Thursday, 6 September 2007

How to make tea (the English way)

Well here I am, back in the UK. It's bloody freezing, I'm wearing a jumper for the first time in months... and that's the only thing I can find to complain about. I actually quite like wearing a jumper too. I have a real cup of proper English tea, made the proper way. Allow me to elaborate.

The Queen has a teapot which she doesn't wash, she makes all her own tea, and it is made the PROPER way. If you are anything other than English, and have English visitors, make yourself seem incredibly worldly-wise and make them feel at home by doing the following:

1. If you have tea leaves, put them in a strainer over your teapot. If not, put teabag(s) into the pot. The pot should be caked in years of previous tea makings for extra flavour. This is not gross, really.

2. Boil a kettle.

3. AS THE WATER BOILS, pour it over the tea leaves, scalding them and releasing lovely fresh tea.

4. Present English guest with a cup (empty), the teapot, some milk, sugar and teaspoons.

5. Allow guest to pour own drink, which should be done tea -> milk -> sugar -> stir. Drink.

The above technique will avoid having to dunk teabags like they are some sort of flavour enhancer for warm water. It will avoid offending your guests by assuming they like grey water with sugar in the bottom, etc. Also, we like milk, not lemon. There's a reason for this:

In days of old, before the US was even discovered, cups were made from clay and baked hard. This clay was brittle, but the Brits still knew that to make a proper cuppa, you need to boil water, and scald the tealeaves. The problem with this was that when boiling water hits a clay cup, it tends to smash it as the clay expands rapidly on contact. To avoid the rapid expansion, a small amount of milk was placed in the bottom of cups, thus stopping the rapid expansion and making a perfectly drinkable drink.

Over time, china cups replaced clay ones, so this reason is often overlooked, and the order of making tea can be interchanged, especially nowadays when individual teabags are made for cups, which forces the milk to be added afterwards if you are to scald your leaves.

More advice on how to be good to your British guests soon. I'm telling you this for a reason you know. If you're in the Redwood City area, I could well be round your house soon, and I expect proper tea.

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