I Respond to Tea Questions

Okay, a friend, somehow, found my blog and read my last post on Tea Wars. He asked questions of me that I figure it might be better to answer here:

Question: What is “tea culture”?

Answer: It’s the way the general tea-drinking populace of your country or area consumes tea. How they drink it, when they drink it, etc. You can have different tea cultures within a common border and these habits are often passed-down from one generation to the next and usually don’t change easily.

For example, in Britain, they add cream to tea, the Irish add milk. Russians tend to drink their tea sweetened with fruit preserves, while Americans use lemon and sugar. Chinese, Japanese, etc never put milk or sweeteners in their tea. Middle Easterners add mint leaves.

While people in the USA tend to see tea being drunk from little cups made of porcelain, the British actually drink their tea from mugs, like the way a lot of Americans drink coffee. Some countries tend to use very small cups, like in Oriental countries.

While we usually see tea being made by steeping a bag in a cup or pot, Russians, Turks and Persians will use a two-pot system. In such cases, there is one small pot containing a super-strong “essence”, of which a small amount is poured into your cup, depending on how strong you like your tea and then you take hot water from the second pot to fill your cup. It’s a good way to serve tea when you have different people who like their tea served in various levels of strength. In the movieK-19 the Widowmaker, there was a scene where the Executive Officer pour a cup of tea from the small pot on top of the samovar and drinks it straight. Usually, Russians don’t do it that way, unless they have balls made of stainless steel.

I could go on all day, since tea cultures vary from one culture to the next.

Question: Which is better the better tea: green, black, oolong or herbal?

Answer: Herbal tea is not tea, it’s an “infusion”. Tea is only made from the tea plant and anyone who tells you differently is either completely ignorant of what tea really is or is just a frakking liar.

As far as the green vs black vs oolong, it really depends upon what food you’re serving. I’ll drink green tea when I’m eating vegetarian food or fish, oolong when I’m eating at an Oriental restaurant and black tea the rest of the time. Since I seldom go vegetarian, don’t eat that much fish and tend to dislike Oriental food, I usually drink black tea all the time. Green tea has more in the way of anti-oxidants, but I doubt if most tea-drinkers consider that point, unless they are cancer patients or something.

Question: Why don’t you like Lipton?

Answer: As I said, I’ll drink Lipton tea as iced tea, but not hot. Lipton made their blend so that it could be served iced or hot, unlike most teas that get cloudy and stale when cold. This is due to the types of tea that are added to the particular blend. Some teas do well when cold, others don’t. You can’t have a tea blend that tries to be “all things to all men” without trading-off flavor and I think Lipton did that.

Question: What is it with tea time?

Answer: Okay, tea time is a purely British invention that got started long ago to serve as a snack time between lunch (served at 12pm) and dinner (served at about 8pm). Still yet, most tea-drinking cultures around the world don’t have a particular time that they limit to having a cup of tea. Most of these people will drink it at any time of the day or night.

Question: Is there competition between coffee and tea?

Answer: Not really. When Starbucks expanded into Britain, some Brits tried coffee for the first time and there was a bit of a fad that occurred because of it. Tea consumption declined as coffee consumption rose. Naturally, some of the British tea merchants panicked over the loss of income and some sectors felt that Britain was losing an essentiial part of their culture. But, tea is still the second-most consumed beverage in the world, right behind water.

Question: Isn’t drinking tea unAmerican?

Answer: That’s a stupid question, Tony. Most immigrants to the USA came from coffee-drinking countries, so naturally they brought those habits with them and coffee became a staple in the United States. If my grandmother’s family hadn’t been from East Frisia, they would have been coffee-drinkers in the USA as they would have been in Germany.

Question: what is the American tea culture?

Answer: American tea culture has been influenced by various cultures.

In the American South, sweet tea is a regular fixture at mealtimes, being drunk at all times of the day, especially in summer time. Iced tea is a purely American invention and is ot found in any other country. In the South, iced tea is served with sugar, but not lemon. People outside the South will add lemon, though.

As far as hot tea, most Americans add honey or sugar and/or lemon to their tea. The adition of lemon to hot tea came from Russian Jews who emigrated to the United States during the 1800s, though the British do it also, as noted in the scene from the movie Titanic where you can see a lemon slice floating at the top of the captain’s cup of tea when he’s on the bridge shortly before they hit the iceberg. Most Americans don’t add cream or milk to their tea and I’ve gotten some strange looks from people when they see me do it.

Question: Cream first or tea first?

Answer: Oh, how witty you are! You found something that has caused arguments to start in English tearooms and now you’re asking me. For those who don’t know, I’ll give you the rundown of the Cream First vs Tea First issue:

You start with your teapot, filed with tea. You have the cream, sugar and your empty cup in front of you.

Do you add the cream and sugar to the cup and then add the tea or do you pour the tea first and then add cream and sugar?

Now, most Americans wouldn’t be able to see the reason behind this longstanding debate between two irreconcilable parties. Most Americans ad cream and sugar to their coffee after it has been poured, so they might figure it would be the same for tea. Well, the "Cream Firsters" would go apoplectic if you even mentioned doing it that way with their tea.

Without going into too much detail, both sides have what they feel are good arguments for going either cream- or tea-first. Some of the arguments from both sides seem a bit silly, even to me. But, however you want to drink you tea is okay by me.

My personal preference is to add the cream and sugar to the cup and then pour in the tea. The reason I do that is because I think it helps the cream and sugar blend into the tea better than if Ihad added the tea first, then cream & sugar. I give the tea a couple of stirs afterwards to mix-in the last bits of sugar and that’s it.

And I don’t want any arguments from you Tea Firsters on this. Just drink your cups of tea with the improperly mixed cream and sugar, and leave me to enjoy tea the G-d intended it to be drunk.

So, there!



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3 Responses to “I Respond to Tea Questions”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I’ve read that adding cream to green tea kills all the benefits of antioxidants, is this true?

  2. spyderblog Says:

    First, I’d wonder why anyone would add cream to green tea.

    But, as far as I know, adding cream to any tea has no negative effects as far as the antioxidants.

    I typically don’t drink green tea, so I haven’t really explored it so much.

  3. Anonymous Says:


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