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About A Week: Yes, I Am An Addict

Peter Hinchliffe confesses that he is addicted to - tea.

Texas is a summertime oven. I arrived there as an immigrant many years ago in the midst of an August heat wave. Daytime temperatures soared beyond 100 degrees F.

I was one sweaty and very uncomfortable Englishman.

A colleague of mine on the Wichita Falls Times newspaper took me on a day-long tour of the dusty North Texas plains. He was in charge of the paper’s amateur district correspondents.

By mid-afternoon on that inaugural Texas tour I knew what it was to be a kippered herring.

“Oh my,’’ said a lady correspondent, welcoming us into her air-conditioned home “an Englishman! You look as though you could do with a drink. I’ve got just the thing. How about some tea? Englishmen like tea don’t they?’’

I nodded. Nothing to beat a steaming-hot mug of tea to cool you down on a simmering day.

She hurried off to the kitchen, returning with two pint glasses containing an amber liquid.

“Ah well,’’ I thought “a pint of beer won’t come amiss before the tea.’’

Ice chinked as I raised the glass and tasted for the first time…


What a disappointment!

I drank it of course, trying not to grimace. There was a desperate need for an intake of liquid. But iced tea is no substitute for a well-brewed mug of the real stuff.

I was a dedicated tea drinker back then, when I was in my twenties. All these years on I still am a serious tea drinker.

Serious? That means you fill the tea pot to the brim with scalding water, allow three minutes for brewing to occur, then drink mug after mug of the delectable liquid until the pot is empty.

Of course you put the milk in first. That’s Yorkshire common sense. No need then for a spoon. The tea stirs itself as you pour it from the pot.

“What about stirring in the sugar?’’ you ask.

Ugh! Sugar in tea. An abomination. Tea has a fine upstanding taste that should not be disguised by spoonfuls of sweetness.

Upstanding is a precise descriptive word for the way I like my tea. It should be almost strong enough to support an upright tea spoon.

I only add milk to the first mug full. With each re-fill the taste becomes stronger and stronger.

All right, call me an addict, but there are others far more addicted to tea-drinking.

Left-wing politician Tony Benn confessed during a BBC radio interview to drinking 10 pints of tea a day, 365 days of the year.

He calculated that over 60 years he had drunk 219,000 pints - not enough to float the QE2 but certainly enough to float a number of lifeboats.

“What has tea drinking done for you?’’ asked the interviewer.

“I think it has kept me alive,’’ declared Mr Benn, who I believe is now in his 80s.

The Royal Society of Chemistry recently announced a formula for the ideal brew of tea.

Ingredients: Loose-leaf Assam tea, soft water, fresh chilled milk, white sugar (ugh).

Implements: kettle, ceramic tea-pot, large ceramic mug, fine mesh tea strainer, tea spoon, microwave oven.

Draw fresh soft water, place in kettle, boil.

While waiting for the water to boil place a ceramic teapot containing a quarter of a cup of water in a microwave oven on full power for one minute.

Synchronise your actions so that you have drained the water from the microwaved pot at the same time as the kettle water boils.

Place one rounded tea spoon of tea per cup into the pot.

Take the pot to the kettle as it is boiling, pour onto the leaves and stir.

Leave the brew for three minutes.

The ideal receptacle is a ceramic mug or your own favourite personal mug.

Pour milk into the mug first, followed by the tea, aiming to achieve a colour that is rich and attractive.

Oh dear! Following these detailed instructions to the letter is far too exhausting.

But this column must now come to an end It’s time for me to go and brew up.


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