Posted in Kafevend Blog
Hot drinks are woven into the fabric of our every day life. Tea and coffee are our particular favourites here in the UK and we do like to err on the side of convenience when it comes to preparing them. For most of us the urge to dig the cafetière or the teapot out of the cupboard is only occasional because by and large when we decide we need that drink, we want it fairly immediately. No wonder the markets for instant coffee and teabags are so strong.
Let's not overlook the other part of the equation though. The other essential requirement for a swift hot drink is the electric kettle. We all have one at home. They're also a standard feature of any British hotel, bed and breakfast establishment, or beach hut even! It's hard to believe then, that there are nations where the electric kettle is just an optional extra, like a toasted sandwich maker or a slow cooker, but there you have it – we're all different! The USA is a good example, although they do have their reasons. For starters their domestic power supply is limited to 110 volts while we enjoy a more zippy 240. Then there's the cultural differences; Americans are more apt to brew their coffee in a filter machine and tea, certainly in the south, has traditionally been of the iced variety. Internet searches back up the cultural difference theory; we found American written articles discussing the merits of the electric kettle and whether it's worth giving counter or cupboard space to. Can you imagine keeping this most quintessential of household appliances in a cupboard? Those that do use them tend to refer to them as tea kettles and that in itself speaks volumes!
The USA isn't alone in its take it or leave it attitude to the convenience of the electric kettle. You're unlikely to discover one in a continental hotel and many households don't own one either, preferring to use a stove top kettle or a saucepan should the need arise. Once again, whilst we've traditionally gravitated towards tea or instant coffee, for which the kettle is perfectly adapted, hot drinks customs are fundamentally different for the veteran ground coffee drinkers of France, Italy, Scandinavia and the like.
Even other great tea drinking nations often have alternative methods. As we discovered in our look at Indian tea, masala chai is a widely popular way to drink black tea, but all the ingredients are combined in a pan on the stove, with no need for a kettle. Russia has remained committed to tea since it's introduction in the 1600s, but there the samovar, shaped like an urn, is traditionally used. Nevertheless, modern samovars do contain an electric heating element.
Perhaps predictably, we need to look at cultures matching our own to find people who also take the electric kettle for granted. As you'd expect, Ireland, whose per capita tea consumption surpasses even ours, are similarly steadfast kettle users. And then if we look to the other side of the world, New Zealand and Australia with their hefty dose of British heritage are our kettle allies too.
So as we begin another year let's raise a mug to Russell Hobbs, the company that brought us the very first fully automatic kettle back in 1955!