There’s nothing more British than a traditional cuppa – whether made from leaves and tea pots or by dunking a tea bag. There are tea snobs who will bore for England about the best way to prepare a brew, which advice you can take or leave, but there are a few guiding principles you can follow to get the best cuppa.
The raw ingredients for the perfect cup of tea
The tea you use is the most important factor. Unfortunately, this is a case of getting what you pay for and the cheapest is not the best. Specialist tea shops offer the best selection. For a proper British cuppa you will need black leaves, such as a classic Earl Grey. You can buy tea bags but will get a better result from loose leaves.
Tea pot etiquette
Use freshly boiled water for every cup. Ideally the temperature of the water when poured should be slightly below boiling, or about 93ºC. For the perfect cup of tea always warm tea pots before brewing.
Use about a teaspoonful or three grammes of tea leaves per cup and one extra for good measure, or three teaspoonfuls for two cups of tea. Add the tea leaves to the pot, then pour over the water and allow to steep or brew. Leave the pot with the lid on for about five minutes.
Pour into cups through a tea strainer and season with milk or lemon and sugar if required.
The perfect cup of tea from tea bags
If you prefer to use tea bags you can still obtain quality results. Use the same freshly boiled water, a little below 100ºC, that you would use for loose leaf tea. Pour over a good quality tea bag in a mug and leave to stand for about five minutes – three minutes will do for a weaker flavour or you can allow up to eight minutes for a really strong tea. Remove the tea bag and add milk to your taste. A proper British ‘builder’s tea’ will be a dark tan colour, having been well brewed and adulterated with only a splash of milk.
If you prefer loose leaf tea but don’t like to use tea pots, you can put tea leaves into an infuser and brew directly in a mug.
Don’t forget that a perfect cup of tea requires a couple of biscuits to really bring out the flavour!