Category Archives: Tea CM

From “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” by Douglas Adams

“No,” Arthur said, “look, it’s very, very simple…. All I want… is a cup of tea. You are going to make one for me. Now keep quiet and listen.”

And he sat. He told the Nutro-Matic about India, he told it about China, he told it about Ceylon. He told it about broad leaves drying in the sun. He told it about silver teapots. He told it about summer afternoons on the lawn. He told it about putting the milk in before the tea so it wouldn’t get scalded. He even told it (briefly) about the East India Trading Company.

“So that’s it, is it?” said the Nutro-Matic when he had finished.

“Yes,” said Arthur. “That is what I want.”

“You want the taste of dried leaves boiled in water?”

“Er, yes. With milk.”

“Squirted out of a cow?”

“Well in a manner of speaking, I suppose…”

“I’m going to need some help with this one.”


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Be polite, now.

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Instead of a real post, have a collection of .gifs involving cool people drinking tea.

I am the worst at educational blogging, wheeeeeeeee.

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How to make an improper cup of tea.

(Courtesy of Coelasquid on Tumblr.)

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Mmmm, chai.

Chai tea is one of my all-time favorite things, despite the name being redundant — “chai” simply means tea. What I’m talking about is masala chai, a traditional kind of spiced tea from India. It’s strong, fairly sweet, and packed with spices — good and good for you!

As seems to be the theme with pretty much every type of tea we’ve discussed, masala chai comes in an infinite number of varieties based on region and personal taste. Heck, my own recipe changes every time I make it. Try it yourself!

EL’s Guide to Slapdash Chai

You will need:

Water, milk (half and half or a dairy substitute drink work too), three bags of black tea (quality is irrelevant), a sweetener of some sort (I use honey, but sugar or even maple syrup work really well too), and a host of spices including any or all of the following: cinnamon, ginger, clove, black pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, and cardamom.

1. Fill the pot halfway with milk and most of the rest of the way with water. Chuck in your tea bags and let things start to heat up.

2. Once the mixture is hot, start adding spices. Cinnamon, ginger, clove and pepper are the most vital parts of what you’d recognize as the masala chai flavor, but all the others I listed are commonly used as well and make the drink infinitely more delicious. There are no set proportions to the amount of spicing you should use. Mix in smaller amounts first and keep sampling until everything is as strong and balanced as you like. Experiment away!

3. Be careful not to let the mixture boil over. If the milk scalds it’ll get a nasty film on top.

4. Once things have been heated and steeped for a sufficient amount of time (usually when the mixture’s juuuuust started to boil), take it off the heat. Pour it through a strainer to remove the stray tea bags and spice sludge that’s collected at the bottom of the pot.

5. Serve, and allow people to sweeten the drink as they’d like. If you don’t drink it all, don’t throw it away — it’s excellent chilled over ice too.

If you can’t be bothered to make this mix yourself, try Tazo’s tea packets (you’ll recognize the flavor as the blend used by Starbucks) or Oregon Chai boxed tea concentrate. The latter sounds sketchy but is surprisingly delicious.

Tea of the week: as described above. I got to teach Patrick how to make it, which amuses me to no end. It’s not every day you get to show somebody with a professional culinary background how to prepare a recipe!

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The or cha.

I was going to attempt to make an awful joke about not wanting to write this blog post for “all the tea in China,” but that would be far too melodramatic and possibly culturally insensitive.

Tea (or at least the practice of consuming it) originated somewhere in China and spread throughout Asia via trade routes. Complex tea traditions have developed all across Asia through the ages, from the use of tea bricks as currency in China to its popularity among both samurai and Buddhist monks in feudal Japan to its use as a unique staple food in parts of Tibet and Burma. I really should have broken China and Japan into two different sections in our curriculum because while they’re related geographically, their cultures are their own and should be respected appropriately. Here’s a cool article talking about the differences between types of tea ceremonies in Japan and China.

Tea of the week: Jasmine green loose-leaf stuff from the health food store. Man, this was good. It smelled like a flowery explosion and was really refreshing after the plain black tea with milk I’ve been favoring lately. I still wish I could find a proper infuser so we wouldn’t have all the leaves floating around and getting caught in people’s teeth. A fair number of people don’t care for floral teas because they’re convinced they’ll taste like perfume, but I’d encourage everybody to give them a try — the flavors themselves are often very mild in comparison to the scents, and you might be in for a treat.

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Short commercial break

Several things occurred to me as I was mulling over colloquium plans for this week. Our original plan was to go to Deets as a group and order tea there. However, I’d completely forgotten about Valentines Day.

Deets was very likely to be ridiculously crowded by people getting sugary foods with their significant others or drowning their sorrows regarding their lack of significant others in chocolatey baked goods. Plus, some of our group members had plans tonight with their own significant others, friends, or simply an annual date with a bad romantic comedy or two. In light of this, going to CM might not seem like the most entertaining way to spend the evening.

Our alternate plan was this: we would not meet for CM at the usual time this week. Instead, we got an assignment: go to Deets at some point before next Tuesday, order some sort of tea, and write a short review on your blog. We’d talk about it a bit next week.

Tea of the week: Deet’s Green Earl Grey. I like their regular Earl Grey (a traditional black tea blend made with bergamot oil, which is a type of lemony citrus fruit) but I hadn’t tried the green variety. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work for me. Certain kinds of green tea, if oversteeped, can taste remarkably like cigarettes, and because I kept my bag in the water for too long, I got some of that, which didn’t complement the citrus flavor well at all. One thing I do like, though: Deets actually uses loose tea in filter-paper bags instead of pre-packaged bags. The one downside is the part where the bags soak up boiling water and and drips it onto your hand. Alas. I’d give it a try again, but I’d much prefer to get the dry tea leaves and make it myself so I can avoid a drink that seems like it’s approaching thermonuclear fusion on the temperature scale.

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How to make a proper cup of tea.

Probably the most important part of learning about tea is learning how to make a proper cup of tea.

Technically, making tea just involves soaking leaves in hot water, but there’s an amusing amount of controversy over various aspects of the process. Should the water be boiling or just below boiling? How much tea should you add and how long should you steep it? Should you add milk before or after you add tea to your cup? (This last point is really the only one I’m obnoxious about: milk goes in first, darn it. That way it doesn’t scald and you get an auto-stir.)

Here’s a site that’s got a helpful write-up on the subject:

Tea of the week: Harney and Sons’ Pomegranate Oolong. This was really, really good! I haven’t had a lot of oolong, but this was nice and actually tasted like pomegranate — a lot of fruit-flavored teas can be artificially sweetened and taste nothing like what they’re trying to imitate. Harney and Sons is probably my favorite “fancy” tea brand — it’s on the expensive side, but their Earl Grey and lapsang souchong are to die for. I’d definitely go for more of this.

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Week Two of Tea CM, and things are off to a pretty educational start. I’m liking this format so far: a short informational presentation at the beginning, followed by actual tea prep and a nice amount of hanging out and discussing interesting things. The topic of blogging was raised again — I’m sensing a pattern here.

Here’s a brief review of several basic types of tea:

And did you know that all of this comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis? Yes, it is related to those lovely flowering camellia shrubs people keep in their front yards. Plantlife is an extraordinary thing.

Tea of the Week: Some sort of herbal forest fruit thing whose exact name and brand I neglected to write down. One of those alarmingly red teas made with hibiscus, which is not a fruit of the forest, unless we’re talking tropical rainforest. A bit too potpourri-explosion-flavored for my liking, but then again I’ve never been keen on fruity herbal teas. (Except, of course, for peach iced tea. That stuff is amazing.) No offense meant in your selection of tea, gents, I’m just an annoyingly opinionated soul when it comes to my sources of caffeination. Please feel free to ignore me in this case. *grins*

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Mmm, tea.

Well, looks like it’s time to get blogging again.

This semester I’m leading the Tea Colloquium. As a second-semester sophomore, I’ve only been in two colloquiums before, and both were highly non-traditional (if anything about colloquiums can be called traditional, that is) — the Apocalypse Planning Contingency and the Doctor Who CM. I will be the first to admit that I am not exactly sure what I’m doing. I mean, I’ve drafted a syllabus and know enough about tea to successfully fly by the seat of my pants for a few weeks even without one, but this whole “leading a group” thing is new for me. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve got twelve good-natured people in the course who seem to be more than willing to put up with my caffeinated ramblings, so that, at least, is reassuring.

Had an excellent talk with some of my group members about how we might be able to make this blogging thing more exciting. I have the feeling that this may be a recurring theme in the coming weeks.

Tea of the week: London Cuppa English Breakfast. Being a proper British brand of tea (or so I thought), I was expecting it to be stronger, but it’s comparatively mild after quite a lot of steeping. Goes nicely with a bit of milk, though I wish I had something other than skim.


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