Pages

Thursday, 18 October 2012

How to Make a Cup of Tea

One thing I have refused to give up during this pregnancy is my daily cup of tea. (Alright, two cups). During Pip’s pregnancy,  I drank herbal all the way.  But this time, plagued by severe sleep deprivation, and the fact I’m also running around after an exuberant boy prone to Houdini like disappearing acts, I’ve found that a cuppa has been essential to get my engine revving each morning.  I’ve also found that in the absence of anything else to drink that’s really enjoyable *thinks champagne*, I’ve been truly savouring my tea drinking moments each day. 

Perhaps my increased focus on my daily cuppa has made me a tad obsessive, but recently it has come to my attention that some people are truly terrible at making a simple cup of tea - the worst perpetrators being those who don’t drink it themselves.  Increasingly I find myself sitting on friend’s sofas in fear of what may come my way.  I don’t want to waste my precious caffeine points on something that is hideously undrinkable. Yet,  sadly this seems to have been my experience.

Here’s a list of the crimes against the good old British cuppa that have really rustled my tea leaves of late:

Tea Crimes

1) Using the same teabag to make more than one cup.  No. No. NO. It should be one bag for one cup. A friend recently confessed she uses one bag for two cups.  I wasn’t surprised, depth of flavour is never present in her cups of tea.

2) Depth of flavour.  I like my tea ‘medium’. Not too strong and not too weak.  Seeing the tea bag stew for longer than about a minute, two minutes max, I start to get jittery.  I have to control my reflex to leap up from the chair and shout ‘time to remove the bag now!’ Because in my experience, tea that’s stood with the bag in it too long ends up tasting tanniny or even more horrifyingly, develops SCURF.

3) Scurf. I detest scurfy tea.  I define this as tea which has little brown bits floating on top. The scum.  IMHO this happens when the tea has been left to stew too long and the tannins start coming out in the brew.   It must be said, serving me tea with a scurfy top will always result in a rather downcast look on my face.

4)Not hot enough.  I have a friend who has a boil on the stove type kettle, rather than an electric one.  Perhaps it’s just my perception, but tea never seems as hot when served from this kettle.  Whatever temperature one likes to drink their tea at, it should always be served piping hot at the start. 

5) Too Milky/ Not enough Milk.  This is a tricky one to get right.  This week I was presented with one of the milkiest cups of tea I’ve ever had to drink. (Note: by an exclusive herbal tea drinker).  It was so revolting I could barely drink it. The excessive milk seemed to make it taste sickly sweet even though there was no sugar in it.   Likewise, if there’s not enough milk, I find the tea lacks body.  It’s a difficult balancing act.  Let guests add their own milk, that’s what I say.

6) Inappropriate milk type.  The worst milk for making tea with has to be UHT. This is actually, I believe, an acronym for Utterly Horrible Tea.  This is the milk my mother chooses to use, wonderful woman that she is.  My close second choice of milk not to make tea with is skimmed.  I find you can never get the right body or flavour when making tea with skimmed milk.  The tea even tastes thin.

7) Cheap Teabags
Again, it’s a very personal choice, but cheap budget teabags, do in my opinion, make cheap, budget tea.

8) Tea from the Pot
It’s pretty rare I go to someone’s house these days and they make a pot of tea. (More’s the pity, such a nice tradition). Most of my friends are dunk the bag in the cup types.  However, on the occasion I do go somewhere a little bit more ‘proper’ and a pot is made, the conversation that leaves me crestfallen normally goes something like this:

“Would you like more tea?”
“Ooh, yes please”
“ Just help yourself, there’s still some in the pot.”

Surely not. The pot that was made 30 minutes ago?  The pot that has now got luke warm water in it with stewing bags (which will no doubt create lots of scurf on my tea.)  But, then I find myself in a dilemma.  It seems rather rude to say, "Oh, if it’s not fresh, I don’t want it".  Last time this happened, fortune smiled on me as we were sitting in the garden, so at a discreet moment I was able to water a flower bed with the luke warm, scurfy hideousness filling my cup.

9) No Biscuits
Tea is for dunking sweet sugary items in - is it not?  It is always a disappointing day when a cup of tea is not accompanied by even the most humble of biscuits.  Luckily for all my friends, I’m very good at bearing gifts of biscuits - albeit in exchange for drinking cups of tea I don’t really like.

So, how do you make a perfect cup of tea?  Clearly, it’s a very personal thing.  But, let me tell you how this fusspot likes hers.


A guide to making the perfect cup of tea

1) Fill kettle with fresh water. (I have an OCD about this. The water has to be fresh, virgin, previously unboiled water.  I read somewhere once that this water has a higher oxygen content which should result in a tastier cup of tea. )  Also, I’d prefer it made in an electric kettle - See point 4 above.  Don’t worry too much about limescale though, London has very hard water so I’m used to that.

2) Select drinking vessel.  This needs to be an appropriately sized mug, not too small.  My favourite mug holds approx 300ml.  Porcelain is a must, and I favour mugs with a thin rim.

3) Add one teabag to the mug.  Brand of teabag? It’s a real conundrum.  Personally, I’m a Twinnings English Breakfast lady.

4) Once the kettle has boiled, pour water over the teabag.  I prefer not to leave to stew. Instead I take a spoon and gently dunk the bag in the cup to the count of twenty.

5) Bag removed, I add the milk.  Semi skimmed please. Add the equivalent of three dessertspoonfuls.  You’re aiming for a Midnight Savannah colour.  If you're not sure, it might be a good idea to use this chart as a guide.

H.M. British Tea Colour Chart

Image: From www.tea-chart.co.uk
 

6) Serve with a sweet accompaniment.  Shortbread is a personal favourite.

Sit down, relax and wait for tea to cool enough so as not to burn the roof of your mouth but still consume whilst piping hot.

So that’s how I like my tea. Now, how do you like yours?

26 comments:

  1. LOVE this post! And I think we might just be tea twins!

    My mother serves tea with coffee-mate powder. Beat that for ruining a nice cuppa.

    That tea chart is genius!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tea served with coffee-mate sounds dreadful! I believe the tea chart comes in T-shirt, Tea-towel and postcard options.

      Delete
  2. I so enjoyed this post - it really made me smile. I'd be rather nervous about making you a cup of tea, you fusspot, but at least you have supplied instructions, which is good! One bag per cup. Agreed. Scurf. Yuk. It can sometimes give almost an oily sheen to the surface - or maybe I don't wash my cups properly. We have started buying the Teapigs teabags - now that's a very flavour-some cuppa - Younger Dad orders them on line, and they are delivered in the post. As well as my chamomile, I love a nice cup of Earl Grey! Overly milky tea is a total no no. X.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, if you ever need to make me a cuppa you just refer back to this post. Must say I'm impressed you're buying Teapigs, I regard those as most luxurious!

      Delete
  3. When reading this it made me quite sad that i dont drink tea, or coffee for that matter, my sister in law is also a mad on tea and loves nothing more than a 'nice' cup of tea. I have since a child hated hot drinks but do keep trying them intermittently over the years .. still to no avail :-( maybe one day my taste buds may mature onto something more sophisticated than Pepsi Max!! x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You never know. I only started liking coffee after the birth of my son.

      Delete
  4. Sorry, too many typoes in the above.

    When I'm asked how I like my tea I answer: In IKEA terms, I'd like a Beech finish please.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I LOVE that answer. Very good indeed.

      Delete
  5. Such a great post. Love it! Can't beat a good cup of tea :-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oops, I don't drink hot drinks what so ever, and my parents are both black, no sugar coffee drinkers. I dread it when people ask for tea at mine as I have no idea what is 'right', sadly all my NCT friends prefer tea...I do offer good (if I say so myself)handmade cakes/biscuits usually, so hopefully that makes up for any mistakes ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL - I read that you don't drink hot drinks and that your parents are both black... at which point I paused to ponder how that has any relevance to how you like your drinks. Then I finished the sentence.

      Delete
    2. Dear Handmade Mum. I'm sure you redeem yourself hugely with your offering of handmade biscuits and cake. As for the tea...just get them to make it themselves :0). You'll have the perfect excuse shortly!

      MLSM - I thought exactly the same as you for a second!

      Delete
  7. I laughed out loud all the way through this. Hilarious. And spot on. Such a serious matter. Put so eloquently. Really given me the giggles. Honestly. I have a cuppa or two per day so they have to be right!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. If I'm in my own home, I have been known to 'start again' if presented with an unsuitable cuppa by the husband. It has to be just right.

      Delete
  8. I am unsubscribing to blogs I get via e mail coz they come in so late and yours is one of them, but I am re subscribing to receive them in my Dashboard, so will still get you. Just in case you see anything from Blogger X

    ReplyDelete
  9. We love our tea, I am really particular too and we always have a teapot, I also have a smaller teapot for times when I'm alone having tea. I also have a cupboard full of tea, I do like to sample everything! I drink about 5-6 mugs a day, when pregnant I cut it down but it was so hard!!
    Lovely post, really enjoyed reading that x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the fact you not only have a teapot, but also a smaller teapot for one. Cutting down is hard. My fallback is normally cammomile, but have to say, for a long time when pregnant it really turned my stomach.

      Delete
  10. Agree with you about making a proper cup of tea. My grandmother and mother always made tea in a pot using leaves (1 teaspoon of leaves per person and one for luck), and ideally I'd have it that way. However, I tend to make it with a bag dunked in a mug cos it's just me drinking it. I make pots if I have guests, and the pot ALWAYS gets refreshed for the second round!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hurrah for refreshing the pot for the second round! *Applauds*. It's just wrong not to do that.

      Delete
  11. Nice to know I'm not the only one who's majorly fussy about their tea! I agree entirely with all you've said, save that Yorkshire Gold is my cup of choice. It's a lovely rich brew (worth spending the extra pennies on the Gold version, as the ordinary stuff is not as nice in my opinion). Like you, I'd rather chuck in a plant pot a bad cup - life's too short. The health visitor tried telling me I'm not allowed ANY caffeinated tea at all while breastfeeding! I didn't even try to comply with that, and am currently on 3 cups a day. It keeps me sane and cheerful, so there's no way I'm cutting out my beloved cuppa! x

    ReplyDelete
  12. LOVED reading this!!! *giggles* I love tea too but I'm sure in general we Americans don't know what good tea is or how to brew it haha. Unless you consider "Sweet Ice Tea" or "Sweet Sun Tea" which is our southern states staple.

    Mostly, I'm like the way about coffee as you are with tea. Which is of course more of an American thing.

    ReplyDelete
  13. So coming to yours for tea! All of your preferences on 'How to make a cup of tea' match with mine. Including the colour. In fact looking at that chart I might print it off for colours for my living room lol! Twinnings English Breakfast Tea is what is in my tea bag pot right now too - nothing better.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I love my tea and drink way more than two cups a day, in fact it's not unheard of me drinking three before the morning school run. However I don't always savour and appreciate those warm steaming cuppas as much as you do. Love the chart and I'm with you om all the does and dont's.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have the same problem with coffee: "Would you like a coffee?" "Yes, please". Cue two teaspoons of instant in the cup. Yuck. Too late to back out. Or: "could I have it with plenty of milk?". No problem, but the milk is freezing from the fridge, not even gently warmed in the micro, so the coffee is cold and doubly undrinkable. My husband likes tea from the pot, leaves though, not bags.

    ReplyDelete