May 17th, 2005

tea break

Nice Cup of Tea (by George Orwell)

A Nice Cup of Tea by George Orwell
Evening Standard, 12 January 1946 (Click here for original source)

IF YOU look up ‘tea’ in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.

This is curious, not only because tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than 11 outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own 11 rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays—it is economical, and one can drink it without milk—but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.

Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities—that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.

Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.

Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes—a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.

Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.

Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.

Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.

Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup—that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold—before one has well started on it.

Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.

Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.

Lastly, tea—unless one is drinking it in the Russian style—should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

These are not the only controversial points to arise in connection with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become.

There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tealeaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet.

It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one’s ration the 20 good, strong cups that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.

Insomniac Post

Why can't I sleep? I hate it, hate it :-(
I go to bed tired and then as if by magic by brain whirrs into action, worrying about everything! How to finish my dissertation / air fares to London / finding a job / whether I'm going to achieve everything I need to tomorrow...blah, blah ad infinitum.

And what's even more annoying, is that darling hubbie falls asleep almost instantly, every night, and I lie awake fretting. So, any good insomnia cures out there? Answers to this journaller please.

For now I'll resort to Marvin's lullaby...(the paranoid android, courtesy of the genius Douglas Adams)
Poem found courtesy of this website -->

Now the world has gone to bed,
Darkness won't engulf my head,
I can see by infrared,
How I hate the night.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
Try to count electric sheep,
Sweet dream wishes you can keep,
How I hate the night.

Summer sky

Zurich is beautiful today: the sun is shining and it smells of Summer. Was still awake at 3.30 last night, then dropped off, then hubbie woke up at 4.30 with low sugars (so of course I woke up) still awake at 5.30, then fell asleep and woke this morning at 11. AAARGH! I hate it when that happens.

I'm going for a run and then when I get back I am going to finish correcting my methodology chapter :-)

The first 10 of my 100 favourite things

1. Reading a good book, curled up on sofa, with a nice cup of tea
2. Going for a walk early in the morning, when the day’s still young and fresh
3. The bright yellowness of daffodils
4. Listening, really listening to a favourite CD
5. Large glass of mellow red wine
6. Painting my nails (or someone else’s)
7. The smell of lily-in-the-valley
8. Purple ink for my fountain pen
9. Lighting a candle
10. The purple haze of bluebells in the wood (& knowing that my Birthday’s coming!)

Fantastic session @ PWG

Just been to a fantastic session on “Change” with the PWG and feel totally inspired! Had dinner with a lovely table of women (thanks Uwe, Barbara, Lindsey, Brigitte) and then a speech / session with Laura. More details here tomorrow, but suffice to say I feel inspired and enthused and positive about the future! I was unsure about going to this event, but I’m so glad I took the ‘risk’ and reached out, as I gained so much from the evening!
PS None of us look like the image, but girl power, eh? !</div>

May 17th: Pretty good day!

  • Water = 5
  • Tea = 3
  • Food: Cereal, Salad, olives & 2 eggs, chicken, pasta & veg
  • Drinks: 2 glasses wine, 1 large g&t
  • Networking and fun @ PWG :-)
  • Achieved my run :-)
  • Did some work on my methodology chapter :-)

  • So I'm still awake tonight awake tonight at nearly 2am, because I suddenly realised I hadn't put the cardboard out for recycling tomorrow. They only collect once a month, and it's a real pain if you miss it! Putting out your rubbish here is a bit of a minefield!
    1. You get taxed on bin bags - they cost approx £10 for 20, which I think you'll agree is pretty steep!
    2. Paper gets collected x2 a month, cardboard packing x1 a month
    3. All glass has to go to the bottle bank
    4. Batteries to electrical shops or the Post Office
    5. Plastic bottles and containers in the PET rubbish bin
    6. Clothes in the clothes bin, or to an approved charity shop

    If you don't get it right, the rubbish police come and fine you :-(
    So you can see now why my subconcious mind woke me from sleep to put the cardboard out! Once I was outside in the cold, it was an easy cognititive jump to convince myself to turn on the computer to add this daily entry :-)
    Schlaf gut! Sleep Well!