• Put the kettle on to boil.
  • Once boiled put some boiling water into the teapot to warm the pot.
  • Tip this water out.
  • Leave the kettle to boil again.
  • Add one tea bag for every cup you need to the teapot, plus one for the pot.
  • Important. Put the boiling water into the pot. Swill it around.
  • Leave to mash for about 3-5 minutes depending upon what strength you like.You may want to put a tea cosy on the pot to keep it warm.
  • Pour a bit of milk into each cup. The cup should be china, ideally. Some may argue to put milk last, but this gives a much bitter taste.
  • Add the tea, strring with a teaspoon
  • Remove the tea bags if you are going to pour some more tea later.
  • Serve with a Rich tea biscuit.
  • Relax.

BTW Americans cannot make a proper cup of tea, their common mistake is to use luke warm water then wave a tea bag at it.

DANGER: The above instructions will result in painfully (perhaps dangerously) Strong Tea
It will also be a nasty colour and taste.
Why? Two reasons:

  1. One for the pot is a bad idea. It results in Strong tea. 0.7 teabags per person is about right. (And I am not a merkin either :-)
  2. Putting the milk in first should be criminalised. My mother says it gives you ginger babies, but that's not why I think it's evil. It's wrong because of the resulting flavour (which cannot be described) and the colour, which is actually ginger (hence the ginger babies theory I suppose).
If you believe that the ideal cup of tea is served close to boiling hot and in fine bone china cups, then there's a fairly good reason for putting the milk in first: pouring the insanely hot tea over the cool milk will prevent your china cracking.

That's what I've been told.


heyoka's explanation also sounds eminently plausible.
Several things:

Don't boil the kettle twice. if you are going to be really fussy in your search for a decent cup of tea, empty the kettle completely, before filling it up for your pot of tea. Thus you avoid getting lots of sediment and limescale kicking around. You can warm the pot by pouring in some almost boiling water. By the time the pot has got nice and warm, the kettle will be boiling happily, and the water ready to use for tea.

Tea bags are evil and wrong. Use leaf tea that you have kept out of bright light, and away from strongly stinky other stuff. (You'd be amazed by the stuff in people's cupboards)

Putting the milk in first is one way of preventing the tannin in the tea staining your china, and making it harder to wash. The practice is therefore associated with those people who can't afford servants to wash their cups and saucers. Also, by the time the tea has brewed, it will be cool enough to pour into a cup without cracking it. Anyway putting the milk in first is icky, and it tastes bad. Put the milk in second. Always.

Never never never put cream in tea. Cream goes in coffee. Milk, or lemon, depending on what sort of tea. Milk in Earl Grey is plain weird.
Milk in tea, indeed. Teabags, indeed. All the pretentious fastidiousness in the world won't make a proper cup of tea that way, so you can all stop arguing.

Heyoka is dead on the ball - tea bags are the spawn of the devil. The smell and taste nothing like real tea - especially the popular UK brands like Barry's, Tetley et al. Use good quality loose leaf tea, bought in small quantities - it doesn't keep very well and you can't stick it in the freezer the way you can with coffee.

Take a small ceramic teapot - the size usually used for a single cup - and put one to two heaped teaspoons of tea leaves in it. Cover with scalding water straight off the boil. Now, place an asbestos or wire-mesh diffuser over one of your gas rings, lower the flame to minimum and place the teapot, water, tea and all, on top.

You eventually develop a feel for how long it takes the tea to be ready with your teapot, your stove etc. Anyway, it's ready when all the tea leaves are floating foamily at the top. Try not to let it overboil and spill all over the stove - makes for weaker tea and a very dirty stove.

Now - this is the essence of the tea. You know Russian Samovars? The ones with the little kettle on top? That's what the little kettle is for. You pour a bit of the essence - to taste - into cups or, even better, thin glasses in brass or silver holders, and top up with yet more boiling water.

Now to drink - don't put sugar in the tea! Place a a fine white sugar cube in your mouth and sip the tea while sucking on it slightly. Alternatively, use the tea to wash down some fine fruit preserves. A winter extravangaza!

Milk in tea, indeed. Ah, the English.

The only important thing about the water is that it be boiling. Tea cannot be made with hot water. There's a cartoon where Sally makes Charlie Brown Linus makes Lucy a cup of cocoa. See footnote! He tastes it and says yuk, this cocoa is terrible. Sally looks into it and wonders whether she should add another brown crayon. If you make a drink with hot water, use whichever is cheaper out of tea and brown crayons: that's the only difference. Tea, real tea, that is black tea, is made with boiling water.

It does, ideally, improve it if it's freshly boiled, but so it does if it's hard or soft or Scottish spring water, but you don't need to care. In fact, Melrose the Scottish tea company do do a couple of blends that are specially made for purer Highland water conditions: Scottish Breakfast and Dundee; and it's been ages since I had either, and I've never had them in Scotland, and they tasted wonderful wherever I was. Don't fuss about the water. Don't boil the kettle dry, don't let it bubble away for five minutes, but it's only water.

If you don't like tea you can drink coffee, cocoa, or brown crayons. If you don't like tea with the milk in first you can drink tea with the milk in last. It doesn't matter. They're both good drinks, they just taste different. They're chemically different. Pouring a big glob of boiling liquid onto a small flat quantity of milk lying there like a sacrificial victim causes proteins to alter in such-and-such a way. Whereas if the hot tea is in the cup first, its large surface means it's cooling rapidly, and a gravity-fed stream of milk hitting it from above is going to diffuse through it in a different way.

It is bitterer if you put the milk in last. I prefer it that way and I usually drink it that way, but sometimes I put the milk in first, for a change, just as, although preferring Royal Blend or Assam, I sometimes have Rose Pouchong or Prince of Wales or Irish Breakfast for a change. The milk doesn't matter either.

If you want really bitter, you leave milk out altogether. Because this is so nasty, and such a shock to the system, it can only be done with very weak teas, such as Gunpowder, Darjeeling, Lemon, and Jasmine. It may be noted that Mr Richard Twining, current scion of the tea establishment in the Strand, puts milk in his Lapsang Pouchong. I hesitate to do this myself, but I do consider Earl Grey to be (just) strong enough to admit milk.

The important thing is... has anyone noticed what is missing from the discussion so far? Tea. Use good tea. Good tea is not distinguished from bad tea by checking whether it comes loose or in bags. Supermarkets sell floor-sweepings loose under brand names like Lipton and PG Tips... I believe... I gather. Not something I would put near my body myself.

Good tea comes in tea bags, among other things. It comes in 250 g packets, it comes in 500 g presentation tins, it comes in little sampler tins wrapped up by sixes to take back to wherever you came from whenever you're not blocking Fortnum & Mason's ground floor front counters...

The truly important thing is that the best tea comes from Fortnum & Mason's. This is not a snob thing, I'm not saying buy it from Harrods or Calvin Klein, they really do have superb, exquisite teas, vastly vastly better than the usual run of Twinings and Whittards and Jacksons that are all you can commonly get. The Royal Blend is to die for: the Assam Golden Broken Orange Pekoe likewise, the Rose Pouchong is so much more flavoursome than other people's attempts.

When I've been overseas it's been easier to get other good brands than it is here: I wish I could find a steady supply of Melrose, the already mentioned Scottish ones as well as their Her Majesty's Blend.

Water, milk, cups, don't matter at all compared to this. Melrose's Her Majesty's Blend in a chipped tin mug with the milk squirted into it through a straw is infinitely better than loose PG Tips in a penthouse apartment with a butler to fool you into thinking you're onto something.


WyldWynd below has admirably covered the topic of which kind of milk, but a rather more serious issue has arisen: Pseudo_Intellectual thinks it might have been Linus who served the brown crayon to Lucy, and I respect his memory for such things. Hm.
Um.. I guess I'm drinking the most foul swill ever, then.

I seem to be doing everything wrong! I go so far as to use a single vessel for both boiling water and brewing tea! My tea is apparently "dangerously strong", as I use not 0.7 tea bags (yes, bags! Not leaf tea, but tea bags!), but SIX (!!) of them! (that's almost ten times the 'right' amount)!!! Granted, I'm making a bit more than a cup, but still.. and I don't use sugar or lemon or cream or milk (and if I did, I’d just pour them in!!)!!

Somehow, I find it very difficult to understand how all this cup-pouring, container-switching stuff affects the taste of tea. It does not matter how many times you pour it into different containers, it is still hot water. Hot water does not have a wide range of flavors and textures -- in fact, it has exactly one. I also have yet to see any kind of evidence that things taste better (or different at all) when consumed from fine china as versus, say, ceramic mug, or an enormous plastic bag. If you are sufficiently sensitive to these things that you can tell the difference between tea that was made with a preheated pot and tea that was made with a room temperature pot, maybe you shouldn't be drinking caffeine.

Monk grins and runs away from this scary place.
You heathens use water in tea? Do you come from the countryside or something? Everyone with any taste eats the leaves straight from the plant (not just any plant of course, but special Sri Lankan - or Ceylon - black-leaf creeping hybrids, grown at 3000 feet above sea level by monks so disciplined that they never even blink). You must stand up and sing the national anthem before and after each cup... (A-HA! That was a test - no water remember?! Eat them off the tree!). Any biscuits must be tested in a Ministry of Defence approved wind tunnel.

However, a suitable alternative method for scu... people who watch ITV is as follows :

Standard Method :

Put water in kettle.
Boil kettle.
Locate a mug and a spoon.
Clean them.
Place teabag and sugar (optional) in mug.
Wait for kettle to boil.
Pour boiling water in mug.
Smoosh about a bit with spoon.
Locate milk.
Throw away manky milk.
Steal or purchase fresh milk.
Remove teabag from mug. (Squeezing it if you must)
Throw spent bag in bin / sink / pile of festering plates.
Add milk to tea.
Drink, dunking digestive biscuits (for no longer than 1.8 seconds) as necessary.

For construction workers, lorry drivers :

Open Thermos.
Pour. (into a cup obviously)
Drink, pausing to whistle at passing "dollybirds".

I recommend PG Tips, at least over supermarket own brand.

(For the poncy sort of tea, locate an elderly relative and offer to listen their lengthy anecdotes. This also has the upside of being free. And you get a better class of biscuit as well.)

I must respectfully disagree with those who would insist that tea bags are hell-spawned evil.

Bigelow makes really good tea, and crams lots of flavor into their tea bags. I'm very fond of several of their varieties:

I have a really big mug at work, so I'll usually grab a tea bag (individually wrapped in vacuum-sealed packets, mind you!), toss it in my mug, fill it with hot water from the spigot on our industrial coffee machine, put about 2 tbsp of sugar in it, and let the tea bag swim silently for about 5 minutes.

What I am about to tell you makes me the subject of odd stares and curious comments. Nonetheless, I do it.

I suck on the tea bag.

Yes. After the tea is at its peak of flavor, I will remove the teabag and suck all of the moisture out of it before I throw it away. Why? Two reasons:

1. It is one of the most flavorful sensations you could ever hope to experience.
2. That's TEA in there! It's trapped! I must rescue it!

Once I've drained the tea bag of its captive tea, I throw it away, and proceed to enjoy my steaming mug. Yum.


YES. While adding milk to Earl Grey is as horrible as eating a steak cooked well-done, adding sugar brings out the flavor. I make it a general rule for myself not to add milk to any tea that I drink.

Making tea is an intricate a process as you want it to be. The different ways all provide different tastes and different convenience/taste and taste/cost ratios.

Personally I make 95% of my tea the way fondue suggests above - that is: teabag in mug, boiling water on bag, swoosh about etc. Adding milk last. The main reason for this is because I am lazy.

Tea (we are talking plain old PG Tips and Tetley here) does taste better made in the pot - but who is going to bother with that unless they are making more than about three cups of tea? Equally, I think tea tastes better with the milk added first, but this can't really be done without using a pot, unless you want to pour scalding water into milk with a tea bag in it, and that would just be freaky.

About the only concession to taste over convenience I make is not re-boiling old water - and when you see the inside of my kettle, you'll know why. It does taste better too though of course.

Another point no-one has touched on, is What type of milk should you use? - Semi-skimmed, Full Fat, even (gasp)Skimmed? Hmm. I just go with whatever is available though it does make quite a difference.

I enjoy other teas occasionally, but the English cuppa will always be teabag based. To me, drinking Darjeeling or Earl Grey - both of which are very nice, is a totally different experience to making tea, say, to have with some digestives.

I also have no problem with how other people drink their tea, if they want to spend the time and money, but we do all know that...

it is rather a faux pas to add milk to Earl Grey.


Oh yeah, I nearly forgot - blackcurrant fruit tea is uber-nice and tastes like hot Ribena and tea all mixed into one. Yum!.
All of the writeups above deal almost exclusively with black tea*, and mostly English tea. Pah! What about the magnificently healthful and possibly tasty green tea? What about the glorious oolong tea, tea of the gods? These excellent teas, also obtained from the camellia sinensis plant, require a somewhat different procedure - both Fortnum & Mason and Twinings seem to print exactly the same instructions on all their teas, but this is lunacy. To make a decent cup of green tea, oolong or for that matter jasmine tea:
  1. Use less tea than you would for black tea. Just a pinch or two of green tea is enough for a pot; I use about half as much oolong tea as I would use black tea, a teaspoon or so between two. How much you need will depend on taste and the kind of water you use. If you're using bags of plain green tea or jasmine tea, which tend to include several times as much tea as you need, it's usually a good idea to remove them after less than a minute.
  2. Do not use boiling water. This will scald the tea, and spoil the flavour. If I'm making a pot, I'll warm it with the freshly boiled water and slosh it out - that takes about long enough for the water to reach the perfect temperature. Green tea in particular is ruined by boiling water.
  3. It is quite possible to make green tea or oolong by chucking the leaves straight in the cup, dispensing with pots and bags entirely. The leaves should all sink by the time the tea reaches its ideal strength - this usually takes about three minutes, maybe less for green tea. You may find you still get the occasional leaf in your mouth; you can either spit these out or just eat them. Tea is eaten as a vegetable in some parts of the world.
  4. Never, ever use milk.

If you want to get serious about making good oolong or green tea, you may find it worthwhile to learn about traditional Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies. Also, it's worth investing in a pot and some of those tiny oriental tea-cups - not just because they are pretty and elegant, but because they also cool the tea much faster than western-style mugs. This is very helpful in the absence of milk to quickly bring the tea down to a drinkable temperature; of course, another possibility is just to add a splash of cold water before drinking.

Note also that with a good green tea or oolong, it should be possible to make at least a couple of brews from each set of leaves; subsequent brews will tend to bring out a subtly different range of flavours in the tea. If you might want to make another brew, make sure you drain all the water from the pot or cup as soon as it's finished - otherwise the flavour will keep leaching out. You might like to increase the steeping time and/or the brewing temperature with each infusion.

*In the sense of tea that is fully oxidised, not in the sense of tea without milk.

This is madness. Enough of this scalding, brackish water served in dinky cups and drunk with little pinky fingers stuck out everywhere. Here's something I hope will cause the purists to suffer from convulsions.

Collect the following:

  • A big gallon jar with a lid
  • 10 or 15 Lipton (That's right. Lipton!) tea bags
  • One cup of sugar
  • Sunlight (I guess you folks in England will have to use heat lamps or something.)
  • Patience (Tough for the Americans, I know. Go watch TV or something.)

Here's the fun part. Take that big gallon jar and stick it under the tap and fill it up with nice, chunky tap water. You can use cold or hot, but hot water speeds up the process. If you're lucky, your tap water will come with all sorts of impurities to add to the flavor of the tea. My tapwater is loaded with such delights as chlorine, lithium, and, on good days, just a hint of illegal immigrant. When it's full, dump in the sugar and stir it away. Stick in your tea bags and screw the lid down so that the lid holds on to the tea bag strings. Take the jar into the glorious sunshine and let it sit for a few hours.

When your tea is a satisfactorily dark color, bring it inside and take out the tea bags. Pop it into the fridge for a good, long time. When it's nice and cold, pour a generous amount into a tall glass or jelly jar. Add ice to taste. Chug-a-lug.

Tea is an interesting beverage. I'll spare you the history, however, and get right to the point.

The way to drink tea for maximum enjoyment requires at least twenty minutes. If you don't have that much time, just drink tea's evil cousin, coffee. This tutorial is geared mainly towards Green tea, but it works with others.

Step 1: Make the Tea -- Heat water until it begins to boil. It is important to note that in the West, it is common to bring the water to a rolling boil, while in Eastern traditions, it is considered proper to heat the water to only approximately 98 degrees celsius.

Step 2: Pour the Water -- There are two kinds of tea-drinkers: those who pour the water over the teabag, and those who pour the water first, later adding the tea. This is mostly a matter of personal preference, and does not affect the final result too much, but one should still experiment to see which one prefers. If you are of the former group, simply place the teabag in the bottom of your mug (with the string hanging out, if there is one), and pour the water slowly(!) in. Pour slowly to allow the tea to infuse with the water from the very first moment. If you are of the latter group, proceed directly to Step 3.

Step 3: Brewing the Tea -- Once the teabag is in the water, pull the string up and down slowly for a few seconds at a time (or stir with a spoon). This is called steeping. It's best to do this for three to five minutes. Once this has been done, you may either leave the bag in, or remove it, depending on how strong you like your tea.

Step 4: The First Sip -- The first sip of one's cup of tea has a great effect upon the rest of the experience. Since you allowed the tea to brew for several minutes, the water should have cooled enough to make it drinkable. Tea, itself, has only a very slight flavor to it. This fact is what originally deterred me from the beverage. The true strength of tea lies in its potent aroma.

As you bring the mug to your lips, close your eyes, inhale deeply and slowly through your nose, and allow the drink to flow into your mouth. Continue to inhale as you bring the mug away from your mouth. When you have finished breathing inwards, swallow, and then exhale slowly through your nose.

As you drink the first sip, as you breathe in, carefully consider the aroma, the taste and the temperature of the drink. Be aware.

Step 5: Endgame -- Repeat this process until your mug is empty. If you'd like, return to Step 1.

Drinking tea in this fashion is extremely relaxing, and helps one to clear one's mind. It is, in my opinion, a wonderful form of meditation.

How to make the perfect cup of tea

I have, on many occasions, been pleasantly surprised by the rational and reasoned arguments presented on E2. Even on contentious matters like putting on a duvet cover, how to create cleavage when wearing drag and how to shave your nuts without permanent injury and/or accidental castration, the points are put across with astounding objectivity.

You can imagine my disappointment, then, when I decided to find out how to make a decent cup of tea, which, although less useful than the other three capabilities listed above, is still a good weapon to have in the ability arsenal. This node is full of interesting ideas and theories, but the almost religious fervour with which people are promoting their subjective views left me unsure of which route to take: green or black, bag or leaf? I had to find information from an impartial, knowledgeable body, a higher source, if you will.

It is through this cuppa curiosity that I found that the likeable chumps at the Royal Society of Chemistry had devoted time, effort and money into a scientific quest for the ultimate tea experience. The Society's recommendations are as follows:

  • Apparatus:
    • Ingredients: Loose leaf Assam tea, soft water, fresh chilled milk, white sugar (optional).
    • Implements: Kettle, ceramic teapot, large ceramic mug, fine mesh tea strainer, tea spoon, microwave oven.
  • Method:
    1. Draw fresh, soft water and place in the kettle to boil.
    2. While waiting for the water to boil, place a tea pot containing a quarter of a cup of water in a microwave oven on full power for one minute.
    3. Place one rounded teaspoon of tea per cup into pot.
    4. Take the pot to the kettle as it is boiling, pour water on to the leaves and stir.
    5. Leave to brew for three minutes.
    6. The ideal receptacle is a ceramic mug. Pour milk into the cup first, followed by the tea, aiming to achieve a colour that is rich, attractive and to your taste.
    7. Add sugar to taste.
    8. Drink at 60-65C, to avoid vulgar slurping which results from trying to drink tea at too high a temperature.
    9. To gain optimum ambience for enjoyment of tea aim to achieve a seated drinking position in a favoured home spot where quietness and calm will elevate the moment.

Obviously, there is a certain level of subjectivity in this report. However, it is also based on sound and rigourous scientific principles. For example the figure of three minutes brewing time was decided upon after considering the balance of caffeine, polyphenolic compounds (tannins) and high molecular weight tannins required to get maximum flavour without leaving a bad aftertaste.

However, I must admit that in independent taste trials (run by me), I couldn't really tell that much difference between a cup produced with this method and a standard tea bag cup.
In the end, using the same method to make two different cups of tea can, and often will, produce vastly diverse brews. You may as well stick to the simple method and trust that one day, you may indeed create the perfect cup of tea.


Factual sources:
The Royal Society of Chemistry - http://www.rsc.org/pdf/pressoffice/2003/tea.pdf

Back when I lived in the States, I always avoided ordering tea in restaurants and cafes because it seemed that while the practice of drinking tea itself had crossed the pond, the knowledge of how to make it properly hadn't; invariably one would receive a paper or plastic cup of clear tepid water with a teabag floating lamely on top, with no hope whatsoever of extracting anything more than a faint caramel tint, and a small sealed plastic container of some anonymous lightening agent. Things were better at home, but the teabags were still generally of inferior quality compared to what one finds on the continent - you really had to steep them good and hard to get a proper cuppa out of 'em, and I honed my technique over many years to extract the maximum possible flavor (which still resulted in an only average cup of tea).
When I moved to the UK, I was dismayed to find that the abysmal practice of not using boiling water has apparently migrated (or spontaneously arisen pragmatically, owing to a lack of national pride and purity, I know not which). Even among the general populace, there is an alarmingly high incidence of improper brewing techniques (including among people who ought to be old enough to know better) - frequently engendered (it would seem) by that most pernicious and un-British of vices, impatience. By far the biggest two sins seem to be "adding the milk before the water" (which means the tea never sees boiling water and cannot possibly steep correctly) and "not steeping long enough". A distant third is "adding the sugar after the milk", which causes it to sink straight to the bottom and lie there because the tea is no longer hot enough to dissolve it. When I was served, a few weeks ago in a cafe (at a cost of £1.20 no less), a paper cup of "tea" which had been manufactured in less than 20 seconds by squirting hot water from a coffee urn onto a teabag which was then immediately removed (the resulting concoction being essentially hot tea-scented water), I decided enough was enough. Your needing my wisdoms bad, yo.
Here is how to make a reasonably good standard garden variety milk 'n sugar British-style cup of tea - a cup, not a pot - using a standard teabag, a standard kettle, a standard mug, and reasonable methods, in the shortest possible time, with no compromises to quality. Laptops and kettles should never be in proximity, so print this out if you can't remember it.
1) Empty your kettle completely and fill it with 1.5 mugs worth of fresh water from the cold tap. Less than that is insufficient, more will make it take longer to boil. Resist the temptation to use water from the hot tap to speed up the process; never drink or cook with hot tap water. Do not use the water already in the kettle, particularly if you do not know its provenance. Even if you do, repeated filling and half-emptying causes limescale deposits, so it's a bad habit.
2) While the kettle is heating up, retrieve your cup. Wash it if necessary. Place it next to the kettle. Do not place it far away from the kettle, as the water will cool while you carry it (and carrying boiling water long distances is not recommended in any case).
3) Spoon your sugar into your mug if you take it, and stow your spoon in a safe place (don't leave it in the mug). Place the teabag flat on top of the sugar. For the love of god, do not add milk at this stage. Wait for the kettle to boil. Do not lose patience and pour it out while it is merely hot.
4) When the kettle boils, and I mean boils properly (an electric kettle should "click", and a stove kettle should be at maximum whistle), rapidly pour the water directly onto the teabag. The teabag should float up as the mug fills due to trapped air and steam - keep the water stream hitting it dead centre for maximum effect. You know you're doing well if the teabag inflates from water turning to steam inside it. Don't overfill it - you only want it about 2/3 - 3/4 full, depending on how much milk you intend to put in. If you're not sure, err on the side of under filling.
5) Retrieve your spoon. Use it to push the teabag against the side to squeeze all the air out, and then push it right to the bottom of the cup, where the water is hottest. It shouldn't float back up. While the spoon is down there, give it a stir to agitate the sugar, which should mostly have dissolved anyway. Remove the spoon. Do not leave it in. It conducts heat and is a spill risk. editor's note: some people prefer honey to sugar in their tea - while this is perfectly acceptable in principle, be aware that it requires that you leave the spoon in - unrefined sugar lends a not dissimilar flavor
6) Leave the mug the hell alone for the next 3 minutes. This is the most important part. It might test your patience, but just think of this: Newton's Law of Cooling tells us that hot things cool down faster than cold things, and you haven't added the milk yet. Letting the tea steep properly actually gets the tea to a drinkable state sooner than if you rush it! Also, there may still be some sugar that wasn't instantly dissolved on contact with boiling water, and it will melt much faster before you add cold milk.
7) Why are you reading this step? It's not been 3 minutes yet. Tea is supposed to be a mellow, relaxing drink; hurrying is for the coffee drinkers. Patience!
8) Okay. It has now been 3 minutes. You may now retrieve the teabag. If you're particular, like me, you might wish to use the spoon (or your fingers if you're brave) to empty the soggy teabag of trapped tea before discarding it, but if you steeped it right that should hardly be neccesary - the spoon should be invisible more than an inch beneath the surface. Go ahead and give it one more quick stir, for luck. You know you want to.
9) Now, and only now, may you add the milk. Whole milk will make a richer-tasting cup, but skimmed milk keeps longer in the fridge and will thus be more consistent cup to cup. Use whatever you prefer as long as it's white and comes from a cow's udder - that means no soya milk, sorry hippies! Stir and enjoy!
Believe it or not, this is the fastest route to drinking a reasonable cup of tea. All the cooling is done while steeping so you don't have to wait to drink it, and you don't have to waste time stirring sugar in because it dissolves by itself in the boiling water. Physics is fun! It's really a bonus that using this method, you should have a very rich cup of tea, with no syrup at the bottom at all. If executed correctly the tea should be at precisely drinking temperature when completed, but highly refrigerated milk may throw this delicate temperature balance off; if this is the case, in future you may wish to use your .5 cup of surplus water (which normally serves only as thermal ballast) to heat the mug before you pour - this requires that you postpone adding your teabag and sugar, and the kettle will probably cool somewhat while you add them, so reboil before you pour again.
You might think all this is obsessive and overkill. Does agressive thermal management really make a difference to the final cup? Does leaving the spoon in really cool the mug too fast? Well yes, as a matter of fact; it can make a significant difference. In fact, I have noted that in a row of three mugs to be poured, the third mug poured does not steep quite so well as the first one. I surmise, though I have no evidence, that actively boiling water (as opposed to "recently boiled" water) breaks the tough cellulose walls of the tea leaves, allowing its juicy caffeinated goodness to more effectively leach out.
Perhaps you object that this method, particularly the mandatory 3 minute steeping time, leads to a too-strong cup of tea. To which I respond "just add more milk then". And if you say that it is not the final color you find offensive, but the strength of the flavor, then I say unto you: do you like tea or not? Perhaps you would prefer a hot mug of cocoa, since it seems that what you are looking for is a flavored sugary milk drink. It is possible to oversteep tea - the water should be completely black, but reasonably clear to a depth of an inch or so, and tea that has been brewing too long will get a murky muddy brownish "ox tail stew" look. 3 minutes is not nearly long enough to cause a cup to go oxtail however.
Possibly you argue that "milk in first" is a time honored tradition, and that I am trampling over centuries of dogma. "Milk in first", however, applies only to tea served in pots, where the tea steeps in a separate container; the milk is added to the cup and does not affect brewing in any way. Incidentally, the reasons for "milk in first" are unclear anyway - it seems to be by and large a tradition for tradition's sake. I have heard at least three theories - that it permits more accurate judgement of the mix, that it protects thin china mugs from thermal shock, and that adding hot water to milk instead of milk to hot water is less likely to isolate droplets of milk in boiling water, thus scalding it. Now, I don't see why finding a particular ratio of liquid A to liquid B can be made easier or harder by the order you add the liquids, the tea has cooled well below boiling by the time you add the milk and it is unlikely that you are using a bone china tea set for your morning cuppa, so none of these arguments apply to the method above.
Britain has gotten complacent. It's time we got some national pride about tea again, even if wan't originally ours, and stop copying the Americans with their foul brewing habits, their tepid water and, heaven forbid, their "coffee". It's time to Take Back Tea!
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