In “A Nice Cup of Tea” (1946) Orwell gives his 11 golden rules for making a good, strong cup of tea. Here they are in short. I put the measurements into metric and added some Notes of my own along the way:
- Use tea from India or Ceylon (Sri Lanka), not China. Tea from China is cheaper and you can drink it without milk, but it is not as strong. It does not make you feel wiser, braver or more hopeful. Note: unless the box says otherwise, tea is a mix of different teas from both India and China as well as other parts of the world. English breakfast tea, however, is mostly Indian.
- Make tea in small quantities: a litre at a time in a teapot made of china or earthenware – not enamel or metal, not even silver (though pewter is not bad).
- Warm the teapot beforehand.
- Make the tea strong: use six rounded teaspoons of tea for a one-litre teapot. One strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. Note: Orwell says that two ounces of tea (60 grams) should make 20 good, strong cups of tea (5000 ml). That comes to 12 grams a litre or 3 grams a cup (250 ml). An American tea bag has 2 grams of tea. Orwell’s tea is a third stronger than what Americans are used to. Well, more than a third:
- Put the tea straight into the pot. No bags or anything to keep the tea from properly mixing into the water. Drinking in tea leaves will not hurt you.
- Pour in boiling water. Bring the teapot to the kettle and pour the water into the teapot.
- Give the pot a good shake – or at least stir it. Afterwards let the leaves settle to the bottom.
- Drink out of a good breakfast cup, not a tea cup. A breakfast cup has sides that go straight up and down. This makes it deeper and keeps the tea warm longer.
- Use milk, no cream.
- Pour the tea into the cup first, then add milk. This lets you put in the right amount of milk.
- Do not add sugar! It destroys the taste: you will be tasting sugar, not tea. Why not just drink hot water with sugar instead? Tea, like beer, is supposed to be bitter. That is its taste. If you think you do not like the taste of tea by itself, try it without sugar for two weeks and see. Then you will understand how sugar is destroying the taste and will probably not want to go back (I agree).
I tried making tea this way. It is much better and stronger than the sort of tea Americans are used to. It makes American tea seem like dirty dishwater.
Orwell’s tea has three times the kick of Coke and twice that of Mountain Dew, but without getting you hooked on it, like with coffee.
- Put a plain old bag of Lipton tea (2.0 g) in a covered tea cup (pictured).
- Fill it with water (230 ml).
- Microwave it as long as you can without it boiling over and making a mess. With the lid on, that might be like a minute and a half (two minutes with no lid).
- Add milk (10 ml), no sugar.
This is how I have made my tea since at least 2008.
Tip: Use a Chinese tea cup, one with a lid (pictured above). Your tea will stay hot way longer.
– Abagond, 2007, 2016.