Tea is one of the best things in the world. It can wake you up, send you
to sleep, relax you, enliven you and make you happy. There are plenty
of texts available that describe the many wonderful varieties of tea such
as lapsang souchong, darjeeling, assam, ceylon, and Earl Grey. Consequently
I have no desire to repeat these descriptions. Instead, this text attempts
to describe some of the lesser known methods of making tea.
Generic English Cuppa
The “cuppa” is short for “cup of” as in “cup of tea”. No matter how short
a time you stay in England, someone is bound to offer you one of these.
It’s tea as English people like it.
- Place a teabag in a cup
- Boil the (electric) kettle
- Pour the boiling water into the cup
- Stir and stab at the teabag with a teaspoon
- Top up the cup with some milk
- Remove teabag
The type of teabag is not important. Any cheap blend such as Tetley, PG
or Happy Shopper will do. Also, some people like to make a pathetic concession
towards health by using low-fat milk. Again, this doesn’t affect the
status of the drink as a cuppa. Some people prefer to put the milk in first.
In a cuppa, this is totally acceptable.
Finally, you ask the intended recipient “how many lumps” they want.
This of course refers to the amount of sugar.
Correct responses include:
- “One please”
- “Two Please”
- “Three please”
- “None thanks, I’m sweet enough”
- “Oooh I don’t care luv, as long as its wet and warm”
The “cuppa” is all things to all people. It can be a welcome, a goodbye,
a cure and a pick-me-up.
That is to say a cup of tea as served in a “greasy spoon” cafe, or “Caff”
as its known to Londoners.
Caff tea is unlike any other drink in the world, and as unlike tea
as it is unlike Claret. In fact the only reason it may be called tea is
that it does usually contain traces of water that has been in contact with
tea. The secret of Caff tea is using a large pot or urn.
Place ten teabags into the pot or urn. These teabags must be “catering”
quality bought in industrial quantities. If you do not have access to a
cash & carry at which to buy them, in a pinch you can use Tetley.
- Fill the pot with boiling water
- As customers ask for tea, pour some of the contents of the pot into their
cups, and top with milk
- When the amount of water in the pot gets low, simply top up with more water
- As the strength of the tea weakens, add a teabag to the mulch at the bottom
of the pot/urn
Following these instructions carefully will result in hundreds of cupsworth
of dark brown liquid, each of which either tastes of piss and milk, or of
ten day old teabags that have been set on fire. As you start on your second
cup, you realise that it was a mistake and end up leaving half of
the cup, which by now will contain a strange, smokey-tasting sediment.
In the house of a true middle class person will be a collection of different
types of tea. However, not one teabag will be present, for this is what
the posh call “real” tea.
Posh tea is the leaves themselves. Oddly, its the same stuff that
goes in the bags, but poncy folk insist it tastes better without the bag.
I wonder why ?
For posh tea you will need a teapot, and a tea-strainer. Hardcore
poshes will have several strainers. To make posh tea, simply follow these
Take the teapot and empty out the contents from the previous tea session.
This consists of a ton of damp tea that gets everywhere and just won’t
go down the sink properly. Eventually, the tea that does make it down the
sink without sticking to one of the many items of crockery already there
will build up in the sink trap and require the services of a plumber, or
sink plunger. If you haven’t used the teapot for a while, and you are lazy,
there will be some sweet smelling mould that you will need to remove with
bleach. Of course if you truly are posh you will have washed the pot
up after the last cup of tea and therefore won’t be familiar with this problem.
- Boil the (electric) kettle.
- Pour some water in the pot and wash it around. This is known as “warming
the pot” and is a good idea.
- Empty this water.
- Spoon some of the tea into the pot. Have one heaped teaspoon per person,
and one “for the pot”.
- Pour in some freshly boiled water.
- Wait for the tea to brew.
- Once brewed, decide “who will be mother”. This means “who will pour the
tea” and is a nostalgic reference to middle-class Victorian England.
- Place the strainer over a cup and fill the cup from the teapot through
it. Top the cup with milk. At some point the strainer will become totally
full with damp messy tea leaves. Simply go into the kitchen and pathetically
try to remove the tea by sadly scraping the strainer with a knife over
This tea tastes very much like a cuppa, only it takes much longer to make
and requires far more hasslesome cleaning.
Stoners’ (or semi-posh) Tea
Semi-posh tea is almost exactly the same as posh tea, but uses teabags
and therefore doesn’t require a strainer, and cleaning is far easier. The
pot may be taken into the room with the drinkers and more tea poured out
at will, thus saving on exhausting visits to the kitchen to make more.
It is this reason that also makes it very appealing for heads. The tea/cannabis
relationship is sadly not explored further here due to space restraints.
Sadly there are some people out there who think that a drink can still be tea
even if it doesn’t actually contain tea. We call these people “ponces”. They
will usually have thousands of varieties of “herbal” teas with names like
“rosehip and asparagus” or “clove and mushroom”. The liquid you end up
with when you use these “teas” smells very strongly of whatever is on the
front of the packet, but tastes exactly like plain boiling water. Obviously
all of the wonderful benefits of tea (the tannin, caffeine and anti-oxidents etc) are missing….doh!
Some ultra-poncy people do drink “real” tea, but you won’t find it on sale
at your local Happy Shopper. They prefer “authentic” teas like
“Ayurvedic tea” that are supposedly produced by wise men up montains using
ancient recipes, but are almost certainly knocked up in sweatshop factories
in calcutta using tetly tealeaves. To the ultra-poncy the more expensive
and more difficult to procure, the better the tea. As a result you can end up
spending the best part of 30 quid for a little 3oz jar of the stuff.
21st century Tea
I hate this tea. It started in the 1980s and is almost certainly an American
import. Its the de-facto standard for fast-food restaurants, corporate chains and ruthless, monopolistic catering companies frequently employed by public sector organisations for some twisted reason…
You get a cup, put a teabag in it (preferably with string) and fill to
the brim with scalding water. You then give this to the customer, optionally with some sugar sachets, a small plastic milk carton thing and a stirrer. If you’re feeling really nasty you can also put a lid on the cup.
It is then up to the customer to brew the tea, prise open the milk container, remove and dispose of the bag. Ensure that you do not accidentally give the customer some receptacle in which to place the tea-bag.
For a super nasty experience you can even get the customer to pour in their own boiling water from a machine or urn.
- The Tea Council – everything about tea
- George Orwell: A Nice Cup of Tea
- The Tea God
- h2g2 on making the perfect cup of tea.
- Gong: Have a cup of tea. Have another one. Have a cup of tea.
- BS6008:British Standard Cup of Tea (seriously!) [link removed at the behest of some twat from BSI. Google it, I’m not linking to them]
- How To Make Tea (by Tom Carlson)