Oz and James raise their glasses
By Victoria Clayton
After sampling plentiful beers, lagers, and ciders on a TV road trip across Britain and Ireland last summer, double act James May, co-host of BBC 2's Top Gear, and wine expert Oz Clarke decided that tea was the drink that defines modern Britain.
The pair bickered their way across the UK, and have produced a book to accompany the televised series of their latest jaunt, Oz And James Drink To Britain.
The Wharf met with the odd couple as they signed their book for fans at Waterstone's in Jubilee Place.
James: Tea is the drink that best represents our culture, and makes us stand out from any other nation. Tea instigates action, it invigorates people. It restores them and inspires them. I can make a perfect cuppa.
Oz: No you can't. I quite like Chinese herbal tea, but they cannot be appreciated by a coarse person with a dull palate, like James.
James: That's not true is it?
Oz: I like a blended Assam or Darjeeling tea.
James: I hate Earl Gray tea. It's drunk by people who want to be thought sophisticated. You see them all in all those irritating posh little cafes.
Oz: Do you know James, you have just said something that is very true?
James: I can't stand working with Oz. It is quite unsavoury between us.
Is it all in good jest?
Oz & James: No, not really.
James: But I did enjoy the trip round Britain, even though it was with Oz. Britain is the best place to tour because of the great variety of drinks, more than any other nation in the world. We make good wine, cider, brandy...
Oz: This was definitely my favourite series because it was on home soil. We've been to France and California, but this was my favourite one to do. I loved the Rail Ale Trail.
James: I enjoyed it too. The pubs we went to were all thriving despite the credit crunch. They don't perpetuate binge drinking, because people don't really go to a proper pub to get drunk all the time. It's a place to socialise with your friends, and beer is a great social lubricant. If you have too much, then your mates can say "stop" and sort you out. People have always drunk at the weekends. The media hypes up binge drinking too much. Yes, some may drink too much but it's not everyone. People will always find a way to drink what they want, and that includes 49p cans of lager from Asda. Saying that, those drinks shouldn't be available to the sort of people who want them. They should make them out of reach on the shelves.
Oz: My my James, that was very insightful.
James: The credit crunch could have a positive effect on the number of drinkers in local pubs. If they try to make their own home brew, it will taste vile.
Oz: You would know James.
James: And they will realise how tricky it is to make a good draught, driving them back to the pubs.
Oz: People should go to their local pub. It can be a very pleasant and civilised place to be. The pub culture is very important. People don't just go to the pub to get drunk.
James: Mind you, beer is often the answer to any problems. It provides clarity to any issues, and solutions to problems. You can be sat muddling over a tricky problem with a pint on the table, then all of a sudden everything can become crystal clear.
Oz: "Beer is in us. We are in beer." Leviticus, chapter 12, verse 19.
James: Quite. We have had a positive effect on local sales in some breweries.
Oz: James is not often right, but for once, he is talking sense. More people may be drinking at home, but they will still drink British drinks. People often support smaller breweries.
So where to next?
James: We will have to see what happens. We could go absolutely anywhere, maybe Australia or Eastern Europe. There's so many countries that have potential. Oz decides where we are going and I just tag along.
- Drink to Britain is out now, priced £19.99.