xmlns:fb='http://ogp.me/ns/fb#' OriginalStitch: Lolly Put the Kettle On!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lolly Put the Kettle On!

I am departing slightly from the main road here today, or rather going off-piste, to use a meteorologically inspired metaphor, and am going to do a blog post all about tea. 
I do this for two reasons - one, to show you a lovely Christmas present I received from my sister, who crocheted me a mug-warmer!  A mug-warmer!   Isn't that just fantastic?
And two as a Special Service Announcement for our American friends, inspired by a very daft conversation I have been having with LollyChops, that fabulous blogger from big old Texas, which I suspect is a good deal warmer than here...

Her latest blog post, which has a title of which she can be rightly proud - The Mad Tatter's Teabag Template (her sister is learning tatting, which in very basic terms is a form of lace-making using knots and loops; the post is all about teabag holders; Lolly's a bit mad etc and well I mean, it's all come together in a perfect headline hasn't it?  It's the stuff tabloids dream of, no?)...is all about tea. In my comment at the end of her blog I got rather over-excited, because I think it's fair to say we do like a drop of tea in this country.  There's no-one can say we ain't fond of a cuppa. 

And therein began a dotty email thread all about making tea, and the intricacies involved.  In which Lolly said "I have always heard about the English and their tea!  I would love to try it so I can see if it's any different from how we make it (I think we might boil it or something too long...)"

So, here it is - the definitive guide to making tea, as per MY method of making tea, which does not, you shoddy good-for-nothing teabaggy slatterns, you - involve putting a teabag in a cup.  Get a teapot people, get a teapot.  You know who you are.

How to make a Luvverly Cup of Tea

1. Find a beautiful teapot.  Swish some nice hot water into it to warm the pot.
2. Boil your kettle - now I interrupt myself here to ask a question....do you have kettles, you Americans??  You know, a thing you plug in to an electricity socket to boil water in?  Or one you put on the hob/cooker/stove?  One of these....

I'm not being rude, I promise,  it's just that I remember when I lived in France there was not a one to be had.  They were all about their coffee, and used other machiney things for that, percolators or whatever.  Failing that, they just boiled water in a pan.  So I boiled water in a pan for a year, and when I came back to England I was all "Ben, non!  Mais qu'est-ce que c'est que ca, hein?  C'est super ca, non?" - which translates as "...like oh my God!  What's that thing?  A kettle!  Oh my god, what a great idea!" 
Ok, so, getting back to the point then.  If you have no kettle, simply fill a pan-type vessel with um, say, 4 cups of freshly drawn water Although I'm not totally up on what a cup is, and equally I'm hopeless at pints, litres, fluid ounces etc.  Thank heavens I'm not a recipe writer, hm? and using heat of some description from a cooking type appliance, begin to boil the water.

3. While the water is heating up, place 2 teaspoonfuls of English Breakfast Tea leaves (if you're posh, but I won't pretend many of us actually do use tea leaves, even me - so teabags are allowed, because I say so, so we're talking 1 bag per person) and one teaspoonful for the pot. (We have an expression 'one per person and one for the pot', since presumably the pot is thirsty too.  This makes the kind of cuppa my grandad would have said is 'strong enough to get itself out the pot', ie, "Ahh lovely.  Can't stand tea that's not strong enough to get itself out the pot".  In this house, my 'one for the pot' is a cheeky little Earl Grey teabag.  Oh yes - I'm so fancy aren't I?)
3. Wait until the water is BOILING - actually BOILING; not just about to boil, or boiled, but BOILING, BOILING I say -  and then pour in to your teapot, and put the lid on.
4. Make a lovely tea-cosy, (or perhaps try and find one you made earlier, or your tea will be what we call 'stewed', in other words mighty strong and probably cold...) and place over your teapot to keep your tea hot, as demonstrated here.

4. Allow your tea to stand for a few minutes, and then with a teaspoon, stir 3 times round.
5. Find a dainty teacup, pour in a little milk - (ok, I'm prepared for the unleashing of a barage of disgusted tea-drinkers saying you should pour your tea in first and add the milk after, and I agree that in The Ritz and other lovely hotels you would do that, lest the waiter turn up his or her nose at you, you common little oik.  But look here; I think we have let it lie with the teabags; let's all admit we pour the milk in first, shall we, hm?   - and gently pour in your tea trying not to mutter and swear too much at the drips which will inevitably come off the spout on to your worksurface.  Get a cloth, and learn to live with it; that's what the British Stiff Upper Lip is for.
6. Add a spoonful of sugar if you wish, or 2 if you are very bad, and drink, sipping delicately.
7. Alternatively, use a dirty great mug so you get a big washdown of tea to keep you going, which is what most of us do. 
8. Go "Ahh!  Now that's a nice cup of tea..."

And there you have it, the definitive guide to making tea.  Many of us Brits would have to admit to drinking far too much of it, especially in these wintry climes, which have us racing headfirst to the kettle every hour, wishing we also had crumpets, teacakes, or scones....
But they really are beyond my culinary expertise to explain, so I leave you instead with a nice picture of the kind of Afternoon Tea you would have a right to expect at a London hotel, or indeed any self-respecting top hotel the world over.  When I worked in media, and was bored of expensive boozy lunches, I started instead taking clients out to Afternoon Tea, which was cheaper, but felt like such a treat.  Nothing quite like seeing a grown man who works in the computer industry picking up dainty sugar lumps with tongs.

And it is easily one of my all time favourite ways to spend an afternoon.  Ah, you lapsang suchong, you ceylon, you Russian Caravan tea...ah you little tiny cucumber sandwiches, oh the cakes....


Mairi said...

B-rilliant. I had part of my hen (or bachelorette) party in The Grosvenor Hotel in Big Town having lovely afternoon tea and it just the best thing in the world. My favourite thing was the eclair's that came with a pistachio creme in the middle. Yummy.

And also I think it's fair to say that it's all about your tea/teabag. In America I think Lipton tea is a fairly well known brand and I am on board for their iced tea, but they are totally %&1$ for proper tea. Ideally you want Twinnings' Everyday or Yorkshire Tea. THEN you can add some fancies; Earl Grey and Lady Grey, Lapsang, Jasmine, Assam....

You know, I think I might go and put the kettle on....

LollyChops said...

This was such a FUN post C! I just love love love it. I read every word and then went back and read it again! So cute!

Now I am hankering some proper tea and those cute little sammiches and pasteries! I don't have any loose tea but I'll see if I can find some just to have fun with it!

THANKS for this!


Caroline said...

Fab post Catherine.

Indeed you can't beat a lovely cup of tea, whether it's in your favourite mug or in a fine bone china tea cup al a Grosvenor (I still remember those lush cakes!) it always hits the spot.

Right, off to bed now, only a few hours until my morning mug of tea!

C x

white o'morn cottage said...

Ohh, those cakes! I have put on weight just drooling er,...I mean looking at them. Great tea cosy. love pAM

tiph said...

This amuses me. :D
I have a kettle, but not many people I know do. When I was in the UK last year, I was brought 'round to this particular way of making tea and haven't stopped since!

PJS said...

If you cut out all the pretty and dainty bits and the sugar... that's exactly how I have tea... ha ha ha. I hold my hand up and fully recognise i am utterly addicted to tea and refuse point blank to do anything about it.

Maggie said...

Good morning from wintery Kansas!

I must confess that I love tea; and so, after following Lolly's link to your post, I was delighted to read your proper tea tutorial. While thoroughly engrossed in reading, I secretly giggled in bliss with both hands wrapped around my morning cup of tea and thought to myself, "I've been doing it right all along!" I have been the proud owner of the most well-loved, hand me down red tea kettle for many years (and the cutest secondhand teapot too!). My friends always thought I was nuts for taking such "extreme measures" to have "a plain old cup of tea." I will now blissfully direct them to your site with a smug grin and a, "HA! I told you so!"

*Raises her mug in salute* Thank you for a perfect post and here's to hoping that many others discover the satisfying joy of a GOOD cup of tea!

Beth said...

I knew I wasn't doing it right!! But now I suddenly feel a tea party coming on... I shall make myself a perfect POT of tea, some hot cocoa for the little ones, and we'll be oh-so-civilized! I may even make up some scones and really do it right. Thanks from cold, wintry Michigan!

Kay said...

Ha! When I first moved to the US (20 years ago) I was SHOCKED that they didn't have electric kettles and I had to resort to a stove top version, wondering all the while exactly what I got myself in to and what century I was living in, which is a bit surreal when you are suddenly uprooted from the somewhat rural north east coast of Scotland and catapulted to Southern CA. You sort of expect things to be a bit more up to date...
Anyhoo, 20 years on, I am now living in the Jacksonville, FL area and am happy to report there are now electric kettles available at Target and proper T-bags (Lipton does not make tea, people - it is known in our house as "that Lipton sh*t*)are available at World Market, Publix and Amazon. Life is good!!

Karen W said...

As a Canadian transplanted to North Carolina I am pleased to see you give tis lesson in 'making tea'. I was horrified the first time the waiter brought me a pot of hot water with a tea bag on the side!

When I go home to Canada for any visit, I bring back Tetley tea. America tea just doesn't cut it! English Breakfast is my favorite treat tea.

Off to make a cuppa!


tattrldy said...

I was over at LollyChops and saw her link to this and had to come over. It's such a fun read! I think our problem over here (the US) is that we want everything to be fast and convenient. Microwaves are so much faster! LOL! I've gotta say though, I'm dreaming of trying a tea party of my own. What I would serve, how I would decorate, who could come...And I'd have to do the tea 'right'! Could be fun...

Regan Rothery said...

Love it, thanks! I remember reading about the proper way to brew tea in a novel I read years ago. The main character had come to America from across the pond and just HATED the idea of tea bags. Nice to hear that they're ok, but I had never known the various steps (putting the kettle on the stove, letting the tea steep in a separate teapot, adding some tea for the pot [LOVELY!], the adorable cozies -- I must make one for my mugs too!!, etc.). All I ever used to do here was boil some water in a kettle & pour that straight into a cup with a tea bag in it.

Now, I do need to impart some green tea knowledge. You never pour boiling water on green tea as it makes the tea quite bitter. It actually should be put on when the water's just before boiling. I don't know if green tea is a thing there that folks like or not, but just in case.

With love from the USA!!


Liz of Wool Boutique said...

I found you Lollychops' blog. She's nuts and great.

Loving the tea tutorial!

Liz x

Kippers Dickie said...

One other small detail that my Grandmother used to do, was she would always point the teapot spout towards the window, whilst the tea 'stood'.
I can't remember why but I expect it was something to do with 'good luck'!
Cheers...Bernard (Kath's friend)

Jill said...

I came to your blog through lolly chops...How delightful!! I actually DO make my tea that way-Yes! We/some of us Americans DO own tea kettles & teapots & use them!!!I like the bags better than the mess of loose tea. I would love to have a British tea in Britain someday!

Yarni Gras! said...

heehe...I found you thru Lolly too....It looks like your as fun as she is. Thank GOODNESS!
I guess me tossing a mug in the microwave to make tea with is a BAD thing? Dang....now I'll have to try it your way!

Nena said...

Catherine, your blog is such fun!!! I love browsing through all of your goodies; and I tried your way of making tea last night - it tastes just like when my Nana used to make it for me when I was a kid! Thanks for bringing back those memories!
Thanks for stopping by my blog! I am so glad that you enjoyed FlyLady's site! <3

Lynn B. said...

Well, you'll be happy to know that here at my house in Texas, we keep many tins of good, fresh loose-leaf teas. We also have a whistling kettle, teapots of various sizes, and though we don't use those cozy thingies, we do have a grand total of five candle-warmers strewed about the house (we do like everything hot here in Texas -- can't abide tepid tea!). My family goes through at least two pots of tea per day.

And we'd sooner have our molars yanked than drink Lipton hot from a bag. Blech. We do like it iced in summer, though. With mint from the yard.

Thanks for a deeeelightful tutorial. We tea lovers must recruit with zeal lest all the jittery coffee cranks prevail and take over the world.

Lynne said...

Ooohhh yes tea! Lovely. I hanker after the old fashioned afternoon tea. When we lived in Sweden tea was served up luke warm, but our friends soon learned the correct way to do it. Now we're in Germany and they seem to prefer the pan of water to a kettle. Sigh!

Jill :) said...

I, too, just linked over from LollyChops (love her!) when catching up on my blog reading, and am DELIGHTED to know that I have been right all along about making tea properly. Hooray!

I learned to drink tea when I was studying at Oxford and at Cambridge during one college summer -- I never had drunk it before, and so I learned to drink it sweet and white, as the English often do (our tea was always after dinner, in the Fellows' Garden; very posh, no?). Americans tend to look down on milk in one's tea, apparently; in fact, my father-in-law is such a purist on the subject that he accuses me of "defiling" his fancy-pants tea when I add some sweetness and cream!

Thank you for reminding me of the loveliness of the tea-making ritual. For it is the ritual, as much as the drink itself, that lends the calm and serene feeling to the whole thing.

Cheers from under 4 feet of snow outside of Philadelphia, PA! Tomorrow is the perfect day to brew up a whole pot for myself!

Catherine said...

Thanks Jill! Strictly speaking your father is probably right - but you may inform him that in all the London hotels one is provided with milk for ones tea!
x x x
For me, the tanin is just a little too gritty without milk.
And heck, I put milk in coffee too!
x x x

MaineMummy said...

So glad I found this through Lolly - a month later but oh well - I live in Maine now and am still disgusted by the habit I've noticed some Americans (not all) have of Microwaving water for tea - oh yuck! Wonderful post and now I need iced biscuits! Good thing we have a trip home planned next month!

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