"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Sunday, 14 August 2011

not my cup of tea....

There are certain subjects that everyone has an opinion on and not many will ever listen or concede that perhaps there is another way to make a cup of tea.

I am a relatively new tea drinker (about 6 years).  Before then I never cared much for tea and when offered a hot drink (instead of a cold, icy one in a stemmed glass), I would choose coffee. Not really too much of a fan of the hot drink and coffee used to be my one or two cup a day option. With the hot flushes came a problem with sleeping (or lack thereof) so I stopped drinking coffee and could not believe that just that one strong (black and bitter) cup first thing when I got to work in the morning would give me withdrawal symptoms when I stopped. For about 2 weeks after stopping, within an hour after my usual first cup, I developed a strange headache. The only time I really enjoy coffee now is with a piece of really dark and bitter chocolate (and nothing can beat the smell of the freshly ground variety).  After travelling with Nicky in 2005, I started enjoying an early morning cup of tea and then when moving to my new house and spending early mornings out in the garden, out of the house with me came the mug of hot tea. It has now become a ritual and something I cannot do without (preferably in a white mug with a thin lip).

White Bone China Mug

My favourite one

We could not wish for more.
Good Idea? Crumbs on your chest?
Could also be messy

However, the way I make tea has received some criticism from the family. My mother (who has to have it strong but with full cream milk - bitter and creamy - ugh) to Dalene (extremely strong with a teaspoon of skim milk - really awful) to Nic (very strong but with quite a bit of 2% milk - also awful) to Gareth and I who like it on the weak side and milky (perfect). Dalene will actually put the hot water into the cup with the tea bag and continue washing the dishes and helping with homework (while chatting to you at the same time).  The mixture to which she then adds her teaspoon of milk (skimmed) resembles Coke.  I have to watch the bag and count to 5 (sometimes 6) and fish the bag out in a hurry (and use my finger to squeeze a tiny little bit of strength out of the bag - sorry). Nic was horrified the other day to see me put some 2% milk into the cup (and onto the tea bag) before adding the hot water. Herein lies my theory that the hot water must not scald the tea bag (that makes it bitter). If there is a little milk in the bottom of the cup the water heats the milk instead of the other way around when the milk gets poured on to the boiling water and coagulates.

My grandmother would be disgusted that only my mother follows in her footsteps of using a teapot. I have 2 lovely teapots but they are pretty useless when being used for what they are intended to be used for. The one leaks from the lid if too full and the other has a very odd spout that sends the tea all over the table. I prefer to use them as vases for flowers.  Another theory of mine (I am full of them today) is that if you are going to use a teapot you should be using the proper loose tea leaves and that involves a trip to the shops for a tea strainer (I have bought a couple in my lifetime but can never find them, probably because I throw them away in disguss because it is always their fault that the utensil drawer does not open). It all then becomes a bit too much like a science and which is just too complicated for a couple of cups of tea.

So for those of you who would like to know the pukker way to make a cuppa, carry on reading below:-

How to make a perfect cuppa (thanks to BBC news)

Many people ask no more than that their tea be "wet and warm", but in the hunt for perfection in a tea cup, a scientist has created a formula for optimal temperature, infusion and imbibation. Oh, and when to put the milk in.
There are 11 rules for perfect tea making, rules from which nobody should dare depart, said George Orwell.
The great critic of Hitler and Stalin, was not above a bit of teatime Totalitarianism himself, it seems. Orwell said that tea - one of the "mainstays of civilization" - is ruined by sweetening and that anyone flouting his diktat on shunning the sugar bowl could not be called "a true tea lover".

1. Use tea from India or Ceylon (Sri Lanka), not China
2. Use a teapot, preferably ceramic
3. Warm the pot over direct heat
4. Tea should be strong - six spoons of leaves per 1 litre
5. Let the leaves move around the pot - no bags or strainers
6. Take the pot to the boiling kettle
7. Stir or shake the pot
8. Drink out of a tall, mug-shaped tea cup
9. Don't add creamy milk
10. Add milk to the tea, not vice versa
11. No sugar!

Aside from sweet-toothed tea drinkers, the author also displayed a distaste for scientists. So to mark the 100th anniversary of Orwell's birth, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has decided to look at his 11-point formula - and rubbish a good many of his supposedly "golden" rules.
Dr Andrew Stapley, a chemical engineer at Loughborough University, has brought the weight of his scientific knowledge (and shameless personal preferences) to bear on the question of the perfect cuppa, and found that Orwell was wrong on a number of points.

Orwell's six-spoons of tea per pot - mightily extravagant when the author set down this rule during post-war rationing - is still far too strong today. The RSC endorses no more than a single spoon of leaves.

As for adding milk to the tea after it is poured, the RSC issues a stern scientific warning against the practice. It seems that dribbling a stream of milk into hot water makes "denaturation of milk proteins" more likely. And who would want that?  "At high temperatures, milk proteins - which are normally all curled up foetus-like - begin to unfold and link together in clumps. This is what happens in UHT [ultra heat-treated] milk, and is why it doesn't taste as good a fresh milk," says Dr Stapley. It is better to have the chilled milk massed at the bottom of the cup, awaiting the stream of hot tea. This allows the milk to cool the tea, rather than the tea ruinously raise the temperature of the milk.
Also, unlike in Orwell's rules, science seems to bear no grudge against those who would take sugar with their tea - provided it's white sugar.
Indeed, the addition of sugar is praised since it "acts to moderate the natural astringency of tea" - which translated into unscientific terms means that it makes tea, wait for it, less bitter.
This is heresy to Orwell. "Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter," he said. What would he have made of the alcopop suggested by the RSC?

He would recognise and appreciate some elements of Dr Stapley's perfect cuppa. The RSC brew uses Indian Assam tea leaves, which falls within Orwell's tight stipulations. He said no other nation's tea made him feel "wiser, braver or more optimistic". There is no real scientific reason for Assam winning out over other leaf varieties, it just happens to be a strong tea to Dr Stapley's own taste. "While some things are backed by science, others - like the choice of Assam - are based on my own preferences. I'm sure there are going to be plenty of people coming up with better methods to make tea and it's good that we have that debate," says Dr Stapley.

My point exactly - not even the "professionals" agree.
While I am on a roll, some interesting "tea quotes":-

Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea
Henry Fielding

  Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea. 
Author Unknown

If you are cold, tea will warm you.  If you are too heated, it will cool you.  If you are depressed, it will cheer you.  If you are excited, it will calm you
Gladstone, 1865

Is there no Latin word for Tea?  Upon my soul, if I had known that I would have let the vulgar stuff alone.
Hilaire Belloc

Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors.
Alice Walker

The first sip of tea is the always the best... you cringe as it burns the back of your throat, knowing you just had the hottest carpe-diem portion. 
Terri Guillemets

Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on

Billy Connolly

I got nasty habits; I take tea at three.
Mick Jagger 
I'd rather have a cup of tea than go to bed with someone - any day
Boy George

A much debated subject and a matter of personal taste.  Isn't it great when you ask someone how they like their tea they say "As it comes"?   But a tip, don't ever say that when you visit my sister!!!  Ask for wine.

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