We should be grateful for tea bags. They are like little powder-filled litmus tests for the depth to which the rot of flat, insipid, lifeless cuppas have infested almost every aspect of our tea-drinking lives; leaching onto tea-breaks, infiltrating cafés, and eradicating true tea from all its natural habitats. Trading on convenience and speed, they have lured as into thinking that real tea is no longer worth making the time for. Despite the plethora of coffee shops with their fancy machines and their highly trained baristas, dumping a bag into a cup is almost universally considered acceptable in the modern café. But proper tea, whatever the Marxists tell you, is made in a pot, and it is made with leaves.
Pouring the water into a stone cold mug is never going get good results, but even if you warm a tea pot, if you then pour the scalding water onto those little mesh sacks full of (what I can only describe as) brown dust you are just wasting your time. Quality leaves, spooned in in the exact quantity to give you a brew that’s just how you like it is something those pouches of power can only dream of.
However, I will admit there is one thorn on this rapturous rose, one lump in this porridge of perfection, one fly in this out-of-this world ointment. As with the allure of nuclear power, there’s the waste it produces…
Used tea leaves are a menace (mostly – I did at one point dye them and use them to build 7mm scale tree leaves, but there are only so many 7mm scale trees one needs). I didn’t mind having to have a tea-strainer to hand whenever I pour a mug of the stuff (though I always seemed to loose the things). But they clog up the sink, and block the drain. I have searched – in vain – for suitable sink tidies that will capture them before they go and create a sewage nightmare. In my desperation I had dedicated a sieve to sit by the sink and serve this rôle – a somewhat inelelegant solution.
But that was in the past. Let me introduce my favourite teapot.
Made by London Pottery, this teapot is not only a fabulous red, and large enough to make three cups (instead of the advertised two) but contains an inner tea strainer. You place the tea leaves into this, and then pour the water on top. The tea strainer suspends the leaves in the hot water, giving them room to infuse, but when you come to pour: pre-filtered tea! And once the pot is empty, you simply remove the inner strainer by releasing the spring clip, and tap the contents into the food recycling (I recommend draining any undrunk tea residue and leaving the leaves in until you next make a pot – this way they drip dry a bit, making disposal cleaner).
I have to admit this isn’t the first teapot of this type I’ve dabbled with, I previously bought a model made by Bodum, who make the very well-engineered cafetières. This not only included an inner “tea basket” (though, strange choice, made of plastic) but also a plunger, like on their cafetières, which would trap the tea-leaves and seal them in the base of the plastic basket, effectively ending the infusion process once the tea reached the desired strength. Seduced by the idea of this, I bought the thing, but the reality is that once you jam those leaves into the bottom of the central cylinder they are very unwilling to be dislodged. Also, because it has no holes in it, the chamber traps the water in with them, so they don’t dry out at all before you have to fling them in the waste. And the holes in the plastic are the wrong size – or there are too few of them, I don’t know which – so that filling the teapot becomes a very slow business. Avoid.
I bought my splendid London Pottery teapot from the excellent Kitchens of Cardiff. I had to get it ordered, since they usually only stock the two-cup size in white. They also stock the six-cup size and London Pottery make a four-cup model too. Readers in Lewes will be pleased to know they are also available at the excellent Louis Potts. I anticipate buying several more of these so as to be equipped for all occassions.
Now perhaps if London Pottery could turn their attention to nuclear waste, we’d have cheap energy without any drawbacks too.