Saturday, November 24, 2007

I don't know how he likes his martinis

Today we got to have lunch with Professor The Doctor and Mr. Professor The Doctor* and their son, who is 2 1/2. After lunch, Professor The Doctor had some tea, and it reminded me of the time they were visiting and I offered them tea. Mr. Professor accepted, but he asked me how I prepare tea. "Do you add the tea to the water or do you add the water to the tea?" was his question.

Coming from a strong tea-drinking background, I was a mite offended that he thought I might not know how tea should be made. "I add the water to the tea of course," I replied.

"Oh, no no no!" he said. "You're never supposed to add the water to the tea. Everyone always does that, but it beats the crap out of the teabag! You're supposed to add the tea to the water, to gently release the essence of the tea."

Well. I didn't know where he was getting this information, but he was clearly insane. The water is added to the tea. Everyone always does that because that is how tea is made. Tea that has been brewed by dipping a teabag into a cup of hot water tastes like old dishwater. In fact, 90% of the reason I learned to like coffee is that tea takes too long to prepare correctly at coffee shops and that so many restaurants bring you a cup of hot water - water that is not even boiling - and a teabag after supper. So I was not about to take any lip from someone who was clearly a tea-drinking troglodyte. Besides, he was acting incredibly snooty for someone who was so very very wrong.

I turned on my laptop and looked up tea on the internet. (Whatever did we do before the internet? How were bar bets settled?) I pulled up site after site supporting my tea position, but he would not be dissuaded. "An English person told me that you're supposed to add the tea to the water," he kept insisting.

"No English person told you that," I said, but prepared his "tea" as he requested it.

About a year and a half later, I heard an interview with Giles Hinton, a certified Tea Master, who said the following: "...And then pour it [the water] almost still bubbling onto your tea bag or onto the leaves." He further noted that the boiling water is "... full of oxygen, full of life, full of brightness. And it has a great effect on the tea. It brings it back to life, it brings out the flavor efficiently." Naturally, I emailed the transcript of this interview to Mr. The Professor immediately, because I am always the bigger person and know when to let things go. I also may, possibly, have gloated just a little bit.

Mr. The Professor scrabbled around for a day or so trying to gather evidence supporting his tea recipe, but was finally forced to concede the argument. I mean, come on, I had the direct quote of a TEA MASTER. If he doesn't know how to make tea, who does?

Lest you think I am totally innocent in this relationship, I should tell you that Mr. The Professor are both Scrabble enthusiasts and have played against each other quite a few times. Each of these bouts were preceded by weeks of trash talk in which I proclaimed my Scrabble greatness and promised to reduce Mr. The Professor to a tiny pile of quivering, vowel-less goo.

I think I won once.

*At some point in the past I wrote and entry about these two and let them approve their nicknames, but now I can't remember what they were. After a half-hearted attempt to find that post in my archives I'm going with these, because I have no idea when I wrote it and I have no idea what it was about. Professor The Doctor was in my class in undergrad, and now she, like many of my friends, has become a Professor. You know, quite a lot of my friends grew up to become professors. You might say that's not all that strange given that I went to grad school, but I knew three of them in undergrad. I would be jealous of their exciting careers except that if I were a professor I'd have to kill myself. I think I might be jealous that they want to be professors because I'm jealous of anyone who has a cool job they like, but as far as the actual job goes, they can keep it.

Incidentally, Mr. The Professor reads this blog just about every day, so everyone say hi. Hi, Mr. The Professor!


Arwen said...

What was the guy smoking? You're so right about the tea! Sheesh.

Tracy said...

hi, Mr. the Professor!

I also don't understand the allure of being a professor, except for the fact that my husband wanted to be one for years and is one now. I figure as long as he's happy with his job, I'm happy.

Anonymous said...

first time poster... just had to chime in. I am a self-professed tea-snob and will only drink it if prepared by someone I know has a clue. Otherwise, it's coffee, even though I much prefer tea.

Anonymous said...

Although I have been proven wrong in practice, I still maintain the soundness of my position. Proper English tea is to be made at the kettle because the water must be boiling. Since this is rarely done, one is always left with "improperly" made tea and the resulting tea dust in the cup. If one were to embrace "improper" tea, then one could eliminate the tea dust and lovingly draw the flavor of the tea out without abusing the poor tea by adding the tea bag second.

Claiming that an Englishman told me how to make tea was the act of a desperate man who knew he was going to lose. After the "TEA MASTER" chimed in I spent quite a while search for anyone to support my cause, but failed. For brief while I considered purchasing we space and manufacturing my evidence.

I like my Gin martini's, dry with 3 olives.

Hello, everyone.

Banalities said...

Having just started drinking tea, and therefore not influenced by anything other than empirical observations, I've refined my tea-preparation protocol to this: 1) hot water in cup, 2) tea bag in hot water, 3) sit for two minutes (no stirring), 4) chuck teabag. Going bag-first-then-water will always, always leave tea dust and worse -- teabag particulate -- floating in your tea. The former may be acceptable, but yuck to the latter. Mr The Professor has one more supporter.

Dr. Maureen said...

Mr. The Professor: Huh? What do you mean "made at the kettle"? It sounds like you're agreeing with me. I agree, the water should be fully boiling, so I don't understand what you are talking about.

Banalites: You are perfectly welcome to enjoy your dishwater tea, and I will keep my mouth firmly closed, except for that one crack right there about "dishwater tea." Just don't get all high and mighty and snooty about how you are the only one making proper tea.