One cannot deny the optimism, relief or permission to pause that comes with the offer of a cup of tea. This exotic leaf has come to symbolise the buoyant spirit and steadfastness of Britain’s moral fibre. One therefore ought to give its preparation due process:
1. If using a teapot for loose leaf tea (loose leaf tea must on no account turn up in individual cups), warm the pot first with hot water. A cup on its own should receive the teabag prior to the arrival of water in order to maximise infusion. A teabag loitering on a saucer waiting to be dunked is simply not permitted, there’s nothing worse than an unsightly seeping aftermath.
2. Once the kettle has boiled, immediately pour the bubbling water into your vessel of choice. Wide, shallow cups should be avoided in order to swerve rapid temperature loss. Loose leaf tea should be stirred initially, while teabags should be submerged and left to brew.
3. Science says milk first because it cools the water, which stops it becoming ‘denatured’ (spoiled by the heat). Social correctness and George Orwell disagree. ‘By putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk,’ Orwell wrote, ‘whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.’ We’re siding with George.