1) Prep your materials and ingredients
As with any task, it’s essential to prep your materials and check you have the necessary ingredients before you even think about getting to work. We’ve all been there – you brew a delicious hot steaming cup of tea, nonchalantly approach the fridge in order to retrieve the milk and – oh dear lord, there is no milk (gasp). Or, worse still, you’ve just accidentally poured putrid cottage cheese into your mug – the damn milk is out of date!
In terms of materials, clearly you need a teaspoon. Dessert spoons don’t allow you to press the teabag against the side of the mug properly and using a fork can easily lead to a tear in the delicate lining of the bag. No, only a teaspoon will do – that’s why it’s called a teaspoon.
When it comes to choosing your mug, there are important factors to consider here too. Is it clean? Don’t ruin this fresh cup by allowing the aftermath of the previous cup contaminate it. You’re better than that. Find yourself a clean cup like the civilised human being that you are. Ideally, this cup will actually be a medium sized mug – not large as the tea will be too weak. The mug must have white insides as this helps the tea look as appetising as possible. Tea in a black mug (for example) appears before you as a mug of dirty dishwater. In a blind taste test, it may “technically” taste the same but most of us use all of all five of our senses when consuming something. It has to look the part and a white inside will show off the tea’s warm caramel shades like no other.
Last but not least – the teabag itself. I won’t waste either of our time by debating the type of leaf – obviously this guide talks you through how to make the perfect cup of English breakfast tea. But which brand? I’m glad you asked. Now clearly we can’t “pick a winner” but to say the superior brand is that of god’s own country hopefully steers you in the right direction. If you insist on using cheap and nasty tea bags then you don’t care about tea and I suggest you stop reading immediately. In fact, I insist you stop reading immediately.
Now you’ve prepared your materials and ingredients, you just need to fill the kettle with fresh cold water, flick on the switch and wait.
2) Boil and pour
It might sound obvious to those in the know, but once the kettle has boiled you must decant it into your mug immediately. Not in ten seconds or even five – you must pour it as the boiling bubbles are still bursting within the kettle itself, ensuring that the scalding liquid hits the teabag at no less than 100 degrees centigrade. This is crucial in order to ensure a strong cup of tea – one that is full of flavour and gives you that pleasant caffeine kick we’re all searching for.
3) No multi-tasking – just get with it
Yes we all live busy lives – I’m busy, you’re busy. Him over there’s busy. However, making a cup of tea warrants your full attention. Do not use this opportunity to tackle an odd job, no matter how quick and easy it seem. Some people like to brew tea while they get on with other tasks so let me be clear – this approach will definitely result in an inferior end result. We’re builders and we like our tea hot and strong (and without those weird dark floaty bits that come from over brewing).
Once you’ve poured the boiling water into the mug, that’s you committed – physically, emotionally and spiritually – until you’re drinking the damn thing. This might seem strict and a little over the top but for a task as important as this, it’s crucial that you concentrate fully.
4) Squeeze – stir – repeat
So yes, we’ve established that we’re all busy people but that doesn’t mean we don’t have high standards for our tea. That’s why I’ve written this damn guide and I imagine that’s also why you’re still reading it 700 words later. But don’t worry, making the tea itself needn’t take up much of your time. As soon as the teabag is bobbing around in the mug of boiling water, take your spoon and get to work. Use the back of the teaspoon to press the teabag – which is now engorged in water – against the inside of the mug. Then stir until the teabag is once again engorged with hot water. Repeat this process at least five times and in quick succession. You’ll notice the silky brown liquid getting a little darker every time. You’ll also probably notice a warm glow deep inside of you as this happens – don’t be alarmed, this is normal and it just means that you really like drinking high quality tea.
5) Milking your tea
The perfect cup of tea is both strong and with a reasonable amount of milk. Those who are new to making tea sometimes confuse the two – this is a serious error and if you notice someone making it, you have a responsibility to them to point tell them (in a similar way to if they had food in their teeth – you are doing them a favour). The perfect cup of tea uses semi-skimmed milk, not full fat (too creamy – we’re not making coffee you idiot) and definitely not skimmed milk (we don’t hate ourselves). Add a healthy dash as soon as you’ve removed the teabag. The colour you are aiming for here is terracotta – think plant pot or 70-something British expats living in Spain.
Now this might be controversial but I strongly urge you to resist adding sugar. You have just made the perfect mug of tea so please don’t ruin it – not now. Not when you’re so close. You are sweet enough and if you’re not, grow up. Not everything has to be loaded with sugar you massive child. Tea is a delicious drink and to dump a spoonful of granulated sweetness into it detracts completely from the delicate flavours.
So there you have it – how to make the perfect mug of tea. If you take a different approach to making tea, and think that the above guide is incorrect, I pity your ignorance and hope that your life isn’t too terrible drinking low-grade tea. Merry International Tea Day!
Our next guide will explore the social etiquette around tea-making – and you thought this guide was too long and detailed!