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Wednesday, 19 December 2012


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One thing I've heard, and I have no idea if it is true, is that a primary 30 second brewing will extract most of the caffeine in tea leaves (or some of them). So, if you're sensitive to caffeine, you can pour that out, then make a new brew to actually drink.

Placebos work both ways! I was just given some Neumega injections to boost my platelet count. I was reading the package insert and dismayed to find that about 70 out of about 100 test subjects had nausea. Uh, Oh. Then I looked and saw that the column I was reading was the placebo group! The count was about 77 for those who were given the actual treatment.

Microwave! No kettle? (My tea ritual requires the water to be vigorously boiling when it touches the tea.)

My tea ritual would be: Warm the teapot with a swirl of boiling water, pour that away, and place 1 teaspoon (per person) of loose-leaf tea in the pot before pouring boiling water (flick the kettle back on after warming the pot) onto the leaves and brew for 2 minutes. (Now would be the time to smell the tea). If serving with milk, pour the milk first, but use a strainer to make sure that tealeaves never touch the milk (and if making in the mug with a teabag, the milk has to be last for the same reason). And yes, tea made any other way just doesn't taste the same...

Hi Ctein

Glad you enjoy and understand how to brew tea. Because you don't quite understand the placebo effect.

Contrary to your assertion, placebos don't actually work. That is why they are called placebos not medicine, that is why the effect they produce in clinical trials is called the placebo effect not placebo therapy. The placebo effect is a confounder of clinical trials, not some term used to describe a therapy that provides meaningful efficacy to patients.

The placebo effect is due to many factors, not just due to "the power of suggestion". Remember, the 'placebo effect' is a term to describe a complication that is seen in clinical trials. In clinical trials, there is a lot going on which can effect the mental state of the patient - they are participating in something important, they have a new schedule, interact with a lot of people who are interested in what they have to say, have to get up, out of bed and into the real world, etc.

The placebo effect is not a true medical effect - it is a short-term complication that is important to the results of clinical trials - but only because clinical trials tend to be short-term themselves. As the clinical trials get longer and longer, one sees the placebo effect disappearing over time.

The more the treated disease has a psychological component, the more confounding is the effect of the placebo. Tests of antidepressants are notoriously confounded by this effect, as one might imagine; treating an axe gash to the leg remarkably less so.

So, your statement that "...It's also why you can never disprove the efficacy of physically-nonsensical things like homeopathy and magnet-laden bracelets..." is false. We can and have disproved the efficacy of quackery like homeopathy and magnetic bracelets. And placebos never "cured" anyone of anything. Unfortunately, we have and will continue to spend many hundreds of millions of dollars to disprove many forms of popular quackery in carefully-controlled clinical trials. And the placebo 'effect' will continue to confound those trials. But the 'effect' is as a confounder, and is absolutely not as a therapy.

Studies in medicine (and other fields) also need to be randomised, so that participants are randomly allocated to either the intervention or control group. Ideally, a clinical trial is a randomised controlled trial and the best available evidence is from a systematic review, (meta-analysis if the data allows it), of studies meeting a pre-determined set of inclusion criteria.

If a rabbit's foot is lucky, why are there so many dead rabbits?

This site was so much more fun when it was about photography. Oh, for the good ol' days.

"Partly it's the placebo effect.... This is solely due to the "power of suggestion..."

Awhile back I remember reading about state-dependent learning. I've wondered if other things might be state-dependent as well. (I remember being skeptical, on more than issues of integrity, of the "taste tests" that were prevalent on TV some years ago--okay, a lot of years ago). I think some of these rituals bring us into another state, one in which we are attentive to certain subtleties. Perhaps the rituals are meant to do this (certainly, long standing rituals, such as Tea Ceremonies, must be designed to induce another state of being). I don't think it is simply a placebo effect. Our ceremonies, even or personal ones--even if it is just the ritual of plunking down with a satisfied grin into our ratty recliner, turning on the TV to watch Monday Night Football, and popping open the can of our favorite beer or soda--which we can tell the difference from any other brand--our ceremonies take us somewhere.

In the UK different regions have different blends of tea on sale to take account of hard or soft water areas - as we discovered after taking teabags from softwater Southwest UK to hardwater London - tasted horrible and we've since discovered we should buy tea in the area we are drinking it.

"And then there's aesthetics. If you don't think aesthetics affect taste and palatability, ..."

Not enough to make the green sludge I was offered from a formal Japanese tea ceremony palatable. I would probably enjoy the ceremony more now than as a callow youth in 1960, but I'm pretty sure the tea would still be undrinkable.

When are we going to get into Water, source, time of year, recent and historical weather patterns, methods of capture, packaging, storage, delivery, opening, pouring, glass, and so on?

Water is my hands down favorite thing to drink. I prefer a particular domestic spring water. And it's a shame they switched to plastic bottles some time ago. Although I'm not sure it changed the taste, I'm told the plastic must be doing something bad to me. OTOH, the screw tops mean fewer spills ...

I still have a case in glass stashed away. Ctein could cross the Bay, sample in beautiful, hand made glasses (perhaps vs. French cafeware, vs. domestc crystal?), and render an opinion. [;-)>

And also, on Topic: Overall, I think water provides more photographic opportunities, as well. Tea, water, beer, wine, etc. don't come in rain, falls, surf, sleet, snow ...

Simple Pleasures Moose

Maybe a Black and White shooter may prefer that salad.

Dear Peter,

That doesn't describe a “rational man”, that merely describes an opinionated one. One should not bother REPEATEDLY disproving nonsense, once is quite enough. But if someone says they believe in a homeopathy and I say I don't, if I don't know that a theoretical analysis says that it shouldn't work and that proper experimental study has confirmed that analysis then I am not being rational, I am merely asserting an arbitrary position. (Of course I do know those things.)


Dear Robert and David,

I addressed these brewing matters in previous columns. My bad for not including links to them in this one; here they are:.



Dear Moose,

Not ever going to happen, because I personally happen to dislike straight water as a beverage! Never liked it as a kid, still don't as an adult. I drink it if I am dehydrated and I have no other beverage available, but honestly, unless it's "adulterated" with some kind of flavoring (tea, for example) I don't like it. Most days I never drink any straight water at all. Doesn't matter the kind, the source, or the provenance, it all tastes bleehh to me.

Now, if YOU want to write such a column…

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

I'm not much of a tea epicurean yet, but for both the tea I do drink (95% of the time it's lapsang suchong -- I just love the smokiness) and for brewing coffee, I use a Cuisinart CPK-17. It has different temperature settings and a circuit that keeps the water at the desired temperature over a period of time. The increments between the various temperatures are logical and, at least for me, cover different types of tea and coffee brewing requirements.

It's about 2x as expensive as Mike's choice, but it seems well made and is quite versatile.

For another method and the one I use several times a day, along with most of the Middle East, particularly Turkey and Iran:

Buy a Turkish teapot set up, which adapts the samovar principle i.e. the tea and its water sit on top of a quite well sealed bottom pot which sits on top of a steady high but not boiling heat. I allow about 15 minutes. The tea is never hit by boiling water and doesn't stew.

When pouring--and Turkish glasses are traditional--adjust strength to your taste by adding more or less water from the bottom pot to your glass.

Various combinations of Turkish and Middle Eastern via Sri Lankan teas, perhaps with added cardamon or cloves work for me.

Not as subtle as Pu Erh, but I like it.

My tea ritual would be: Warm the teapot with a swirl of boiling water, pour that away, and place 1 teaspoon (per person) of loose-leaf tea in the pot before pouring boiling water (flick the kettle back on after warming the pot) onto the leaves and brew for 2 minutes. (Now would be the time to smell the tea). If serving with milk, pour the milk first

I agreed with you up to 'pour the milk first!'

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