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How many spoons of sugar can you dissolve into a cup of tea?

What is the maximum number of spoonsfull of sugar that can be dissolved into a cup of tea?


It's the sort of crazy idea that comes to mind when you're a mad scientist who likes to have five spoons of sugar in a pint of tea. Just how many spoons of sugar could you possibly dissolve into the tea if you really tried? Obviously you could easily forget you'd put the first five in and dissolve another five and then have a pint of tea with ten spoons of sugar in it. And, if you were especially absent-minded you might get a third dose and end up with fifteen spoonsfull of sugar, but what if you deliberately tried to dissolve as many as possible? What would happen?

This had to be put to the test, and so in the usual third-person mode of telling these things, an experiment was carried out. It has to be mentioned at this point that Zyra no longer has sugar in tea, having become a diabetic, and besides, the teacup has been upgraded in the way it's traditional to repeatedly upgrade a hard disc drive. Anyway, back to the old days when Zyra's teacup was only a pint pot, the experiment began by adding the sugars and counting them. It was not difficult to get a hundred spoons of sugar to dissolve in the tea, with a bit of warming up every now and then. But the volume of added sugar displaced the tea and so the experiment had to be scaled down to avoid having to use a huge vessel and several bags of sugar (there are about 250 spoons of sugar in a 1Kg bag).

In the end, after calculating back up to size, it was found to be possible to dissolve at least 880 spoons of sugar in a pint sized cup of tea. This would have been bigger than three bags of sugar, but as the experiment had (wisely) been scaled down, the resulting artefact was a plastic beaker full of tea that had gone solid. This was duly put on display in the student hall of residence, Blu-Tack'd to the ceiling for maximum surrealist effect.

People would come in and say "What's that?" to which the reply was in all honesty "It's a cup of tea" to which the enquirer would then ask about the phase of the tea, since tea is expected to be of a traditionally liquid form, and the answer had to be "It's just a cup of tea, but it's got more sugar in than normal".

Besides being a pint beer glass full of tea stuck firmly upside-down to a ceiling, the artefact displayed another curious property. It did not go bad, mouldy, smelly nor in other ways did it rot. Normally a cup of tea left undrunk on the table in the sunshine will evaporate at a rate of about a millimetre or two per day leaving a new scum line around the edge, like tree rings, because on bright days the tea evaporates more, showing a recorded history of weather conditions. On the tenth or eleventh day or thereabouts the tea will grow a layer of green mildew on the surface which will then in the next couple of weeks break and leave a strange decrepitation of skin at a particular day. Tea left in a damp room inside the gloomy parts of the house will not evaporate so much, but will form a thick layer of green fur. (Notice how these things have been discovered by previous experimentation!)

But anyway, as I was saying, the rock solid tea which had been made by dissolving eight hundred and eighty spoons of sugar in it did not go bad, and it just remained intact for many months. Presumably it was preserved like jam, except that this was in a solid form.

How this works, the dissolving of ridiculous amounts of sugar in tea, is that sugar and water have an affinity for each other. It's as if the crystals of sugar in the bag contain water, or the potential of water, right from the start. I always felt it was a bit like copper sulphate where it's not anhydrous copper sulphate, but is more of a CuSO4 5(H2O) type of a thing where there is water included in the crystals. But, according to websites that go into more detail, it's that sugar has many hydroxyl groups, which means that parts of the sugar molecule are very similar to part of the well-known H2O water molecule.

Meanwhile, at this site, How to get sugar out of tea once you've added it, other things to do with tea, and various other vaguely science related items.