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George Orwell drinking tea

George Orwell’s 11 Golden Rules for Making the Perfect Cup of Tea


For Orwell, the manner in which we make a good cup of tea, from the temperature of the water to the material we pour it in, means much more than we imagine.

For a true Englishman as was Orwell, sensible and lucid as they come, the “perfect cup of tea” must give you much more than just pleasure and comfort, it must offer you wisdom, courage and optimism too. We share with you his 11 golden rules to brew the perfect cuppa:

First if all, one must use Indian or Ceylon tea. Chinese tea has many virtues that should not be undervalued nowadays —it’s cheap and can be taken without milk— but there’s not many stimulation that can be drawn from it. One does not feel wiser, or braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anybody who has actually used the phrase “a good cup of tea” was indubitably referring to the Indian kind.

Second, tea must be prepared in small quantities; meaning, a teapot. Tea poured from a pitcher is always flavourless, while military tea made in a pot, tastes like grease and lime. The teapot must be made of Chinese porcelain or ceramic. Silver or Britannia teapots produce an inferior tea, and the resin vases are by far, the worst. Curiously though, a pewter teapot (a rare find nowadays) is not too bad.

Thirdly, the teapot must be heated previously. This can be best achieved by putting it directly onto the fire, as opposed to the more popular method of pouring boiling water into it.

Fourthly, the tea must be strong. For a teapot that can serve up to a quarter, if you plan on filling it to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. […] I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like teir tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes.

Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. […] Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.

Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours.

Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.

Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.

Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.

Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.

Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

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