Lessons in Tea Making

Sharp-eyed blog viewers will notice we’re trailing a new teacup this evening. It’s late and we don’t really have the time for our normal pot of tea; it’s December, stuff happens and generally things conspire to get in the way. Tonight it was a retirement-cum-christmas party. Tomorrow it will be dancing. But we must have our tea, so we’re finally christening this mug, which, strange to say came from the same friend abroad as last night’s Delightful Dachshund parcel.

It comes with an inbuilt, good-sized inbuilt infuser. The infuser is shaped like a dead fish, naturally, which makes sense when you realise the mug proper resembles a cat. And for a bitty infuser, it crams an awful lot of tea into it. Awkwardly, though, the glass this mug is made of isn’t insulated, and the lid traps the heat…well, it traps it in the heat-conducting glass.  Take off the lid, say you sensible listeners. But then out goes the infuser. To have tea, hot water or scalded hands; these are the questions.

Now, the friend is German, and we’ve had my share of tea in lemonade glasses served up to us in Germany, but this one is on you, America. We know this because we met her shortly after she picked up the mug in some stateside gift shop or other during a rare in-person convening of our like minds. We’d be surprised but, and we say this with great affection, nowhere has ever so monumentally misunderstood our tea orders as America. Historically they have neglected to bring us milk. Or they have taken ‘black tea’ to mean tea without milk; they lovingly tucked the teabag into the cup, not the pot (where folks, we tell you it cannot steep). Most recently, stuck us in a hotel room plus a posh coffee machine but lacking a kettle. If you’ve never tried making tea in a posh, futuristic coffee machine, let us save you the bother; it produces a cup of tea that tastes like coffee.

So, a heat-conducting cat shaped mug? From the place that so (in?)famously threw a lot of tea in the water to make a point all those years ago, it feels par for the course. PMind you, it’s a very sweet mug. And it’s sort of starting to infuse the tea as we type.

Tea? Or hot water aspiring to be tea?


And what, you ask, after all that, is the tea? It’s a black tea called Candy Cane Crush. It’s an old favourite of the Calendar, and of ours, too. We’re not typically people who favour chocolate in tea, but here it works well with the peppermint. It gives the tea a creaminess at full strength that makes it taste a bit like a peppermint cream in the best possible way. And while we can, it turns out, write small essays on the hazards of glass mugs and their cat-shaped lids, you will never hear a word against the peppermint cream from us. In a cup this anaemic (and see the above photo for reference) its more peppermint cream than it is tea, but in a good-sized infuser with space for the leaves to expand, it gets a nice balance from the underlying black tea blend.

After all that, here’s lessons in tea making from a man who knows what he’s on about. We’ve dipped back into the archive for it, but can we help it if we keep having to educate the world on how to steep a cup of tea?!

Lessons in Tea Making 
Kenny Knight, from Ten poems about Tea

When I first learnt to
Pour tea in Honicknowle

In those dark old days
Before central heating

Closed down open fireplaces
And lights went out in coal mines

And chimpanzees hadn’t yet
Made their debuts on television

And two sugars
Was the national average

And the teapot was the centre
Of the known universe

And the solar system
Wasn’t much on anyone’s mind

And the sun was this yellow
Thing that just warmed the air

And anthropology’s study
Of domestic history hadn’t

Quite reached the evolutionary
Breakthrough of the tea-bag

And the kettle was on
In the kitchen of number

Thirty two Chatsworth Gardens
Where my father after slurping

Another saucer dry would ask
In a smoke-frog voice for

Another cup of microcosm
While outside the universe blazed

Like a hundred towns
On a sky of smooth black lino

And my father with tobacco
Stained fingers would dunk biscuits

And in the process spill tiny drops
Of Ceylon and India

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