Making a nice cup of tea

When my British friends seriously want some tea, they get specific about what they want: not just tea but a nice cup of tea.

Let’s take that apart: We can leave a and of alone without destabilizing anything important. But think about the word nice. Because you don’t just have a cup of tea in this country, you have a nice cup of tea. Even when the nice is silent, if you listen carefully you can hear it resonating in the background. I need a nice cup of tea, a nice cup of tea, a nice cup of tea.

And if the cup of tea you get tastes like second-hand dishwater? It’s all the more disappointing, because what you wanted was that nice cup of tea, not this travesty you’ve been handed.

In the U.S., we never sit down to a nice cup of coffee. We drink coffee, we make coffee, we drop by our friends’ houses for coffee, and we go out for coffee. But we don’t expect that comforting nice from it. It’s just, you know, an ultra-fat mocha semiccino with whipped cream and caramel sauce with a side of chocolate chip muffin and a triple bacon cheeseburger deluxe on a sesame seed bun. With mayo.

In other words, it’s no big deal.

Irrelevant photo: wild blackberries

Irrelevant photo: wild blackberries

I don’t know what it says about our two cultures that one seeks comfort from a hot drink and the other doesn’t, but I’ve known people here in Britain to welcome a cup of tea the way I’d expect someone to welcome a stiff drink after a day when the computer blew up, the basement flooded, and the dog filed for divorce; I’ve known them to take the first sip and say, like a borderline alcoholic after a brief flirtation with sobriety, “I needed that.”

Or maybe that’s me I’m quoting. If so, forget it. I’m not British. Or I am, but not deeply enough to count.

So let’s move on. People who expect comfort from a hot drink seem to find it. Point made, in a wobbly fashion.

After nice comes cup. Go into any cafe any you can ask for a pot of tea, and in some for a mug. In most places you’ll get a pot whether you ask for it or not, and all of that is fine, but if the nice gets spoken at all, it comes attached to a cup—one of those curved shells you wrap your hands around while the warmth seeps into your half-frozen soul. The thing you bring to your lips, allowing all the love that went into its making to flow into your metaphorical as opposed to your literal heart. It may have been made in a pot, but whoever made it poured it into a cup for you and that’s what we’re talking about— that cup and its the contents, and by extension the acts of making and handing.

We’ve gone well beyond the rational here. This is about caring and nurturing. It’s about love itself, in an indirect way.

So tea is central to the culture. Does that mean an American can’t march in and make a decent cup? Americans seem to hold one of three opinions:

  1. [Fill in the blank] criticizes my tea-making and always will because I’m American. Even if I do it right, I’ll never do it right.
  2. I’ve been to Britain and read every book ever published on the subject. Tea is my religion and I’ve returned home to convert a refined few among the heathens.
  3. Oh, get over it. It’s just a drink. Wanna cup?

If you’ve been hanging around my blog for any length of time, you can guess which category I’m in.

I don’t know how many categories British opinion falls into on the subject, and that may be for the best. However, in my unbiased opinion, I make a decent cup of tea, and if a friend’s in serious need I can even make a nice cup of tea. It’s hot, it’s strong (except when I make it for M., who drinks it so weak that I just boil the water and wave a teabag through the steam), and under normal circumstances it comes with something home baked.

And with that we arrive to the heart of this post. How do you make a nice cup of tea?

Am I qualified to answer that question? Do I care? Uncertainty hasn’t stopped me in the past, and neither has good sense. I don’t see why they should now. I predict, though, that from here on everyone who drinks tea will disagree with me about something. Have a good time, folks. I’m looking forward to it.

You start with the tea. If you’re American, this is the hard part.

Leaf tea: You can go to a fancy tea store and buy leaf tea, choosing one that was picked before sunrise from plants that have never been spoken to harshly. And you can pay any amount of money you like for the privilege, as long the amount is large. If you live in a tea-drinking country, on the other hand, you can buy leaf tea in a supermarket. No one in sight will know how the plants were spoken to or when the tea was picked. But it’s tea.

Wherever you buy it, try a few kinds and see which one you like.

Which means you have to brew it, and the first trick is to avoid stuffing it into anything that won’t let the water flow through. I’ve tried a variety of brewing gizmos over the years and most of them are as useless as stuffing the leaves in an old sock, and that includes the cloth or paper gizmos that imitate teabags. Why you want to avoid teabags and then use something that imitates them I don’t know, especially when they don’t work as well as the teabags you’re avoiding. (I am going to catch such hell for saying that. I can hardly wait.) Choose the wrong gizmo to stuff your leaves into and you’ll end up with expensive tannish water.

Open baskets do work—in this barbarian’s opinion.

In Britain, a lot of the cafes that use leaf tea dump it directly into the pot and give you a strainer, which comes with something to rest it on so you don’t end up splattering teadrops everywhere. Because the leaves are swimming around in the water, you don’t have to worry about whether the water’s flowing through them. The tea will be good and strong, but if you’re slow about drinking it, it’ll turn bitter. Some cafes give you an extra pot with hot water to thin it out with once that happens, but even with the extra water it sometimes gets strong enough to make you grow hair on your tongue.

Teabags: British supermarkets sell more kinds of teabags than they do baked beans, which is another way of saying you have a lot to pick from. If you’re in the U.S., your choices are limited. You can buy Twinings or something along those lines—one of those brands that entombs each teabag in a little plasticky-foily packet so you’ll understand how special it is, and how special you are to have bought it. I hate Twinings. Which—according to Kate Fox’s Watching the English—is because I’m not upper class. The lower classes drink their tea strong. The upper classes wants theirs to be as refined as they (think they) are, so their tea has to be pale and (lack-of-objectivity alert here) flavorless. So if you’re American and you like Twinings, go ahead and drink it and know that you’ve got more class than I have. Or want, thanks.

When I lived in the U.S., I bought Lyons tea from an Irish store near us and it was strong enough to turn my hair gray. Just look at the photo I use. Back when I drank coffee, I had (mostly) black hair. But Lyons is great stuff. If I hadn’t been able to get that, I think I’d have gone for Lipton’s rather than Twinings. At least it has some oomph to it.

Do I use leaf or teabags? Teabags. I used to keep some leaf tea for special occasions but the tea I made with it was never as good and how’s that a way to celebrate?

Water: This is the other ingredient in tea. If you want, you can use bottled water and it may or may not make your tea taste better. It will be more expensive. Your choice. You can use a kettle or a pan to boil it. If you’re in Britain, you’ll almost surely use an electric kettle because it’s fast. You’ll use it so often that you never put it away. If you’re in the U.S. you can still use an electric kettle but only if you’re willing to invest some time in the project. I grew old waiting for electric kettles to boil in the U.S. I’d have been 56 if I’d just put the water on the stove, but no, I had to buy an electric kettle and so I’m 68.

I have no idea why American electric kettles take so long.

What you can’t do is stick the water in the microwave. Even if it’s in a nice cup. Because microwaves don’t get the water not enough. The true secret of a nice cup of tea is that the water has to be boiling when you pour it over the tea. Or, okay, if it stopped boiling 30 seconds before I get to it, I don’t quibble, I just pour. But if it didn’t boil, or if it boiled back when my hair was black, it’s not worth using.

Do you have to warm the kettle? In my book, it depends on how cold the kettle is. Which depends on how cold the house is. If it’s cold, pour a little of the water in it, slosh it around, let it sit if you want to, warm the thing up, then pour the water out and make your tea. And if you’re making a single cup? I’ve never stopped to warm a cup, although it makes as much sense as warming the kettle. And the tea’s been fine, thanks.

I’ve read that you shouldn’t reboil the water because all the air goes out of it, or all the—oh, I don’t know why you’re not supposed to do it. You’re not. All the experts agree. So put in as much as you need and no more.

How long do you brew it? Well, how strong do you like your tea? I remember a huge ad in Paddington Station saying that after five minutes tea was stewed, not brewed. Stewed tea is bad. Why? Because a huge poster in Paddington Station said so.

I don’t leave my tea that long unless I wander off to do something else and forget it, in which case it may be as much as ten minutes before I wander back. If I’m in a hurry, I stir it. What you (and you’ll notice how seamlessly we’ve switched from me to you here) don’t want to do, if you’re using teabags, is squeeze them. It makes the tea bitter. Really. It does. Just lift them out, all dripping and nasty. Or leave them in, but if the tea’s going to be sitting a while, you may end up with a hairy tongue.

Add milk. Or milk and sugar if you feel strongly about it. Then sit back and enjoy a nice cup of tea. With love.

122 thoughts on “Making a nice cup of tea

  1. It is all so complicated…I need to emigrate! In my house there are PG tips, and water heated to 95º in a kettle that is far too fancy for its own good and can heat water to a range of temperatures from 40º to 100º. I do squeeze tea bags, but I don’t drink it and my husband has never complained…but maybe I make terrible tea, I have no idea!
    I assumed twinings were good because Stephen Fry advertised them, and he knows everything. This has never made me buy them.

    Mind you …I exclusively drink coffee and I expect far more than comfort and nurture from my cup…
    I expect life and consciousness and the ability to function…

    judging by the amount of goes I just had at writing consciousness, i think I need some more right now!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah, tea – it can be such a thorny topic among the British. I am a self-confessed tea lover, but I don’t think we should be too precious about it. Drink the tea the way you enjoy it and bugger everything else. Tea is too good a thing to have hang ups about.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. It all boils (pun intended) to the British need for conciseness and formalitea. (Oops).
    Formal: Would you like a cup of tea ?
    Informal: Would you like a nice of tea ?
    Suicidal formal: Would you like a cup of raw sewage ?
    Suicidal informal: Would you like a nice cup of raw sewage ?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have never felt so overwhelmed about tea in my entire life! When people ask me if I make a nice cup of tea, I always panic a little. When I lived in the States, I rarely drank tea, but now in Edinburgh it seems to be almost a necessity. Excellent post. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. In my house, somehow it has become expected that we serve a nice cuppa, although we have no British credentials, or aspirations, or even knowledge of proper tea.
    We do scrounge discount shops for unusual imported teas. We brew them strong, and serve them with cream and sugar. I make tea bags by scooping tea onto a coffee filter, then folding the filter and stapling it. (try serving that to the queen)
    The other part of the formula is to buy one-of-a-kind tea cups in junk shops. Anyone who likes our tea will eventually take a cup and saucer home.
    In short, our ritual works fine here, but I doubt that it would pass muster in the UK.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Over the years I have found, on my annual trip back to the UK, that it is becoming difficult to find a decent cup of tea anywhere. Let alone a ‘nice’ cup. The whole country is going to the dogs, teawise!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. The Japanese have NOTHING on the English when it comes to tea. Japanese tea rituals are big, sure BUT they are actually easily understood, well documented and easily repeated. English tea making as an arcane art. It is an elite club. Membership is by invitation only and the slightest error will expose you as an interloper to be shunned. Tea making is an art. A carefully preserved and cultish art that very few ever master. :-)

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Interesting to read that making a good cup of tea depends on technique and how hot/cold the kettle and the house is. We all certainly have different tastes in tea, different likings for different degrees of sweet and bitter. I used to drink tea (English breakfast was my favourite), then bubble tea (an Asian milk-based kind of tea drink with tapioca pearls and jellies). Then I stopped drinking tea, and I don’t drink coffee – don’t like putting stimulants into my body. But I really, really do love the smell of tea and coffee…

    Liked by 2 people

    • For a while I went caffeine free, but it made it hard (or so it seemed to me) to meet anyone for what, in spite of not drinking it, I still called coffee. Yes, there was herb tea, but I guess I was feeling a bit too pure to manage this world of ours. So when I started drinking caffeine tea, I was happy to indulge. Oddly enough, I don’t seem to over-indulge the way I did with coffee.


      • Oh, yes! When I read the title, I heard my mother and the lessons I had in tea making. I remember, as a child, being detailed with making the afternoon tea and presenting it to the parentals after their Saturday (or Sunday) nap. And that was before the advent of teabags (in this country, anyway). The recipe was one teaspoon of leaves for each cup and one for the pot. The trolley was set with cups, saucers, milk (not cream), sugar and sometimes lemon as well as, of course, the mandatory tea strainer and cosy for the pot! I cannot remember the number of times the tea was not good enough: “You didn’t use boiling water!”

        “I _did_, Mum!”

        “No, you didn’t!”

        How the f..k did she know? When I had my own tea Damascus road experience after discovering that I had a caffeine intolerance, I discovered the difference and even more so when I stopped drinking milk in my tea. I have, for years been one of those of whom it is often said, that she is a waste of a teabag. Too strong and it’s bitter, and you can’t appreciate the flavour. I am a self-confessed fan of Twinings’ Earl Grey (and only that brand, mind), which for years I drank in leaf form. Now, for economic reasons, it’s saved for high days and holidays….and is in bags.

        And, by the way, according to my old mum, stewed tea was tea that was kept warm too long before pouring and/or “cooked” on the stove to keep warm….

        Tea, was for my mother a panacea for all ills and the ultimate comfort!

        Oh, and BTW, I agree: coffee sans caffeine is definitely not coffee!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I never heard the phrase “a waste of a teabag.” It says a lot–about the person and the place of tea in the culture.

          I loved Earl Grey until somehow I had one too many cups. I haven’t wanted any since. But we do grow some wild geraniums (actually, they grow themselves), which smell of (and probably are the source of) bergamot, so I still get to smell it.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. I mostly drink coffee. I like tea in the evenings. My wife gets it mail order (Internet order) and it comes in large floopy bags. Apparently, I don’t like it strong enough because I get the eye-roll-head-shake when I take the bag out too soon. We had an English friend stay with us a couple of times. My wife gave him a kettle, a small selection of teas and all the other ingredients he might like. That seemed to work well. If you read my post about answering rhetorical questions, you are prepared for the following. I’m guessing the time on the kettles has to do with the voltage being ~220 in England v 110 in the States. Thanks for the interesting discussion and information and for the wonderful way you write.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t know about you. My Scottish grandmother (you may remember me mentioning her previously in my comments – she had a definite opinion about everything) would have agreed with everything you said until the very end. A little milk might be used (for flavor because it is never too strong). But sugar is definitely for the coffee drinking American heathens. She might think you’re not fully assimilated yet. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your grandmother and I are still on the same side–almost. I included the sugar because I wanted to be, oh, I don’t know, inclusive or something. You know, of the heathens who insist on it. I don’t drink it that way myself. I tried it in coffee once, when I first started drinking the stuff, and somehow it made the coffee more bitter instead of less. I haven’t dumped it in any warm drink except hot chocolate since.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Growing up with a British Mother, it might be alarming that I am addicted to coffee. Coffee is my essential. But tea is what I have when I need a Nice Cup of something. And in Canada, we know how to Do tea ;) (but we also know everyone has some difference of taste. My neighbours are Turkish and their tea makes me envious of my simple pekoe and milk.


  12. Here in the states, I get all my loose tea at the ethnic food shops. South Asian, or Mid-eastern markets are a good source, and even my local Korean supermarket has it in the Asian section. I prefer either Ahmad or Sadaf Earl Grey, and it comes in nice big tins. With really good leaves I can just dump them in the teapot and use a tea strainer, and I have not had a problem with the tea getting too bitter, even if it sits awhile.

    But, alas, I always drink it from a mug – it holds more and stays warm longer.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. >I have no idea why American electric kettles take so long [to boil]
    Two reasons I think:
    1) Market demand: In the UK we like our tea on demand, so there’s been a lot of market incentive over the years for kettle manufacturers to make their devices more and more powerful. I suspect there hasn’t been the same pressure on US suppliers
    2) Physics: Bear with me, there’s a bit of simple maths in this explanation.
    How quickly an electric kettle heats up depends on the power of the electricity supply to it (power is the rate at which energy is transferred). Electrical power is the electrical current times the voltage. If you think of electricity as like water flowing through a pipe, the current is like the water flow and the voltage is like the water pressure. The higher the current, the bigger the wires you need to carry it (otherwise the wires heat up when you don’t want them to and they melt, or the insulation round them catches fire – not good!). Now for practical and cost reasons there are limits to the size of the wires that deliver our domestic electrical energy, including in the appliances themselves. In the UK our domestic voltage is twice that of the US (240 volts as opposed to 120 volts). So, given that power = current x voltage, this means that for the same or similar cost of manufacture, a UK kettle carrying the same maximum safe current as a US one will have twice the power. So it’ll boil the water in around half the time!

    This power equals voltage times current rule is also the reason why you shouldn’t plug 220 volt US appliances like hair driers, hair curlers and electric irons into the UK 240 volt mains; they’ll draw twice as much current as normal and could severely overheat,or even catch fire.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I thought I was totally normal and non-nerdy when it came to tea. Then I emigrated to America and discovered that I absolutely fulfilled the stereotype of being obsessed with tea and tea etiquette and that my attachment to tea is actually quite an emotional one.

    I definitely fall into the camp of putting the kettle on and brewing up a nice cup of tea whenever someone is in need of succour. Whenever I feel low, I make myself a mug of tea. Something about sipping the hot tea is calming. It’s like a hug from the inside out. In my early childhood, our house had no heating so I think there may be something hard-wired in me to associate the warmth of the tea with comfort. Even now I prefer a mug to a cup because the tea stays hotter longer and the walls of the mug retain the heat longer. I hold the mug between my hands, not by the handle, so as to warm my fingers even when they don’t need warming. I used to always press the hot mug against my nose to warm it up too but I seem to finally have fallen out of that habit.

    I used to make leaf tea many moons ago as it could be more affordable that way but I switched to teabags as soon as it made economic sense to do so. My tea strainer did not cross the ocean with us. When I am making tea for just me, I just make it in the mug. I always make a pot if there is more than one person consuming it. I always warm the pot beforehand – a necessity since I am using a metal teapot from the 1930s – by swilling it with boiled water. I remove the bags from the pot as soon as it has reached the desired amber hue. I cannot stand the bitter tannin taste of stewed tea. I have no opinion about milk first or milk after. I do, however, always use fresh water in the kettle – never, ever reboiled. Boiling removes oxygen from the water so reboiled water tastes brackish. Yuck.

    I was worried about access to tasty tea when I was moving to America as I had not had great experience with tea when I had visited the US in the past. I still daren’t ask for tea when I am out and about as I have yet to buy a cup of tea that is worth consuming. However, the supermarkets now stock a good range of tea so I am covered at home. I actually buy one called “British Blend”. That is how much of a stereotype I am.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you, this was very informative! And specific enough that I can now confirm: I do, in fact, make the most disagreeable cup of tea possible on the planet. Must be why I drink coffee.

    Decaf coffee, sure — but what it lacks in caffeine, it makes up for in mayonnaise.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow, this post brought back so many memories for me! Like when I moved to England and discovered the kettle that has a base. A BASE! Brilliant! And how I hated when my British boyfriend squeezed his teabag – yuck! And how I always have and always will hate Earl Grey, but I worship my English Breakfast. And how these days, I feel so nostalgic every time they say (and I can predict when they will) “wanna cuppa” or “I’ll put the kettle on, shall I?” on Corrie. I have never drunk coffee; I will always love my tea. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I guess I’m a true American Heathen, then. I use the cheapest teabags I can find, plunk one in a handled mug, cup, or whatever is clean, pour in some water direct from the tap, and throw the whole thing in the microwave.

    I squeeze the dickens out of the teabag when I think the liquid is dark enough, and pour in some honey to smooth out the bitterness.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I can get behind using the cheapest teabags available. They’ll probably have more ooomph than Twinings. And using whatever’s clean. The phrase nice cup of tea applies to tea, not the cup, as far as I can figure out. In fact, I’ve been known (often) to reuse a cup that isn’t really clean since I was the last person to use it and that was within living memory and what the hell, why get a second one dirty? The microwave, though, is where we part company. I’d love to know whether you’d think the tea was better with boiling water.


  18. “A nice cup of tea,” has been offered in every crisis in my family, as well as any other time someone seems to need support, or a break, or coming together, or . . . Just another way our UK-extracted origins show up. When things are really bad, or I am really tired, all I want is a nice cup of tea.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m definitely a tea Jenny. I always choose ‘a nice cup of tea’ and then move on to the stiff drink if circumstances require it! I’d say 3 minutes for a mug and 5 for a pot. And yes, the pot does need to be warmed! When I lived in Germany we carted tons of tea back from the UK as it only comes in little 25 bag boxes. Totally useless. I used to get my Dad to calculate 6 months’ worth of tea at 5 bags a day and then tell me which special offer to buy! If I drank tea out, it was always Earl Grey because you can drink that weak without milk and it actually tastes okay if the water’s only reached 90+ degrees, not boiling point. Here in Australia there’s plenty of tea – in fact they even call ‘elevenses’ morning tea!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. This all makes sense–and why I quit drinking tea. The medication I’m on keeps my mouth dry and my tongue irritated, so the bitterness in tea just hurts. But I’ve never boiled water in my life to make a cup, just stuck my mug in the microwave. I’m not sure I’m ready to invest in a kettle just to see if my mouth can tolerate a nice cuppa, though. I’ll ponder it while I sip my latte.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Ok, so I saw this post and the 99 (at the time) comments, and thought (and this is my American-ness showing), “There are 99 comments on tea? Really?” Then after reading the post, I thought, “Of course there are 99 comments on tea! I’m surprised there aren’t more!”

    Anyway, funny piece. I laughed out loud at

    I’ve known them to take the first sip and say, like a borderline alcoholic after a brief flirtation with sobriety, “I needed that.”

    Liked by 2 people

  22. If I’d known you were going to write about making tea, Ellen, I’d have shared some of my hair-raising stories about working in a tea importers … I had the hugely important job (the lowest paid, I think) of pouring the boiling water onto the tea leaves of samples from the auctions. Then I went back to put the strained leaves into little saucers so the tea tasters could first slurp the liquid and spit it out into a spittoon, then feel and look at the moist leaves, before writing down their recommendations. I had to leave the job after two weeks as the counter was so tall I nearly wrecked my right arm pouring continuously at that height. In the store rooms, the leaves that littered the floor were used for teabags … So I prefer leaf tea, and the bigger the leaf the better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Okay, that does put teabags in a different light. But damn, they’re so convenient.

      I expected the story to lead up to you quitting because you couldn’t stand to watch them drink and spit for one more day.


  23. I needed this blog post six years ago when we first moved to Cambridge. Every time I invited a British person over, despite all of their reassurances that my tea was fine, I knew deep down that it was not a “nice cup of tea.”

    Liked by 2 people

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  25. Must admit after any American trip the first thing I have when back home is a ‘nice cup of tea’! There are very few countries in the world who know how to make it and America (generalising here) is not one of them. Hopefully now though after your brilliant post it might improve ;-)

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Great post, loved it. Tea solves everything, I’m sure my grandparents would say it contributed to winning WW2!
    By your definition of teabags, I’m upper class, haha! I must admit I like a hot cup of milk with a splash of tea and a dollop of honey.
    Then there’s the ‘milk first or last’ debate – do you want to warm the milk or cool the tea? So many rules! I love tea, but I don’t make a great one for anyone but myself, so if you come round to mine, you get it how it is or make it yourself – have to say, a good cuppa does make you involuntarily let out a soothing, ‘Aaaaahhh!’ though. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I never heard that about warming the milk or cooling the tea. I’m not sure I understand it but I like it all the same. I thought about getting into the milk first or last debate and just didn’t have the moral fiber to get into it. Another time, maybe. There’s always more a person can write about tea, apparently.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely! For the record, (you know in case it comes up in one of those other British institutions, the pub quiz), many people think milk should go in first and pouring the tea in warms it. Adding milk after cools the tea, and apparently dissipates the flavour. Until you someone pops up with another opinion of course!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I dedicate a large part of my life to avoiding pub quizzes, but it’s an interesting theory. Speaking as an idiot about science, though, I can’t see how, when we’re combining something cold and something hot, it matters to the resulting temperature which goes in first. I tend to think of this as one of those religious issues it’s best not to argue about. We should all just respect other people’s beliefs and quietly tell ourselves the other person is wrong, misguided, and generally ignorant, but in the nicest and most respectful way possible.

          Liked by 1 person

  27. I always thought the milk first/last was basically a north/south thing. My Mother taught me that tea and sleep cure most things and there was an almost religious schedule to the times we drank tea or coffee throughout the day. Teabags were fine, but coffee had to be real not instant. The worst tea I ever drank was in New England when I made hot tea with milk out of Liptons iced tea teabags – I was desperate but I still shudder when I think about it. I have recently converted my American husband and stepchildren to tea with milk as I couldn’t understand why they were drinking it without and Yorkshire Tea is now the most requested food parcel item after chocolate buttons. I have no doubt I will be filling my suitcase when I finally move.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes–the true danger of moving to the U.S. comes from the tea, not the guns and not the absence of the NHS. Beware of the tea!

      A friend’s family had a very English way of dealing with a crisis: Make a cup of tea and turn on all the lights. She can’t explain what the lights were supposed to do, but it was what you had to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Pingback: How people find a blog, part 5ish | Notes from the U.K.

  29. Ellen, I’m a lifelong tea drinker, probably started drinking tea with my English grandmother and mother when I was two, drink it about 8 times a day. Having a nice cup of tea as we speak. I use organic whole leaf black teas. English friends visiting me in the US commented that they loved my tea, “a proper cup of tea,” though at home they had gotten quite lazy and simply drop a supermarket tea bag into a mug of microwaved water. I was shocked! :D

    I’m with you about the infusers. Must be an open basket; tea leaves must have room to unfurl. About the American electric kettles: I have a Cuisinart electric kettle that is very fast. On the milk first or last debate: It makes no sense at all to add anything (milk, sugar, lemon) to a cup of tea until you’ve tasted it. Nothing worse than milk in a cup of tea that was weak to start with. Especially when someone else has made the tea, I always taste first to see if it’s strong enough to stand up to a splash of milk.

    Okay, that’s enough — I could go on and on. I’m always on about tea. In fact, I’m doing a tea giveaway next week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When English friends visited us in Minneapolis, they were willing to drink my tea (teabags, I admit, but still, screamingly hot water and good Irish tea), but one of them still talks with horror about “that gray stuff you drink,” meaning the stuff sold out in the real world.

      Or maybe I said that in the post. I can’t remember anymore.


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