Here in the UK, it’s Easter Monday and another work-free day added to the Easter weekend, so I thought I’d have some fun! OK, there’s been a wee bit of a controversy lately in the British press with one of our revered actors (David Tennant & a once venerated Dr Who) in Broadchurch (a British cop drama that I’ve never watched, because it’s Line of Duty for me every time) making a cup of tea in a microwave. Oh, the horror!
Of course, I expect you think we’re shocked because all Brits warm a proper teapot and make tea with real loose tea leaves. Well, once upon a time, we did. And before you all shout at me, some probably still do that. But actually, not the majority now. And I’m writing this because I thought not only would I tell you how we really do it (make tea) I’ve also got two teapots to show you.
Yes, I continue to get rid of stuff for the big move, and therefore, continue to ask myself some very hard questions as to why I’m keeping things. And if they’re not going to be actually used, then they must mean something to me. So here, for your benefit, is one thing I’m keeping – the teapot that my mother used every single day of my childhood. In fact, she used it until the day she died.
I don’t come from a wealthy background, and there were just not the consumer goods around after the war that we take for granted. It was quite a frugal existence with life lived on one salary not two, and my mother at home, doing the housework and cooking very basic, very English food. But there were some standards that my mother and father, in their almost genteel 1950s way, stuck to. And that was how they made and drank their tea. It was always drunk in a small cup with a saucer (never a mug) and came in this teapot (which needs a polish, btw) which was warmed and made with real tea leaves, which you were meant to read. Do you remember that? And the ‘slop basin’? Yes, really. That’s where you poured the remnants of the first cup before the second was poured. Always, btw, tea in first and then the milk. This is because milk is poured in first only if you’re serving tea in very fine bone-china, porcelain cups, which would crack if the hot tea went in first. Also people might want a slice of lemon with their tea rather than milk, so milk is always offered rather than assumed to be part of the tea experience.
By the time I had my own family I still made tea in a teapot. I was quite a tea snob. And rather like hats I collected teapots and had up to 10 in my kitchen. Now there’s just this one, which I’m keeping as a reminder of how I used to make tea.
Because, do I use a teapot now? No I don’t. However, tea made in a micro-wave? Never! I’ve had tea made in a microwave and it’s not tea! And I’m sorry to say this was in the States. I asked for tea in a cafe. I mean, this was in 1999 and things are probably different now. I was assured I could have some tea. I waited and then, triumphantly, the waitress came bearing a glass flask, which was something like a small bulbous vase with a narrowing at the top end with some yellow liquid in it. Honestly, how I kept a straight face I don’t know, but having been a nurse you know what it reminded me of? Yellow liquid in a bottle? Yes, indeed. Of course, it tasted of nothing, rather than….. Not that I would know. And I drank coke after that as, at that time, I wasn’t drinking coffee (I do now).
Now here’s the thing. This yellow liquid wasn’t even hot! It had obviously just been warmed in the microwave. And I’ve had tea like that elsewhere (Italy, as it happens). But, the heat of the water and the boiling of the water is the key to tea-making. Whether it’s in the pot, or, as I do it now, one good (Yorkshire, or Twinings) t-bag in a mug and then boiling water into said mug, that water has to have been freshly boiled (can’t be water lying around in your kettle.) And moreover, it has to be on the upward boil, and by that I mean it must still be boiling and bubbling. It then brews or, if in a hurry, take a teaspoon and bash the t-bag around. You then take out the t-bag when the tea looks the colour of a ginger nut biscuit, and add milk. No sugar. You don’t want tea tasting of syrup. It has to be that really strong and almost bitter tea-like taste. Otherwise, why have a cup of tea?!
So, how do we do it? Mug, t-bag and really, really boiling water. Brew, bit of milk. And that’s it – done!
And it should look like the pic I took in the Royal Academy! That fabulous brown/gingery colour, which gives tea such a kick and a taste!
Btw, that Royal Academy teapot had real tea leaves in it – and the cup of tea was ace!
Lastly, I want to share with you how I was such a naive, untravelled person when I arrived in the States all those years ago. Got to our hotel room, and great, I’d brought t-bags with me. But where was the kettle? OMG – no kettle! How was I going to boil the water. Reader, we worked out we could use the coffee machine. Apologies for being so British. But I HAD to have a cup of tea after my Atlantic flight!
That’s all for now. Hope you had a great weekend.
Penny, the frugalfashionshopper
P.S I just re-read this and think I still sound a right tea snob – so, don’t take any notice of what I say! But have a great week!