A first class ticket from Australia to anywhere interesting is about 25% of the average national average wage.
Whilst you’d expect grateful sippers everywhere to dip into their own pockets to ensure that Lady Devotea and I travel in the fashion that we should so easily be accustomed to, this happens less often than you think.*
My understanding is that, in first class, a personal representative of the grower will roast you an oolong one cupful at a time if that is your preference. Or in the case of a simple English Breakfast, there is a gold-plated sugar bowl and a variety of cows available to provide you the freshest possible milk at the very moment it is desired.
Now, not all of my readers fly first class, so here it is: The Devotea’s Guide to Avoiding Airline Tea in Economy Class.
Firstly, take your own tea. What are the chances they’ll have good tea? None! And even if they did, they are dispensing from a metal jug that has contained coffee as often as tea over the four million hours it’s been used to slop brown liquid into a tiny plastic cup.
Taking your own china cups is entirely possible, but at a pinch the airline plastic ones will do. But you definitely need some form of tea making contrivance, such as teapot or a tea tumbler.
As water boils at a lower temperature under pressure; either drink greens and oolongs or take a black with a strong background, such as our own Persian Princess, which is my favourite for long haul flights.
Start by asking the staff for hot water frequently. Try to actually head to the galley kitchen to ask. This is because you want to work out where the hot water spigot is.
Early on, collect a pile of paper napkins. Tea can be a messy business.
As the flight wears on and staff disappear to stuff their faces with leftover oysters and Chablis from first class, you have unfettered access to hot water. It helps if you have also spotted which cupboard they keep the milk and sugar in, because a little hot water larceny is spiced up by going the whole hog.
You can re-steep more often at high pressure, due to the lower water temperature, but eventually you have to dispense with the leaves. Luckily, the airline provides a used loose leaf tea leaves receptacle, which some people incorrectly refer to as an Air Sickness bag. Simply stuff most of the leaves in one of those, and slip in into the waste bin, which is normally right under the areas of the kitchen you’ve been helping yourself to.
Of course, you want a spotless teapot, which means a quick rinse in the bathroom. Many planes are not fitted with basins that actually have big enough holes to take tea leaves. The answer is quite simple: prise the plug assembly out using a fingernail under the rim, swish the leaves into the dark recesses of the aircraft’s waste disposal system, refit the plug and exit whistling in a jaunty and innocent fashion.
Before landing, use the paper napkins you acquired earlier to dry and polish you teapot and you are ready to continue your journey.
All it takes is preparation, dedication, a complete disregard for airplane bathroom fittings, a mildly larcenous heart and a determination not to be palmed off with undrinkable tea.
*it has never happened. 🙁