How to Make a Cup of Tea, the Proper British Way

While there is tea, there is hope

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Mr_Mrs_Marcha via Shutterstock

Boil the water.

Do you own an electric, shuts-off-automatically-when-it-boils kettle?

Warm up your teapot

Swirl some of the water you’ve boiled around your teapot, to warm it up, which will help keep your tea warm until it’s ready for you.

Put a teaspoonful of loose leaf tea into your teapot

There are many, many available varieties of black tea (or what we call just tea in the UK). If you’re just starting out on your tea journey, Twinings Earl Grey or Twinings English Breakfast are great option. I’m also partial to a mix of the two — Earl Grey has a distinctive taste and sometimes a hint of that taste is all I need. Assam and Darjeeling are also delicious. Stay away from Lapsang Souchong until you are ready for true adventure — it’s an acquired taste, and I’m being generous with that assessment.

Pour the just-boiled water into your teapot

Then put the tea cosy on the teapot.

Allow your tea to brew for a while.

Between three to five minutes is probably the right amount of time — depending on the size of your teapot and how strong you like your tea. You’ll probably need to experiment with this — as well as the quantity of tea leaves — to find out exactly what works for you.

Put a tiny bit of milk in the bottom of your teacup.

One thing that Brits love to argue about — along with the best route to drive somewhere and how to pronounce scone — is whether you should put milk into the cup first (MIF), or tea in first (TIF). There have even been surveys done on this.

Place a tea strainer over your cup

A tea strainer is like a miniature colander that you use to catch leaves when you pour tea. I’ve learned the hard way not to forget this — it’s pretty nasty to get a mouthful of tea leaves on your last sip.

Pour and savour the tea, preferably with a biscuit

Rich Tea biscuits, which you’d think, given the name, would be perfect for this, taste like cardboard and are best reserved for unsupervised group situations, to stop children grabbing fistfuls of them. They’ll only ever need to eat one to learn that it’s not worth it. Hob Nobs and Digestives are the best accompaniment to tea — I would argue that milk chocolate Digestives are the best of all.

Put your feet up and enjoy the world righting itself for just a few minutes.

As Arthur Wing Pinero wrote, quite rightly, “While there is tea, there is hope.”

Editor of WALK WITH US: How the West Wing Changed Our Lives; author of the novel UNSCRIPTED and of CONQUERING BABEL: a Practical Guide to Learning a Language.

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