Thursday, September 5, 2013
The Perfect Cup of Tea
This is the story of the long journey to a perfect cup of tea. Ever since I discovered tea at the age of fourteen, it has been a vital part of the day. White with none, at least three times a day. Warm and comforting, all is well with the world when my hands are wrapped around a mug of tea.
But then I became enraged at a world suffocating in plastic and started to wean our family away from using plastic, one product at a time. And I started in on tea. It was very tricky to find a teabag where the bag or the box wasn't shrouded in plastic. So I started to experiment with making tea in a pot, with loose leaves which are packaged in cardboard, and then, following hints from ever-helpful readers, found I could buy loose tea from big jars in a cute coffee shop, or from my favourite wholefoods shop. So far, so good, right?
Wrong. Turns out I was absolutely pants at making tea in a pot. I was outraged. I made tea that was stewed, I made tea that was watery, I tried using a tea infuser, but I could not get it right. And I NEEDED a perfect cup of tea. Several times a day. And then I got sick, for weeks and weeks, and felt so miserable that I just gave up the fight. Lovely reader Judy let me know in the comments that Twinings 100 bag boxes were packaged without plastic. Hooray! But now I was drinking tea that wasn't grown pesticide-free in Australia, and wasn't fair trade, whose only positive was that it wasn't wrapped in plastic. Buying food is a minefield of ethical dilemmas!
Then the very brilliant and helpful Libi wrote in a post that I had inspired her to go and buy unpackaged loose leaf tea. She took her own container, and got a discount from the properly impressed tea lady at the MOST wonderful tea stall I have ever seen. Shopping envy. Go have a look. Anyway, I was mortified, having totally given up on the whole tea in a pot thing. I confessed my shortcomings to Libi, and then she made the suggestion that has CHANGED MY LIFE.
STIR THE POT before you pour it out. Prevents watery tea, and you don't have to leave it so long it stews to get the right strength. I guess it's like jiggling the tea bag. BRILLIANT! Total game changer. This morning I set myself up with tea caddy, kettle, tea pot and strainer, and made tea over and over again, using the stove timer, until I got a consistently perfect cuppa. Oh, I am so happy! And it took a Proper British Chick to sort me out. I love the internet!
Admittedly, there is a tiny part of me that is saying, 'You still drive a car and stand under a hot shower for an unconscionably long time, you still buy cheese and muesli bars wrapped in plastic - why are you making such a fuss about tea bags?' It's true, it seems a bit OTT, but every time I make a little change in the way I shop, or eat, or think, something clicks inside my head, and I feel a little bit more whole as a person. I do not need to rely on a tea bag to make a cup of tea. I can make a cup of tea like my granny did.
It's odd, because though my grannies must have made thousands of pots of tea in their time, I only remember them using tea bags, so I never got to stand next to them and watch them make tea in a pot. I inherited my granny's tea caddy, as you can see, with the gorgeous tea pots all over it, but she always stored crackers in it as far back as I can remember. In the space of one and a half generations, that knowledge just suddenly disappeared. And that is only the knowledge of how to make a cup of tea. How much else has disappeared, or is dying with our grandparents' generation, knowledge that is so important for living in a world where there may not be quite as many resources in the future to squander on making our lives convenient?
Anyways, just so you know, here are instructions for making Jo the perfect cup of tea:
Pour boiling water in the pot and sit for a minute to warm. Try not to wander off and forget what you are doing. Jo does this often.
Pour hot water down the sink; this is good for the drains.
Put one barely rounded spoonful of reasonably robust tea leaves in the pot. Note: if you are not making a cup of tea for Jo, and you have different tea leaves, you will need to experiment at this point!
Reboil kettle with fresh water (one mugful of water only - let's save power as well).
Fill mug with right amount of boiling water, pour in tea pot.
Cover with tea towel/ tea cosy, set oven timer one minute thirty (yes, exactly). You may need to experiment here too.
Pour into mug through strainer.
Tip tea leaves into compost.
Is anyone else this anally retentive about making tea? Do share!