Wartime Tea Making Tips, c.1941

Drinking a cup of tea in London during the Blitz

In 1941 wartime England, the country was going through some of its darkest days. Believe or not, the simple cup of tea was extremely important to everyone, not only as a comforting solace, but as a means of reviving the spirit as well.

But even in time of war, not just any cup of tea would do – it had to be a proper cup of tea. In order to help those working in mobile canteens learn the rules of making the best cup of tea possible for troops and bombing victims alike, a short training film was created. Fortunately, this tea video survives in the BFI National Archive, and I thought you would like to see it.

 

 

As you watch the video, look for the poster on the wall behind the mad scientist tea instructor that says Tea Revives the World. The print became a rallying cry during the war, reminding people that tea would help them Keep Calm and Carry On. I’ll be talking more about the Tea Revives the World poster in the future.

Five years after this film was produced, George Orwell shared his personal tea-making tips in an essay about how to make a nice cup of tea. Those, and the ones in this video (below), are generally recognised as the golden rules for making tea.

6 tips for making proper tea

1. Always use a good quality tea

2. Always use freshly drawn water

3. Remember to warm the teapot or urn

4. Measure the right quantity of tea for the amount of water in the pot

5. The water must reach boiling point; pot-to-the-kettle, not kettle-to-the-pot

6. Let the tea brew for 5-10 minutes before serving

 

I hope you enjoy this nostaligic, atmospheric video on tea making tips circa 1941. Leave me a comment and let me know.

 

“Make every cup you make, be a cup that cheers.”

 

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Open this tea rapper for a lively brew

A Nice Cup of Tea by Jamie Broad, album cover

Yesterday, in Big Brother is watching you ….. make tea, I wrote about George Orwell’s essay A Nice Cup of Tea, in which he outlines his eleven personal “rules” for tea making. Today, I share with you eleven personal tea making “rules” from another man. Jamie Broad is a rapper from Liverpool – who knows a thing or two about how to make a nice cup of tea.

 

A Nice Cup of Tea by Jamie Broad. The Pocket Guide.

1) Put the kettle on to boil. Be sure there’s sufficient water in the kettle and that it’s plugged in.

2) Ask your guests, “Do you want a tea?” Count the “Yes’s. Neglect the “No’s.”

3) Make your way to the cupboard. Take out the appropriate amount of cups that relate to the amount of “Yes’s” you received.

4) Take out the teabags, add to the corresponding cups. Everyone has a favourite cup. It’s only fair if their’s is there, that if you’re making tea for that person then try to fill that one up.

5) Find out your guests’ preferences by asking, “How many sugars?” and/or “How milky?” NOTE: Get it right.

6) Pour the boiling water into the cups, making sure to pour through the teabag. Remember the milk preferences before you pour and reduce the amount of space required.

7) Give each cup a little swish with a teaspoon. This allows the bag’s flavour to be released.

8) Pull out the milk from the fridge and take off the top. Sniff it, even if it was opened only this morning.

9) Return to the mugs. Remember, the teaspoon’s your friend. Use it to mix the tea until it reaches the right colouring. Add sugar only to the correct mugs. Give it 20 stirs, then tap the spoon onto the side of the mug.

10) Take the tea to your guests and always ask the question, “Is that alright?”

11) Grab your own tea, and settle on the couch. Wait until you hear the universal seal of approval:

 

“Lovely that. Thank you. That was a nice cup of tea.”

 

 

 

A Nice Cup of Tea by Jamie Broad (from the album of the same name)
is available for free download here
 

 

Big brother is watching you ….. make tea

George Orwell Drinking Tea

In high school English class in the early 70s, we read the book 1984 by the English writer George Orwell. At that time in American history (still the Vietnam War era),  my generation were very distrustful of the government, so Orwell’s story of a people under surveillance by the authorities (“Big Brother”) helped to reinforce our suspicions.  (We also thought that it would take forever to reach the year 1984. Ah, the naivety of youth!)

Right. I know. What on earth does this have to do with tea?

Well, our George Orwell – journalist, novelist, essayist, social reformer, soldier – was also a dedicated tea drinker and dogmatic tea connoisseur. In January 1946, he wrote an essay called A Nice Cup of Tea, setting forth his personal tea making rules.

Before I send you off to read the essay for yourself (it’s not very long), I have summarised and paraphrased these Orwellian tea principles:

A Nice Cup of Tea by George Orwell. The Pocket Guide.

1) Use only Indian or Ceylon tea. Chinese tea hasn’t enough ‘oomph’ to it.
2) Brew it in a china teapot. Best made in small quantities (ergo, a teapot), never an urn.
3) Warm the teapot first. Best done on the hob rather than rinsing out with hot water.
4) MAKE IT STRONG. VERY STRONG. TEA SHOULD BE STRONG.
5) Loose leaves in the pot.  No infuser or anything that will impede the unfurling of the leaf.
6) Boiling water. Take the teapot to the kettle, not the other way around.
7) Stir the pot, allowing the leaves to settle.
8) Drink the tea from a mug. Tea cools down too quickly in a teacup.
9) Use non-creamy milk (what today we would call semi-skimmed milk).
10) Put the tea in first, then the milk.
11) No sugar.

How does this compare to your own tea making ritual?

Orwell says in his tea essay that two of the rules would elicit “pretty general agreement”, but that at least four others would be “acutely controversial”.  Which four do you think he meant?

As a little added bonus (we like added bonuses at Tea in England), here is a video of George Orwell a) recounting his time spent fighting in the Spanish Civil War (the boring part); and b) discussing the perfect cup of tea (the fun part). The fun part begins at 2.31 minutes into the video.

 

 

You can read the entire George Orwell tea essay here: A Nice Cup of Tea by George Orwell

 

“All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong,

but like it a little stronger with each year that passes.” - George Orwell