Lifestyle | The Tea Appreciation Post
In Britain tea is usually black tea served with milk (never cream; the cream of a “cream tea” is clotted cream served on scones, usually with strawberry jam, a tradition originating from Devon and Cornwall). Strong tea served with lots of milk and often two teaspoons of sugar, usually in a mug, is commonly referred to as builder’s tea. Much of the time in the United Kingdom, tea drinking is not the delicate, refined cultural expression that some might imagine—a cup (or commonly a mug) of tea is something drunk often, with some people drinking six or more cups of tea a day. Employers generally allow breaks for tea.
How to drink your tea… British style!
Even very slightly formal events can be a cause for cups and saucers to be used instead of mugs. A typical semi-formal British tea ritual might run as follows (the host performing all actions unless noted):
- The kettle, with fresh water, is brought to a rolling boil and water poured into a tea pot.
- Enough boiling water is swirled around the pot to warm it and then poured out.
- Add loose tea leaves, black tea usually, although tea bags are sometimes used, always added before the boiled water.
- Fresh boiling water is poured over the tea in the pot and allowed to brew for 2 to 5 minutes while a tea cosy is placed on the pot to keep the tea warm. If the tea is allowed to brew for too long, for example, more than 10 minutes, it will become “over-steeped”,or “stewed”, resulting in a very bitter, astringent taste.
- Milk may be added to the tea cup, the host asking the guest if milk is wanted, although milk may alternatively be added after the tea is poured.
- A tea strainer is placed over the top of the cup and the tea poured in, unless tea bags are used. Tea bags may be removed, if desired, once desired strength is attained.
- Fresh milk and white sugar is added according to individual taste. Most people have milk with their tea, many without sugar.
- The pot will normally hold enough tea so as not to be empty after filling the cups of all the guests. If this is the case, the tea cosy is replaced after everyone has been served. Hot water may be provided in a separate pot, and is used only for topping up the pot, never the cup.
Whether to put milk into the cup before or after the tea is, and has been since at least the late 20th century, a matter of some debate with claims that adding milk at the different times alters the flavour of the tea.In addition to considerations of flavour, is thought that historically, the order of steps was taken as an indication of class: only those wealthy enough to afford good quality porcelain would be confident of its being able to cope with being exposed to boiling water unadulterated with milk.
There is also a proper manner in which to drink tea when using a cup and saucer. If one is seated at a table, the proper manner to drink tea is to raise the teacup only, placing it back into the saucer in between sips. When standing or sitting in a chair without a table, one holds the tea saucer with the off hand and the tea cup in the dominant hand. When not in use, the tea cup is placed back in the tea saucer and held in one’s lap or at waist height. In either event, the tea cup should never be held or waved in the air.
Drinking tea from the saucer (poured from the cup in order to cool it) was not uncommon at one time but is now almost universally considered a breach of etiquette.
“The Tea Poem” (written when tea began to be rationed during WWII)
Cup of Tea, Cup of Tea You Are Just the Thing for Me
no Milk, No Sugar, It’s just Great Fancy herbal ones I hate
(No Chamomile I say for me No Parsley in My cup of Tea)
No Mint, No Thyme, No Red Red Rose Just Give Me Normal by the Hose
So keep your ration Book in Hand And we’ll drink tea across the land
And an extra cup for Granny too And all our dashing lads in blue.
In the United Kingdom, and to a certain extent, Canada, a number of varieties of loose tea sold in packets from the 1940s to the 1980s contained tea cards. These were illustrated cards roughly the same size as cigarette cards and intended to be collected by children. Perhaps the best known were Typhoo tea and Brooke Bond (manufacturer of PG Tips), the latter of whom also provided albums for collectors to keep their cards in. Some renowned artists were commissioned to illustrate the cards including Charles Tunnicliffe. Many of these card collections are now valuable collectors’ items.