#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.
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.