I am sitting here at the computer with a large mug of tea. Being a transplanted Brit living in New York I miss the tea from back home – but currently am working my way through a stash of PG Tips teabags that my friend brought me a while back. When I don’t have access to a decent British tea, I use English Breakfast tea – but I use two teabags as American tea is not as strong.
Making a good cup of tea is actually not so simple. See, if you are truly British, you don’t just boil water, pour it over the tea, let it steep for a moment or two, sweeten and drink.
George Orwell had ELEVEN rules for making tea – however not everyone agrees with his rules. My comments in italics.
1. Use tea from India or Ceylon (Sri Lanka), not China. I agree on this one.
2. Use a teapot, preferably ceramic. Using a teapot for one cup of tea sounds like too much work but it does add to the experience.
3. Warm the teapot over direct heat. My grandma taught me to pour boiling water in to the teapot and swirl it around to warm the teapot. Do this to your teacup or mug too.
4. Tea should be strong - six spoons of leaves per liter of water. Hard to measure this when you use teabags but for the record this would make a very strong cuppa.
5. Let the leaves move around the pot - no bags or strainers. Loose tea, granted, is always best, but teabags are so much more convenient.
6. Take the teapot to the boiling kettle and fill with hot water.
7. Stir or shake the teapot.
8. Drink out of a tall, mug-shaped tea cup. I find I cannot drink tea out of a Styrofoam or disposable cup. It has to be my big huge ceramic mug. Otherwise it just doesn’t taste right!
9. Don't add creamy milk. Agreed - you should use low fat milk.
10. Add milk to the tea, not vice versa. There are those that totally disagree and say the milk must be added to the cup first.
11. No sugar! Purists drink tea without sugar. I, however, am not such a purist, and need the sugar. My Russian great grandmother used to put the sugar cube in her teeth and sip the tea through it. I shudder to think what the dentist would say!
Some points to note:
It isn’t necessary to stick out the pinkie finger when drinking tea, however, one must never slurp! Adding the teabag to hot water already in a cup is a big no-no. It must be the other way around or you just won’t get the right taste. The tea must steep for at least two minutes in order for the flavor to develop. The teabag must be removed before the tea is sipped.
I am going to go and enjoy another cuppa, and maybe this time I will dunk a digestive biscuit into it. If I close my eyes I can almost imagine I am back in London.