The 10 high crimes against tea And yes, the oriental tea ceremony is one of them. One should never rush a cup of tea, but come on!

#10. Tea in a bottle

Once I'd have reserved this spot on the list for "iced tea," but that was back when I'd never drunk the good stuff. Properly brewed tea served ice-cold is a fine drink. But iced tea in a bottle or can, flavored with added sugars and fruit extracts, is not real iced tea. (It is, I suspect, fractionally diluted toilet bleach.)

No respectable drink of any kind should come in a plastic bottle or an aluminum can. It is simply not done.

#9. Lipton Yellow Label

Surely one of the most popular teas in the world, and certainly the one you're most likely to be served across North America.

The irony being that this is not tea at all. The Lipton van travels the schools of Third World countries collecting pencil shavings from the classroom wastebins, then takes them to a factory where resentful workers stuff them into bags, all the while infusing the shavings with contempt and self-loathing to give Yellow Label its special flavor best described as a fleeting sensation of ennui.

#8. Squashing the tea bag against the side of the cup

You're getting more flavor, alright, but the bitter kind.

#7. Oriental tea ceremonies

This one might be controversial. One should never rush a cup of tea, but come on, there are limits!

As I understand it, no Westerner who has ever had the patience to endure a tea ceremony has ever had the requisite fortitude to then sit through the subsequent "spot of milk ceremony," or the very important but rarely seen "nice biscuit ceremony."

#6. Long Island Iced Tea

You can put as many different types of booze in a drink as you like, but if you're calling it tea and you're not putting tea in it, I will not be impressed.

#5. Teacups

It's literally an antique.

It's churlish to express disappointment when someone offers tea, but my heart does sink when I go to any place that serves tea in teacups. Drinking tea from a cup is like putting out a fire with thimbles of water.

If you really don't have any mugs, just pour yourself a cup and leave me to drink from the pot. One does not wear lace gloves to keep the cold out. One should not drink tea from a dainty little cup. We have evolved beyond such prissiness.

#4. One-cup teabags

It's not the bags themselves that are at fault per se, but the name, offensively implying as it does that there is such a thing as a two-cup teabag. And how would one make the second cup with a single teabag, pray tell? With stale cooling water and damp tea? I think not!

One should have as many teabags per drink as votes per election; one each, no less, and none for children or convicts. (I realize some people prefer their tea weak, but we must not pander to such behavior.)

#3. The Boston Tea party

Perfectly good tea tipped into cold, salty water. It sounds like something the Mongolians would do. Literally revolting behavior.

I do good puns.

#2. Fruit tea

I'm not entirely opposed to tea-like beverages that aren't tea, so long as they're made with something properly tea-like, such as leaves or flowers. Peppermint? Fine. Chamomile? Certainly. Rooibos? Absolutely.

Strawberry? Blackcurrant? Mandarin? What the merry Dickens are these meant to be? In what sense are these teas? One can no more make tea from a blackcurrant than one can make tea from an elephant or a windmill. These monstrosities are properly called "tisanes" or "infusions," and they all smell like air freshener and taste like the sweet, thin soup of the dead.

#1. Hot water

I experienced something I'd never seen before in Britain the other day. I ordered a cup of tea in a pub and was served with a cup of hot water with the teabag on the side. I've seen this in less self-respecting countries, but never in tea's spiritual heartland.

Tea is made by pouring freshly drawn boiling water over tealeaves. If someone serves you warm water with the tea on the side, they have not accurately filled your order of a cup of tea.

Of course, the serving staff at the pub were all foreigners, and I had to educate them on how to properly make a cup of tea. They were very grateful for the lesson, but gamely disguised their gratitude so as not to embarrass me.

But the damage was done. I was served hot water in a British pub, and there is simply no coming back from that. Needless to say, within 48 hours I had boarded an airplane and left the country in disgust. I landed somewhere safe and got an unpaid gig writing for this website.

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10 thoughts on “<span class="entry-title-primary">The 10 high crimes against tea</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">And yes, the oriental tea ceremony is one of them. One should never rush a cup of tea, but come on!</span>”

  1. The biggest crime against I’ve ever seen was in Japan, where cans of cold, milky tea are all the rage. Royal Tea, it’s called, and it’s indescribably vile, tasting like no tea I’ve ever had. So mad on it are they, that even chocolate bars and ice creams are flavoured with it.

  2. I laughed out loud at your Lipton description. I have been trying and trying to pinpoint what that subtle flavor in it is. Now I know, it is the infusion of contempt and self-loathing. Great post.

  3. I would say that a greater crime was not the one-cup teabag, but the teabag itself. I have reasons now, though: not only has the existence of the teabag given rise to the dried fruit in a bag, as nobody would want to sour their teapot with loose dried fruit, but it has also reduced the social aspects of the cuppa. I know you can use teabags in a pot, but people don’t. If they only had leaves, everyone would have to make a pot of tea, and then people would have their tea in groups. Tea leaves promote social interaction (where you can add cake to the proceedings), tea bags promote selfishness!

  4. Bravo!~ My very thoughts on many an occasion. There is nothing more disheartening to me than traveling through the UK and being asked “do you take you tea weak?” with a look as if to say, “you don’t expect me to use more than one tea bag for this pot, do you?”

    No. I don’t. I take my tea in a mug, with properly boiled water, nothing from the coffee machine spigot, thanks, brewed for at least 3 minutes, probably a tad more and with one bag per cup, thank you *very* much.

    You’re more than welcome to come over my house where I will serve you a mug cup full of properly prepared tea. (Yes, I collect tea cups, but because I like the way they look. I drink from my collection of non-matching, quite cheesy, mugs.)

  5. I’m sorry, but the Occident most definitely did *not* perfect tea. Remember, the Occident includes such tea deserts as Italy and France. Tea was perfected in London and Yorkshire and exported from there to the world.

    • I agree with some of these points in terms of tea preparation but it is otherwise rather chauvinistic. The Occident (if you insist on using these terms) did not invent or perfect tea. I guess I am not capable of understanding, being a foreigner from a less self-respecting country.

    • You’re quite right to nitpick. I’m not crediting the entire Occident, of course. Both sides of the world have their fair share of teathens.

  6. I had no idea about the Lipton. These days you are usually served a mug of tepid water with a Lipton teabag on the side. I do, however, have memories of my grandmother preparing the teapot with a bit of hot water (to warm the pot) and she used loose tea …but generally it was contained in a tea ball. The tea Nana and Mom prepared years ago was stronger and more enjoyable than what you now receive in a restaurant.

    • I am pleased to say I have never had a Lipton tea, I was unfortunate enough to have an Earl Grey from the Australian ’boutique’ tea company T2, which was really very dissapointing. I shall have to stick to Twinnings until someone can point me in the directions of better.

    • ARGH! Lipton Yellow Label.
      Reminds me of being an expat kid living at 9000 ft where the fact that the boiling water wasn’t, made it even worse.
      And now, living in HK, and seeing it on all the supermarket shelves…ick.

      Give me a Twinnings English Breakfast or a Yorkshire Tea any day.

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