(CNN) – In June 2020, the British people put their differences aside to condemn a blatant act of aggression against their country.
It was the most disrespectful transgression of Anglo-American conventions since a group of impeccably dressed Bostonians threw a batch of loose leaves into the harbor.
But why are we Brits so comically precious to this unassuming brown liquid?
A bit of history: absolutely non-British tea
Tea is the most British thing ever, until you take two seconds to google it. It has obviously grown in China, India, Africa, Sri Lanka … the list goes on, but apart from a few small producers, Great Britain is not there.
The largest nation in the world that guzzles tea per capita? Turkey. The tea bag? Dreamed of by an American.
British spy James Bond hates a cup of coffee so much that in the novel “Goldfinger” he snaps into a sexist / chauvinist tirade: “I don’t drink tea. I hate it. It’s mud. Besides, it’s one of the main reasons for the fall of the Empire. British. Be a good girl and make me some coffee. ”
The first adventure of the British with tea was thanks to a Portuguese woman; Catherine of Braganza arrived in England in 1662, making her favorite drink a must-have fashion accessory among flattering aristocrats. (Royalty has gobbled up the stuff ever since, with Twinings being Elizabeth II’s favorite label.)
The East India Company quickly joined this trend and monopolized the trade using leaves grown in India, often produced through contract work. The tax hike has led to widespread smuggling, not to mention the entire Boston Tea Party escapade.
In 1784, Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger decided to introduce the Commutation Act, cutting taxes on tea from 119% to 12.5%. Suddenly, the caffeinated thirst quencher was for the many not the few – and later bolstered by fast clipper ships (another American invention), a Sri Lankan plantation explosion, and a temperance movement that would have been strong if you just imagined a glass of beer.
The benefits of tea
But the tea really won people’s hearts because it was good for them. Thanks to boiled water, he avoided cholera, not to mention the British climate. Sweetened with milk and sugar, it revived and invigorated the workers. And served with bread and cheese as a high tea, it has become a staple of working class life – a thrifty substitute for the evening meal.
How to make tea correctly: the art (and science) of the perfect cup
Kate Halloran, head of tea innovation at Taylors, says that if you are using a pot, you need to reheat it first by giving it a quick swirl with boiling water.
Everyone has their own tea ritual. But can we use science to give us a definitive answer?
A big shame it’s not getting ready long enough. Farrimond’s advice is to pour freshly boiled water into a cup with a tea bag, then go and take care of something else for five minutes, allowing it to fully ferment. You will thank you shortly.
“After the wait, you will find that the tea rich in flavor will also be in the optimal temperature range to enjoy all the flavors,” says Farrimond, “There are more than 30,000 flavor molecules in tea, which need time to emerge. “(By the way, don’t try to cheat by clutching the bag – you’ll end up with a bitter brew.)
In addition to releasing more flavor, leaving the bag longer means more antioxidants and a stronger dose of caffeine. “A cup brewed for 30 seconds contains 35 milligrams of caffeine, while a five-minute blend gives you 50 milligrams of caffeine,” says Farrimond.
Additionally, the drink will have cooled to around 37 ° C (body temperature) – optimal for sipping.
Tea bag or loose leaf?
But should we use a tea bag? “Loose tea will likely give you the fullest taste as the best quality leaves are traditionally held back for it,” explains Farrimond, “That said, as over 95% of the tea drunk in the UK comes from tea bags, mine research focused on tea bag. ”
Any traditional tea bag will do the trick, although Yorkshire Tea, Twinings, PG Tips and related newcomers Teapigs are the forerunners, as far as British taste buds are concerned.
A porcelain mug or porcelain mug is ideal for serving your beer; a major no-no, Farrimond warns, is a Styrofoam cup, the kind found at football games and roadside cafes. The synthetic material of these absorbs the aromatic molecules, making the tea tasteless. Hard water dregs are also guilty of playing with tea shades. If you are in an area with hard water, using a filter is a must. Special tea bags for hard water are also worth considering.
Then there are factors that the average tea drinker would not think about. The color of your vessel can also affect the taste; for example, your brain associates a red cup with berries and ripening, causing you to think that tea is sweeter than it actually is. Overall, the more you like your cup or mug, the more likely you are to enjoy drinking it. Protect your favorite porcelain with your life.
The question of milk
As for * that * question about milk? “Debated a lot,” says Farrimond. “The story goes that traditionally milk was added first to protect the fine bone china from shattering when hot tea was poured.” However, he recommends adding milk second, especially if brewing from a tea bag in an individual cup: “It takes longer for the tea to brew properly.
“It’s also easier to judge how much you’re adding, so you get milk to your liking,” adds Farrimond.
In truth, of course, the perfect cup of tea is the one that gives you the most pleasure. The important thing as an Englishman is that once you decide how to have tea, you must die on that hill.
Where to drink tea in Great Britain
High tea has more or less evaporated from the British way of life, but its glitzy afternoon tea cousin survives as an occasional surprise. And while many tea rooms like Bettys still offer tea served to the Duchess of Bedford, the genre has done its fair share of experimentation lately.
In this complicated age, perhaps it is time to return to the basic pleasures of a cup of tea. Sip one at the Bridge Cafe in the London suburb of Acton, where the defeated candidates of the British version of the TV show “The Apprentice” come to drown their pains. Or drink it from a flask as you wander through Jane Austen’s country (tea appears in many of her books, and she personally purchased the family’s supply directly from Twinings to avoid inferior batches contaminated with arsenic).
For the most satisfying drink of all, you don’t have to travel past your kettle: “For me,” says Halloran, “a cup of tea is best enjoyed at home, watching the game or curled up with a good book.”
Just remember to give the tea bag five minutes. And stay away from the microwave.