The English Tea Ceremony

TeabagsI’m something of a drinks expert. Something. Ask me anything about any drink and I can impart some knowledge about it.

Water? Hard water tastes better than soft water. There! That’s some quality drinks expert knowledge right there. Real ale? Awesome! That sort of drinks expert analysis only comes free right here. Campari? Satan’s bitter, bloody spunk. I feel your mind expanding with these tidbits of expert knowledge. Well, get ready to explode! I’m about to tell you all about the English Tea Ceremony.

Tea is England’s national drink, yet if you mention tea ceremonies it’s to the Far East that everyone turns; Japan, China, Vietnam, Lowestoft. Stop looking that way! Turn back and look at England. We’ve got your tea ceremonies covered with regional variations that will make your head spin and today I’m going to step through the process of a specific English tea-making ceremony that I like to call "The Proper Way To Make A Lovely Cup Of Tea."

1. Type Of Tea

There are many types of tea – Assam, Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Yellow, Mister – but they generally all suffer from one flaw when it comes to tasting: they aren’t very nice, and that last one will punch you when you try to check it out.

In addition to the types there are a number of delivery systems: leaves, bags, hypodermic needles. Of these three, leaves will make you choke and apparently my almost child-friendly packaging for neOnbubble Injected Tea isn’t good enough for Sainbury’s.

For a proper cup of tea one needs to find teabags with a specific blend and a specific shape. The shape of the bag is very important. A square bag in a round mug causes all sorts of geometric problems when it comes to tea-taste dispersion through the water (didn’t that sound scientific?). A pyramid-shaped bag channels energy from the ethereal plane through to the base of the mug upsetting the delicate balance of life force pervasive in the infusion (didn’t that sound like a load of old claptrap?)

The type of tea you want, therefore, is Tetley Round Teabags. No other choice will do.

2. Heating The Water

Some people advocate the use of stove-top kettles or cauldrons or setting the shower to its hottest setting but, for me, an electric kettle is the simplest way to get the water to the correct temperature.

It is vitally important that you not let the water boil dry: this will leave you with no water at all and your tea may then not be as good as it could be. Fortunately, with an electric kettle this is not likely to happen.

Similarly, it is vitally important that you not use boiling water. The heating of the water should be stopped immediately prior to coming to a boil. Boiling water contains bubbles of super-heated oxygen spheres which can cause damage to the seams of the tea bags leading to a risk of leaf-spill. This can affect the aesthetics of your finished tea and may induce spluttering during drinking which is frowned upon when you’re facing a portrait of Her Majesty as, indeed, you should be whenever tea is involved.

3. The English Tea Ceremony

Place the Tetley Round Teabag in the base of a mug.

Slowly pour the sub-boiling water into the mug. As the teabag rises with the water level adjust your pouring so that you stream the water through every part of the bag in order that every leaf is hit by the hot cascade and encouraged to release its tasty blend into the fluid. For men: imagine that you have just discovered a toilet bowl into which someone has poured thick blue bleach under the rim and it is now your solemn duty to direct your stream in such a way as to wipe it all out before you flush; it’s the same thing.

The water should come to no more than 1.5 centimetres from the rim of the mug. Cease pouring before this point, or have a straw and lip burn salve handy.

With a small spoon – a teaspoon is ideal for this – stir in an anticlockwise direction around the teabag. Start slowly, but gradually increase speed in order that a vortex is generated which allows the bag to spin nearly vertically in the centre of the mug. You should stir no more than sixteen times. Remove the spoon from the mug and ensure that the teabag is rotating at 2.3 revolutions per second.

Fetch milk from the fridge. The milk you use is full fat milk. Not semi-skimmed. Definitely not skimmed. Think about condensed milk and you will face a bludgeoning. Use powdered milk and die a horrible, horrible death. Also: cow milk. That’s important too. Not goat milk, or rat milk, or "hey, my wife’s lactating, let’s try that!" milk. Normal, tasty milk.

The teabag should now have slowed down to 0.6 revolutions per second. Using the spoon, swiftly scoop the teabag and press it against the inside of the mug, squeezing its innards, causing it to writhe in joyful agony and squirt out its yummy juices. Lift the teabag from the mug and drop the bag into the bin.

Pour the milk into the tea-infused water and stir to mix the contents as you do so. You are looking for a very specific colour to blossom; it is the colour that tells you when you have added enough milk. The colour you are looking for is #bfab7a. For those who are making tea and who haven’t come across hex codes for web colours before a handy chart is provided below.

Tea Chart

4. Sugar?

What is it honeybunch?

Ha ha, no, that’s just an English Tea Ceremony joke. The correct response is: no.

5. Post-Ceremony Steps

With some kitchen towel clean up where the water splashed out of the mug while you were pouring it, where the milk splashed over the microwave while you were pouring it, where the teabag squirted over the cupboard as you squeezed it, where the bag subsequently dripped over the bin lid as you went to dispose of it, all the drips down the hallway because you clonked your elbow against the kitchen door carrying the mug to the living room, and, finally, the base of the mug.

You have now made a lovely cup of tea. Enjoy.

Author: Mark

Share This Post On


  1. I demand a twitter button, so I can twat this post.

    Post a Reply
  2. Blasphemy. Yorkshire tea and soft water. So there. 😀

    Post a Reply
  3. You have shown great restraint in tea-drinking at our house. We use pyramid tea-bags, pour skimmed milk and the tea-bags are dunked and not subjected to centripital forces.

    Of course, your politeness is probably due to the fact that tea is followed by some sort of ale-quaffing at the nearest pub…

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *