Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tea and Feist

One of the great things about being home again, is that I can have a decent cup of tea. Somehow despite all efforts, hopes, and good intentions, it's just never the same in North America. The best cup of tea I've ever had was made for me by Brian O'Shaughnessy of Bark Studio. It's rare for Brian to condescend to make a cup of tea for a mere visiting musician, so to show my gratitude I asked him to share his techniques with the world, and they are as follows

1. rinse the dry cup with a little boiled water, then discard the water. This warms the cup, which is important although i don't know why.
2. add teabag (PG Tips, or equivalent British brand, NOT Lipton) and fill mug up with water, which has now slightly cooled
3. now add just a touch of milk. Apparently this prevents oils in the tea leaves separating and floating unappetisingly on the surface of the cup
4. leave for between 3.5 and 5 minutes
5. discard teabag, squeezing it into the cup
6. add milk and sugar (if you take sugar), and stir very well.

Of course many people would ask why he isn't using a teapot or loose leaves or anything posh like that, but he would probably reply simply by staring over the rim of his glasses at you, and believe me you would fall silent. And I do have to say it was the best cup of tea I ever had.

Other than the shock of quality tea, I have been getting over my jetlag. The week after the tour some friends and I were hanging out with Feist, as she taped Late Night With Conan O'Brien and then played at Town Hall in Manhattan. The two things that struck me were how very pleasant, friendly and down to earth everyone involved was, and how organised they were too. In contrast to the gin-soaked carnival of the Clientele backstage, all of Feist's guests were calm, orderly, sober and clean. There was an 'espresso girl' too, who's job it was to walk around asking if anyone needed any more espresso. There's a lesson there I guess, maybe someone can tell me what it is.


Anonymous said...

The pursose is to wash the cup as well as warming up the cups. It will some how keep the tea warm in the cup and also keep the fragrance in the cup longer.

Lisa @

hopeful geranium said...

Very good tips, I like the bit about the milk. Dilmah, who make very fine tea, make extra and 15g jumbo tea bags (the size of a paperback), the latter meant for 7-8 cups of tea (industrial teamaking), but I find that one in a teapot for 2 (including copious refills) makes SUPERB tea.
Re: the timing, some industrious scientists tested the rate that antioxidants diffuse from teabags. 1 minute gives you c.30%, 3 minutes c 60%, you need a full 5 minutes to get 100% of those tea antioxidants, more than that is pushing it as temperature plunges and tannins rise.
(Also, tea contains, as well as caffiene, a related chemical called theanine, and theanine can be used as a caffiene antagonist in cases of no-doz-over-doz. This explains why, no matter how much tea you drink, you don't get coffee jitters. Theanine doesn't antagonise all the effects of caffiene in tea, which is after all still stimulating, especially after a jumbo bag or two, so it's probably what they call an agonist-antagonist)
So, your chum knows what he's talking about. More tea, vicar?

Allison said...

Personally, I think the best tea in the world is Marks & Spencers extra strong blend of Kenyan and Assam teas. My editor is so persnickety about his tea that he carries the stuff with him to business meetings and on business trips. It's rather amusing to see someone offer him a cup of tea and have him just ask for hot water and pull out the little bags from their special container in his briefcase. But in regards to making a good cup of tea, I think in general you just need to make sure that you infuse the water with enough of the flavor. I'm not a big fan of letting the tea soak, like your friend. Sometimes it can make the tea too bitter because of the tannins. I prefer to use almost boiled water and then to sort of beat the tea bag with a spoon. Then I add a teaspoon of semi skimmed milk (1% is my preference, but I'm sure no one is interested in that). Also, is it me or does, the addition of 'vicar' to the most innocent phrase, immediately transform it into an innuendo?

Anonymous said...

I'm going to start drinking tea more often after reading this. Tea could be the new coffee (even though, as we all know tea is in fact the old coffee).

These blogs are a fascinating and educational place to hang out Alasdair, keep 'em up. I might even register and cease to be a mere anonymity...