How to Make a Great Cup of Tea
A Perfect Cup of Tea
The British Way of Making the best Cup of Tea
Here's how to make a great British cup of tea - how am I qualified to advise you? Well, I live in London and I used to work in a 'caff' (cafe) in the heart of Camden, where they taught me to brew the best tea in town!
We all know that there's nothing more British than a good cup of tea. This is a tradition that came about during the 17th Century when China exported tea to British India and the British controlled tea production in the subcontinent.
There are references to drinking tea in Samuel Pepys's Diary in 1660:
"We talked together of the interest of this kingdom to have a peace with Spain and a war with France and Holland... And afterwards did send for a Cupp of Tee (a China drink) of which I never had before, and went away."
Samuel Pepys, Diary, 25 Sept.
Tea is served everywhere in the UK, hospitals, school staff rooms, prisons, and in meetings of every description! It is a social custom that helps breaks the ice, calm the nerves, warm the soul, and lift the spirit.
But should you pour the milk first? Does you little finger make any difference at all to the taste of the tea? Are bone china cups necessary? Should the water be boiling before you pour it in the teapot? What teapot is best?
Find the answers to these and more fascinating questions about the art of making a perfect cup of tea from experts from Fortnum & Mason - scroll down to find their videos.
Please leave a comment before you go. Ta ta from London!
Tea in the Garden
Tea in the UK
Tea drinking is something the British do every day, and although coffee is now also very popular, you will more than likely be offered a cup of tea if you pop next door to visit your neighbour or if someone invites you home in the afternoon. In the summer time people sit in their gardens and are refreshed by their cup of tea, and in the winter that same cup of tea will warm them up.
Although I am Italian, I was born in London and I have lived here all my life so I have completely embraced this wonderful tradition of drinking afternoon tea. We drink tea every day. We usually guzzle it down in large mugs and make it with tea bags bought in the local supermarket, but on special occasions we get out our best china tea service and do it the proper way, with all the ritual, taking great care to follow the tradition completely.
The British Tea Making Ritual
This is how we make a perfect cup of tea in the UK. Have a go!
Step 1: The Water
The water should be drawn freshly from the cold tap. Do not use any water that may be still in the kettle from earlier in the day. Tip that away. I usually use it to water my plants.
The water should be just at boiling point, no more, do not let it boil - this is very difficult to judge, so don't worry if it does!
Step 2 - Warm Your Teapot
This is a very important part of the process because otherwise the tea will become cold before it has a chance to brew.
When the water in the kettle is about to boil pour some into your tea pot. Swill it around to warm the pot and then throw it away.
The tea pot will now be nice a warm, ready for the tea.
Step 3 - Put the Tea in the Tea Pot
Use one teaspoon for each person, and an extra one for the pot if you like it strong.
Step 4 - Add the Hot Water
Carefully pour the boiling water in the tea pot. Fill it to the brim.
Step 5 - Let it brew
Another very important stage is to wait for the tea to brew. Let it stand for 3 minutes. If you like it stronger then you should leave it for a full 5 minutes. You can use a tea cosy for this if you have one, or wrap a tea towel round the pot to keep it nice and warm.
Step 6 - What you need
China cups are by far the best - nobody really knows why but it does alter the flavor of the tea.
While the tea is brewing prepare the table: With your cup and saucer, tea strainer, a small jug of boiling water to top up the tea pot, milk, (or you may prefer a slice of lemon), sugar, and something sweet. In this case I have chosen to serve chocolate Easter eggs. If you don't take sugar, then a piece of cake, or a sweet biscuit will make the tea taste delicious.
We say that the tea is 'too wet' without a biscuit!
Step 7 - Stir The Pot
Halfway through the brewing time give your tea pot a quick stir. This will make the tea a bit stronger and it will taste richer.
Step 8 - Milk Next?
Years ago, when tea cups were not all made of good quality china, it was necessary to put the milk in first otherwise the delicate cup might crack.
These days that doesn't happen, so it is perfectly OK to put the milk in after the tea is poured. That way you can regulate how strong you would like it.
However you will see in the videos that it is a contentious issue!
Use a tea strainer to pour into your cup, relax enjoy your delicious pick-me-up.
A Tea Plantation
Different Kinds of Tea
- Black Teas: These are the teas you use milk or lemon with. The most famous ones are Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon, Earl Grey, Chai. They can be bought with fruit and spices in them like oranges, vanilla, mint, apricots, mangoes and apple. Or you can buy them with flowers added such as rose and lavender. These should not be served with milk.
- Green Teas: These are made in a different way than the black tea they are just picked and dried so oxidation doesn't happen. These are very good for you because they are full of vitamins and antioxidants. They are delicious and healthy. Green teas come from Japan and China and can be flavoured with jasmine. Some are so beautiful that they have hand tied jasmine flowers in with the tea. They look amazing in the cup. Milk should not be used with green teas.
- White Teas: This tea is very rare because it can only be harvested for a couple of weeks the year. They are an antioxidant and detoxifying and have very well documented health benefits.They have names like 'White Pearls' and 'White Peony', and are made in China, and the methods they use for growing it is a secret.
- Oolong teas: These come from China and Taiwan. They are fermented teas and are good for digestion. Recent research shows that they help the body break down fat so they are becoming very popular. One is called 'Iron Goddess of Mercy', and the best quality is called 'Formosa', which is what the Portuguese called it. Again milk should not be added to this tea.
How to Make Devonshire Cream Tea Scones
These are served at Fortnum and Mason. They are a Devonshire Tradition that has spread all through the UK - and beyond! They are absolutely delicious - try them and let me know what you think by leaving a comment at the bottom of this Hub.
Brewed or Stewed
How to Make a Delicious Very Strong Cup of Tea
I once went to visit a new colleague who greeted me at her front door with these words, 'Hello, so glad you could make it, would you like a cup of ordinary tea or strong tea?'
I was a bit thrown by this because I thought I was a tea connoisseur, so I had to ask her what the difference was. She explained that in her household they have a kettle on the stove that brews slowly all day long and that it is full of tea. They let it simmer gently so that it becomes very strong.
I was astonished because I'd never come across this way of making tea before. We would describe such tea as 'stewed'. So I tried it and it was absolutely delicious!
It was very strong and full of flavor and the aroma was so inviting. It was a complete pick me up, and I remember thinking that I could easily become addicted to it!
When I told my husband about it he was amazed too because his mum used to have the kettle on all day long when he was a boy, and they literally drank tea all through the day.
I enjoyed that cup of tea so much that I have never forgotten it.Has anyone else heard of this way of making tea? Please do leave a comment if you have.
Fortnum and Mason and Afternoon Tea - All About the wonderfully traditional afternoon tea they serve in this historic store
Being a Londoner gives you certain privileges, and Fortnum and Mason is one of them. Taking afternoon tea here is such a special thing to do. It really does make you feel that little bit special!
Are You A Tea Drinker?
Which are you?
© 2013 Giovanna