The perfect cup of tea


It was Julie herself who suggested I write a post about the perfect cup of tea, which strikes me as funny, given her imperfect manifesto. Julie is a passionate defender of the imperfect, but her staff joke that making a feeble cup of tea for Julie is a sackable offence. Julie’s rules (when using a bag – she prefers a pot, of course) include leaving the bag in for 3 minutes, no jiggling, no sugar, and pouring in enough milk to achieve a colour she likes to call ‘artificial limb’. You probably know the colour she means.

Writer, thinker, tea drinker George Orwell wrote an essay about this in 1946 or so entitled ‘a nice cup of tea.’ Orwell was a staunch international socialist and fervent advocate of democracy, but in this essay he comes across as a sort of tea obsessed dictator putting down 11 hard and fast rules that govern tea making which you-ignore-at-your-peril. What’s with all this law making and table thumping in pursuit of the perfect cuppa, George? We are all of us riddled with contradictions and small hypocrisies of course, but let’s not get too hung up on tea making when there are much bigger things to be cranky about, like the evils of Colonialism and the exploitation of the workers.

As for me, I’m pretty laissez-faire these days. Tea can come from a bag or a pot, and it can be served in a china cup or a mug. Tea might mean green or black or jasmine tea. It might be peppermint or lemon and ginger or a mellow spicy chai. I’m up for all of those depending on what mood I’m in and whether the milk’s still good. When I want something a bit special though I head for some good loose leaf Earl Grey and make up a pot. Warm the pot first and be generous with your leaves – that’s not a rule, just a suggestion. I still use the tea cosy my friend Vic gave me 15 years ago, which she bought from the Red Cross on Clarence Street where you give blood, which I swear makes it taste so good, even Orwell might approve.

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