In the dim and distant past, before we started to incarcerate tea-leaves in paper cells called 'teabags', sage old women used to tell your fortune by reading the tea-leaves left in your cup of tea. So in an acknowledgement of 21st Century tea-drinking habits, here is a guide to getting an insight into someone's character by analysing their used teabags.
In fact, teabags have been with us only since about 1908, when Thomas Sullivan, a tea and coffee merchant from New York, first bound tea-leaves in silk pouches. They were intended as samples of his wares yet his customers popped these straight into the pot instead of loose (as was traditional) and so was born another American convenience food invention.
The Ripped Teabag
It is very hard to rip a teabag. However, if it comes individually wrapped, beware: often the ensuing struggle to open the wrapping endangers the integrity of the teabag.
Left to Dry
Some people leave their teabags on a saucer or the draining sink/board to dry out. There are four types of character who do this so be careful not to prejudge.
Left to Dry for Composting
The first type realises that used tea-leaves and even bags make excellent compostable material. If the person is prepared to recycle the dregs of their favourite drink for compost they are liable to be into organic vegetables and fruit. The teabags can either be left separately or with other compostable goods in the draining section of the sink. It does not matter which. Also, they are liable to take an active concern in a number of environmental matters. Someone who maintains a compost heap is also likely to be active in their own garden and their flowers and/or vegetables may be their pride and joy. This person therefore will pursue a healthy lifestyle with outdoor activities and possibly even home-grown produce on the table; however, they may also smell of manure and compost.
Left to Dry Before Dumping in the Bin
This is the person who conscientiously drains the water out of their teabag before dumping the remains in the normal waste. This type of person is liable to be houseproud; you will not find dust, unwiped drips or anything out of place in their house. They refuse to put a wet teabag straight into their bin as they know they will eventually have to empty the bin bag into the collection bin. If it is wet it will drip through and stain them later and they will also have to wipe the kitchen bin after emptying.
Left to Dry for Re-use
There is an old myth that people used to hang out teabags to dry to send to missionaries. This is doubtful, considering this rumour started when the missionaries in question were largely in India and China where tea is produced and was being shipped back to the very people who were allegedly saving their teabags. This would have been a virtuous reason for re-using teabags. Today if you stumble upon someone who is drying out teabags for re-use, unless they are in absolute poverty or even homeless, that person is a skinflint. You can be assured that they will never knowingly pay for a round of drinks at the pub.
Re-use as a Beauty Product
Some people, once they have dried out their teabags, will place them in the fridge to use as an eye beauty treatment.
Left in a Sink at Work
While leaving teabags to dry in a sink at home is often a sign of environmental consciousness, to do so at work is a sign of laziness. For a start, it is probably ignoring the signs displayed at your work sink to clean up your own mess. Secondly, someone will eventually just throw the teabags out of the sink into the nearest available bin. It will also probably lead to the head of services in your building having to send around emails requesting you and your colleagues to look after your working spaces. Therefore you will have taken up other people's work time unnecessarily.
The Off-white Teabag
This tea-bag is most likely to be found drying out for the compost: the reason being that it is unbleached or made of recycled paper. This person is most likely to be a very keen environmentalist. The tea is also most likely to be a fair trade or organic variety as these teas most often use this sort of teabag. Someone with such a high environmentalist conscience is liable to be an evangelist for the green cause, so possibly best not to visit their house in your SUV.
The Red Teabag
The red teabag will be accompanied by the sweet aroma of herbs, spices and possibly fruit. The owner of this teabag will be a drinker of herbal tea. They may be drinking this as a detox from caffeine-rich normal tea and coffee or simply as a refreshing alternative. Also they are very likely to be into healthy food options and possibly, though not necessarily, a vegetarian as herbal tea negates the requirement for milk. This person is quite likely to be chilled-out as they are not requiring a caffeine fix at whichever point in the day you discovered their teabag.
The Drip Trail
You will discover this teabag by following the tell-tale trail of dripped tea, possibly stained across the floor or worktop to the final resting place of the teabag. If the drips are still wet, clean them up immediately: even if it is not your kitchen, a dried-in tea stain can be a pain to remove. The fact that a track of tea leads from the tea-making area to the teabag graveyard indicates a serious lack of care from the tea-maker. If this is discovered early in the morning it might indicate a good night the night before: the person responsible for the resultant drunken tea trail might therefore be forgiven. That decision, however, is obviously up to the trail discoverer.
However, if the trail was not created under mitigating circumstances and the trails occur persistently, the serial offender is lazy and not willing to clear up after him- or herself. This person is liable to be lazy in other areas and therefore liable to be hard work.
The absence of a tea trail in the vicinity of the bin may not necessarily indicate due care and attention. People who make tea in mugs may take the mug to the bin and dispose of their teabag straight into it. This is aided if the bin is pedal-operated, however if it is not, drips may occur on the lid as the user wishes they had three hands while attempting to hold mug of tea, throw away teabag and open bin simultaneously.
The Pull-string Diva
Some of those clever manufacturers of teabags have come up with a solution to hide the tracks of the drip trail demon; they have invented teabags with a pull-string that enables the tea-maker to squeeze the water out. The owner of such teabags is either a reformed dripper or houseproud. If they fit into the first category you have someone is able to learn from their mistakes - a highly-prized asset. The second can cause problems: it may lead to excessive compulsive tendencies at one extreme. You may have to be careful about putting anything down, eating may become an act of military precession instead of an enjoyment and don't dare put down a cup or glass without first locating a coaster from the stack neatly piled near the coffee table.
The Pull-string Dumb-Dumb
This is a pull-string teabag with the pull-tag soaked through and possibly unable to be used. This is someone who was making tea without due care and attention and just flung the entire teabag into the cup or pot without preserving the integrity of the pull-strings. This person is liable to be someone in a hurry, or someone who does not care for details. If they are in a hurry it is highly likely that the person is ambitious. However, if they are someone who does not care for details those ambitions are likely to flounder. Unfortunately teabag observation is not an exact enough science to differentiate between these two character types.
The Concave Squashed Teabag
A teabag with an identifiable concave indent in it has been mercilessly squeezed of its last liquid content by a teaspoon-wielding tea drinker. This person may have at one time been a finger-pincher (see below) but now realise that molesting a teabag on the side of the mug with a spoon is far more pain-free than attempting to only use their finger. This person is evolving; they may yet develop the third arm to allow them to hold the mug, teaspoon holding the bag and open a non-pedal-operated bin for disposal all at the same time. Charles Darwin would probably have been interested in this type of teabag user, if only teabags had been around when he was alive.
The tea technophile will have various implements which are meant to improve on the humble spoon such as specialised tongs for draining the teabag, or even a vessel to suspend the teabag in the boiling water. Such people are either obsessive about their tea or easily gulled by marketeers; it is very difficult to tell the difference at this level.
The Finger-pinching Dumper
This is someone who, when they extract the teabag from the tea-making receptacle, will merely pinch the residual water with their fingertips and dump it into the bin. For this person, tea-making will occasionally be associated with screams of pain, unless they have calloused fingers (look out for a guitar elsewhere in the house). The evidence is what is missing; no teabag, unless you open the bin, and no teaspoon on the draining board. The finger-pincher will by nature hold a corner of the teabag in a mug until brewed sufficiently and therefore there will also be no teapot present. This is a person in a hurry or someone who drinks a lot of tea in an ill-equipped office with very few supplies to aid their tea-drinking experience.
The Milky Bag
A teabag that has a milky complexion has in fact been used in a mug which contained the milk before the water was added. This is a pre-laitarian attempt to make tea in the modern non-teapot age. Adding milk before the tea is often, though not exclusively, a sign of a tea-drinker from the lower classes.
The amount of water that is left with the teabags will determine the character of the person who has left the teabags in the pot. If the pot looks full, the poor tea-maker has either forgotten they were making tea or was distracted before the tea was given the proper time to infuse. A forgotten pot of tea can be an indication of the fact that the tea-drinker will forget other issues - your birthday, name or the relationship the tea-maker has with you, that kind of thing. If it is only an occasional offence, this suggests distraction, but if it recurs there are serious memory problems to be considered. Distraction happens to all of us by things such as phone calls, or something cropping into your head or life that needs immediate action. Someone who has left a full pot of tea on the go under these circumstances is probably deeply caring as the distraction has taken them away from a well-earned cuppa.
If it looks like the pot has been partially drained the person was most likely distracted after the first cup before drawing a second to drain the pot. Maybe this is someone who cares but also realises that they will be useless unless they are allowed to relax. Alternatively it may just indicate that the distraction happened later in the process ie, during the first cup of tea rather than during the infusing period.
However, someone who just leaves their teabags having drained the pot is as lazy as a persistent drip-trail-maker; see above.
Teabag Left in Mug
Some people do this with herbal teas as they claim it increases the medicinal benefits of the herbs. This Researcher has heard of just one person who claims to do this with tea. And what does this say about them? Either they like strong tea or they need a very serious caffeine kick at the end of their cuppa. However, there will be many cultured tea-drinkers who merely consider such a person to be a philistine - they'd assert that just as you should know how you like steak cooked, you should know the strength at which you prefer your cuppa.
While the study of teabags is lagging behind that of tea leaves and is more based on character rather than prediction, this guide may help you to navigate the complex world of tea users and teabag abusers.