I have been a tea drinker for 15 years. It is my go-to caffeinated beverage. I love a good cup of coffee but a good cuppa (British for “cup of tea”) will forever hold my heart. It is because of this that I will now share with you, my fellow Americans, how to make a proper cuppa (or, the perfect cup of tea).
There have been many articles written on the subject. George Orwell famously wrote one in the 40’s that, while a bit outdated, is totally correct. He is a wise man. You can find his article here.
My method of brewing a good cuppa is 5 steps and they are all important!
- Start with cold water
- Pour from a rolling boil
- Steep, covered, 3-5 minutes
- Remove the tea bag
- Add milk
How to Make the Perfect Cup of Tea
It is oh so important to use cold water. One might think that starting with hot water would be better because it will not take as long to boil. One would most certainly be wrong. Cold filtered water will make a big difference in the flavor of your tea because flavor loves oxygen and cold water has more free flowing oxygen than the hot water that has been sitting in your hot water tank, slowly leaking out the flavor inducing oxygen, does. There is a science behind this but I do not feel like typing it all out because it is boring. Just take me on my word, and the word of every British person that has ever lived, and use cold water.
Do not let your water come to a perfect rolling boil just to let it sit for several minutes while you do something else. Make sure the kettle is boiling like crazy before pouring and pour that boiling biz over the tea bag immediately so that the water can hit and shock all the awesome deliciousness out of your tea bag. I use an electric kettle that clicks when it is ready. I love it. So much.
Once the water is poured in the tea pot or cup, cover it and let it steep 3-5 minutes, definitely no less than 3. I do 5 minutes because I like a strong brew. Ideally, you could make this in a teapot because the shape of the pot and the lid are designed to allow the steam and tea oils to roll around and mix and steep and be wonderful. If you have to use a cup instead of a tea pot, cover the cup with a plate so that you don’t lose those tea oils in the steam. That is where a lot of your delicious flavor will be found.
Once your tea has brewed, you have no use for the tea bag in your pot or your cup. Feel free to take it out and toss it. Don’t squeeze the tea bag though. Squeezing will not add more flavor, it will add more bitterness due to the tannins. Freaking tannins.
Add milk. Do not add creamer. Do not add half and half. Do not add powdered milk. For the love of all things beautiful on this earth, please drink your tea black before you add powdered milk or creamer. Milk is the perfect complement to the tea. How much milk is a preference, but there is a tacit rule that once you see the milk cloud up in your mug, that is generally going to be the right amount. I have included a 10 second video to show you what this looks like. Also, holding my phone and trying to pour a new jug of milk was hard and I spilled some…sigh…
If you must add some sugar, add it at this point and stir it in. I don’t use sugar in mine, and most British folk over the age of 18 don’t either. Orson Well’s calls those that do, “misguided people,” and I would agree. Sugar masks the flavor of the tea. So try it without for a bit and see how it goes.
In case you are wondering, my preferred brand of tea is Tetley British Blend or PG Tips.
There are other brands in England that I enjoy, but as far as what can be purchased stateside, you can find Tetley’s British Blend at Walmart and PG Tips at Homeland. You can find both on Amazon because Amazon is awesome. Have I missed some important steps? Let me know in the comments section. I love talking about tea!
Cheers to you, my friends. Enjoy your cuppa!
Want to plan your own tea party? How about some Oat Scones and Mock Clotted Cream?
Originally published October 27, 2015
Saturday 4th of February 2023
Guess I’ve been doing it all wrong to get the best flavor. Thanks, I’ll try this!
Patricia @ Tea kettles
Saturday 28th of July 2018
Great blog. I started drinking tea after I found out coffee wasn't giving me the kick anymore. It's been one of my best decisions ever. After reading your blog I learned how to make a cup of perfect tea. Thanks for making this blog.
Tuesday 27th of October 2015
This is a fabulous tutorial! I love that you provided a reason for each step so that the directions don't just seen like the arbitrary preferences of a tea snob. For example, I never knew why one covered the pot to let the tea steep; it was simply something one just did. Now I understand why.
I do take issue with one point, however. When I lived in England, I was always instructed to add the milk to the cup first. This was to prevent it from curdling when the hot tea was poured in (presumably because the cup had had a chance to cool slightly and the chilled china would balance the temperature for a few seconds before everything equalized). Perhaps this is a regional difference, as I was living in Bristol?
Whatever the case, I am now craving a cuppa so I need to sign off and take care of that!
Wednesday 28th of October 2015
Thanks Tiffany! I had always heard to add the milk first to prevent the porcelain and bone china from cracking with the sudden hot temperature of the tea (since, as you know, everything is colder in England). I actually prefer to add my milk first because it makes me feel more legit. But, adding the milk and using the cloud method is an easier way for beginners to make a proper cuppa. 😃
I have done it both ways and seen Brits do it both ways. I am interested to find out if there is a regional difference in process or not. Super interesting! Thanks for taking the time to comment! ❤️