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The Perfect Cup Of Tea

posted 23 Nov 2010, 07:25 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 23 Nov 2010, 07:26 ]

The novelist George Orwell (famous for his political novels
such as Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four) was picky
about his cups of tea and tried to lay down the law about
how to make the perfect cup of tea. His landmark essay
published in the Evening Standard in 1946 reignited the

milk-in-first debate, led to research into the art or
science of tea-making and aroused the ire of those who like
to put sugar in their tea (Orwell derided adding sugar to
tea "unless one is drinking it in the Russian style" - was
he hinting that those who add sugar to tea are making pigs
of themselves*?)

Tea is good for you. While it is a mild diuretic and
stimulant, it contains tannins and antioxidants that are
good for your heart. Green tea, in particular, is well known
for its antioxidant properties. However, your ordinary cuppa
is made from the same plant as green tea (Camellia sinensis)
and the difference between black and green tea is the same
difference as exists between raisins and grapes.   According
to Orwell, making the perfect cup of tea had eleven key

1. Orwell preferred Indian or Sri Lankan tea (he called it
Ceylonese) over Chinese tea. This would have to be a matter
of preference as well as budget. I dare say that Orwell,
given his strong political views, would support Fair Trade

2. The tea should be made in a small china teapot and not in
a huge urn. The one drawback with this tip is that tea does
stain china. To remove tea stains from china teapots, the
pot should be cleaned out after every use. Cleaning a china
teapot inside can be done by leaving denture tablets to soak
in a teapot-full of boiling water for an hour or so,
scrubbing gently inside with dishwashing liquid, or rubbing
baking soda on the stains. Whichever method you use,
remember to rinse and dry the teapot well to prevent any
taint in the taste.

3. Warm the pot first. Although Orwell didn't recommend
swirling warm water around the inside of the pot to warm it,
few of us today have a hob to warm it on, so swirling is the
way to go.

4. Tea should be strong. This again is a matter of taste.
The standard measure for making tea is one (teaspoon or bag
- but see below) for every person plus one for the pot. The
longer tea sits and brews, the stronger it tastes.

5. Orwell disliked using tea bags or "other devices to
imprison the tea", believing that the tea infused better if
loose. The leaves, after all, can be swallowed. However,
most people dislike the feeling of getting a mouthful of
loose leaves and find tea bags easier from a cleaning up
perspective. In days gone by, old damp tealeaves were used
to help clean carpets (you shake the tealeaves on then brush
them off - they pick up dust and fluff as they go), so using
loose tea had other advantages.

6. Use fresh boiling water and pour this over the tea.

7. Stir or swirl the pot, or even shake it, then let the
tealeaves settle to the bottom before pouring.

8. Use mugs rather than cups, as the standard teacups are
wider and get cooler more quickly. However, the standard
china teacups are usually prettier and more elegant, which
is a consideration if you are hosting an old-fashioned tea

9. Use skim milk rather than cream (or, I suppose,
homogenised milk). Many of us do this because of the fat
content, but this is a matter of taste. Some prefer the
creamier taste of full-fat homogenised milk in tea, as the
creaminess makes a good counterpoint to the bitterness.
Americans sometimes refer to taking "cream" in their tea or
coffee - this isn't what you think it is; they are merely
referring to milk.

10. This is the controversial one: Orwell liked to put the
milk in last. Research has gone into this topic and the
conclusion is that milk should be added first. This is
because pouring milk onto the boiling hot tea denatures the
proteins in the milk and alters the flavour. Having the milk
in first prevents this happening. Milk was originally added
last because doing so proved that you are a real lady who
could afford porcelain that didn't crack when hot tea was
poured in directly.

11. Orwell was against using sugar, claiming that you may as
well add pepper. He was obviously not aware of Indian chai
tea, which is flavoured with pepper, as well as other spices
(and sugar!). Orwell sneered that tea should be bitter, like
beer, but seemed to forget that beer does have a sweetish
overtone mixed with the bitter thanks to the malt. Again,
this is a matter of taste.

Orwell didn't touch on the merits of using lemon, or of iced
tea on a hot day. Iced tea is made by steeping tea in cold
water for a lengthy time - some stand the jug of tealeaves
and water in the fridge; some stand it in the sun. The
flavour is more subtle and delicate. Serve without milk but
with sugar (lemon is optional but very refreshing) and with
ice cubes. To prevent the flavour being watered down, use
ice cubes made from frozen tea.

About the Author:

Nick Vassilev is the founder of Anyclean, a successful
cleaning company based in London, UK. His extensive
knowledge about the cleaning industry helps provide
excellent service and value to his clients. For more info
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