teato-1

The correct British way to make tea

From The New Illustrated Universal Reference Book (Odhams, London 1933). It called itself 'the book of a million facts' and was a sort of Google of its day. It advertised itself as covering 'the main interests of humanity…no essential subject is left out.' To test this I checked if it had instructions for making tea, as few things are more essential. Sure enough a third of the way through at page 414 it has this:

TO MAKE GOOD TEA

It is the easiest thing in the world, yet nine people out of 10 do not manage to make a success of it. First of all the water must be freshly drawn from the tap. That left already in the kettle is flat and lifeless. It must be quickly boiled and poured over the tea just as it reaches boiling point. Give preference to a pot of either earthenware or aluminium ware, as the two kinds that make the best brew, and let the pot be thoroughly heated before the tea is put in. This is generally accomplished by pouring boiling water into the pot and then pouring it out again. A way that comes to us from China, and an excellent way too, is to put the tea into a perfectly dry pot, and let pot and leaves get hot together by leaving it on the rack or any other warm place.

That's it. They might have added the measurements - usually one heaped teaspoon for each person and 'one for the pot.' Once the water has been poured (during a 'rolling boil') 4 or 5 minutes is the brewing time and a tea cosy can be used - but they seem to have fallen from favour. The fresh water should be taken ('drawn') from the cold tap; the Queen Mother is said to have had her tea made with still Malvern water. The pouring of the water while it is boiling is the quintessential bit. The writer Kyril Bonfiglioli, in one of his Jersey based thrillers, has a character say something along the lines of 'you can kill me or you can give me tea made with water that hasn't come to the boil…'

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