Tea is a drink that fits almost every occation. Hot when you are cold,
relaxing when you are tense, refreshing when you are tired, always a
handy comforter ...
Here follows a short introduction for those who have yet to see the light.
When the boiling water has been added to the teapot the tea is said to
be Wet, as in "I've just wet the tea" or "Is the tea wet yet?"
When the tea is suitable for drinking (i.e. it's been wet for 3 to 7
minutes depending on variety of tea) it is said to be Drawn, as in
"The tea should be drawn by now. Please pour me out a cup."
Always remember to prepare your tea properly.
- Preheat the pot by pouring hot water into it.
- Always use fresh, cold water for the tea.
- Boil it just to point when the bubbles have the size of a cod's eye.
- Measure one teaspoon of tea per cup, and one for the pot.
- Pour the boiling water into the pot.
- Leave it alone for 3-5 minutes (Indian and African teas), or 5-7
minutes (Chinese and Japanese teas).
- Fill your favorite cup through a sieve.
- Add a dose of milk to all kinds of tea, except for Green Tea and
Gun Powder (and for God's sake, don't use that horrible lowfat diet
stuff they sell as milk! 2,5-4 % milk fat. No more - no less!).
You should ensure that the water used to make the tea is not "hard",
i.e., it should have as little lime in it as possible. If you you
find a light scum on top of your tea then this may be the problem. A
sure warning sign of "hard" water is when you find the locals using an
open saucepan for boiling their water rather than a kettle.
Solutions to this problem include investing in a water softner,
migration, and the use of bottled water (but note that Perrier is
unsuitable due to bubble confusion while boiling). Migration is the
preferred solution, although in in extreme cases emigration may be
necessary. This is a small price to pay for a good cup of tea.
There are two types of teapot - those that pour badly and those that
pour well. It is essential to obtain the latter type. Factors which
determine a teapot's suitability include origin, length, and cross
section of spout, lid shape (A friend of mine bought a teapot in
Eastern Europe, brought it home without breaking it, put the lid on,
and didn't get it open again for two years), overall volume, and
thermal conductivity. The characteristics of the handle are less
important although they shouldn't be completely ignored.
The only way to find a good teapot is by trial and error. Simulation
tools, finite element analysis and the theory of fluid dynamics seem
to be of little use where teapots are concerned. This might explain
why there are so many non-pouring teapots around.
It is essential that the teapot be thermally insulated from the time
the tea is wet. The best way to achieve this is with a tea cosy (a
hat for a teapot) and a teapot stand (a pedestal for a teapot).
The Tea Cosy
The cosy should be the correct size. Note that the spouts and handles
of many teapots are such that a cosy with one hole (topologically a
disk) is sufficient. Such a cosy can be removed and replaced with
each pour. If a proper cosy isn't available, a thick towel folded
around the teapot may suffice.
A teapot with tea in it should under no circumstances be heated or
even warmed by any external source. Tea treated in this fashion is
said to be "stewed".
The Teapot Stand
The teapot stand must be made of insulating material. A metal stand
(of any temperature) is unsuitable for this purpose. A wooden stand
is ideal. A minor side effect of having a good teapot stand is that
furniture tends to end up with less dark rings burnt into it.
The permitted additives are milk, sugar, and lemon. Including milk
AND lemon is inadvisable. The more exotic flavours of tea are
best without additives.
Sugar is optional, but when included, should always be added after the
tea and before the milk (if any). If you find undissolved sugar at
the bottom of the cup or mug after drinking then you are either using
too much sugar or not stirring hard enough.
Milk (if used) should be cow's milk. (Discussion on the sorely missed
Many people will pour milk directly into a boiling cup of tea;
this scalds the milk. Scalding the milk will add a mild but
unpleasant flavor to the tea. The ways of avoiding this are
many and varied.
One way is simply to mix the sweeteners in a cool (room temp will do)
tea cup with a very small amount of tea, allowing the tea time enough
to cool in the cup. Once the tea has cooled some, you can add the
milk. Pour a slow stream of tea down the side of the cup while
rotating the cup and pouring down a cool face of the side (cooling the
tea) in order to cut the milk to a lower concentration (1/8 or less)
before adding the rest of the tea. Alternatively you can pour the tea
down the back of a spoon (silver, gold, thermally conductive plastic,
no steel or tin).
Another method is tricky but can work if your in a rush: having poured
the cup, scoop up some tea in a spoon, hold the spoon tilted ever so
slightly toward the outside of the cup, touching the side of the cup,
and very slowly pour the milk into the spoon. The spoon will overflow,
allow this, but as soon as the contents of the spoon appear to be
mostly milk stir quickly at the tea and repeat as necessary. Although
the second method may seem complicated and time consuming, it is easy
to get used to and can be done in less than ten seconds if you have
the milk handy (and aren't adding many tablespoons of milk to the
After adding sugar and/or milk the tea should be stirred with a
teaspoon. The stirring can be done in either a clockwise or
anti-clockwise direction, but not both (believe it or not, they would
cancel each other out - I've seen it done with ink blobs). Speed of
stirring isn't critical. The production of a vortex (or malström
in Scandinavia) about one third the depth of the cup or mug will do.
If you do use sugar, it's best to stir the tea before as well as after
adding the milk. This makes the sugar disolve quicker and has the
added bonus that if you get disturbed during the ceremony, return
later and can't remember whether you've added the sugar or not, then
all you have to do is examine the surface of the tea - if it's moving
in the right direction, then you know you've added and stirred the
sugar. Note that if you can't remember whether you've added the milk
or not, then something is very wrong.
The cup or mug
Some sort of glazed pottery or china is best. Plastic or styrofoam
cups are only to be used in emergencies. While the ideal size of cup
varies with personal tea drinking habits, the serious tea drinker will
demand that the handle be large enough to accommodate at least two and
possibly three fingers. A circular cross-section is almost mandatory
for correct stirring effect. The walls of the cup or mug should be
thick enough to keep the tea hot for a reasonable length of time, and
to protect it from careless non-drinkers.
In an office environment it is essential to guard your mug jealously.
In some workplaces it may be advisable to keep the mug about your
person at all times.
Tea as an analgesic
Tea which has been allowed to cool is very good for
relieving pain due to sunburn. Just dab the cold tea
on the affected area with cotton wool or similar.
Tea as an organic fertilizer
In Ireland, a company is making potting compost out of used tea
leaves, and selling it to gardeners.
Tea as a cosmetic
Keep the cucumbers for sandwiches on the lawn, lie back and place one
discarded teabag over each eyelid. Very refreshing in the afternoon
(or so I'm told).
Tea as a recreational drug
When my mother was a child she and some of the other kids borrowed her
grand aunt's pipe one day, filled it with tea leaves, lit it, and
passed it amongst themselves. Suffice it to say that none of them
smokes tea now.
Always avoid unnatural teas, with the myriad of flavours that overflow
the market, ranging from strawberry to mint and liquorice. Look for
the pure tastes. Tea tastes just fine all by itself. E.g., try
There are two flavors that might be honored, although they are
synthetical, and they are
- Assam is a very dark Indian tea from the Assam region with
strong taste. It's a bit sweet, and is well suited for breakfast.
Soft, yet firm.
- Kenya is even darker and sweeter, but looses a little on
balance and harmony. Good support during an afternoon full of work.
- Formosa Oolong is much milder, less sweet. Helps you when you
are sad. Said to be the "Queen of Tea".
- Darjeeling doesn't give the experienced tea drinker much
of a kick. Could be useful hot afternoons during your vacation, when
you are reading the newspaper in the hammock.
- Yunnan is a middle ranger. Has a little of the softness of
Formosa Oolong, and a little of the strength of Assam. Not bad at all,
not bad at all ... quite good, actually!
- Puh-Er has earned the nickname "Mud Tea" or "Swamp Tea". It is
an acquired taste, but once you are there ...
Finally a warning. Do whatever you can to avoid Finnish
Christmas Tea. It is the one single kind of tea that has to be
classified as totally undrinkable. Scented with orange, clove, and
cardamom. It simply defies all description. Fortunatelly extremely
rare on the market.
- Lapsang Souchong, which is smoked tea. Sharp tea that
clears your thought and gives your body the right spirit for work.
Best tea ever during the night before your final exam. Comes in two
grades: normal Lapsang, and Formosa Lapsang. Formosa Lapsang leaves
black tar markings in your mug. Need I say more?
- Earl Grey. The world's most well known tea. The soft
flavour of the Bergamotte Oil gives this tea its extraordinary, well
known taste. Not to be drunk before 4 PM in the afternoon. Softens
your brain, and makes you relax after a hard day's work. The original
blend and the "trade mark" are claimed by Jackson's Tea in London, and
they truly have the most excellent version, with Twining's close
Did I hear Tea Bags from someone in the audience? No, I though
not. Let's leave it like that, shall we?
Feeling tempted? Have a look at the ecxellent selections at
The Tea Centre of Stockholm,
or why not try ordering some really good from Todd & Holland Tea
Merchants, via the Internet?
If you happen to understand the strange language of Swedish, I can
recommend the page called Tebladet
(the tea leaf), made by the Swedish tea importers Kobbs Te and
Tespecialisten. Much relevant and interesting information there.
A million thanks to Fergal Suipeil, who contributed all text about tea
equipment and water! A tea master of rank!
Thanks also to Patrik Fältström, for finding the URL to Todd &
Holland, and to my wife, Lena, for the Tebladet pointers.
Special thanks also to Asa Bender for the hints on how to properly add
milk to your tea.
Have you got any more info on tea? Please, tell me!
liman .at. cafax .dot. se
Page updated: 2005-11-02 /Liman.