If there’s one group of people who know how to make a cup of tea the right way, it’s the Brits. Do you pour the boiling water over the tea bag, or do you drop the bag into the already-filled cup? How long do you let it steep for? Should you squeeze the teabag into the cup when it’s finished steeping? Believe it or not, there’s a right way and a wrong way; the right way will leave you with a smooth, mellow cup of tea that lets its flavor shine through, and the wrong way will leave you with a bitter mess. While every type of tea needs to be brewed slightly differently here’s how to brew a cup of black tea the proper English way, according to the British Standards Institution.
First, get some water boiling. Add one tea bag to an empty teapot for every three and a half ounces of water, so a seven-ounce cup of tea should be made with two teabags. When the water is between 140 and 185 degrees, pour it into the teapot over the tea bags and let it steep for six minutes. Then, remove the teabags (don’t squeeze) and pour the tea into a cup; if you like to add milk, now’s the time to do it. The finished cup of tea will be strong but not overly bitter, hot but not scorching, and perfect for pairing with scones and clotted cream (if you’re feeling especially British).
As for sugar, take George Orwell’s advice: “How can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter.”