Hmmm. Maybe it’s me

I may be going “Upton” (Upton Park, two stops short of Barking) But….

I left for a job at the crack of dawn this morning and have an even earlier start tomorrow. So off I set at 5.40am with a tea in a Thermos Mug and a flask of hot water. Anyways, whilst I was whiling away the time this morning, and knocking back a third or fourth brew of the day, my mind started to wander and one of things that it wondered about was this….

PG Tips, right, Teabags, OK nothing special. Well I remember that a few years ago when they launched a new type, it may have been the pyramid bags, or the circular ones, I am not sure, they made a big thing about “foil wrapped for freshness”. After a few months they stopped doing the foil wrapped business, I assume to save money.

Then for a little while they just did the boxes wrapped in cellophane, then they just did the cardboard boxes of teabags, now the boxes are cellophane wrapped again.

My point, and there is a vague sort of point is this. Tea is made from leaves from the tea plant (either Camellia Sinensis or Camellia Assamica) it is dried until it is well and truly dead (to about 3% moisture content) and then packaged and shipped to the supermarket shelves. So tea is not fresh, it is dried up, oxidised old leaves. The important point is dried. So why do you need to keep it fresh. I can understand it with something that is moist, you which to keep the moisture inside, but this is dry. Humidity levels are not going to bring these leaves back to life.

So PG Tips seems now to agree with me, there is no need to keep them fresh. Oh now they don’t agree with me, in a week’s time they will agree with me again.

The only thing that you can vary with tea really is the mixture or maybe the shape of the bag or whether the bags are foil, cellophane wrapped or completely naked. So the other thing I don’t and won’t understand, is how tea (or tea bags) can be New and improved, they are either New (they haven’t existed before) or improved (the old shite, spruced up).

But then surely tea bags cannot ever be new (well not for the last 80 years). And seeing as tea has been drunk for at least 1500 years (certainly since the Tang Dynasty) surely nothing is new under the sun, as far as tea goes.

Anyway, I’ve got a little side tracked, which happens at my age, rather easily, I was going to say……

Bugger it, I’ve forgotten

Wog maho

P.S. I remembered, Tea is good for you, and counts towards your 6-8 glasses of daily recommended fluid intake. So even allowing for it’s very small caffeine content and it’s large amount of water, if you took the milk away, you may just as well drink water. But somehow nothing tastes as good with the first cigarette of the day (or as the first drink to help a hangover). If you don’t know how to make a good cuppa, I will let Douglas Adams explain:

“One or two Americans have asked me why it is that the English like tea so much, which never seems to them to be a very good drink. To understand, you have to know how to make it properly.

There is a very simple principle to the making of tea and it’s this – to get the proper flavour of tea, the water has to be boiling (not boiled) when it hits the tea leaves. If it’s merely hot then the tea will be insipid. That’s why we English have these odd rituals, such as warming the teapot first (so as not to cause the boiling water to cool down too fast as it hits the pot). And that’s why the American habit of bringing a teacup, a tea bag and a pot of hot water to the table is merely the perfect way of making a thin, pale, watery cup of tea that nobody in their right mind would want to drink. The Americans are all mystified about why the English make such a big thing out of tea because most Americans have never had a good cup of tea. That’s why they don’t understand. In fact the truth of the matter is that most English people don’t know how to make tea any more either, and most people drink cheap instant coffee instead, which is a pity, and gives Americans the impression that the English are just generally clueless about hot stimulants.

So the best advice I can give to an American arriving in England is this. Go to Marks and Spencer and buy a packet of Earl Grey tea. Go back to where you’re staying and boil a kettle of water. While it is coming to the boil, open the sealed packet and sniff. Careful – you may feel a bit dizzy, but this is in fact perfectly legal. When the kettle has boiled, pour a little of it into a tea pot, swirl it around and tip it out again. Put a couple (or three, depending on the size of the pot) of tea bags into the pot (If I was really trying to lead you into the paths of righteousness I would tell you to use free leaves rather than bags, but let’s just take this in easy stages). Bring the kettle back up to the boil, and then pour the boiling water as quickly as you can into the pot. Let it stand for two or three minutes, and then pour it into a cup. Some people will tell you that you shouldn’t have milk with Earl Grey, just a slice of lemon. Screw them. I like it with milk. If you think you will like it with milk then it’s probably best to put some milk into the bottom of the cup before you pour in the tea.1 If you pour milk into a cup of hot tea you will scald the milk. If you think you will prefer it with a slice of lemon then, well, add a slice of lemon.

Drink it. After a few moments you will begin to think that the place you’ve come to isn’t maybe quite so strange and crazy after all.’


One thought on “Hmmm. Maybe it’s me

  1. I think that the most important factor here, aside the aforementioned moisture content (and less thought about) water-hardness factor is the direction in which you stir your brew. The correct direction can be determined by checking which side of the hemispere you happen to be brewing up on.

    I would suggest to any -atlas-less-amateur tea brewers to consult their nearest bath plug whilst relieving it of its contents. Judge the direction of water flow and there you have the correct direction in which to stir your brew. Stir it the wrong way (god forbid) and you will end up with bath water.

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