I think of the author, Arthur Hailey, when I brew tea. He wrote about the importance of using boiling water to make the beverage. It’s the only thing I can remember about his novel, Airport, but it’s sound advice I’ve followed since reading the book at thirteen.
Another tea-obsessed author is the late Douglas Adams. He may have been able to predict the i-pad, when he created The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy over thirty years before the launch of Apple’s miraculous tablet, but I have to take issue with his advice on brewing the perfect cuppa.
It all starts so well as he explains that Americans don't appreciate the beverage because they don't know how to make it properly: (Arthur Hailey devotees are presumed to be exceptions.) He is right when he states, ‘the water should be biolING (not boilED) when it hits the tea leaves(Adams 2002:67).’ Then comes the inevitable disappointment as the author instructs us to use Earl Grey tea and to put the milk in the cup first.
Milk with Earl Grey tea is bad enough but to put the milk in first is unforgivable. If you have to drink Earl Grey, then don't add anything to it at all. No sugar, no milk not even lemon. It has enough flavour of its own.
To make the perfect cup of first buy a packet of builder-grade PG Tips, Yorkshire Tea or Liptons Everyday. Never use the kind of tea you find in European and American cafes such as Liptons Yellow label.
Warm a standard sized pot and put in two tea bags.
Pour boiling water over the tea bags until the pot is almost full.
Wait four minutes and then stir the pot.
Pour into a mug if you are on your own, or two bone china teacups if you are entertaining.
Add the milk: not too much.
Now is the time to add sugar: if you really must.
Stir, sit back and enjoy with a chocolate biscuit; no dunking allowed.
Most would argue that it really does not matter when the milk and tea are united, but there is a difference in taste. Adams’ case for putting in the milk first is scientific. He believes that the milk will scald if added to hot liquid. Tea certainly has a sharper taste when the milk is put in last and, if that is because the milk is scalded, that’s how I enjoy the infusion.
Adams, Douglas. The Salmon of Doubt. London: Macmillan