diamond geezer

 Monday, October 25, 2004

Take it or leaf it

One of the best things about the office where I used to work is that we had a kettle. I'm not sure if we were meant to have a kettle because nobody else in the building had one, but we were just a small team in a space of our own so we got away with it. We put someone in charge of buying teabags and every now and then, when supplies were low, we'd all give her a quid and she'd pop out to the local Sainsburys Local to buy some more. Regularly throughout each day we'd sort of take it in turns to go into the kitchen area, stick the kettle on and make everyone a cuppa. We did it properly, with a big teapot and fresh milk and everything, and almost every cup used to taste great [9½/10]. Just enough to get us through the next two hours until somebody decided to brew up another pot. And then we moved.

We're not allowed a kettle any more. Apparently the use of a kettle would breach Health and Safety regulations, no doubt because boiling water is involved. Goodness knows how I've managed to use a kettle at home to make myself thousands of cups of tea over the years without fatally scalding myself, but it seems that at work I'm not even allowed to try. Fortunately my workplace has made alternative arrangements for the production of tea. Unfortunately, they suck. Here's how.

Tea from the machine
A large black vending machine has been positioned in the new kitchen area on our floor at work. There's a giant illuminated picture of a pot of frothy coffee on the front, which alas is not a good sign for us tea connoisseurs. The machine can dispense about six different types of coffee (including a nasty hot chocolate/cappuccino hybrid), as well as some tooth-rotting lemon drink and a thin pasty liquid supposedly called 'hot vegetable soup', but there's only one type of tea. This tea is described as 'freshly brewed', although goodness knows how it can possibly be fresh when it gets pumped out of the nozzle in ten seconds flat. The dispensed drink is very similar to that described by Arthur Dent as "a cupful of liquid that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea". It's weak, it's thin, it's insipid and it's desperately unsatisfying. So unsatisfying in fact that I've never once risked drinking a cup. This devil's brew may be free but it's worth no more than [1/10].

Tea from the canteen
We now have a canteen at work, which is great. It serves fry-ups for breakfast and big meaty meals for lunch, as well as the juice and rabbit food that some of my colleagues seem to prefer. Even better it's heavily subsidised so I'm saving money over buying sandwiches and not having to cook again when I get home. Unfortunately the canteen also attempts to sell tea. They've put a pile of paper cups by the till, along with a collection of teabags and a hot water dispenser which you then combine to form a brown liquid with a light greasy scum on the surface. I am not tempted, especially not at 40p a cup for an inferior version of a drink that I used to get virtually for nothing. It makes me wonder whether the supposed 'Health & Safety' ban on kettles isn't really to protect the fleecing rights of the canteen franchisers. Alas, I refuse point blank to fork out £500 a year for this scum. [3/10]

Tea in a meeting
What could brighten a lengthy meeting better than some surly youth arriving with the drinks trolley? Try not to think how much your departmental budget is being charged for a pot of coffee, a flask of tepid water and a plate of biscuits, just smile because it's better than the stuff out of the machines. Only just, though. Most of the teabags they provide are trendy herbal rubbish (a finely grated flower petal in an expensive packet) but there are always also a couple of ordinary teabags on strings. Drop the teabag of your choice into the far-from boiling water, watch as the brown colour fails to budge more than a millimetre from the bag, stir the liquid vigorously in an attempt to improve the brew and sob in despair as the string breaks and you have to squelch the teabag out of the cup unaided. But it is a china cup, and the tea is almost warm, so I have to score this [4/10].

Tea substitute
Imagine a cup of tea without the heat, without the milk and without the tea. That's all I drink at work now. It's a crying shame.

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