In troubled times, personal or otherwise, a cup of tea in the midst of it all is comforting. We do not always want to be excited or surprised by our tea do we? When life gets rough ‘n tough I want a drink to be familiar, calming and supportive. Likewise when I make a cup of tea for others I want to convey the message ‘I care’. Nothing more; no clumsy word need saying.
It seems fortuitous then to learn how to make a good cup of tea, the cup that says ‘I really, really care’, rather than the cup that mumbles ‘I have never made a pot of tea in my life’, or worse ‘I’m in a hurry’.
“A cup of tea with its delicately fascinating aroma is one of the most delicious beverages, but probably no other is attended with such doubtful results, chiefly because the average person knows little about the selection of teas and methods of brewing it are uncertain.” – The American Woman’s Cookbook 1943.
I found The American Woman’s Cookbook at a local second hand bookstore. It, the cookbook, had obviously been compiled for a cohort of women who made her own everything. It is a cookbook of biblical proportions. Within this archive are instructions for Jambalaya and Shrimp Gumbo as well as Yorkshire Pudding and Crab Rarebit. There are instructions for how to carve up or pluck a variety of animals, instructions for setting tables, instructions for suitable menus, ‘How to Try Out or Render Fat’ and ‘How to Buy Food’. I could not help but notice ‘Tea: how to make’.
Best Method of Making Tea from The American Woman’s Cookbook, edited by Ruth Berolzheimer. Published by Butterick Publishing Company, 1943.
“The Method of making is simple but important. Heat pot by filling with boiling water. Empty. Add tea leaves and freshly boiling water. Cover and allow to brew fro 3-5 minutes in warm place. Remove tea container* or pour off the liquid into another warm pot or into cups. Serve at once. Do not boil tea while brewing or attempt to re-use leaves.”
So the recipe for black tea is fairly universal. The brewer may add other ingredients, flavours, milk, make it at different strengths, still, the tea must be brewed the same the world over. And here the ‘rolling boil’ has served me well.
Finally, some people think they can avoid the first step, that of warming the pot. Truly, the temperature of the water when it meets the leaves is crucial to tea brewing. The cold teapot brews a cool reply. Don’t forget to make someone you care about a nice cup of tea this week and pour one for yourself while you’re at it.
* Probably referring to handmade muslin bags filled with tea.