October 2, 1999
Tea guidelines take the biscuit for waffle
By Richard Alleyne
FOR an organisation whose remit is
to set British standards, there could be
no aim more noble than helping us brew the perfect cup of tea.
But by the time you have read the British
Standards Institute's guidelines
for making a cuppa, you may have died of thirst.
Running to 5,000 words, they are so
thorough they have won an international
award for waffling.
The snappily titled 'BSI 6008: Method
for Preparation of a Liquor of Tea'
was the unanimous choice among a panel of Harvard University academics for one
of 10 'Ig Nobel' prizes, an American spoof on the Nobel prizes.
The six-page work, which lays out in
mind-boggling detail how to brew the
definitive cuppa, won after meeting the key criterion of being a feat that
'cannot or should not be reproduced'.
The guidelines, drawn up to set a standard
for professional tea testers, lay
down the law on brewing up right down to the type of vessel to be used.
It states that the industry-standard
pot must be 'of white porcelain or
glazed earthenware, with its edge partly serrated and provided with a lid, the
skirt of which fits loosely inside'.
Accompanying scale drawings show how
'a small hole to allow air to enter
when the liquor is being poured' is required. 'Tests for sensory perceptions are
not to be rushed,' it adds.
The report does not approve of sugar,
while milk is only an optional extra
for use in improving taste.
Bosses at the BSI, whose Washington
representative was pelted with dry tea
bags as he accepted the gong, reacted with good grace.
Spokesman Steve Tyler said: 'We are
delighted to have been recognised for
what is a very important task. We do not take these matters lightly.' The BSI
was not the only British winner. Bristol University physics lecturer Len Fisher
was 'honoured' for his work on finding the best technique to dunk a biscuit in a
cup of tea.
Another award went to Japanese private
eye Takeshi Makino in the chemistry
section for creating an infidelity detection spray for men's underpants.