George Orwell Explains How to Make a Proper Cup of Tea

george-orwells-nice-cup-of-tea1

Next to my bed lies George Orwell’s Essays, the bricklike Everyman’s Library edition of the 1984 author’s thoughts on ideology, colonialism, the abuse of language, crime and punishment, and just what constitutes a nice cup of tea. The astute essayist keeps his mind prepared to go anywhere, and Orwell’s rigorous love of simple English pleasures places him especially well to write on the subject of how best to prepare a serving of “one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand.” His essay “A Nice Cup of Tea,” which first ran in the Evening Standard of January 12, 1946, breaks the process down into eleven points, from “One should use Indian or Ceylonese tea” to “One should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about” to, finally, “Tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar.” These guidelines may sound to us a tad austere at worst, but Orwell presents some of them as downright “controversial.” Dare he so boldly insist upon drinking only out of a “good breakfast cup,” de-creaming milk before pouring it into tea, and never, ever using strainers nor bags?

Douglas-Adams

He does indeed. History has remembered Orwell as one of authoritarianism’s most outspoken enemies, but clearly he had moments, especially when it came to his beverage of choice, where he himself would brook no dissent. Decades later, a much more easygoing writer would make his own contribution to the literature of English tea procedure: A short piece by Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams suggests that you “go to Marks and Spencer and buy a packet of Earl Grey tea” (this may, depending upon your location, require an overseas trip), that “the water has to be boiling (not boiled) when it hits the tea leaves,” and that “it’s probably best to put some milk into the bottom of the cup before you pour in the tea,” since “if you pour milk into a cup of hot tea you will scald the milk.” Though we here at Open Culture have made no secret of our interest in coffee, how could we turn down a cup of tea made to the standards of such well-respected men of letters?

via BoingBoing

Related Content:

10 Golden Rules for Making the Perfect Cup of Tea (1941)

Epic Tea Time with Alan Rickman

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.


by | Permalink | Comments (7) |

Comments (7)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  1. Betty Aberlin says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 6:43 am

    next to your bed LIES

  2. Peter J. Kraus says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 9:07 am

    Keeping in mind that Douglas Adams spent the last years of his life in Santa Barbara, California, it meant an overseas trip for him, too.

  3. BarerMender says . . . | July 8, 2013 / 9:08 am

    They’re entitled to their half-assed opinions. Milk in the tea. Blech. Earl Grey? Kid stuff.

  4. tovangar2 says . . . | July 17, 2013 / 12:23 am

    Can’t anybody get anything right? Putting the milk in the cup first will result in scalded milk. Milk after, when one can see what one’s doing.

    And please do have some sugar if you like.

    Don’t listen to those two blokes, I’M mother.

  5. Jonathan says . . . | July 17, 2013 / 12:33 am

    The “milk in first” is, I’m led to believe, for drinking tea from china. It was believed that pouring boiling water in to china would crack it (and it was expensive in those days). Nothing to do with scalding the milk (it would work both ways, surely?)
    If using a tea pot I tend to put milk in first, though it risks the tea being too milky.
    If using a tea bag, milk afterwards, always, as the water needs to be boiling.
    For americans: boiling = boiling, not “very hot”. And you take the tea bag out after brewing, don’t leave it in.
    But green tea: let the water cool first.
    Earl Grey: just chuck it in the bin and get some proper tea.

  6. Paul Downie says . . . | July 17, 2013 / 1:27 am

    Orwell was a literary genius: but putting the milk in last … ?

    Ye GODS

  7. Lee says . . . | July 17, 2013 / 9:16 am

    I prefer the tea plain.

Add a comment

Quantcast