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Christopher Hitchens on how to make a decent cup of tea

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English Muse: Christopher Hitchens on how to make a decent cup of tea

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christopher Hitchens on how to make a decent cup of tea

afternoon tea for lunch

Christopher Hitchens over the weekend wrote a story for Slate on the proper way to make tea.

"It is already virtually impossible in the United States, unless you undertake the job yourself, to get a cup or pot of tea that tastes remotely as it ought to," he complains. "It's quite common to be served a cup or a pot of water, well off the boil, with the tea bags lying on an adjacent cold plate... The drink itself is then best thrown away, though if swallowed, it will have about the same effect on morale as a reading of the memoirs of President James Earl Carter."

Hitchens relies (mostly) on George Orwell's tips for tea making.

They include:

*Always use Indian or Ceylonese—i.e., Sri Lankan—tea.
*Make tea only in small quantities.
*Avoid silverware pots.
*If you use a pot at all, make sure it is pre-warmed. (Hitchens adds: do the same thing even if you are only using a cup or a mug.)
*Stir the tea before letting it steep.
*MOST IMPORTANT: "Take the teapot to the kettle, and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact."
*If you use milk, make sure it's the least creamy type. ("And do not put the milk in the cup first—family feuds have lasted generations over this—because you will almost certainly put in too much," Hitchens says.)
*A "decent cylindrical mug" is best.

Finally, Hitchens believes brown sugar or honey are "permissible and sometimes necessary," even though Orwell would probably disagree.

And there you have it.

(Photo by Le Portillon.)

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Blogger kirst said...

I love this! Haha. The "milk last" rule is enforced in our house too. Apparently, you should let the tea brew 3 minutes to get full benefit of antioxidants...
Happy New Year! xo

January 3, 2011 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger Splenderosa said...

I adore Christopher & his philosophies, so I'm certain HIS way with tea is the best. As a Texan I don't often have the benefit of a proper tea, but now I know how it should be done. Thank you, precious one, for this post.
Happy New Year!!

January 3, 2011 at 5:22 PM  
Blogger Global Atelier said...

Lovely reminder on the perfect cup of tea!

January 3, 2011 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger debbie bailey said...

Sorry to disagree, but he's dead wrong about the milk. It should be cream not thin milk. I buy cream from a local dairy, and it's so lucious and yummy it should be illegal! It makes a wonderful cup of tea. And in my opinion, black tea needs to be sweetened with white sugar. And of course on the side should be sitting a huge, fresh scone filled with currants and whipping cream. I'm convinced that heaven will have four o'clock tea!

January 3, 2011 at 6:13 PM  
Blogger Uncle Beefy said...

I think the whole notion of this post is nothing short of glorious! Love it!

In my restaurant days, while never provided with the means for a proper tea service, at the very least I would always warm the cup and saucer just before serving. No one I ever worked with would bother with this detail. And yet, it was probably one of things people commented on and appreciated most.

It's in the little things.

January 3, 2011 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger Sundari said...

Hah! That's great. I am certainly a true tea drinker, though I am one of those naughty ones that put the milk in first. But unfortunately Australian cafes and restaurants lack in proper tea preparation skills, very disappointing considering how many people here drink 'tea'.

January 3, 2011 at 7:26 PM  
Blogger samantha. said...

i have been drinking a ton of tea this winter!! a girl after my own heart :)


January 3, 2011 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger Melanie's Randomness said...

I promise to not do the pot of water & a tea bag next to it ever again. I'll try to do it nicer! Cute post! I learned alot! Happy New Year!! =)

Melanie's Randomness

January 3, 2011 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger Jg. for FatScribe said...

even if i disagree with almost everything Hitchens writes, I can't but just plain admire his advice for enjoying a nice cuppa! (plus, you know, the accent and erudition don't hurt.)

January 3, 2011 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger Josie ♥ Savoir Weddings ♥ said...

I am VERY fussy about my tea. So much so that no one else can compare to my tea making skills. Hot milky water is my least fave.

January 4, 2011 at 2:33 AM  
Blogger B. Inspired. said...

Lovely post;)

January 4, 2011 at 5:48 AM  
Blogger Dylana Suarez said...

This is so lovely!


January 4, 2011 at 10:16 PM  
OpenID whenpenmeetspaper said...


I love to read and writer too. I was a travel writer turned oopywriter.
You can read my blog here http://whenpenmeetspaper.wordpress.oom

How did you put the 'LinkWithiin' widget onto your blog?

If it's ok, can we exchange links?:) I think i need you on my blogroll!

Lynne from Sunny Island Singapore

January 4, 2011 at 11:36 PM  
OpenID whenpenmeetspaper said...


I love to read and write too! I was a travel writer turne copywriter. You can read my blog in the link above.

How did you put the 'LinkWithin' widget into your blog?

It it's ok, can we exchange links?:) I think I need you on my blogroll!

Lynne from Sunny Island Singapore

January 4, 2011 at 11:39 PM  
OpenID teodoragales said...

Great, great tips! I shall try and live/drink by!

January 5, 2011 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger Raji said...

This is such a cute post
Couldnt live without tea and wouldnt want too

January 5, 2011 at 4:44 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

I'm English ~ I always put my milk in first, I like my tea milky and sweet ;-)

January 6, 2011 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger lila Check said...

I adore Christopher & his philosophies,love this post!

January 6, 2011 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger iva yaneva said...

The photo is so pretty!!
And I enjoyed this post so much :) I'm very much into tea right now. Masala tea must be my favourite at the moment <3

January 6, 2011 at 2:42 PM  
Blogger Kristin Hjellegjerde said...

Can´t wait for the HIGH TEA parties in London. A friend of mine is already arranging one for when I move next week. Yes to Perfectly made tea:)

January 6, 2011 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger a little yellow button. said...

What an adorable post! It's so simple, and delightful! Not to mention, the tea set and table look divine!


January 6, 2011 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger thea said...

this is bizarre - I just read all about this due to a personal project and then came to your blog for my 'fix' and here it is!!!! Just my cup of tea... :)



p.s. could I tempt you into writing a little something for Spoonful? I think your style will fit deliciously into our beautiful little piece of happy. x

January 7, 2011 at 5:00 AM  
Blogger The Dandelion Chronicles said...

Good to know I do all the wrong things.. :D Except with the milk part.

Have a nice day

January 7, 2011 at 6:33 AM  
Blogger Tiffany from HOLIDAY said...

adoring your blog! wish i had found you long before now. xo

January 7, 2011 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger blorange dice said...

haha i really like this post. how random to feature tea etiquette! i love it so much

January 7, 2011 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger Hausfrau said...

Love this! It's naturally a bit persnickety, coming from Hitchens. I don't have to worry about the milk and sugar parts, as I like my English Breakfast brew straight-up and strong.

January 14, 2011 at 3:50 AM  
OpenID Sally said...

he he he this post is brilliant, I'm really fussy about my tea too! you just HAVE to pour the water on as soon as it's boiled!! :)

January 14, 2011 at 6:36 AM  
OpenID said...

I think one of the things I love about being British is that everyone loves a good cuppa tea. :D I can't imagine what it'll be like when I go travelling at the end of the year - Gonna miss my tea so much!



January 16, 2011 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger the upholstress said...

milk last always.......also loose tea in a tea pot, I prefer assam in the afternoon english breakfast in the morning.....afternoon cream tea.....tea, warm scone with homemade damson jam & clotted cream.....sat sipping on a lounger in an english country garden in mid summer surrounded by cottage plants, bees & birds.......

January 18, 2011 at 8:23 AM  
OpenID bluebirdbylucie said...

Haha, I love this post. I love anything related to tea. But my choice is green over black.

January 21, 2011 at 6:27 PM  

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