Good Food Blog
Tea for twoPosted at 11:45AM, 21 January 2010 by Stuart Walton - Food and wine writer
If you want a job doing, we say up north, do it yourself. It's the only way things ever get done properly, or at least in a way that suits you. Never is this more true than when it comes to making tea or coffee.
There is a whole culture of mutual support in homes and workplaces when it comes to brewing up hot drinks. We welcome in the dear old friend and the nattering neighbour by putting the kettle on, and we take it in turns in the office to make rounds of sustaining cuppas for everyone around us. And yet... it can all go so wrong.
If well-meaning friends and colleagues get it wrong, it's so hard to grin and bear it
The making of tea and coffee is surely the one category in all of eating and drinking where our preferences are more sharply defined than any other. If well-meaning friends and colleagues get it wrong, it's so hard to grin and bear it. Those first few sips are a torment, a terrible waste of an opportunity. A poor cup of tea or coffee is like an unintended insult.
Having struggled bravely through the eras of home coffee technology, I've found - sad to say -that there isn't a domestic machine in existence that I want my coffee made in. Not filter-machines, not espresso machines, not steamers. I don't mind cafetière coffee, as long as you can't stand the spoon up in it, but mostly, I just want a cup of decent instant, with plenty of coffee and plenty of milk too. Virtually nobody can get their head round this.
Now to the real minefield. Hands up anybody who knows how to make a decent cup of tea. We are the nation of tea-drinkers. We are so devoted to tea that we (sort of) lost the north American colonies over it. It is the cup that cheers. If only...
Commit these simple principles to memory. You absolutely mustn't put the milk in until the tea bag has served its purpose, otherwise the fat globules in the milk gum it up. It needs less milk than coffee because the water has had a chance to cool down a little, and you don't want lukewarm tea or anything that could be described as beige.
Having said that, my parents react with horror when they see me putting a tea bag into each of three mugs. There is a teapot after all, which is evidently much less wasteful. But then here's my own shameful confession. I don't really know how to make tea in a pot. If you don't use one bag per person, how many do you use? And as to loose tea leaves , I wouldn't know where to begin. A little help?