How to Make a Good Cup of Tea

After years of not being dexterous enough to drink a hot beverage without burning the crap out of myself, I have finally worked out how to make and drink a good cup of hot tea.  This achievement pleases the Anglophile inside me, but I can’t take full credit for the discovery.  It’s mostly down to the awesomeness of Douglas Adams.

The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas AdamsThe Salmon of Doubt, a posthumous collection of Adams’ shorter pieces, includes an essay he wrote* on how to make a proper cup of tea.  In his experience, Americans have no idea how to make tea correctly, so he explained it in depth for those of us who live on this side of the Atlantic.  I’ve taken his instructions to heart and adapted them to suit brewing a single cup at a time.

Here’s what I do.

First, boil a kettle full of water.  I use one of those old school copper bottom kettles from Revere Ware.  While the water is boiling, I gather a cup, organic half and half, a spoon, the sugar bowl and a tea bag.  (Yes, I said real cream and sugar.  Not only do they taste better, they have got to be better for you than aspartame or that low fat powdered chemical creamer crap.)

I’m going to stop right here and explain something about tea shopping to Southerners like me.  Iced tea and hot tea are two different animals.  Do not try to get away with using iced tea for brewing hot tea.  Buy proper black tea, either loose or in teabags, like Twinings or (my favorite) PG Tips.  I prefer regular old PG Tips because it has a good strong tea flavor without adding citrus flavors that would conflict with the cream.  It is a bog-standard, no-frills go-to tea.

Once your kettle is whistling, pour boiling water into the cup and dump it out again.  Why?  You want absolutely boiling water to hit the teabag.  Warming the cup first keeps the boiling water hotter and improves the brew.  Add your half-and-half first, then put in the bag and pour water over both bag and cream.  If you do it in this order, you won’t scald the cream.



Steep the tea for 3 minutes.  Remove the bag and sweeten to taste.

Ahhh.  Isn’t that a lovely cup of tea?

Adams’ essay describes the full method for brewing a pot of tea, so if you want your tea in bulk, please follow his tasty advice.  So long, Doug, and thanks for all the tea!

*Adams, Douglas. “Tea” The Salmon of Doubt. New York: Harmony Books, 2002., p. 67-9.

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