Wednesday 23 September 2015

The (lost) art of making tea – 5 secrets to the perfect brew

"That has got to be the worst cup of tea I have ever tasted. It was like cat pee, laced with dirty dish water. You didn’t warm the cup, and the teabag clearly spent more time trying to take the odour out of your smelly shoes than the 3 seconds it was rushed through the barely lukewarm water. I bet you turned the kettle off before it boiled. Was the milk off?

I smiled to myself. Chances are, he will make the tea tomorrow. And the next day. I’ll do it again on Monday. Mission accomplished. I stand accused, judged and sentenced. I cannot make tea. Too bad, it is the weekend. And everyone knows how I love to get out of bed first to pad downstairs and make the tea for the family. (And heavens alive, our family has severe FOMO when it comes to a tea round. It’s always very expensive.)

But seriously, those of us who love tea know. There is an art to making tea. It’s about the small things. If you get them right, you will make a great cup of tea. If you don’t…well if you’re lucky, someone else will make the tea. If you’re not lucky, then you probably don’t like the tea you make very much. Stop reading and go out and buy yourself a cup of coffee.

Secrets to a good cup of tea:

1. Heat

Fact: The water needs to be hot in order for tea to brew properly. This is a fact that is Very True. So if you are making tea with a teabag in a mug (acceptable, but not up to best international standard practice) then you need to heat the mug. However, if the tea is brewing in a pot (which I differ with my husband about – I love it, and he doesn’t. He has low standards.), then it is not necessary to heat the teacup or mug. The tea brews elsewhere, so feel free to pour the milk in first.

2. Timing of brewing

This is also important. Too short, and you succeed in making the cat pee described in the opening sentence. Too long, and the hair on your morning teeth stands on end. Or, as my best tea-maker in the world, aka my husband says, “It’s like soup. And it’s cold. What were you doing? Playing on your phone?” Clearly, I do not excel at making tea. It’s an art form, how badly I can do it.

3. Materials

Everyone knows that tea tastes different in different cups. Polystyrene, for instance, is not a great way to serve tea. Neither is plastic. Unless you are on a picnic and desperate. Then it may be (only just) acceptable. You need tea, and the china could break in the picnic basket. Undoubtedly, bone china is the best. A favourite mug or tea cup is wonderful. As is a pretty tea pot. With matching milk jug and sugar basin. But we are getting ahead of ourselves...

4. The tray

As I pointed out before, it’s the little things, people. I love a tea tray. I blame my grandmother. She had a servant who, at promptly 6 am every morning, would tinkle down the passage with a tray. From a very young age, whenever I stayed overnight, I qualified for my own tray, with my own tea in my own room. I don’t think I ever recovered. And I don’t want to. The little milk jug, the teaspoon, the sugar basin. And of course, the tea cosy. Brought to you at 6 am. Is heaven better? Wonderful inventions. Every loving home should have them. 

My tea tray on a Saturday morning. 

5. The accompaniments 

 Perfect Tea Sides
For me, a cup of tea on its own is good enough. I don’t have to have something with it. And let’s face it, if I did have something to eat every time I had tea, I would look like a small house. I drink that much tea. I have a relative though, who doesn’t (look like a house). He, until recently, always had to have something to go with his tea. Something sweet was the best. A shortbread biscuit. Divine. An oatmeal crunchie. Sublime. He was even known (probably in my house, with the dearth of all things sugary) to make himself a piece of toast, with jam, so that he could drink that tea. I am pleased to report he has ditched the habit. But for a treat, what is nicer than a freshly baked little scone with butter. Or a crumpet to go with your tea? 

Cucumber sandwiches, anyone?

But the Most True Thing about tea is that, it always tastes better when someone else makes it for you, with love at 6 am in the morning. When you really want to read, your feet would get cold, and you need tea. Now.

How do you take your tea? How strongly do you feel about that perfect cup? Let me know in the comments below.

Other Ramblings

No comments: