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23 November 2007

It's time for tea

It's Thanksgiving Day in America today so I'd like to wish my American friends happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all have a wonderful day with family and friends.

Some of my tea making paraphernalia. I know I have too much of this but tea makes me happy, I enjoy making good tea for friends and family and I love having morning and afternoon tea. So for those reasons, I'm keeping all my tea gear, none of it will be removed in a decluttering frenzy in the foreseeable future. I think I have nine teapots. I can't check now because most of them are packed away somewhere. The little white teapot here I bought in the 60s when I first left home - it's a Finlandia. The blue and white tea/coffee pot is from the 1970s, it's an English Adams, not expensive, but my first blue and white set of crockery. The pot with "tea" on it is a 1930s set Made in Japan. I also have a set of canisters that match it which I bought off ebay about six or seven years ago. The little blue cup and saucer and milk jug are similar to ones my Mum had when I was growing up. They were also bought on ebay several years ago. Kettle at the back, tea balls and strainer at the front.

I was asked in comments and emails how to brew a good pot of tea, and thought it was an excellent idea for a post.

Tea is the second most popular drink in the world. Water is the most popular. Like most people, I've been drinking tea made with tea bags - I found a well priced organic black tea bag at Aldi and have been using that. But over the past couple of months I've gone back to real tea, and I say 'real tea' because tea bags are made with the fannings (the worst grade of tea) and tea dust. There is such a difference in the taste that I know if you've only used tea bags, tea made with loose leaves will convert you to making tea in a pot.

You'll need fresh water, a kettle, a china, glass or pottery tea pot, tea leaves, a tea cosy (if you're in a cold climate), tea strainer or tea ball (to stop the leaves going into your cup), and ...

Time. After your water is boiled, it will take about five minutes to make a pot of tea.

You must have fresh water from the tap to make good tea. Tea needs dissolved oxygen in the water and if you use water that's been sitting in the kettle for a while, that's not good enough.

While I'm sure
there are many ways to make a good pot of tea, this is how I make it:
  1. Fill your kettle and boil the water.
  2. While the kettle is boiling, prepare your pot and the tea cups. If you're putting the tea in a tea ball, do that, making sure the tea ball is suitable for the size of the pot. Don't put the tea in the pot yet.
  3. When the water is boiled, pour a small amount into the pot and swish it around the pot to warm it. Tip that water out.
  4. Add the tea leaves to the pot. The usual measure is one teaspoon for each person and one for the pot. So if you're making two cups, you'd add three teaspoons of tea leaves and enough water for almost three cups.
  5. Pour the boiling tea over the tea leaves and place the lid on the tea pot. The water must be boiling.
  6. If you're in a cold climate, place a tea cosy over your teapot. The tea will stand now for a few minutes and it must be kept hot. I use a tea cosy here in winter but not in summer.
  7. Allow the tea to steep for between three to five minutes. I drink mine after about three minutes.
  8. If you take your tea with milk, it is added after the tea is poured, and although this is firmly adhered to in certain parts, (ahem England : ) ), it really doesn't matter when you add the milk. Some say you scald the tea when you add it first, I doubt very much that it matters.
  9. Sugar or honey is generally used to sweeten tea and some add a squeeze of fresh lemon. But don't add milk if you add lemon as it will curdle the milk.
I have my tea black with one spoon of honey. MMmmmmmm. Please don't flavour your tea too much, it masks the true flavour of good tea. All those vanilla, apple, apricot and strawberry teas, aren't the types of tea I'm talking about here. They are tea bags made with fannings and with (usually) artificial flavourings added. If you want to drink good tea for flavour and health, you'll choose a good quality loose tea, have it black or with milk and with sweetener or without. That's it.

All tea comes from the plant Camellia sinensis. After the tea is picked, it is processed in various ways to
produce the different teas we drink. Tea is generally named for the region it originates from.

Green tea: Tea that is dried immediately after harvesting.

Black tea: Tea that is dried and fermented, it's stronger than green tea. Black tea comes in various strengths
and flavours. There is Darjeeling (my favourite), Orange Pekoe (which not orange flavoured), Earl Grey (black tea with bergamot oil added), Ceylon tea (for my fellow Australians, this is the tea that is sold as Billy Tea, Lan Choo, Bushells, King Tea etc.) Ceylon tea is my everyday cuppa.

You'll need a tea cosy if you live in a cold climate.
Tea cosy
patterns here and here, Australian 1930s crocheted tea cosy and a vintage tea cosy. I wanted to show you my favourite tea cosy that Tricia made for me, a patchwork one, but I can't find it with everything packed away for the renovations. I'll try to remember it when everything is back to normal.

I hope you all have the chance to make a pot of tea soon, and to sit and relax with the warming flavour of it.


  1. How I look forward to your blog everyday. It's a little after 4pm here in Canada and I've been enjoying a cup of coffee (I'll have my tea at home as the water doesn't boil here at work) reading your blog all the while a storm is raging outside. It has snowed off and on since last night, supposed to be about 20cms in total. Big flakes falling right now but we've had some ice pellets and freezing rain, makes for an awful drive home. But with my "meal plan" in gear the dinner is all ready so the extra time on the road will not make too much of a difference.

    PS......if you are hot down under today just think of us with minus 10 degrees celcius tonight. BRRRRRRRR

  2. You know what Rhonda? I've always wanted to know this. I use only tea bags, never loose tea and I didn't know how to make a really good cup. I was given some good quality loose tea, and I have a tea ball so I am ready to go!
    Thanks, Rhonda!

  3. Why not try herbal teas straight from the garden, more and more my favourites. A sprig or two of mint and water and sugar to taste. There are many herbal teas and for what price ? Hibiscus if you live down under.

  4. Rhonda-thank you so much; we had tea this morning and I will serve it tonight after our Thanksgiving supper instead of coffee. Yesterday here in southern New Mexico it was 75 today it is in the 40's with snow forcast for the next few days!! What a change!! Sharon

  5. I am making small changes. Today I bought a 100gram ball of dishcloth cotton. This cost £1-20p (English money of course dont know what in Australian ) that is just a little more than I would pay for 10 disposable ones. I dont know how many cloths this will make but at least they will last and eventually be composted.
    I have now read up to date, this has not been easy as I have often been diverted to other blogs which have all been interesting.
    I have been making my Christmas cards for a while and as these are almost finished I will need some other creative outlet. Your stichery has been a source of inspiration. I used to sew alot when I was younger and particularly when my children were small. In recent years I have sew things I needed but not much just for the pleasure of it. I have unfinished patchwork and now my fingers are itching to take it up again. I will keep reading every day and let you know how I progress.

  6. Hmm I love my cup of tea, And drink it through the day at work, but it just doesn't compare to a pot of tea made and shared with a friend on a comfy chair looking at the garden.

    I got hooked back on loose leaf tea after Richard (I think) on ABC radio went nutty on it, and started a campaign to get the world to drink real tea :) He was even talking about getting the ladies who do the knitting blackets to make a 702 tea cosy (the am band for the ABC radio in Sydney) Not sure what happened with that.

    I think I'll go and make a cup of tea now!

  7. Hi Rhonda Jean :) A post about tea - how fun - and one of my favorite things! We brewed a pot today to complete our day of celebrating. Yum!

    Thanks for sharing how you make your tea. I discovered full leaf about seven years ago and agree that there is nothing like it :)
    Love, Q

  8. A tea post - i'm a tea lover too ;)- i always drink loose tea and with different flavors, just delicious.
    nice tea things you've got.
    Greetings from Spain.

  9. RJ, I have the matching burleigh sugar bowl for that milk jug in the photo. Thanks for the instructions. I will make a pot immediately. Lisa J

  10. I'll need to try this. The weather here is finally perfect for a good cup of tea.

  11. That brings back memories. We used to only have real tea at home and my dad loved his tea so there'd be six or seven pots made a day. We had a stainless steel pot though - and you don't ever wash that, just rinse it out. It's supposed to add to the taste over the years. However my dad also always insisted on having a clean cup for every fresh cup of tea.

    I hated tea when I was younger but grew to love it when I was in college and what we had at home was soo much better than the teabag made stuff in college. Unfortunately I also used to drink a lot of Diet Coke and about six years ago started to suffer from migraines. They were mostly stress-induced but drinking caffeine is also a trigger for me so I can't drink coffee (which I never liked anyway), coke (which I'd have stopped by now anyway since I've gotten interested in the ethics of food) or tea (which I really miss!). I to have a decaffeinated tea every once in a while but it's teabag tea and knowing a little bit about the process used to remove the caffeine (or tea-eine, not sure how to spell that) means I try not to drink it too often. I do drink a lot of herbal and fruit teas, but real, loose leaf varieties rather than tea bags most of the time. Rooibusch and lemongrass is my current favourite.

    We used to have a special tea-spoon for putting the tea into the pot - the handle of it was shaped like a tea pot. Thanks for this post, reminds me a lot of some of my happier childhhood days.

  12. Lovely post. I make my tea EXACTLY the way you describe here, but I've never used a tea ball. It's a great idea, and I'm buying one tomorrow - I hate scraping the tea leaves out of the pot every day.
    There is nothing like the sound of the tea being poured from the teapot spout into a cup. So soothing.

  13. I live for my cups of tea but always use teabags. The reason being I can't stand tea leaves. I think it goes back to childhood when I must have drunk some. I always leave the last half inch or so of tea in the cup too for the same reason even though I know there won't be any leaves.

    Silly really and I really should have a go at brewing a 'real' pot of tea again.

  14. OK, I am off to make a pot of tea!!! Have you noticed how hard it is getting to find leaf tea in the supermarket, here in Perth it is usually on the bottom shelf, and very hard to find! I can see that in the very near future, I shall have to find another source!

  15. A friend once gave me a book on the history of tea which is really fascinating. Apparently the whole "you must put the milk in the cup first and then the tea" thing (which my friend does and I do not) comes from the fact that hot tea could apparently stain or crack the bottom of of the early porcelain cups that were used a few centuries ago. So putting the milk in first would protect the tea cup.


  16. My husband is fond of saying that he doesn't buy me flowers for Valentine's Day, but dead leaves. I don't use a tea-ball (let alone bags); I have a tea-strainer. The dregs go onto my pot-plants with a little more water -- mulch and watering in one.

  17. Lovely post - super photo. The little blue and white milk jug is the 'Burleigh Blue Calico' design from Staffordshire China. I absolutely love it and whenever we go back to the UK I buy a bit to add to our service. I've loved it ever since I was a student at Cambridge and found a small oblong cake dish in a second-hand shop.

    Tea for me has to be tea leaves - no bags - I was brought up that way - terribly snobbish, but that's how it was. My mother called teabag tea 'workmen's brew' - so strong, you could stand your teaspoon uo in it. I can't stand certain British brands of popular tea.

    Favourite cup in the morning - Earl Grey - when there's no time for a pot, just a pinch to a cup with boiling hot water on top - afternoon, Lapsang Souchong. Chinese smokey tea. Heavenly. An afternoon just isn't right without it. I can only get it in one place here - a very good tea-shop - but the proprietor refuses to keep it on display because there are so few people who buy it. She keeps it round the back and when I told her how delicious it is, she asked me what on earth I drink it with. Afternoon tea, I said - with a biscuit or cake, or on its own. She was horrified. She thought it ought to be sipped with something savoury. I suppose you could - but it's great with sweet things. I admit to Lapsang with a bite of dark chocolate. Wonderful contrast.

  18. Oh, and I don't drink it with either milk or sugar. I think milk ruins the delicate flavour of the tea and adds something greasy to it, and sugar is just scandalous.

  19. Hi Rhonda, I was just reading a few older posts, and the little blue tea cup and saucer and matching milk jug caught my eye. I am collecting that set at the moment, Im using the Grindley, and the Meakin and the Johnson brothers patterns to hopefully make up the set for my family to use as an everyday set...I love it...


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