least up to the point of blatant bigotry). But I would like to propose that we grown-up people not live under a standard barely tolerable when held by eighteen-year-olds, that if some celebrity, some time, says something somewhat irritating or unwise or not in good taste, we need to remember and hold it against them forever. (Again, I'm not talking here about overt racism, etc.) None of us could survive the application of such a standard to our own lives, and we can stop completely abdicating the definition of wokeness to college freshmen, I think.
posted by praemunire at 10:47 AM on November 8 [10 favorites]


Also, Thoughts of Dog weighs in.
posted by praemunire at 10:48 AM on November 8


I have, on multiple occasions, had to explain what camellia sinensis was, and the fact that it's a particular plant, to ostensibly intelligent people, because the common term "tea" doesn't allow me to specify what I'm talking about when I talk about tea. They think the distinction between "chamomile tea" and "green tea" is on the same order as the distinction between "green tea" and "black tea".

And, contrary to claims made above that there is no real confusion, I have been offered/gifted "tea" that is not made from camellia sinensis by people who only know that I drink "tea".

Yes, it's true that the same ambiguity exists for the word 茶 in Chinese, but I can guarantee you that the same confusion results. Chinese people don't know what the fuck tea is either, so we are a terrible example to use in an argument in favor of keeping the confusing terminology.

So now we have two perfectly good words, tea and tisane, that could be used to create clarity, but instead we are told to use "tea" and "herbal tea" which doesn't solve the problem at all, because it clearly implies that "herbal tea" is a subset of "tea", which means we need to say "camellia sinensis" to refer to "tea tea", and even fewer people know what that is than know the word "tisane". So just say tisane, because fuck Latin. If saying "tisane" makes me pretentious, saying "camellia sinensis" makes me fucking exhausted. Look at all those syllables.

Having "tea" refer to all this other crap is just a linguistic broken stair. People will trip over it over and over and over again until we fix it.
posted by hyperbolic at 10:52 AM on November 8 [6 favorites]


I really strive to avoid any personal attachment to actors, because they so often turn out to be unsatisfactory people. That includes Cumberbatch (in fact, the more I like a performance, the more I don't want to know, at least up to the point of blatant bigotry). But I would like to propose that we grown-up people not live under a standard barely tolerable when held by eighteen-year-olds, that if some celebrity, some time, says something somewhat irritating or unwise or not in good taste, we need to remember and hold it against them forever. (Again, I'm not talking here about overt racism, etc.) None of us could survive the application of such a standard to our own lives, and we can stop completely abdicating the definition of wokeness to college freshmen, I think.

He said it in 2012. When he was in his 30s. In the context of a large scale debate about English public school alumni and alumnae pushing out working class actors, and acting in the UK becoming an increasingly upper middle class profession. He wasn't a college freshman, and I think since then he's done more to acknowledge privilege but it was an outstandlingly dumb thing to say for an adult man.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:19 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Having "tea" refer to all this other crap is just a linguistic broken stair. People will trip over it over and over and over again until we fix it.

I drink at least a couple litres of tea every day. During the day, orange pekoe or Earl Grey, in the evening herbal teas of various descriptions. After 46 years have yet to find myself in a situation where using "tea" to refer to a drink made of either steeped tea leaves or some other plant matter has caused any sort of trouble.

I ain't gonna start using "tisane". It is a stupid sounding word and I have no interest in sounding like a pompous snobby arse.
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:38 AM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Y'all know kombucha is actually made *using* tea right?
posted by aspersioncast at 11:39 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


I will also note that, at least in my experience, if someone is looking for the platonic cup of tea, they're looking for black tea, even though the oxidation is not encoded in the name. Most purists would be as surprised to get white tea or pu-erh upon requesting a cup of tea as they would be to get chamomile.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:44 AM on November 8


if someone is looking for the platonic cup of tea, they're looking for black tea

(Unless that someone is one of the over a billion people on the planet who are actually looking for "green tea," although I suppose they'd say some variant of "cha" rather than "tea")
posted by aspersioncast at 11:56 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


I would be delighted if I were ever offered a cuppa somewhere and was then given pu-erh. I think it's only happened once, arriving through the s now to a friend's house to crash, having spent the day mopping freezing water from all over my recently flooded house, with no electricity or heat. Needless to say, it was probably the best cup of tea I've ever drunk.
posted by Dysk at 12:01 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Language may change, but words do matter. We agree as a society to use words in a certain way, or there is great confusion.

A colleague mentioned that when she was travelling in the US, she would book accommodations that said "tea and coffee were available for guests" - only to arrive and found that almost none of the places actually had tea, only coffee and herbal infusions. Now when she travels, she carries her tea with her, because she can't trust when they say they have 'tea'.

I can imagine that as a Brit living in the US, Cumberbatch has been bitten by that a few (or more) times, and it's really annoying.
posted by jb at 12:34 PM on November 8 [4 favorites]


I have, on multiple occasions, had to explain what camellia sinensis was, and the fact that it's a particular plant, to ostensibly intelligent people, because the common term "tea" doesn't allow me to specify what I'm talking about when I talk about tea. They think the distinction between "chamomile tea" and "green tea" is on the same order as the distinction between "green tea" and "black tea".

I've had to explain this to a fellow barista. (It wasn't a very good coffee/tea shop).
posted by jb at 12:45 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the USA is not a place to go if you want tea. Just assume it doesn't exist anywhere. And if they do have something that they call tea, it will probably be undrinkable.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:47 PM on November 8 [3 favorites]


it will probably be undrinkable

In fact it will be almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:00 PM on November 8 [15 favorites]


I'm amazed it took this long for us to get around to a Douglas Adams reference.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:02 PM on November 8 [3 favorites]


...only to arrive and found that almost none of the places actually had tea, only coffee and herbal infusions.

That's interesting. Usually what I find is a pot of regular coffee, a pot of decaf coffee, and a pot of "hot" water next to an assortment of tea bags. Those assortments will include herbal infusions, but there's almost always at least one "Irish Breakfast" and one "Earl Grey" in the assortment.
posted by Karmakaze at 1:17 PM on November 8 [4 favorites]


rory: tzikeh, the quote from my comment at the top of yours implies that the "you" you're taking to task is me, but I wasn't the one attacking Cumberbatch for his family's ancestral fortune, I was rebutting another commenter's attack. Just to make that clear.

Rory, I am so sorry. I should have made clear that I was using your quote as a jumping-off point, and that the "you" in my comment was an all-encompassing, general "you." My apologies.
posted by tzikeh at 1:20 PM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Y'all know kombucha is actually made *using* tea right?

It's spoiled, though. So can it truly be considered tea any more, or once it has spoiled, has it become "garbage"?

Oh dang, that's another "is cereal soup" or "is a hot dog a sandwich" question, isn't it
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:25 PM on November 8 [1 favorite]


What about Tea Leoni?
posted by chavenet at 1:27 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Human beings are arguably a tisane, so her name is also incorrect.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:54 PM on November 8 [6 favorites]


Wow, this GIF has never been more appropriate.
posted by q*ben at 2:00 PM on November 8 [7 favorites]


And this is from a man whose country calls dinner tea FFS.
posted by waving at 2:33 PM on November 8 [16 favorites]


It's spoiled, though. So can it truly be considered tea any more, or once it has spoiled, has it become "garbage"?

By this logic, things like cheese, sauerkraut, beer, and sourdough bread are "garbage".

Don't be afraid of fermentation, people!
posted by Lexica at 3:21 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]


And this is from a man whose country calls dinner tea FFS.

waving wins the thread.
posted by fimbulvetr at 3:30 PM on November 8 [3 favorites]


I do think it's weird that given that tea was not a thing the English invented or even named that anyone would have an opinion there on what was the acceptable range of uses for it. That's some sort of colonial privilege right there, but not exactly sure how you slot that in, especially as he wasn't writing strong letters to the editors about it. Well, not that I know of anyway.

Colonial privilege? Not really. We just have our priorities straight, that is, tea trumps coffee, no matter what.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 5:06 PM on November 8


And this is from a man whose country calls dinner tea FFS.

Thanks, but you may want to check the data before you generalise there.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 5:14 PM on November 8


Thanks, but you may want to check the data before you generalise there.

52% of Britains call dinner tea, so there you go.
posted by waving at 6:15 PM on November 8


52% of Britains call dinner tea, so there you go.

I think we know by now that 52% is hardly a thumping majority, especially so when the sample size is only 3000 people.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 6:32 PM on November 8


the whole calling dinner 'tea' thing just shows that while the Brits came lately to drinking this brew, they have adopted it so fervently that half the country named an entire meal after it.

tea is a part of British identity - inherently colonial, but also essential to the industrial revolution. Tea and margarine was the fuel of the 19th and early 20th century British working classes.

and they (as well as close British colonies like eastern Canada) have made it our own drink: black tea, brewed strong, usually with milk. It's the same plant as in China, but not at all the same beverage.
posted by jb at 9:29 PM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Mr. medusa and I aren't caffeine people. The only hot drinks we have at home are different types of herbal tea. We now have kids and they love herbal tea, especially fruity kinds.

Yes. We are raising our kids so that the only kind of tea they know is herbal tea.

hahahahaha SUCK IT HATERS
posted by medusa at 9:49 PM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Aww, I'm bummed that I'm so late to this thread. I work mainly as a food labelling advisor, so you could say I play the benedict cumberbatch of this article IRL, except I get to display my pedantry directly to the suppliers and retailers of various products. And yeah, I would nix the word tea from chamomile infusion (and I'd also be prepared to hear a lot of complaining about it and possibly to be overruled, if my client choses to).

I get to have discussions like this on a regular basis at work. Within European food industry, retail and marketing you can't always rely on "everybody knows what we mean" (although there's also a bit of gray area). There are numerous very specific and detailed laws, regulations, guidelines and court rulings, both EU, national and branche specific, that stipulate how you can name products, what you're allowed to claim on the label (I also do a lot of fact checking on eg. health claims) or depict on the packaging.

Some retailers have extensive internal policies and are quite risk-avert, so they actually appreciate me occasionally being a pain in the ass. My job is to ensure that my client won't need to go through the hassle of repackaging a line of products because authorities disagree, customers complain or they're made the laughing stock of a consumer watchdog show on TV.

So that's what I do every day. No, you can't call this yogurt since it hasn't been made with these specific microbial cultures. Let's think of another name for this garlic butter baguette that hasn't been filled with garlic butter rather than a mixture of fats, starches and synthetic garlic aroma. Oh and you can't put a picture of a head of garlic on the design either. Please don't call this sugary drink juice, and also adjust the design so that the guava is a lot smaller and the apple is significantly larger because this is shamefully misleading. (I'm a bit more diplomatic than that because designers are artists and are known to get miffy.) This product can't be designated vegan because of animal lysozyme in the xanthan gum and it's also not a good source of calcium, so let's not call it Vegan Calcium Explosion until the recipe has been tweaked.

I'm actually secretly a little delighted that Benedict Cumberbatch is a member of my tribe of nitpickers. The work I do is often a little surreal (I literally spent half an afternoon recently in a debate involving 1/3 of a raspberry, don't even ask) and sometimes I'm actually very annoyed by the rules I advise my clients to follow. But then again, I also know that I'm contributing to fair play and providing accurate information to the consumers (not to mention that a part of my work is also related to safety, quality and traceability).

Now, how do I get him to join the Whatsapp group with my colleagues where we post pics of labeling mistakes we spot while grocery shopping and mock them cruelly? I'm sure he'd love it.
posted by sively at 7:37 AM on November 9 [16 favorites]


"Vegan Calcium Explosion" will be my next sockpuppet name.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:40 AM on November 9 [5 favorites]


That's interesting. Usually what I find is a pot of regular coffee, a pot of decaf coffee, and a pot of "hot" water next to an assortment of tea bags. Those assortments will include herbal infusions, but there's almost always at least one "Irish Breakfast" and one "Earl Grey" in the assortment.
posted by Karmakaze

OMG, the "hot" water is the worst. I have my own electric kettle at work for my tea because when I started here, I saw that everyone just used the "hot" water from the water cooler. Shudder. Also, give me PG Tips or give me death.

sively, I desperately want to hear more. Maybe you could put together a FPP of stuff you find interesting on the subject?
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:57 AM on November 9 [7 favorites]


So, the for future Maximum Pomposity and Pedantry purposes, how does one properly pronounce tisane? (Audio/video links are unhelpful at the moment, sadly).
posted by DebetEsse at 12:34 PM on November 9


According to dictionary.com: ti-zan, -zahn; French tee-zan
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:56 PM on November 9 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: playing Benedict Cumberbatch IRL.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 8:42 PM on November 9 [2 favorites]


sively, I had never realized that food label nitpicking is a job. Amazing. (Are you also the person who reminds companies they have to label for allergens?) Thanks for sharing your experience!
posted by eirias at 4:57 AM on November 10 [1 favorite]


In my (UK) experience plain "tea" is black tea made with boiling water and everything else gets a modifier. (Herbal, white, green, fruity, bubble, iced, whatever.) Also known as "builder's tea", especially if it's wanted very strong.

sively, I too would be fascinated with any anecdotes you care to share! And very glad there are people doing what you do.
posted by Ilira at 2:34 PM on November 10 [2 favorites]


sively, I had never realized that food label nitpicking is a job. Amazing. (Are you also the person who reminds companies they have to label for allergens?)

Yes that's me! I have occasionally prevented some pretty serious mishaps.

Anyway, I should've known Metafilter to be the one weird place where people find my work interesting. That really tickles me (and soothes the professional sting of allowing an autocorrect typo in my wall of text above, as proof reading commercial texts is also something I do every day, albeit not in English).

I'm aching to share a few funny anecdotes, some of which are about about brands you may be familiar with, but unfortunately rather strict confidentiality prevents me from blabbing... But I'll definitely put some thought into making a more general post about labeling.
posted by sively at 1:00 PM on November 11 [13 favorites]


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