Lately I’ve been reading quite a few rules on how to make the perfect cup of tea. I was ecstatic to find an essay by George Orwell simply entitled ‘A Nice cup of Tea’. Though many of his rules have been refuted by the Royal Society of Chemistry – especially on the question of whether milk should be added before or after the tea (after – in my view). It has prompted me to make a few observations of my own.
Many guides to tea have concentrated solely on optimising the taste of the tea itself. Important? Of course – without question! But is that everything? I mean, what if one doesn’t have access to fresh spring water from the remote highlands of Outer Mongolia? What then? Is all lost? I think not! The following series of guidelines are simply about how to make having tea ‘So Much Nicer’. They are about comfort as well as taste as well as aesthetics.
So…….without any further ado… The ‘So Much Nicer’ guide to taking tea.
Observations 1 & 2: Thickness of Cup & the Hot Water Jug
Thickness of cup (or mug….if you absolutely must) Whether one chooses a cup or a mug (personally I prefer a cup…though I don’t necessarily use a saucer when I’m on my own) what is paramount to the ‘so much nicer’ cup of tea is the thickness. I would recommend no more than 1-2mm. The first thing you will notice is how much better if feels on the mouth. Anything thick or chunky just isn’t right. It’s wrong. Quite wrong. Orally cumbersome. Oafish. Like trying to tie shoe laces with your gloves on. It puts an unnecessary barrier between you and the tea. Also, the thinner the china the quicker it conducts heat. Therefore the whole cup heats up as soon as the tea is poured; it’s as if everything is immediately as one. Spiritual…..kind of.
The hot water jug.
Tea must always be piping hot. I’m convinced it aids concentration if one is ‘tea-ing’ whilst working. Also, is there is anything more offensive than tepid tea? Not quite as bad if drinking green tea – but perfectly rancid if one takes milk. And so, one of the essentials to making tea So Much Nicer, is the hot water jug.
1930s hot water jug.
After the first cup the teapot will have cooled down. Tea cosies are of course very helpful in this respect, as is warming the pot before making the tea – however neither counteract the fact that and the tea will most likely have started to stew. Topping it up with hot water gives the flagging tea just the boost it needs, and at least another 2 enjoyable cups can be had.
Going back to the 20’s & 30’s, a proper tea service would always have been sold with these jugs. Tea aside, I adore them anyway – from a design point of view – and they also make rather cute vases.
Now, though this may seem like an extra ‘faff’, it is in fact the lazy person’s way of taking tea. A little effort up front will mean no running back and forth from the kettle to get that second cup. Especially, God forbid, if the kettle is more than an arm’s length away, for example in a different room and involves actually getting up off one’s seat to put it on. Very tiresome if one happens to be watching ones favourite television programme at the time….
If you don’t possess a hot water jug, just another, smaller teapot or coffee pot will do.
Other topics soon to be covered in the So Much Nicer Guide to Taking Tea will include: Shape of cup, type of tea, milk?, trays, caddies, Afternoon Tea: etiquette & menu. Please feel very free to add your comments, suggest tips or new topics.