With a tea event on my horizon, it seems like a good time to pause and consider how the COVID-19 pandemic has, and should, modify our tea habits.
Good procedures are good procedures, so we should look to taking every precaution, even if, like me, you are lucky to live in a place where this virus seems to have been eradicated – for now.
So, I’ve gathered together some wisdom from various authorities and added some thoughts of my own.
Firstly, if it’s not appropriate, don’t do it.
If you lived in a country where you were ruthlessly suppressed for drinking tea, and you were attending clandestine meetings in a basement to sip some oolong, I’d be the first to cheer you on. But with this, if your health authorities or government are telling you not to gather, it’s probably damn good advice.
In 2010, many of us who write tea blogs at this location used to gather weekly online using Google Hangouts and share a cuppa. I was the only one is Australia and it usually meant getting up very early, but hey, don’t we seem like quite the little trail-blazers now? If you can’t gather, crack out the best china and get on Zoom or Facetime.
Pick your water.
I’m not a big fan of using tap water for tea, but in this time, we should consider that it is safe and has been treated in most places that my blog is read. Personally, I use filtered tap water, as this gives you all of the not-going-to-kill-you-ness of tap water but none of the what-the-hell-is-that-foul-taste-ness of tap water.
The real water issues at the moment, though, are where other people may have contaminated the devices you are getting water from. Fountains, shared taps etc should be treated with caution. It only takes a minute to wipe down a tap, do it.
Clean your stuff.
Shocking to some, I know, but some of us have a laissez faire attitude to cleaning teaware, particularly pots. A quick rinse and it’s ready to go, let’s not pollute it with chemical cleaners etc. At this time, we have to let that idea go. Personally, I am now opting for detergent scrub, followed by copious amounts of fresh water flushing, and then a quick rinse with boiled water inside and out as you make the tea. The latter can be passed of as ‘an homage to the Vietnamese Tea Ceremony’ if you want to seem clever.
Clean your environment.
Wiping down tables and chairs with alcohol wipes is not hard. In fact, it’s the best use of alcohol I can think of. It’s not really that we need to do this now; it’s that we probably should have been better at it in the past.
Gloves and masks.
Obviously, if you live somewhere where masks are mandated when you go out for, or prepare, tea, WEAR YOUR DAMN MASK. Obviously you can make a political point by not doing so, but in that case, let me say consider making a large donation to the funeral expenses of people whose deaths you have contributed to, you imbecile.
Even if not, gloves and masks while whipping up your scones, sandwiches cakes and biscuits are a sensible precaution if you are in a hot-spot.
This one is hard. Tea is the beverage of intimacy: earnest, salacious, joyful, scandalous, nostalgic and revolutionary conversations are often best at short distances over a cuppa. But we need to adapt and understand. This weekend I will be moving my class from my traditional U-Shape to squares, so groups of four will sit around a table with some separation. People tend to come in pairs so obviously those people will set next to each other on one side.
You may have seen a herbal tea blend advertised for it’s anti-COVID-19 properties. It probably won’t surprise you to know that people doing so are lying scumbags. You can safely ignore them, or you can do what I have been doing, and that’s contacting them to arrange purchasing 200kgs of the stuff. I have been negotiating with four “suppliers”to get the best price, I’ve even got them abusing each other in emails as they argue about who has the best anti-Covidityness. I’ve asked for photographic proof of their stocks. I’ve asked them to work out the shipping rates and secure quotes from three different shippers.
I’m having a ball.
P.S if you haven’t worked it out yet, my tip is to not buy it.
Are we special? Yes and No?
A decade into my blog and over 400 posts, it’s fair to say that I have provided copious amounts of evidence that tea drinkers are the most special, most marvellous people on earth. And I haven’t done that just in order that we can feel superior to coffee, wine, beer, juice or fermented camel milk drinkers – although that’s clearly a bonus – but because we deserve to celebrate our pinnacle-of-humanity ways.
But this COVID bastard is no respecter of our unique preciousness. It will come for us in the same way it comes for everyone.
Make no mistake, this is a species versus species war. And while ours likes to spend time arguing about who has got the best approach or what our strategy is, these little buggers just want to infect, spread, kill.
It’s not time to go without sharing tea – in fact we need it more than ever – but it is important to make sure we enjoy it safely and continue to do so when COVID-19 is an unpleasant speck in our rear-view mirror.
Please stay safe and drink up! I’ll be doing my bit.