Recently, I've been reading a lot more than I would usually. This isn't part of some belated New Year's Resolution, or a late attempt to culture myself - it's just that our kitchen has been being remodelled, and as such, cooking is off the menu.
So I've been trying to work my way through the many unread (by me at least) novels that line our bookshelves. It hasn't been an altogether pleasurable exercise though; one of the paperbacks I slung into my suitcase and read during the
in case I need to escape.Martin had set out three places at the kitchen table. Julia sat down at the one that faced the back door,
'Valentina couldn't come. She isn't feeling too well, ' Julia said; it was sort of true.
'That's unfortunate. Another time,' said Martin. He felt pleased with himself; he had contrived, at short notice, a very passable afternoon tea. There were fish-paste sandwiches, as well as cucumber and cress; there was a Victoria sponge cake. He had set out Marijke's mother's china, and there was a little jug of milk and bowl of sugar cubes. He thought it looked quite as nice as what Marijke would have done. 'What kind of tea would you like?' he asked.
He pressed the button on the electric kettle and plopped a tea bag into the teapot. 'This isn't how it's supposed to be done, but one gets lazy.'
'How are you supposed to do it?'
'Oh, you warm the pot, you use loose tea... but I can't taste the difference, and I drink a lot of tea, so the ritual has devolved somewhat.'
'Our mom uses tea bags, ' Julia assured him.
'Then that must be correct,' said Martin gravely.
I hope not.
I drink more tea than anyone else I know. My family tease me about it, because since I left home my mum and sister drink much less than before I flew the nest, and whenever I offer to make a cup, they gasp in faux horror and exclaim 'What? Another cup of tea?'
They always have one though, because I make rather a good brew, even if I do say so myself. I can even make good tea on a plane.
The tea drinker I have the most regular difficulty coercing into drinking tea with me is Mr. Other P. He's a subscriber to this ridiculous modern trend of avoiding caffeinated drinks after 8pm, on the grounds that you'll get a better night's sleep. So I go along with it and make him peppermint tea, which is the only substitute I keep in the house. I have wasted too much money in my time on those 'herbal fruit infusions' which need to be brewed for something ridiculous like seven minutes, and yet still taste like a mouthful of rusty bike chain, however fruity the aroma they give off.
Anyway, let's talk rituals.
I made and photographed what I consider to be the perfect cup of cha for today's post. Just for illustrative purposes, I don't have a disorder or anything. Honest. I even used my fancy teapot, just so you could see. But normally, we just make it straight in the cup. If you too want to enjoy perfect tea, then you'll be needing:
Mr. P's Ritualised Tea Making Method
You will need:
tea bags - one per cup, and it has to be PG Tips (Sorry US readers - Lipton won't play here)
bone china cups (and teapot if you want to use one)
- Put some fresh water on to boil. Fresh is best, the stuff left in the kettle from last time can go on the house plants (cool it first!).
- If you have followed instructions and are using bone china cups, warm them. This means running them under a hot tap, or pouring in some warm water from the kettle, which hasn't boiled yet. If you don't do this, your cups might shatter when you pour in boiling water to make the tea. See that beautiful white cup in the photo? There were two once. Don't make me elaborate.
- Into your warmed cup, put one tea bag. If you're using a pot, warm it and add one bag per person.
- Pour over boiling water, and brew for two and a half minutes. Exactly!
- Remove the tea bag (or pour the tea from the pot), and add milk to taste. I find if you add milk back up to the tea-level before you removed the tea bag, you'll have perfect tea. But that's just me and my own version of OCD. You can please yourself.