When Chistopher Hitchens pontificates on the subject of beverage, it’s a safe bet to assume it’s concerning alcohol. Up until his diagnosis with cancer and subsequent chemo, Hitch would consume no less than a bottle of wine and few gulps of whiskey per day, he wrote in Hitch-22. And tales of larger excess are out there, even encouraged by the man. But we are greeted in Slate today by a tempered Hitch, one who simply wants to share with his readers the proper way to make tea. And no, spiking it with liquor is not part of the recipe (though feel free to make an amendment or two!).
The more innocuous choice of drink would perhaps allow for a gentler Hitch, but by no means does the topic drain him of his standard vitriol. Naturally, Americans manage to screw up everything about the seemingly simple preparation of tea, and with this he is not pleased.
It is already virtually impossible in the United States, unless you undertake the job yourself, to get a cup or pot of tea that tastes remotely as it ought to. It’s quite common to be served a cup or a pot of water, well off the boil, with the tea bags lying on an adjacent cold plate. Then comes the ridiculous business of pouring the tepid water, dunking the bag until some change in color occurs, and eventually finding some way of disposing of the resulting and dispiriting tampon surrogate.
If your intent was to get us to back off the brewed leaves then by God, Hitch, that “dispiriting tampon surrogate” line just about did the trick. Not that we would want Christopher Hitchens to follow his tea with sympathy. That just wouldn’t be right.