Thursday, November 26, 2009

Some Like It Hot

My apologies for the delay in writing.  My computer has succumbed to a virus or viruses, and therefore I am now writing this blog while in "Safe Mode"!  Too bad there's not a tea for that.  There is a tea to soothe my nerves and lower my blood-pressure while I try not to punch my computer screen however...and tonight I've settled on Bangkok White Rose, by Shanghai T Merchant.  A perfect digestif, it is a refreshing brew after a big, bloating supper.  I've also just had the brilliant idea to turn it into iced tea, because I think it would kick-ass.

Speaking of iced - how's this for a segway? - I'd like to talk a bit about temperature.  Not the temperature at which you infuse your tea, but rather the temperature at which you drink it.

When I was 20 years old (almost 14 years ago), I spent the summer working as a waitress at a hotel & country club restaurant in the U.K.  It was a fun job, even though we were run off our feet most of the time.  The staff was really grateful for the tea break we'd get on the evening shift.  We would take turns getting tea for each other; it was pretty easy, because we'd just pour it out of the large urn that had been prepared for the restaurant.  It was always Earl Grey (there was no other kind offered), we always had milk and sugar in it, and it was BOILING.  I always marvelled at my friends who seemed to be able to down it right away.  I always had to wait at least a couple of minutes for it to cool down just a little, even though our time was limited.  Scalding my palette and throat never seemed pleasant, but many of my fellow waiters didn't seem bothered by it.

Is this a cultural thing?  It seemed that most of the British people I hung around with, including some relatives (I'm half British) liked their tea HOT.  I've also heard that in many countries where black tea is heavily consumed, it is usually done so at very high temperatures.  Unfortunately, I've just read that doing so can be bad for your health.  As in, esophageal cancer bad.  Apparently some studies were done in Iran, where it was shown that drinking such hot tea can weaken the lining of the esophagus, and therefore contribute to cancer rates, even in those who did not consume alcohol or cigarettes (the usual culprits of esophageal cancer).  So the advice was to wait, about 4 minutes, before drinking your tea.  Makes sense to me - I'd rather taste my tea than feel it.  It'll still be nice and warm at that point, so why not?  You can add the extra waiting time to your tea-making ritual by meditating or by anticipating the taste and non-scorching sensation of your favorite cup of tea.  And if you're truly worried about losing heat, knit yourself a tea cozy for your teapot.

Note: This shouldn't be an issue for drinkers of white and green tea.  It is often recommended to wait a minute or two before even pouring the water on or around the tea leaves, so that you don't "bruise" them.  Bruising can lead to a bitter cup, and I believe it can affect the amount of times you can re-infuse. If you want, you can purchase a thermometer to use in your kettle, so that you can get an idea of your perfect brewing temperature.

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