If you’re like us, then there’s a fair bet that there’s a cup of tea within arm’s reach right now or soon will be. We’re English and tea is part of our staple diet, not to mention coffee.
But at what a cost? It’s easy to sneer at the article by Susannah Butter in the Evening Standard this week praising some “smart kitchen gadgets”. When has there ever been a respite from the torrent of short-lived new kitchen devices that promise to solve a problem you never knew you had?
And at first glance, this one seems much the same – Miito is a “sleek silver stick” that you dip in a cup of water “and it will heat it to boiling in 60 seconds”. It may have already attracted €500,000 worth of pledges on Kickstarter, but as any English tea drinker will tell you, that’s no way to brew a cuppa. There’s more to making good tea than boiling the water and to be honest, if a tea pot isn’t involved in the process, many of us wouldn’t get out of bed for it.
And yet… it’s hard not to blanche when you look at the statistics. The inventors of Miito, Nils Chudy and Jasmina Grase, were apparently inspired by this TED talk by Leyla Acaroglu – self-styled “sustainability provocateur, designer and sociologist” – early last year, in which she reports that “£68 million worth of electricity [is] being wasted each year by boiling more water than is required”…
Of course, Miito isn’t all that radical a concept. For some time, companies like Quooker have been touting their boiling water taps and the Quooker website claims that with their product “it only costs 3 pence a day to have boiling water at hand, exactly when you want it”. Which sounds impressive, but have you actually calculated how much it costs to make tea the old-fashioned way? well, there’s no need, because, according to The Daily Telegraph, someone already has.
Andy Smale, technical director at Expert Energy, a group of independent energy consultants, calculated that “it would take to make six 250ml cups of tea or coffee on six separate occasions with a kettle (typical minimum kettle fill of 500ml) would cost 5.46p per 24 hours”.
In other words, there’s very little in it for one individual household and so, from the point of view of your personal tea drinking, it’s not going to save the planet. But what if we all stopped boiling our kettles? That’s a very different prospect. And it seems highly unlikely that British culture will shift in that direction.
But there is something we can do – a Quooker spokesman quoted in The Telegraph says that one of the big reasons for energy wastage from kettles is re-boiling. You know how it is – you stick the kettle on, leave the room, let the water boil and busy yourself with something else until the power cuts off, only to flick the switch again five minutes later when you come back.
So perhaps we can make a dent in that £68million by thinking twice before letting the kettle go off the boil and switching it back on to boil again. Remember, don’t drift out of the kitchen while the water boils – if you love your tea, stand by your kettle.