The English are one of the largest tea consumers in the world, with each person consuming on average 1.9 kg per year. The popularity of tea dates back to the 19th century when India was part of the British Empire, and British interests controlled tea production in the subcontinent.
Tea was first introduced in the 1660's into England by Catherine of Braganza, the queen consort of Charles ll. It has been the subject of protest as with the Boston Tea Party in America where Tea was thrown from boats into Boston Harbour in protest against the tea tax being imposed by the British. Yet it is also used as a source of great comfort when disaster strikes - It is not unusual in a crisis to find the teapot and tea cups coming out in the acknowledgement of the need for homely comforts in the time of distress.
English Tea Traditions
Our tea traditions do not stop at the making of a simple cup of tea they have evolved into intricate events. Although over time some of these have become less common in everyday life they still live on and are presently undergoing a revival. You can read about these on the English Art of Tea pages.
Making the Perfect Pot of Tea
Making the perfect pot of tea needs patience as scientists have found that it needs to brew for two minutes in the pot before pouring, and once poured it needs a further six minutes before drinking. This allows the tea to cool to 60c which is the optimum temperature to let the flavours flood out.
If the tea is left to drop below 45c or anything over 17 1/2 minutes it will be past its best. A tea cosy is often used to keep the teapot warm and prevent the temperature dropping below its optimum.
Everyone has their own way of making a pot of tea, but here is a tried and tested way of making an excellent brew.
- Run the tap a little so the water is nicely aerated before adding to the kettle. Use water that has boiled just once - any more than that and the level of oxygen in the water is reduced and your tea can taste a bit "flat". Bring the kettle to a rolling boil, anything more than this will spoil the flavour of the tea.
- Warm the teapot first by swilling boiling water around inside it, then warm the cups with the water from the teapot.
- For a four-cup pot, use one teaspoon of loose tea per person and one for the pot. Alternatively, if using teabags, three premier teabags should be enough, put these in the pot .
- Add freshly boiled water to the pot, stir and leave to brew for 2 minutes (optimum) or longer if you prefer it stronger.
- Add a small amount of milk to the cup and then pour in the tea, if you are using loose tea leaves it is best to use a tea strainer over the cup to catch the leaves
- Add sugar if prefer it sweet.
- Leave the tea for a further 6 minutes or until it has reached 60c before drinking
- Put a tea cosy over the pot to keep it warm enough for a delicious second cup
You can purchase a tea thermometer to ensure you have the perfect temperature to enjoy your tea
Making a Proper Cup of Tea
- Run the tap a little so the water is nicely aerated before adding to the kettle. Use water that has boiled just once - any more than that and the level of oxygen in the water is reduced and your tea can taste a bit "flat".
- Swill some of the boiled water around the cup to warm it
- Put a teabag into your cup
- Pour the boiled water directly onto your teabag. This way the tea infuses better than adding the teabag to water.
Or, if you are using loose tea
- Place one teaspoon of tea into an infuser and place the infuser into the cup
- Pour the boiling water slowly over the tea leaves until the cup is nearly full leaving enough room for the milk
- Leave for 2 minutes (optimum) or longer if you prefer it stronger
- Remove the teabag with a spoon giving it just one gentle squeeze; or remove the infuser if you have loose tea.