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Memo to Sydney cafes: tea isn’t that hard. So why do you get it so wrong?

Ordering a pot of tea in a Sydney cafe is a punish. Sydney cafes consistently say “stuff you” to tea drinkers. And they do it with the most passive aggressive of misdirects: an elaborate, unique-to-this-cafe-look-how-much-we-care tea service rig.

If you are naive enough to order tea in a cafe, it will be served to you as a kind of “still life with tea pot” scenario. The waitstaff will grandly set down in front of you a breadboard/tray arrangement holding atop it a cup (no saucer, so last year) a giant cast iron tea pot and milk in something funky, like a miniature milk bottle. If they’re really trying to create the illusion of care, they’ll include a tea strainer. But for reasons that will soon become apparent, you won’t be needing that tea strainer. It’s another shiny, magician’s misdirect.

The basics for a good cup of tea are simple: tea leaves, loose in a pot, boiled water. Why can’t cafes get it right.

The basics for a good cup of tea are simple: tea leaves, loose in a pot, boiled water. Why can’t cafes get it right.Credit:Marina Oliphant

Now that you’ve received your tea rig (and it’s taken up the entire table so that nothing else fits) you’re probably feeling optimistic. It seems like they’ve really put a lot of thought into your tea and as such, it looks like today is going to be a good tea day. Then you pour it out and it’s just pale, watery liquid that makes you sad. You can’t even add milk because the tea has got no tea-ness to speak of.

When you lift the lid of the pot to check what’s going on, you’ll discover the first of two insults 1) a cut-price tea bag (one of those “up yours tea wanker” pillow-bags without a string or a tag) and 2) the tea pillow is imprisoned in the mesh sieve insert at the top of the teapot. The sieve insert thing that is meant for tea leaves! Is this some kind of joke?

You can free the bag from the sieve, you can stir it, you can twirl the pot this way and that but that “tea” is not getting any better, ever. It’s just going to continue to ruin your morning. At this point, not even the teeny tiny milk bottle for a mouse’s tea party can cheer you up.

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Memo to Sydney cafes: tea isn’t that hard. And it doesn’t need to be served on a breadboard as a still life. The most basic requirement for a good cup of tea is simple: tea leaves, loose in a pot, just add boiled water (I don’t even care what temperature the water boils at or how long it’s boiled, I’m not fussy). The end. That’s it. Easy.

And milk on the side? First, can we just assume that is what’s happening. Don’t ask me if I want milk on the side, as though having milk with English Breakfast tea is some kind of Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets weirdo request. Let’s all just assume that English Breakfast tea comes with milk on the side. Because it does. And the milk thing is pretty simple too, it doesn’t need to be served in something fun like a test tube for guinea pigs or a beaker or an avant-garde orb with a teeny tiny spout. Just a small-ish jug will suffice.

Tea strainer is optional. It’s optional. I mean, I’m not a total tea wanker.

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