Please Explain: Tea

Friday, December 05, 2008

After water, tea is the most widely-consumed drink in the world. Please Explain is all about tea! Find out why it’s so popular, and how it’s shaped world history. Michael Harney is a tea expert as well as a buyer and blender for Harney & Sons of Connecticut; Jane Pettigrew is a tea historian and writer.


Michael Harney and Jane Pettigrew

Comments [26]

Steve L from East Village / Formerly known as the Lower East Side

Tea from bags? Ugh. Real tea is made from leaves thrown in the cup, or pot, and enjoyed thusly. Tea bags are typically filled with sticks and non-tea leaves from the bushes. Also, varietal teas offer so much for the palate. Yes, it's messy, but a tea ball or strainer can cleanly brew a lovely cup. My day-to-day tea is Assam, with Darjeeling, Chinese Red, and many green teas as favorites. Also, I enjoy Fortnum & Mason's teas. I get my Assam from Kalustyan's.

Dec. 05 2008 02:28 PM
rodney durso from New York City

Please clear up the notion of black tea having less or more caffeine as coffee?

I drink two strong cups of Yorkshire gold each morning and find the kick much stronger than coffee....


Dec. 05 2008 01:57 PM
ron from NYC

I like mint tea. What catagory does it belong and how long should it be brewed?

Dec. 05 2008 01:56 PM
Elaine from Baltimore MD

Someone once told me that tea can develop toxic elements if the teabag is left in the water for an extended amount of time. Is this true?

Dec. 05 2008 01:55 PM
Matt Sullivan from Rutherford NJ

In England & particularly Ireland I notice the tea is usually very strongly brewed compared to here in the US. Very acidy;

I was in Burma last year and they seem to like it even stronger! It took a few days to get used to but its very strong there...and short. Diff from China / Vietnam etc where its very weak & you drink a lot (by the kettle)

Dec. 05 2008 01:55 PM
Richard Zackon

Earl Grey is named after the 2nd earl. The first earl was the British General who fought American rebels (Wikipedia)

Dec. 05 2008 01:55 PM


At my office, we have a dispenser which gives very hot steaming water, which i use for my tea. However, I read that boiling water is necessary. We don't really have the capacity to do that in the office, of course. Why is boiling necessary and am I not getting a full tea experience?

Dec. 05 2008 01:53 PM
Erum from White Plains

My personal favorite tea is Kashmiri chai, a pink tea with a dash of salt.

Dec. 05 2008 01:51 PM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

I'm not interested in "ritual". I buy and use genmaicha in tea bags and it keeps me very happy.

Dec. 05 2008 01:51 PM
Jeffrey Vock from Jersey City

Now that a wide range of great teas is available at restaurants and cafes in the US why is it that none of these places want to boil fresh water? In canada they have an electric kettle and they quickly bring the temp up to boiling before serving it.
What's with the red handle on the side of the coffee machine that always tastes foul and incinerates the tea bag. Where does that water come from and how is it heated?

Dec. 05 2008 01:51 PM
Robots Need 2 Party from Brooklyn

If you're so inclined could you talk about Londonderry. Princess Diana's favorite tea. Its delicious.

Dec. 05 2008 01:49 PM
Erum from White Plains

Shia Muslims have a special connection to tea:

At the Battle at Karbala, Yazid's army cut off the water supply to Imam Husain ibn Ali's following for three days before the fight.

After witnessing all the carnage, the death of her sons and her brother, the Imam, Zainab binte Ali was known to never have had cold water. Someone later introduced her to tea which she drank for the rest of her life.

Almost any majlis, Arab, Persian, or South Asian, would serve tea to guests.

Dec. 05 2008 01:49 PM
Jane from manhattan

Decaf tea loses flavor and caffein. Does it also lose antioxidants or any other beneficial properties?

Dec. 05 2008 01:49 PM
Linnea Covington from Brooklyn

What about spices in tea? Like chai tea or black tea spiked with ginger?

Dec. 05 2008 01:48 PM
Dena Leiter from NJ

What can you tell us about Pur-eh tea?

Dec. 05 2008 01:47 PM
Richard Dillard

Can tea be cultivated in North America?

Dec. 05 2008 01:45 PM
David from Paris, France

I have been told you should always pour the milk into the cup before pouring the water.

The reason being that years ago when fine porcelain was common cups would crack under the heat of the water alone.

Is that correct?

From an Englishman in Paris, former New Yorker, listen over the Internet.

Dec. 05 2008 01:43 PM
Vinny from The Upper West Side Of Manhattan

Does the tannic acid in tea benefit the lining of the digestive tract?

Dec. 05 2008 01:42 PM
William from Manhattan

What do your guests think about Turkish black tea, and the Turkish method of brewing (strong, with double boiler and diluting with hot water)?

Dec. 05 2008 01:42 PM
hjs from 11211

why tea? tea like beer needs boiled water, which kills all the bad microorganism that cause problems for humans.

Dec. 05 2008 01:41 PM
michael from nyc

With all of the news about adulterated foods from China, how do I know I'm getting good tea.

Dec. 05 2008 01:39 PM
anonyme from nyc


Speaking of processing - I am told that black tea is fermented then dried, and made from older leaves -

and there are many grades of green tea - there's a powdery Japanese green tea - a cure? I forget the name of it but there's a special bamboo whisk with it and it's vile to taste

- also I have read that it's important to be sure your tea is organic because teas are sprayed with all manner of pesticides - comment on this?

Dec. 05 2008 01:37 PM
Mark from Brooklyn

I'm a Yerba Mate addict - do your guests consider that "tea" or is that a different plant and thus not "real" tea?

Dec. 05 2008 01:36 PM
RJ from NJ

should the word "tea" be used for residual water from the processing the "tea leaf" from the tea plant/bush. is it right to use this word for processing orange blossoms, or rose petals etc?

Dec. 05 2008 01:00 PM
Zach H

Can you talk about the Yerba Mate sect and it's growing popularity?

Dec. 05 2008 12:34 PM
anonyme from nyc

Can you talk about kombucha tea? Ancient fermented tea that is said to have many health benefits - made from organic black tea, sugar and a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria. I make it at home (way less expensive than diet soda and no nerve toxins!)

Dec. 05 2008 10:12 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.