Time for Tea, continued…

This is my favorite tea mug. Hands down.

I don’t know why, it just feels right when I use it for my tea. It was given to Scott and I as part of a dinner set when we were married. It’s part of the Bilton range, and I only had one left until I discovered, to my great delight, several more on EBay last year.

I can remember tea cup selection being very important growing up. Relatives actually used to get in bad moods if the preferred type of cup wasn’t available. Which is a bit difficult for the hostess to figure out since it’s such an incredibly individual choice.

My Nana, for example. When roadside caravans selling tea popped up, it wouldn’t have been too unreasonable to have imagined seeing her approach one with a crucifix.

Because they had foam cups.

No, no, no. Tea does not taste the same out of a foam cup. Ideally, tea should be served in a fine china cup, with a white interior, and preferably with a saucer. If you really had to go steerage, a mug (with a white interior) would do.

It’s all about how the cup feels at your lips, according to my mum. I’ve seen her in nice department stores, holding up a variety of china cups to her lips “to make sure it feels right…”

I’ve noticed myself doing this of late…

And then there’s the tea-making itself.

As far as I can remember, my family has always used tea bags, although I don’t think they’d been used in Britain with great hurrah for very long when I was born. A “proper” cup of tea was always made with loose leaves, in a tea pot.

One teaspoon of loose black tea (known as English breakfast tea stateside) per person plus one for the pot. In a separate kettle, water was boiled (completely boiled, do not even think of suggesting to me that the hot water tap on a commercial coffee machine is hot enough…) and poured on top of the leaves.

Don’t even think about microwaving the water. You’re welcome to a weird grey cuppa if you do.

Let it brew for 2-3 mins and pour it through a strainer into your cup. Add milk and your preferred sweetener, and that my friends, is a proper cup.

While the American population took to tea bags with enthusiasm, the British were naturally wary of such a radical change in their tea-making methods. This was not helped by horror stories told by Britons who had visited the USA, who reported being served cups of tepid water with a tea bag on the side waiting to be dunked into it (an experience which is still not as uncommon in the USA as it should be!).

Teabag and loose leaf tea

The material shortages of World War Two also stalled the mass adoption of tea bags in Britain, and it was not until the 1950s that they really took off. The 1950’s were a highly popular time for all sorts of gadgets, and the tea bag, eliminating the need of emptying out the pot of its dregs, fell right into the idea of American and British Dream!

Well, maybe.

When I first arrived in America, to my dismay, I discovered that I couldn’t find a proper tea bag anywhere, let alone loose leaf. My mum, when she visited, used to stuff her shoes full of PG Tips tea bags and tuck them all over the place in her suitcase. We worried that we were breaking some rule and a little sniffer dog would arrest her at the airport, but the desire for a proper brew countered that.

It was either that or Luzianne.

Blggh. What is this iced tea nonsense, my friends?

It’s like someone was making a perfectly good cup of tea, forgot about it, and left it on the counter to get cold and bitter. 😝

We throw that away, not add ice for goodness sake.

What in the whatee whats ?

I tried, really really tried hard to like iced tea. In fear that I would never find a respectable tea bag for hot tea again, I tried iced tea with ice, with sweetener, with lemon.

Couldn’t do it. So we just smuggled them past the customs Beagle, which turned out to be a total non-crime anyway.

And then Amazon solved the problem forever…

This is my current favorite tea. I’m trying out a new sort of patriotism since I recently found out that I’m a descendant of the Duncan clan, right on the edge of the Highlands. My Poppy is a Duncan, so I’ve been slowly tracking back, hitting a few stone cairns along the way….

It actually looks like I have a many-greats Aunty from Tranent who was executed as a witch, simply because the poor woman knew her herbal medicines and successfully fixed people’s ills.

Big no no.

It was the 1500’s so apparently we are supposed to let that slide 🙄. I bet she would have liked a chance to brew up a really good cup of “tea” for her bailiffs….

She was far from being the only woman tried for witchcraft because they did common sense things like giving dandelion tea to someone with swollen ankles, or swinging a newborn lamb to clear its lungs. By goodness, if it worked it must be the black arts apparently….

Sorry, Aunty Gellie.


Anyway, following on from last week’s story, Scott is now a big tea connoisseur and has gotten into Darjeeling loose leaves from India, which is a touch flowery for my taste. I like a good strong black tea that leaves you somewhat twitchy after two cups.

Because “I’m a Scot, Scott…” I decided to try this delicious Scottish Tea Blend. Apparently it’s “especially blended for Scottish water” which clearly, is a bit hard to find in Central Illinois, but nevertheless makes a fabulous cuppa.

My other favorite is this one:

This one has a bit of a story. We used to order PG Tips on subscription from Amazon, for years. The story is that PG Tips has tea blenders, who go out to India and other locations and pick out which teas make up their signature blend, usually a very consistent thing.

And then all of a sudden, one day we opened a box, made some and decided something had happened. It wasn’t the same. Apparently the tea blenders had gotten a bit uppity and changed the blend up.


So we switched. We love the Yorkshire Gold.

Couple of important points about tea making:

We don’t use lemon, Just milk and sugar or sweetener. Yes, I know they do lemon in the rest Europe and this is why the British argue with all their neighbors across the channel.

No lemon.

No cream! Cream is only for coffee, and milk is for tea. People get confused by this in America because they’ve heard of the term “cream tea”. That term has nothing to do with cream being put in tea, and I’ll clear up the confusion next time.

Ooh, one more thing. When you serve someone a cup of hot tea, there should not be bubbles. I’ve never been grounded, but I came close one day when I made my mum a cup of tea with bubbles.

But we’re a fairly easy-going nation otherwise….😁

3 thoughts on “Time for Tea, continued…

  1. Love your blog Sam.
    Totally agree, it has to be the right cup. I like a really fine lip.
    And tea type…. I’m mostly into Green with ginger at the moment.


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