Take this tea tale with a pinch of salt

Take this tea tale with a pinch of salt

Last month a US scientist caused bit of a stir in Britain when she suggested adding a pinch of salt was the secret to a perfect cup of tea. Not surprisingly this bold assertion from someone across the pond did not go down too well with the traditional tea-drinking English public. In some cases the reaction almost reached "boiling point".

Tea is so ingrained in British culture it is estimated the average Brit drinks four cups a day. More importantly, without tea there would never have been a "tea break" -- such an essential part of a British worker's life.

The US Embassy in London quickly intervened to avoid a diplomatic incident with a tongue-in-cheek press release stating "We want to assure the good people of the UK that the unthinkable notion of adding salt to Britain's national drink is not official United States policy".

The announcement concluded wryly "the US Embassy will continue to make tea in the proper way -- by microwaving it" an observation designed to give palpitations to all patriotic kettle owners.

Author George Orwell was partial to a cuppa and in 1946 he even wrote a passionate article for the Evening Standard entitled "A Nice Cup of Tea" and referred to the drink as "one of the mainstays of civilisation in this country".

After all this tea talk it feels like time for a cuppa with just a pinch of… sugar.

Teabag teaser

It is only natural citizens of the United States and Britain have different customs when it comes to drinking tea. US President Ronald Reagan recalled in his diaries an awkward tea bag moment which occurred when Prince Charles visited the White House in 1981.

The prince was served the American way with the tea bag still in the cup. The president noticed that although Prince Charles kept picking up the cup he never actually drank any tea. Reagan eventually realised that the prince was not used to a tea bag floating around in his royal cuppa. Prince Charles later admitted to a White House aide, "I didn't know what to do with the little bag".

Tea for two

Queen Elizabeth certainly knew how to handle a teapot and one of her last social activities was enjoying afternoon tea at the palace with a certain Paddington Bear. In fact it was one of the most uplifting moments of 2022 although the bear did briefly let himself down by drinking from the spout of the teapot.

The tea party concluded with Queen Elizabeth and the bear tapping their tea cups and saucers with silver spoons to the rhythm of We Will Rock You. That was the icing on the royal cake. What a good sport she was at the age of 96.

Bags of joy

I was brought up in a tea-drinking environment. We had the same tea cosy for about 20 years and it became so familiar it was almost regarded as a household pet. Comedian Billy Connolly once observed: "Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cosy, doesn't try it on". I admit to succumbing on occasions and I suspect that there might even be a few readers who have been closet tea cosy wearers in their younger days.

One of my childhood tasks was the demanding role of warming the teapot before adding two or three spoons of tea leaves. This was in the days before tea bags, which became popular in the late 1950s and were to make life a lot easier.

My mother didn't approve of tea bags, feeling they were rather vulgar, but they definitely weren't as messy as tea leaves and she eventually succumbed. But for years she would apologise to visitors for using tea bags, as if she was committing some kind of misdemeanour.

Bottoms up

Following on from last week's unusual place names, here are a few more.

As a teenager I had a newspaper round in an area known as Bugs Bottom and there were plenty of unidentifiable flying creatures buzzing around in the early morning. But there are many more exciting Bottoms. Yorkshire is really the place to go with Slack Bottom along with the neighbouring villages of Slap Bottom and Margaret's Bottom. Then there is the wonderful Dorset village of Scratchy Bottom.

There are so many places in England featuring the word Bottom that mapping agency Ordnance Survey recently felt compelled to produce a map featuring all the English Bottoms. Among the more entertaining are Galloping Bottom in Somerset, Flash Bottom in Staffordshire and the more tasteful Strawberry Bottom in Dorset. Adding a touch of class is Velvet Bottom in Somerset.

T or C

A reader informs me that on visits to New Mexico he invariably enjoys a meal at the small town of Truth or Consequences, which locals refer to as "T or C".

Traditionally the place was known as Hot Springs but in 1950 popular radio host Ralph Edwards announced he would present his show at the first town in the US that was prepared to change its name to Truth or Consequences. There were many applicants but Hot Springs won.

Many thought it would just be a temporary name but the citizens liked it and it has remained Truth or Consequences for the past 74 years.

Contact PostScript via email at oldcrutch@hotmail.com

Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

Email : oldcrutch@gmail.com

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