Idle Eye 137 : The Worst Drink of the Day

I hate tea. Quite why it has been adopted as the nation’s drink of choice is totally beyond me, seeing as pretty much anything else that’s liquid and stays down would be infinitely preferable. Let’s not beat about the bush: In its raw state, it looks (and tastes) as if it has been strained though your grandmother’s underpants. Then you add milk (as if that’s going to help), and when it’s made, perfectly normal people from right across the class spectrum make weird, contented sighs over the duration of its consumption as if to say that life, up until this point, has been a bit much. “Best drink of the day”, they go. Utter balls! Stick around with me & I’ll show you a belter come 6pm.

Three drinks that are better than tea. Fact!

  1. New Zealand Marlborough Pinot Noir
  2. Your own sick
  3. Someone else’s sick

You know, the bit that gets me is when they say “Ooh, I’m dying for a cuppa.” I could understand it if they were after a triple shot of wormwood-laden absinthe with a vermouth chaser, but tea? Really? It’s just so…lame! So, why exactly have we embraced this muck to our collective bosom? Well, as with most things, it’s a long story which I shall attempt to condense for you here. If you want proper facts, there’s always Wikipedia:

  1. Chinese accidentally discover it ages ago
  2. Portuguese nick it from Chinese
  3. Dutch nick it from Portuguese
  4. Brits nick it from Dutch
  5. It’s British. No argument. Like curry

The rest is history. There’s a bit of faffing about with taxes and the East India Company, but for the most part we stuck our flag right there in the middle of the pot and pretended to like the stuff. I blame that Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II, who made it fashionable and got hooked on it, dozy mare. A bit like Diana and marital infidelity, and look how that’s taken off. Only problem was, the proles had gotten a taste for it as well, and curiously, it was offered as an alternative to the demon grog at temperance meetings. Now, I’ve never attended a temperance meeting (probably not for me), but I’d imagine that tea really isn’t going to cut the mustard when you’re bug-eyed, frothing at the gills & threatening violence to anyone in the vicinity without an almost full bottle of pinot to hand. But what do I know?

And so to the present. I concede I must kowtow to the social mores of our time if I wish to succeed in my chosen field, but I shall do so on my own terms. A short cup of coffee, brutally strong and infused with one of those flavoured syrups, is more than enough to see off the competition. Preferably in sync with a couple of fags. And to those who see this as a crass invasion of tradition, hear ye:

“We do not have to accept the world as we find it” – Ed Miliband

Idle Eye 20 : The Liquorice Nose

When it comes to raw booze, Nibs has sure got me down. Of course he has: Secreted from the same womb over four decades ago it would be hard not to. So when an open invitation came from Idle Hour HQ to hop over to Lords Cricket Ground and consume some of the finest Portuguese wines available to humanity under the guise of ‘Restaurant Taster’, it was a done deal. Assuming the mantle of potential clients who can say ‘liquorice nose’ without pissing themselves, we slid in amongst the cognoscenti, making a beeline for the overwhelming reds. Nibs, to his credit, was magnificent: Doing that slooshing thing like they do in Sideways and never once being pathetically grateful for free alcohol as I was, he came across as a man at the top of his game. I, on the other hand, did not:

Wine Grower : Thank you for tasting. This powerful Reserva has very smooth attack with beautiful structure and well present tannins which provides long and very soft finale and slightly spicy sensations.

Me : So why is everyone spitting it out, then?

Call me old-fashioned, but in this time of austerity I was deeply disturbed to see man-high black plastic bins that we were supposed to spew our unfinished samples into. To be honest, if it wasn’t for Health and Safety issues I’d have been quite happy to leap into one of them with my mouth gaping like a guppy fish and guzzle up the slops. We’re talking £25-30 a bottle here: Just think what you could do on eBay with the right label and a PR chick in a power suit.

Seasoned tasters know there is an arc upon which, once the apex of saturation is reached, there is a dramatic drop-off in acumen. Unfortunately, it also gives the end user the illusion of clarity and infinite knowledge, coupled with ill-advised Herculean courage. On reflection, perhaps it would be fair to say that I reached this point approximately fifteen minutes after entering the building. And when we finally met the biodynamic bloke Nibs had been searching for, my eyeballs were colliding against their own sockets like bumper cars at a Mayday fair. The only way through was mimicry: So when Nibs whizzed the wine around the glass, so did I. Then he took a deep sniff. So did I. Holding the glass against the pristine white tablecloth, he assessed the colour. So did I, losing a few precious drops in the process. But then came the crunch:

Nibs : She’s a feisty little number, for sure.

Me : Indeed. And traces of liquorice nose…?

Bionic Man : I’m sorry?

Me : Liquorice nose. It’s in there. I can taste it.

Bionic Man : You are tasting the nose?

Me : Yes I am.

You can guess the rest: It wasn’t pretty. And due to a clerical error I missed my stop on the train home. So, next time you’re in IH Barnes, ask Nibs for a go on the Portuguese liquorice wine. Just don’t tell him I sent you..