Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Well, I'm just tucking into a cracking cuppa - yes - and clearly this is controvertial - but including a level teaspoon of sugar and a carefully measured helping of milk. Brewed with exotic PG Pyramids - a big favourite of mine, it's truly smashing. Anyway, as a veteran tea drinker, I feel qualified to offer tea preparation advice - perhaps those wishing to polish up their brew making skills to avoid social embarassment or new converts will find them useful.
If you're making a cuppa without the assistance of a tea-pot, then pop your tea-bag and any sugar into an EMPTY cup. Do not under any circumstances include the milk at this stage - this will compromise the sugar's distribution throughout the brew due to lower than normal temperates, resulting in the sickly sugar sludge at the bottom of the cup and possibly even people increasing their sugar intake to cover for the initial overly bitter taste. Too much sugar is bad for your teeth and turns you into a fat moma - so make sure you distribute it evenly through the brew. The tea leaves also prefer boiling hot water adding BEFORE the milk, and this will normally remove the need for "squeezing" the tea bag - which is a cardinal sin under normal circumstances. Once your sugar, tea-bag and boiling hot water (straight from the kettle - not left to stand and cool first) are safely in the mug, then you can add milk. At this stage it's fine to leave the tea bag in, as this will allow you to increase the strength of the brew should you accidently add too much milk - you should be able to achieve this by gently swishing the tea bag about with a tea-spoon, but if push comes to shove you can squeeze the tea bag (note that this should be regarded as an option ONLY in emergencies where an overly milky tea may otherwise be produced). Talking of overly milky teas - while color of tea is for the most part down to individual preference, bear in mind that a properly prepared brew should generally be brown and not off white. Serious tea drinkers will not be impressed if you present them with milky water and may (quite justly) give you a good kicking. You should also bear in mind that your ability to judge the milkiness of a tea (a key tea making skill) will be affected by the colour of the mug you are preparing it in - typically tea looks milkier in a black mug than the same tea would in a white mug. Finally, having removed the tea bag, give the tea a quick stir just to be sure.
Another tip, when preparing large numbers of brews - why not order them across the kitchen surface in order of sugar consumption - no sugar to the left and four to the right. This will help you remember who's brew is whos and prevent an embarassing mix up. In this case it's probably best to add hot water from right to left - as the teas with the most sugar in are in need of the hottest water (as you move from mug to mug the water in your kettle gradually cools). If you are unlucky enough to be entertaining coffee drinkers as well, while out of politeness you may perhaps make them a cup of coffee filth anyway, be ABSOLUTELY SURE that you use different spoons for stirring tea with - the slightest contamination of tea with coffee will spoil the tea drinkers enjoyment of their brew entirely and they will probably never speak to you again or try to poison your children in the near future. If allowing your guests to add their own sugar to their drinks, then you may wish to give coffee drinkers their own sugar bowl or alternatively force them to use artificial sweeteners, as nothing pleases them more than to pollute sugar with their poisonous coffee cak. Being the scum of the earth, coffee drinkers love the idea that they can sneakily pollute clean living tea drinkers tea via this method and usually get a kick out of knowing that tea drinkers and non-tea drinkers alike will be putting coffee infested sugar on their corn-flakes the following morning.
Also don't think you'll get away with using tea bags that are out of date - the difference is easily discernable and can be quite unpleasant. One final tip - pint glasses (contrary to popular belief) can handle a good hot cup of tea, so if you've yet to get some Dad sized mugs, why not put your pint glasses to work instead?