For all the tea in China…

(Note: check out the comments for more ideas on tea preparation)

Back in my flight attendant days, we used to fly to the UK every summer.

On these trips, we were told to serve tea first and coffee second (whereas on most other flights, coffee was the predominant choice and served first).

The way we served the tea was with a stainless steel teapot in one hand, and a tray in the other. The tray contained a small container with milk, a little bowl of sugar packs, and another bowl of sliced up lemon.

The non-tea drinking passengers would puzzle over this choice when presented with the tray.

Since tea was being served however, they would help themselves to everything on the tray.Β  First they would hold out their cup for us to pour the tea, then they would pour their own milk, take a packet of sugar, and finally, choose a slice of lemon. The lemon would then get dropped into the tea which already contained milk at this time. Next, the passenger would make a bit of a face, look up to us with a baffling look as if to say ‘why are you serving lemon with milk’ and then raise their cup and take a sip.


WHY would they do that, add lemon to their tea which contained milk?

We never found out.

This little memory popped into my head when I read Jonathan’s post the other day where he went on to describe how to make the perfect cup of tea. Jonathan is English and as we all know, the English are tea drinkers.

Along with describing the method of how to make a πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ cup of tea, he also educates us on a few other tea-related tidbits and dispels a few myths along the way. For instance, there’s a historical explanation as to why some people pour milk into their cup first, before pouring tea. I didn’t know about that. (Who does that? Not me…)

I did know that tea originated in China… πŸ™ƒ

Anyway, in his post he describes several ways of making tea. The most straight forward goes something like this:

You put a number of teabags in a teapot, and pour boiling water onto them.

The only time I make a pot of tea however is if there’s more than one person drinking it, say if we have guests. If it’s just us family, we often just make individual cups.

Jonathan’s method to make a single serving cup of tea goes like this:

You put a teabag in your cup, pour boiling water into the cup, give it a stir for a few seconds, then add milk to make it the right sort of colour, then fish the teabag out with the same spoon you stirred it with.

I make tea the exact same way he does and this is before I read his post. πŸ™‚

But then you hear all kinds of commentary from various international tea drinkers. Like the sort who will go through the ritual of pre-warming the teapot, or use a special tea-egg or strainer for loose leaf tea, for example.

I wondered about the pre-warming thing. Nowhere in Jonathan’s post does it say anything about per-warming the teapot or the cup.

Maybe he does this automatically and just neglected to mention it? If he doesn’t, then that’s another similarity we share. I also do not typically pre-warm the pot.

My line of thinking is this: since you’re pouring boiling water into the pot or cup, why is it necessary to pre-warm?Β  I don’t get it.

Which brings me to the next thing: people will tell me all sorts of things about the water one uses to make tea.

They say things like this:

You must turn off the kettle just prior to boil.


Once the water boils, wait one minute (or 78 seconds or sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star twice) and then pour the water over the tea bags.

I’m too impatient to bother with this. Once the kettle boils I pour the water over the teabag, let it steep while I wander over to the fridge to get the milk, pour the milk, put the milk back in the fridge, fish out the bag and off I go to drink my tea (or spill it over my keyboard which happened once and I have since learned my lesson to not do that again). πŸ™„

When I was a child, we did not grow up drinking tea. The only time anyone made tea was if someone was sick, and I did not like that association so I never drank any tea.

Today I β€πŸ’›πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œ tea!

At our house, Tetley Bold is a favorite with its deep, complex flavour and dark colour; English Breakfast is a close second. We also have decaf, rooibos and a large variety of herbal and fruit teas (which my kids like, I’m not a fan). My partner and I drink tea in the afternoon mostly and stick to coffee in the mornings, but the kids have tea for breakfast and again after school.

Tell me, do you like tea? Do you have a ritual when it comes to preparing your tea?

31 thoughts on “For all the tea in China…

  1. I grew up drinking tea, and remember my mom taking sporadic trips to Philly China Town to buy some.
    I’m thankful my mom instilled the love of tea in me. I’ve done the same with my children as well, and having a variety of teas on deck is a must – our go-to teas are black, white, oolong, peppermint, and green.

    I normally take my tea with raw honey. I don’t care for milk in it, and can take or leave the lemon addition. I prefer to savor as much of the tea’s natural flavor as possible while sweetened.

    My tea ritual involves boiling unfiltered water in an electric kettle, allowing it to sit for a moment, then pouring over my tea bag or tea strainer. I allow the tea to steep for at least 5-7 minutes (I like it strong) then put a spoonful of honey in, allow that to marinate for a minute (or more), stir, then enjoy.

    I’m also not a fan of fruit teas but enjoy Trader Joe’s mango black tea and Bigelow’s Lemon Lift tea.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Milk _and_ lemon? Yeuch!

    Generally when I make tea I just drop the tea bag in the mug, add boiling water, remove the tea bag and add a splash of milk. I know lots of people have all sorts of rituals around tea, but I really can’t be bothered with the faff.

    But, after reading both your post and Jonathan’s… Am I the only person to squeeze the tea bag before removing it?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m taking notes! My perfect tea is the one I get to share with a friend. This may be too much information, but I enjoy the tea leaves (or bag) by putting it behind my lower lip after it has steeped in the cup or pot.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I can help out with the warming-the-pot issue. Back when tea pots were made of fine china, and houses were colder than they are nowadays, if you put boiling hot water into a cold china tea pot, you would stand a good chance of cracking it, so it was wise to warm it up a bit first to reduce the risk. These days, with houses being warmer and fine china being rarer, it’s not such an issue.

    If you put the tea in first and the milk in second, over time the inside of your mugs will stain – this is avoided if you put the milk in first.

    I’ve drunk tea in a lot of places – Americans can’t do it (sorry guys), in France the milk is just wrong, in Hungary it comes with honey and lemon (which is perfectly pleasant, but a completely different drink from ‘proper’ tea). And in China I asked for tea, and got… a tea pot with hot water in it. Nothing else – no leaves, no bags, no nothing. Which was odd – and probably says more about my ability to communicate in Chinese than about the tea drinking habits of Chinese people!

    And right now I’m sat on my sofa drinking a mug of English Red Label tea with a dash of milk and a spoonful of sugar. Bliss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jonathan mentioned the fine china cracking thing as well, and that makes sense to me. In terms of the staining…that makes sense too but I hadn’t considered this. Hm…interesting tidbit. πŸ™‚

      I’m stewing rhubarb and strawberries to make a cake. Which means tea time is in my imminent future, as in a couple of hours (it’s only lunch time now as I type this). πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Have you heard the name “Wedgewood” when it comes to pottery ? The reason the name became famous is because he figured out how to make china teasets that DIDN’T crack.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I have the impression that there are as many ways to make/drink tea as there are teas! I don’t drink tea often, and only iced in the summer. I live near Seattle though and the coffee connoisseurs around here are quickly being advanced upon by tea practitioners who have all the opinions about how to brew and drink properly. My youngest being one of them with her temperature lasers and her steeping times…
    Hot water, tea and maybe a little honey- drink and enjoy for me πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The one important thing about tea-making is to pour boiling (don’t wait for it to go off the boil) water on to your loose tea-leaves or tea bag(s). If the water is not ‘on the boil’, excuse me, but the tea tastes like piss. I prefer milk in the cup first if I make it in a pot – then you don’t have to stir it in the cup with a spoon – if I make tea in a cup with a teabag – milk last, obviously – need that ‘on-the-boil’ liquid. I’m British, and I know how to make tea!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, and basically – what Jonathan said is right. Actually (I use this word a lot), I’m perpetuating a myth that English or British people are the ones to ask about tea. I was offered tea once in a restaurant – there was a cup of hot water (hot isn’t hot enough – it has to be on the boil to get the right infusion – to give the taste) – but there was the cup of hot water, a saucer on the top of it, the tea bag on the saucer – milk in a jug at the side – I was supposed to want to make it myself. I didn’t have the guts to make a fuss in those days, but I should have sent it back. Lemon – I think it is nice with green tea. i like milk with black tea. If I had no milk or lemon, I would drink the tea anyway – I’m well-hooked. It is addictive. But nowhere near as addictive as some drugs.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. My mother is a potter. Pre-warming the pot is to protect the china (ceramic/china) from temperature shock, which could cause, or exacerbate any cracks in the teapot. It has the added benefit of allowing the tea to remain hot a little longer (instead of just losing its heat to the transfer of thermal mass to the pot.)

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I love tea but rarely drink it with anything except for maybe a little honey. There is one brand that I drink with milk and sugar though and when I do it is wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ok…as I belong to a tea society…..I love everything about tea. I have been to demonstration of Chinese and Japanese methods and ceremonies, as well as various tea tastings and such! Love!πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—,

    Liked by 3 people

      1. It depends on the type of tea I’m drinking and what part of the day it is. My morning tea is strictly bag/sachet and it’s strongest Irish breakfast tea imaginable. At about three when I’m taking a break, if I know I have time I will warm pot, etc

        Liked by 1 person

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