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Opening Arguments

Bad tea

You've heard, I'm sure, the one about somebody being so clueless in the kitchen that he can't boil water. Apparently it is possible these days to screw up that simple task:

A reader recently wrote in to ask: Why is tea made with microwave-heated water so lousy compared to tea made with water boiled in a kettle?

Because a proper cup of black tea must be made with water that’s come to a rolling boil. A kettle is designed to heat water evenly to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat at the bottom of the kettle—whether from a heating element embedded in an electric device or from a burner on the stove—creates a natural convection current: The hot water rises and the cool water falls in a cyclical fashion, which uniformly heats the contents of the kettle to a boil (at which point an electric kettle clicks off or a stovetop kettle whistles).

But microwaves don’t heat water evenly, so the boiling process is difficult to control. Microwave ovens shoot tiny waves into the liquid at random locations, causing the water molecules at those points to vibrate rapidly. If the water isn’t heated for long enough, the result is isolated pockets of very hot or boiling water amid a larger body of water that’s cooler.

Ah, modern life. There are never enough ways to get things wrong. Thank goodness we keep finding new ones.

Posted in: Food and Drink