Stick the kettle on...
A hot topic which promotes heated discussion in households across the country… A subject which could boil over into something much more serious… A real danger of looking like a mug in front of your friends… I’m milking these puns for all they’re worth…
That’s right, let’s talk about the perfect cup of tea…
I challenge you to find someone in the UK who has never been asked if they fancy a cup of tea. It perfectly captures all that is good about us—an unselfish willingness to do someone a favour—but at the same time demonstrates the strongly held differences between people.
Milk first? Warm the pot? Sugar? How much space to leave at the top of the mug? Leave a bit in the bottom when finished? Do you even like hot drinks? There are more differences of opinion on tea making than there are on Brexit. But somehow we always find a way. A route out of the division. An acknowledgment that people have different opinions. A compromise. At worst some mild tutting if someone messes up your preferred tea-to-milk ratio.
It’s not like there isn’t guidance out there. The International Organization for Standardization (commonly referred to as ISO) even has a standard on the subject—ISO 3103—which, for history buffs, is a derivation of BS 6008:1980 by the British Standards Institution. Amongst other things they say:
✓ Brew in a pot.
✓ 2 grams of tea per 100 ml boiling water.
✓ The water should be similar to the drinking water where the tea will be consumed.
✓ Brewing time is six minutes. (SIX MINUTES!)
✓ Milk is added before pouring the infused tea unless that is contrary to the organisation's normal practice. Interesting.
✓ If milk is added after the pouring of tea, it is best added when the liquid is between 65-80°C.
✓ 5 ml of milk.
If you follow that to the letter you are clearly; a) a stickler for procedure, and b) a psychopath. But I digress. Even the experts don’t agree; the Royal Society of Chemistry’s procedure differs in a couple of key ways:
✓ Warm the pot (no mention of this in the ISO standard).
✓ Brew for three minutes. (THREE MINUTES!)
They also provide guidance “to gain optimum ambience for enjoyment of tea”:
“…aim to achieve a seated drinking position in a favoured home spot where quietness and calm will elevate the moment to a special dimension."
Brilliant, but insane. Whether tongue in cheek or not, these officially published guidances demonstrate two things:
1. We LOVE procedure.
2. We can’t agree, even on tea.
Yet we carry on through diversity, division, and tutting. The important thing is we talk about these differences. We communicate effectively. We express our differences in a (mostly) mature fashion. We work together. We’ll make each other a cuppa and decide on all sorts of different things whilst sharing our preferred brew.
So any other way of facilitating greater teamwork is worth exploring right?