It's not about the tea. Except it is. And it isn't.
Well, of course it is. It has to be leaves, quality leaves, steeped in a proper ceramic pot which has been pre-heated, using freshly boiled water. Milk, if you must, skimmed or semi skimmed, the merest globule. And sugar? Are you out of your mind?
Except, no. In truth, in practice, in actual bloody fact, It's a bag, plonked in a mug, dunked, shoogled and jiggled with hot water until the requisite colour is obtained. It's a dollop of milk, the desperate sucking of tannins into the mouth so that the tongue tingles and teeth quake with pleasure. Milk AFTER. Do I really need to say that?
Brown stuff. Black tea. In a paper bag. Nicotine substitute? Maybe.
No, and thrice no, we are NOT talking specialist stuff here, your Darjeelings or first-flush Oolong, your toxic Grannie's handbag Earl Gray or worse, Lapsang Souchong, made from heavily creosoted fencepost sawdust. And forget that herbal nonsense. If I wanted camomile I'd eat a lawn. Take your fennel and go and make sausages with it.
But which teabag? Ah. It's not about the tea...
It's about the water. To be precise it's about how the tea reacts with the water. Where I live, peaty (naturally brown and acidic) water is cleaned up hardened (alkalised), slightly by the use of filtration and chemicals. It would still, by the standards of eastern England, be classified as soft. So for me, the teabag that works best here is one which provides the taste of tea, as opposed to (and I'm looking at you, Scottish Blend) blotting paper. And I've munched plenty of blotting paper in my time. That tea is Yorkshire. Red label, cheap Yorkshire. Rectangular flat bags. NO PYRAMIDS!
Forget the poncy Gold, which I once ordered in stupid Amazonian wholesale quantities. Red, made for soft Yorkshire water, suits me in my remote and very, very watery location. I know Taylors of Harrogate produce a special 'hard water' teabag, tested on tankered-in limescaley water, and I'd guess that's for the likes of London's public lubricant, which somebody, and not you, has been bathing or swimming in or worse just a few minutes before it came out of the tap. Nambarrie also functions quite well hereabouts, once you're past that nasty homework jotter/stale schooldesk tang, but that's it. Other teas seem to be aimed at Other Waters. Try and drink Yorkshire using Glasgow's soapy, slippery H20 from Lochs Katrine and Lomond,
and you will be vomiting Buckfast all day. Or I will (Sanatogen preferred. Or ScotsMac). My son has recommended Waitrose's English Breakfast Reviving tea, and yes, it seems to be OK south of Stirling, west of Croy, east of Troon and north of Hamilton. Of course you have to be a bearded hipster millionaire to afford it. And you've got to shop in Waitrose, which in Glasgow is like auditioning for the Scottish Opera Chorus.
Taylors of Harrogate. Waitrose: Scottish and proud of it!
Of course, some folk like the taste of blotting paper. Some insist on those crazy microplastic drawstring things that look like a male Strictly dancer's shaven-chest-revealing bondage vest. You are killing whales! And langoustines! And quite possibly yourself. Stop it now.
There will be disagreement, I know. There are people hereabouts who swear by, not at Scottish Blend. Folk in Glasgow why buy Yorkshire Red and insist brewing it with Glasgow water produces the nectar of the neds.
Home filtration is one solution. Or just leaving a jug of fresh tap water out for an hour or so until the Domestos reek has disappeared. But who has the time for that in the frenetic early hours of a get-out-the-house morning?
As it happens, I only drink tea between the hours of 6.00 and 8.00 am. Otherwise it's coffee. But that's a whole other can of rabbit holes.