Friday, 29 January 2010

Specifically named tea news

You join me in one of the kitchens of a fashion-magazine publisher. Would you like some tea? Look, here it is:

Notice how it is described as 'African black tea'. Left to most of us to label this jar – and not the building's brilliantly conscientious facilities department – it would read 'Normal tea', 'Ordinary tea', 'Builder's tea' (question: Some people use the term 'builder's tea' to specify variety, others to describe strength and colour. Who is right?) or simply 'Tea tea'.

[I know there is no such thing as 'Ordinary tea'. Tea is, by its very nature, extraordinary. But if there was such a thing, this would be it.]

But no. It is Black Tea and it is from Africa. It is African Black Tea.

I'm not sure what inspired this small act of full disclosure, but I can't help thinking it's a reflection of the various individuals who live out their nutritional eccentricities here – their adherence to diets and detoxes, to food intolerances and infatuations, to ethical eating as long it's fashionable. Not everyone who uses this kitchen is like that – some of my most normal friends work on style magazines – but I would not be in any way surprised to walk into the room and hear someone in eight-inch wedge sandals and a silk jumpsuit saying, 'What sort of tea is that? Oh good. As long as it's not African white tea. I just can't drink that after 11. God, I am so bloated today.'

With maddening inconsistency, the other beverages are not labelled anywhere near as comprehensively. Where are the stickers that say, 'Cheap instant coffee of indeterminately foreign origin', 'Posh ground coffee that smells like the best thing ever but good luck with finding a cafetiere in this place', 'Disappointing hot chocolate. Will let you down every time', 'Box of teas too weird even for anyone here, sent in by an optimistic PR company and dumped in the kitchen because "someone will have them" but guess what, they won't' and 'Milk. Warning: contains lactose. Also: sniff before you pour'?

The safe completion of the April issue may depend on this information.