I'm in LA again. The weather is beautifully blue skied and the people are as perky as ever. The only thing that is letting this whole experience down in the absolute lack of any tea making skills.
Now, I know you guys might argue that making tea is an unnecessary skill for a US citizen. You might argue that you prefer coffee. Or that you got your independence back on the 4th of July in 1776 and your terrible tea making skills are your way of reminding us that we aren't at home here.
Why should you pander to British whims? But let me tell you this. Tea making is something to be proud of. You will make an instant friend the moment you make a good cup of tea for a British man or woman abroad. We know you are a bigger, stronger, richer country and could totally kick our butts if you wanted. So why not humour us? Make us a nice cup of tea.
Here's the very simple instructions.
1. Tea Brand. This is VITAL. Pick a good British brand like PG Tips, Tetleys or Yorkshire tea. All three are winners with the British public. The teabags will not be fancy - they rip if you press them too hard. Fancy muslin bags simply don't seem to let the flavour out so good. And those folded in half tea bags - they are rubbish.
2. Take the order. When you ask "Would you like a cup of tea?" The answer yes is not the end of the story. OHHH NO. You need to ask how they take it. Milk, no sugar is mine. One sugar means one teaspoon of sugar. If you want someone to be really happy ask them how strong they like their tea. They might like it milky, medium or strong. The answer "builders" means strong and sugary - it comes from the way builders used to have vats of tea on building sites which sat all day and got really strong. Or so my dad, who was briefly a builder, tells me.
3. The cup. A mug of tea is definitely the preference for most. This is a china mug not a clear glass mug. But look, if you made me a cup of tea in a vase or in a cereal bowl I'd still be grateful - although I'd think you were a little weird.
4. The brewing. You can brew your tea in a cup or in a teapot (if you're posh). Put the teabag in then pour boiling hot water onto it - by the time you've filled the cup all you'll need is a couple of squeezes of the teabag with a spoon and you'll have a lovely dark colour. It should be dark brown.
5. The milk. Most people like semi-skimmed milk in their tea. We never take cream in tea. And we never heat the milk or make it frothy. That should stay firmly in the world of coffee. Milk goes in last if you want to check the colour is right.
So that's it. If you know anyone who works in a coffee shop please send this post to them. As a homesick British person. I'd really appreciate it!
And lastly here is some tea trivia:
The British are the largest per capita tea consumers in the world, with each person consuming on average 2.5 kg per year.
The bubbles on the top of a cup of tea poured from a tea pot represent money. The more bubbles, the more money you will come into soon.
British people like to "dunk" their biscuits (cookies) in tea.
Tea leaf reading used to be common - women used to look at the pattern that loose tea left in the bottom of your cup to tell your fortune.
Some people of the older generation use a cup and saucer - pouring tea into the saucer before slurping it from there. Frankly it's a bit weird and no young person does that.