Tea Kettle Philosophy — Going “By the Book”

Going “by the book” can be a bit iffy sometimes. (stock image)
Going “by the book” can be a bit iffy sometimes. (stock image)

The water is heating. The scones are baking (and smelling so good!). The teapot is prepped and waiting. Time for my mind to go wondering. The whole concept of going “by the book” was what popped into my tea-deprived brain. It was a phrase that could either instill confidence or fear of over-rigidity.

The phrase “by the book” means simply that the person is following established procedure or the product manual. This can be very good when a refrigerator repairman is working on your deluxe built-in chef’s model. It can also be very bad when a refrigerator repairman is working on your deluxe built-in chef’s model. That is, there is a time to go “by the book” and a time to think “outside the box.” There is so much suing going on these days that going “by the book” is becoming more and more of a standard operating procedure. It can alleviate legal responsibility. Unfortunately, it can also cause some rather negative unintended consequences. An example was when Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) followed the book and forced my mother to lie down on the gurney. It was a very bad idea.

On a less serious note, going “by the book” with your tea can be good or bad (but fortunately no more affecting than providing either a superb or a horrendous tea experience). Lots of tea vendors provide instructions on how to steep up the various teas they offer. Some folks feel they have to steep the tea this way. Others feel some flexibility, at least after some experience with the tea, where they can alter the water temperature, steeping time, type of vessel used, amount of tea leaves used, etc.

There are plenty of books about tea, too. So going “by the book” can also mean following one of these books when you approach tea. Books are great, and I would be the last person to advise you to ignore any of the great tea books out there (many of them highlighted on this blog by intrepid tea guy Bill Lengeman). However, don’t let them be a substitute for your own ideas and approach. Have fun with your tea!

Speaking of fun, the tea is steeped, the scones have cooled enough to handle, and I will definitely enjoy a tea time that is not “by the book.”

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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