Look I have had so many emails, I’ve been inundated (which is the go to verb for receiving a lot of correspondence) – dear readers, I’ve been inundated with letters that go something like this:
your mastery of the breakfast ritual, as described in your breakout hit “No Security Blues”, is clearly
unparalleled. For my sake, for our sake, FOR GOD’S SAKE – share your secrets. I have enclosed $XXXXX (amount redacted) in cash.
Thanks in advance (awfully),
Step Zero: Introduction
So I’ve decided to lay it all out on the line for you. I realise that I am not the first and will hopefully not be the last to rhapsodise freely on the breakfasting ritual. Orwell wrote a nice piece. Ginger Baker in his brief tenure as drummer for Palm Springs based misfits The Masters of Reality delivered this stirring treatise on the 1992 Sunrise on the Suffer Bus album. Neither of them have explored the world of toast, though. I haven’t done that much research. I’m casting my strained bag and cold crusts onto the compost pile of history. Grab your egg and fours and let’s get the bacon delivered.
Step One: The Seven Ps
Your tea and toast is won or lost before you even put on your dressing gown. Therefore, before embarking on any breakfast exercise, morning mission or dawn counter-terrorist operation, as my father has instilled in me, always follow the Seven Ps:
and of course
Now that you’ve clicked all those links, you’re ready to make a cup of freaking tea.
Step Two: The Right Stuff
After you’ve done all that, make sure you have all the things you think you’re going to need to make your tea and toast ready to go and laid out in front of you. There is no use getting all your timing right only to discover one of your housemates has used all the milk and failed to replace it. Again. Or, marginally less bad, there is no sugar. Or your tongue has disappeared in the night. So ensure you are fully able to handle any eventualities that might come your way over the next 5-10 minutes. Get the sugar and bread and milk and teabags and butter onto the bench. Make sure you’ve been to the bathroom. You can’t relax unless you’ve been to the bathroom. (I usually shower and use the bathroom prior to my tea and toast but I understand that this is a matter of personal preference)
Step Three: Down To Business
The first thing you want to do is put the kettle on and pop your toast in the toaster. But don’t turn on the toaster yet. This is just so the bread can get to know the toaster. Let the dog see the rabbit, to use an extremely politically incorrect figure of speech. If you sensibly keep your bread in the freezer as I do then this also helps to ease the bread from the ‘frozen’ state to the ‘toasted’ state by way of a ‘thawed’ state.
Next up, take your favoured mug or cup and fill it with hot water from the sink. Leave it to sit a while, warming soulfully. Orwell maintains you should warm your pot/cup on the hob, rather than swishing or what have you, but I maintain that he was a communist and that no-one even knows what a hob is anymore.
Three Point Five
While the kettle is boiling I like to potter around the kitchen, or if no-one is home, I like to put some meditative jazz on.. perhaps some Oscar Peterson or John Coltrane. Miles Davis is also good. Pharoah Sanders.
(nb except where there is no other jazz available, Mingus is generally not appropriate first thing in the morning. He can be somewhat deceptive – many of his albums are relatively placid to start with, but ten minutes later an ungodly squall of trombones and alto saxophones has crept up out of the speakers and your knees are trembling and you’re clutching the bench. Save it for around 7pm – I’ll be covering that in a separate blog post. )
Why not think about doing a quick bit of washing up or wiping down the benches or sweeping the kitchen floor? Pay it forward. Treat yourself and those around you with respect.
Have a think about what you’d like on your toast. Is it going to be a standard sweet/savoury jam/vegemite double act? Or have you got a lot on and are contemplating double veg? Peanut butter? (it goes without saying I hope that if you’re contemplating peanut butter, you won’t be also buttering that piece of toast. This is the act of a vandal.) Anyway what you put on your toast is sadly none of my business, but it’s worth giving it some thought.
Step Four: Action Stations
When your kettle is getting close to boiling, tip out the hot sink water and get your teabag/s ready. Now once again, I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, even though that’s what I’m actually doing right now, but if you don’t like your tea strong, just stop reading now. In fact, stop wasting everyone’s time and just drink water or go and be a wanker and drink coffee or something. Tea’s not for you.
A brief tea diversion – I realise at this point that some amongst you will be saying “Tea bags? But Salty if you’re serious about tea, use a pot!” – I have nothing but a deep and abiding respect for you people. However I am trying to simplify the breakfast ritual and for many people the whole loose leaf tea/pot operation is a step too far. It’s arguably what puts a lot of people off tea (the same people that will then go and buy some fucking cold drip machine or air filter or carburetor to make their coffee in. Please.) and I’ve just negated my argument in those brackets so anyway do whatever you please, as long as the tea is strong.. I’m just gonna carry on with the bag show.
Therefore pick a serious brand of tea. I am currently on Dilmah Extra Strength. An honest Ceylon blend. I know some serious aficionados that swear by your English brands – PG Tips et al. I have a lot of time for them also. I’m not generally a fan of any of the Twining’s brands I am afraid, I find them all a bit insipid. I can handle Lipton yellow label.. I find the standard Lipton a bit weak. However the choice of brand is probably, and I say probably not the most important thing. It’s what you do with it that counts. More on that later.
Step Five: Herein Lies The Rub
This is it. This is the moment.
As soon as your kettle has come to boil, put your toast on.
Allow the bubbling kettle to subside momentarily. Then, with your teabag laying inside your chosen (now warmed) recepticle, draw it by the tag up to the inner lip of said recepticle. Then, slowly, and carefully, pour the boiling water onto the teabag, into the teabag, through the teabag. This is the single most important step to producing a decent cup of tea. It’s perfectly acceptable to have the sugar in the cup already, or to add it at this point. But then, walk away from the cup. Leave that bag in. You want to leave that bag in for five minutes.
Step Five: Leave Your Bags Outside
Now, I used to be a ‘leave the bag in’ man – that is to say, at this point, as soon as I had added the hot water to the bag, I would stir in my milk straight away and then leave the teabag in the cup as a sort of lazy nod to how I was a serious tea drinker, and commence sipping it. In my haste to get a strong cup happening instantaneously I would also use two teabags, once again adding the milk straight away and ‘leaving the bags in’. I have realised this is wrong. The tea can’t brew properly once the milk is added. It wrecks it, somehow – probably something to do with the temperature. So don’t add your milk yet. And don’t ‘leave your bags in’ – you just end up with cups all over the house with milky sodden teabags at the bottom waiting to grow mouldy. It’s a heavy scene with no real winners.
Step Six: Ready Freddy
No, let that tea brew until the toast is ready. If you followed instructions and put the toast on as soon as the kettle boiled, the timing is usually perfect – around three or four minutes. Butter your toast as soon as the toast is ready, then apply your spreads, jams or conserves. This should take less than a minute. Now your tea should be ready. Really ready. You don’t wanna leave the bag in for more than around five or six minutes as it will start to stew a bit, and the tea will get cold, and once again it’s a deep, mournful sort of vibe with few positive outcomes for anyone involved. Take your teaspoon, fish out the bag, and carefully wrapping the string around the back of the spoon, strain the bag. This is a highly satisfactory procedure that will take some getting used to, like reverse parking.
Now add your milk.
Step Seven: Transcendence