The great and all-powerful rise of the espresso is confusing to me.
I live in a country which has a cultural obsession with tea, where people will wax lyrical about the restorative properties of a cuppa, where it is a symbol of the unbroken british spirit, a place which worships and adores the every concept of tea.
But also a place where you can go to almost any staffed train station in the country and order a half-fat hazelnut soy latte, but not any grade of tea above that sold thirty years ago. Tea bags were, for stations, the last great revolution for tea making, and everything has stuck since then.
So where we need a revolution, we need a revolutionary, but what we get is Heston Blumenthal.
In my tradition of getting over-priced kettles, I asked for a Sage Tea Maker for my birthday (Or, in this modern age, I put it on my Amazon Wishlist) without expecting anyone to actually get me it. My out-laws surprised me slightly by getting it. So, it is this:
It’s a kettle, foremost. You can select water temperature in bands of five degrees, and it’ll boil to there and stop (An improvement on cheaper variable-temperature kettles – including the iKettle – which will repeat the boil-and-test cycle a few times until it gets the temperature right, resulting in taking longer). A Keep Warm function will keep it at the desired temperature, but in general you boil the water and there is boiling water. Very kettle, much boil.
There’s a kind of fairground ride which seems to be generically known as a Drop Tower, where the customers are slowly raised up in a cage, and then this is “dropped” down a controlled-fall.
In the tea maker, you put the tea in the cage at the top, attach it to the post (which is done with magnets) looking very like a miniaturized chrome drop-tower, and then you turn on the kettle.
Once the water below is bubbling and churning away, the device switches from fairground ride to Bond Villain Trap, as the tea cage is slowly lowered into the choppy, boiling water, to release its life force into the water around it.
“No, Mr Bond, we expect you to steep for 3-5 minutes in boiling freshly-drawn water”
Once the tea has either escaped with a shiny gadget or been boiled until its goodness has been drawn out, the basket is slowly lifted above the water-line, and the tea is ready (Again, a Warm function will keep it at optimal tea temperature for an hour or so after steeping. You can even tell the machine to occasionally dip the basket back in, if you want it to get increasingly strong).
I can’t control it from bed, but I can set it to wake me up with tea in the morning. It’s not great at making tea for one person, but it’s not as if my array of tiny teapots will form a suicide pact because I own it. Plus, it’s a shiny electronic device that works with magnets, what is there not to like?
Well, there’s Heston Blumenthal, I suppose. Here’s him demonstrating how it works: