One thing I have refused to give up during this pregnancy is my daily cup of tea. (Alright, two cups). During Pip’s pregnancy, I drank herbal all the way. But this time, plagued by severe sleep deprivation, and the fact I’m also running around after an exuberant boy prone to Houdini like disappearing acts, I’ve found that a cuppa has been essential to get my engine revving each morning. I’ve also found that in the absence of anything else to drink that’s really enjoyable *thinks champagne*, I’ve been truly savouring my tea drinking moments each day.
Perhaps my increased focus on my daily cuppa has made me a tad obsessive, but recently it has come to my attention that some people are truly terrible at making a simple cup of tea - the worst perpetrators being those who don’t drink it themselves. Increasingly I find myself sitting on friend’s sofas in fear of what may come my way. I don’t want to waste my precious caffeine points on something that is hideously undrinkable. Yet, sadly this seems to have been my experience.
Here’s a list of the crimes against the good old British cuppa that have really rustled my tea leaves of late:
1) Using the same teabag to make more than one cup. No. No. NO. It should be one bag for one cup. A friend recently confessed she uses one bag for two cups. I wasn’t surprised, depth of flavour is never present in her cups of tea.
2) Depth of flavour. I like my tea ‘medium’. Not too strong and not too weak. Seeing the tea bag stew for longer than about a minute, two minutes max, I start to get jittery. I have to control my reflex to leap up from the chair and shout ‘time to remove the bag now!’ Because in my experience, tea that’s stood with the bag in it too long ends up tasting tanniny or even more horrifyingly, develops SCURF.
3) Scurf. I detest scurfy tea. I define this as tea which has little brown bits floating on top. The scum. IMHO this happens when the tea has been left to stew too long and the tannins start coming out in the brew. It must be said, serving me tea with a scurfy top will always result in a rather downcast look on my face.
4)Not hot enough. I have a friend who has a boil on the stove type kettle, rather than an electric one. Perhaps it’s just my perception, but tea never seems as hot when served from this kettle. Whatever temperature one likes to drink their tea at, it should always be served piping hot at the start.
5) Too Milky/ Not enough Milk. This is a tricky one to get right. This week I was presented with one of the milkiest cups of tea I’ve ever had to drink. (Note: by an exclusive herbal tea drinker). It was so revolting I could barely drink it. The excessive milk seemed to make it taste sickly sweet even though there was no sugar in it. Likewise, if there’s not enough milk, I find the tea lacks body. It’s a difficult balancing act. Let guests add their own milk, that’s what I say.
6) Inappropriate milk type. The worst milk for making tea with has to be UHT. This is actually, I believe, an acronym for Utterly Horrible Tea. This is the milk my mother chooses to use, wonderful woman that she is. My close second choice of milk not to make tea with is skimmed. I find you can never get the right body or flavour when making tea with skimmed milk. The tea even tastes thin.
7) Cheap Teabags
Again, it’s a very personal choice, but cheap budget teabags, do in my opinion, make cheap, budget tea.
8) Tea from the Pot
It’s pretty rare I go to someone’s house these days and they make a pot of tea. (More’s the pity, such a nice tradition). Most of my friends are dunk the bag in the cup types. However, on the occasion I do go somewhere a little bit more ‘proper’ and a pot is made, the conversation that leaves me crestfallen normally goes something like this:
“Would you like more tea?”
“Ooh, yes please”
“ Just help yourself, there’s still some in the pot.”
Surely not. The pot that was made 30 minutes ago? The pot that has now got luke warm water in it with stewing bags (which will no doubt create lots of scurf on my tea.) But, then I find myself in a dilemma. It seems rather rude to say, "Oh, if it’s not fresh, I don’t want it". Last time this happened, fortune smiled on me as we were sitting in the garden, so at a discreet moment I was able to water a flower bed with the luke warm, scurfy hideousness filling my cup.
9) No Biscuits
Tea is for dunking sweet sugary items in - is it not? It is always a disappointing day when a cup of tea is not accompanied by even the most humble of biscuits. Luckily for all my friends, I’m very good at bearing gifts of biscuits - albeit in exchange for drinking cups of tea I don’t really like.
So, how do you make a perfect cup of tea? Clearly, it’s a very personal thing. But, let me tell you how this fusspot likes hers.
A guide to making the perfect cup of tea
1) Fill kettle with fresh water. (I have an OCD about this. The water has to be fresh, virgin, previously unboiled water. I read somewhere once that this water has a higher oxygen content which should result in a tastier cup of tea. ) Also, I’d prefer it made in an electric kettle - See point 4 above. Don’t worry too much about limescale though, London has very hard water so I’m used to that.
2) Select drinking vessel. This needs to be an appropriately sized mug, not too small. My favourite mug holds approx 300ml. Porcelain is a must, and I favour mugs with a thin rim.
3) Add one teabag to the mug. Brand of teabag? It’s a real conundrum. Personally, I’m a Twinnings English Breakfast lady.
4) Once the kettle has boiled, pour water over the teabag. I prefer not to leave to stew. Instead I take a spoon and gently dunk the bag in the cup to the count of twenty.
5) Bag removed, I add the milk. Semi skimmed please. Add the equivalent of three dessertspoonfuls. You’re aiming for a Midnight Savannah colour. If you're not sure, it might be a good idea to use this chart as a guide.
H.M. British Tea Colour Chart
|Image: From www.tea-chart.co.uk|
6) Serve with a sweet accompaniment. Shortbread is a personal favourite.
Sit down, relax and wait for tea to cool enough so as not to burn the roof of your mouth but still consume whilst piping hot.
So that’s how I like my tea. Now, how do you like yours?