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Drinking tea
Frogmarch 2002 - Whitby
There are two main criteria in enjoying drinking tea: having it often, and having plenty of it.

Sometimes I buy loose-leaf, and sometimes I buy tea bags. When I brew loose-leaf tea I like to make it in a little pot with a drop-in strainer (rather like those in-mug coffee filters). It is better to warm the pot first, or warm the cup if I’m brewing from a bag directly in the cup. Freshly boiling water must hit the tea, it must be given sufficient space and time to brew, and it must be served with fresh cold milk. Tea leaves must never meet milk.

It is amazing how many coffee shops and bars fail to serve a decent cuppa.

A horrible modern trend is to serve a cup of hot water, with a wrapped teabag on the side. I can’t fathom this — are we supposed to be impressed by the teabag’s packaging? Some places that I’ve experienced this are the Byre Theatre in St Andrews, and the Fairmont Hotel. The only solution is to send it back and ask for boiling water to be added to the tea, preferably in a pot.

Some cafés serve hot milk, presumably for the benefit of coffee drinkers, which tastes foul in tea. Others serve sachets or plastic jiggers of UHT, which isn’t much better. If a café can serve a glass of milk, then they can provide fresh milk to go in tea.

Coffee-shop chains tend to serve grim tea — it might have all sorts of fair-trade or rainforest-friendly accreditations, but it seldom tastes good, and most of them haven’t heard of a tea pot. If I’m paying a premium price for a cup of tea, I expect it to be served properly.

Supermarket cafés tend to do better, with tea served in a pot, and fresh milk available. Most hotels make a decent cuppa too, and cafés can usually be trusted if they have a significant proportion of old ladies in their clientele.

Fast-food-wise, McDonalds manage to serve a consistently drinkable cup of tea — nothing special, but much cheaper and more enjoyable than anything Starbucks or Costa could manage.

A cup of tea should be cheap and cheerful; it should make the world a better place; it can be served with meals or by itself. It is a drink that built an empire, and makes a bad day better. It helps me debug code, and is key ingredient in many of my social gatherings.

I tend to favour either a breakfast blend or an assam; a tea with plenty of strength. Irish blends traditionally have more assam than English ones — I approve of Irish tea. Nothing fancy, no dandy Earl Grey or smoky lapsang souchong for me, and I have a mild suspicion of people who regularly drink green tea or — worse — redbush. (I think self-loathing must be involved in choosing to drink redbush.)

My tea caddy is currently filled with Punjana. Time to boil the kettle!

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There are two main criteria in enjoying drinking tea: having it often, and having plenty of it.

Yes, I've always had you pegged as one of these quantity-over-quality Johnnies*. Didn't read the rest ;-)

Although if I had, I might have to admit to preferring a spiced tea; cinnamon being my favourite. This probably puts me in the rooibos category as far as you're concerned!

* Or should that be Jenny?

Quantity over quality? No, both quantity and quality, please!

Tea lubricates life; the more lubrication, the better the life.

In agreement all the way down the line.

The main trick is boiling water, boiling water and boiling water.
Fresh milk a close second.

My delightful little food van in Marbury Country Park does a very fine cup of fair trade tea, as well as it's posh coffees and using the same equipment as a standard coffee bar, so I don't see why other 'premium' coffee chains manage to do the same.


Agree with the poor quality of tea in most establishments - even if I don't have to suffer the various indignities the addition of milk can cause. Coffee tends to be less poorly made, though still rarely as good as it can, and should, be.

Still appreciate F&M Smokey Earl Grey, and their Lapsang Souchong. More of a Darjeeling drinker than Assam, which tends to be too strong without milk.

Coffee can be made by any brainless school-leaver, who only needs to learn by rote how to pull levers and press buttons.

Tea, on the other hand, needs patience. It cannot be rushed; the simplicity of making tea emphasises the humanity of the person making it.

One needs a soul to make a decent cup of tea.

Average coffee can be made by by a school leaver pressing buttons it is true.

Goodcoffee requires at least as much care as good tea.

I'm quite fond of the Twinings offerings - both Breakfast and Everyday; I've never really taken to Earl Grey, though my brother seems quite fond of it. I used to love mint tea when I was very young, but haven't had it for many years now. Green... never saw the appeal.

I was disappointed by their offer on Facebook, though: a "special offer" of two large boxes of teabags from their online shop - which turned out to be about 1p more expensive than the same Twinings tea in Tesco, before you add the post and packing of about £3.

When I was young, I started every day with a cup of tea and toast, until switching to coffee on doctor's orders (the extra caffeine helped mitigate some nerve damage). These days, I'm happy drinking either - coffee does have the fringe benefit of being slightly harder to screw up. (As I recall, East Coast railway tea is made with boiling water and drinkable, Scotrail use water from a Thermos flask which is never hot enough to brew properly - they screw up the coffee too, but not quite as badly.)

East Coast: free tea and coffee in first class; quite drinkable, and they're along every half hour or so. On a journey to London I'm quite capable of drinking myself silly on tea.

I can do the same with the free vodka...

Tea quotes:
"Whenever I wish to be toned up, calmed down or re-invigorated, I have a cup of tea." Arthur Dent (from memory, so possibly not exact, the order of effects is likely wrong)
"Tea is soothing, I wish to be tense." Giles in Buffy when drinking a cup of coffee.

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