The Corner

Culture

Advice for Tea Snobs

(Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

Will Heaven, formerly of London’s The Spectator, and now director of policy at Policy Exchange, loves tea. He writes:

A confession: I’m a tea snob. I fuss about it, big time — to the point where, deep down, I don’t really trust other people to make it. When someone kind at The Spectator offers to get a round of tea, I say, “Yes please!” What I secretly think is: “But I just hope you get it right this time, Maddy.”

But Maddy who? Why, Maddy me; who, for the record, makes a fine cup of tea! However, Will does raise an interesting point:

I have a hunch that tea snobbery is a great British affliction, that there are millions of us nationwide — of all classes — secretly judging family, friends and colleagues for all sorts of little shortcomings. Not letting the tea brew for long enough, using water that stopped boiling a full minute ago, putting the milk in before the tea (like wearing brown shoes with a suit). We tea snobs judge a cup, instantly, like a sheikh inspecting a thoroughbred. Some of us even have strong opinions about George Orwell’s essay on making “a nice cup of tea.” Namely, that his method would produce undrinkable black stew (even if he is right that tea makes you wiser and braver).

Indeed, those who cotton on to the subtle politics of tea, and the preferences of their superiors, will go far. As a lowly Spectator intern, I realized the following: Lara Prendergast (who in addition to The Spectator, now writes for the New York Times) brings her own fruity tea-bags (perhaps she’s untrusting as Will suggests), so a cup of hot water will do; John O’Neill likes his tea to be an oaken shade, which, conveniently for quality control, is the same color as the office door; Jasmine Kaur, who is delighted merely to be asked, likes hers weak but not too milky; Freddy Gray tends to say “no thanks,” but he’s visibly tickled by the offer. And Mary Wakefield, the anti-fusspot, wouldn’t notice if one served her puddle water (which I never have, of course).

But that Will Heaven: He huffs and puffs, and hums and hahs, and with a raised eyebrow and a flared nostril, sends one scuttling back down the stairs and into the basement kitchen . . .

By contrast, in America, and at National Review, I have yet to encounter the condescending creature that is the “tea snob.” National Review’s office in New York doesn’t even own a kettle. It took a bit of searching, but I eventually found a box of Lipton which looks as though it hasn’t been touched since 1955. Apparently, according to the box, Lipton is “America’s favorite tea.” Which explains, quite frankly, why they don’t much care for it. Even the logo underwhelms: “Be more tea.” (Such ontological absurdities would never fly in Britain.)

Anyway, to test the office waters yesterday, I popped up out of my cubicle and boldly asked:

“Would anyone like a cup of tea?”

Laughter.

“This is America,” replied Alexandra DeSanctis.

So, my advice to tea snobs (and to Will) — stay in Britain!

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More
Film & TV

Joker: An Honest Treatment of Madness

When I saw that the New York Times and The New Yorker had run columns berating the new Joker movie, criticizing it not simply on cinematic grounds but instead insisting that the film amounted to a clandestine defense of “whiteness” in an attempt to buttress the electoral aim of “Republicans” — this is a ... Read More
Elections

The Democrats’ Disastrous CNN LGBT Town Hall

A few days after Donald Trump committed the worst foreign-policy blunder of his presidency by betraying America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria, former vice president Joe Biden, the elder statesman and co-frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary, was on a national stage talking to CNN’s primetime ... Read More
Culture

The Origins of the Transgender Movement

Editor’s Note: This article has been adapted from remarks delivered at a Heritage Foundation summit. I’ve been asked to talk about the origins of transgenderism and how it relates to children and their exploitation. But first, I would like to start with a little story. Yesterday I was wandering around ... Read More
White House

What Is Impeachment For?

W hat is impeachment for? Seems like a simple question. Constitutionally speaking, it also appears to have a simple answer: to cite and remove from power a president guilty of wrongdoing. Aye, there’s the rub. What sort of wrongdoing warrants removal from power? I’d wager that the flames of ... Read More
Elections

CNN’s Anti-Religious Town Hall

LGBT activists gathered last week for CNN’s “Equality” town hall with the Democratic presidential candidates. The advocates present were, in the words of Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, the “tip of the spear in our fight for full equality.” The “spear” metaphor grew more apt as ... Read More