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Created with Fabric.js 1.4.5 "A Nice Cup of Tea" by George Orwell "A Nice Cup of Tea" by George Orwell Originally published on 12 January 1946, in the Evening Standard If you look up tea in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned;or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the mostimportant points.This is curious, not only because tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire,Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points.On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutelycontroversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despisednowadays 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 comfortingphrase a nice cup of tea invariably means Indian tea.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 orearthenware. Silver or Britannia ware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; thoughcuriously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usualmethod of swilling it out with hot water.Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, sixheaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on everyday of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea loversnot only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes a fact which is recognisedin the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.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, whichare 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.Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boilingat the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people addthat one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes anydifference.Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing theleaves to settle.Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallowtype. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind ones tea is always half cold before one has wellstarted on it.Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea asickly taste.Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in everyfamily in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forwardsome fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting thetea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put intoo much milk if one does it the other way round.Lastly, tea unless one is drinking it in the Russian style should be drunk without sugar. I know very wellthat I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of yourtea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, justas 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 dont like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed andstimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking teawithout sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to showhow 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 subsidiaryuses of tea leaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns andsweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is reallyboiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of ones ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces,properly handled, ought to represent.
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