Lessons from life

In my journey through this vale of tears, in which I have certainly experienced far fewer tears than I deserve, I have learnt a few lessons, and equally certainly far fewer of them than I should have.

It is my earnest wish that others should benefit from my experience, so on this page I record some of the deeper lessons which life has taught me.

( To be more precise, I have so far recorded one such lesson. I believe that there were some more, and if I ever remember what they were I might write them down. In the meantime, consider this lesson from my experience in the vale of teas. )

On making tea.

Tea is not one of the most important features in my life, but long experience has convinced me that it is the correct beverage for breakfast time. I have therefore spent some time perfecting a technique for making tea free from tealeaves.

I do not claim that it is perfect. I do claim that it works, for me, with our teapot. I have not attempted a thorough evaluation of the theory, and it should therefore be regarded as superstition rather than science, but it is based on the proposition that tealeaves end up floating on the surface because they have not been adequately wetted by the water.

I make tea in a teapot, using leaves because I see no good reason to waste bags. The only discernible advantage of using teabags in a teapot is that it guarantees that you won't get tealeaves in your cup. In verse :

A teabag should not be admired;
it's merely a grossly inade
quate substitute for the real tools for the job -
a teapot, and leaves from a caddy.
( There are two further verses, which I have forgotten. I was stimulated to write them in reply to a letter from Gordon Rees, an excellent fellow and friend of longer standing than either of us would wish to reveal. ( Oh, all right - since 1957. ) In his letter, he presented an ode expressing his wish to be a teabag. My response was intended to warn him of the error of his ways. I do not know whether it had any effect; he has never told me whether he is now indeed a teabag, or not. I hesitate to approach him for a copy of my two missing verses to avoid the shame of finding that he has not preserved them. )

My method goes like this :

  1. Fill jug with water, switch on.
  2. Empty yesterday's tealeaves out of teapot, rinse, put in new tealeaves.
  3. Add small quantities of water and shake round until all tea is visibly wet, but preferably without introducing more water than necessary for this. Leave to stand.
  4. When the water boils, half-fill the teapot, directing the water down the internal sides of the pot to ensure that any loose leaves adhering thereto are washed down. Leave to stand for a while. ( I'm not sure how long; it's fairly precisely determined by other parts of the breakfast routine, which is the only time I make tea. )
  5. Then fill up the pot with water, being careful to bomb any visible floating leaves, of which there should be rather few.
  6. Pour a little splosh of tea out into the sink; this eliminates any tealeaves which have somehow escaped into the spout, and might be floating there.

I suspect that the complicated routine is necessary because we use a metal teapot, which has a very small thermal capacity and high thermal conductivity. With a real pot teapot, it is possible to warm the pot and fill it with water vapour by prerinsing it with hot water; the vapour then stays there long enough to condense onto the tealeaves, moistening them sufficiently. Our metal pot cools down too quickly, so the warm moist environment is not maintained for long enough.

Alan Creak,
2003 April.