Science, maths and computers.
In his article A Nice Cup of Tea, the author George Orwell gives step by step instructions to the reader on how to brew a cup of tea that will make the drinker “feel wiser, braver or more optimistic”.
However, his guide is quite descriptive, and if you’re a quantity-obsessed analytic person like me and you would prefer a cooking recipe that tells you to add “25g of chopped parsley” rather than “a handful of chopped parsley”, then I’m afraid that Mr Orwell’s treatise won’t be of much use…
But help is at hand! In 1980, sub-committee 8 of technical committee 34 of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published a standard method (codenamed ISO 3103) for the brewing of tea. If you’re unsure when to add the milk (ie if you’re one of those people who put the milk in first) then all you need to do is consult ISO 3103:
Now it may seem like a bit of a waste of time for a serious scientific committee to embark upon the task of quantifying tea, however this standard does have some industrial and scientific merit. For taste tests (say, in product control or psychology experiments) it is important for the tea to be brewed to such a standard for meaningful sensory comparisons to be made. ISO establishes a standard for doing just so, and has a chuckle along the way.
Notice that ISO 3103 makes no mention of sugar. For all the tea-sugarers out there, I’ll wrap up with this quote from Orwell:
But still, how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.
(top photo: macalit)