Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

Cream or milk?

Posted: 9 August, 2018 in memories, Tea
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The older I get the more I find myself agreeing with George Orwell.

At least, when it comes to tea.

I was raised to enjoy tea the traditional Irish way: brewed strong, and served with milk and sugar. I grew up thinking that was the proper — and therefore — the only way to make tea. This belief stayed with me through most of my life.

I felt the first breath of heresy when I moved into my current home. I rent a room in my landlord/friend’s house. I call my room My Lonely Writer’s Garret™.

Ed (my landlord) is probably the only person I know who drinks as much tea as I do. He tutors private students in French, and whenever he has a student over he makes a pot of green tea.

Which he always serves sans lait.

Even when he’s drinking black or herbal tea, he adds only sugar or honey. He thinks that I am a barbarian for drinking my tea with milk.

I, on the other hand, am of the sure and certain knowledge that truly civilized people adhere to my method.

Nothing lasts forever

Very true. Which is why my method has changed. I’ve finally decided to try my tea without milk or cream.

(An aside: cream is quite possibly the worst thing you can add to tea. The fats in the cream and the tannic acid in the tea do not play well together.)

This is what Orwell had to say about tea:

“[O]ne should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.”

Orwell, crotchety old Irishman that he was, also had this to say:

“Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.” ¹

My new tastes

Over the past several days, I’ve been cutting back on the amount of sweetener I add to my tea. I should be completely free from sweeteners by the end of next week.

The only exception is when I brew a pot of strong Assam tea and add Masala tea spice, thus making what far too many people call “Chai tea.” Chai means “tea,” so “Chai tea” is redundant.

On the other hand, I live in a country that calls the southern California baseball team “The Los Angeles Angels,” which translates to “The the angels angels.”

It’s enough to drive a woman to drink.

Which drink, right now, is a nice cup of Earl Grey. WITHOUT milk or cream!


¹ — The Orwell quotes are from A Nice Cup of Tea, by George Orwell. You can read his essay in its entirety at: A Nice Cup of Tea, Evening Standard, 12 January 1946.

As I was growing up in a tea-drinking family, my mother’s universal remedy for just about every conceivable ailment was a cup of tea and a side of cinnamon toast. This was so ingrained in me that even now–at the age of 67–I still find comfort in a cup of tea.

"There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea." ~Bernard-Paul Heroux

Changing Tastes

But as George Orwell tells us,

"…I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than 20 weak ones. All true tea-lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes…." ~George Orwell, "A Nice Cup of Tea," Evening Standard, 12 January 1946

In my own case, I find it to be true. Oh, I’m not ready to go full-on Orwell in my habits–I still prefer milk and sweetener in my cuppa–but neither am I content with the tea of my youth: weak, insipid tea brewed from a bag and served with so much milk and sugar that it might as well have been called tea-flavored milk.

But I’ve slowly been cutting back on the additives. Less sweetener, less milk result in a more astringent taste. A slight bitterness. Sometimes I’ll add some Tea Masala, that Indian blend of spices that results in what I call Masala Chai, and most people erroneously refer to as "Chai tea," not realizing that the very word "Chai" means "tea." So they’re ordering a cup of tea tea.

Then again, what else would you expect from the nation that gave us the baseball team called "The The Angels Angels"? And just why in the hell did they move them from Brooklyn in the first place?

But I digress.

Flavored Teas

With the exception of Masala Chai, I find the idea of adding flavors to tea quite abhorrent. You are no longer drinking tea but rather some watered-down Kool-aid substitute.

And that’s why, with rare exceptions on the even rarer exceptions that I go to a restaurant, I won’t order tea. This is simply that American restaurants don’t know how to make a proper cup of tea. And why do we spell it "rest-o-RANT" but pronounce it "REST-ront," anyway?

These are but a few of the thoughts I have whilst enjoying that all-important first cup of tea of the day. There are some mornings when all that gets me out of bed in the first place is the whistling of the kettle when my roommate boils his own pot of water to pour over the coffee grounds in his French press coffee maker.

And not even that works all of the time. Sometimes my depression is as black as my roomie’s coffee.

Still, I continue to find beauty, comfort, and bitterness in a cup of tea.