How to Make a Nice Cup of Tea

By George Orwell

If you look up ‘tea’ in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.

This is curious, not only because tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:


  1. Love George Orwell. Not a big fan of novels, but love history, biographies, memoires, etc. Orwell’s diaries and essays are great, some of the best reading,IMO. They really paint a picture of where he went, and what things were like at the time. I recommend “Down and out in Paris and London”.

  2. I like George Orwell, but I’ll disagree with him on many points about tea. Boiling water is not good for all teas, especially oolongs and greens, but true for many good black teas too. It doesn’t make a difference how you warm the cup, you end up with a warm cup.

    And his insult to people who like to add a little sugar to tea, I’ll borrow his last sentence and modify it to apply to milk (though I personally believe people should add milk and/or sugar if they like it so):

    Lastly, tea should be drunk without milk. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting milk in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be crisp, just as beer is meant to be crisp. If you sweeten it with milk, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the milk; you could make a very similar drink by mixing milk in plain hot water.

  3. Tea is something I’d like to explore, but never really knew where to start. All my experience is with instant, and I started with Earl Grey because it’s what Capt. Picard drinks… seriously. I’ve never had a “real” cup made with tea leaves or anything more advanced than teabag + hot water = tea.

  4. Gotta love Orwell. He even makes something as trivial as making tea sound intriguing.

    Me, I go with the water-boiler and 2 bags of earl gray, no milk or sugar.

  5. Or you can follow ISO standard 3103: Tea — Preparation of liquor for use in sensory tests.

    Tea – it’s what the cool kids drink.

  6. I have similar rules:

    1) Pop teabag in mug (Twinings breakfast tea do fine).
    2) Add boiling water.
    3) Swish around with spoon, and squeeze teabag against side of cup.
    4) Remove teabag, then fling it into the bin via a catapulting method with the spoon.
    5) Add sugar to taste (2 for me)
    6) Add milk to taste. (I like a lot of milk)
    7) Stir and serve.

    I don’t mean to be a tea snob, but I take my afternoon/evening cuppa very seriously.

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