We weren't much surprised that last week's call for readers to explain just what makes the ultimate cuppa resulted in a rush of experts eager to chip in their two bits' worth, offering some strong opinions, and even stronger brews, as evidenced by tales of billy-can-boiled industrial-strength infusions sweetened with condensed …
I'm almost normal then
Fantastic, at this point in time I hit the most popular results excepting two, I prefer the full fat to the semi-skimmed (although in the canteen they don't offer up the proper stuff, instead they give a choice of slightly watered down or water with some kind of white colouring in it) variety of cow juice, and I take 1 sugar but my parents blame my grandmother for that because she used to make tea that would be stewed for about 20 minutes to an hour.
Good to know I'm not a total deviant when it comes to the nectar of the gods.
The Night Watch
In one of Pterry's novels Commander Vimes is offered a cup of tea '3 sugars, boiled orange in a builders boot' and he confesses that is how he likes it.
These recepies are all pale imitations of that Ur-tea
Re: The Night Watch
My uncle used to make his tea with boiling water, then put the metal teapot back on the stove & boil it for another 10 minutes. One day my dad smelt something burning, saw the pot on the gas, and when he lifted the lid the flames were coming through where the bottom of the teapot used to be...
I can't believe nobody has mentioned
Water, because it is a big factor affecting how your cup of tea turns out. For example here in the Thames Valley hard water zone it's virtually impossible to make a decent cup of tea. Using bottled water or those jug things is an improvement but it's not so easy to make authentic Yorkshire tea outside of Yorkshire.
Re: I can't believe nobody has mentioned
Yeah. We've found it best to use a water filter but that's mainly because boiling up the office tap water causes it to taste of soap for some reason. Sadly filtering the water removes some of the taste as well.
Re: I can't believe nobody has mentioned
When I visited Sheffield at the weekends I would often traipse back down south on a Monday morning with 2L of Yorkshire tapwater in my bag!
Re: I can't believe nobody has mentioned
I think it's the things wot aren't in Thames that's the problem.
As a student placement, a good mate worked for ICI. One of the little tasks he was given was to test water. The reason was that they bought in vast quantities of purified water and were looking for the purest tap as a cheaper alternative to use for less important work where small amounts of contamination were not an issue.
He was given a set of platinum dishes and a load of samples from various suppliers. Boil each sample dry in a dish and then analyse the results for quantity and content. The winner by a country mile was Thames tap, which had nigh on bugger all by way of residue. To this day he jokes that the number of kidneys it's been though by the time it reaches London is the reason.......
 He didn't know this until he dropped the lot and one of the bosses came perilously close to having a heart attack.
I heat the mug to stop the bluddy thing cooling too rapidly while I'm faffing on teh interwebs. I invested tuppence in a usb cupwarmer on ebay, but it was immediately pillaged by management for being non-standard equipment. Bastards!
I can't believe no-one has brought up the issue of mashing into brew time. In an ideal world, we would all patiently wait the appropriate amount of time to get the right flavour and colour of tea.
However, this is a corporate world. We have no time to do it properly, only enough time to do it until it is acceptable. Enter The Mash. My work tea is brewed in under a minute by furiously beating the teabag against the side of the mug.
It's a bit bitter, but so am I, so it's a good match.
Re: Brewing time
That's where a desktop teapot comes in. First cup poured quickly, not so flavoursome but hot, and welcome. Second cup of perfection, after proper time to mash/stew/infuse/thingy.
Easy for me, I take my tea black no sugar. So I can just pour and go.
- Large mug (bonus points if capacity >= 1 pint)
- *Freshly* boiled water; even if the kettle appears to have just boiled I'll pop it on regardless. Eco-tards can kiss my behind.
- Tea: depends on how I feel - Assam or Kenyan Nilgiri for preference, but I am fond of Lapsang Souchong. Yorkshire Tea will do in a pinch.
- Milk: got to be lacto-free for me (lactose intolerant, y'see) but I often have Lapsang black.
- Sugar: none. I'm diabetic, so real sugar is a no-no - sweetener just makes the tea taste nasty.
As for brewing time: if the tea absorbs light and can float an iron bar then its ready - I'll only mash the bag if I'm in a hurry, otherwise I'll just let the tea brew 'naturally'; 4-5 minutes is usually enough, maybe a bit less for Assam.
Here endeth the lesson :-)
I'll stick to my belief.
Darjeeling, brewed in a pot with enough water for 4 cups of tea. Don't bother taking the bag out, leave it in there until you're done drinking.
Cup, not a mug. There is a simple reason for this. A cup lasts long enough for me to drink it while talking. A mug on the otherhand often leaves that little bit behind at the end, this cold tea is simply not as nice. Much better to leave it warm in the pot and pour when ready. Additionally a smaller cup the tea cools down a bit quicker so you can drink sooner. Nothing quite as bad as scalding your tongue on that first sip and hardly being able to taste the tea after.
Put one-two teaspoons of sugar in the cup, then pour in the tea. No milk for me, I find it spoils the taste of darjeeling.
I can't comment on the pot being warmed first, but I can understand why, not so much for taste, but in order to maintain the taste and prevent wear. Hot water into cold teapot leads to little cracks that over time could damage the pot and pollute your tea. I'd say fill it with warm tap water first while the kettle boils, then pour out the tap water before you pour in kettle water. Additionally if it's a cold pot, then the water cools quicker as the pot warms up. I'd rather have my tea hotter for longer.
If you can, get one of those britta filter kettles. It's amazing how much difference softer water makes.
And finally most importantly, enjoy your tea. Then again, it all comes down to individual taste. Personally I couldn't stand lapsang souchan.
Visionaries such as the cofftea aficionado have been persecuted for time immemorial. Suffice to say that, come the revolution, tea drinkers will get their just deserts, Forced feeding (drinking?) of Tetleys for those that refuse to convert to a civilised beverage.
I live in america
They have that iced stuff usually sweet, or lipton for us ex-pats, both are gross and weak, the import stores charge a fortune, so I am stuck with the British blend Tetley compare to the local offerings ( still dredged up from boston habour I think) it is drinkable. I also live in Florida, all the water here tastes like alligator piss, so a decent RO filter is necessary, a water softener is good too, but they are expensive.
coffee on the other hand is common, and cheaper than the uk (was) instant is only used in emergencies, or in my wifes home made Irish cream.
most auto dispensers seem to be able to mix tea and coffee automatically so it tastes awful, I used to use my own kettle too thanks to some ridiculous fear of being sued for using water that is too hot tepid weak tea is horrible.
I am glad they saw the light out here and actually manage to make electric kettles... though it had a tendency to blow the breaker in our old place, took care of that in our new one, dedicated circuit labeled kettle, I get cranky if I cannot have my tea because of some coffee machine or waffle maker!
Carries Yorkshire Gold, PG Tips and probably the others mentioned here.
I get a case of PG Tips about every third month.
Re: I live in america
Re: I live in america
Someone's got to keep an eye on the colonials. You never know what they'd get up to otherwise...
Re: I live in america
.......why don't all of 'em go home? Why stay?
I'm gratified that Lester quoted my comment, but it was (understandably) truncated. Don't use teabags if loose tea is available (i.e. at home), but I recognise the utility of taking bags with you on a trip.
Mug colour as a factor?
No matter what the colour/pattern/decoration on the outside it is difficult to get tea right if the inside of the container is anything other than a light colour - preferably white.
Unless you are actually clocking the time to brew or measurin in your milk, you are watching the colour of the contents to gauge when it is "how you like it".
Timidly, to be sure, since I'm 'merican and probably do not know of what I speak
However, one option I fail to see here is a clear glass mug for tea... and I like to see my tea brewing in the clear, as it were.
I'd like a set of those clear tea mugs with those silver/metal holders (russian?) eventually.
Re: <raises hand>
I have a rather nice MSDN mug made from glass that works quite well.
404, the word that you seek is podstakannik, with primary stress on the kan syllable. (The analogous utensil for a-different-caffeinated-beverage-sometimes-associated-with-coding is a zarf.)
Do your infusion rocks need to be preheated? ;*)
Re: silver/metal holder
Thanks for the search tip!
Infusion Rocks^: meaning the fascination I have with how different teas infuse in hot water - good teas are very rich in color and relatively quick, while cheap teas (tetley, lipton, bigalows) are shite.
^considered being a smartass... but infusion is nothing to be flippant about.
OK, as an LDS tea is against my religion. As a research scientist, tea is the only thing to keep me going throughout the day.
So, in that regard if you're going to sin, make it worth it.
Mug- big one pinter from Wittard's (RIP) whose inside is at least five shades of brown darker than the outside.
Tea- decent twinings bag if offsite, or local tea shops' blend in airtight metal caddy- one teaspoonful into infuser
Milk- always fresh, always blue top. One small pint per five cups.
Sugar- vanilla, homemade, use same spoon as for tea.
milk and one sugar into cup. nuke in microwave while filling kettle.
Once kettle filled and on, retrieve mug carefully.
AS SOON AS kettle "pops" pour in hot water.
Have a moment of silent reflection on the tea before dropping in infuser.
Leave infuser in for at least two reg articles- no more, no less.
Remove infuser, stir, another moment of reflection. sup.
Realise world is not a bad place. Resume hate of humanity once tea is finished.
Someone at work gave me the wrong mug and I had a colleague's tea with sugar in it. It made me want to die. How can people drink that?
I use honey instead of sugar, and a Keurig with loose tea. These options must be inconceivable to your orthodoxy.
Most of what I drink is the free Lipton at work. At home, I am a cheap bastard, so Aldi bags most of the time. The Aldi bags contain a surprise every so often. I have had lapsang or earl grey flavors in a bag before, so I think floor sweepings are correct.
The Aldi crap has run out now, so I am currently drinking a Canadian tea called Red Rose my wife just heard about. I like it a lot, and I do Like PG Tips too.
Being American, I drink it sweet, and sometimes use lemon with the cheap Aldi stuff.
Mug, definitely. But not just any mug! Oh, and infuser
This will sound like heresy to some, but.
The best drinking vessel for my tea BY FAR that I've ever had is a 12oz (350ml) "Easygrip" insulated PLASTIC mug from Aladdin. Bought for me (as a joke, mind you) by my wife one Christmas. Best "joke" ever - with the spill-free lid removed, it is incredible. The lip shape is, in some indefinable way, absolutely perfect to drink from, whilst the tea is still beautifully hot and delicious when the contents of any ceramic container would long be stone cold (a property I can't praise or stress too highly). And whatever the plastic may be, it's as odourless and discrete to the tastebuds as any bone china.
It was so good, in fact, that when my first one finally became a bit awkward to use after several years sterling service (wear, tear and general abuse to the softer plastic covering the handle) I attempted a dozen ceramic alternatives, looking for that indefinable "something", before realising just what a gem I'd lost. Fortunately, after a search on line (and after wondering whether Aladdin really now only made them in garish picnic blue), I found the self-same mug on line in a more discrete colour (and bought two to be on the safe side; one of them is sitting on my desk beside me as I type). I heartily recommend the product to anyone brave enough to throw propriety and convention to the winds and it a try.
Preparation? By preference, loose leaf, in a single-cup stainless-steel permanent infuser (one of the big, open-topped beaker-shaped ones I can spoon the tea directly into, with plenty of space for the water to get at the leaves - not a nasty, cramped ball).
Tea? Well - when the wife's making for both of us, it's PG Tips (because she finds it easier just going to chuck a couple of bags in a pot, whatever I may think about the matter, and I find it still makes a decent cuppa in the incredibly hard water around here). The merest dash of milk (if any), but again I find it tends to arrive by default (ah, well). If I'm making it myself, it's Oolong for its subtle, rounded flavour, or Gen Mai Cha (Japanese brown rice tea - aka "popcorn tea") when I fancy a more in-your-face treat. The basic Gen Mai Cha from "Char" in Winchester is excellent. (Not to be confused with their Gen Mai Cha Supreme, which some people clearly like, but I'm not so keen on. Oh, and their Earl Grey Supreme is pretty good, too.)
(Lapsang Souchong?!? No thanks. A drink for people who only have one working taste bud left. If I wanted a mouth full of the taste of wood smoke, I'd go swig Barbecue Sauce.)
Mmm mostly bullshit and piss farting around....
Being a Maker of Boils, one tends to drink a heap as welding is HOT work.....
So the HUGE tea mug, of the 1 liter volume and of the stainless steel variety is the go.
Pour in a big heaped dessert spoon full of loose black tea (measured accurately by eye) and then add boiling water.
For sweetness, I add Stevia extract, a plant extract that is about 300 times as sweet as sugar, does not rot your teeth and has no calories....
And I am happy to let it go cold and drink it like that too.
More the odd big gulp type drinker......
Important thing - NEVER wash the cup, as it ruins the taste.
I'll get you for that, Lester...
Just you wait!
Agitate the pot?
Part of the folklore of tea making for my elders was to agitate the pot to guarantee infusion was doing its magic. This was done by holding the handle and alternating several times between pointing the spout at the ceiling and tilting the pot as if to pour - but obviously stopping before any spillage - and saying the magic incantation of "show it to the pictures". It works equally well with the loose leaf tea of last century and the lazy man's bagged tea.
(I know coffee is barred from this discussion but a similar agitation technique can be applied when lifting the coffee pot from the hotplate to avoid a weak first mug of that other essential IT fuel.)
A story my old man told me from his WWII naval days...
A rating always managed to bring the tea to the bridge watch full to the brim whatever the weather, even in the roughest sea. No-one could work out he managed it. Then one day he was caught with a mouthfull of tea topping up the mugs just before entering the bridge...
True or not? You decide, but he swore it was true.
I like loose leaf tea, but I don't like tea leaves floating in my mug. To my mind, the best single cup infusers / strainer is the design described by Amazon as "Stainless Steel Tea Strainer with Anti Slip Handles - 0.5mm Micro Filter"
"You sick, sick man," responded one shaken reader.
Quite right too. I didn't see that comment, but reading this piece I couldn't help thinking "Sheesh, cofftea?"
Re: "You sick, sick man," responded one shaken reader.
I tried cofftea once. Never again.
My logic was that I like coffee and I like tea, so together it must be awesome. Actually it's a case of two rights making a wrong.
Re: "You sick, sick man," responded one shaken reader.
Roby: "My logic was that I like coffee and I like tea, so together it must be awesome. Actually it's a case of two rights making a wrong"
Aksherly, it's a good example of a Fallacy of Composition:
Not being your actual tea drinker myself, despite finding the article extremely interesting, I'm afraid I had to defer to my wife on reaching the poll.
She wanted to know which bloody ignorant "man" created a poll without the option to select no milk or to choose lemon instead of milk. She then flounced off.
I'm not a great lover of tea but occasionally enjoy a cup of twinings english breakfast tea made in my tassimo machine ( the machine worries about time and temperature and does a good job) with a little semi-skimmed milk and sugar.
All well and good, but eventually this means having a manky and heavily teastained cloth object hanging around the kitchen.
My wife introduced me to the double-skinned metal vacuum pot, like a teapot-shaped thermos flask. Does everything a pot and cosy combo does, only without the tedious faffing around.
I have to admit to coming over a bit "grumpy old luddite sod" when forced to purchase one, but I've got used to it and the tea's indistiguishable from that which comes out of my earthenware teapot with the cat pictures on it.
Earl Grey Drinkers should be shot
Drinking perfume is for tramps. Bewleys Irish Breakfast tea is the tea of proper tea drinkers. It will dissolve your teaspoon at 6 paces.
Blending your own tea is only a "light on your feet" hop skip and jump away from drinking coffee, unless you do it for a living.
Warm it, and keep it warm for as long as you can.
To the commenter way back ^ thataways... we did the whole taste-test thing on warmed / not warmed, boiling / not boiling and milk first / milk last. Those of us who didn't pollute our tea with more sugar than a can of cola all (blindly) picked the tea from the pre-warmed pot, made with boiling water, and the milk in first as being the best, where the tea was brewed for about 5 minutes in the pot, from when the brew water was added. (all made with the same brand, same quantity, english breakfast tea).
Warm pot = hotter water for longer = better flavour extraction from the tea.
Boiling water = better flavour extraction from the tea.
Milk first = milk warmed from 277K to a max temperature around 340K (similar to pasturising)
Milk last = milk warmed from 277K to a max temperature around 370K, causing denaturing of milk proteins - think UHT long-life milk flavour - bleurgh!
No milk - perfectly acceptable & better for some blends / varieties than others.
Honey, Not Sugar
Usually I like unsugared - let the tea's pure taste shine through if it's that good, I say! - but if I think it could just use some sweetener, I like to add half a teaspoon of honey to my mug. It not only sweetens the tea, it also adds a touch of lightness and perkiness to the tea, like I'm drinking it in Spring or Fall. That, and it has the benefit of going well in both normal cuppas and herbal teas when I'm inclined.
As for milk: a little bit of half-skim before the mug is poured, thanks.
Now if you'll excuse me, all this talk of good tea has put me in the mood for some, so I'm off to get a pot of English Breakfast going...
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