“Half memoir, half travel, A Yank Back to England...is an absolutely wonderful book, not only about going home again but also about love and family and tradition and the passage of the years.”
—Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic (Washington
Post)
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Friday, May 29, 2009

A perfect cup of rosie lea

Americans are fascinated by the English ritual of tea making and drinking. So here are some guidelines for a perfect pot of Prodigal Tea. First you need a teapot, a tea strainer, and a whistling kettle. (If you don’t have a teapot, you can use a Pyrex container, but the tea won’t stay as hot while it brews.) Any kind of milk can be used but not cream or creamer, please!
And you’ll need tea of course. I use Brooke Bond PG Tips or Typhoo. Both Brit brands are not the highest grade but they are workmanlike, everyday breakfast teas that give a flavorful, robust, caramel-colored brew. Definitely a step up from local leaves that shall remain nameless. Boston Harbor should be full of the stuff, as far as I’m concerned!
I like to add a large pinch of Earl Grey to the pot, to mellow out the breakfast tea and provide an additional burst of flavor. This is the everyday Prodigal Blend. (I think a pot of just Earl Grey is a little too much.)
Prodigal Tea for two!
First put the kettle on until it whistles. Splash some hot water in the teapot to warm it, then empty out. Put one heaping teaspoon of loose tea (or one teabag of strong tea) in the pot, plus a good pinch of Earl Grey. I prefer the Earl Grey with the citrus bergamot flavor as opposed to the more smoky version of the blend, but that’s a matter of taste. Now reboil the water and pour a couple of cupfuls in the pot. Let the brew stand for a few minutes and there you are. I let it brew for at least five minutes. The longer you wait the stronger it gets.
Frances likes her tea without sugar or milk. So odd! For the rest of us, put a splash of milk in the cup first, warm 15 seconds in the microwave, then add the nicely brewed tea. Don’t forget to use a strainer when pouring! The holes in the spout of your teapot are not there to catch unwanted leaves, they just help regulate the flow of tea. By the way, you can use Irish tea brands, these are good too. Add sugar to taste, although I don’t.
I’ve been told by posher Brit chums that putting milk in first is a very working class thing to do, and not the done thing in upper class society. Not that I’m against societal aspirations but, at the risk of betraying my origins, I put in the milk first because it gives you a better mix of liquids. So there. And if you’re American, who cares anyway, just enjoy your cuppa!

8 comments:

smitten by britain said...

If you were here I'd kiss you on both cheeks (the ones north of your shoulders, mind out of the gutter please.) You are the first tea lover I've read who condones putting milk in the mug first. I always have done but as you know tea lovers have quite strong opinions on this subject. Some think it scolds the milk.
When all the conservatives were having their tea parties two months ago I was hoping and praying that meant they were dumping the countries supply of Lipton tea. One can only dream.

Amy said...

hm. I've been drinking my tea wrong all this time! The only thing I've done properly is add the soy-milk first (because it mixes better that way). Thanks for sharing your knowledge, tomorrow morning, I think I'll have tea the proper British way! - Amy

smitten by britain said...

Sorry, that should be "country's" supply of tea. You're right, Americans don't give a toss about class systems (for the most part.) In my opinion, adding the tea to the milk DOES provide a better mixture as you say and I think even froths the milk to a certain degree, giving the tea a creamier texture.
As far as Irish, I include Barry's in my tea repertoire. I could go on and on. Sorry.

The Prodigal Tourist said...

Smitten-You're so right, happy to confirm what you already knew--and it's birthday wekend so all kisses are welcome and appropriate!
Amy--it's the only way! Enjoy!

Amy said...

It's your birthday?! Awww....HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope you celebrate with a wonderful meal (and tea)!!

Almost American said...

The BOILING water is key - as opposed to the hot (but not boiling) water heated in a microwave my friends here in the US like to use. (Not my British friends of course - they know better - and they have kettles!)

I put the milk in first if I'm using a teapot, but more often than not I'm making a single cup of tea with a teabag, so the milk goes in last.

THE PARIS HOUSE said...

Thanks for visiting The Paris House , perhaps you can sneak some gorgonzola in and your wife won't know??? I love your blog and am off for some tea time now!!

Maggie said...

Oh thank you for explaining! It's a long story as to why, but I'm giving a High Tea and these tips are perfect timing to help me out!