Last week I was talking about thorium and nuclear reactors and mentioned tea kettles in passing. Seems like that drew a lot of interest. Okay, two people commented on it …
I should mention that I drink tea – a lot of tea, well, four cups per day most days. There’s tea when I first get up, the mid-morning tea break, four o’clock tea and herb tea after dinner. Three of the four cups are black tea and the fourth is an herb tea.
Personally I blame church for my taste for tea. There is the odd little tradition in many churches: coffee hour. It doesn’t last for an hour – it just feels like an hour. The idea is that after the last hymn you head over to the fellowship hall for coffee and conversation.
When I was about 15 I thought I’d have a cup of coffee like the adults. It was horrible. The next week I tried a cup of tea and liked it.
Years, decades, later I discovered that all church coffee taste horrible and likely if my first had been from somewhere else, I might be a dedicated coffee drinker today.
But now at home I have a tea kettle, tea pot, and I think 20 boxes of black tea with maybe about 10 or so boxes of various herb tea blends. In this house we drink Tetley tea (British blend). Heather and I both drink tea and we can drink five cups of tea a day so on box of Tetley with 80 bags will only last 16 days so we’re always on the look out for a good tea sale when shopping. A couple of weeks ago the store had a two boxes for five dollars sale and we stocked up.
Now, we need to make sure you understand that there is a difference between a tea kettle and a tea pot. I know some of you are saying, “Well, that’s obvious,” but not everyone really appreciates the difference here. The kettle is the thing that heats the water and the pot is where water and tea brew to make that wondrous drink. Then you can pour milk followed by the tea into a mug or cup.
There is a difference between mugs and cups, but I’m not going to explain that.
Yes, I put milk into the cup first and then the tea. If you do it differently, you’re wrong.
I should point out at this point that the word, “tea” refers to both the dry substance in the bags and the liquid that comes out of a tea pot. Coffee and tea share this characteristic – the word referring to both the dry stuff and the drink. After that things really change – coffee has more caffeine than tea, you don’t have coffee bags and you pour the coffee first and then add the milk or half and half or whiskey.
I’ve never herd of Irish tea, but somewhere, someone has slipped a little whiskey into a mug of tea.
I should mention at this point that tea is good for everything. Have a cold? Tummy upset? Can’t sleep? Stubbed your toe in the dark? Hit your head on the cupboard door? No problem, just brew a nice cup of tea and everything will be better. Tea has many health benefits and I think widely underused. Its curative properties are endless and many more people should be using it.
Which brings us back to tea kettles. Oh sure you could heat water in a pan or in a microwave, but the proper way is to use a kettle. The older kettles are be placed on a stove to boil. Those are nice because when the water is ready, the kettle whistles to let you know it’s time to brew the tea.
In the past this might have been referred to the kettle, “singing.” These days when I think of a kettle singing, it’s a Disney movie or the Tea Room, “The Kettle Sings” that my bother-in-law took me to once on a visit to England.
I should also mention that in some usages, “tea” actually refers to a meal, but I digress.
The problem with stove top tea kettle is that I forget I’ve turned on the stove and with my slight hearing loss, I often don’t hear it singing, but do finally smell it burning when all the water has boiled away. Then there is the smoke detectors screaming and explaining why I burnt another one.
So these days we just use an electric kettle that has a built in thermostat that turns the thing off when it gets hot. They’re really nice and boil enough water in a couple of minutes. There is some steam that escapes out the spout when it boils and I suppose you could use that steam to turn an electric turbine. The problem here is that you’ll need electricity to create electricity and the whole thermodynamic equation thing breaks down. In the end it doesn’t work, yielding neither electricity or tea.
Which brings me back to last week’s post on reactors and tea kettles. While a tea kettle is a powerful thing, a nuclear reactor still creates more steam and doesn’t need electricity to make steam. I don’t know if reactor operators make tea from nuclear hot water, but on the surface that seems like a bad idea – you know all those gamma rays and things.
But I did want to note the similarity between a stove top tea kettle and a nuclear reactor: Let them boil dry and there are alarms, smells, and a lot of awkward questions to answer.