With fog and mist that blurs your way
There is, but one, recourse to take
To spur you mind and ease your aches
It comes in boiling, liquid form
Its sweet release will bring you warmth
The choice is yours on how it comes
One or two spoons, milk or none?
Its vessel strong, with handle firm
Its colour rich in shades of brown
Its touch will warm your frozen palm,
A sip will lift your sullen frown
That’s right, you’ve guessed, it must be true
It is non-other than A BREW......
There are few words that can be uttered prior to nine o' clock in the morning and be as gladly received as "fancy a brew?"
Tea drinking in Britain is not just a matter of quaffing a hot beverage. It's much more than that. There are numerous rituals and sociological nuances that must be adhered to in order for the tea gods to be appeased.
"But who shall rise to the challenge"?
There are several ideological models that can be applied to the process of 'putting a brew on'. The model selected will generally be determined by the local environment and the status of the people involved.
1) The Socialist model of tea-making:
This model usually exists in more formal arenas such as offices and communal staff-rooms. Tea-making duties are defined by the use of a rota system and supplies are purchased by means of a shared monetary fund. All potential recipients of a brew are placed on a list. In turn, each member of the list will prepare a cuppa for every other member. The process is repeated 'ad infinitum' thus ensuring that everyone has an equal turn in the tea-making stakes. There is usually no particular order to the list, but upon completion of a round - the contributing member will put a tick against his/her name.
An even spread of ticks on the list ensures that everybody has contributed equally to the tea-making rota.....or does it?
Although this sounds like a fair and equitable model for tea-making duties, there are some flaws in this system. For one, as the size of the round depends on how many people are present at the time of the making, a canny member of the list might wait until a quieter moment before they offer their services and earn their mark on the rota. These people are known as 'crafty fuckers'.
Also as there is a requirement for the efficient administration of this process, both in terms of collecting supplies and managing the monetary fund, there is often one or more person(s) who holds much more power and control than is permissible in a truly equal society.
2) The fascist model
This model is more prominent in environments where a clear hierarchy of status has been formed. The Alpha-person, or 'the boss', will never be required to participate in the tea-making, but is able to fully benefit from it.
The mid-tier individual will sometimes complete a round for his/her seniors and contemporaries, but will rarely 'brew up' for those seen as beneath them in the social stratosphere.
In this system, what will commonly happen is that persons of lower social significance (such as work placement students and idiots) will be delegated total responsibility for all tea-making activity:
This tea making labour force will be held completely accountable and usually chastised heavily should there be a lack of adequate brewing. Typical mockery of such a person is likely to take the following form:
"Get a move on Kevin; we're dying of thirst over here!"
A potential problem inherent in this system is the threat of social uprising. The ill-treated tea-making labour force may rebel and begin to introduce bodily fluids to the mugs of their brutal tea guzzling overlords.
3) The Capitalist Model
The capitalist model of tea-making is perhaps the most prevalent in British society. Tea making is undertaken by the individual, for the individual. Those with the necessary means will generally benefit from a superior cuppa, will drink from a superior mug and will brew up using superior ingredients and equipment:
Those with no means will either go without completely or be consigned to a life of drinking piss-weak tea made with UHT or powdered milk.
These poor people will eye the superior brew with ever increasing envy and may one day rise up and shoplift supplies from Waitrose.
4) The non-conformist model.
This system usually applies to informal groups where the socialist model is too rigid, the fascist model is not applicable (due to supposed equality of status) and the capitalist model would rupture the solidarity of the group.
In the non-conformist model, tea making duties generally arise from an individual's failure to win a pre-determined competitive event:
i.e. Dave was unable to balance a pen on the bridge of his nose for 20 seconds. "Aaah, you're shit! Get the brews on"
Alternatively, subtle mind games are played amongst group members, with any faux-pas punishable by a requirement to put the brews on:
TONY: "Dave, what's that thing called that you put a golf ball on?
DAVE: "Err? A tee?"
TONY: "Yes thanks mate; I'll have two sugars in mine!"
Ultimately, the non-conformist model can only work in well established and informal groups. It is not a viable solution in a official and formal environment at all, as seen here:
TONY:" Dave, what's that thing called that you put a golf ball on?
SUPREME CHANCELLOR DAVE: "Err? A tee?"
TONY: "Yes thanks mate; I'll have two sugars in mine!"
SUPREME CHANCELLOR DAVE: "No you won't. In fact, you're fired with immediate effect. And stop calling me Dave"
The all important form
The first thing to consider in the preparation of a good cuppa is the tea-bag itself. Technically, a proper brew comes from a variety of 'blended tea' known as 'English Breakfast tea'. This is a tea-bag that contains several different varieties of black tea-leaf.
Common commercial makes of English Breakfast tea bag that would be acceptable for use in a 'brew' include:
- PG Tips
- Yorkshire Tea
More recently though, circular bags came to prominence. Still flat, but somehow able to infuse boiling water with the power of the brew in a shorter time.
The most recent variation is the truly inspiring PG Tips pyramid bag. This three dimensional wonder possesses the greatest powers of infusion currently available from a tea bag and makes for one hell of a flavoursome brew.
I would now like to propose and patent my own invention. The dodeca-t-bag (c) 2011 :
Utilising the unique properties of a twelve sided, pentagon faceted dodecahedron, this creation would ensure the finest brew known to man and would mark the pinnacle of the modern tea-bag. I may be getting carried away, but its realisation would only be equalled by the discovery of an infinitely renewable supply of energy for mankind. Remember, you heard it here first - dodeca-t-bag (c) 2011.
Following the selection of an adequate bag, there are three questions that must be posed before continuing with the preparation of any brew:
1) How many sugars?
3) How strong do you have it?
Once this information has been gathered, the brew making may commence.
How do you take it?
Any good brew will fall into one of four categories once prepared:
All colour charts courtesy of mycuppatea
The 'Classic British' is your most common kind of brew. Medium level infusion governed by a short brewing span. A modest amount of milk. Sugar optional.
The 'Milky Tea' is similar to the 'Classic British. Again, mid-level infusion, short brewing time, but in this case, a good amount of milk to give it a paler complexion and a slightly creamier consistency. Once again, sugar is optional.
'Just tea' or 'naked tea', is nothing more than a tea bag and water. Some may opt for sugar to sweeten the taste, but a true 'naked tea' would be bereft of all additional elements beyond the tea and the water. This type of tea brewing is the most common, globally speaking.
The 'builders brew' or 'builders tea' is not just a brew - it is arguably THE BREW. It takes all the elements required to make a nice cup of tea, and "turns them up to 11":
Tea Bag - Maximum infusion. Often left to stew until the bag becomes so dense it collapses in on itself and causes a supernova.
Milk - Present, but requiring an electron-microscope to be detected.
Sugar - Enough to bankrupt Willy Wonka.
It is a popular theory that unlike the other types of brew, 'builders brews' are not made in the traditional way, but are actually mined directly from the Earth and extracted in full form, ready for consumption. Well, either that or sourced from 'Sheila's Greasy Spoon'.
The final great debate of brew making is one, I suspect, that will never be conclusively won:
How do you make a brew?
Opinions are varied here, but I believe that the following is the best method:
- Tea bag and sugar added to cup
- Boiling water added
- Stewing and stirring commences
- Milk added
- Final stirring
There are many variations of recipe, but this, I believe, is the correct order for ensuring that all flavour is distributed evenly through the cup. As the sugar is put in with the tea bag, it has the same opportunity to infuse as the tea itself. Also, as milk is heavier than water, putting this in last is advisable to ensure that it gets maximum spread throughout the cup/mug.
Thus concludes my ode to the morning saviour. May you all benefit from the life-giving power of the brew in the days, weeks, months and years to come.