George Orwell’s Rules for Making the Perfect Cup of Tea: A Short Animation

Several years back, Colin Marshall highlighted George Orwell's essay, "A Nice Cup of Tea," which first ran in the Evening Standard on January 12, 1946. In that article, Orwell weighed in on a subject the English take seriously--how to make the perfect cup of tea. And he proceeded to offer 11 rules for achieving that result. Above, Luís Sá condenses Orwell's suggestions into a short animation, made with kinetic typography. Below, you can read the first three of Orwell's 11 rules, and find the remaining eight here.

  • First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it....
  • Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot.... The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse....
  • Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.

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An Espresso Maker Made in Le Corbusier’s Brutalist Architectural Style: Raw Concrete on the Outside, High-End Parts on the Inside

From the 1950s through the 1970s, Brutalist architecture flourished in North America and Europe (both West and East) and many countries beyond. Made out of raw concrete, Brutalist buildings--usually municipal buildings, campuses, and housing projects--have an almost unfinished look to them. The first and most famous example of this architectural style is the Unité d'habitation, the housing complex built by Le Corbusier in Marseille between 1947 and 1952.

Though Brutalism has since fallen out of fashion, it might be poised for a comeback, especially if this new espresso machine is any indication. After a successful Kickstarter campaign this summer (raising $145k), the Norwegian-Californian design firm Montaag Products is putting the finishing touches on a brutalist espresso maker. They wanted to design a machine made out of "completely honest materials.” Hence the raw concrete. Inside the espresso maker, however, they've used materials typically found inside $1300 Italian machines, according to Food & Wine. You can pre-order the machine at Indiegogo for $799. It should be ready in March (or thereabouts).

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Visit Monte Testaccio, the Ancient Roman Hill Made of 50 Million Crushed Olive Oil Jugs

Image by patrimoni gencat, via Flickr Commons

It may be one of the more curious manmade garbage piles on our planet. Located in Rome, and dating back to 140 A.D., Monte Testaccio rises 150 feet high. It covers some 220,000 square feet. And it's made almost entirely of 53 million shattered amphorae--that is, Roman jugs used to transport olive oil during ancient times. How did the remnants of so many amphorae end up here? The web site Olive Oil Times offers this explanation:

Firstly, the site of the mound on the east bank of the Tiber is located near the Horrea Galbae – a huge complex of state controlled warehouses for the public grain supply as well as wine, food and building materials. As ships came from abroad bearing the olive oil supplies, the transport amphorae were decanted into smaller containers and the used vessels discarded nearby.

There’s a reason for this: Due to the clay utilized to make the amphorae not being lined with a glaze, after transportation of olive oil, the amphorae could not be re-used because the oil created a rancid odour within the fabric of the clay.

You might consider this Roman garbage dump an historical oddity. But as they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure. And according to Archaeology (a website of the Archaeological Institute of America) Monte Testaccio promises to reveal much about the inner-workings of the Roman economy. They write:

As the modern global economy depends on light sweet crude, so too the ancient Romans depended on oil—olive oil. And for more than 250 years, from at least the first century A.D., an enormous number of amphoras filled with olive oil came by ship from the Roman provinces into the city itself, where they were unloaded, emptied, and then taken to Monte Testaccio and thrown away. In the absence of written records or literature on the subject, studying these amphoras is the best way to answer some of the most vexing questions concerning the Roman economy—How did it operate? How much control did the emperor exert over it? Which sectors were supported by the state and which operated in a free market environment or in the private sector?

For historians, these are important questions, and they're precisely the questions being asked by University of Barcelona professor, José Remesa, who notes, “There’s no other place where you can study economic history, food production and distribution, and how the state controlled the transport of a product."

Above get a distant view of Monte Testaccio. Below get a close up view of the amphorae shards themselves.

Image by Alex, via Flickr Commons

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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1934 Map Resizes the World to Show Which Country Drinks the Most Tea

Not a day goes by that I don’t use Google Maps for something or other, whether it’s basic navigation, researching an address, or finding a dry cleaner. Though some of us might resent the dominance such mapping technology has over our daily interactions, there’s no denying its endless utility. But maps can be so much more than useful tools for getting around—they are works of art, thought experiments, imaginative flights of fancy, and data visualization tools, to name but a few of their overlapping functions. For the imperialists of previous ages, maps displayed a mastery of the world, whether cataloguing travel times from London to everywhere else on the globe, or—as in the example we have here—resizing countries according to how much tea their people drank.

But this is not a map we should look to for accuracy. Like many such cartographic data charts, it promotes a particular agenda. “George Orwell once wrote that tea was one of the mainstays of civilization,” notes Jack Goodman at Atlas Obscura. “Tea, asserted Orwell, has the power to make one feel braver, wiser, and more optimistic. The man spoke for a nation.” (And he spoke to a nation in a 1946 Evening Standard essay, “A Nice Cup of Tea.”) From the map above, titled “The Tea is Drunk” and published by Fortune Magazine in 1934, we learn, writes Goodman, that “Britain consumed 485,000 pounds of tea per year. That’s one hundred billion cups of tea, or around six cups a day for each person.” We might note however, that “the population of China was then nine times bigger than that of the U.K., and they drank roughly twice as much tea as the Brits did.” Why isn’t China at the center of the map? “The author made a tenuous point about the cultural differences between the two: the Chinese drank tea as a necessity, the British by choice.”

Cornell University library’s description of the map is more forthright: “While China actually consumed twice as much tea as Britain, its position at the edge of the map assured that the focus will be on the British Isles.” That focus is commercial in nature, meant to encourage and inform British tea merchants for whom tea was more than a beverage; it was one of the nation's pre-eminent commodities, though most of what was sold as a national product was Indian tea grown in India. Yet the map brims with pride in the British tea trade. “Thus may be told the geography and allegiance of Tea,” its author proclaims, “an empire within an empire, whose borders follow everywhere the scattered territories of that nation on which the sun never sets.” A little over a decade later, India won its independence, and the empire began to fall apart. But the British never lost their taste for or their national pride in tea. View and download a high-resolution scan of the "Tea is Drunk" map at the Cornell Library site.

via Atlas Obscura

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Expensive Wine Is for Dupes: Scientific Study Finds No Strong Correlation Between Quality & Price

If wine is on your Thanksgiving menu tomorrow, then keep this scientific finding in mind: According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of Wine Economics, the quality of wine doesn't generally correlate with its price. At least not for most people. Written by researchers from Yale, UC Davis and the Stockholm School of Economics, the abstract for the study states:

Individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine. In a sample of more than 6,000 blind tastings, we find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. For individuals with wine training, however, we find indications of a non-negative relationship between price and enjoyment. Our results are robust to the inclusion of individual fixed effects, and are not driven by outliers: when omitting the top and bottom deciles of the price distribution, our qualitative results are strengthened, and the statistical significance is improved further. These findings suggest that non-expert wine consumers should not anticipate greater enjoyment of the intrinsic qualities of a wine simply because it is expensive or is appreciated by experts.

You can read online the complete study, "Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better? Evidence from a Large Sample of Blind Tastings." But if you're looking for something that puts the science into more quotidien English and makes the larger case for keeping your hard-earned cash, watch the video from Vox above.

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Salvador Dali’s 1978 Wine Guide, The Wines of Gala, Gets Reissued: Sensual Viticulture Meets Surreal Art

Popular food culture is dominated by status symbols of restaurant-inspired consumer kitchenware and appliances, thanks in large part to reality televisions shows about cooking competitions which can make the preparation of haute cuisine seem more accessible to the average home chef than it may actually be.

Many would argue, however, that we’ve come a long way since the 70s, when the mass-market products that held sway over best-selling cooking guides went by names like Hamburger Helper, Cool Whip, and Jello. Back then, willful anachronism Salvador Dali stepped into this commercial landscape with his 1973 cookbook Les Diners de Gala, offering aristocratic, extravagant recipes—next to even more extravagant art—with exotic ingredients often impossible to find at the local supermarket both then and now.

Dali made it plain that his object was to bring back pure pleasure to dining, the adventurous opulence he and his wife, Gala, so appreciated in their own outsized social lives. A few years later, Dali did the same thing with the fine-dining beverage of choice, publishing The Wines of Gala, an “eccentric guide to wine grapes and their origin,” writes This is Colossal. The book’s “groupings are appropriate imaginative classifications.”

The Wines of Gala splits into two parts: “Ten Divine Dali Wines” and “Ten Gala Wines.” The latter includes categories like “Wines of Frivolity,” “Wines of Joy,” “Wines of Sensuality,” “Wines of Purpose,” and “Wines of Aestheticism.” Among the Divine Dali Wines, we find “The Wine of King Minos,” “Lacrima Christi,” “Chateauneuf-du-Pape,” and “Sherry.” In an appendix, Dali surveys “Vineyards of the World,” generally, and “Vineyards of France,” specifically, and offers “Advice to the Wine-Loving Gourmet.”

While some of Dali’s wine advice may go over our heads, maybe the real reason we’re drawn to his cookbook and wine guide is the artwork they contain within their pages, likely also the principle reason arts publisher Taschen has reissued both of these publications. The Wines of Gala is due out on November 21, but you can pre-order a hard copy now (or find used copies of the original 1970s edition here). In it you’ll find much bewitching original art to complement the passionate descriptions of wine.

The “rich and extravagant wine bible features 140 illustrations by Dali,” notes Rebecca Fulleylove. “Many of the artworks featured are appropriated pieces, including… a work from Dali’s late Nuclear Mystic phase, The Sacrament of the Last Supper.” Even to this solemn affair, Dali brings “his ability to seek out pleasure and beauty in everything.”

via This is Colossal/It’s Nice That

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Art of the Japanese Teapot: Watch a Master Craftsman at Work, from the Beginning Until the Startling End

People all over the world enjoy Japanese tea, but few of them have witnessed a proper Japanese tea ceremony — and seeing as a proper Japanese tea ceremony can last up to four hours, many probably imagine they don't have the endurance. But Japanese tea culture holds up meticulousness as a high virtue for the preparer, the drinker, and even more so the craftsman who makes the tea ware both of them use. In the video above, you can see one such master named Shimizu Genji at work in his studio in Tokoname, a city known as a ceramics center for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Shimizu, writes the proprietor of pottery site about a visit to his workshop, "throws a block of clay onto the wheel, creating the teapot's body, handle, spout and lid one after another, all from the same block. It really is quite mesmerising and awe-inspiring to watch."

Once he assembles these formidably solid-looking but deceptively light pieces, he dries them out over three days, a process that offers "just one example of the time and care invested in the crafting of exquisite Tokoname teapots." Finally comes the seaweed, of which certain pieces get a layer applied before firing. Afterward, the traces left by the seaweed create a "charred" patterning called mogake.

We would surely welcome any of Shimizu's products, or those by the other respected practitioners of his tradition, into our home. But as with all Japanese crafts honed over countless generations, the process counts for just as much as the product, or even more so. Take, for instance, Shimizu's process as captured by this video: we appreciate the concentration, deliberation, and sensitivity shown at each and every stage, and the pieces of the teapot as they come into existence don't look half bad either. But if we become too attached to the final result we've been anticipating over these fourteen minutes — well, suffice it to say that the master craftsman has a lesson in impermanence in store for us.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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