Because I Can

I can add milk to my tea, if I want.Tea or do not tea. There is no \"try\".

Usually, I don’t want to, but let’s say I do.

A tablespoon of milk is about 13 calories. So if one has five cups of tea per day with a tablespoon in each, then it provides about 2% of the daily caloric intake that someone who works manually might survive on.

A teaspoon of sugar has 16 calories. Let’s add two spoons per day to our five cups – though I don’t take it myself – and this works out to 160 calories per day from sugar. That’s actually about 6% of the aforementioned necessary daily caloric intake.

Based on the current price of milk and sugar in Australia – and assuming I buy the supermarket brand cheapest option of both – that’s about $0.42 AUD.  Add the price of a supermarket loose leaf tea and this rises to $0.58

Many Ugandan tea workers would not make that in a day. Comparatively well-paid workers in Assam might take three hours to earn that. Both would likely find a chance to enjoy 6% of their necessary daily caloric intake to be quite significant.

I wonder what either would think of my problems. My “first world problems”.

Once and for all, I’d like to put things in perspective.

If I decide to put milk and /or sugar in my tea, it’s because I can. I generally don’t have to assess the use of milk and/or sugar in terms of budgetary considerations. I also don’t have to use it to supplement my daily caloric intake, as that’s already too high.

I get tired of hearing about how adding either is offensive. “You can’t. You shouldn’t. You mustn’t.”

I will if I want to.

I can call Afternoon Tea ‘High Tea’ if I want to, amongst a group of consenting adults who all know what I mean. I can make my tea in a pot, or a plastic cup or an old sock*. I can drink it from a cup, a basin, a bottle, my bare hands.

Inaccurate nomenclature is deadly: if you are an atomic scientist. Inaccuracy is not good in a surgeon. If you are a chemist or an engineer, please get everything right, all the time.

Yes, you can make a difference with tea. Drink good loose leaf tea. Don’t support the major companies who exploit workers. Don’t trust the untrustworthy. Don’t blindly believe guys like “Rainforest Alliance”. Try not to contribute to the tax dollars of despotic regimes.

But no-one died the last time someone said “Chai tea”. Or credited the teab*g to John Sullivan or the invention of Afternoon tea to The 7th Duchess of Bedford, both of which are demonstrably wrong.

So, a final note for today: I wrote this for myself, but I’m willing to share. The next time we get annoyed at someone for repeating the “rinse away the caffeine” nonsense. The next time someone has a cappuccino instead of a Long Jing or adds creamer to a first flush Darjeeling**. The next time someone mentions K-cups or I am aggrieved at something someone did, or said, or didn’t say, or didn’t do.

I’ll re-read this and get a sense of perspective, and find myself a calm and happy place – probably to rant from.

Some sources:

  • A slightly old report (2005) on nutrition amongst tea workers in Assam is here 
  • A recent UK newspaper report on tea workers conditions in India is here
  • A report on tea worker wages from a Ugandan newspaper is here

——

 *an old sock is the least likely option, but don’t even try to oppress my right to do so!

*OK, so maybe that is TOO far. Some corporal punishment is warranted.

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Robert Godden

Certified Tea Nutter. Blender. Author of "The Infusiast" and Tea "Stories"
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4 thoughts on “Because I Can

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I also like a splash of milk in black tea. Each to their own I say. However, unlike you I do extend that attitude to teabags 😛
    I really don’t mind if someone has a bag. I tell them there is much better, and I can offer them a cup of loose leaf, but I really don’t see it as the end of the world if they don’t listen to me. If I am out and all the restaurant has is a bag, I’ll have it over nothing. There are far more important issues in life.

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