Christopher Hitchens could have been Britain’s greatest left-wing polemicist. But after some years working in America, he took American citizenship. He could have become America’s greatest left-wing polemicist – that is, would have, had he not turned decisively away from the liberal consensus, notably in his disparagement of Clinton and his support for George W. Bush’s foreign policy. He was a great polemicist, anyway, but one difficult to categorise. He was an anti-Stalinist Trotskyist, who never renounced his communist beliefs, but nevertheless saw America as the great hope of the world; he was anti-religion, anti-Catholic, anti-Clinton, anti-death-penalty, anti-Vietnam but pro- the Afghan, Iraq and Libya wars, a smoker and a heavy drinker. You didn’t have to agree with what he was saying (and I often didn’t) to enjoy the way he was saying it, because he was above all those things a combative, informative and witty writer.
The article of his we are looking at is not about war, however, nor the state of the world, the future of civilisation or the making and breaking of nations. It’s about tea.
Hitchens was not the kind of ex-pat who would continually gripe about his adoptive country, constantly finding it lacking the special qualities of the place he grew up. He embraced the States and was unsentimental about Britain. When it came to just this one thing, however, he found his new home lacking. The article is, in the first place, a protracted complaint about the poor tea-making technique in America’s cafes, and a detailed explanation of the technique he considers the only way to make a decent cup of tea. As in politics, so in tea-making, he wasn’t one for compromise…
But on this one, I agree with him wholeheartedly. The whole article can be read here.
Write about a particular gripe you have with your local café or restaurant. Perhaps they leave lumps of chocolate powder floating in your mocha, or undercook the onions in your burger. What is it that they are doing wrong? How should they be doing it?