BE AWARE – this tutorial concerns making proper tea, not some awful mess with lemon, or ice or honey and certainly nothing decaffeinated!
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- Tea (bags or leaves are fine)
- Teapot (often overlooked, but essential for good tea – china is best)
- Milk (an important part of getting the true flavour, however, it is quite legitimate to have tea black)
- Sugar (optional)
- Cake or biscuits (optional, but highly desirable).
Fill your kettle with an appropriate amount of water. There should be enough to fill the teapot and a bit more to warm it too.
Start the water boiling.
Once the water is hot, but before it boils, pour a splash into the teapot and swill it around. This warms the pot, so that when the tea is brewed the pot does not cool the water too much. It is an essential part of the process, as the tea may not brew correctly if it’s in a cold pot.
Just as the water is about to boil (watch for heavier steam and listen to the bubbling), empty the warmed teapot and in place of the water, place one teabag (or heaped spoon of leaves).
This is the area that most commonly causes tea-making disasters. Many people have been erroneously led to believe that a pot needs a teabag for every person drinking the tea. That is utter rubbish! If that were the case, you may as well just put a teabag in a cup and miss out the teapot altogether. You wouldn’t do that if you had guests, would you?
More than one teabag in a standard sized teapot will create a filthy mess of tannin, with a revolting flavour. If you like your tea stronger, let it brew longer. This will allow the subtlety of the flavour to grow in the pot, rather than jamming in so many leaves that they are prevented from properly infusing and letting the tannin take over the drink.
At the moment the kettle boils, pour the water into the teapot, to brew the tea. It is vital that the water is seething as it is poured. This is due to the chemical reaction needed to draw the tea out of the tealeaves and mix with the water. Often in countries where coffee is the predominant beverage, the water is not boiled for tea, resulting in a liquid with no real flavour. There is no mystery here, it’s just imperative that tea is made with water that is physically boiling at the time.
Once the water is in the pot, put the lid on and let it brew for however long you like. If you’re new to tea-making, you’ll have to do some tests, but I would recommend about 3 to 5 minutes as enough time. Check inside the pot to see what colour the tea is – you are looking for a rich brown, but should be able to see the bottom of the pot through it.
When ready, pour your tea into whatever drinking vessel you like (I prefer a mug, but tea cups are best for social occasions). Remember that china retains heat better than glass or steel, so the cup is probably best made of china.
Pour the tea before the milk. There are a lot of arguments about this, but putting the milk in second is the only way to guarantee you have the right amount, as you can judge the colour of the tea whilst pouring. This is important because you can never predict exactly how strong the tea is, but once it’s there, you can get the milk spot-on.
Next, sugar the tea as you like.
Stir the tea well. This step is not to be undervalued. It makes a massive difference to the final drink, especially if you have sugar.
Finally, sit back and enjoy the tea. I find a slice of Victoria sponge is the perfect accompaniment, but biscuits are good too.