Ugh, cheap tea
I can't stand own-brand teabags, especially value ones. It's just foul. Yorkshire is nice but we just plump with PG-Tips or Tetley for our plain old fashioned tea.
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 …
Correct, but the reason is the reverse of preventing cracking in cheap cups.
Putting the tea in first proved that you had actual hard-paste porcelain teacups rather than something cheaper. It doesn't do the flavour of the resulting milked tea any good but impresses your friends, should you happen to be in the late 17th / early 18th century.
When i was young, milk came in one type and it appeared mysteriously on the doorstep each morning.
Then I graduated to semi-skimmed - mostly because I didn't like the full fat stuff on my cereal (warm nursery school milk is to blame for turning me off the taste of the real thing) I did try going without milk completely but it was no fun
And I used to take two or three teaspoons of sugar in my tea. Then I met the woman who became my partner and she helped me cut back to first half a teaspoon and then none - mainly by not putting any in when she made me a cup.
When i was young, milk came in one type and it appeared mysteriously on the doorstep each morning.
Er, three types. Your parents could shell a bit extra for "Gold Top" (out of Jersey cows IIRC) on high days and holidays, or for those completely lacking in a sense of taste there was the option of homogenised, which came in crown-corked bottles IIRC.
You set an impossible challenge.
Any true dedicated tea drinker knows that the ideal formulation and dispense ritual depends entirely on the circumstances and the company present.
There are infinite subtle variations on what is exactly right in given circumstances. Indeed, the very banning of mention of biscuits makes a wide swathe of tea drinking options completely invalid.
All this talk of pre-warming and teapots is all very well for mere dabblers of the tea-world, who enjoy a quiet cuppa after work or before it. It's like reading tales of decadent Victorian poets ritualising their opiate abuse.
For some of us though, tea it is an essential FUEL which must be quaffed each and every hour for us to continue functioning. Minimal ritual and fuss and maximum kick is required.
Yorkshire Gold is better than Yorkshire, which is better than PG, and everything else can f*** off.
Teabag in mug, pour on boiling water, add splash of milk (anything with at least a bit of fat in), stir it like a bastard, repeatedly squeezing out the teabag against the inside of the mug with a teaspoon until a clay-like colour is obtained. Retire to desk. Repeat every 30-60 minutes until knocking-off o' clock.
When I worked abroad, I used to have a teapot on my desk. That's the only language Johnny-Foreigner understands! Take teapot to kitchen, rinse, warm, add tea, pour in boiling water. Return to desk, drink 2 cups.
You talk of being a serious tea-drinker, and then laughably mention bags! Pah! Humbug! Poppycock! The correct dosage of tea is 2 mugs. In order to achieve this, you need a teapot. Make, savour first cup while scalding hot, pour again, down second cup before it goes lukewarm (the devil's temperature).
Actually, in the office, the teabag is acceptable. At home, only loose-leaf will do, and the strainer lives by the pot, so it takes no extra time.
"When I worked abroad..."
...I drunk coffee. Because Lipton is undrinkable filth and importing enough to last me a year was a chore!
"The correct dosage of tea is 2 mugs."
Or... one massive one.
"Actually, in the office, the teabag is acceptable. "
Prosecution rests. It's the only way I can get it down me fast enough, and work kindly provides teabags for free, but not loose leaf.
Simple solution to that - I point blank refuse when anyone is offering to make a cuppa so I then don't owe anyone either.
I never let anyone near my cup, partly because most people can't stand the stains left from the previous week, but mainly because they just never get it right!
Nowt wrong with that - I often switch to herbal tea in the afternoons because I've yet to find a decaf tea that I really like (got a box of Taylors of Harrogate decaf on my desk, which is strictly OK)
As far as herbal teas go, I'm quite enjoying Lipton 'Morocco' as it contains vast quantities of cinnamon and, as any fule kno, cinnamon is pure win.
And, like the coffee aficionados out there, I'd like them to explain / determine in a double-blind test quite what things like "warming the cup first" (especially if you have left the tea in the pot to cool slightly after boiling anyway), putting in the milk in first, etc. actually DOES that they think they can detect or makes any difference.
I mean, honestly, we can talk about wines "corking" and providing scientific evidence to back it up (not to mention obvious tastes) and that's pretty much driven most places to use plastic corks which don't react at all. But just quite what is supposed to happen to make differences that, physics says, for the most part won't have any effect at all.
I fail to believe that there are tolerances that are measurable to the human tongue at all in any of this. I hold the same theory on "letting it brew" (which means leaving the tea in some hot water for a while longer - sometimes after you've already stirred it to death). Just what chemical breakdown are you suddenly expecting to happen by being in the water 5 minutes as opposed to 4 and a half minutes?
Or is, as I personally suspect, it all a load of rubbish but people do it through ritual? I don't believe for a second that the contents of any major brand tea you care to mention haven't changed on an almost annual basis in the last 50 years but people still go through the same rigmarole to make their tea "because it tastes better".
And don't get me started on coffee people, especially fancy coffee people who take a thimbleful of bitter coffee and then put so much sugar into it that it can't support it as a solution any more.
The water needs to be boiling when it hits the tea, and to stay hot for as long as possible afterwards, so that it draws out the flavoursome oils and not just the bitter tannins (the reverse is true for coffee). China pots seem to hold a lot more heat, so boiling water cools quickly when poured into one, whereas a metal pot, especially one with thin walls, doesn't cool the water as quickly. I would almost always warm a china pot, rarely a metal one.
"Or is, as I personally suspect, it all a load of rubbish but people do it through ritual?"
The tea flavour has been proved to be best released when the water is between 95 and 90 degrees (for English Breakie tea), so pre-warming and hot water does make a noticeable difference.
The milk in last thing likewise ensures the water is hot. More importantly it means you don't accidently put to much in.
Dagger thrust! ...rape-ier.....?
Ouch! ..... It only hurts when I laugh!......Bingo!
This tea brewing "thing" is expanding a simple, variable personal taste item into a sniffy kabuki ceremony with rigid "at court procedures".......the best spoof here is the one for train engineers' in-motion centrifuging for six miles or so....now THAT's a muggah!
This happens once a day, but not every day.
I originally thought that when I occasionally made a truly exquisite cup of tea that really it was just the best cup of the many cups I’d had that day. Now some days I don't manage to make a truly brilliant cup of tea at all. It always seems to occur sometime after eating (so, never in the morning) and I seemingly do nothing different when making it but somehow it is amazing compared to all the others. Despite years of trying, I have still to track down the exact method to make this infrequently occurring cup of awesome.
"I have still to track down the exact method to make this infrequently occurring cup of awesome."
Exactly the same here. On the first day at a new job I dutifully took my place on the office Tea Roster and made a cup for everyone. Every cup was universally acclaimed as 'awesome' (including by me) and they tried to get me to make it every time.
But it was never like that again. Never.
I have no idea what changed.
...at long last ....someone has actually mentioned L O O S E tea!.......
But, not really is just a cup....use a large mug for a real mugga. ......why limit the volume and enduring pleasure....you don't have just a small o***sm do you?
Tea bags....ugh.....are only tea dust....dust....dust.....cough..eewwwww!
The Rare Tea Company advises not only using water below boiling point, but also using the third brew from tea leaves as the being the best: http://www.rareteacompany.com/
As for the discussion of sugar, what about honey? Earl Grey, no milk, with a (tea) spoonful of honey is excellent treatment for a cold, with or without whiskey.
Richard Feynmann, when asked at an academic function when he was a research student which he would like in his tea, 'milk or lemon?' replied "yes, please", getting the response "Surely you're joking, Mr Feynmann?", but it seems not only did he get both and drink it, but got the title for his book from that too.
"The Rare Tea Company advises not only using water below boiling point"
Aside from the obvious fact that it's quite difficult to make a cup of tea with water at or above boiling point, it depends on the tea. English Breakfast needs near-boiling water.
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.
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...
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.
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 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.
- 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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