Tea, is a Magic Number

No more no less

(This post suggested by @dtl, so blame him)

Your thoughts please on why you can’t get a decent cup of Tea on the highstreet.

Tea. The nation’s favourite beverage. Except perhaps coffee and that Monster energy drink the yoof quaff by the bucket. Nothing more British than tea, despite us getting tea from India, rather like curry. Unless we got it from China or somewhere instead. I don’t actually know.

I drink tea. I’m not a tea connoisseur. By this I mean that I’m really not picky about which particular brand of tea I drink at home, however I will only drink proper British (Indian?) Builders Tea. So I mean standard, PG Tips or Tetley or something like that – This Is Tea. Other sorts of tea, such as Captain Picard’s favourite Teaearlgreyhot and fruit teas and perfumed teas and nettle teas and other things which are basically just brambles and weeds that are soaked in boiling water can do one. Except green tea. That’s OK. Milk, no sugar, in case you wondered.

Tea anecdote 1: When we were younger, I’d tease my sister when making tea. “How many sugars would you like?” I’d say. “One”, she’d say. And I’d make it with one tablespoon full. Or one ladle full, which was essentially half a mug of sugar, half a mug of tea[ref]Yes, tea in a mug. Not a cup.[/ref]. Sometimes I’d put salt in instead. Occasionally I’d ask “Tea or coffee?” and if the answer was “I don’t mind”, I’d make cofftea. You can guess what that is.

So which specific brand of Normal Proper British Tea doesn’t really matter to me. I can’t tell the difference so providing it’s reasonably strong and doesn’t have too much milk, it’ll do. I’m not even fussed if it’s made from leaves in a teapot (although I don’t bother doing that myself) or bags in a mug[ref]Yes, tea in a mug. Not a cup.[/ref]. It does surprise me that people still use leaves in this day and age when they’re not even fortune tellers.

Tea anecdote 2: Years ago, I moved house and some friends helped. Once we’d unpacked the most important item (the kettle) I sent my friend Phil to the shop to buy some tea bags, for we had misplaced them. Despite being a 500 yard trip, he returned some two hours later with a dismal looking box of Nisa own-brand “Tea Bags”. A box of 120 (why are they always in multiples of 40? This is a question to ponder for the ages) bags, which cost just 14 pence. Or thereabouts. They tasted of grit and pepper and we binned them.

As for why you can’t get a decent cup of tea on the high street, there’s an obvious answer: coffee. The likes of Starbucks and Costa, selling various brown liquids that don’t taste like coffee (perhaps a blog post about Proper Coffee is in order) have taken over. Cafes have become coffee shops. Greasy spoons have become coffee shops. It’s coffee shops right up the wazoo. The vast majority of people just want overpriced imitation coffee products in tall takeaway cups, with optional bagel and/or muffin. Gone are the days when it was a bacon roll and a china mug of tea (with the bag still in it) available from every high street cafe.

Tea anecdote 3: I drink tea at home and coffee at work. There is no reason for this. That’s not really an anecdote. I apologise.

Why does everyone want to drink coffee instead of tea? Perhaps we’re a nation addicted to caffeine, which exists in tea but in a far greater quantity in coffee. That explains the sales of Monster too, actually. Or maybe it’s because coffee-on-the-go is easier than tea-on-the-go with no bag or leaves to sort out. Oh, and hipsters. Can we blame coffee on hipsters? Yeah, probably.

That said, there are still plenty of places to get a cup of tea on the high street, including those coffee shops I’ve mentioned. It’s just not very good there. For a Proper Tea, your local tea-and-bacon market stall is probably your best bet, so head there. Or buy a flask and bring your own.


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