Tea Kettle Philosophy – “Oops” Happens

When I began writing about tea, the idea of tea kettle philosophy came up. I had studied Philosophy and English Literature as my double major at university and wanted to work those things into my articles about tea. Thus, the concept of the tea kettle philosopher was born. Here is a replay of one of those articles:

You might call me a tea kettle philosopher. After years of waiting for the tea kettle to boil I’ve acquired such wisdom as: “No use crying over spilt tea.” I think that’s the expression. (Actually, it’s “spilt milk” but no matter.) The idea is that accidents (“Oops!”) happen.


It’s a shame when the tea you’ve just spilt is one of your favorites and lands all over your new carpet or that oriental rug you saw at auction and had to have. It can be even worse when the tea is in your favorite china teapot, which doesn’t bounce very well, even off of an inch of padding and a thick pile carpet. Or it bounces, but the spout doesn’t. (Teapots don’t pour too well without their spouts. I’ve tried it.)

Fortunately, carpet and rugs can be cleaned, more tea can be steeped, and china teapots can be replaced. I know this well, too, being somewhat closely acquainted with those “Oops” moments. That’s not to say I’m clumsy. Rather, I’m in too much of a hurry sometimes.

After a bit more mulling as the tea kettle absorbed heat from the stove burner and transferred it to the water within, I came up with another gem: Probably the best way to avoid crying over spilt tea as a result of one of those “Oops!” moments is to avoid rushing the teapot to the table. A bit obvious when you see it in black and white, but darn hard to come up with when you haven’t had your tea yet and your brain cells are still a bit sluggish. It’s also easier said than done. The anticipation of finally getting to enjoy that perfect pot of tea can make anyone go a bit faster than is prudent.

Another “Oops!” where tea is concerned is bad preparation. You could put in too much dry tea, or too little. You could use an inferior tea, one that’s just a bit of dust in a teabag, not whole leaf, broken, or even fannings. You could over or under steep, getting a brew that’s little more than lightly flavored water or one so bitter it makes you shudder and rush for the milk jug and the one-pound sack of sugar. Then there’s using bad water (chlorine tasting, too many minerals, etc.) and heating it too much or too little.

Not to fear. These “Oops!” moments happen to us all. Over time, you can learn to avoid them. Check your water to be sure it’s good tasting and learn how much to heat it (many teas are too delicate to be steeped in boiling water). Purge your tea supply of those inferior teas and replace them with superior teas. Experiment with steeping times until you get the taste you like (some people say there is a taste that a particular tea is supposed to have, which you can accept or not). Be sure to use the right amount of tea (again, a bit of experimentation may be in order here).

And above all, be careful when carrying that full teapot to the table!

© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text


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