Category Archives: tea

A nice cup of tea

I do drink rather a lot of tea. Making the tea in our house can be a delightful and unexpected gift (“ooo! tea! yes please!”), or a passive-aggressive competition as to who can go without caffiene the longest.
An ongoing notes and queries argument in the Guardian about the relative merits of putting the milk in first or not (and whether this has class implications or not) reminded me that George Orwell wrote an essay entitled A nice cup of tea. (How did I not find that when I named this blog I wonder?)
I always put the milk in last (as Orwell argues you should), and for the reason he suggests: purely that you can judge the exact colour of the resulting combination rather than have to guess at it. And people are very picky about that. People who way ‘oh, just as it comes’ are lying. Actually, they like their tea brewed for exactly two minutes, with the bag squeezed twice, and it has to have exactly enough semi-skimmed milk added to reach a precise shade of beige. So they sit there and look miserably at the tea you made them that isn’t really up to scratch, and wish they’d asked for coffee instead. Tea is very personal.
I never make this mistake. I only trust about three people to make me tea (this is an essential quality in a housemate). I tend not to drink tea away from home in case there’s anything up with the milk, or they only have Earl Grey. An exception is greasy spoon caffs, which tend to get it right – and leave you to put your own milk in (last).
I orginally started this entry with the words “I’m not obsessed with tea”. But clearly I am. Orwell isn’t the only one: Douglas Adams wrote about it too, and he’s right about Americans (and most continental Europeans too) get it wrong – water not hot enough. Although completely wrong on other counts (Earl Grey! why?!).

Update: A discussion about tea at lunch prompted the observation that “shall I be mother” was a favourite phrase. I love the incongruity of, say, middle aged men taking on the role of mother, albeit temporarily…