I read an article recently, George Owell's 11 Golden rules of making perfect cup of tea, on TheKitchn.com, by Cambria Bold. Absolutely love it! It's very informative. I made some notes based upon Mr. Owell's golden rules (his rules in Italian while my comments right below)
I did a quick research on the web about George Owell:
Based upon wikipedia, George Owell was born in India in 1903 (one year older than my grandpa), died in 1950. Grew up in a "lower-upper-middle class family and moved from places to places, Mr. Owell was a heavy smoker and loved strong tea. By profession, he was a journalist. One time he ate cat's dinner by mistake. (how??) His sister Avril actually ran a tea house in England at that time. This info explains why and where he got his 11 golden rules of a nice cup of tea.
First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.
1. Mr. Orwell lived during World Wars era. After Opium War (1884), India and Sri Lanka stayed dominant for Black tea export. Chinese tea industry was almost completely destroyed during the war times. So Mr. Orwell didn't really have the right access to good quality Chinese tea.
2. Throughout history, teas for export were not premium quality due to high duties and high manufacturing costs.
3. He mentioned "stimulation", which indicates high volume of Caffeine content. Depends on how tea is brewed, but in general black teas contain higher percentage of caffeine than green tea, mainly due to the varieties of tea leaves used to make black tea and when tea leaves are harvested. Caffeine tastes bitter, which mainly contributes the strength of cuppa tea. Since he was a heavy smoker, his taste buds surely need "stronger stimulation". More caffeine helps keep Mr. Orwell staying alert, thus "wiser & braver". But based upon scientific research today, strong tea may not be a good thing for health.
Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britannia ware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.
In traditional Chinese tea ceremony, only smaller teapots and tea cup sets are used. There are reasons for that-smaller teapot sets 1) allow tea drinkers to identify the key characteristics of tea in depth; 2) help bring more balanced flavors and stronger aroma out of tea. If bigger pot, like urn is used, tea gets diluted, both aroma and taste. Even if more tea leaves are added, the tea drinking experiences are completely different between the two different brewing devices: smaller teapots vs urn. It's like sip vs drink: one is to appreciate the love of labor and the present from nature, while another one is to crunch the thirst.
Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.
This is absolutely classic, Mr. Orwell! I would assume the "hob" here refers to tea warmer? During tea ceremony, hot water constantly are poured on teapot directly to keep the teapot hot. This helps tea release aroma and stay strong. In most of times, tea gets condensed when sitting on tea warmer.
Let me do a quick survey: who warms the teapot before brewing tea? Leave a comment below if you do!
Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.
Don't agree with this one. Regardless personal preferences, from health perspective, light tea is highly recommended.
Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.
For whole leaf tea, absolutely agree with this one! Strainers help separate tea leaves from the liquid, but limit the space for tea leaves to expand.
There's another reason not to use strainer-beautifully processed tea leaves create a dynamic and artful presentation when soaked in water-some leaves up, some leaves down; some leaves fully opened while others half display; the beautiful colors of leaves bring nature to the cup. This is another way to appreciate the top skills of tea masters who make the tea.
Another thing Mr. Owell didn't cover is the CTC tea. CTC tea is the modern invention from the industrialization. It brings down the costs of tea manufacturing thus makes it one of the most popular drink world wide possible. For CTC tea or smaller sized tea leaves, strainer should be used.
|George Owell on Time mag|
Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.
During tea ceremony, it's important to keep teapot hot. Normally water freshly boiled is better to be used to brew tea. If keeping tea kettle on the flame all the time, it causes liquid to evaporate, which impacts the tea brewed.
Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.
Depends on leaves: when brew regular leaves, it helps tea leaves release the tastes and aroma faster when stirring or shaking it. For much younger leaves, especially tender silver needles green tea (top grades), or Bi Luo Chun, no need to shake or stir.
Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.
It's my impression that English tea cups are transformed from the Chinese Gai Wan, traditional tea drinking device. The size and shape allows everyone to
1) finish it without getting cold;
2)enough volume to leave nice aroma on the cup wall;
3)good size to refill water to the body after few hours sleep
4)Enough caffeine to wake the spirit up and catch the 5 am train;)
|Traditional Gai Wan|
Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.
Original English tea doesn't have any milk or sugar added. Milk, etc is added to tea partially to blend local food culture into tea drinking. Other things added to tea include garlic, onion, spices, etc. This is especially true after CTC tea becomes popular. Regular CTC teas are made of more mature tea leaves, very strong, not much complexity. It's almost undrinkable if without milk added.
There are pros and cons of adding milk to tea. Or it depends on what kind of you drink. Maybe Mr. Owell was trying to create his own style of tea drinking. Adding cream to tea, in my view, creates a little bit texture to the drink. It's like cappuccino for coffee. However, mixing milk with tea can negatively impact the function of tannins, active components of health benefits tea brings to the table-weight loss.
Another thing, try to avoid drinking tea with an empty stomach. In Asia, people normally pair tea with nuts, biscuits, etc to protect stomach.
Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.
- School #1: milk first tea added later-possible beginning tea drinker or someone who used to drink milk. Add tea to get some health benefits or tastes.
- School #2: tea first then add milk later-possible regular tea drinker.
One thing worth to try, if you are used to add milk to tea, try hot milk! The hot mixture brings out nice aroma of tea and milk combined.
Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.
Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.
Mr. Owell is truly a tea enthusiast-He enjoyed the natural taste of tea, instead of mixing with anything else. This is typically all tea professionals would do-drink tea only, without mixing anything else. This allows people to identify the nuances between different teas.
It's like Whisky-serious whisky drinkers enjoy more the single malt whisky, instead of cocktails.
However, we should always have side snacks when drinking tea, including starch/sweet snacks, nuts.
These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tea leaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one’s ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.
Well, I think I just completed my own "A nice cup of tea" essay!!! Right after I wrote my response, I found similar article posted by Stephen Hough on Telegraph.co.uk. Enjoyed reading people's comments as well
Do you drink tea? what's your favorite tea?