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How to Make Tea Up a Mountain

I boiled a kettle for a nice pot of tea this evening. About five minutes after the kettle had shut itself off, my helpful wife came into the kitchen and poured the hot water into the teapot. I screamed in panic. "What's the matter", she said. "the water's been boiled." "Yes" I snapped back "but it finished boiling about five minutes ago."

My contribution to Global Warming
I have always held the belief that water must be actively boiling at the time it comes into contact with tea. Frankly, the excellent Marks & Spencer Fair Trade Gold tea I drank this evening didn't actually taste any different to tea that has been made "properly". So, I decided to try and find out why tea should be made with boiling water - if indeed that is true. I learned a lot in the next half hour - including why my search added 56 grams of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I also got a lesson in how boiling water the wrong way can contribute to climate change (oh really).

You Can't Make a Decent Brew Up a Mountain
I Googled for an explanation and found none. But I did learn that you can't make a decent cuppa tea up a mountain. I also discovered that you can make a good cup of tea without using hot water at all. Perhaps if you are climbing Everest and you are held at camp for a long time waiting for a break in the weather, this information will be very useful.

Kill! Kill! Kill!
None of the sources I researched gave a decent scientific explanation for why boiling water should be used. But a couple of sources suggested boiling water is essential for exterminating micro-organisms that might be growing inside your teabag. That sounds very plausible, I thought. Dried tea has a tendency to absorb moisture from the atmosphere. Moist organic matter is an excellent medium on which bacteria can grow and the bag will help to keep the bacteria culture warm and snug. Hot, but not boiling, water may actually help the bacteria to thrive and prosper. Think about that the next time somebody hands you a teabag and a mug of hot water.

The Mountaineer's Mug
So why can't you make a decent cup of tea while on a mountain? I should have realized this right away (after all I do have a bachelor's degree in physics). The answer is very simple. Water boils at a lower temperature at high altitude. Quite simply, the water will never get hot enough to either kill off the bacteria, or extract any decent amount of flavour.

Cold Infusion
Now, what about making tea without any hot water at all? Yes, my Googling revealed that if you are patient enough you can make tea at room temperature - but it takes five days! Ok, if you are climbing Everest and you are stuck inside your tent suspended twenty nine thousand feet above the nearest electrical outlet waiting for a storm to pass, you might just have five days you can spare. Usually though, when you need a brew, you need it right away - not a week from Sunday.

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for the information, this information was very important for me to understand how to make tea up a mountain. Many thanks