With 165 million cups of tea drunk in a day, England must know how to make a good cuppa. There are several different ways to take tea, a cup for every occasion. In fact, there are over 1,500 varieties of teas in Britain. Even with all of these choices, Brits have their traditions.
When we think of English tea, we most commonly picture an afternoon tea: plates of tiny, savory sandwiches, fresh scones, and decadent sweets accompany a pot of tea and delicate china. Loose leaf teas, such as Earl Grey, Darjeeling, or flavored black tea, are brewed in a large metal or china tea pot, then poured into individual cups for the guests to prepare as they choose with sugar, milk, or lemon. An afternoon tea comes with its set of etiquette, but it doesn’t have to. Try throwing a fun, less formal tea for two, or head to your local thrift store to grab some eclectic tea cups for a traditional tea party with a modern twist to experience afternoon tea on your own terms.
Cream tea is a toned down version of the afternoon tea, where a pot of loose leaf tea is served with classic scones or biscuits alongside clotted cream and jam. Clotted cream can be hard to come by outside of England, but try this recipe and set up a cream tea for yourself and those you’d like to spend some time with.
Builder's tea is another English standby, a strong cup of tea typically steeped and drank from a mug by workers needing a substantial cuppa while on break. Builder’s tea is a hearty black blend with plenty of body and caffeine and is usually taken with sugar and milk. If you want to try this rejuvenating tea, Plum Deluxe created their House Blend, a builder’s-style blend of Assam and Ceylon that will give you the strength to get through a long day.
The Issue of Milk
Author George Orwell wrote in his 1946 essay, “A Nice Cup of Tea,” that "tea is one of the mainstays of civilisation in this country and causes violent disputes over how it should be made." I believe he was specifically talking about the issue of whether to add milk before or after pouring tea, which can cause quite a stir in England.
Originally, milk was often poured first so the hot tea didn’t crack the fragile porcelain tea cups, but many argue that the tea is cooled too quickly and can be overmilked if not poured into the tea itself. Personally, I’m a milk first kind of girl.
How to take a cup of tea is as individual as the person making it. Try out these different ways of how to make English tea and see which you prefer, then feel free to play around with flavors, steep times, tea ware, and accompaniments to make it your very own tea time.