… but very much worth making.

If you stay in an American hotel, you are more or less guaranteed not to be able to get a good cup of tea. I know that this is a major accusation to make against a whole culture, but it is, regrettably, quite true. Certainly you will find tea (in the form of tea bags) in your room, but how do you make it? The answer is that they expect you to make it in the coffee maker.

Now the problem with that is that if there are two flavours in this world that cannot – in any circumstances – be combined, it is tea and coffee. To make tea in a container that has been tainted with coffee is to ensure that the resultant tea is undrinkable. The flavour of coffee lingers in a vessel long after the last cup was brewed, and it is impossible to use that vessel for tea-making no matter how much it is washed. Try it. Put coffee in a vacuum flask and then, after washing it out thoroughly, try to use it for tea…

Alexander McCall, the novelist, says very clearly and forcefully something I’ve felt in a vague and submerged way for years… Something I’ve tried to explain to Mr UD as we enter hotel rooms and he points out to me, among other wonderful and elegant features, bags of good tea and a coffee maker. How can I explain that, as McCall says, tea brewed in such tainted circumstances is not merely undrinkable, but unthinkable?

Tea, for me, is one of the great subjects. It is a romantic trade, it does not pollute excessively, it has all sorts of health benefits, it calms and wakes you up at the same time. It promotes conversation.

UD‘s poetry and prose in praise of tea can be found here.

McCall with his tea and his cat.

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5 Responses to “A small point…”

  1. Total Says:

    I note that people staying in a British hotel will be similarly unable to make a good cup of coffee.

  2. GTWMA Says:

    I think that should read “..staying in Britain will be similarly unable to get a good cup of coffee.”

  3. Polish Peter Says:

    And most coffee-makers in the U.S. (although fewer than before) are situated in the bathroom, where there is an aerosol effect from other human activities that occur in the same confined space. Take the sealed coffee packets home, and bring back good coffee from the lobby. But I just spent a couple of days in Las Vegas and there was no way to make coffee in the room even if I’d wanted to, so the lobby coffeeshop had the monopoly. Luckily my wife won $19 and we bought coffee with it.

  4. Dom Says:

    Tea in coffee makers? Coffee makers in bathrooms? Where are people staying these days?

    The Westin chain has this problem solved. Each room has a coffee maker, which is operated by placing a sealed coffee pod into a removable plastic basket—the part with the protruding tab in the linked photo—through which the machine then runs hot water.

    This plastic basket is the only part of the contraption ever touched by coffee. Remove it, and your coffee maker provides unsullied hot water for your tea.

  5. Polish Peter Says:

    The pod system has the additional benefit for the hotel that so few people in the US have their own pod coffeemakers (I did, but gave it away) that guests don’t walk off with the pods. Pods are big in the Netherlands, though – I went into a supermarket in Leiden and found a whole aisle of pods for every imaginable coffee variety.

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