> In researching this I am indebted to Mr. Daniel Jones, MBA.
> Up North, cups of tea are called ‘brews’. As I perfected this guide in Manchester I shall refer to them as such throughout.
> Any key instructions I will mark with an asterisk. Don’t stray from these!
There are two VITAL keys to brew-making:
If you are impatient and hurry to make a brew, it will taste like dishwater.
Conversely, if you lack diligence it will taste equally disgusting.
First, you must listen carefully to a person’s preferences for their cup of tea. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If a person says they want it “white with 2 sugars”, ask how milky their white is, and whether their teaspoons are heaped or flat. But you also MUST get feedback when you deliver the brew (or before you make the next one) – how is it? How could it be improved. Make sure you mentally log people’s preferences and stick to them and you will consistently deliver good brews.
A MUG OF DECENT SIZE*
Don’t bother with cups and saucers, or even those fancy mugs that you have to hold with one finger. You need a standard mug, preferably in white – as this more clearly shows what colour the tea is once brewed. Some people suggest that tea actually “tastes” different if it’s in a coloured mug. This is simply ridiculous – no part of a mug dissolves in hot water. Any perceived difference is in your head.
FRESHLY BOILED WATER*
If using a kettle, don’t re-boil old water, draw fresh water from the tap first.* Also, do not overfill the kettle for the amount you need, it wastes energy and time.
ONE tea bag PER MUG*
Pick whichever teabag your tastebuds or your conscience prefer. Some people prefer a weaker brew, wanting you to dangle their teabag in the boiling water for approximately 0.5 seconds. By all means, cater to their tastes but know this – this is not a “good” brew. Some people also share a tea bag between two mugs. This is ridiculous. The first mug won’t develop a rounded flavour and the second mug will just receive all the dregs of the first. Finally, the teabag shape does NOT matter – yes, pyramid bags do brew faster, but brew-making is not about speed, and you can make a perfectly good brew out of a circular or indeed traditional square tea-bag.
Full fat is too creamy for a brew, skimmed is too watery. I am sure this guide can be adapted for different milks, but I am not the man to do it.
Although you may not take sugar, some people do. To not have sugar in your cupboard shows a lack of hospitality – get some in!
Standard-sized full-metal, not some poncy one from Ikea.
(1) Place tea bag in mug
(2) Pour on freshly-boiled water
(3) Do NOTHING to the mug for 2-3 minutes*****
Let me define ‘nothing’:
It means, DO NOT stir the water
It means, DO NOT poke or squeeze the tea bag
It means, DO NOT under any circumstances add the milk yet.Adding the milk whilst the tea-bag is still in the mug introduces fats into the water-based solution and wrecks the brewing.
It means, DON’T add the sugar either.
(However, it is advisable to wash up anything in the sink at this point)
The reason you are doing nothing is because the teabag needs to be left to work on its own accord.
(4) Lift the teabag out
By all means, make sure it’s not dripping as you throw it in the bin (or, even better, your composting bin.) However, DO NOT squeeze every last drop out of it on the side of the mug.
(5) Add milk
Here’s a translation guide for the various degrees of milkiness:
BLACK – no milk. Make sure you don’t stir it with the same spoon as a white tea.
JUST A DROP – literally means, hardly any. Pour slowly and as soon as the milk hits the cup, pull up again. The tea will look a disugsting reddish-brown colour.
A SPLASH – Not much, but more than just a drop.
BUILDER’S – From my research this means that it’s got a fair amount of milk BUT also that it’s been overbrewed – and so the resultant brew looks a medium brown colour. To get the same colour but achieve a better tasting brew, brew the tea as above and use slighly less milk than average
WHITE/MEDIUM/AVERAGE – all mean the same. A kind of light brownish colour.
I LIKE IT A BIT MILKIER THAN MOST – This usually means that the main brew-makers in their life don’t know how to make brews, or make it with hardly any milk. So this generally means “Average”, but whack a few more drops in anyway, and they’ll tell you they want slighly less milk than last time if my theory is correct.
MILKY – a very light brown
DID THE COW FALL IN? – a very light beige.
LATTE – this involves mostly milk instead of water, and can be quite nice with a chai tea tea-bag, but is made an entirely different way.
(6) Add sugar
In general you should slightly heap the spoon, unless they tell you they want a flattened one.
Also, don’t make comments on how much sugar people take.
If you take none and someone asks for 2, don’t go gasp and tut, just put two in.
If someone asks for a half-measure, don’t act like that’s putting you out.
If you take no sugar, don’t tell kind brew-makers that “you’re sweet enough” – it’s not funny.
And also, if someone asks for 2 sugars, don’t try to whittle them down to 1 by putting progressively less sugar in their brews each time – it’s patronising.
Finally, there are three grades to brew-making:
STRENGTH – how brewed the tea is
MILKINESS – how much milk has been added
SWEETNESS – how much sugar there is
Most people only recognise two: strength and sweetness. These people will invariably judge the ‘strength’ of the tea by its colour alone. So, because a lot of people make tea by whizzing the teabag round with a spoon, strength becomes analagous to ‘not very milky’. This is incorrect!
For example, I like my tea brewed for a few minutes (therefore medium-strong) but fairly milky. Because some of my old work colleagues saw brews I’d made for myself, they used to say “you like your tea quite weak don’t you” when it was their turn to brew up, and handed me a mug of tea which had had a teabag dipped into it for about 10seconds – disgusting!
So it’s important to be specific when people ask. e.g. I like it well-brewed but milky, or I like it brewed less than normal and not much milk. This may sound fussy, but if you make other people good brews, most people will reciprocate.