Saturday 8 July 2017

Are YOU a miffer?

Nope, there is no controversy. You just have to pay attention to The Lord of Winterfell [Eddard Stark R]. Or my Dad, who was brought up by his Victorian parents and a rash of Victorian aunts and uncles who knew that there were certain things one does not do. As kids we got the message early on - being a Miffer [Milk In First] was far worse, because opportunities to fail were more frequent, than not knowing how to use a fish-knife. I still don't know how to use a fish-knife, although I think I've got Gt Aunt Anna's set of six fish knives & forks in a Victorian box somewhere.

Every so often, physicists will show by experiment that putting the milk-in-first keeps the tea hotter in the medium term, as if this helps lay the controversy to rest. Here's a neat graph by The Naked Scientists. That shows MIF to be hotter than MIL between the time the milk is put in last until the entropy of the Universe maxxes out at Armageddon. But look at the scales on the axes! The key cross over event occurs a) when the brew is almost at blood-heat and b) after the 15 minutes allotted for tea-break in most offices. Nevertheless, that empirical evidence is more convincing than citing Newton's Law of Cooling and doing a lot of algebra. In an earlier essay from Aimé Bonpland, I explained about the different optimum brewing temperatures for tea [hottest], coffee [Goldilox] and maté [least hot].

But wait! Tea is not only about the temperature it's about the chemistry. The Guardian reports about experiments , carried out by Andrew Shapley of Loughborough University. on the reaction of casein and tannin and how this will effect the taste. But we can dismiss that a) because Loughborough 'University' is one of those new 1980s universities that everyone-who-is-anyone knows is really a Technical College b) because Dr Shapley concludes that putting milk in first is better. "Miffer! Cad! Counter-jumper! Bounder!". Rather than listen to a fellow from Loughborough we can, with advantage, refer defer to George Orwell [prev]. Although he was for a time a plongeur in a grand hotel in Paris, he went to /through Eton, the grandest of England's public schools, and so he must be a Good Chap.  He had a lot to say on A Nice Cup of Tea including, critically ". . . by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round". Note the use of 'one' which is a class mark for the Right People. The Windsors rarely say "I went down to the corner shop for a pint of milk" rather they will say "One goes to the corner shop for a pint of milk" and send an equerry.

This is mostly put at nought outside of the Western European Archipelago and its colonial / cultural descendants. No adult in the Netherlands or Germany would put milk, first or last or at all, in the tea. Here is a lot of specious reasoning from Guardian readers to defend the cup my father poured. It's not about the physics or the chemistry or minimising the staining of bone-china cups; it is rather about identifying people who are all right. That was my father's quietly spoken point. He was at nothing in stumping up a load of money for a Very Expensive Education if we blew it all when taking tea with potential employers at a merchant bank. Having a nice cup of tea is one thing; taking afternoon tea is quite another minefield. High tea at The Hotel Duncannon was a different and more robust affair altogether.
  • Tea with William Hanson here he schools Andrew Luck an American sports star with good manners and good humour. Etiquette is, after all, about good manners and good manners is about making the people around you comfortable. Hanson, an etiquette expert, went to Clifton College in Bristol, which is one of the original seats of learning identified in the 1889 Public Schools Yearbook. Clifton is definitely not Eton, but had a kinder more inclusive tradition than some of the nobbier public schools.
  • Here he is again in more didactic /proscriptive mood for readers of the Daily Tory Mail. Scone doesn't rhyme with bone! It is a napkin not a serviette! In my case it's a shirt-cuff, which is always available at the end of your shirt.
  • Tea with Adam Gottesman. Trying to bring civilisation to the people of Eagle, Idaho. An uphill struggle you may well find.
  • Tea with Miss Sue Flay  Now, there is nothing wrong with a pseudonym. George Orwell was, after all, a pseudonym for Eric Blair and he went to Eton. Calling yourself Miss Sue Flay [soufflé, geddit?] is insufferably vulgar and blogger-vlogger Jo Christy's accent is proper commin but 'one' can forgive her those failings. But >!heavens!< she folds the napkin the wrong way [fold to the knees rather than fold to the tum] and compounds the error by attempting to rationalise the choice. The reason 'one' does things is nothing to do with reason!
I'll finally point out that, in the privacy of my own kitchen, I am a MIFfer or a MILler entirely depending on whether the milk or the tea pot is nearer to hand because I know it matters-a-damn to how the tea tastes.  The main point for me being that the stuff is hot and wet. I haven't seen a blind-tasting MIL vs MIF experiments such as expose wine-tasters as self-deluding charlatans. Ditto Guinness.

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