The Tea Party

My brother and his girlfriend invited me over for dinner yesterday. He has a pretty cool tea set.

Tea time

It’s something of a ritual. After dinner each night he prepares some tea, usually a chamomile or green, and drinks it out of this Asian tea set. Last night we had some asian black tea.

Maybe it’s clear right now that I don’t really know much about tea, but I’m trying Ringo. I’m trying real hard to be the shepherd.

We sat at the table and continued conversation.

“You know, this is something you have in common with 7-year old girls.”

teaparty

And the Mad Hatter.

There’s always a ritual. Some people grind their coffee beans first thing in the morning, because that’s how they’re freshest, and they take specific measurements.1 Some people’s ritual is to go to Starbucks and get a venti.

For years my tea ritual was more similar to making a Hot Pocket than a pot of tea; microwave water, dip bag in water, wait a few minutes to remove bag, drink it and maybe stick my pinky out and pretend I’m sophisticated. These days I prepare loose leaves, but not in nearly as nice a set up as my brother’s.

My coffee ritual remains the same; zombie self gets out of bed, puts a bunch of water and grounds in some contraption, and destroys the black liquid with milk and sugar so I can drink candy instead of coffee.2

Some rituals show signs of thoughtfulness. I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned in them.


  1. Marco Arment details his coffee setup. Stretta’s relationship with tea is similar. 

  2. This was part of my motivation to switching to tea in the morning. I can appreciate tea without cream and sugar, but drinking plain black coffee makes me wonder if I even really like coffee—I’m pretty sure I don’t. I also put the Keurig away. 

Kill The K-Cup

Dear Coffee I Love You writes that Keurigs make crap coffee, that it doesn’t cost much more for a decently brewed cup, and that the K-Cup is an environmental abomination.

In Keurigs, Indie Coffee, Streaming Music I wrote:

Keurig machines aren’t really meant for raving coffee fans. They’re meant for people who want convenience, the same people that use crap like vegetable-oil based flavored creamers. That’s why you see Keurig machines and K-Cups at places like Bed Bath and Beyond.

The Endless Battle Between Coffee and Tea

Coffee People: Coffee’s good for you.
Tea People: No, tea’s better for you!
Coffee People: No – you’re wrong!
Tea People: No – YOU’RE WRONG!
Coffee People: No – YOU!
Me: Gentlemen please! I’ll drink both of you!

Both are probably ok, but take out sugar and cream and tea wins for me.

I don’t remember the link, but on Reddit there was a post about somebody trying to adopt a new diet, but wanting something sweet. He asked what people drank besides water to satisfy sweet tooths.

Responses were something like, “No, you’re doing it wrong. Just drink water.”

I don’t think he liked that response.

Keurigs, Indie Coffee, and Streaming Music

I bought a Keurig brewer a few weeks ago.

keurig-b40-coffee-machine.jpg

Keurig brewers are simple, one serving coffee machines. You add some water to a reservoir, hit a button, and three minutes later you have hot coffee.

All of this is centered around the K-Cup, a vacuum-sealed container of coffee grounds just enough for one cup of coffee (8oz, I think).

k-cup-hazelnut-decaf-alt1.jpg

You place the K-Cup into the brewer, a needle pierces the container, then you close the compartment, then some magic happens. The brewer makes a noise, sounding like something from a horror movie, but instead of getting horribly murdered by a beast the brewer spits out the coffee into your mug.

I had some reservations about going the Keurig way. I think the amount of waste generated for one cup of coffee is greater for a Keurig than a conventional machine (trash, shipping K-cups all over the world, that sort of thing). Still, my brother and sister highly recommended Keurig, basically saying it’s the best cup of coffee I can make at home.

There’s also the geek in me that sees a similarity between Keurig coffee machines and…GASP…Apple’s App Store.

How do K-Cups work? Not physically or mechanically, but in a sense there’s a process to get your coffee into a K-cup, not in the “place these grounds in the paper filter” way, but the “what papers need to be signed to even use K-Cups and how much of my profits are you going to take” way.

Because there’s a relatively few number of companies producing K-Cups 1:

  • Bigelow Tea Company
  • Cafe Escapes
  • Celestial Seasonings
  • Caribou Coffee
  • Coffee People
  • Diedrich/Gloria Jeans
  • Emeril
  • Ghirardelli Chocolate Company
  • Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
  • Newman’s Own
  • Timothy’s World Coffee
  • Tully’s
  • Twinings
  • Van Houtte
  • Wolfgang Puck

Reading this list of brands I don’t see many familiar names, except Green Mountain. There’s also Newman’s Own and Wolfgang Puck, and they aren’t even known for coffee. You like Dunkin Donuts coffee? Not available in a K-cup. Starbucks? Not available in a K-cup. That doesn’t bode well for your favorite cafe.

Maybe the more apt comparison, instead of Apple’s App store, is to streaming music services like Rdio and Spotify. If you’re an Rdio subscriber you can stream from an enormous library of music, but if Rdio doesn’t have a license for a certain piece of music, like your favorite indie band, it isn’t available to you through the service. Spotify has a way around this by also letting you play your local collection alongside their streaming library.

Keurig saw the opportunity here and made an overpriced filter that you can use to brew any coffee you want 2.

But let’s face it. Keurig machines aren’t really meant for raving coffee fans. They’re meant for people who want convenience, the same people that use crap like vegetable-oil based flavored creamers. That’s why you see Keurig machines and K-Cups at places like Bed Bath and Beyond.

If you want a really really good cup of coffee there’s a procedure more complex than “add water, hit button 3.” For most people good enough is fine, whether it’s coffee or streaming music services.

How’s the coffee from a Keurig? It’s good enough, I think.


  1. Wikipedia’s list of K-Cup varieties
  2. Keurig’s reusable filter, which has 3.5 stars on Amazon
  3. Check out Marco Arment’s coffee setup. Dude’s serious about coffee.