Thursday 6 August 2020

How to Make a Proper British Cup of Tea

Traditional method
Open a packet of Indian leaf tea – PG Tips or Yorkshire.

Fill a kettle with fresh water. Put it on the hob.

Warm the teapot by running in some hot water, swilling it around and tipping it out. Use a Brown Betty earthenware pot, or a metal catering ditto.

Spoon leaf tea into into the pot – “one for each person, one for the pot”.

When the water is boiling fast, pour straight onto the leaves.

Let the brew “mash” for a couple of minutes.

Pour into bone china teacups through a strainer and add milk as required. Some people put the milk in the cup first. There are many fanciful explanations for the difference. White earthenware mugs may be preferred.

Add sugar if desired.

Leaf tea is now finer than formerly, and doesn't take so long to "mash".

Modern method
Select PG Tips or Yorkshire Tea bags. “English Breakfast” is not strong enough.

Place teabag in earthenware mug. (For best results, add two.)

Pour boiling water onto the bag(s) and agitate with a spoon.

Add a good dollop of whole milk.

Stir the bags around some more, but don’t squash them against the sides.

Carry on stirring until the tea assumes a deep orange shade (see picture).

Remove the bag and drink.

Lemon tea
Pour weaker than usual tea into a tall glass with a handle.

Add a slice of lemon and a couple of spoons of sugar.

Use a long spoon to stir, and squash the lemon slice and release the juice into the tea.

When ordering lemon tea in a café, make sure the wait staff don't bring you a lemon-and-ginger herbal bag. I taught a local coffee shop how to make proper lemon tea – they had to pop round the corner to buy a lemon – but the venue changed hands shortly afterwards.

(Apparently some people make tea in a microwave. We shall draw a veil over such tragic scenes.)

Please note: If a friend or colleague asks for a "strong cup of tea", follow the instructions above. Strong tea is not your usual weak brew with half the quantity of milk. Don't squash the bag against the mug because "I know you like it strong". Weak tea was traditionally known as "dishwater", or "water bewitched".

You used to be able to get a proper cuppa at a "caff", but they're nearly all coffee shops now and make tea with warm water and an English Breakfast bag.

1 comment:

  1. Talking of tea and conventions of social subgroups, this was nice, and perfectly possible: