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How To Make the Perfect Cup of Tea

  • Serial Ululer
  • Pioneer

A well-made cup of tea can warm the heart and soul of any tea lover, and maximize tea's health benefits too. On the other hand, a poorly made cup of tea can be extremely disappointing: weak, tasteless, too milky or too simply have to get it right!


Here are some tips on how to make the Perfect Cuppa:

  • Boil more than enough water - and don't just heat it, boil it.
  • Do not re-boil the water - it will become de-oxygenised, which can impact the flavour of your tea.
  • The better tasting your water, the better tasting your tea. The best water is filtered or bottled.
  • The ideal water temperature varies based on the type of tea. The more fermented the tea (e.g. black tea) the hotter the water should be, whereas less fermented teas (white, green) should be steeped in water that isn't as hot. When the water boils, pour it straight onto black tea, whereas turn off the heat and let the water cool for 30 seconds for white tea and 60 seconds for green tea before pouring.
  • Add the water to the tea, not the other way round.
  • Leave the tea bag in the water for at least two minutes for green teas and three minutes for black tea - longer if you like your tea strong.
  • If you use loose leaves, it's best to make the tea in a tea pot rather than directly in the cup. Use one teaspoon of leaves per person, plus one further teaspoon "for the pot". When the tea is ready, pour it into the cup through a wire strainer.
  • With black tea, add just a dash of low-fat milk.
  • Do not add sugar! George Orwell famously said that tea - one of the "mainstays of civilization" - is ruined by sweetening and that anyone who dares add even a single teaspoon could not be called "a true tealover". And if you really have to add a lump or two, use white sugar, not brown.

The Royal Society of Chemistry recommends that the perfect cup of tea should be drunk while reading George Orwell's account of 1930s drudgery and vagrancy Down and Out in Paris and London.

Interesting fact: The custom of taking afternoon tea is thought to have been created by a Duchess of Bedford in the 18th century. It is believed the duchess used to complain of a "sinking feeling" in late afternoon, so would have a pot of tea and a snack. She began inviting her friends to join her between 3pm and 5pm.

For more information on Tea and its traditions, read: 'Tea Time: A Healthy Tradition'

    9 replies

    • Pioneer

    Don't forget to warm the pot!

    • Serial Ululer
    • Pioneer

    Yep forgot that one, thanks John! ;)

    • Pioneer

    I love the boy george quote. Thanks for the tips excuse the pun.

    • Pioneer

    Great quote from Boy George! Tea cannot be beaten

    • Pioneer

    Thanks for this perfect manual!

    • Pioneer

    Check out this beauty!!!

    A penguin tea timer, so you can leave your tea bag in for the precise amount of time! So cool ;)

    • Pioneer

    Now ladies you can even smell like green tea...


    Not sure if that's the scent that really turns me on but hey, everyone to their own...

    • Serial Ululer
    • Pioneer
    • Cinema Lover
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    • Connector

    I adore the pingouin !

    • Serial Ululer
    • Pioneer
    • Cinema Lover
    • Bibliophile
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    Nice tips by Mister George Orwell :

    If you look up 'tea' in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.

    This is curious, not only because tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.

    When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:


    • First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase 'a nice cup of tea' invariably means Indian tea.


    • Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.


    • Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.


    • Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.


    • Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.


    • Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.


    • Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.


    • Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one's tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.


    • Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.


    • Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.


    • Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

      Some people would answer that they don't like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

    These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tealeaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one's ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.

    (taken from The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Volume 3, 1943-45, Penguin ISBN, 0-14-00-3153-7)


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