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How to make the perfect cup of English tea

(CNN) – In June 2020, the British people put their differences aside to condemn a brazen act of aggression against their country.

An american expat known only as “Michelle” had posted an informative TikTok on how to make “British tea”. A collective moan could be heard from Land’s End to John O’Groats, as Michelle and her daughter exploded a cup of water in the microwave, added a free pour of sugar, half an udder of milk – then briefly flashed a tea bag at the resulting slope.

It was the most disrespectful disrespect of Anglo-American convention since a group of questionably dressed Bostonians threw a batch of loose papers into the harbor.

But why are we Brits so comically precious about this unassuming brown liquid?

A bit of history: totally anti-British tea

Tea is the most British thing ever, until you take two seconds to google it. It is cultivated, of course, in China, India, Africa, Sri Lanka … the list goes on, but Britain is not there.

The world’s largest tea nation per capita? Turkey. The tea bag? Dreamed by an American.

English spy James Bond hates the cup of tea so much that in the novel “Goldfinger” he utters a sexist / jingoist tirade: “I don’t drink tea. I hate it. It’s mud. Plus, this is one of the main reasons for the fall of the British Empire. Be a nice girl and make me some coffee. ”

The British first adventure with tea was thanks to a Portuguese woman; Catherine de Braganza arrived in England in 1662, making her favorite drink a must-have fashion accessory among flattering aristocrats. (Royalty has gobbled up the gimmick ever since, with Twinings being Elizabeth II’s label of choice.)

The East India Company quickly embraced this trend and monopolized trade using leaves grown in India, often produced through contract labor. The imposition of hefty taxes has led to widespread smuggling, not to mention the whole Boston Tea Party getaway.

In 1784, Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger decided to introduce the Commutation Act, reducing taxes on tea from 119% to 12.5%. Suddenly, the caffeinated thirst quencher was for many, not a few – and subsequently backed by zippy clippers (another American invention), an explosion of Sri Lankan plantations, and a temperance movement that would sound loud if you imagined a small glass of beer.

The benefits of tea

But tea really won people’s hearts because it was good for them. Thanks to the boiled water, he avoided cholera – not to mention the British weather. Sweetened with milk and sugar, it revives and energizes the workers. And served with bread and cheese for tea, it has become a staple of working-class life – a thrifty substitute for the evening meal.

The high tea was then made by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford. “She started having tea and sandwiches between lunch and dinner in the 1840s, and started one of our most delicious traditions,” says Bekki Clover, Manager of Training Excellence at Bettys , a chain of tea rooms that has served Yorkshire for over a century. “Soon the Duchess was joined by her friends, and by Edwardian times afternoon tea, served on the finest china and silverware, had become synonymous with elegant socializing.”
The tea has never stopped flowing since. The Mad Hatters celebrated with it. The literate chimpanzees made us drink more. The novelists claimed that this was the magic key to freeing their imaginations. The doctor said it was “just the thing” to heal the synapses – presumably after a tiring day fighting the Daleks.
Speaking of TV shows, the UK regularly continues to provide electricity to France to power millions of electric kettles for nationwide preparations during commercial breaks. They must think we are crazy.

How to Make Tea Properly: The Art (and Science) of the Perfect Cup of Tea

Michelle from TikTok was trolling us. Watch the crackpot recipe for “British eggs” (oddly similar to British tea) and you will understand. But while the microwave kick proved that the British revere tea as much as they do David Attenborough, it also highlighted a problem in the Matrix – no one can agree on how to make it. to prepare.

Water temperature

Mrs Beeton (essentially Victorian Nigella Lawson) insisted that the tea was brewed in an earthenware pot with boiling water and could benefit from a pinch of soda ash. George Orwell wrote an entire essay, “A Nice Cup of Tea,” which spells out 11 key rules for brewing (tea bags, he moans, “trap” leaves).

Kate Halloran, tea innovation manager at Taylors, says that if you are using a saucepan, you must first reheat it by swirling it quickly with boiling water.

Everyone has their own tea ritual. But can we use science to give us a definitive answer?

Brewing time

Dr. Stuart Farrimond has spent years researching what makes a great cup of tea and knows all the crimes we are guilty of.

A great sin cannot be prepared long enough. Farrimond’s advice is to pour just boiled water into a cup with a tea bag, then go and do something else for five minutes, allowing it to steep well. You will thank yourself shortly.

“After the wait, you will find that the richly flavored tea will also be in the optimum temperature range to savor all the flavors,” explains Farrimond. “There are over 30,000 aromatic molecules in tea, all of which need time to emerge.” (By the way, don’t try to cheat by squeezing the bag: you’ll end up with a bitter brew.)

Besides releasing more flavor, leaving the bag on longer means more antioxidants and a more intense dose of caffeine. “One cup brewed for 30 seconds contains 35 milligrams of caffeine, while with a five-minute brew you get 50 milligrams of caffeine,” says Farrimond.

In addition, the drink will have cooled to around 37 ° C (body temperature) – ideal for sipping.

Loose tea bag or leaf?

But should we use a tea bag? “Loose tea will probably give you the fullest taste because the best quality leaves are traditionally saved for this,” explains Farrimond, “That said, because over 95% of tea drunk in the UK comes from teabags. of tea, my research has focused on tea bags. ”

Any mainstream tea bag will do, although Yorkshire Tea, Twinings, PG Tips and newcomer Teapigs are the trailblazers, when it comes to UK taste buds.

Suitable vessels

A porcelain cup or a porcelain cup is ideal for serving your infusion; a big no-no, Farrimond warns, is a Styrofoam mug – the kind you get at football games and roadside cafes. The synthetic material of these sponges soak up the aroma molecules, making the tea bland. The scum caused by hard water is also guilty of playing with the nuances of tea. If you are in an area with hard water, the use of a filter is essential. Special hard water tea bags are also worth considering.

Then there are factors that the average tea drinker wouldn’t think about. Even the color of your container can affect the taste; for example, your brain associates a red cup with berries and ripeness, which makes you believe that tea is sweeter than it actually is. Overall, the more you love your cup or mug, the more likely you are to enjoy drinking it. Protect your favorite porcelain in your life.

The question of milk

As for * that * question about milk? “Lively debated,” said Farrimond. “The story goes that traditionally milk was added first to protect the fine china from shattering when pouring hot tea.” Still, he recommends adding milk second, especially if you’re brewing a tea bag in an individual cup: “This gives the tea more time to steep properly.

“It’s also easier to judge how much you add, so you can get the milk to your liking,” adds Farrimond.

In truth, of course, the perfect cup of tea is the one that gives you the most pleasure. The important thing as a Briton is that once you have decided how to take your tea, you have to die on this hill.

Where to drink tea in Brittany

High tea has more or less evaporated from the British way of life, but its cousin luxurious afternoon tea continues to be an occasional treat. And while many tearooms like Bettys still feature tea served to the Duchess of Bedford, the genre has been doing its fair share of experimentation lately.

At Coed-Y-Mwstwr Hotel in Wales afternoon tea comes standard with miniature fish & chips and lamb kofta.
the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh Get creative during the pandemic with a touch of Harry Potter magic, offering delivery of snitch-shaped cakes and sorting hats to select local zip codes.
AT W London, drag queens prepare Darjeeling with a side of edible scintillating balls once a month.
In fact, it has been suggested that regular old black tea might not be exciting enough for the modern drinker – perhaps one of the reasons Yorkshire Tea launched a “Jam & Toast” brew in 2020. But Kate Halloran of Taylors – the company behind Yorkshire Tea’s blends – thinks reports of the common teacup’s demise are exaggerated: “Millions of people enjoy a traditional brew as an important part of their day,” she says, ” so I don’t think it’s going out of fashion. “

In these complicated times, maybe it’s time to get back to the basic pleasures of a cup of tea. Sip one at the Bridge Cafe in the London suburb of Acton, where defeated contenders for the British version of “The Apprentice” TV show drown their sorrows. Or drink it from a flask as you walk around Jane Austen’s country (tea appears in many of her books, and she has personally purchased the family’s supply directly from Twinings to avoid inferior batches contaminated with the arsenic).

For the most satisfying brew of all, you don’t need to go any further than your own kettle: “For me,” says Halloran, “a cup of tea is best enjoyed at home, either way. watching football or reading a good book. “

Remember to give the tea bag five minutes. And stay away from the microwave.

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