ENGLISH BREAKFAST TEA
When it comes to the best hot drink around, I think it’s difficult to look further than English breakfast tea. It may not have the as ‘Exetah’ vibes of a chai latte, or be en vogue like Costa’s new Black Forest Hot Chocolate, but there are a multitude of reasons that tea has been an enduring passion of mine and the British people.
First off, tea is practical. To make a cup of tea all you need is a kettle, a mug, a tea bag, and (ideally) some milk. This means you can enjoy tea made to your personal satisfaction almost anywhere – at home, on campus, even at friends houses. This places tea in staggering contrast to many more niche hot drinks that can only be enjoyed at coffee shops.
It’s also a versatile drink. It wakes you up with breakfast, warms you up in your inevitably freezing student house, and cheers you up if you’re feeling low. I’d venture that there is almost no situation that wouldn’t be improved by a cup of builders’ tea.
Tea’s versatility extends to its very make up – you can drastically alter it by adjusting how much sugar and milk you put in, meaning that there is a variation and style for everyone, making it a truly popular choice.
Ollie Lund, Online Editor
Picture the scene, if you will. It’s been a long day. You’ve been busy pitching your Bitcoin company to friends at the coffee shop. There you sit, legs ensconced within the harems you wear ironically. Tonight, you’re going to treat yourself; just sushi, yoga and Louis Theroux on Netflix. Yet this scene of serenity is incomplete. Over to the kettle you pad. Green tea. Green tea is required here.
The following morning you arise, meditate, and head downstairs. There’s no food in the house. Still, no matter. Green tea. Green tea will suffice here. After the first sip, it is no longer tea, but a placid lagoon of purity. The days anxieties (are burst Air Max bubbles mendable?) evaporate. It’s safe, and life’s tribulations can’t reach you in this haven.
But life is not like that, and with a giddy thump you return to the real world. There’s only one thing to do; make more tea. Chase that high. Here’s Hunter S. Thompson describing the cure for the postbrew malaise: “the possibility of mental collapse is now very real. No sympathy for the Devil. Buy the ticket, take the ride”. I know. That’s about a drug breakdown, but the rule applies.
Is this an effort to validate my crippling addiction to green tea? Undoubtedly. I used to be ashamed. I would hide it beneath bags of English breakfast tea (about as English in origin as the contents of the ‘British’ Museum). I don’t want help, I just want more! Green tea drinkers of the world, unite and takeover.
Adam Robertson Charlton
Why does a hot chocolate from Costa cost the exact same amount as a bus ticket to Honiton? Why does a rapidly churned together mixture of chocolate, milk, and enough sugar to send one into an instant diabetic coma become suddenly irresistible once it’s sweater weather? Perhaps this is why learned chocolate aficionados such as myself refer to hot chocolate as the demon drink. Sure, it costs an arm, a leg, and half a head, but I would gladly sell my soul and a portion of my first-born for hot chocolate.
Nothing screams ‘winter aesthetic’ more than an oversized Hogwarts jumper and a cup of hot chocolate nestled photogenically next to an artsy book by a Russian philosopher you’ve never read. It’s a sign of maturity – you’ve left Halloween truly behind, and costume parties are now for Year 11 babies at this stage of the icy English weather. Yet it’s also a coy nod to the childhood you’ve been dragged kicking and screaming from – coffee is for bleary eyed adults in a workplace grind, but hot chocolate is for the young, hip, and incredibly excited to be diabetic in the near future.
The Glorious Art House café, especially, make an excellent cup of hot chocolate – that is, if you can find it under the veritable mountain of cream slathered lovingly on it like a mother slathers baby powder on an infant’s bum. And if one doesn’t want to fork out revolting amounts to high street retailers, why not make a cup yourself? Unlike the precision required in handling most other wintertime drinks (do you really want too much syrup in your latte?), even a three-year-old can dump a packet of Cadbury’s into a mug of steaming milk and call it a masterpiece. Which, frankly, it is.
At this time of year, demand for warm, comforting, delicious drinks increases as a result of colder temperatures and the new special edition Christmas flavours available in all good coffee shops. Yet with so many choices on offer, how is a student to choose? Well, in my humble opinion, the chai latte is the only drink one needs right now. After all, it’s basically Christmas in a cup! The chai spice mix contains all those familiar spices that you often find at Christmas, including cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Just one whiff of that spicy goodness and you’ll forget all your woes, as you feel your senses singing and your entire self being enveloped in a sense of festive excitement and cheer. The steamed milk that accompanies the spice also gives the drink a thick, smooth, yet frothy feel that a simple hot chocolate lacks.
I cannot count the number of times I have been underwhelmed by the consistency of a hot chocolate, always expecting it to be thicker and richer than it always is, and inevitably being disappointed every single time. And whilst a cup of tea can also be very pleasant, as a staple of British culture it lacks any festive, or even wintery, feel, which the chai latte possesses in spades, with the simple cup of tea having become very much an everyday kind of drink. And yes, some could argue that the chai latte is available all year like the humble tea. But what those critics fail to realise is that the spices in the chai latte practically scream Christmas at you, transporting you back to that wonderful holiday even in the height of summer. It is for this reason that the mighty chai latte should undoubtedly be your drink of choice for this time of year.
EARL GREY TEA
Tea is the lifeblood of the British nation. Who were we before tea? Without tea, what would we begrudgingly offer to house guests? With what cargo would angry Bostonians flavour their harbours to spite us? What – I ask you, what – when we were a far more reserved nation, yet to appropriate the resources of the rest of the world and unapologetically claim them as our own, did we dunk our digestive biscuits in?
That being said, there’s something a little mundane about your standard ‘English breakfast’ type of tea. It has charm, certainly – it’s not boring, as such – but only that sort of wholesome, dependable, Colin Firth-esque species of charm. It lacks verve. It lacks vigour, it lacks energy – it lacks, if I dare say, just a hint of citrus.
Ladies, gentlemen, assorted beverage-drinkers. Allow me therefore to present the Hugh Grant of teas, the zanier, wilder, slightly roguish counterpart to your reliable breakfast tea; I refer, of course, to the soul-quenching delight that is Earl Grey. Retaining that wholesome, warming sensation we love and expect from our tea, Earl Grey takes it one step further, spicing things up with that all-important hint of bergamot for a breathier, more vibrant drinking experience. Brainchild of one Earl Charles Grey (whose term as Prime Minister saw, amongst other events, the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833), Earl Grey tea is the definitive hot beverage. It couples the warm, reassuring embrace provided by a good cup of tea with the subtle, citrusy suggestion that other flavours are indeed out there. It has flavour, it has character, but quietly so. It treads the fine line between flavour and simplicity, ease and versatility. With milk or without milk, at breakfast or at 4am, alone or with friends, Earl Grey is always the right choice. It is, in fact, the quintessential tea – nay, the quintessential hot drink.
Graham Moore, Deputy Editor