Australia, you are drinking your tea all wrong
WITH The Ashes in full flow, it's a hard time to be an British immigrant in Sydney.
But, being called a "pommie b*****d" and endless result-dependent gloating on a daily basis is nothing compared to the pain of trying to find a decent cuppa in Sydney.
There's just something about disconcertingly rectangular tea bags and the pointless strings attached them which crushes even the toughest Englishman's soul.
I reckon even Winston Churchill would have struggled to finish a large cup of Lipton's Yellow Label without wincing at least once or twice.
Quintessential Pommy George Orwell once wrote tea is one of the 'mainstays of civilisation' which is why the best 'manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes'.
I have been involved in these disputes all too often. They do not often turn physically violent, but sometimes I can't help but be gobsmacked by what I hear in response to my criticisms.
I meet Australians who are convinced that "all tea tastes the same" or think stringed tea bags are the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Much to my disgust, I have even seen one or two shady characters putting the milk in with the tea bag before the water has boiled. Who in the right mind does that?
Luckily, Australia reigns supreme when it comes to coffee especially compared to my old stomping ground in the north west England.
Paying £4 ($7) for a 'latte' up there will land you a dismal concoction of burnt coffee beans swimming around in a ludicrous amount of milk.
Certain gentrified and multicultural (Aussies moving and starting their own cafes) suburbs of London may be catching up, but I reckon Melbourne and Sydney are years ahead in the coffee race. So fair play, you guys win at that.
But, with this obsession with making the perfect coffee, Australia has dropped the ball on its old colonial hot drink of choice. Here's how you improve your brews.
Take the scissors out and get snipping
I have to start on the stringed tea bags because they are a ridiculous waste of everybody's time and effort. The addition of a label and a string to a perfectly adequate tea bag is totally unnecessary.
A teaspoon is an invention specifically designed to remove a scalding-hot bag from a cuppa. Not only that, they serve the dual purpose of allowing the expectant tea drinker to stir his or her milk into their brew.
Spoons are one of the oldest culinary utensils on the planet. And, long after Australia has cut it's strings, the humble teaspoon will rise again.
Strings will eventually been seen as ludicrous relics of a bygone era, like penny-farthings or fax machines.
Change the shape
Even the shape of tea bags in Australia is disheartening. Not only do the charmless rectangular bags - crammed into their cardboard sleeves depressed sardines - lack any aesthetic value, they also are doing you a disservice when it comes to infusion.
The big British brands with their voluptuous round and pyramid shapes allow more room for the leaves to move around more freely.
Take PG Tips, one of the UK's most popular tea bag brands, for example. The brand launched its tea bags with strings 1985 and it took it 11 long years to realise it was wasting its time.
Its tetrahedron-shaped bags, launched in 1996, saw the strings and changed the tea world forever. And what a time it was to be alive.
Tea scientists at PG Tips deducted that the design would help the tea leaves move more freely, as loose tea moves in a teapot, and supposedly create a better infusion.
"The PG Tips pyramid tea bag gives the tea leaves 50 per cent more room to move around than a flat conventional tea bag," it boasts on the product packaging.
And when did advertising ever lie to us? That's right, never.
Boost the strength
One British expat colleague of mine said weak bags pushed him to switch brands, on the advice of an Aussie tea enthusiast.
Even with the 'stronger' brand, he told me he had to put two bags in the cup at the same time just to get a decent brew on.
If that isn't a national disgrace I don't know what is.
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