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Are you guilty of these 12 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!

Steeped in millennia-old tradition, tea is a beverage of great cultural significance to almost all peoples on earth. However, as tea continues to gain consumer popularity among the great unwashed masses, there looms an ever greater risk of outright abuses.

And in fact, from poor brewing practices to questionable flavorings, tea is already enduring a great number of reprehensible crimes. In this article, we will explore the 10 high crimes against tea that are most commonly committed — and provide tips on how to avoid them.

Whether you’re a seasoned tea connoisseur or a newcomer to the world of tea, this article will help you appreciate the beverage even more and ensure that you’re always getting the best possible cup of brew. So let’s get right into it.

#1. 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 tasted 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.

#2. 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.

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

Squashing or squeezing the tea bag against the side of the cup is a common but serious offense against tea. While it may seem like an effective way to extract more flavor from the tea bag, it actually causes the tea to become more bitter.

When tea is steeped in hot water, the tea leaves release their flavor and aroma into the liquid. However, they also release tannins, which are compounds that give tea its bitter taste. When the tea bag is squeezed, it forces the tannins to be released from the tea leaves more quickly. Squeezing the tea bag can also cause the tea leaves to break up into smaller pieces, which increases their surface area and allowing more tannins and other bitter compounds to be released into the water.

#4. 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.”

#5. Reheating tea that’s gone cold, rather than making a fresh cup

When tea is left to cool, it begins to oxidize and lose its aroma and flavor. Reheating the tea will not reverse this process and will actually cause the tea to become bitter and unpalatable. In addition, reheating tea in the microwave can cause the tea to lose its delicate flavors and aromas, and can also make the tea taste stale or burnt.

To avoid committing this crime against tea, it’s best to make a fresh cup of tea when you’re ready to enjoy it.

#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.

#7. 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.

#8. Adding flavorings that overpower the natural taste of the tea

When it comes to tea, less is often more. Tea is a delicate and complex beverage that can offer a wide range of flavors and aromas depending on how it’s grown, processed, and brewed. While it’s perfectly fine to add a bit of honey or lemon to your tea if you like it that way, adding too much of anything can mask the natural flavors and aromas of the tea and make it taste unbalanced or even unpleasant.

Some examples of flavorings or ingredients that can overpower the taste of tea include heavy cream, artificial sweeteners, fruit syrups, and spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. While these ingredients may taste delicious on their own, they can completely change the taste of the tea and make it unrecognizable.

#9. 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.

#10. 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.)

#11. The Boston Tea party

December 16, 1773. A group of American colonists, disguised as Native Americans, boarded three British ships and dumped over 340 chests (92,000 pounds) of tea into the Boston harbor as a protest against British taxation policies. While the event played a significant role in the American Revolution, it is also considered a grand crime against tea.

From a tea lover’s perspective, the Boston Tea Party was a traumatic event. The tea in question had been stored properly, was of very high quality, and was expected to fetch a fine price — the British East India Company reported it to be worth £9,659, or $1,7 million dollars in today’s money. Dumping the tea into the harbor meant that this treasure was lost forever, and the colonists missed out on the opportunity to enjoy a delicious cup of tea.

#12. 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">Are you guilty of these 12 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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