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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

To Tea Or Not to Tea

First things first, and that’s Secondhand SCIENCE. This time, we’re talking about apoptosis.

We’re not always pronouncing it the same way, and we probably don’t spell it the same way twice. But that’s what we’re talking about. It’s the ptosis with the mostest.)

I’m struggling with tea.

Not all tea. Just office tea. And only bad office tea, at that. I’ll explain.

Where I work, we have a break room. The company is kind enough to provide snacks and fruit and whatever off-brand Cheeto-like puffs qualify as.

(Flavored styrofoam? Orange chalk dust? Chemical weapons?)

There’s also a water cooler — or bubblah, in Boston-ese — which I take advantage of a couple of times a day.

(Which is to say, I get a couple of cups of water. Nobody’s “taking advantage of” that water cooler in the break room, if you know what I’m saying.

At least, I hope not. The sloshing mess alone would be ridiculous.)

“If you water down water, all you get is more water. It’s like the Hootie and the Blowfish of the potable beverage world.”

Anyway, I drink the water — but I get bored with water, because it’s water. I like strong tastes and bold flavors. Spicy food. Hoppy beers. Coffee so black it exerts a small gravitational pull. You only live once; I say, who wants to go out with a pristine intestinal tract? That’s just a waste of good colon, right there.

So water is fine, but it’s obviously not interesting. Water is the very definition of bland. If you water down water, all you get is more water. It’s like the Hootie and the Blowfish of the potable beverage world.

So I started making tea. Or rather, TEA.

See, there are two ways in this break room to prepare tea. The first, which tea fans, cucumber sandwich eaters and citizens of the British Isles would no doubt prefer, involves steeping tea bags in hot water.

(Which you can get straight from the bubblah! Because it’s duah-tempahtuah, that thing. That’s wicked pissah, kid!)

If you make a strong choice and use enough tea bags — oh, say, three for a twelve-ounce cup — then you’ll get a nice, flavorful, intense cup of tea.


It’ll also take five minutes or more to steep — “but I’m thirsty noooooow” — and results in a drink that’s quite hot. Tongue-burningly so, and that adds more hassle. Especially now that it’s fricking June, and we’re not fighting our way through polar bears and frostbite to get into the damned office. It’s eighty degrees outside; why the hell would I want a hundred and eighty more in my mouth?

I wouldn’t. So I moved over to the second, lazy method of making tea, which involves opening a little packet of powdered tea dust — or off-brand Cheeto scrapings, for all I know — and stirring the contents into a cup of cold water.

Is that “proper” tea? No. Is it “good” tea? No. Does it taste more interesting than water, which is the whole point of this ridiculous endeavor?

Weeeeeell. That depends.

Because at first, I read the labels on these little one-serving packets of tea dander, and the labels said to dissolve the contents into 20 ounces of water. I tried that. And I got some semblance of something that maybe one day in the past brushed up against tea, or maybe had worn a pair of pants after tea had been in them. But I wouldn’t call it “tea”. And certainly not TEA, which is what I really wanted.

So I downsized. I found if I stirred that same bit of fluff into 12 ounces of water, the ratio worked out well enough to resemble tea. It even bordered on TEA, which I could live with, and so planned to continue this system for the foreseeable future.

Which turned out to be about four days, when we ran out of tea powder sleeves. So for the next week, no tea. I tried making off-brand Cheeto water, but it wasn’t the same. And my orange lips were beginning to freak people out. So, no tea.

But then. This week, someone restocked the break room, and that’s where my struggles began. Because they didn’t replace the single-serving leaf-dirt sleeves; instead, they brought in bigger sleeves, meant to flavor something like a gallon of water at a time. I didn’t notice the difference right away, and used one as I normally would.

That didn’t make tea. Nor did it make TEA.

That shit made TEEEEEEEEEEEA.

I drank it, but it was hours before I was right again. It felt like someone’s oolong was all crammed up in my orange pekoe. Not cool.

I’ve tried making more — using only part of the packet at a time — but it’s not an exact science. I’m not going to measure out individual tea grains, so all I can do is pour out what I think is half, or a third, or a quarter of the sleeve. Sometimes I get tea. Sometimes Teeeeea? Occasionally tea. But very rarely do I get TEA, which is what I actually want.

In a lifetime mostly spent knowing exactly how Arthur Dent feels, now I know exactly how Arthur Dent feels.

I feel like the best option is just switching over to dry martinis, which turn out to be way less fiddly to make and almost never taste like water. I might not get any work done, but at least I’ll be passed out at my desk, instead of sitting in the lunchroom for four hours at a time, microdosing dirt into water like some kind of modern-day deranged beverage alchemist.

Yeah. Definitely better.

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