How To Make A Perfect Cup of Tea

I had a request from Jena, my American Sister-n-Law, for the instructions for making a proper cup of British Tea.  Hot tea is an institution here in Britain.  In the States you are more likely to get iced tea.   Tea drinking is one of those weird things that are common to both nations and divisive at the same time.  

Making a good cup of tea is a skill and an art.  In the Orient there is an actual tea making ceremony.   If you are tea connoisseur, you will probably use only fine loose tea and a china pot.  For convenience, most of us plonk a tea bag into a mug, but the basic tea making principles are the same.  

Let's start with the loose tea in a China Pot Method or as we call it at our house, Sunday Afternoon Tea:

1.  BOIL THE WATER   Always begin with freshly drawn cold water.  Use any kind of kettle you like, electric or stove top.  The water MUST be fresh and come to a full rolling boil.

2.  WARM THE TEA POT  While you are waiting for the water to boil, pour some hot water into the tea pot and swish it around, then pour the water out.  Boiling water poured into a cold china tea pot will result in that sickening 'ping' that means you've cracked your best china tea pot.  A hot tea pot will facilitate the brewing process and keep tea hot for a longer time.  

3.  ADD THE TEA LEAVES  Use one teaspoon of tea leaves for each cup of tea and add one teaspoon 'for the pot'.  

4. ADD THE BOILING WATER  Pour the BOILING water into the tea pot immediately.  Place the lid on the tea pot and let the tea 'steep' for 3 to 5 minutes.  

Remember to use a tea strainer when serving loose leave tea.  I know it sounds obvious but I've ended up with a cup full of leaves more than once.

Now, let us move on to the Mug Method.  It's not nearly as elegant but when you are gasping for a cup of tea this is the most expedient way to get one. 

1.  BOIL THE WATER  Make sure you use freshly drawn water and bring it to a full boil.

2.  PLACE A TEA BAG INTO THE MUG  I like to warm my mug just as I warm my tea pot.  It protects the mug from crazing and keeps the tea warm longer.

3.  ADD THE BOILING WATER  I usually fill my mug 3/4 of the way.  This leaves room for the addition of milk.  Let the tea 'steep' for about 3-5 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea.  

4.  FISH OUT THE TEA BAG This may be the hardest part of making mug tea, where to put the used tea bag!  

5.  ADD MILK, SUGAR, LEMON, ETC.  I suppose there are some people who drink tea 'black' but I've never met one.  

There is one further addition I would make to these instructions.   No cup of tea is perfect without a good biscuit or a slice of cake.  That step is, of course, optional!  


  1. Wonderful, your "recipes" for making tea! It brings back memories: I learned to drink tea with milk in UK! Never knew that before. We were traveling around as backpackers (many years ago - I better don't count...). And we lived on the nourishing breakfasts - then in the afternoons we had tea (with milk!) and sandwiches.

    1. That's how I used to do it, too. Long, long ago when I was young and had a Brit Rail Pass. The full English breakfast was enough food for one day. All we needed were a few snacks to keep us going. Ah, youth, it is wasted on the young! ; )

  2. I can't imagine (or remember) not starting my day with a lovely hot cup of tea. My favourite is in a bone china cup, but I use a bone china mug more often (I can get more in it), must be bone china though. I like my tea strong with barely a glance from the milk. I can't even imagine drinking iced tea, but hubby loves the lemon iced tea you can buy in bottles :) xx

    1. Isn't it amazing how important your mug or cup can be. We have 'My mug', 'Hubby's Mug' and mugs for everyone else. My Mum-n-Law has a specific bone china breakfast cup and saucer. The rest of the day she will use a mug. And we NEVER mix mugs up and drink from the wrong one. We are creatures of habit. It makes us feel safe and happy, like a good cup of tea! : )X

  3. Well, now I can properly serve tea and for that I thank you! I never knew about step 2, warming the pot/mug. I want to say that I heard the "no boil" thing here in town at the Picwick Society Tea House. I think I'm going to have to inquire again. I must have heard incorrecty. I'm using your method from here on out!
    I woud say that my favorite tea is pretty basic, Earl Gray or English Breakast but, I did splurge one day last fall and bought myself a tin of loose tea...Harvest Orange is perfect for a crisp fall day. Or cold spring days as we both have been having this year. The back of that tin says to bring water to rolling boil so apparently I heard wrong. Will follow up after my next trip to the tea house! What is your favorite flavor?

    1. I can tell you that making good tea isn't easy. In a lot of British households there is one person who is designated at THE tea maker. The instructions in this blog post are basically what the UK Tea Council says to do. I don't think you can get more official than that! ; ) As for choosing a tea, it can be as complicated as buying wine. Our tastes are simple, too. We usually go for Breakfast Tea. I like most of the black teas. Generally we have what is known as Builder's Tea, fairly strong tea made made in a mug using a tea bag with milk and sugar. Oh and a cookie or biscuit on the side! : )X


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