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How to make a proper cup of tea


** ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, DEC. 20, 2010 AND THEREAFTER ** In this Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010 picture, from left, Jackie Rogers, Joyce Stowell, Eileen Oldham, have afternoon tea and cake in the Raven Inn village pub that once a week operates as a post office in Llanarmon-yn-Ial, Wales. Britain may be in the grip of a nasty cold snap, but it's business as usual at The Raven Inn. The workers have a strong stake in keeping the pub going come rain, shine, sleet, or snow: They're all local volunteers who bought the license to run the inn after it closed at the height of Britain's credit crunch. The 290-year-old Raven Inn is the only watering hole in this tiny Welsh village nestled in the Clwydian Hills. That makes it the heart-and-soul of the community, the place where news is shared, joys celebrated, losses commiserated. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant) Credit: AP Photo/
Alastair Grant

I recently had a friend visiting from England, and she was appalled at what she got when she ordered tea in American restaurants. It wasn’t that the tea itself was of poor quality (though it often was) or that it came in a tea bag rather than being “loose leaves” (though it usually did).

The problem was that its preparation required her to put the tea into either a mug or, in a few cases, a pot filled with very hot water.

This is how you make tea: You pour boiling water over the tea. Not water that has been warmed in a microwave. Not the hot water that comes out of a coffee dispenser. The optimal temperature for brewing coffee is 200 degrees, 12 degrees short of boiling.

It pains me to participate in the tea ritual that well-intentioned American restaurants have developed: An array of colorfully packaged tea bags is presented to the diner, and she chooses her poison. Then the server returns with a vessel of hot water in which to immerse the chosen bag. If, in the privacy of the kitchen, the server simply poured boiling water over a Lipton tea bag, a better cup of tea might well result.

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