25 July 2012

a profound meditation upon toast and tea

I am so fond of tea that I could write a whole dissertation on its virtues.  (Boswell.)

It is an unalterable conviction of mine that toast was made to be dipped into tea.  Yet I do not speak of all kinds of toast: dry toast was made to adorn salads, limp toast, to feed chickens, and white toast, to stuff pincushions.   No, a good piece of toast must be made with good, brown bread, toasted until the edges are just black, and then spread liberally with butter.  Nor is it all kinds of tea that I laud, for black tea afflicts the soul with wakefulness and camomile, with sleep, and fruit tea brings to mind jam.  No good piece of toast should be insulted with jam.  Put jam on white toast, to cover its wretched poverty, but let butter be the only adornment of the toast of brown bread.  For such toast, the king of all lesser toast, is required the queen of teas, which is mint.

I have heard it said that with the gift of mint the Victorians were wont to indicate either protection from illness or warmth of feeling.  That is healthful, no one would deny; but that it is congenial can be tasted properly only with toast.  To have crumbs on the bottom and a skim of butter on top is the glory of a cup of mint tea.  This tea must, of course, be made first, before the toast is made, lest the toast become limp with waiting.  Then it must be drunk, and the toasted dipped therein eaten, in utmost serenity and meditation.  What, indeed, is the good of tea if one does not take pleasure in it?  The sages of old were rebuked for tithing their mint and neglecting justice; but I would rebuke whoever makes tea and does it the injustice of neglecting to taste it.  Among all material pleasures, tea is supreme because it costs so little, takes so little trouble, and brings so much happiness; and not happiness only, but also a moment of reflection in which to enjoy the crisp of the toast, the richness of the butter, and the calm of mint which is the nectar of the gods.

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