A couple of weeks ago a couple of friends and I wanted to have some tea after a meal. My friend put the teabags in a cup and wanted to pour freshly boiling water into the cup but I stopped her just in time. I told her you should never put freshly boiling water into tea. The next thing she said was, “I’m British, I’ve been drinking tea all my life. You don’t tell me how to make tea.” Of course it was all friendly conversation but to avoid an unnecessary argument, I nodded, took my cup and teabag from her and prepared tea my own way.
This post isn’t about the technicalities of tea or how pairing “tea” and “the British” is like pairing “pizza” and “gourmet food”. Growing up, I’ve been led to believe that pizza is a mid-level luxury with chains like Pizza Hut costing a little premium compared to other food options. But going to Naples, the birthplace of pizza, changed all that. Pizza is often a street food costing hardly more than 5 Euros. I ate 5 full-sized pizzas in 7 hours (because I was in Naples for just a day, I had to give all those a go.) I’ve had a pizza folded into 4 and served with a newspaper for 1.50 Euros! That trip challenged my assumption. This example isn’t about whether prices in Pizzerias are justified, but more about how your assumptions, though they may be true to a certain extent, might not be as universal as you think.
That sentence she said got me thinking. Her assumption was that she grew up in Britain and has been making tea her entire life and me, being non-British, correcting her was an abomination. This assumption does make a little sense. She has more experience in me in drinking/making tea. But does that mean that her way is superior than mine, or even “correct” at all? Meh, I don’t think so. In this video from the Youtube series “Worth It”, Steven, the Asian dude with the bleached hair went to a gym where they corrected his running form and Steven, having changed his form, realised that this way of running is much more efficient and effective. He also said that he used to be a runner in school, but he acknowledged that he learnt something valuable and practical. Just because you have been something your whole life doesn’t mean you know exactly how to do it.
This Nas Daily episode is another example of how normative doesn’t mean effective. As Troy Bolton from East High Wildcats said, sticking to the status quo is a pointless endeavour. Bad analogy, I know. Do you question why you do things the way you do, and are you satisfied with your answer? If not, maybe you should start. Michael Stevens of V Sauce talks about this topic much more succinctly than I do in his Ted talk.
Now that that’s out of the way, I will continue with correcting the British normative way of making tea, or at least what I observe most of my British friends doing.
1) Freshly boiled water at 100 deg Celcius burns the natural sugars and a lot of flavour will be gone.
2) You don’t leave your teabag in the water for 30 minutes, with the exception of non-tea tea a.k.a. herbal tea.
3) I think tea with biscuits is disgusting.
I am not a professional, I’m just an enthusiast of what I put in my mouth. For more professional advice, I refer you to this basic tea-brewing advice by Don Mei from Mei Leaf. He has a tea shop, Mei Leaf, in Camden and a Youtube channel on tea education. I’ve never met him personally but I’ve been in the shop a few times.