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The perfect cup of tea

January 30, 2009 |  7:23 am

Teapot

In our ongoing conversation about the world’s second-most-consumed beverage—tea—we noticed a lot of discussion over how to make the perfect cup of tea.

Opinions vary greatly, but this is for sure: people are passionate about their brew. George Orwell, who gave the world "1984" and "Animal Farm," also gave us an instructional essay called “A Nice Cup of Tea.”

In his short work, he laid the foundation for his ideal version of the drink. Here are Orwell’s 11 Golden Rules:

1) One should use Indian or Ceylon tea. Not tea from China.

2) Tea should be made in a teapot.

3)  The pot should be warmed beforehand, over direct heat.

4)  Tea should be made strong. For a one-quart teapot, use six heaped teaspoons of tea.

5)  The tea should be put directly into the pot. “No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea.”

6)  Take the pot to the boiling kettle.

7)  Stir the tea after making it.

8)  Drink out of a tall, cylindrical cup. No shallow cups.

9)  Don’t add milk that is too creamy.

10)  One should pour the tea into the cup first, not the milk first. [Orwell maintained that this was the most controversial of his rules].

11)  No sugar!

Well, Mr. Orwell had his points, though we are sure many a tea drinker would beg to differ with his instructions.

Locally, the Vintage Tea Leaf tearoom in Long Beach advocates the following tea steeping times to allow for maximum flavor:

Tea Steeping or Infusion Chart

Green teas: 1 to 2 minutes
Oolongs: 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 minutes
Black teas: 3 to 4 minutes
Chai: 5 minutes
Herbals: 5 to 7 minutes
White teas: 7 to 8 minutes
Tisanes: 7 to 9 minutes

The 12-year old Long Beach shop also reminds drinkers: “If your tea is too strong, decrease the amount of tea that you use; if it is too weak, increase the amount of tea. Do not change the infusion time to change the strength of the tea.”

A clever point.

Tea is both ceremonial and simple. Elegant and plain. From Russia to Japan, from India to Morocco, every culture has its own way of preparing, serving and drinking.

What’s your tea story? What’s your idea of the perfect cup?

--Lori Kozlowski

Photo credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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