September 18, 2009
What do you drink your tea out of?
A china cup? A chunky mug? A plastic beaker?
An earthernware bowl?
Whatever your answer (probably not earthernware bowl), we bet you have a favourite. But does it make a difference to the taste?
If you happened to listen to Radio 4’s The Material World yesterday you might have heard something on this subject.
It featured a very interesting chap called Mark Miodownik from a very interesting group called The Materials Library. He was talking to host Quentin Cooper about how the vessel you drink your tea from really can affect the way it tastes.
Together they tried drinking tea from a glazed ceramic cup (ie what most people use), then compared it to drinking the same tea from an unglazed ceramic cup – and noted the difference, with tea from the unglazed cup tasting ‘chalkier’.
This could be down to the ‘taste’ of the cup itself – the material of the cup reacting to your mouth – but could also be down to the reaction between the tea and the material of the cup while it sits there waiting to be drunk.
We salute this kind of thinking. To us, doing tea properly means considering all the elements, and getting each of them right – like when we blend Yorkshire Tea For Hard Water, for example, which involves choosing teas that ‘perform’ better taste-wise when made with tap water with a high calcium content.
Obviously there’s much more to it, but they only had time to skim the surface. If you can make it to the Victoria & Albert museum in London for 6.30 tonight, however, you’ll find people from The Materials Library conducting very similar experiments for a special open-to-the-public tea-tasting experiment.
This free event is part of the Ceramica weekend, which is a celebration of the opening of the V&A’s new ceramics galleries. It’s a bit too far to nip down from Yorkshire, so we’ll have to be content with some kitchen experiments of our own.
Whether you make it to the V&A or not, let us know what you think. We’d love to compare notes.