April 29, 2011

DOUBLE-HEADER FRIDAY: A Proper Cup of Tea

Posted by Ethne~



Well, I am loving everything British this week.  What’s more traditional than a proper cup of tea?  Good thing I have an insider in the fam who keeps me hooked up.

There are several brands the locals (as in across-the-Atlantic locals) use – my fave is PG Tips, which comes in little pyramid-shaped bags.  And guess what?  I can buy it at my local grocery store.  It’s not the thriftiest, but since my Brit brother Rich keeps me stocked, I haven’t had to patronize Cub.

First, you need to boil your water properly.  What, you ask?  Isn’t this elementary?  No.  It’s not.  You must start with cold water.  I have a teakettle (I checked at Macy’s and you can get pricey ones! but mine is from Target), but I also have an electric kettle that works for me.  The second key to boiling water for tea is to not allow it to come to a full rolling boil.  This just takes a practiced ear.  When I can hear it getting close, I pull the plug and the water’s perfect.  You want the water piping hot, but not too hot or you’ll scald the tea leaves.

My stuff - sweet teacup from Rich's Mum
Red teapot from Whit

Next you place the teabag into your cup.  I have no tips for doing this correctly.  You’re gonna have to go with your gut.

PG Tips pyramid bag - for maximum steepage 

Pour the water into the cup, about 4/5ths of the way to the top.  I leave a little room at the top to allow for milk, which I prefer with my tea.

Goin' in hot!

According to Rich, it’s especially proper to steep the water and teabag in a teapot.  I have a lovely red one from Whit and it’s FAB.  But since I usually only make a cup of tea for myself (Shaun’s definitely a coffee guy), I forego this propriety.  NOTE: if you use a teapot, you may need to use extra teabags so it’s strong enough.  Also, when I make tea from loose tea leaves (a la Teavana), my red teapot has a built-in strainer.

One of the trickiest steps is getting the tea steeped just long enough to be strong, but not too long or it becomes bitter and gets cold.  I know what the proper look of the tea is when it’s steeped perfectly and, for me, it looks like black coffee; it’s not black, but a dark chocolate brown.

Perfect color

If I’m not standing over the tea watching it steep (which is never), I use my cheater method, which is to set the clock for 5 minutes.  When it buzzes, it’s done and I take that tea bag out! 

[THRIFTY NOTE:  Some people re-use their tea bags for a 2nd cup, which is a great thrifty idea.  I don’t.  I don’t think the 2nd steeping makes the tea strong enough.]

You can dress your tea however you’d like.  For my PG Tips, I like either 1 teaspoon of regular sugar or 1 Splenda tablet.  Is Splenda proper you ask?  Why yes – I have my pack of Splenda tabs from Rich’s friend and London resident, JS.  Rich says that if you’re really posh, you use a lump or cube of sugar.  One lump, or two?  I’m a one-lumper.

These tabs are from London!

I am not certain how much milk I add.  Probably between 1 and 2 tablespoons.  I basically know it’s right when, as I pour, the milk flushes back up to the top of the tea like a cloud.  Don’t forget – it’s proper to use milk, not cream.  I use 1% because that’s what we buy.

Milk flushing perfectly to the surface

I have a couple other tea favorites.  Earl Grey tea – with honey instead of sugar.  And I take it up another notch with Teavana’s Earl Grey Crème – pretty much the best tea on Earth.  Lipton’s black tea is great and costs a couple bucks for a lot of bags – that’s your thrifty bet.  If I'm looking for caffeine-free herbal tea, I like chamomile, Teavana's Peach Tranquility/Honeybush Vanilla or their Swiss Vervaine Melange/Honeybush Vanilla.


The girls modeling my Teavana tin

With options like these, who needs smelly old coffee?  Actually, it's the smell of coffee I like.  It tastes horrible.

Close call - almost spilled from the ruckus behind me

When I’m up at 3 am to start my wedding-watching, you can bet I’ll be sipping some tea – straight from across the sea – and staring down my lovely sapphire and diamond ring from Shaun (yes, my real one) and the other from Wills.  I’ll almost be there.  Almost.

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