An existential conversation about tea pots

Now, I know that most folks think Americans primarily drink coffee over tea, but I don’t like coffee most of the time because it makes my stomach hurt. Not sure why, but there you have it. I’m a tea-drinker. When I travel, I carry a few tea bags in a little zippered bag in case I can’t find tea where I’m going. Plus, you can save a fortune if you just ask for a cup of hot water. Most places will give it to you for free, but I always offer to pay for it. It’s usually only 10 cents or so when they do charge.

So, I’m a tea-drinker. At work, I ‘make’ tea in the microwave, which horrifies some people, but you do what you can to get your tea, right? At home, I’m free to explore a more zen experience with an actual teapot.

Recently, however, I changed my teapot from an on-the-stove version to an electric version. I like it a lot. It heats up quickly – just about as much time as it takes to get the tea bag, cup and sweetener together and swallow all my vitamins. Plus, it is supposed to use less energy – another great benefit in my book – but I just have to believe what they say about that one as I don’t have any real method to prove it.

Some time ago, a good friend came over and noticed the new tea pot and she asked my 21-year-old daughter how did she like the teapot?

My daughter replied, “I hate it! It heats up too quickly and doesn’t give me enough time.”

Hmmm … I wondered and kept listening quietly. This ought to be fun, I thought.

My daughter ran over to the teapot and flipped its little switch to heat up the water and within seconds it was making boiling noises. Now, to be fair, I had just poured hot water from it into my cup, so it was at least a little pre-heated. It did serve to make my daughter’s point very well.

My friend was also slightly appalled. She and my daughter verbally agreed that they liked the process of making tea in a pot on the stove. Now, here’s the existential part: what’s so different about this process and the teapot-on-the-stove process? You still have to fill the pot with water, place it on the burner or electric pad thing and turn the heat source on and wait – the process is the same!

As I listened to them discuss this process thing they had going, I remembered one feature that is very unique to both of these two people — my daughter and my good friend, that is — neither of them are morning people. I’ve seen each of them in the morning. Sure, they are vertical and clean and mumblingly polite, but they are most definitely not awake by any stretch of the imagination. My daughter’s complaint about the teapot heating up too quickly could entirely be related to the fact that she’s just not functioning at full speed in the morning and that damned teapot is going too fast and she’s not ready for that next step.

I believe it was the writer Frank McCourt who wrote about his first generation Irish mother who despised the filtered tea bags in America. It was simply too quick and commercial and ‘convenient’ and, in her respected opinion, it kept people from making a proper cup of tea.

To McCourt’s mother, a proper cup of tea required measuring the loose tea leaves into a china pot, then adding the hot water from a pot heated on the stove, then waiting the right amount of time for the tea to brew before pouring the tea into cups. Of course (if I have my facts right) after that, you had to wait for the tea leaves in your cup to slide to the bottom before you could sip the hot tea off the top. All of this takes time. I suppose back then, tea-time back probably involved a friend coming over for a little gossip or chat, and in those times having a slower process for making tea would be entirely proper and important. You wouldn’t want to rush your friend or shorten the time you had together after all.

While I think my new electric tea pot is fantastic – it makes perfectly hot water really, really fast and it’s energy efficient – I can see how this would make Frank McCourt’s mother even more upset than the mere intrusion of those rudely convenient filtered tea bags.

When I go to friend’s houses, most of them have these great electric teapots and I’ll call ahead to have them ‘put the kettle on’ even though we know they won’t press the button until I walk in the door.

Making a proper cuppa in 2010

Still, my electric tea pot works great in my world … and I don’t burn my hands on the silly handle while taking the cup out of the microwave like I do at my job!

fourteenergirl Written by:

A mother, sister, wife, and daughter who writes, knits, hikes, and practices yoga on the west coast. Loves a zippy chardonnay or a tart margarita!

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