How Do You Take Your Tea?

Friday, June 13, 2014
When you grow up in one of the British colonies, tea-drinking is just part of your culture, part of everyday life.

Maybe because it's ingrained into me from the women in my life that the first thing I ask a guest to my home is, "would you like a cup of tea?"
When travelling, we'd sometimes call ahead to my grandparents or aunty or parents when we were 10 minutes or so away and they'd say, "I'll put the kettle on," which is just another way of saying, "I'll have a nice, hot cup of tea ready for you to revive you when you arrive."
If you watch Downton Abbey, you'll know that tea was always given as a remedy for shock or grief or some kind of nasty surprise. Sweet tea was a balm to soothe the soul from the harshness of reality.
"You've had a shock. Sit down and I'll make you a cup of tea." I've even had that said to me, so the tradition hasn't quite died out yet.

Tea drinking is as much a part of our diet as bread and scones.

So when my American friend Jamie told me someone had given her a tea-infuser recently, and that she was more of a coffee drinker than a tea drinker, I welcomed the opportunity to introduce her to the delights of tea.

The traditional teapot, while beautiful to look at, and ornamental in its sentiment and history, is not really a popular, practical household item now. Maybe it's because we're all too busy to 'get the good china' down, although I must admit I still bring mine out for very special occasions, or if large quantities of tea is needed. Tea bags seem to have become the norm for most tea-drinkers, even (horror of horrors, you put the teabags into the teapot), probably because of their ease of use and they're quicker than tea-leaves. But we were introduced to a tea-infuser many years ago, and once you've enjoyed the rich, full aromatic taste of tea leaves spooned directly into the water, there's no going back really.

So this is how I make a proper cup of tea using a tea-infuser. I don't own any teabags anymore (except herbal teas), and I enjoy at least 3 cups of traditional tea a day. My husband is more of a tea-drinker than I am, so we use a pot that is small enough for one cup, but large enough for two, if I am drinking a cup of tea with him.

As my grandparents like to call it, the 'kettle' is now the 'jug'. That very useful invention of the electric jug that boils water in a matter of a few minutes.

Then I spoon about two heaped teaspoons of my favourite (Dilmah) Ceylon tea, into the infuser.

Then you let it steep for a few minutes. Isn't 'steep' a lovely word? How long you leave it to steep depends upon how strong you like your tea. Before I had children I didn't really care how strong or weak my tea was. Just how it came, was fine for me. But since the pregnancies, I no longer like strong tea. I don't know what that is - it's just one of those things. So I usually add no more than 1 teaspoon if making a cup for myself, and I don't let it steep very long.

Pour the tea into your teacup, leaving enough room at the top for milk, if you like it white. Do you like your tea white or black. My Nana liked her tea black, but I've never been able to drink it like that unless I load it up with sugar, and then it's too sweet.

I don't take sugar in my tea if I have it white, but there's no right or wrong - it's purely up to your taste. Two generations ago my grandmothers would put out a little china bowl with sugar lumps. One lump = one teaspoon of sugar. Such a tidy way of taking sugar in your tea. No little granules to spill on the cloth as you transfer it to your cup.

So that is how you make a cup of tea with an infuser, although I am unsure of how qualified I am to write a post on making tea. My great-aunt once told me I couldn't make a good cup of tea, but my excuse for that now is that I only had teabags to work with. Do you like to drink tea? And have you tried it with an infuser?

And of course, what could be more pleasant than a good cup of English tea, taken with an American Brownie.


A Little Blue Dragonfly said...

I love this post, Rachel! To me, taking tea every day is THE quintessential British tradition. I started drinking tea every day several years ago, and now my kids join me almost every day. I remember an episode of Foyle's War (set in WWII in England) in which a woman returns home only to find it has been bombed to the ground by the Nazis. She is distressed and in shock. The policeman assisting her sits her down calmly in a surviving chair and says over his shoulder to the onlookers, "Could someone please get this poor woman a cup of tea?" Love! I take my tea loose in an infuser and black, unless it has Earl Grey in it. Then I take it white to take the edge off. :)

Rachel said...

Oh, I remember that episode in Foyle's War too! I agree, Earl Grey is an acquired taste. I only have that when there is no other tea in the house (which doesn't happen very often), but it's my mother's favourite! I wish you and me could share a pot together sometime. I'll bring the brownies. :-)

Rambling Tart said...

Tea is vital to my little world too. :-) I love the looks of your infuser! I mostly just pour the tea through a strainer when I make loose leaf tea, but this is a splendid idea. :-) My favorite tea right now is peppermint leaves with fresh lime juice and real maple syrup. Swoon. :-)

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