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Making the perfect cup better?

What timely news! Last week, I wrote about standards for preparing the perfect cup of tea, including ISO 3103:1980 and the British standard BS-6008. A couple of days ago, Marc Abrahams wrote an article for the Guardian entitled “The correct way to make a cuppa is being reviewed,” which says that the British Standards Institution is reviewing BS-6008 and several related standards, including the ones for black tea (BS-3720), green tea (BS-11287), and instant tea (BS-7390). Is there actually such a thing as a perfect cup of instant tea? I suppose that’s a question for another blog post, but I suspect the answer will be a resounding no.

I believe that standards organizations perform an important service. We may laugh about silly standards from time to time — Marc Abrahams does quite a bit of that as editor of the Annals of Improbable Research and organizer of the Ig Nobel prize — but where would we be if people couldn’t agree on standard measurements or file formats. I served on the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) committee that defined the standards for television closed captioning and saw how important it is for broadcasters and TV manufacturers to agree on how things work.

Sometimes, however, you just have to laugh. BS-6008 is being reviewed in time for World Standards Day on Monday, October 14, 2013. With a name like “World Standards Day,” you’d assume that we’ll all be celebrating it on a, well, “standard” day, right? As my father taught me, never assume. In 2013, the US will hold World Standards Day on Thursday, October 3, and Canada will wait for Wednesday, October 16.

And people wonder why we can’t agree on how to make a cup of tea.

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