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Making A Cup Of Tea

There are two different ways in which you can make tea - by the pot or by the cup. The single most important thing to remember in all of this process is heat. The tea leafs impart their taste to the water most effectively when the water is actually boiling. To make really good tea you must go to every length possible to exclude coldness from the equation.


A Pot Of Tea.

Tea made in the pot is (if done correctly) superior to tea made by the cup. This is partly because you should have access to better quality tea and partly because it avoids the difficult question of when to add the milk (see below).

Boil a kettle with freshly drawn COLD water.
Add a little boiling water to the empty tea pot to warm it up. If you were to make tea in a cold tea pot you would instantly spend some of the valuable heat needed for imparting flavour in warming the china and this would have a detrimental effect.
Pour away the water used to warm the pot and add your tea. Quantities are of course up to you (do you like tea as strong as tar or as weak as water?) but a basic rule of thumb is to add one teaspoon of tea per person and one extra "for the pot".
When the water is boiling pour it directly onto the tea, taking the kettle to the pot rather than the pot to the kettle. This is done for the same reasons as warming the pot - trying to ensure that the maximum amount of boiling water hits the maxmimum amount of tea in the quickest possible time.
Leave to infuse. Again how long you leave your tea is dependant upon how strong you like it - on average though threeish minutes for small leaf tea and sixish for large leaf teas.

A Cup Of Tea.

Tea in the cup is easy. If someone asks you for a cup of tea and you put a bag in a cup and add boiling water no one is going to complain. However... to make a REALLY GOOD cup of tea...

Boil a kettle with freshly drawn COLD water.
Add a little boiling water to the empty tea cup to warm it up (for precisely the same reasons as you would warm a pot).
Put a single bag into the bottom of the cup making certain that the tea takes up as much of the visible surface area as possible.
When the water is boiling pour it into the cup by taking the kettle to the cup and trying to make certain that as much boiling water hits as much tea as soon as possible. This can be quite hard because sometimes the sudden inruse of water causes air to get trapped within the tea bag and then most of the boiling water runs directly off the top of the bag without instantly touching the tea. 
Leave to infuse. The tea in tea bags is so fine that two minutes should see you right.
When making mulitiple cups in this fashion it is up to you if you reboil the water for each cup. This won't take long, since the water will still be nearly boiling, and will make sure everyone has really nice tea.

Most importantly when making a cup of tea is NEVER (really NEVER) "top up" a cup with more water. Don't do it when the bag has been in there stewing for a bit and certainly never ever do it once you've taken the bag out and realised that, now the bag has gone, the cup is not as full as you thought it was. "Topping up" does not make more tea in the cup it makes the same amount of tea diluted with more water. This will kill the taste of your tea and make you generally hated by all right minded tea drinkers. Be preared when adding the water first - realise that you will have to take the tea bag out and realise that you will probably need to leave a little room for milk.


The milk question.

Most people prefer to drink tea with a little milk added. Apart from the fact that this milk destroys the wonderful flavournoids found in tea (which help protect your body from cancer ) this simply serves to make the tea even nicer. The hard part is knowing when to add the milk.

Milk should go in first because this way it will become fully incorporated into the drink whereas, if added to the tea, it will likely seperate and not properly mix.

Now this is all well and good when making tea in a pot because, in this situation, you have two liquids - tea and milk and you simply add the milk to the cup before adding the tea.

The problem arises when making tea in a cup because here you have dried tea, boiling water and milk. If you add the milk first then will this cool down the cup and inhibit the infusion process. Add it second and it could well seperate.