(CNN) – In June 2020, the British put their differences aside to condemn brazen aggression against their country.
It was the most disrespectful disregard for Anglo-American conventions since a group of dubiously dressed Bostonians tossed a load of loose sheets of paper into the harbor.
But why are we British so weirdly interested in this humble brown liquid?
A little bit of history: the unbritish nature of tea through and through
Tea is the most british thing ever until you take two seconds to google it. It’s grown in China, India, Africa, Sri Lanka, of course … the list goes on but the UK isn’t on it.
The largest tea drinking nation in the world per capita? Turkey. The tea bag? Dreamed of by an American.
The English spy James Bond loathes a cup of coffee so much that he shoots a sexist / howling tirade in the novel “Goldfinger”: “I don’t drink tea. I hate it. It’s mud. It’s also one of the main reasons for the downfall.” of the British Empire. Be a good girl and make me coffee. ”
The British had their first affair with tea thanks to a Portuguese woman; Catherine of Braganza arrived in England in 1662 and made her favorite drink an indispensable fashion accessory among the cringing aristocrats. (Royalty has swallowed the stuff since then, with Twinings being Elizabeth II’s label of choice.)
The East India Company quickly caught on to this trend and monopolized the trade in Indian-grown leaves, often made through contract labor. The high taxes led to widespread smuggling, not to mention this whole Boston Tea Party escapade.
In 1784, Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger decided to introduce the Commutation Act, which cut tea taxes from 119% to 12.5%. Suddenly, the caffeinated thirst quencher wasn’t the few for many – and was subsequently carried by snappy clipper ships (another American invention), an explosion of Sri Lankan plantations, and a moderation movement that would clamor if just portrayed as a small glass of beer.
Benefits of tea
But tea really won people’s hearts for doing them good. Thanks to the boiled water, it warded off cholera – not to mention the British weather. Sweetened with milk and sugar, it invigorates and energizes the workers. Served as high tea with bread and cheese, it became an integral part of working class life – a frugal substitute for dinner.
Making Tea Properly: The Art (and Science) of the Perfect Cup
Kate Halloran, Tea Innovation Manager at Taylors, says if you use a jug the first thing to do is to warm it up by briefly swirling it in boiling water.
Everyone has their own tea ritual. But can we use science to give us a definitive answer?
A great sin does not incubate long enough. Farrimond’s advice is to pour just boiled water into a mug with a tea bag and then do something else for five minutes to allow it to brew completely. You will thank yourself shortly.
“After the waiting period, you will find that the flavored tea is also in the optimal temperature range to enjoy all the aromas,” says Farrimond, “There are more than 30,000 taste molecules in tea that all take time to develop. “(By the way, don’t try to cheat by squeezing the bag: you will end up with a bitter brew.)
A longer shelf life for the bag not only means more flavor is released, it also means more antioxidants and a stronger shot of caffeine. “A 30 second brew contains 35 milligrams of caffeine, while a five minute brew gives you 50 milligrams of caffeine,” says Farrimond.
In addition, the drink has cooled down to around 37 ° C (body temperature) – ideal for slurping.
Tea bag or loose leaf?
But should we even use a tea bag? “Loose leaf tea will likely give you the full flavor as the best quality leaves are traditionally retained for it,” explains Farrimond. “Since over 95% of the tea consumed in the UK comes from tea bags, my research has focused on tea bag tea.”
Any mainstream tea bag will do the job, though Yorkshire Tea, Twinings, PG Tips, and the relative newcomer Teapigs are front runners when it comes to UK taste buds.
A porcelain mug or cup is ideal for serving your brew; A big no-go, warns Farrimond, is a styrofoam cup – like the one you get at football games and street cafes. The synthetic material of these substances wipes up taste molecules and makes the tea bland. Foam caused by hard water also plays with the nuances of the tea. If you are in an area with hard water, using a filter is a must. Special tea bags with hard water are also worth considering.
Then there are factors that the average tea drinker would not think about. Even the color of your vessel can affect the taste; For example, your brain associates a red cup with berries and ripeness – making you think the tea is sweeter than it really is. Overall, the more you like your cup or mug, the more you are likely to drink from it. Protect your favorite porcelain with your life.
The milk question
And * this * milk question? “Hotly debated,” says Farrimond. “The story goes that milk was traditionally added first to protect the fine bone china from breaking when the hot tea was poured into it.” However, he recommends adding milk second, especially when brewing from a tea bag in a single cup: “It takes longer for the tea to brew properly.
“It’s also easier to judge how much you’re adding so you can adjust the milkyness to your liking,” adds Farrimond.
The truth is, of course, the perfect cup of tea is the one that gives you the most pleasure. The most important thing as a British person is that once you have decided how to drink your tea, you must die on this hill.
Where can you have tea in the UK?
High tea has more or less disappeared from the British way of life, but its posh cousin, afternoon tea, lives on as an occasional treat. And while many tea rooms like Betty’s still offer tea a la Duchess of Bedford, the genre has experimented a lot lately.
In this complicated age, it may be time to return to the basic joys of a cup of tea. Sip one at the Bridge Cafe in the London suburb of Acton, where defeated candidates from the UK version of The Apprentice drown their sorrows. Or sip it from a bottle as you roam Jane Austen’s land (tea appears in many of her books and she personally bought the family’s supplies direct from Twinings to avoid substandard batches contaminated with arsenic) .
For the most filling brew you don’t need to travel further than your own kettle: “For me,” says Halloran, “it’s best to have a cup of tea at home, either while watching football or curled up with a good book. “
Remember to give the tea bag five minutes. And stay away from the microwave.