Today’s blog is brought to you by a mug of Darjeeling tea – yes, Darjeeling, and not that horrid Lapsang Souchong stuff served yesterday in China to Theresa and Philip May.
“We drink that,” Philip said gallantly, while his wife was boring the ear off President Xi Jinping about something or other.
My tea was made in the leaky old stainless-steel teapot given to me by my long-dead grandmother when I set off for university back in the deeply dim and distant.
Here’s how to make tea properly: warm the pot, add a generous spoonful of loose tea, pour on water that has boiled and cooled a little, then set the timer to four minutes. Oh, and do wipe up the spillage from the incontinent teapot.
I remain old-fashioned about tea: leaf tea for preference, sometimes Twinings English Breakfast, sometimes Darjeeling. That pot must be warmed, and a proper pause allowed before pouring through the strainer.
A little bit of ceremony and worth the trouble involved, although leaf Darjeeling isn’t easy to find, unless you wish to exchange an arm and possibly a leg too for a tin from one of those specialist shops.
This topic percolated into my brain thanks to a report in last Sunday’s Observer, headlined: “An eco-friendly cuppa? Now teabags are set to go plastic-free.”
I know what you’re thinking: plastic teabags, is this the beginning of the end? That was my reaction too, although I’d had a heads-up from my wife. She works in a health food shop, and people who hang around in those places are clued up about such matters.
Thanks to this, news had reached me on the sofa one night that teabags contain plastic: it’s used to seal them, in case you were wondering whether to swallow your breakfast cuppa. Only a trace of plastic, but as the woman from the Co-op said in the report: “Even though it’s a relatively small amount, when you consider the six billion cups of tea that are brewed up every year in the UK, we are looking at around 150 tonnes of polypropylene.”
We’re all worried about plastic nowadays – quite properly, too: the oceans are littered with indestructible debris – and eco-warrior types are saying that we should be drinking loose tea instead of using teabags. It’s always a comfort when you can feel smugly up-to-the-minute, simply by doing what you’ve always done.
Who knew that drinking tea the old-fashioned way was so ecologically sound? Green tea, if you wish. Some teabags are ahead of the curving spout. Those Japanese-style pyramids are made from 100% compostable corn starch, according to the Observer.
We do drink teabag tea in this house sometimes, and teabags are taken to work for easy drinking, along with a filter cone, filter bags and a small pot of ground beans (for non-easy coffee drinking).
The Co-op is making its own-brand Fairtrade 99 teabags free of that propylene seal, and good on them. The more ideas like that, the better, I’d say. Not so the man from the UK Tea and Infusions Association, who glowered over his half-empty mug: “The raw material cost and upgrades to machinery would increase the cost of a bag by about eight times.”
You can always rely on someone to spoil the teabag party.