"To gain optimum ambience for enjoyment of tea aim to achieve a seated drinking position in a favoured home spot where quietness and calm will elevate the moment."
The Royal Society of Chemistry
Being a Southerner living in the North, and someone who drinks eight or nine cups a day, this has long fascinated me. The version of tradition I know tells it like this, although it is always the subject of hot debate and I am sure there are others who would disagree...
In the South you put the milk in first, then add the tea. This is apparently because in the olden days while the landed gentry used delicate porcelain, these who couldn't afford it used cheaper china which cracked if boiling water was poured straight in.
In the North you put the tea in first, usually into a mug, because "how do you know how much milk you need until you see the colour of the tea?". Fair point.
On the train going between the South and the North the tea is just dodgy.
And you can even buy different versions of the same tea brand depending on whether you live in the South and have soft water (makes bubbles more easily), or live in the North and have hard water.
And the scientific world is divided: The Royal Society of Chemistry says 'milk in first' but the Royal Society of Physics says 'all that matters is the temperature of the water'.
Whoever thought there would be so much to think about!
This is my receipe for the perfect cup of tea:
1) Boil the water and put a bit in the teapot and a bit in your cup to warm it up. Swirl it round the teapot and the cup so they are hot, pour that water away.
2) Put 2-3 tea bags in the pot (best is a mixture of Earl Grey and my favourite PG Tips which makes for easy-drinking sophistication - don't knock it until you have tried it!)
3) Pour in boiling water, put the lid on and swirl it around. Leave it for 2-3 minutes while you get your biscuits out of the tin or cut your slice of cake :-)
4) Pour a good splash of milk into the cup then add the tea - I like it about 1:5 milk:tea
5) Sip and say 'ahhhhh'
I like mine in a plain white mug, strong but with lots of milk so it is a caramel colour, best drunk:
- first thing in the morning with the birds singing outside the window
- with a bacon buttie after a long bike ride
- in the afternoon with a piece of carrot cake and a good book
- in a tea shop with a friend, served with lashings of laughter
- at the kitchen table with marmite on toast after a night out
Tea goes well with good conversation. What's your favourite and how do you like it?