Wednesday 30 January 2013

Tea? It's taking the pee!

We are led to believe that our nation was built on cups of tea.

We are supposedly a nation of tea drinkers and yet (I feel) there is something very wrong with the reality. If you visit a Costa or Café Nero or (god help you) Starbucks you are met with a never-ending list of choices when ordering a coffee. Cappuccino, mocha, latte, macchiato, Americano etc. before you even get to what type of milk you want and what flavour you want added. I must confess that I sometimes enter a coffee shop un-prepared and get that panic when you just don’t know what you want so end up ordering a cappuccino. Do I want it grande? No, I just want a big one, speak properly.

So that’s coffee, but what about tea?

If you are lucky you might be able to order a different blend of tea, maybe a Ceylon or a Darjeeling instead of a standard English Breakfast. Whilst this is good (as each has a very individual taste) I have a problem with the serve. No matter how much it costs you (average of £1.50?) it is 99% of the time just a tea bag, with a cost of a few pence and absolutely no attempt to add value into the experience you get. If I pay that much for a cup of tea I want it to be made with leaf tea. I can’t make a coffee at home as good as a barista can but there is no difference when it comes to tea, it is exactly the same product made in exactly the same way.

In continental Europe it is most often a different story. I remember a particular example of sitting in a frankly crappy café in Kiev, Ukraine and ordering a tea. A fresh pot was made with leaf tea there and then in a beautiful transparent teapot and poured into a cup for me to drink. Great taste, great bit of theatre and something I don’t often replicate at home.

The large Coffee chains in the UK will tell us the reason is that generally older people drink tea and are less discerning whereas coffee is all about affluent, sophisticated young people. Whilst I accept that is must be skewed that way the reality is that millions and millions of younger people drink tea every day and want something better.

I surely can’t be alone in this? Rant over!

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